Elements reign in the environment, composing earth, wind, air, and fire. They are the life blood beating in the heart, circulating in the inner atmosphere of human nature.
The political world is run by a man called Boron, pronounced as a rhyme of moron. Flanked by satyr-like ears, his round face houses Morse-code eyes he resorts to in periods of prolonged squinting. If his face were a roadside motel room, it would be vacant: he casts a clueless, befuddled look, which has led to his being coined boronic. From his chemical element point of view, Boron’s a hardliner, a kernite. He’s used in soaps and he cleanses people’s minds with a substance made of political lye.
In his youth, he indulged in spirits and came to embody the phrase “pissed as a newt”: Boron was and is a neutron absorber. He also has the inborn element of being used in nuclear reactor shields. Boron supports the cultivating of atomic means. His weapons burn civilians. When this tragedy occurs, it is referred to as “boric acid”.
Boron’s term has completed its course and he, according to “an attic-seated constitution, must subject myself to run again for the same length of time.” He knows “the result’s a foregone conclusion, but I gotta make it look real good.”
In his first period of office, Boron had successfully managed to seduce the masses with his buddy-generating radiation. Several citizens thought they could relate to him. In fact, Boron, a dress-down guy in public, is an elitist. He masquerades as a public-school kid, but is the conceited product of a pampered preparatory school education. He’s never matured past the brotherhood days and exemplifies the male college graduate type whose only knowledge of ancient Greek is the letters of the fraternity he’s been initiated into.
Upholding the tradition that the campaign commences six months prior to Election Day, both candidates have begun their vote-soliciting activities at the political half-year mark, October. To the surprise of no one, Boron has chosen the radioactive conservative Radon for a running mate. Befitting his chemical nature, Radon is an acidic man, a growling, unpleasant, dull, and pompous sexagenarian. His physiognomic features include the face of a reptile and lizard-like eyes that remain neutral in their casting of any emotional appearance. Radon lacks personality. Despite all his character shortcomings, “the Don”, owing to the ruthless ambition element lining his career life, possesses shrewd leadership skills and the experience to head herds of men. Radon has always had the knack of making stepping stones out of everyone that lies in a shallow river that leads to his idea of “firm-ground success.” Radon’s the flipside of Boron, who recalls the speed of an old record playing at sixteen R.P.M. Reverse sides or not, the two men form one solid whole that revolves in the majority of the minds across the Homeland.
Two key players Boron and Radon have chosen to “go for the gold” are Arsenic and Mercury. Boron refers to Mercury as the Thermometer Man, one who raises emotion—in the leader’s own words, “sweaty and liquidy fast.” As Mercury is an element used in photography and pharmaceuticals, the human version also possesses the ability to picture things well in order to drug the masses with his words. He is the Boron Governance’s press speaker. Mercury has always maintained a solid business relationship with the man chosen to run the campaign, Arsenic. In his entrepreneurial hey-day, Arsenic had business followers, Arsenites. In chemical terms, his colors are black, yellow, and white. In element anecdotal terms, Arsenic once stated his grandfather told him that arsenic had been used to make horses’ eyes appear glossier in the horse-trading days, thus making these equine species look healthier and stronger and “richer for the sales trot.” Arsenic himself does have a dirty side. He bears the intrinsic means to function like an insecticide or a weed killer.
On the opposite pole of these incumbents are the two challengers. The leader of the opposition, Osmium, has attributes ingrained in his element. He’s a hard, brittle, blue-gray man and possesses a high melting point. His non-chemical-nature features include an equine face, making him appear like a wooden horse, one that is varnished. At times, the body and veins of this man seem freshly embalmed and there are remnants of a heart that beats monotonously. Beyond his horse-like physical traits, Osmium boasts a fine-tuned brain that appeals to the remote minority of masses in the Homeland. His eyes render the impression of having been permanently lined, and his smile is genuine. Osmium’s overall impression bespeaks stoutness and solidity, a figure born with the tools, but cursed at the same time, because he has to sculpture himself into the minds of the unintelligentsia.
Osmium’s political partner is a man called Argon. His intrinsic chemistry includes being found in air, being used as a protecting gas, being used as filler for electric bulbs. He’s a single atom that generates illumination and enlightenment. He also radiates youth with his boyish handsomeness, peaches-and-cream skin, cherubic face and beaverish smile. He’s always had followers he terms Argonauts. Argon complements Osmium well. These men are a double-battery pack, ready to energize and to mobilize the populace they know needs a political energy replacement.
Osmium and Argon are off to a slow start because the media funnels crucial air time into a container designed, produced, and packaged by Boron’s associates, who are in close contact with television’s three leading broadcasters: Helium (has his own show “geared towards conservatives only” and is a gaseous element that signifies an inert, lighter-than-air, colorless nature, and is the chief element for inflating airships and balloons), Neon (the most popular colorman in the Homeland), Vanadium (a vain, veteran anchorwoman, characteristic of the grayish malleable ductile element found combined in minerals) and Silicon (an overly ambitious primed beauty in her twenties—silicon, in its element form, used in winter tires, in the preparation of computer chips, in breast enlargement). Radio is dominated daily by one staunch Boron supporter, Scandium, who also hosts a homeland-wide program. His element ingredients are used in storage batteries and in ceramics.
The challenger’s team needs to shift the positive light towards Osmium and his party. To this end, they’ve hired a stainless steel woman to manage their campaign. Her name’s Nickel and her chemical outer substance entails a surface that is silvery white, highly polished, and non-corrosive. She’s the apotheosis of a woman who doesn’t rust.
Boron has decided to keep his dramatis personae in tact. His key cabinet members include Carbon, Iron, and Phosphorus. The one woman in this triumvirate, Carbon, sparkles. She matches her element properties, glitters with diamonds. Her chemical composition is found in, apart from the precious gemstone, graphite, coal, coke, and charcoal. Carbon, the interior secretary, is a midnight lady, one that always makes sure there’s enough moonlight shining her way. Beyond her glitter side, she possesses attributes akin to her element nature: Carbon is found in blood, albumin, and soot. Her job of managing inland operations contrasts Iron’s field of responsibility, military operations. Yet, chemically speaking, he is alloyed with Carbon, and other elements too. The end-alloy is steel. His beliefs, values, and morals are ultra-conservative for the times—he’s old-fashioned, a modern being sprouting out of an Iron-Age thinking. To round out the political trio, Boron calls on a strange composition of a man, Phosphorus, the head of foreign operations. He’s a true “fireman”, possessing traits in chemistry that make his intrinsic values useful for matches and fire bombs. In color terms, Phosphorus is a split personality: he consists of white phosphor—which burns in air and red phosphor—which burns in matches.
Phosphorus himself comes from a military background. He was once a general, the kind of figure often filmed looking through binoculars one could see in the dark with. In fact, Phosphorus’ true color is green, from the color of khakis and from his nocturnal lens visions that lead to war and more war. He operates covertly, yet he glows in the dark, owing to his nature of having waxy crystals that take to glowing when the air is moist. Phosphorus has become a master at avoiding geographical areas of high humidity. He himself stays back home and sends off youngsters, the academic-deficient, society misfits, the jobless, and underprivileged to fight in “the ever-threatening wetlands of the world.”
Beyond the fringes of this political realm, an outsider roams, a man who claims he’s “political-party independent.” As his chemical name implies, Einsteinium goes as the relative intelligent species in the Homeland. He was born in a different day and age, brought up in a time when critical thinking was acceptable, and raised on peace. In today’s world he’s labeled a has-been. In fact, one of his chemical properties says he’s a sort of decay product, one produced by an explosion of the first hydrogen bomb. In his response to the apathetic status quo, he himself is an explosive in the minds of The Lead, the colossal ultra-conservative group he puts his meaning of life and principles against. The Lead fit into one body, thus one element. For Boron, they are soft and malleable. Their holier-than-thou manner and sugar-coated life seeking element and culture-shortage make them a poor conductor of electricity, which is true to their element stature. They tend to want the feel-good approach to life, especially when feeling good concerns themselves. Their lack of understanding for those who don’t have what they have brands them with a dangerous mark. The Lead have a diversified history from their chemical element perspective. They were used as poison in the Middle Ages—also for printing letters. They frequently were employed for use in pipes and cables, and in relatively recent history they have been used in x-rays. Their color structure is blue and white.
In non-chemical element terms, The Lead thrive on religion. It is their lighthouse, their sun that heats their values and morals. The Lead are like the frame securing solar panels. Their man that keeps them out of the darkness of evil is Boron, the epitome of the more-than-the-born-again Christian; he’s been forever dying and being reborn, but he knows the needs of The Lead. Boron knows how to heat them up to a melting point that leaves them a gullible liquid he easily pours into a mold to shape them to his designs. This is the process Iron refers to as leadening.
Boron’s soul lacks the time and space to lead The Lead blindly into the processing plant of politics, so he relies on a cohort of his from days of nepotism past and present to do “the cleansing out of the dirty work,” Chlorine. This purifier, in human dimension, has a round, robust body and a balloonish head. The dirt he wants to remove is the group of “dirty sinners prevalent in our land.” In its chemical element form, Chlorine is used in bleaches and in plastics and military gas. Chlorine is, in Einsteinium’s words, “the so-called spiritual head” of the Boron Governance.
Chemically speaking, Chlorine is extracted from brine: thus Chlorine himself has a tongue of salt. The whole man is reactive. His element past tells of use in the Great War as a toxic gas. To Osmium’s people, Chlorine irritates the eyes and stomach. Chlorine naturally adds bitterness to everything that comes to his senses. He’s a racist, sexist, and a populist, but like a penguin he has the special knack of turning salt water into fresh water. He makes religion drinkable. As the religious leader of The Lead, he’s the unabridged dictionary of apostles of all generations, the man-made bible, the living word contoured with human proportions. His arch-enemy is Einsteinium, who can smell him out: Chlorine is pungent.
Einsteinium has decided to spend the day in The Coastal City, at the seat of the major news network, OX-Y-G, the station’s abbreviated form of oxygen. This element has no human equivalent; it goes as air time, something necessary for life, a main part of the Earth. This widespread element can be found in ores, marble, and rocket fuels.
Einsteinium has been handing out flyers he’d composed for people entering and exiting the building. An excerpt:
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We have not come of age but have come to an age of stupidity. The only thing that has matured is the level of mindless entertainment that brainwashes our eyes day and night, around the clock, spinning, rinsing, cleansing our eyes. We have succumbed to viewing washing machines that mirror our shallowness and aim to clean the dirt out of thoughts seen detrimental by the Core Elements. Let’s not have some governmental director rinse our eyes with nonsense, spin us from one scene to the next, and wash out our time until it is so clean like empty hours that have gone by. They’re bleaching us. They’re hanging us out to dry so that there’s no moisture in our cultural thoughts and spirit…. Put an end to letting machines do your soul-washing. Don’t let them lynch our lives.
BOYCOTT BORON’S LAUNDRAMAT NOW!!!
The Human Committee for Mental Hygiene
October has meanwhile tiptoed into the calendar. Osmium has called a meeting with his fresh team “to execute a SWOT analysis on the Boron Governance.” In attendance are Osmium, Argon, and Nickel and a host of adjuvants. The meeting is run in a formal manner, with Osmium taking the chair and going through items on the agenda that are seconded more than firsted. The meeting participants are “in agreement on the fact that Boron’s core strength lies in his ability to sell his leadership asset.” Vital issues they table include “lack of healthcare, limited job security, poor educational system, and a gargantuan deficit.” For opportunities, they’ve recorded defined target groups, “the youth, the elderly, single women, the Boron weary, the educated, the working class.” The threats encompass “the Boron media network, the money makers, the uneducated masses.” At the finish of the meeting, the whole group has concluded that Osmium and Argon “go out and spread the word on Boron and his failing policies.”
With word reaching Boron that the opposition has carried out a SWOT analysis on him, the leader calls in Radon, Iron, Carbon, Chlorine, and Phosphorus and two other “fringe characters”, Tungsten and Technetium. The first of these two outsiders, Tungsten, the leader of The Coastal Land and a staunch Boron supporter, is a hard metal man, a guy with a chest like a shield. He’s in the movie business and is well known for his looks. He looks like he’s been chiseled out of ice, boasting an angular, square jawed face. Tungsten is of the many sinewy kindred; his head connects to his protuberant chest; his neck has become non-existent owing to the muscle mass that years of pumping iron have welded between his chin and collarbone.
The other man Boron has requested the attendance of is Technetium. As his element implies, he’s not an exciting element. From a chemical point of view, he’s got no use; but Boron has been informed by his campaign manager that “the guy is radioactive, dangerous for them, good for us because he’s a technocrat and can change IT systems.” Boron’s initial comment on Technetium: “Heck, if he can hack, we’ll whack the hell out of ’em—hook this guy up homeland-wide. Maybe he can git into the electrical gizzards of potential voters—and we can git ’em all from screen to the ballot scene. Hell yeah, these computers is sure to help us cuz Osmium ain’t got the bread to finance such an operation.”
Boron has decided to make his meeting short. He has failed to comprehend the term SWOT analysis and has shown up with an object of his own. In his words, “You all, I don’t need no broom like you Tungsten to sweep the dirt off our land.” At this moment, Boron digs into his attaché case. “Look here. I got something to represent the kind of analysis we need.” Boron lashes the air. “With this here fly swatter, we’ll swat the fleas and the skeeters. We got The Lead hands to do the work for us. They’ll squish and squash and squench the opposition. Osmium’ll neigh and Argon’ll be a bygone. We don’t need an agenda today or minutes or motions. We got our motion.” Boron’s face has taken on an odd twist as he goes through a slow-motion swat scenario.
Osmium has hired a campaign bus and begun his tour to “rethread the Homeland with pacifism and antidisestablishmentarianism.” Hardworking and determined, he believes in victory.
Arsenic has studied the “ever-important sports calendar of events” and has made exes on the days of the Great Ball Champion’s League Final. He has arranged for Boron to be in attendance and he has notified Mercury to contact Scandium and Helium to “pump a little Oxygen into the lungs of the Homeland.”
At the event, Boron is seen sitting next to his wife of several years, Silver. As for its nature, the metal silver is white, ductile, sonorous, extremely malleable, and capable of a high degree of polish. Silver herself is an appendage for her husband, never speaks her mind, never has accomplished anything. Silver is no threat to women. She goes as Boron’s wife; she could pass as his mother, maybe even his grandmother. The couple are an odd chemical mix, yet they’ve got a kind of chemistry The Lead relates to and respects.
Boron has left his box seat early. One of the frustrated vendors, working for minimum wage, had spiked Boron’s soda with bourbon and the leader had to be escorted out of the stadium “before TV cameras capture him in a state detrimental to the campaign objective”—in Arsenic’s tongue. Boron has repeatedly claimed, “I’ve been off the stuff for a score—that’s three decades, a helluva long time.”
Tin, referred to by Einsteinium as “the Boron Governance tin-soldier pollster” is a protective-coating man. His element nature is used in solder, in recent times for vessels and plates, in tools, weapons, bronze, even in coffins. Tin has seized Boron’s favorable campaign start and contacted both Scandium and Helium, who have issued polls showing a large Boron lead. Between the coasts, the Leadbacks are happy, snug in their beds of conservatism.
At the end of the month, Arsenic has planned an event that is to have a peculiar end. The day of celebration he “must seize on” is Walpurgis Nacht. He decides to have Boron, Radon, Carbon, Iron, and Phosphorus dress up in costumes. Arsenic has informed Neon and Vanadium about the event, which is to be staged for a children’s charity cause. Neon is the main nightly news man those watching hallucinate on. His chemical nature speaks for itself: Neon emits a bright red glow and is a protective gas for welding. Neon glows on TV.
The charity event ends up being mismanaged. Children never come to the event. Arsenic’s idea to dress the politicians up in “Wizard-of-Oz apparel” backfires. The costumes have arrived late and Neon and Vanadium have already arranged for their major networks to be present. Behind a divider, the heads of the Homeland put on a masterful show that would please the best of any quick-change artist. The problem is that the costume allocation per person has not been well thought out. They put Iron in the tin-man suit. They put Carbon in the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West dress. They put Phosphorus in a scarecrow costume. They put Radon in a fairy godmother suit and last but not least, Boron comes out from behind the divider dressed up as Toto. Although the scene is done in good humor, not everyone watching on TV sees the sketch in a humorous light. Nickel immediately issues a nationwide statement that manages to “hit home with the masses”: “If we follow this yellow-brick road, we’ll all end up Munchkins.”
A new month has unfolded and Boron’s team has come up with an idea to quell the negative sentiment that has been boiling since Walpurgis Nacht. Iron, in conjunction with Phosphorus, has decided, “Let’s put a flea in Boron’s ear he can’t swat: war. This’ll change the state of things but good!” Boron is easily sold on the idea, believing “It’ll put an end to any wrong masqueradin’ on our behalf.” Again Iron and Phosphorus manage to team up to “rouse the blood of our countrymen.” In a remote land on the other side of the globe, which “lacks the illumination of the free world”, these two hawks have a scene taped: a large group of peasants wearing bandannas are filmed carrying signs of a skeletal face (Boron’s) with crossbones over it. Written on the signs: Poison! Decapitate Capitalism! Then, almost a hundred flags bearing the colors of Boron’s land and values are burned, then “trampled like we’re rags of beings.” Then, the apparent leader of the group, speaking through holes of a hockey goalie mask, shouts, “We have a plan to infiltrate full sports stadiums and poison the spectators! Women, children, and men alike shall choke to death! We’ve got the prescription! We’ll give you a taste of your own medicine!”
The broadcast has managed to send waves of terror across Boron’s land. Spectators at sporting events have been purported to be peering at the skies throughout matches. On one occasion, a man, intent on honoring the last wish of a deceased friend, tosses an urn filled with the sport enthusiast’s friend’s ashes out of a low-flying glider. Half the stadium shudders. Panic breaks out and people dash to the exits. Their fears are only alleviated when fighter planes shoot down the glider as it approaches a small rural airport. The pilot in the plane is immediately labelled by the Boron Governance to be a leading terrorist, in Mercury’s words, “a flag stomper and chemical weapon engineer of the highest, most toxic degree.”
It’s the start of November and Mercury has decided to give Tin a call “to have the polls felt out before their release later in the week.” Tin, sensing a feeling of unease in Mercury’s voice, interrupts the spokesman at one point to say, “Don’t worry. We called phone numbers in down-home regions. The percentage you want is guaranteed and the other networks have already contacted me to see if our figures are on par with theirs, which they are. Rest assured, your man’s where he wants to be.” Mercury’s face has now taken on a look of ease, and he replies, “We can always count on you—no pun intended. It’s great guys like you know what’s good for our land. You’re the unsung heroes.”
In the evening, Osmium and his team see the news. The polls flash across all main stations. The following day, Helium and Scandium do their best to hype their man. Scandium’s words are, “As expected, Boron and company hold a commanding lead in all polls.” Helium’s opening remark, “It comes as no surprise that Boron is well out in front. It seems the people have already made their choice as to who they want behind the rudder.”
On hearing these statements, Osmium urges Nickel to take prompt action. “Nicki, call the nets and ask for the source-trace list. We want to be sure they’re soliciting the opinions of those equally proportioned throughout the Homeland. I detect a tendency to harbor idiosyncrasies, discrepancies, and deviations comparable to a compass positioned in a permanent splits condition.”
Once Nickel has completed her calls, she informs Osmium about the contents of the short discussions she has had with the network pollsters, who “promise not to ‘issue asides that could favor one particular candidate’.” Argon, in a fluster, blurts out, “Typical of them!” Osmium tries to calm him and says, “Argon, we cannot reverse the damage deleterious to our cause, but we must intensify our activities. We oppose a corrupt political juggernaut that has been assembled, lubricated, and tuned by the mechanical hands of manipulation. And, as one architect once said, ‘Television is the chewing gum of the eyes’.” Argon butts in, “Yeah, and people spit out gum once the sugar’s gone. I’m going to double my efforts and recruit more people for our cause. We need more Argonauts to fill more ships along the coasts!”
Boron has convened with Scandium to encourage the radio man to “create bad names for Osmium that stick in folks’ minds—nothin’ like a good sticky label.” Just a few days later, radio listeners hear the common folk call in, using phrases like “the dark horse”, referring to the challenger’s tanned complexion and looks. One caller utters the element CO², standing for Osmium’s first name, Carleton and Osmium and the two inferring that Osmium is a number two guy. The third phrase that has aired is “the trotting bridesmaid”, a combination which Osmium himself claims, “accuses me of logorrhea and conjures up visions of an effeminate nature most unbefitting and egregious.”
November has come into full swing and Iron and Phosphorus have continued with their promotion of the Remote War. They’ve chosen November 11th as their “bomb for peace” day. Actually this date is the start of carnival. And most of The Lead view the air strikes as an amusement game. As none of the Homeland die, the homelanders remain neutral on the war as a whole. No casualty counts of “the enemy” can be taken because the fire bombs have reduced thousands of civilians to ashes. Mercury has done his best to ensure that “no negative stats leak.”
An informal meeting takes place at Boron’s residence. Toasts to the war are made. Zinc is in attendance. He is the Landhome Secretary. Like Tin, Zinc is an individual layered with a protective coating. In his element form, he’s used in cosmetics, paints, pigments, plastics, and inks.
Zinc proceeds to drink excessive amounts of alcohol. He sits next to the fireplace and continues to pull the whisky bottle off the mantel—“a good warming place”—in his words.
At one point, the question arises concerning “the soldier surplus or deficit matter” and Zinc, getting boisterous, says, “They’re arriving at the enlistment offices in droves, these minority cattle. I’ll be a monkey’s uncle but I’m even surprised about the turn-out. I’m proud to say we’re not losing any of our best men. Most of the recruits are unemployed, from broken homes, characters with police records that barely pass, and you’ll be surprised, tons of foreigners seeking territorial citizenship. Carbon, I have to hand it to you—it was a great idea of yours to offer citizenship for enlistment.” Boron enters and says, “Good thing, Carbo, we’re not going to lose any of our own men. We’ll have the full support of The Lead and even a lot of the opposition’ll follow suit. Everybody’s a sucker in the Homeland when it comes to patriot allegiance.” Iron can’t resist offering his comments: “If worse comes to worse, we can take some of the taxpayers’ money and shift it into the defense budget. We can employ hired soldiers, pull a few out of prison, asylums, institutions, and therapy. Who’ll know. If they die in action their parents will bury them with pride, something they’ll experience for the first time with these loonies and misfits.”
Radon, always profit-minded, enters the discussion: “Yeah, we can save on healthcare costs with these thousands of individuals. We just have to load them into the aircraft carriers fast as hell.” Iron adds, “Missing in action sounds great, doesn’t it. Anyway you look at it, these guys are invisible.” Boron responds, “Good idea, team! Cartin’ these guys off don’t do no harm. Just make sure if they die that no cameras are around. We gotta paint war in a positive light, gentlemen.” Phosphorus seems disturbed about something. “We’ve got one problem—we have to have continuous support at home for the war.” Boron fires, “What you gittin’ at, Phosy?” “Well, we kinda have to justify the war or CO² might start stirring up negative sentiment homeland-wide.” Radon poses a question: “What are you proposing, Phos?” “Let me think, well, we might just have to sacrifice a few citizens.” Boron enlightened, jumps in: “You know the means is justifyin’ the ends—at least that’s what that slick dude from Italy said—if I’m not mistaken his name was Machovelli.” Zinc adds, “You know what you’re talking about, Boron. We’re going to have to pick times and places where not a whole lot’s happening. We play our cards right, we can sign, seal, and deliver the election.” All fireside talk participants look to Boron, who feels his approval is asked. “Men, do what you have to do. Just make sure it don’t come back to me!”
A week later, a series of explosions hits major cities in the Homeland. There are no witnesses, no clues. Mercury shines every night. He mentions what could be. Those in the Homeland believe the “vile culprits are the Remote War implants, remoters, people who’ve infiltrated the Homeland to seek revenge for their dead.” Little discussion ensues across the Homeland. Recruitment numbers soar. Osmium and Argon and their kind waver between supporting and not supporting the Remote War. In the end, Osmium says, “We, in these times of foreign belligerence, stand by the decision to extinguish evil abroad, but do not condone the manner in which combative action has been implemented. We propose a different course of action, one which will bring home a speedy peace to our brave uprooted from the soil of freedom.”
Arsenic cleverly translates Osmium’s statement to be pro-Boron. Before long, Tin is back in action and the new polls show an even greater Boron lead.
Einsteinium takes things into his own hands. He forges a foreign passport, admits to being “a retard in need of psychiatric help overseas” and manages to get himself transported to the Remote War. The moment he lands in the remote land, he sneaks into “the dead-cargo plane” at the airport, which is waiting to take off for the Homeland. He snaps photos of the coffins which had been carelessly herded into the plane. Towards the back of the aircraft, he sees a group of people lying bandaged on stretchers. Einsteinium assumes that they’re dead and that a shortage of coffins must have left them in this exposed state for the duration of the flight. Strangely, he sees unopened packages of body bags scattered on the floor with “30%-off” discount stickers on them. Einsteinium creeps over to the stretchers, sees that the soldiers are wounded, alive, even sane. He takes his video camera out of his jacket and starts interviewing them one by one. Most of these wounded men turn out to be boys. The “cargo plane” lands in the Homeland and Einsteinium makes an exit disguised as an army doctor.
Meanwhile, Boron has called on a “givin’ thanks period”. He has commissioned the services of Chlorine. The two proceed to spend time at a religious ceremony, at which Chlorine gives a sermon on “the higher morals of conquering the evil that has fallen upon our blessed land.” Chlorine makes his point well and the major networks play ping pong with him at the pulpit and Boron in the first pew with his pious Silver. While the service is going on, the element of Hydrogen has come to the forefront of history once again. Hydrogen=war=the most abundant element in the universe—used to manufacture ammonia and to harden fat and oil. Hydrogen is also used in rocket fuels. Concerning rockets, Boron has made a move to catch everyone by surprise. On one of the aircraft carriers off the coast of the Remote Land, Boron is seen on every news network in the Homeland as a rocket man that lands from the top of the carrier to the deck. The TV stations have not carried his trajectory to ground level because Boron panics and starts pulling strings and dog-paddling in the air before he lands. But Chlorine had handed him a missal with a big cross on it, so when Boron’s feet finally clench the deck and the commander has removed the helmet from Boron’s head, all soldiers kneel down. Boron grins. Photo flashes flood him. He doesn’t speak much. He shakes hands. Eventually, he waves farewell but not before saying, “I’m here as the savior of thanks.” He raises the black book to the heavens and is ushered away.
The euphoria Boron and his cabinet and committee experience leaves them vulnerable. Mercury, suffering from a hangover, has failed to call Tin, Neon, or Vanadium. Others have taken a long weekend to engage in leisure pursuits. The Lead are elated. Osmium doesn’t know what to do. Boron has chosen to take an “extended stopover to git in a round of golf” on an island before returning home.
Meanwhile, Osmium’s campaign team sits with him in a bus still moving towards hope. Nickel, going through her nightly routine, switches on the local TV station to watch the prime time news. Stunned, she sees coffin after coffin in what the newscaster soon refers to as “oblong lives in unmarked cargo graves” and “mentally disabled soldiers suffocating in straitjackets.” Soon interviews with “the recruits strapped to stretchers” take place. Viewers across the Homeland are appalled. Even a couple of The Lead find the news “disgusting and disgraceful.”
One station shows Carbon on a southern beach, sipping a pina colada. A cable channel shows a clip of Boron on the golf course. He comes across awkward in a scene in which he is captured at a water hole, trying to fish his ball out the pond with a ball retriever. Viewers are able to read his lips as he struggles to reel in the ball. He says, “Bite, baby!” some five times.
The next morning Osmium seizes the occasion and appears on a major morning news station. His words: “A grave mismanagement of our men has come to our attention and I implore you to accompany me on a course that leads to Boron’s discharge, dismissal without notice! Let us regroup our troops and our land.” Osmium pauses then says unexpectedly, “Now that rocket man’s on the ground, let’s give him his walking papers!” The masses take well to this last statement and this change in the political state of affairs is seen in the polls to come. Osmium has gained the lead. For the first time since the start of the campaign, potential voters have come to question Boron’s ways and means.
In recent days, Einsteinium has traveled from shore to shore, trying to find more markets for his photos and video.
The war has caused both candidates to agree to postpone the party congresses to the beginning of December. Boron and Osmium also have agreed on holding the events a week apart. Tradition has it that the challenging party holds the congress first. Naturally, the networks have to be at both. Nickel herself has prepared well for the two-day event. All leading party heads past and present are scheduled to be in attendance. Arsenic has also done his work. Piqued by the latest poll tallies, he has planned a turnaround for December. He’s managed to plant “some Lead” at the interview booths. He’s apportioned them well and they are to look like Osmium advocates. Arsenic’s also shrewdly arranged for key supporters of Boron’s “to kidnap as much of the family of Oxygen as possible.” Arsenic is a pie-chart type of guy and he sees a slice of Boron in the congress of the opposition. Osmium and Argon perform exceptionally well at the two-day event and make a good impression: they have gone from lackluster candidates to polished contenders. However, Arsenic has accomplished his mission in enemy territory, ensuring that opposition members have seized valuable interview time at the congress.
Before The Lead-Congress, Boron has decided to call a meeting with his staff. He tells Phosphorus and Iron to “keep stirrin’ that soup of war.” Boron advises Zinc to “keep spreadin’ the word on remoters.” Boron also urges Zinc to “raise the fear factor a few notches—fear makes people afraid of change.”
Einsteinium has once more taken on a role to “aid Osmium’s cause.” Out of his own pocket, he has paid jobless people to attend “The Leadback Congress.” These hired employees are to “disperse well and carry Osmium-Argon campaign signs throughout the congress.” They’ve also been primed by Einsteinium to function as “jack-in-the-box elements”, meaning they become visible “wherever TV cameras and focus lie.” These men and women execute their task well, but only help Osmium’s cause in a minute way because The Lead, with Arsenic totally in his element, stage an event that surpasses all others in history. Mercury and Helium have united to “deliver first-class patriot mail.”
Boron is ushered to a red carpet that leads to the stage. Bowlegged, he makes his royal walk down “the aisle God has laid for mankind.” He takes the stage to a standing ovation and a fireworks display of confetti that drenches Einsteinium’s staff. “The leader of leaders” proceeds to relate the same phrases he’s memorized for months to his loyal supporters. They don’t seem to care. He appeals to them “to not only stand behind our boys in these world-threatenin’ times, but fight with 'em in spirit until the devil of evil is six feet under.” The crowd becomes ecstatic on hearing Boron’s closing words. He looks to the ceiling, his hands folded in prayer. Boron is suddenly joined by his wife, his children, even his pets: his cat and his dog are on leashes. Boron’s cabinet members also appear on stage. Everyone’s waving. The dog’s wagging its tail. Boron’s wagging the dog. Animal and man are on the scent of victory.
On the following day after the congress, Chlorine congratulates Boron on the “instant turnaround--today’s polls also applaud you—you know now is the hour of the Immaculate Conception, Boron.” Boron, hesitating, feels a reply is called for, “Right on. Imaginary concepts become a reality real fast, Chlorider!” Chlorine says, “You don’t know how great it is having a man in Holy Office like you. There’s nothing like the Church and the State. Together we can overcome spiritual and political deficits.”
Osmium and Argon campaign hard. Their bus rolls through sunlit fields. They know their party is united behind them. For the first time, Osmium is seen in church at Christmas. He fails to create a natural impression in this Roman-Catholic environment. However, Argon saves him, by taking part in a gospel event that reaches the highest of spiritual and emotional heights; Argon has powers that enable him to send shivers up the spines of people and here he has ignited the backbones of congregational members across the country. He has had the good fortune of being accompanied by a few key networks throughout yuletide.
The year ends with war. It usually does for the Homeland: peace at home, war abroad.
The start of January is accompanied by vast media coverage on the Remote War, which has escalated out of control. Horrendous pictures reach screens inland and outland. Mothers in the Homeland are beginning to question the sense of the war. Deaths are mounting and “the end is not in sight.” Boron, hearing of the latest comments coming from scattered regions throughout the Homeland, has castigated Mercury for “lettin’ the land divide itself up in three parts: the for war-ers, the against war-ers, and the mid-war-ers.” Boron’s keen on protecting his lead in the polls. He knows, “It’s only a matter of months to saddle up a win.”
At a time when Boron and company are riding high, bizarre news hits the headlines: “Porn Recruit Recruits Services of Men in the Service.” The written word has spoken and soon after the voice of television tops the newspaper headlines. The porn recruit, Platinum, issues a statement claiming “I’ve made a mess out of the male stability within our forces.” True to her element, Platinum is noncorroding, ductile, and malleable. Platinum is a catalyst.
The Lead are shocked by the appearance of this “alley aberration.” In fact, they have no idea how to handle the situation, which is gaining media attention by the minute. Porn business draws more money in the Homeland than all its major sports combined. Back home, Einsteinium has a grin on his face. He had researched the backgrounds of “suspect hasty enlisters” and once again succeeded in gaining access to military headquarters in the Remote Land. Naturally, he interviewed those soldiers “missing in battlefield action, but present in multi-lateral actions.”
Iron and Phosphorus are irate. They’ve been upstaged by “a female squealer.” Phosphorus, caught off guard by the whole affair, has uttered, “We have commenced with investigative measures to bring these unfocused atrocities to light with a view to meting out punishment and restoring the optimal integrity characteristic of our operations abroad.”
On the next night, Neon begins his news by featuring Platinum, who issues a statement: “I been approached by a host of men who oughta be payin’ service to their country but are payin’ service checks to me instead.” Neon interrupts and asks, “Platinum, exactly what kind of services did these men solicit?” “Well, don’t go censorin’ me, but a lotta the boys in the barracks wanted “sex Jimmy raw dog” “Just how did these male species approach you?” “Well, they simply approached me and it was always on hump day.” “May I ask what is to be understood by that?” “Yeah, oh well, hump day is Wednesday, you know getting’ o’er the hump of the week, but….” “You don’t need to go any further, Platinum.” Thanks for your revealing remarks.” “Thank you.”
Osmium and Argon immediately hold press conferences. Osmium talks first, “We have a New Year upon us and I’ve got resolutions for our great territorial divide. We need to break a bad habit and the vice that has come to contaminate our forces at home and abroad is this government’s misguided leadership and policies. We have a man out there who should be at the helm, but he’s hanging on to a mast of immorality and he’s going whatever way the wind blows. When you cast your vote in spring, don’t shipwreck it. I’ll set a course for progress. Join me in oaring towards change.” Argon also holds a speech in another part of the Homeland. He emphasizes “a colossal shift from this immoral state of affairs to a state of domestic affairs in which all citizens may take avail of a health, educational, and socially geared system that we intend to revamp once we’re given your vote of confidence.”
In the meantime, Helium and Scandium ignore the scandal and focus on the war itself. Helium, commenting the morning after Platinum issued her prime-time statement, says, “Ninety-nine percent of our men are doing the right thing. General Phosphorus is a man of his word, and when he says victory is near we all must focus on securing freedom for the world. Osmium and his followers have turned their view from the real matter at hand.” Scandium has insinuated on the air that “the deviations from the norm are opposition-designed and –generated. They’ve got nothin’ better to do than put a spotlight on smut that isn’t worth a plug nickel.”
At the end of January, Osmium has regained the lead. His campaign route continues to zigzag from “coast to coast and lake to lake.”
Mercury announces February as “The Love Month.” Valentine’s Day divides the month. Regarding the military’s love escapades, the far-reaching lewdness abroad has subsided. The networks have managed to distort the facts and too much curiosity has killed the cat. But in The Love Month a different off-shore immoral adventure is on the horizon. It relates to an Argon vacation before the campaign had begun.
Scandium opens his daily radio show with, “This morning I’m going to be reading a true, amorous account involving a top political personage penned by an anonymous female source. Here goes. Brace yourselves, homelanders. Listen up.” Scandium hesitates, then begins, “I happened to be on the beach at night, kinda waitin’ for Argon to come down from his cottage for a night jog on the beach. After ten o’clock he came down the dune with a beach blanket. I remember it had a donkey with red, white, and blue stripes on its back. Well, as it was, Argon stretched a bit on it, then started a slow jog. I started a bit after him, but soon caught up to him with a smile. We jogged slower and slower, glancin’ at each other more often than not. When we got back to the point where we started, we looked at each other, didn’t say a word, shredded our clothes and jumped in the water. When we came up for air, we were kissin’, fondlin’, doin’ it all.
Scandium pauses after reading the tale, then says, “Argon, a man whose soul experiences clashes of values and guilt, grew haunted by the pangs of conscience. Some time before the election kick-off, he stopped by a village parish unfamiliar to him and went to the local church to confess. The confession lasted a short time. Argon repented and wanted to atone for his sins. Argon left the church with the load off the back of his conscience.” Scandium hesitates, then continues, “That’s it folks. Believe me, it’s all from a verifiable source. I’m looking forward to our country being led another four years by the Boron Governance.”
It turns out that the priest taking the confession is a certain Father Flourine, who is Chlorine’s brother-in-law.”
The lady jogger ends up being a person called Californium. Her chemical record shows her as a radioactive element discovered by bombarding curium 242 with alpha particles.
The domino effect has taken its full course: from Argon to Chlorine’s brother-in-law to Chlorine to Carbon to Arsenic to Neon. An hour after Scandium’s radio announcement, Neon’s talking, “Breaking news—word has it—the opposition candidate’s ‘running mate’ has not practiced what he recently preached and has become liable for an indecent act that has been forwarded to our attention by sources linked to a rural preacher.”
Boron and company find the news “characteristic of the opposition and in line with their other inadequacies.” Radon, a man forever thinking in financial terms, uses the phrase “a great windfall profit.”
The opposition calls a meeting behind closed doors, but they have failed to investigate the verity of the content in Scandium’s radio address. Instead, they focus on the statement Argon is to make on national TV.
Argon comes to the lectern, poised. He proceeds to issue a statement that is the opposite of what the TV viewers expect. Argon begins, “My fellow homelanders, I come to you with a heavy heart in this hour of shame. I’m not going to defend myself against or deny the allegations that have been made against me. Now is a time of truth. I admit to my wrongdoing and beseech you to forgive me for an act I sincerely regret.” He pauses. At this point, journalists barrage him with questions. Argon lowers his outstretched right arm, a gesture which silences the journalists, who take their seats again. Argon continues, “Facts speak for themselves and you can be sure this is a sad fact I, my family, my friends, my party, and my supporters now have to come to terms with on my account. Details on what I did can’t change the grave mistake that has been made. I have asked the highest authority for forgiveness and I now ask you to conduct yourselves like the Supreme Being: To error is human; to forgive, divine.” After ending with this quote, Argon pauses. Tears well in his eyes. From behind a curtain, his wife and daughters appear and give him heartfelt hugs.
Viewers in the Homeland also feel sympathy for Argon and the poll results on “should or shouldn’t he be forgiven” show that the majority of the homelanders forgive him. Argon has survived the scandal by the skin of his teeth and the tear ducts in his eyes.
However, the leaders of The Lead tenaciously cling to their destructive path and pursue the issue through channels of their own. Boron instructs Mercury to “git Helium and Scandium in the game.” A day later, viewers have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Californium. But Boron and company’s idea of “making Californium known to the public” backfires. Their old nemesis, Einsteinium, has carried out some private investigations at breakneck speed, and he has paid Californium a visit to discuss her course of action.
When Californium appears on TV she creates an instant impression of class, polish, elegance, and grace. Helium fires the first question at her, “Just what went on with your RUNNING MATE, Argon?” Californium answers, “Argon is a man of integrity who happened to exercise improper judgment. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was at the right place at the right time.” Helium counters, “What does that mean?” “You see, I also made a mistake by saying YES to an individual who approached me with the promise that my career would take off if I carried out ‘one easy, but awkward deed.’” Helium, impatient, asks, “Who was this? The deed we know.” Californium pauses, then says, “I don’t know. Don’t put this on record. I don’t want to be sued. I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that it has something to do with the Boron Governance.” “That’s hogwash. Let’s not make any claims you can’t back.” Helium no longer asks any questions and decides to end the interview abruptly. He thanks her “for being here as evidence that Argon has committed a crime he shouldn’t be forgiven for. You play, you pay.”
After a week, Californium is no longer a “hot item” on the news. Einsteinium has once again managed to foil The Lead’s plot. Yet, the latest polls show that Boron has “a secure lead.” Obvious damage has been done to Osmium in his pursuit of the holy grail of government.
Boron, in another of his fireside talks, has a talk with Zinc, who, amid another of his patented drinking sprees, comes up with the idea to “exploit Argon’s mishap via a uniform homeland-wide headline.” Boron has failed to grasp the meaning of Zinc’s words. Zinc notices Boron’s blank look and says, “Look, B-Ron, all we have to do is feed our journalists a line like, ‘No Longer Hard on Argon.’” Boron utters, “Yeah, and what?” Zinc says, “Then we just tell our editors-in-chief to ‘accidentally’ insert a hyphen between ‘hard’ and ‘on’. It takes Boron some time to make the association then he lets out a big roar of laughter. “Man, you’re somthin’, Zinny. Git on it!” The next morning several major daily headlines contain the mistake. Nickel makes her calls, but The Lead leaders have won out with their below-the-belt tactics.
Nickel’s been irked by what she calls “the stations’ failure to air Osmium first.” This refers to Boron’s being shown before Osmium on the news and mentioned before Osmium on the radio. Nickel has also urged Osmium and Argon and their families to “hit the campaign trail day and night and leave a trail behind homelanders have to follow.” As the campaign is slowly coming to an end, all candidates have intensified their efforts: insults are hurled back and forth across TV stations and radio waves, paid television ads lure swing voters, vote-soliciting activities exploit ‘good light’ politicians of the past.
At month’s end, the two candidates for the high office of the land are scheduled to hold a trio of debates, which are not rounds of free critical exchange, but a scenario with a staged everything: questions, audience, and given-time-to-offer-rebuttal slots.
The first debate takes place somewhere in the boondocks and the media attention channeled into the rural village actually embarrasses the town folk. The Lead, believing they have “the cat in the bag,” await a convincing Boron performance.
Before the debate, Boron is perturbed—“that I gotta prove what I’m already good at.” Both candidates enter the auditorium to applause and are welcomed by the host, the questioner, who holds a piece of paper that includes the prepared questions to be covered within ninety minutes. Osmium shows he’s “glad to be a part of it” and proceeds to dazzle the audience and the Homeland with his rhetorical skills, while Boron makes so many mistakes one could fill a manual called “The Don’ts of Debating.” The nationally televised event ends and both candidates act like winners. The polls give Osmium a slight edge mainly because Arsenic and Tin “have worked like slaves to adjust the difference.”
Arsenic, fearing a repeat performance by Boron in the second debate, has contacted the “urgent services” of Scandium, who is commissioned to procure Osmium’s second debate file. Scandium manages to have a copy made of comments Osmium’s spin doctors have compiled. Even with Tin working overtime, Boron’s lead has shrunk. Several of The Lead in the country have expressed bewilderment concerning Boron’s “homeland-wide vocal flop.” However, when the second debate begins, Boron comes across prepared and focused—for him. He has the answers The Lead expect. Osmium has him against the ropes, but Boron shifts around the ring and succeeds in throwing a few punches of his own. The debate ends and both men claim victory. Their wives and daughters join them on stage and hug and kiss them. The poll edge goes to Osmium, but by a nose. The next morning, the overall homelander poll, called The Master Poll, has Boron in a commanding lead. Nickel is confounded. Tin is not.
Between the second and the final debate, Einsteinium carries out “my usual excavation work on Lead burials.” He has a way pried into Lead headquarters and he manages to secure a memo stating that “the FAQ-sheet has been dug out and duplicated.” The FAQs turn out to be a copy, not of frequently asked questions, but of Osmium’s Facts and Qualms page for the second debate. In a day’s time, the headlines express Einsteinium’s find: “Osmium Debate File Stolen.” As this theft can not be proved by Einsteinium or anyone else, The Lead leaders deny the accusations. The homelanders believe the newspapers because the majority of TV viewers are aware of “the fishy difference between the first and second debate.”
As has been the case throughout the campaign, Einsteinium has boosted Osmium’s numbers in the polls and has improved the challenger’s position. The third debate is full of a pair “lesses”: senseless and useless. Even the pollsters have been given the night off after this debate comes to a close. February also closes and the polls of the month, too: they have Boron and Osmium in a dead heat.
The last month of the campaign has arrived. The voice of winter is humbled by the vociferous range of spring with its budding, blossoming, and greening resonance.
What’s happening to nature in the Remote War is beyond any flowery poetical description. The Lead leadership has agreed to “jacking up bombardments as far as it’ll go.” Boric acid is widespread in the Remote Land.
The increased activities abroad have shadowed all issues that demand attention at home. The dog the Boron Governance has been wagging is in dire need of rest. The administration has decided to “wag the wolf” at the end of the campaign. Television ads, with full-grown wolves in thick fur coats lined with fake fear-instilling elements prowl the Homeland in search of innocent, helpless homelanders they want to devour.
Einsteinium doesn’t like the lupine rovers he sees in the fields and the woods, on the plains and prairies and plans “a last-ditch attempt to show the homelanders how the rest of the world would vote.” He travels to different lands to interview “average citizens, urbanites, even politicians.” His current affairs program is titled “What the Majority Thinks”. The consensus of those interviewed: “Osmium is more the statesman, the more intelligent of the two, the one better for the rest of the world.” To Einsteinium’s regret, the show has been shifted out of prime time slots. His statement that “coverage in the dark is seen by no one” becomes a reality. Einsteinium is astonished about “just how long the arm of the Boron Governance is.”
Radon has made it known to Technetium that “It’s now tech time more than ever.” Technetium is a networking guy unlike Helium, Scandium, Neon, Vanadium, and Silicon. His network is an IT one. He’s a man schooled in the world of connections: backbones, POPs, relays, fixed lines, fiberglass lines, copper lines, mobile lines. Technetium is a mathematical genius, the student sort who tests out of high school and graduates from the university before he’s eighteen. Naturally, his prowess did not go unnoticed by those “in high command.” Three weeks after his college graduation, Technetium was working for the Boron Governance in the field of intelligence operations. His work for the administration entails networking of a different sort. The Boron Governance has “no vested interest in establishing network connections of a physical liking, but in getting information on networks.” Technetium earns a salary that matches one of a typical board member in the Homeland. His other matchless talent is his profound knowledge of computers. Technetium is the best hacker in the Homeland. He’s been given the assignments “to obtain data on all registered Leadbacks to make sure we get them out to vote—to obtain information on Chlorasmas, the ultra-conservative group of churchgoers to make sure their vote is ‘blessed by the Almighty One’—to obtain particulars on swing-voter types to get them on the right side of the line.” The basic message behind the assignment is, in Boron’s words, “Hound ’em till they’ve voted for me.”
Technetium has also been instructed to do the follow-up work, “to guarantee that the vote’s really been cast.” An additional operation of Technetium’s is “to promote our party anyway you can on the home and company screens.” Radon’s words are, “Make us visible and make us modern. Osmium doesn’t have the funds for electronic communication, advertising, and he has absolutely no vast network experience behind him. Whatever they come up with, it’ll be too late!” Technetium goes above and beyond the call of duty and does everything he’s told to do but he also adds details that aid the Boron Governance. He sends out pop-ups that show where the nearest voting stations are, what the best times to vote are. Technetium’s not actually interested in politics—he’s interested in the information game he can play by himself and against himself. It’s the challenge of “taking my capacity to the limit.” One of his own mottos is “When you walk the tightrope in this circus of life, never focus on the audience.” In this context, he’s had his hand in designing the most sophisticated bombs, rockets, missiles, fighter planes, aircraft carriers, and nuclear submarines in the world, with no concern whatsoever as to what results after his creations and applications have been put to military use. Technetium views war as “a deterrent to explosive population growth.” A man of physics, he also believes, “God doesn’t play dice and if he plays games of chance like roulette, you can be sure when he spins the wheel and the spherical orb of fate lands on a man’s number, his number’s up.”
It is the middle of March and the homelanders have been put in a high state of alert owing to an alleged statement made by a remoter. The last line of his speech included the phrase “beware the ides of March.” Mercury has been asked to comment on behalf of the Boron Governance concerning this public threat. His opening statement: “Today I’m here to tell you that we have evidence of the most confidential nature that the likelihood of a remoter strike on our precious soil is in the pipeline. We ask you to exercise extreme caution until an official governmental announcement informs you otherwise. Thank you.” Mercury exits the stage.
The Boron Governance’s spokesman’s “words of warning” have set off a wave of panic among certain
Leadbacks and selected opposition members. Several individuals have misinterpreted the pipeline formulation and have construed that explosives have been placed in oil refinery and gas station pipelines. A few even believe that bombs have been “stuffed into tank truck gas tanks” and have become “mobile four-wheel dynamite.”
Many homelanders have rushed to army-navy stores and have cleaned the shelves of gas masks. Other shoppers have been put on a three-day waiting list for “jumbo fire extinguishers.” A great number of parents have purchased one-size-fits-all fireproof suits for their children. In a week, however, sales decline and the overall demand for clothing to protect against “liquid flammability” wanes.
CHAPTER TWENTY ONE
Osmium and Argon’s unflagging energy and campaign push continues. It is now the week before Easter and in front of thousands gathered in his hometown, Osmium says, “It’s Palm Sunday and I’m holding this palm branch up to heaven as a positive link to the future while the Boron Governance is greasing palms!” No one knows how to react to this puzzling statement which Osmium seems to have made to show off his ability to use puns. Argon, standing beside him, seizes the microphone and says, “You all have had a hand in personal resurrection from the death of immortality, excuse me, I meant immorality, I sank to. Now join the next leader of our Homeland and me as we, all together, experience the timely resurrection of our land before it is too late!” Applause is heard throughout the crowd. Argon hands the microphone back to Osmium, who continues where Argon left off, “Ladies and Gentlemen, you and I will resurrect the Homeland and bring it out of the Boron Governance’s dead healthcare, education, employment, and pension policies. We all have a right to life. Thank you! God bless you!” The crowd cheers loudly and long. Backstage, Nickel picks up on the message the short talks generate and creates a fresh campaign slogan: “New Life.”
The Master Poll a week before the election has the race even. Nickel interprets this result to mean an Osmium lead; Arsenic sees the result “triggered by in-house malfunction” and he promptly pins the blame on Tin.
CHAPTER TWENTY TWO
Boron and company have made the choice to press ahead with “an automatic religious pitch that ends up in the strike zone every time.” Boron’s subsequent utterance to his staff: “Yeah, keep the heat on, fire strikes!”
The Boron Governance meets with Chlorine to discuss “a failsafe church-to-state plan.” Boron, who has drawn excessive amounts of favorable media attention at the end of this campaign, chooses a region that once went by the name of “Bible Belt.” Einsteinium has renamed it “Gideon’s Girdle.” The Boron Governance meets in a series of stadiums-made-into-churches for what they coin “The Campaign Conference for B-lievers.” The campaign launches with Boron welcoming everyone on Holy Thursday, a day he urges all the B-lievers in attendance to “recall recollections of the Holy Wars and why they were fought and won.” The day-long event ends. At the next stadium stop, Boron greets the throngs on a day he says is “not Good Friday, but God Friday, a day to pray to our Father for peace at home and abroad.” Saturday is a family day, with a short stint at an indoor stadium that houses a picnic table as long and as wide as the top deck of a cruise ship. Boron fares well, shaking hands with people he refers to as “the po’ folk.”
Boron closes The Conference Campaign for B-lievers on Easter with a media event that catches cameras across the Homeland. The Boron Governance meets at dawn. Everyone watching is wondering “why this get-together is scheduled at such a time.” Soon the sun lifts its veil of darkness. Boron, standing there, says, with confidence, “Today is Easter, hallelujah! Look at the sky. Look at the earth. Look at the sun and the Homeland. The Son has risen. For us. For our land. On Tuesday morning when you go to vote, let the Son shine in.” Boron and his family climb into a helicopter that Chlorine, dressed up in splendid Easter church-wear garb, pilots. There are two crosses on the sides of the helicopter. Boron flies off in what soon looks like a dragonfly.
The final day of the campaign witnesses both sides doing the same thing: appearing with celebrities, people like Tungsten, and illustrious political leaders of yesteryear. The polls are out: “Too close to call.”
CHAPTER TWENTY THREE
It’s Election Day in the Homeland and to the surprise of both parties, homelanders come out in droves. The Osmium team perceives this voter turnout as “a sign of imminent victory.” Boron and company make no hasty conclusions. Both candidates have already been to the voting stations with their families. Now they sit with their staffs to wait for the results the TV stations will feed them in eight hours. Boron already has a look on his face that knows. Meanwhile, Einsteinium is out on the voting trail, handing out “facts and flyers.” He senses “it will go down to the wire” and believes “every vote counts.” He also spends the whole day frequenting various voting stations to make sure no criminal acts take place. Rumors have come to his attention throughout the day that the Boron Governance has “paid voters cash, torn up ballots filled out by Osmium voters, had documents falsified, had hundreds of Leadbacks vote for incapacitated seniors.”
Technetium’s operations have been running at full throttle since the voting stations opened. He issues updates to Arsenic on “Leadback turnout” at ten minute intervals. Arsenic has his team phone individuals to encourage them to go to the stations before closing time. Osmium lacks this technological advantage. He and his staff sit back and hope for the best. Einsteinium has lawyers surveying certain stations. Lawyers are all over the Homeland.
The election ends and Einsteinium is irate about “individuals partaking in rigging the votes.” An Einsteinium quote from one of the few left-wing magazines: “You have sound proof of lying, fraud, wiretapping, eavesdropping, white-collar crime, doctoring the books and they’re all funneled into a legal container that has a hole in it.” On several occasions in the past, Einsteinium had wanted to take Helium and Scandium to court, but was advised by legal experts that “chronic liars can’t lose in court, so you’re wasting your time and money.”
The results begin to come in—seemingly a healthy victory for Osmium, but then a reddish element, “the color of disease,” in Nickel’s words, starts riddling the body of the Homeland—only the hearts of the metropolises under coastal ribs remain unaffected.
The voting stations shut down for another four years. Every major network proceeds to telecast Zinc’s announcement on the final result: “Boron, the winner, by more than one thousand votes.”
Osmium’s stage is an easy target rain pelts, and the only onlookers remain curious tourists who sense the dreariness that takes the shape of a coffin lid that closes down on another contender.
The Boron Governance sits in its room of success, downplaying the victory.
Boiling protests of voter fraud surface homeland-wide, but they soon simmer. A haunting calmness pervades the Homeland.
The cameras go off on Helium, Neon, Vanadium, and Silicon. The radio switches Scandium off. History buries Osmium. The lights shine on the Boron Governance. The skies are clear where Boron sits and the gods look down on him. He knows the Chlorasmas have “renewed my political license.”
CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR
“To the end of the evening in the warmth of victory,” Boron calls a fireside talk. His key staff is present, along with Chlorine, Tin, and Arsenic. Boron says, “You all let me make this short. Thanks for the great job. All we have to do in the future is obey the Ten Commands here I’ve scribbled down:
keep up the God link,
maintain grassroots appeal,
keep fear in the lurch,
keep up hero shots,
give opposition tiny coverage and then with softees,
keep up the labels—words like ‘atheist, communist, women’s libber, and liberal’ work great,
use unverified reports,
you write somethin’ false, use footnotes to explain it,
if you say it, make machine-gun comments,
and last but not least,
breed and bleed patriotism.”
The Boron Governance is handed glasses of champagne and carte blanche. The toasts are loud. The bright echoes of “cheers” ricochet in the wide central valley of a “resounding” victory. The coasts are dim and deaf.
CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE
Word comes from Nickel’s campaign headquarters that Osmium will be making his concession speech. His supporters expect an “uncompromising, lay-it-on-the-line, no-give-in last word on the scrupulous, corrupt, banana-republic voting manipulation activities that brutally tipped the scale in the Boron Governance’s favor.” Most stations in the country have decided to televise the speech.
Before midnight, Osmium appears—to a standing ovation given by his campaign supporters and “all those who’ve stood by me to the bitter end.” Virtually all his supporters across the Homeland tune in to view the farewell address. The election result has left a deep incision in their hearts and souls and these viewers want to “see our hopes die in person.”
“Thank you so much for making it worthwhile. Without you we never would have come this far. Although the battle was hard fought on all fronts, I now call on you to respect the verdict the land has issued. What separates the men from the boys is that we are exemplary models of fair sports. In this connection, this election seems as if it’d been one long playoff. It came down to the last out. We almost scored! Half of the Homeland has been and is on our side. I implore you to leave this Roman-coliseum-like campaign as winners and not sore losers. There’s a lot that’s not right with the Homeland, but it’s still the best there is.” An inkling of applause ensues. Osmium continues, “Along the way, I’ve got to know so many wonderful people. It’s been a spectacular six months! I want to thank all of you, you know who you are, for believing in the betterment of our precious land we have to take care of until the end of time. In this context, I ask you to join me in my support of the Boron Governance. I might not have conducted military operations in a manner typical of their approach, but we have our men and women to protect and to stand behind until peace has conquered war. I extend my congratulations to Boron on his re-election and wish him the strength and good health to lead our country in the right direction. Everyone, thank you. It’s been a great trip!” Osmium waves good-bye, then is joined on stage by his family and Argon and his family. They all wave farewell, before exiting the stage of the chemical element campaign for the last time.