Well here we go, Book Five.
Holy demanding fans batman. Don't lynch me its here its here.
You have to excuse me I am totally exhausted lately, you're lucky this stuff is prewritten right up to the next one.
well its a matter of keeping on, done the damn sewing, now onto the fun of costuming... vote medieval or Pre 1900 imperial... ::grins:: personally I've always wanted to see Matt in a uniform... and lets face it given a choice between epaulettes of ruffles I think the obvious is in order.
Though we did manage to talk someone into putting on the wicked witch costume... I'll let you guess who.
on with the show anyway, enough of my theatre anecdotes...
Submitted for your approval.
As usual Comments or questions direct to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feed back is welcome.
Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character.
Will removed his glasses and polished them with the end of his tie. Not the most glamorous method but effective. He was leaning against the edge of his desk, watching CPAC on the small television he kept on a shelf for exactly this purpose.
Every one of the minister's senior aides were glued to the same channel watching the first time Robert Avery attended a Parliamentary question time. Everyone collectively holding their breaths for the inevitable questions that would come over the various issues. Like any new cabinet minister Robert would have to weather a firestorm of questions directed by the opposition who wanted to sound him out, to see if they could provoke him into saying something that would embarrass him. The quicker the opposition could provoke a response, the easier it would be for them to discredit him in the future.
Alicia stepped into his office, handing him a steaming mug of coffee as she took a seat beside him, keeping quiet as she watched to see how their minister handled himself. There was a sense of apprehension in the air, the whole office felt as if they had something invested in the minister, something that made him their minister. It was that sense of ownership that made them all stop and collectively hold their breaths.
So far the questions directed at the minister had been tame. Members of the opposition party putting feelers out to see what Robert would react to. Robert Avery was a board room veteran, a businessman that had stood up to hostile take overs, back room deals and the ambitious backstabbing of ambitious men. The verbal sparring that was going on now failed to provoke any kind of response in Robert, he delivered the facts and maintained his stoic, emotionless façade that made him such an effective poker player.
Will folded his arms, keeping the mug of coffee in his hands, looking up and out of his office across the bullpen to where Lisa was standing in the midst of her communications staff. A circle of notepads and scrawling pens, keeping an eye out for anything that could send them scurrying for damage control.
She returned the glance with a tense nod as she returned her attention to the screen. So far this was the minor league, the one real threat, the shadow minister for heritage had yet to voice any questions.
"Come on." Will urged as the camera zeroed in on the conservative front bench where the shadow minister was sitting. But disappointingly the leader of the opposition rose in his stead to deliver a string of scathing remarks directed at the prime minister thinly veiled as a question. Typically a waste of time as the personal war between the two men was already well documented. It was all showmanship and was met by cheers and jeers from both sides of the house.
"Why isn't he...?" Alicia was the first to voice what was on each of their minds. Will glanced down at her, his brow furrowed as he looked back at the screen. She was right, so far the Shadow Heritage minister hadn't moved or made any attempt to offer comment.
Will watched, waiting for the one question he was dreading. The Exhibition center was their Achilles heel; it was the one issue that Robert had made it clear he did not support. To be called out on it in Parliament would only invite disaster. And the Shadow Minister had to know that.
"Come on you son of a bitch." Will breathed, as if daring the man to get up for his obligatory question, "Show us what you've got."
"He can't hear you." Alicia commented not turning from the screen, "But what's he waiting for?"
"I don't know." Will replied frowning, "It doesn't make sense."
He walked around his desk and sat down thoroughly perplexed. He disliked miscalculating, had all the people that had warned him about the shadow minister been exaggerating? Could this man really be as ineffective as he appeared on the small screen, sitting quietly and almost sheepish?
Will looked up again as the camera panned passed him, there was quiet calculation about the man. He looked intelligent, and his bearing said he was a man that was used to the House of Commons and wasn't about to be intimidated into silence.
When the man stood up, Will was on his feet again. Here was what they were dreading, the moment they had all been waiting for.
The man spoke elegantly, in a heavily Albertan accent... and asked a question about multiculturalism and the effects of the government policy on job creation programs. A strong question, but not what anyone had been expecting.
The camera panned back to Avery, who was on his feet and stepping forward to the podium to respond, had a momentary look of surprise on his face but the great man took it in his stride as he formed a coherent and comprehensive answer. And that was it.
Will sat back down, even more perplexed it was a valid question, but wasn't what was expected at all. He looked down at his desk where the newspapers that had picked up on the issue. There was a public stirring and it was the Shadow minister's job, as heritage critic to call attention to it.
Lisa was in the doorway to his office almost as soon as the question period was over, she held up her clipboard in a questioning gesture, "What the hell was that?" she asked obviously as confused as Will was.
"I have no idea." Will replied already flipping open his laptop to compose a string of emails, "My best guess is that they know something more than we do, and they are waiting to get confirmation."
Lisa crossed her arms, "You think they are onto a scandal?"
"I have no idea," Will said honestly, "Alicia," he turned, "I need you to get me everything we have on the exhibition, and I need those reports from Public Works."
"Right boss." Alicia said springing into action, already up and out of his office.
Will looked over at Lisa, "We're going to need something for the press in case they sniff out the same thing we are."
Lisa looked thoughtful, "It's going to be hard since we don't know what is going on, I could compose something generic and that should let us fill out the details later."
Will nodded, "do it and get it back to me before the end of the day. Also if you see wither of the interns..."
"Tom and Julie," Lisa supplied.
Will nodded, "yes them, if you see either of them get them to help Alicia," Will glanced at his watch, "I should meet the Minister at Parliament and brief him on what's going on..."
Lisa paused and gave him a nod, "You're becoming quite the spin doctor." She observed.
"Let's just hope it doesn't come to that." Will replied, "we need to stay one step ahead on this."
Will met Avery in the foyer outside of the House of Commons. The press scrum lurked off to the side, looking for their chance to descend upon the ministers as they emerged from the house to return to their business.
Robert politely answered questions of reporters that stuck cameras in his face as he walked through the crowd towards his aide. Will nodded and fell into step beside the minister listening to the barrage of questions that were being fired off. What did the minister think of this issue, how did he feel about the governments stance on that. Occasionally there was a question directed that concerned the heritage issues and Robert always paused long enough to answer those questions without hesitation.
They had managed to make it down the stairs when the inevitable question came at them, thrown by a reporter from the CBC. "Excuse me Minister, but what is your position on the new Heritage Center in Toronto?"
Robert zeroed in on another question concerning the government's plans for health care and how he felt that with time and energy they would be able to provide a better healthcare system.
They were outside and into the car before the reporter got a second chance to ask his question.
"My god," Robert breathed, "they're like a pack of wolves."
Will nodded, "They're the press it's expected..."
"Oh I'm not talking about the press," Robert shook his head, "I meant the opposition party, they were playing dirty."
The old man rubbed his beard as he sat back into the Lincoln's cushions and watched the car pull out into Confederation square, whisking them towards the bridge and back towards the Gatineau offices.
Will nodded, "I can imagine, but all things considered they took it easy on you."
Robert nodded, "I noticed that, the Heritage critic wasn't exactly on the ball now was he?"
"We think they've found something we've missed." Will said truthfully.
"Oh god," Robert murmured rubbing his forehead, "This damned project, if they had any sense they would never have started it."
"I know," Will replied, "How did the caucus meeting this morning go?"
"I can't talk about it," Robert said, "Just that we're stuck with this project thanks to that Boucher weasel."
"No chance of getting our proposals before a committee?" Will asked hopefully.
"None." Robert replied, "there just isn't time."
"Right then," Will said pulling out his PDA and making a few notes, "I'm going to make some arrangements and get the concerts going after Christmas..."
Robert nodded, "Good, I want to push that agenda. Now onto other matters, I have a meeting with the first Nations chief at the end of the week."
"Yes," Will replied, "We're flying out to Iqaluit the day before."
"Good," Robert stated as he settled and glanced at Will, "be sure to pack for cold weather."
"Huh?" Will asked looking up.
Robert suppressed a smile, "you are aware of where Iqaluit is aren't you?"
Will had to admit that he had no clue whatsoever.
"Nunavut." Robert said with great enjoyment at Will's reaction, "truly the great white north."
"That's the Arctic." Will said, digesting the fact that he had agreed to go with Robert on the trip.
Robert smiled, "Yes it snowed there this morning." He smiled, "So I'd suggest long johns."
"Dear god." Will intoned staring out of the window as the realization he was bound for the one thing most Canadians avoided like the plague, snow. "How do I tell Lisa?"
Robert chuckled, "I doubt she will find humour in it." He considered a moment, "Perhaps if I suggest she bring her husband along?"
Will shivered involuntarily thinking about the cold, "That would work, they've needed time alone together, even if it is in a frozen wasteland for a couple of days."
Robert nodded, "good, you should bring yours as well." Robert's eyes flicked to Will's. It was no secret that Robert disliked Marc, there was the natural disdain that a father held for anyone that had dated his daughter, and it had taken a long time for him to become used to the fact that his Protégé was now dating the same man.
"Thank you," Will replied sounding a little uncertain as the car pulled up outside the offices, and Will got out to hold the door open for the Minister. He glanced up at the trees, noting the changing colours of the leaves; soon they would all be rich shades of red and yellows as Fall dwindled into winter.
Robert emerged from the car and led the way into the building, sparing only a passing glance for what Will was staring at. "Early Winter this year." He said with a tight, humourless smile. And Will blinked wondering how the old man knew that, but then realized Robert was making a joke about the approaching Nunavut trip.
"You are a heartless bastard sometimes." Will replied as he followed the Minister inside.
"I am a politician," Robert said tapping the elevator button, "I'm not supposed to have a heart or a soul, it's a job requirement."
Will was sitting in the propeller-driven airplane as it flew over seemingly endless forests of trees. He rested his head on his hand as he stared out of the window sleepily. They'd had to make an early start of it and Will felt as if he hadn't slept at all, not a good combination as they winged their way steadily northwards to Iqaluit.
They were booked onto a small government plane, fortunately, though Will wondered why the government hadn't bothered to spring for one of the private jets instead of the ancient prop-driven plane that Will was certain predated Robert Avery.
Marc was sitting across from him flipping through a tourism magazine listening to his headphones, occasionally bobbing his head along to the music as he flipped. Well, at least he was happy with the idea of spending time in the Arctic.
Will, however, was still about as enthusiastic about it as a kid on his way to the dentist. He shook his head and looked back down at the laptop he had brought with him, putting the finishing touches on the minister's speech.
The stewardess walked up to his chair and extended the coffee carafe to top up his empty travel mug, and he gave her a broad grin of thanks. "How long till we arrive?" he asked, glancing towards the window and noticing they were now flying over water.
"We should be arriving shortly," the stewardess said with a smile. She then looked over at the minister, "Should I wake him?"
Will leaned around her to look at Robert who was slumbering peacefully. The occasional snore escaped as he slept. Typically, Robert always seemed to be able to sleep on flights, a miracle considering little Aiden had cried nearly constantly the first hour of the flight.
He was asleep now as well, curled up in his seat and covered with a blanket. His parents quietly talked further up the plane. Lisa noticed Will was looking up at them and she smiled at him before going back to her conversation.
"Hey Will," Marc said tugging the headphones off and extending the tourism magazine, "Did you know that there are trees about eighty kilometers from the city? There's a valley that apparently gets warm enough...to..." he trailed off noting Will's look of utter disdain. "What?"
"The nearest tree is eighty kilometers away?" Will sounded deadpan as he said it, totally unimpressed.
Marc grinned at him, "It snows up here nine months out of the year..."
"Uh huh," Will said setting his jaw, aware that Marc was enjoying his situation.
"Okay, I'll stop," Marc said trying to hide his playful grin. "Where are we staying?"
Will leaned past him again and looked over at Lisa, "Which hotel?"
"Frobrisher Inn," Lisa returned with a shrug. "Apparently it was the best Alicia could find."
"Right," Will said, getting the distinct feeling Alicia was laughing at their expense back at the office as she put her feet up on Will's desk, smoked one of Avery's cigars and cranked the heat.
Marc smirked at him as he went back to reading the magazine.
"That's an airport?" Will asked as he got off the plane and hefted his backpack to his shoulders. He was glad of the ski jacket he had bought before the trip with its matching Thinsulate gloves.
He stood looking up at the prefab yellow building that could have passed for a beached submarine. It poked up from the snow-covered ground and beckoned warmly to the travelers and Will shook his head as he started to follow Robert to the terminal.
The explosion of cold connected with the back of his head as he stumbled a few steps and dropped his bags in surprise. He turned reaching up to feel the cold snow melting and running down the back of his neck.
Marc, Lisa and Jeff each pretended to look innocent while Aiden giggled with laughter. Will shot each of them a dark look, moments before he dived down to scoop up some snow that he sent sailing towards Marc.
It exploded on Marc's sheepskin jacket and the be-toqued Canadian looked down at the white that now splattered his jacket and back up at Will. "Oh, you bastard!" he exclaimed grinning as he dove to make a snowball of his own.
Pretty soon a hail of snowballs were flying back and forth as the adults, behaving as if they were Aiden's age, fought a snowball war on the tarmac of the airport.
"What the hell is going on here?" Robert said, turning back from the terminal doorway and looking at his staff who all turned at the same time, hefting their ammunition and looking at the man that had dragged them to the Arctic Circle...
It was called `the place of many fish' in Inuit. The settlement that had once been called Frobisher Bay was established in the early part of the twentieth century and had grown up around a U.S. military base of the cold war era.
Tucked into the passenger seat of the minivan staring out at the cold, flat terrain dotted with brightly coloured prefab houses and shacks, Will thought it was about as foreign a place as he had ever seen. It was truly about as remote as a city could get in Canada, and Will wondered where Santa's workshop was hidden.
They were being driven by the local Minister of Parliament, James Nattaq, who had met them at the airport terminal with an offer to drive them to the hotel and help them get settled before the meetings that afternoon.
He was giving them a brief history lesson as the minivan surged through the thin layer of snow that had settled over the gravel road. "So when the Canadian government bought the air base from the Americans, things were good up here; well, as good as they get that is. But closing down the northern radar line at the end of the cold war, we all assumed that was it for the city."
Will nodded, "What happened?"
"Well, after the Nunavut land claim was recognized, and we became a separate territory and Iqaluit was made a capital, we had an economic boom."
Will glanced out of the window at the houses, and the dirt roads. This was prosperity? He suddenly felt very guilty for the things he took for granted in Ottawa, things like roads, trees and a decent house.
"What about unemployment?" Will asked, turning back.
"We're a little above average," Nattaq admitted tiredly. "There's good growth within the city, but beyond it...everything is so remote that access, especially in winter, makes things hard."
Will looked up at the mirror and back at Robert; the minister had a dark scowl on his face thinking exactly what Will was thinking. There were places in Canada that hovered above the poverty line that could use government investments to make life just a little bit easier and the government was throwing away five hundred million on a glorified concert hall.
Will touched his temple as he looked back out of the window, falling silent as he listened to Nattaq talking about the ancient Thule ruins just off shore from the city. There was a whole culture tucked up in this remote and isolated end of the world, and Will wondered how long it would survive the encroaching influence of western civilization.
Lisa found Will tucked away in a corner of the hotel dining room looking out of a window at the city beyond. He was tapping away at his laptop wearing the fleece lining of his ski jacket and drinking a strong mug of coffee.
He looked agitated, and she was fast coming to learn to leave him be when he was in those moods. Something was bothering him and he didn't seem in the mood to discuss it. She could relate, there was something wholly disquieting about this place. She felt at a loss there, displaced, and she found herself looking forward to going home.
"Can I join you?" she asked, pulling out a chair and sitting down, not waiting for his reply.
Will glanced up and returned to staring at his screen. "I'm not in the mood," he said, tapping a few more keys and moving the mouse.
"What are you reading?" she asked, ignoring his not so subtle attempt to get her to leave him alone.
"I am reading the budget," Will replied, turning the computer slightly. "Do you know the Federal government has repeatedly cut social programs, the lack of doctors up here is approaching critical, not to mention the fact that there are no decent roads."
Lisa looked down at the computerized report and then back up at Will, her features softening. "That's why you're so upset?" she asked.
"Frustrated is all," Will replied refilling his coffee mug. "How are we supposed to make a difference when we're wasting money left, right and center?"
"That's the nature of government, though," Lisa said reaching out to touch his arm. "Robert is upset as well, he's just keeping a good face on it. The Prime Minister discussed his Northern vision with Robert before we left, they are planning on doing something."
Will coughed and shrugged, "There's a growing tendency of violent crime up here and the government refused to pass a recommended increase in the RCMP budget to let the police fight it."
"The north isn't the only area with these problems," Lisa reminded Will. "We just don't have the money to provide the..."
"And we have the money for an exhibition center that costs twice as much as it was supposed to? Do you know what we could do with five hundred million? We could completely fund the RCMP northern operation, recruit nurses and doctors to work up here to ensure essential services." He stood up and slammed his laptop closed, "It's ridiculous and you know it."
"Will?" Lisa called after him as he stalked from the dining room.
Will stamped into his boots, pulling on his jacket's outer shell and stalked out into the crisp, cold air. With the sun going down it was getting colder, and his breath fogged before him as he trudged down the road, hands stuffed into his pocket. He'd dropped his laptop off at the room, and had decided that a walk might clear his head.
There were warm lights on in the windows of the small community, the flicker of television sets, and the smells of gas stoves. There was music drifting from a bar just up the street a little ways, but he wasn't in the mood to drown his sorrows.
The plough honked at him to get out of the way, and he stepped off the road and sank a foot into the soft snow as it rumbled past showering him with more snow. He sighed and brushed himself off as he struggled back onto the road and kept going. He had no particular destination, but just wanted to get away from work. Escape the responsibilities of who he was for a while.
"You shouldn't walk alone at night," Marc said jogging up behind him. The young man slowed down to walk along with him, offering his boyfriend a smile.
"Hey," Will said as they both walked together. "What are you doing here?"
"TV up here sucks," Marc replied. "And I figured I'd go for a walk with the most attractive guy on Baffin Island."
"I think I saw him go into that bar over there," Will said pointing across the road.
"Actually, Lisa said you were upset so I thought to come and cheer you up a bit." Marc waggled his eyebrows, "At the very least warm you up a bit."
"Not that easy this time," Will replied with a shrug. "I just need to unwind..."
"That's the idea," Marc said, reaching out to pull Will in close to him. "You can't win every time, you need to pick your battles."
"You sound like my father," Will replied, allowing himself to be tugged close to Marc, enjoying the feel of the sheepskin jacket as he brushed up against it.
"I'll take that as a compliment," Marc said with a cocky smile. "Your dad is a soldier, right?"
Will nodded, "Yes he is." They turned at the top of the street and started back. "I just sometimes wonder if what I am doing actually makes a difference," he said thoughtfully.
"It does because you are doing it," Marc said firmly. "You go out of your way to do the right thing; you have for as long as I have known you."
"Thanks," Will smiled.
"I mean it," Marc pressed. "Look at what you've done for me, you changed my life."