For All Nails #293: I Will Make You Hurt

by Johnny Pez

The Congress of Delegates, acting by a two-thirds majority of its members, may dismiss the Chief Executive or the head of any Executive Department of the European Union.

- The Versailles Charter, Article 5, Section 4

Hofburg Palace, Vienna, Kingdom of Austria, German Empire
27 July 1978

Most of the time, Frederick William Augustus Hohenzollern didn't follow the custom of his fellow monarchs (the male ones, at any rate) of wearing military uniforms. Even though he was the nominal head of Poland's armed forces, and even though he had nominally commanded the King's Own Regiment for five years back in the 1950s as Crown Prince, he had always felt that he wasn't worthy to do so. It was, he knew, because of his elder brothers Henry and Waldemar. They had been real officers, Henry in the Army, and Waldemar in the Air Arm, and both had lost their lives during the Global War. FN1

Consequently, he was content for the most part to dress in civilian attire. In fact, the last time he had appeared in uniform had been three years before, during the coronation of his brother-in-law Francis as King of Hungary. This meant that whenever chance or design brought Frederick into contact with Joshua Merkel, the two of them were almost sartorial mirror images of each other.

Of course, Frederick did not wear spectacles, as Merkel did, nor affect a mustache, nor ape the Mexican vogue for shaving one's head. Nevertheless, whenever he met Merkel, his first thought was always, "two peas in a pod."

As Guiscard ushered the Exterior Minister and High Representative into Frederick's office, the thought popped up again: two peas in a pod. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending upon one's point of view), that thought was immediately replaced others, along the lines of "he knows" and "he's going to try to talk me out of it."

Guiscard left the two of them alone, and Frederick greeted his guest. "Herr High Minister, er, High Representative, welcome to Vienna. I wasn't informed that you would be honoring us with a visit today." Frederick rose from behind his desk and went to shake Merkel's hand, and the floorboards of his office creaked as he did so.

As they shook, Merkel said, "Herr Chief Executive, I see you still haven't gotten around to having your office refloored."

Frederick gestured for Merkel to seat himself, and said, "The maintenance budget here at the palace is miniscule enough that I wouldn't feel right allocating any of it for such a purpose."

"Perhaps I could persuade the Chamber of Governments to grant you funds for the purpose," said Merkel.

"That would be good of you," Frederick responded. "It would certainly start my successor's term in office off on the right foot."

There was a long pause before Merkel said, "So it's true, then. You're determined to resign."

"It's true, Herr Merkel," Frederick confirmed. "In light of yesterday's vote in the Congress, I don't see how I could continue in office in good conscience."

"But, Frederick, the dismissal vote failed by thirty-three votes."

Frederick sighed. "Herr Merkel, thirty-three votes short of a two-thirds majority is still 534 votes. Technically it might be a victory, but morally it is a crushing defeat. I'm afraid that Herr Grauer and the others are going to have to find someone else to be their Chief Executive."

"Suppose," said Merkel with a smile, "that they vote to appoint you to the position again? That would at least show that you have the confidence of the Chamber. If it's moral authority you want, that would certainly give you a measure of it."

"But would they?" Frederick responded, and he at least was not smiling. "If you look at the vote in the Congress, you see that seven of the thirteen delegations had a majority for dismissal. Even if you could persuade Herr Zielinski or Fraulein Fanchon to go along with my re-appointment, how much moral authority would such a split decision grant me? Set alongside the unanimous decision to appoint me in the first place, wouldn't such a vote tend rather to reinforce the impression of division at the highest level of the Union's apparatus?"

"Frederick," Merkel said, his tone imploring, "isn't there anything I can say that will convince you to change your mind?"

"I'm sorry, Herr Merkel, there is not. It seems to me that my fate is already sealed. The only choice left to me is to determine how I will accept that fate. I can either bow to necessity, and leave with as much grace and dignity as I can muster, as Herr Gallivan did, or I can fight to the bitter end, as Marshal Fanchon did." Frederick had spent much time lately pondering the actions of those two men. Gallivan had chosen to resign as Governor-General of the CNA rather than let his enemies force him out, and as a result his allies had been able to retain control of events, and Gallivan himself was able to regain much of his former popularity in retirement. Fanchon, by contrast, had chosen to cling to power, and in the end he had been overthrown in a military coup that had left France's government in a shambles and his own reputation in tatters. It was no wonder that it had taken decades for the Marshal's adherents to regain a following; had it not been for his remarkable great-granddaughter, the Fanchonists would probably still be in the political wilderness.

Frederick continued, "Given the respective results of their actions, it seems clear enough which choice would be preferable."

Now it was Merkel's turn to sigh. "God help me, but I hate constitutional crises."

And now it was Frederick's turn to smile. "It seems to me that the more constitutions you have, the more constitutional crises will result."

"And here we went and added yet another constitution to the mix," said Merkel as he smiled again. "Serves us right. Very well, then, Frederick, when are you planning to announce your resignation?"

Frederick allowed himself a small measure of relief. He had persuaded Merkel to go along with him, and that had been the highest hurdle he faced. It would all be downhill from here; in more ways than one.

Forward to FAN #294: Crazy.

Forward to 23 February 1979: Handover.

Return to For All Nails.

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