Really, Your Majesty?
August 14th 2014, 9.37 PM, weekly Joint Meeting with the Emperor and his Cabinet
"Please raise to your feet for His Majesty the Emperor", the stewart announced.
Basil and his ministerial colleagues followed this old custom and stood up when Artabanos entered the room and took his seat at the head of the table.
'I'll have a gaelic coffee, thanks', He said to a nearby servant who quickly scampered off after taking the order. Tea and coffee had already been served for the Ministers and Secretaries of State, but the Emperor always had to order a special drink. Old and boring customs, Basil thought, but important nonetheless. In five minutes, the live cameras would turn off and the private Joint Meeting would begin. He, as Minister for Defence and Nuclear Development, would have a key role in this week's meeting, having to inform the Cabinet about reserach into the SS Nicholeus disaster and the terrorists that sank it. He had a funny feeling about today, though. As he twisted the paper end of his tea bag in his right hand and supporting his face with his left, he got the nasty feeling this meeting was going to be diffferent. Perhaps it was because of the Emperor's choice of drink. Usually, when He had tea, he was in a good mood. A regular coffee indicated he meant business. And on the night of the first overruling, He had ordered a double espresso. Basil had never seen him order a gaelic coffee, however. He didn't know if it was a good or a bad sign, he could only hope for the best.
Apparently, Basil was sunk in thought about his Majesty's drinking habits for a while too long, as he was brought back to attention by a shout from Simon, the Prime Minister.
'Let's get started, shall we?', Simon proposed.
'I have different plans for today, Mr Lane', Artabanos replied, 'I have a new plan I would like to discuss with you.'
Basil exchanged glances with Simon and his other ministerial colleagues. "So that's what gaelic coffee means....", he thought.
Basil looked at his table flag. The Ministry of Defence logo was printed clearly on the cheap fabric, which was replaced after Basil had accidentally spilled his coffee over it two weeks ago. Every Minister and Secretary of State had his own little table flag, each sporting the logo of their respective offices. Artabanos proudly waved his Imperial Standard.
After the initial shock, the Ministers recovered and Simon dared to ask "And what's that, Your Majesty?"
A few seconds of silence followed, accompanied by a grin on Artabanos's face and the arrival of His gaelic coffee.
"You all must remember the faillure of the Marriage Recognition Act", Artabanos started. The MRA was a painful page in Inimicus's history in the European Union, particularly because the Cabinet at the time had immediately banned gay marriage by law shortly after the Act faced the European Council. Basil wasn't a fan of gay marriage, but did not feel the need to ban it by law, either. Some more hardcore conservatives (mostly those from the Inimician People's Front) in the Cabinet would not dream of lifting the ban. When Artabanos spoke those words, Basil immediately knew what this was going to be all about. He pushed his tea away and poured himself a coffee. A meeting like this required something strong....
There were a few moments of silence as the Cabinet members attempted to dig deep down into their unconsious minds to find long suppressed memories of the Marriage Recognition Act. Basil did not have to, though: he always considered himself the most 'intellectual' member of the Cabinet, someone who would think things over before forming an opinion on them, and who would consult with others before thinking up policy and decisions. Qualities which most other, if not all, Cabinet members severely lacked. Basil would always remember the decision his former boss Wilfred Cocx made on gay marriage. Immediately after the rejection of the MRA, he decided to quickly ban same-sex marriage by Inimician law without thinking it through in any way, shape, or form.
"I wasn't happy with Mr Benfield's conduct in the European Council at all", Artabanos continued, "And I feel we should reinvigorate the subject on a national level. Recognition of same-sex marriage is key to Inimicus's international relations, which we have been working on immensely for the past months."
Basil exchanged glances with Simon, who had a very concerned look on his face. Basil could see Simon did not know exactly what this was going to be about, but he himself knew. Oh yes, he knew. Yet he was not sure whether or not he liked it. Basil Lawson, Minister for Defence and Nuclear Development of the Empire of Inimicus, for the first time in his life, was confused with a political issue.
"What exactly are you pointing at, You Majesty?", Internal Affairs Minister Harold Donogue asked.
"I think", Artabanos responded, "We should not only recognise same-sex marriages from outside Inimicus, but also--"
Before Artabanos finished his sentence, the Inimician People's Front prominent and Development Minister Gayle Moxon dared to interrupt His Majesty. "Wait. Think very carefully, Artabanos, before you say anything else. We wouldn't want another overruling".
Before Basil could think this through and take a sip of coffee, the table suddenly shook violently as a result of Artabanos's fist hitting the wood.
"DAMNIT!", he shouted as several coffee and tea cups spilled over the expensive tablecloth, "DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO I AM?! I AM ARTABANOS OF INIMICUS, and you have not even the slighest right to talk to me like that, Mrs Moxon. You can consider yourself dismessed. Get the hell out of here!".
It seemed like Gayle did not know how fast she had to leave. Her papers were scraped together by a servant and thrown out of the window at Artabanos's mark, and Gayle herself immediately rushed towards the door, not expecting to return to a Cabinet meeting ever again. Basil was shocked at first, but (as always) remained calm, unlike some other ministers. His coffee was mostly on the table, yet he managed to extract a few drops from his cup before putting it down in front of him and saying "Right. Now let's hear His Majesty, shall we?". Most members nodded approvingly, fearing they would suffer a likewise fate if they did not agree.
"Thank you, Mr Lawson. As I said, we should not only recognise gay marriage outside Inimicus, but we should actually legalise same-sex matrimony in our country."
One could almost feel the shockwave going through the Cabinet members. "Had these fools really not expected a move like this?", Basil thought as he considered Artabanos's proposal.
The gaelic coffee was half empty as Artabanos made his proposal. The Cabinet was struck by silence for a minute or two, until Basil broke the ice:
"Sounds like a plan".
Upon him saying this, Basil's Cabinet colleagues fell over him with angry shouts and quotes. Basil had anticipated as much, yet he valued a nod from Artabanos more than anything his Ministerial colleagues would ever be able to give him. Artabanos had all the power, yet this Cabinet did not seem to understand. Basil did, though.
"Thank you Mr Lawson. Who else thinks this way?", Artabanos said.
No one raised their hand.
The Emperor sighed. "Very encouraging", he said, "I want to go through with this though, whether you like it or not."
"Really, Your Majesty?", the Prime Minister asked.
Artabanos repeated sarcastically: "'Really, Your Majesty'. Is that all you have to say? I want options, suggestions, feasibility."
Another moment of silence as Cabinet members simultaneously nipped their coffees and teas. Except for the Minister for Internal Affairs, Harold Donogue. He knawed at the top of his pen, thinking, and then said: "You know what." Everyone looked up. "It's very feasible. It's as clear as glass. There's no problems when it comes to administrative matters. It's just... do we want it?"
"Could you get me one of those", Basil said to a stewart, pointing at Artabanos's beverage. He hadn't been listening to Harold's words, because he knew exactly what he wanted to say. Harold was a member of the centre party, Democrats For Inimicus, and definitely in favour of same-sex marriage. Basil knew Harold wanted to be careful, though, as there were also Inimician People's Front members in Cabinet. The battle between the hardcore conservative IPF and the centre-liberal DemForIn had been a major problem in this Cabinet, and Basil expected it would only get worse. Perhaps it was time to dissolve the Cabinet and start anew. Perhaps the new United Green Front could be involved?
Sunken in thought for too long, as usual, Basil was woken up by another hand hitting the table. It was not Artabanos's this time, however. No, it was the Foreign Minister's. This IPF stalwart has been the most prominent critic of the Marriage Recognition Act nationally, and was definitely not happy to hear Artabanos's proposal. Soon enough, he was kicked out as well as His Majesty took his cup of water and emptied it over his head.
"I would like all Inimician People's Front Ministers to leave now. I am dissolving this disfunctional group of Ministers. I'm sorry, Simon, it's not you. It's those neo-nazistic ultraconservative bastards of the Inimician People's Front", Artabanos said.
Basil almost wanted to say "Really, Your Majesty", but his sense of humour stopped him.