Reformism Interruptet

Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Seven

The Second Front

by Nick Lucas and Dee


This is a part of Reformism Interruptet and follows the part Masters of the Dark Arts. Having read the previous parts is a prerequisite for fully enjoing this story.

New Hampshire, Old Routine

Madison Nixon stayed very close to her mother, as instructed, well aware that Miss Robinson would be watching her every move. Nothing less than perfection would ever do. Every move, every billow of her cloak, had to be elegant and controlled, to give the ever-present media what they wanted, which seemed to be more and more pictures of her personal nightmare. Not that anyone else knew it was a nightmare. Madison was the poster girl for American Reformism, the archetypal maiden, and her veiled face seemed to be everywhere, from the news to the cover of Vogue magazine. Not her voice, of course. No one ever heard her voice. Her mother, Candice Nixon, did the talking for the women of the family in support of her husband, and not even Miss Robinson dared to defy Candice. Madison and her mother had never been close, she had always been a Daddy’s girl as a child, and nothing much had changed there. But her mother was only a Reformist wife for the cameras. Shapleigh Nixon let her control things behind the scenes as he had always done, and Miss Robinson reported to her. Unfortunately for Madison, the two women largely agreed on her routine.

That morning they were visiting a convent, the very first Reformist convent to open outside of Florida, where the original American Reformist community was growing rapidly in the sunshine. The New Hampshire convent was training volunteer Sisters to work, for free, in the local hospitals and schools. Her mother was walking with the Mother Superior, talking quietly about the training the Sisters were receiving in preparation for their deployment, and Madison followed in their wake. It was all a show for the television cameras, of course. Mr Forbes, her father’s British press officer, had everything choreographed, and Madison knew that the pictures of the graceful, demure Sisters serving God by helping the people would play well with the people watching at home. Her father was promising a free hospital, serving everyone regardless of their insurance. Healthcare had always been a thorny political football in the states. Shap Nixon was calling on the faithful to follow the British blueprint of a national health service, rendered economical by young people doing national service, and in his latest speech he had announced with glee that over ten thousand Christian girls wanted to take their vows.

“Can you blame them? Not only is this programme the only way to provide each and every person in this country with access to a decent healthcare system, but these girls are running away from lives that offer them nothing but hunger, poverty and poor housing conditions. In the service of their nation, they will do great good, and learn new skills, in God’s love, and when they have completed their service we will make sure they have the life they deserve.” Shap Nixon had said, his passion for the cause obvious to everyone who saw the sound bites on the news.

But Madison doubted if everything was as it seemed, because it was not for her. She had started to look on her six months in England as a pleasant interlude. Miss Robinson was nothing like the other guardians she had met, because she seemed to delight in torturing her. Not to teach her a lesson, like Miss Dexter or Miss Derbyshire, but because she enjoyed it, and any little excuse would do. Madison and Mrs Forbes, Miss Robinson’s normal victim, suffered terribly for their many perceived sins, and her own parents encouraged it, as if the devil needed to be beaten out of her.

Home at Last

Miss Carpenter escorted her charges into the drawing room, having removed their travelling cloaks out in the hall, and settled them both on the long sofa. She did not remove their blinding mantles or turn off their lessons, because she did not want to give them any chance to relax in familiar surroundings. Having stayed on at Broomwaters after the holidays, the guardian had made significant progress with both Mrs Sullivan and her daughter, but bringing them home could disrupt things. She needed to impress on them that it made no difference where they were. Mr Sullivan popped his head around the door and Miss Carpenter offered him a polite obeisance. He nodded back, but did not interfere. He had his orders too, and so far he had not made any real attempt to disobey them, apart from one appeal to her better nature. Miss Carpenter disregarded it, reminding him that she had her instructions and could not go against her brief, unless he managed to renegotiate the terms of her employment, of course. In her position she had to show her respect to the master of the house, but he was not in charge. Not of her, at any rate.

Robin Sullivan headed for his study and poured himself a large whisky. He was drinking too much, and it was not even four o’clock in the afternoon, but until Radcliffe announced his cabinet he had nothing better to do. He lit a cigarette and sat at his desk, taking a long drag before switching on his computer. Imogen understood, but she would never forgive. He could see it in her eyes, like a dagger spearing his heart, because he had betrayed her. Not deliberately of course. He had kept her out of things to protect her, and it was all so long ago he had never imagined that what he thought of as his good deeds would come back to bite them all. He had told her everything as soon as he could bear it, as soon as Miss Carpenter allowed her to be in his presence without a muzzle. By the time he had finished he half wished that he had asked the guardian to leave it in place. She asked him why he had ever thought running for higher office was a good idea, with so much dirt in his past. She accused him of being naive. She accused him of betraying his wife, his daughter and Dee. Her bitterness drenched him like a cold sweat, because she was right, of course. Politics had always been the dirtiest of businesses. No one who had skeletons in their cupboards could afford to expose themselves. But he had thought himself immune, protected by the new ways.

He had told Imogen that once he proved his loyalty to Radcliffe, he would be able to make things right to her. To everyone he had promised, but she had laughed in his face. They had been told about Dee’s fate. She asked him if he could make things right for her, and they both knew that he could not, and she despised him for it, for risking everything they had for a seat at the top table. She was right again, of course. If he had just carried on, keeping his nose clean and staying out of the spotlight, nothing would have changed, Miss Carpenter would not be in control and Dee would be safe.

Lucy Hollins worked hard for Miss Naylor. Not just because she had no choice. She found that she wanted her fiancé to think well of her, to think that she was trying to repay his generosity. She had always known that she would have to marry if she wanted to leave the order. Every one of her class and social status knew that, and it was not easy for their parents to arrange any sort of match, so she had to put her faith in God’s love. He had not deserted her. He had sent Mr Slade to save her, after her years of loyal service. She attacked her lessons with great gusto, her concentration hardly wavering at all, because any nun is better at that than any maiden, and told her parents that she felt blessed by her good fortune. Miss Naylor did not beat her often, although she was strict with Lucy, but her charge always thanked her for her efforts on her behalf, and promised to do better next time. It was almost time. Her hair was long enough for extensions and Mr Slade was told he could set a date. His wife was by no means perfect, but her dedication impressed her guardian and Miss Naylor reported that she would make an excellent wife.

Charlotte Sullivan could not believe what was happening to her. It was totally unbelievable. Her father had clearly lost his mind and her mother was just accepting it like the other poor cows she had met since she had been forced to come of age. It was like a bad dream, a nightmare, and all supposedly because her father had a new job. She had tried to rebel, of course. First of all when Miss Carpenter had just walked in and announced that she was her new guardian, and several times since when the bitch was trying to torture her, but her parents just let the bitch do whatever she liked, because apparently Charlotte had to learn how to behave. Dee was gone. No one would tell her where or why and her life was a complete misery, but she had thought it would be different when they got home. However, there she was, sitting on what felt like the sofa in the lounge, still blind, still dumb, and still denied the use of her hands. Her corset was so tight she could hardly breathe, and her diaper was soaking wet like a baby.

But she had learned something already. She tried to sit still, like a good maiden should, so frightened that Miss Carpenter would punish her for fidgeting again, her inner bravado far from the reality of her demeanour. Her lesson was on its third time around since leaving Broomwaters. Duty, obedience, respect, honour, all for God’s love. It filled her head, making it hard to think of anything else.

On the Stump

Mena Forbes let her muzzle hide a deep sigh as she was covered in the back of yet another big car, rather like a parrot that had been squawking too much, except that she was muzzled and there was no squawking to do. Her husband threw the blanket over her himself, grinning as he did it, as if her blinding mantle was not enough, and she needed another thick layer of material to render her totally invisible. She did not even know why she was there. Alistair could babysit Shap Nixon with his eyes closed but he was keeping Mena close to his side. Her only consolation was that Miss Robinson was with poor little Madison, because by and large Mena was trusted to behave. Her husband liked dealing with her himself sometimes. He often laced her into her corset, rather more tightly than necessary, and he adored imprisoning her in her sleeping gown, so that he could invade her in a confined space, in a variety of ingenious ways, as if to prove that she was completely his. In public, for the cameras, he would be attentive, taking her arm and helping her with steps or obstacles, but in private he loved to tie her up in knots and see her suffer until she begged for mercy. Then he would make her suffer just a little more, to prove himself her master.

Madison’s arrival had not exactly improved her life. It gave Miss Robinson every excuse to humiliate Mena, treating her as if she was a maiden again, with the perfect excuse that she could set Madison an example. Mena was sharing her baths with the youngster when they returned to whatever hotel suite they were sharing on any given night, and generally being treated like the helpless decoration she was. But it was her lot in life. It was what Alistair desired, and she was his plaything as always, his to do with as he pleased, the perfect Reformist wife.

“Can you get the numbers on that thing?” She heard Shap Nixon ask from in front of her somewhere. It was a limousine as always, with plenty of room for the three of them inside.

“Of course, Shap...that is the idea of modern make your popularity truly mobile.” She heard Alistair reply with his usual disdain, treating everyone else as a halfwit, unless he needed something from them, or feared them, of course. “Not bad to be honest, but still third...not quite a distant third, but third all the same.”

“Sir Charles predicted as much...but we are still destroying the GOP, which is the grand plan...of course.” Shap responded as if that made him a hero. Mena understood Buckingham’s thinking of course. It was not exactly rocket science. Buckingham had split the Conservative vote in his first election, and eaten the Liberal Democrats alive, before taking the Conservatives as a filling second course. In truth, he had taken votes off Labour as well, but the vast majority of the so-called silent majority came from the centre right, not the centre left. America would logically be the same. Despite a certain blurring of the lines between the Democrats and the Republicans, the same issue ought to arise in the Presidential elections. Certainly the Christian vote was seen as predominantly right wing Republican, at least those who voted at all, and although Reformist policies would also resonate with poor Democrats, who wanted better healthcare and schools as much as poor Republicans, the ratio would be obviously smaller.

“Come on old chap, don’t despair...we are gaining on them, and that will continue.” Alistair oozed charm again, like switching on a tap. His cut glass accent was false, just like most things about him, but he could charm anyone if he put his mind to it, before putting a knife in their back, of course. Mena hated him most of the time, but she admired him too, for the air of menace he kept just out of sight, right below the surface.

In and Out

“I am sorry...I don’t want to leave you in the lurch, Kieran...but it just feels like the right time.” Peter Munroe sighed, sensing his friend’s surprise. He had not mentioned his intentions before. He had agonised over his decision all over Christmas, but in the end the Sullivan business made up his mind for him. He was too used to Charles Buckingham’s style. He had an iron fist when he needed it, but it largely remained inside the velvet glove. Kieran’s ruthlessness did not exactly appal him, but it made him sure that he was doing the right thing for himself.

“I just didn’t expect it, Peter...and I am concerned about how it will play in the press.” Radcliffe sighed, pulling himself together as his mind clicked into gear. Peter was a safe pair of hands, a reliable sidekick, but not exactly a thought leader. He would need to shuffle the cards again, but only a little. He had even considered moving Munroe out of the Home Office, but he was not going to admit that to a man who was deserting him at the first hurdle. “But I respect your honesty as always...can I draft a press release for your approval, to explain things properly?”

“Of course, and I shall make it clear that you have my full support, but it is time for a fresh approach...I saw Robin Sullivan waiting outside.”

“He is on my list, you were aware.”

“Are you keeping your promise?”

“Of a fashion...I am not quite prepared to let go of the apron strings in my old empire. I plan to take a very personal interest in health and education, and I think Robin is just the man to run things my way...don’t you agree?”

“Charles tended to delegate...”

“Charles led by example...and maybe I shall learn how to do that, with experience.” Kieran replied, his suspicions confirmed and his mind made up.

“Oh come in and sit down...sorry to keep you waiting for so long old chap.” Radcliffe said about half an hour later as Sullivan was shown into his office. He had kept him waiting for over two hours. Robin had to learn his place, like his wife and daughter. Perhaps even more so. Kieran thought it a shame he could not put a guardian in place to look after him, but his own old Principal Private Secretary would have to do.

“Oh...that’s fine Prime Minister...I realise that this is a busy time...” Robin blustered, and Kieran smiled at the change in him, as if someone had popped his balloon, reminding himself that information truly was power.

“Well as you know I am talking to people about the cabinet, and I am going to offer you Health and Education...on the basic condition that you behave. I will debate policy with you behind closed doors until the cows come home, if you so desire, but I want nothing negative in public, is that clear?”

“Yes, Prime Minister.”

“And your family is to follow the doctrine. No short cuts. It is for your own good, Robin...I really am giving you the career you always wanted, but you do have to grow up if you want to play with the big boys. How are things at home?”

“I...if I may...I really would prefer to employ our own guardian, Prime Minister. I do understand your...conditions...and I can assure you that...”

“Miss Carpenter is non-negotiable.”


“Oh dear Robin...I really do hope you aren’t going to be so...weak...on this issue. I cannot entrust my old department to a man who cannot...or will not...control his own wife and daughter. If you stop crying into your pillows and start living the Reformist dream you might actually start to enjoy yourself...and the law that you voted for is on your side.”

“My wife and daughter knew nothing about the past...”

“Good...but unfortunately I know everything about your past, Robin...and whilst I need you to convince your lily-livered liberal acolytes that they have a seat at the top table, I am never going to let you off the leash. You either learn to trot at my side like a good loyal friend, or I have to put you down and find another one. So be a good boy and learn to live with Miss Carpenter please. She is my cousin twice removed, or something tedious like that, but she is highly qualified in her field, and a really very entertaining correspondent to boot...she will work wonders with dear Imogen and Charlotte, I am sure.”

BBC New Report from outside Number Ten Downing Street

“The King is dead, long live the King...Kieran Radcliffe has sprung some major surprises in his first Cabinet, initially prompted by Peter Munroe’s decision to follow Sir Charles Buckingham into retirement, although both Munroe and Radcliffe were at pains to emphasise that they are still the best of friends. In truth, after fifteen years in government, the old guard are largely making way for the next generation, and the new Prime Minister is embracing the opinions of some of the next generation to him by including Robin Sullivan in his old position as Minister for Health and Education. Radcliffe’s challenge is to maintain what he calls the ‘clear momentum of the renaissance’ whilst embracing some talented members of his party with obvious moderate tendencies. In the early days of the Buckingham years there was an honest admission that in its first phase the renaissance would be harsh on some members of society but there is internal discussion about it being time to enter a second phase. No one has been sacked...this is being presented as a natural transition from one era to another...but it remains to be seen what influence this new breed of Reformist will have on policy going forwards.”

Happy Families

Hermione Slade met Lucy Hollins at the Cathedral, only moments after her father met his bride-to-be. Lucy curtseyed to her future stepdaughter as she had to her fiancé. Miss Lewis acknowledged Miss Naylor, and would later admit to being pleasantly surprised by her future mistress. Christopher Slade shook hands with Douglas Hollins as Jennifer Hollins offered a rather stiff obeisance. He had no expectations of his future in-laws, but he thought they were pleasant people. He had seen an old photo of his future bride, and he liked the look of her, but he had taken to the idea of a Reformist marriage. Pippa had argued with him about everything and he was looking forward to a peaceful, happy life. Nothing he encountered at the Cathedral gave him any particular cause for concern, and life was so good he was tempted to pinch himself. Kieran Radcliffe was Prime Minister, for goodness sake, and Chris was his go to guy. He had fallen on his feet for sure.

Hermione liked to see her father so happy. It confused her sometimes, because the whole idea of his plans for the future were still something of an alien concept, but Miss Lewis had been teaching her. Love marriages were actually the alien concept, as they were only common in certain cultures for about a century, and a large percentage of them ended in heartbreak, and, when it became socially acceptable, divorce. However, arranged marriages had been prevalent for centuries in all cultures. Miss Lewis admitted that the practise was predominantly followed amongst the upper classes, to preserve and extend landholdings, or for various business and political connections, but undoubtedly father’s chose for their daughters. It really put the whole thing in a different perspective. Miss Hollins, Hermione was assured, was happy about her betrothal, and certainly as the two ladies walked arm in arm to their places on the pews, Hermione felt a warmth in her. Mr and Mrs Hollins seemed delighted too, and her father was all smiles. Love was indefinable and perhaps instinctively temporary. But marriage was supposed to be for life. It was God’s will, and they all lived for His love.

“So Charlotte, what have you been doing today?” Robin asked, to break the silence. It was a family dinner. He had not made time for one since his appointment, but he realised he could not avoid it forever. He sat at the head of the table, with his wife on his left and his daughter on his right, whilst Miss Carpenter stood behind him, observing everything as always.

“My lessons this morning Papa...and then this afternoon Mama and I visited Mrs Munroe.” Charlotte replied, glancing at her guardian who gave an almost imperceptible nod, approving of her response. She had to call her parents Mama and Papa, as if she was suddenly a character in a Victorian melodrama, but she did not dare to refuse.

“Oh how are Caitlin and Emily?” Her father enquired, forcing her to talk again, his mock interest obvious.

“Quite well, was a pleasant afternoon in God’s love.”

“And how about you Imy?” Robin turned to his wife. She paused, finishing her mouthful of salmon, before responding in her usual tone.

“I helped Charlotte with her lessons this morning dear...or rather shared them, as Miss Carpenter is keen to remind me of my responsibilities...and then I was lucky enough to spend some time with Elizabeth whilst the girls really was a most stimulating afternoon, and seeing you tonight has made the day truly memorable.”

Robin fell silent, sipping his wine and then returning his attention to his dinner. He was cross. He understood that Imogen was upset, but so was he. It was not his fault, but she was blaming him as if it was. Her icy politeness hit him like a kick in the teeth, and it was so unfair. He had helped people. He had helped them for the same reasons they had both helped Dee. He was not the bad guy. He seethed with resentment through two more courses and was delighted when Miss Carpenter took Imogen and Charlotte upstairs. He drank some more wine. He had one cup of coffee and several glasses of port, whilst finishing off the last of his red boxes, and then he went upstairs. It was not that late. He pottered around the bedroom, ignoring the block of ice in his bed, encased in the usual sleeping gown, and used the bathroom, not bothering to be quiet. He was not to blame. He had every right to be angry but his wife, the love of his life, was treating him like dirt, the sarcastic bitch.

He climbed into bed beside her. He had not touched her since that night at Broomwaters. He felt like a stranger in his own bed and he thought about what Radcliffe had said to him, hearing the taunt in his voice. He was a Reformist, albeit a moderate one. He had rights. So, with fumbling fingers, he decided to exercise them.

Elizabeth Munroe, nee Buckingham, sighed with pleasure as her husband showed her pictures of their new house. He was so sweet to her, so thoughtful, and his retirement from the front bench would give them more time together. And the house in Meadvale was close to her father’s new home. It was all so perfect, and she found it hard to believe that her life had turned such a full circle. She could remember her arrival in Meadvale. She remembered the total shock of life at Broomwaters, walking to the ribbon shop with Henrietta and Georgina Harrington as they were then, of learning to be what her dear father wanted her to become. She had hated it at first, although she really could not remember why she felt like that, because it had all been so clearly for her own good, and so perfect. She was thirty eight and she could not imagine a better life. She had her children, and her dear husband, and her beloved father. She did not expect him or Peter to really retire. She knew they would both surely have to do something or go insane with boredom, but moving back to Meadvale felt like moving home. Her dear friend Brogan lived there and the pace of life had to be slower. She could not believe it had been twenty years. It did not seem possible.

Dirty Secrets

“Can it be done without being traced back to you?” Kieran asked Chris Slade. It was a very stupid question, because the whole point of his activities was tracking the activities of other people, but Slade decided not to point that out. If he was careful he could minimise the risks, but discovery was always possible.

“I can make it difficult, but it is always possible. Every activity online leaves a trace, if you know where to look, and in this instance the embarrassment would come from tracing it back to this country, not to any one individual, and that is like shooting a balloon with a shotgun...some of the pellets are going to hit home.”

“So what do you suggest? I want something to derail the Democratic doesn’t have to be much at this stage. I just want to make some waves.”

“I know some people Prime Minister...I think I can get us some assistance.” Chris Slade told his ultimate boss, once again earning his money. His last bonus had been quite spectacular. He was about to marry and truly settle himself in Britain, and he had stumbled into a very lucrative career. He was not a computer hacker. But like most code writers, he could do it, and do it well, because any site, firewall or security protection was just a barrier to find a way past. He also had a lot of friends. Silicon Valley spat out a lot of disenchanted people.

“Ok, then I don’t want to know anymore. Contact Alistair Forbes on this number, he will tell you the sort of things he needs and give you an insight into some of the people two can deal with it all together...but keep your nose clean Christopher...and keep mine well away from any bad smells.”

Imogen Sullivan retired to her bed for several days with what Miss Carpenter called a fever. No one was allowed to see her. In fact, the maid told the cook every time she entered to room Mrs Sullivan was in her sleeping gown, which seemed unusually cruel even for Miss Carpenter, if the poor mistress had a fever. Even Charlotte was kept from her mother. Miss Carpenter sent her to stay with Mrs Radcliffe, in the care of the inestimable Miss Dexter, so that she could devote all her attentions to the ailing Mrs Sullivan, of course. In the privacy of the bedroom, separated from everyone else, she needed to punish Imogen properly for attempting to resist her husband’s attentions.

Imogen had been raped by her husband, although that was impossible under British law. She could not withhold, or even attempt to withhold, that which belonged to her husband, and to do so was a criminal offence. As Miss Carpenter told her, the convents were full of women who had turned on their poor husband’s, and Imogen was lucky she had been properly restrained and quite unable to do any real damage. Imogen laughed at that into her muzzle. Her pathetic attempts to roll away from Robin in bed, whilst muzzled and mittened and wrapped in her sleeping gown, had earned her a furious fusillade from his fists, before he finally raped her. Her face was bruised, her eyes black and she was fairly sure that he had broken at least one of her ribs. And yet she was the one who had committed a criminal offence.

But after five days alone with Miss Carpenter she had finally learned her place.

“Can you give me an idea of what changes you plan to make first in your new department?” Angus Regan asked, placing his voice recorder on the desk in front of Rob Sullivan, to make sure of his facts later. He had a notebook open too, for his thoughts and with questions written down as an aide memoire.

“Well obviously Angus, the department is in great shape.” Sullivan smiled, but the journalist still wrote down the word ‘nervous’ in his notes to describe his interviewee. “Kieran Radcliffe had many years here, and we have an incredible base to build on for the future.”

“Such as?”

“Well, I am concerned about the number of unqualified guardians working with our young maidens. I do not think there is anything sinister here, it is human nature to save a little money where we can, but apart from the dangers of some unscrupulous people illegally deferring their national service...either by working as a guardian or registering as having one...our maidens need educating properly if they are to play their full part in the renaissance. So we are going to legislate against this, we all need to take our responsibilities to society seriously Angus.”

“To be honest, I never expected to hear you proposing something like this? You have had the reputation of a moderate, who would be more likely to let the market regulate itself...leaving people to make their own choices?”

“I remain committed to the deferral regulations...I think that is where personal choice comes into things. However, I will not condone people doing such harm in an effort to get around the law. Every guardian in this country is spared national service because of the important roles they take on, but they must be properly qualified to carry out those roles. I am in negotiations with the relevant colleges to remove that deferral altogether...I personally believe national service should be a prelude to guardian training in the future. I would envisage the guardian colleges recruiting suitable candidates from the order, who would then have a more rounded experience of living in God’s love. They would also be more mature...this is the second phase and we can afford to have a better system.”

Alistair Forbes rolled off Mena and reached for his beeping iPhone. It was late, but he was pleased to get the message. It was a picture message, a clear shot of a familiar face in a position Alistair had never tried before. He doubted if the woman beneath the respected Democratic senator was very comfortable. Pulling on his robe he walked out of the room, allowing Miss Robinson in to see to his wife. He never let her sleep outside her sleeping gown, but she would need cleaning up and calming down first, so he needed to give the guardian some time. By the time he reached the balcony and some fresh air, he had forwarded the picture on to an email address he understood to be registered in the Bahamas.

Mena was glad of her muzzle. She would have screamed otherwise. Repeatedly. He had taken her everywhere. He always said her body was his canvas, to fill as he pleased, and he had filled her from every angle, via every available route. Miss Carpenter took her into the bathroom and washed her down, before returning her to the bed to paddle her. It was no surprise. Miss Carpenter always punished her for her sins and her bitter tears were clear evidence that she had not welcomed her husband’s advances in God’s love. She writhed in pain, more silent screams dying in her muzzle. Five minutes later, she was enveloped by her sleeping gown, feeling her husband almost immediately beside her.

“Is this what you expected out of life, convent bitch?” He asked her, pulling her prone form close. “It’s not exactly Oxford, or the Sorbonne, is it?”

Mena cringed inside her sack, sickened by him, but she had still responded to him, as he always said, like a cheap whore. He had total control over her, and no scruples at all, so that he made love like an animal, devoid of empathy. Now she would sleep for a few hours and then spend another day following at his heels, if she could walk. He had no respect for her. No love. He would not even let her have his baby and buy a little time free of his worst excesses, because he was not ready to let her go. She could not think about what she was, or who she was, without feeling sick, full of hate for her father and for Forbes.

The Special Relationship

President Sharon Rosen sat beside Kieran Radcliffe, regretting her choice of business suit. The skirt was hardly short, reaching to just below her knees, and her assistants had checked with the Prime Minister’s office just to make sure. But it looked short as she walked past the Reformist women in the greeting line. It looked wrong in London, and right everywhere else. It was a fairly standard photo call before the private talks began, sitting on armchairs and pretending to chat whilst the flashlights cracked around them, but it was just another waste of time. She was in the lame duck period of any presidency. After seven years as the most important human being in the world, she was now an irrelevance, simply because of the electoral process. She could not stand again, having served two terms, and everyone was waiting for the new man to reach office. Foreign trips were something to keep herself busy and out of the office.

“So how does the party feel about the campaign?” Radcliffe asked, once they were alone.

“Scared shitless obviously Kieran, and loaning your attack dog and the veiled princess to Nixon has not impressed anyone too much, believe me.” Rosen replied, feeling better out of the spotlights. Her lover kept her informed of what was really going on usually, but he had been avoiding her lately. Sharon Rosen was not a fool, and she knew that James Miller was cooling on her just as her usefulness was coming to an end. Not a pleasant thought, and perhaps an uncharitable one. But she was seeing ghosts in all the shadows as a life on the lecture circuit hardly appealed to her.

“He resigned, Sharon...good experience for him, I suppose.” Radcliffe shrugged with a coy smile. He liked Rosen, she was very direct and forthright, and although he would have preferred to see her muzzled, she talked sense. He did wonder how many nights she had spent spilling her guts to the handsome British Ambassador. It had certainly been a worthwhile eight years as far as the special relationship was concerned, but in a democracy all good things had to come to an end.

“Other than that, the vote will be hopelessly split, unless there is a miracle.”

“So embrace Nixon...there is still time to put together a dream ticket.”

“Oh right, I am sure Philip Henderson thought the same.” Rosen laughed easily. But it was possible. She had hosted several party conferences at Camp David to discuss their options, and offering Shap Nixon the vice presidency had been discussed many times before. “No one is prepared to kill the party from’s too much to contemplate.”

“Oh well, let’s hope for that miracle then, we can pray together tomorrow Sharon.”

Hermione Slade stood beside her stepmother-to-be, as her bridesmaid, both of them draped in golden capes, as Pastor Nigel Brown took the service. Marrying in the Cathedral was a rare honour, and her father’s growing importance was recognised by the presence of Mr and Mrs Munroe, Lady Osborne and several other members of what all the newspapers called the new aristocracy. Hermione was duly impressed, and pleased for her father. He looked smart in his dark grey suit, his silver hair giving him a distinguished air. Her mother had always dismissed him as a whiner, who blew his chance at the big time. She always gave the impression that she left him because he had failed to live up to her expectations, but he was a genuine success now and Hermione was proud of him and pleased for him.

Miss Lewis had prepared Hermione for her stepmother’s arrival in the house. However, Hermione had decided to make her welcome anyway for her father. She was still thinking about her own future but she wanted her father to be happy. So after a rather short reception lunch, at which they were unable to speak, she walked arm in arm with Lucy back to the house. Miss Lewis took them inside and settled them in the drawing room whilst her father went upstairs to change. As arranged, the guardian removed her muzzle first, and nodded to give her permission to begin her little speech.

“Good afternoon, Mama...and welcome home. I hope you will find me a dutiful and obedient daughter, and that you will be very happy here with my beloved father.” Hermione said, almost unaware that she had looked at Miss Lewis for her approval of her recitation, before bowing her head out of respect for her stepmother.

“Oh Hermione, that is so sweet of you, and I hope we will all be happy here.” Lucy replied as soon as she could, and Miss Lewis left them together, to get to know each other, whilst she went off to the kitchen for the tea and cakes. By the time Chris Slade joined them, they were chattering away as if they had known each other forever.

Brogan knelt in front of the Trevor Memorial and cried into her muzzle. Not for herself, not really. Not for Harry either, as he believed in his God and had no fear of death, so she saw no particular reason to mourn his loss. Except that she did miss him and their private moments. She did sometimes wonder if it was those that kept her sane. Her life in Meadvale was just so settled and mundane. Sebastian was a good Reformist husband, of course. She could not accuse him of mistreating her, not by Reformist standards at any rate. Miss Derbyshire was not the worst guardian she could have. She loved her children, and in his own rather distant way she thought Sebastian loved them and her. But she was almost forty one years old, and she could not imagine another forty odd years of her life. She got to see the news most nights, but other than that she heard very little of the outside world, and she missed Harry’s insights into the goings on inside the political elite. She decided she was crying for what everyone had lost, because the world, or at least the British bit of it, had fallen to the Reformists. Meadvale was living proof of that, and the truth was that she missed being at the centre of it all, she missed London, because it at least felt like a life.

Life with the Lions

“Shap, have you got a comment on the Landon story?” Mena heard the question clearly amongst the cacophony of noise as they tried to walk from the car into the hotel, because the reporter concerned more or less knocked her over. He did not realise how hard it was to walk in a corset, a diaper, copious undergarments, a velvet gown and a heavy cloak, but Alistair caught hold of her arm and steadied her.

“Guys, let me get inside...I haven’t heard the full details yet...just let us get inside.” Shap Nixon shouted, protecting Mrs Nixon and Madison from the scrum as best he could, and Mena smiled as Alistair pushed the reporter out of their way. He was furious with them, berating them for behaving like animals, but Shap was all smiles, playing the gentlemen, helping the daughter he was quite happy for Miss Robinson to torture through the revolving doors. Alistair took charge. He requisitioned a room in the hotel for an impromptu press conference, and hurried everyone up to the suite to prepare. Issuing instructions in the lift he decided that Mena would front the press conference. He hated to be centre stage. He much preferred to stay in the shadows and direct things from there. Mena nodded and turned to find Miss Robinson, who hurried her off into the bedroom to change her clothes, and her diaper, and remove her muzzle.

Alistair Forbes had to make a show of getting an update. He knew exactly what had happened to David Landon, the young Democratic candidate currently favourite to be elected President of the United States, but he could hardly admit that before he had checked the evening news. He switched on the television and played with his iPhone, giving Shapleigh Nixon a running commentary as he stirred the pot a little bit more. Landon had a weakness for blondes in dark bars, where everyone really knew what the back rooms were for. Except he had made a bad choice, a month or so ago, after slipping his protection detail for a night of fun in some remote backwater. It was the sort of place he would feel safe. Off the beaten track, dressed down in jeans and a cowboy shirt, he could play like the fraternity legend he once was. But he got suckered into the wrong blond, or rather more importantly the wrong back room, because the one he ended up in had several cameras, and the blond was bumping her earnings up from two hundred bucks to two hundred thousand, plus whatever she could get out of the tabloids for telling the full story of who her mystery ‘date’ turned out to be.

“Please, if I may...I’d like to read a statement on behalf of the candidate.” Mena said quietly as the reporters all held out their microphones to catch her quiet, gentle voice. “Senator Nixon will take your questions, probably right here tomorrow morning after he has had a chance to get the full facts of the case. He said, and I quote, ‘The sad tale emerging tonight concerning my esteemed colleague and respected opponent, David Landon, has distressed us all deeply. I think it would be highly inappropriate for me to comment and speculate on what would seem to be an illegal act, without knowing all of the facts. Prostitution and a total disregard for the sins of adultery are amongst the more distasteful facets of modern life. I hope you will all join me in praying for the Landon family...for Maisie Landon, whose husband has strayed from their marriage, and from their three children. I will also be praying for the poor girl, the victim of this vile crime.”

Standing to one side, Alistair smiled, pleased with his wife’s performance. The statement was a masterpiece. Whilst stating that he did not want to speculate, Shap had, through Mena’s words, just made it clear that the scandal involved a crime and the betrayal of Landon’s wife and children, as well as a multitude of sins. Most of the voters would only watch the headlines and the veiled lady would be the face on the rolling news channels for hours to come. Then, in the morning, Shap could take questions and fan the flames for another day of news. By the time that started to fade, the email proof that Landon had a string of such sins behind him would find their way into the hands of reporters somewhere. He had to give it to Chris Slade; he was a magician in cyberspace. The things he had found out about Landon made Forbes a little nervous about what someone like Slade could find on him if he ever became a target. It just did not bear thinking about, and he promised himself that he would do a little bit of clearing up as soon as he got the chance.

Meanwhile, Miss Robinson was dressing Madison for dinner. They would eat in the suite, as always. Bethany was starting to wonder if she would end up in the White House. That would show her sister, married to her blessed Pastor, and she longed to write to her mother and gloat a little. Madison groaned as her corset was laced tighter, and the guardian slapped her thigh as hard as she could to punish her. She often dreamed that she was looking after Megan, and punishing her. But Madison Nixon would have to do, and the corset came in another inch or so as she hauled on the laces, watching the poor girl’s eyes grow wide in horror as the breathe was forced out of her.

Reformist Rally, Fort Myers, Florida, Shapleigh Nixon’s keynote speech (Extract)

“Sin is all around us, and I do not want to only vilify the Democratic candidate, because it is not his weakness and depravity that most bothers me. No, what really worries me, what keeps me awake at night, is the fact that thousands of girls, in thousands of seedy bars up and down this great country of ours, feel the need to sell themselves for a few dollars...and that we all know it is going on and do nothing about it. Our modern society...the society we trumpet to the rest of the world as the sick at its core. For decades, since JFK was shot, we have listened to various politicians from both major parties promising to make a difference, but they have failed us time and time again, making the same old excuses. Our campaign...because I represent all of you, not my own personal ambitions...rejects the failures of the past, and suggests that there are other ways. Our country is a Christian country but we have lost sight of basic Christian values, as long as no one is doing it in our own back yards. In this fine community, we have gathered together to hide from the realities of modern American life. But we need to take the values and moral fortitude that has turned this corner of Florida into a better place to live, and help the rest of the country learn that we can be the strong proud nation we all love, and solve our structural problems. Let me tell you a story...a few days ago, after visiting one of first convents that will soon be providing nurses for the local hospitals, one young reporter asked me if I expected our young women to give up five years of their lives to serve the nation, like the British do. Of course, I told him yes and I tried to tell him why, but I know it is a hard sell...that is why we call it a renaissance. But I will tell all you good people one thing...this poor girl who sold herself to David Landon to put food on her table would be much better off taking her vows and serving her country as a nurse. She would leave a better person, with some life skills, and she would have helped us all live a little better. It is not a miracle cure. Reformism is a hard slog for everyone, and many personal sacrifices have to be made. But look at the British crime statistics, look at their health service, look at their investment in family and marriage...and then tell me that they are not doing better than us. But it has to start somewhere. We have to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough...we are not putting up with this anymore. That is what we are voting for in November. Not for more of the same, but for radical change. I can’t do it on my own...I need people to help me. But if this degrading scandal has taught us one thing and one thing only it is that the people who have always claimed to be the answer to all our problems are rotten to the core. If you trust me, vote for me and I promise that I will make this country a better place to live.”

BBC Documentary, Sir Charles Buckingham, a Life (Interview extract)

“Do you see similarities between the current American campaign, and your early campaigns?”

“Of course...similarities, but it is not the same. Our parliamentary system delivered us with a majority, initially in coalition and then on our own, but the American system is much more complicated. Shap Nixon could win the election, but if he has no majority in the Senate or the House of Representatives, he will be hamstrung right from the start, as many presidents have been before him, from George W Bush to Barrack Obama. Our election victory was a perfect storm in many ways. Financial meltdown coincided with massive disillusion with the old political parties. Blair and Brown had lost the trust of the people, after Thatcher had divided people, and although David Cameron was a decent man he could not get the majority he needed to do much more than balance the books. People had lost trust in politicians through expenses scandals and they wanted something new...someone new...saying something different. I think there is disillusion in the USA, but their silent majority is not the same as ours. Their silent majority live in ghettos, on the breadline, working on the black market, living in the slum cities, and they have nothing to do with the middle classes, who might as well live in a different country. It really is a land of the haves and the have not’s...whereas our silent majority was really very middle class. They rose up en masse and said enough...we have to try something else. I am not sure whether that can happen in America, but I hope they will find their own way.”

“How would you judge your time in office? Is there anything you would go back and change?”

“Oh look, if you want to know if I made any mistakes...dozens of yes, of course I would like to go back and do some things differently...but nothing really major. My time in office was a storm of change, which I would obviously argue was for the better, for everyone. If you take the traditional key performance indicators, this country is miles ahead of every other country in the world...absolute miles. But money, jobs and that sort of thing are by-products, in my opinion, of a successful society and it is the eradication of a number of crimes and societal ills that I am most proud of. By simply returning our wives and daughters to the home...and benefitting from all the good that does in other areas...we have almost no rape, no sex attacks, no unwanted pregnancies, no underage sex, no promiscuity...these are all things that used to plague this country twenty years ago, and still plague other countries throughout the world...that is what I would like to be judged on.”

“How about those that say that those undoubted successes have been bought at the price of sexual inequality?”

“Well I would...and endlessly have...argued that the idea of sexual equality was about a century of disastrous human errors all committed for the best of reasons, and sometimes in the time of direst need...but no one stopped to see what allowing organic change would cost us. For instance, take the blessing of a university education...from the first blue stockings to the thousands of kids fooled into attending a sub-standard college to study media studies. That was not about equality, it was about keeping the young off the unemployment figures for as long as possible. In my time, we have returned to the idea of our children earning a place at university in competition with their most talented peers.”

“Only our sons, not all our children.”

“Yes, only our sons, which was more or less the norm up until the second world war. The simple truth is that we lost our way in the second half of the twentieth century and we paid the price. We just let things go...which is my definition of the permissive society...that is why we needed to rebalance. That is why the United States of America must rebalance, that is why Europe must rebalance.”

About Face

Mena was not comfortable but she could see the television screen and she could hear the commentary. Miss Robinson had put Madison to bed, but Mena and Candice Nixon were staying up to watch Shap Nixon perform, although Mrs Nixon would do so in a dressing gown with a glass of wine, rather than a muzzle, mittens and a feeding tube.

“Shap, this election is turning into a farce, isn’t it?” The interviewer asked, all teeth and no brains. “You and your former Republican partners are tearing each other apart, and the Democrats can’t find a candidate who doesn’t keep his brains in his trousers?”

“Chad, that just panders to the lowest common denominator...can’t we discuss these important issues without gratuitous sexual innuendoes? I came here for a serious political debate.”

“Sorry Shap...but that is what our viewers are thinking...I think we can be sure of that, can’t we?”

“Our political system was broken, but David Landon is a symptom of this society’s ills, not the cause. It is time to stop this farce as you call it and rebalance our system...I am prepared to combine with my Republican colleague and present the country with a straight choice between the sham politics of David Landon and his ilk and the policies this great country needs to move forwards together.”

Mena was not surprised at the move. It was the classic Buckingham strategy. The GOP could cling to power by uniting with the new Reformists, but they would have to give them enough rope to fashion their own noose. Except that Buckingham had Philip Henderson, the Conservative Prime Minister leading the coalition, by the balls. In this campaign, although she was not quite sure how it had happened so far, the balls were being grabbed by her husband, so the Republicans really ought to be running for the hills. She found herself remembering the first time she met her husband, and the first time she annoyed him, in a Downing Street waiting room. She had been young and new to Reformist Britain, and she had forgotten to curtsey to him, as well as mistaking him for some sort of low life. He had made her pay for that a thousand times and more. She wondered if the American people were his next prey.

Reformism Interruptet is continued in Overture – Let the Games Begin – Part Eight Royalty Reforms.


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