SHYLOH WANTED TO KEEP the meeting with Judith and Aiya informal and low key which suited Judith since now days she liked to remain in the shadows. However, Aiya traveled nowhere without an entourage as befitting a minor deity, so she suggested one of the many homes at her disposal, a multi-level mansion perched on a rocky outcrop outside of Horseshoe Bay in West Vancouver.
She arranged a ride for Shyloh and the limousine pulling up at his co-housing building had caused a stir among the residents.
He was the last to arrive at the meeting and when he entered Judith and Aiya were deep in discussion. When they saw him, they both stood and approached.
Aiya wore a white flowing dress that contrasted her dark skin. A belt of gold linked-flowers gathered the fabric at the waist. Her signature black, curly mane was held back by a gold headscarf and around her delicate throat shone a gold filigree necklace.
Judith wore a severe charcoal pantsuit, and a cream silk t-shirt. Her hair was once again long, braided and pulled off her face.
“It’s good to see you both and thank you for making yourselves available on such short notice,” Shyloh said.
He walked to the edge of the patio and took in the expansive view of Howe Sound to the right and Georgia Strait to the left. “So this is how the faithful live.”
“My followers come from all walks of life.” Aiya said. “They’re happy to open their homes to the service of InterFaith.
Arranging a meeting with the CEO of Wolfe Intelligence Security Enterprises and the spiritual leader of InterFaith, the largest and fastest growing religious movement in the country would have been difficult for most, but the three of them still shared private cell phone numbers.
When Shyloh told them he was being pressured to take a stand in the upcoming election and needed their counsel, both had cleared their calendars. If he took a position, they’d want it to be for their cause, whatever that might be.
It was almost like the old days though Shyloh knew an aging college professor didn’t have the influence on his friends he’d had in the past. This meeting wasn’t about influencing their direction, it was more about discovering which way they were heading.
“Please, have some refreshment,” Aiya said. A variety of fruits, salads and cheese had been laid out on a side board. She dismissed the three acolytes with a wave of her hand. They bowed and withdrew.
Shyloh poured a glass of lemon water and sat down at the round table in the shade.
Judith grabbed an imported beer from an ice bucket and studied the label.
“I wasn’t aware this was still being produced. You must have followers all over the globe.” She joined Shyloh at the table.
“The InterFaith concept of one world religion is appealing to more and more people, especially to those in countries persecuted by extremists.”
Shyloh waited. He could learn a lot just by listening.
“So, Shy, who is pressuring you and what do they want you to support?” Judith said.
“And why does a master of diplomacy seek our advice?” Aiya said.
“I wanted to hear the arguments for establishing a buffer zone.”
“Ask the eight citizens murdered on their farm by raiders a few weeks ago.”
“A buffer zone would have prevented that?”
“A electric fence and a five kilometre strip of land beyond Cascadia’s border sprinkled with antipersonnel mines and regular drone surveillance? I can guarantee it.”
“Correct me if I’m wrong, but the southern portion of the zone will be in the United States of America. How are they going to feel about this?”
“It seems you haven’t been reading your security briefings, Shyloh. The United States is not so united and what’s left of their federal government has more pressing problems.” Judith sipped her beer. “The enemy is at the gates and threat is present and increasing.”
“How do you feel about this, Aiya?”
“The priority should be to keep our citizens safe.”
Judith and Aiya in agreement? Something was going on.
“I’ve heard some opposition parties in the Legislature want to try to negotiate with the raiders. If a treaty or truce could be established much needed resources could be shifted from defense and security to fund other programs.”
Judith frowned. Shyloh noticed her and Aiya exchange a glance.
“Don’t believe everything you read in the newspaper, Shy,” Judith said. “If our borders are breached citizens will have bigger problems than potholes in the road and long waits at the medical clinic.”
“Have we tried to enter into a dialogue with these groups?” Shyloh said.
“Do we want to?” Aiya’s dark eyes flashed. “Not only are these people murdering our citizens, most of them support an ideology that the white race are superior to all other racial groups and therefore should be the dominant group in any society.”
The outburst startled Shyloh, especially the use of the term ‘these people’, a phrase most often preceded by racist sentiments, and one that had been used to describe Cascadia’s new immigrants prior to the rise of the Triumvirate and the reestablishment of democracy some twenty years ago.
“How could you even suggest we negotiate with those who regard people like you, a person of mixed race, as a corruption of the white race and evidence of the degradation they must fight against?”
Shyloh looked at Judith to see if she was as shocked as he was with this tirade of intolerance and thought he detected a wisp of a smile. He didn’t think what Aiya said was the official government line, but if that was how the leader of the largest religious movement in the country felt about entering into negotiations with the Neighbours it was a career killer for any politician to speak out to support it.
“And you’re sure all the Neighbours communities that border on Cascadia in the southeast feel that way?” Shyloh said.
“That’s what the intelligence would suggest,” Judith said.
“You just have to look at the hate they post on the internet,” Aiya said.
Shyloh finished his lemon water. “This has been enlightening. Thank you.”
“So, if asked about the buffer zone what position will you take?” Aiya said.
Shyloh expected the question to come from Judith. “It’s not likely I’ll be asked about international issues. For the last decade I’ve been immersed in community development, the day-to-day stuff that makes our neighbourhoods better places to live and work.”
“But you have an opinion.” Aiya challenged him with her eyes.
“I’ve always been a diplomat, a negotiator. I’d say we need to look for a middle ground, but that’s not the quote the media will want.”
“Like a two-and-a-half kilometre buffer zone instead of five?” Judith said and laughed. “The need to protect our citizens is paramount, but there’s also an opportunity here to reset the course we were on twenty years ago.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Aiya is publicly going to support an increase in defense spending.”
“Yes, and my followers number over a third of the population,” Aiya said.
“If you came on side, Shyloh, we’d have the support we need,” Judith said.
“To do what?”
“To set priorities, speed up decision making, put the brakes on union demands that are crippling business and industry, and crack down on crime and the underground economy that are eroding our tax base just to name a few.”
“That’s quite an agenda. What about you, Aiya?”
“My followers support law and order and they’re concerned with the opposition party’s misguided attempts to negotiate with those who view our diverse population is a threat to their natural superiority,” Aiya said. “These groups advocate genocide and ethnic cleansing to support a white nation.”
“Security issues aside, Shyloh, you have to admit, once we resolved our differences the five years the Triumvirate was in power more was accomplished than in the past twenty.” Judith drilled him with her steel-grey eyes.
What they said was true up to a point. Yes, there were groups on Cascadia’s borders like Aiya suggested, but only a small percentage of white Americans had such extreme views. After all, a quarter of the population was black or Hispanic.
He’d heard Judith’s claim from his neighbours that government was more efficient under the Triumvirate, but taking the time to reach a consensus was the difference between governing as opposed to ruling.
As far as resolving their differences that only happened when Judith had been backed into a corner and the country was on the brink of civil war.
“This is all very interesting,” Shyloh said. “I need time to process.”
Aiya reached across the table and placed her hand on his arm. “This could be a second chance, Shy. We could create your better world right here, right now.”
“You’ve obviously been thinking about this for some time whereas I’ve only heard about it. You must give me some time to consider all the implications.”
Aiya withdrew her hand. “You might not get a second chance.”
Shyloh and Judith walked down the steps carved into the rock face and through the garden to where the vehicles were parked by the security gate. Judith, not to be dependent on anyone, had arrived with her own driver in a blacked-out Tahoe.
“How’s Taalia,” Shyloh said. He knew because he’d just seen her but he wanted her mother’s version.
Judith stopped. “You’ve kept your promise?”
“Of course.” Why did she ask? Judith had never questioned his silence before. Was she feeling vulnerable?
Judith continued walking. “Our daughter has been suspended from active duty.”
“Why?” When was the last time Judith referred to Taalia as their daughter? Perhaps when she was born thirty-one years ago? Shyloh couldn’t remember.
“For refusal to carry out an order.”
“Was the order unlawful?”
“That’s to be determined.”
“I understood she was an exemplary officer.”
Judith frowned. “She still has a lot to learn.”
“She’s naïve, idealistic.
“You were once an idealist.”
“I’m a pragmatist, always have been.” They’d reached their vehicles. Judith looked him in the face.
“If you love your daughter warn her against going against me. They don’t realize...”
Judith began to speak, then reconsidered. “On second thought, it would better for everyone, including your self, if you stayed out of this.”
Shyloh spent the long ride back from Horseshoe Bay to South Vancouver processing what he’d heard.
He could understand Judith’s reluctance to negotiate a border peace with white supremacist raiders. It was in her interest to have an enemy so her company could keep providing the services that included, according to the W.I.S.E. website; “mission support, security, training, investigation and intelligence gathering and direct action operatives on the ground.”
But as Taalia had explained retaliating for the murders of a few Cascadians with indiscriminate drone attacks on Neighbours’ convoys and settlements was strategically counterproductive, and for Aiya, a religious leader who considered all human life sacred, to condone it was indefensible.
Shyloh knew these women, or at least thought he did. How had they become capable of such things? Could it be that Aiya and Judith had evolved with the times and he hadn’t? After the dissolution of the Triumvirate he lost all desire to be involved in public life or shape government policy. He had felt responsible for the coup and the resulting three years of bloodshed and chaos. It was his policies that set it up the situation and his protegé who took advantage of it. He used to think Judith and Aiya would never have attained such positions in society despite their intellect, ambition, and talent without his vision and guidance. Now he wondered if it was just the opposite.
Whether he was responsible or not an alliance between Aiya and Judith, in essence between the church and the military did not bode well for Cascadia’s young democracy, nor to anyone else who did not share their vision of the future.
In the past he’d used their mutual distrust, competitiveness, and, yes, he realized jealousy, as well as their desire to please him to forge an alliance, to reset their motivations and direction. This would not happen now, too much was already in play. Their offer for him to join them was an afterthought, an insurance policy. They didn’t need him and they probably regretted letting him in on their conspiracy to usurp the power of the elected government. He’d have to use other methods and recruit other allies to derail their agenda.
This thread of thought brought him to what Judith had divulged about Taalia.
The information about her suspension from active duty didn’t surprise him but it puzzled him. Taalia was the youngest Colonel in the CSF and knew the consequences of not carrying out an order unless the order itself was unlawful.
Killing non-combatants or destroying their property in retribution for border raids they weren’t involved in was unlawful, at least in Shyloh’s opinion.
Still, the wisest course of action would have been to follow the order and then report it afterward as being questionable in its lawfulness. Had Taalia done that before to no avail?
Who were the ‘they’ Judith had let slip during the walk to their cars? Did Taalia have colleagues in the military who felt the same way she did, questioned the policies the Ministry of Security and Defense was making on the information and advice from an outside agency? After all, the oath said ‘To serve and protect’, not seek and destroy.
Mother and daughter relationships were complicated even when your mother was a normal human being. When your mother was Judith, an Ubermensch, someone who placed duty before everything else including family, a child might harbour resentment. Shyloh only hoped Taalia could put aside any such feelings and make objective decisions.
This confrontation had all the makings of a classic Greek myth and usually they ended tragically.
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