Erik Drammen < - > Wesley Greene
With a light bump and then a sustained roar, the plane touched down at Dominion Center and Wesley Greene was on Duxburian soil for the first time in what felt like ages. However, he would not be staying for long - he was only clearing through, before flying onward to Spain with Erik Drammen. Wes was still kind of confused why the Master-General of State invited him to the big Telum summit, he was just a councillor, a 31 year old councillor with few achievements to his name. Granted, any Duxburian councillor was far from a nobody on the world stage, but he would feel totally inadequate in a room full of heads of state...with a king and an emperor and all. However, the Master-General wouldn't have invited him and only him without a reason...he was just dying to know that reason...
Deep in thought, he almost walked right by the door to the restricted terminal for government officials...oops! Wes awkwardly backtracked and was waved right through with no need to show his federal ID. What a blessed timeline this was, where security actually knew who he was! They used to have absolutely no clue and he had to repeatedly explain how he was the Councillor of the Duxburian Union and also that he was actually over the age of 20 and could do x or y thing legally. Wild times.
Erik Drammen, formerly the Master-General of State, was waiting at the gate. He was sporting a new pin on his suit, made of solid gold, bearing the original seal of Acennan Aelir in the Early Aelirian language. Such a thing could only be worn by a Grandmaster-General of State. Erik had insisted on the promotion, knowing that the Steward didn't plan to attend the Telum summit and didn't want it to look like a snub. He was basically like, "If you expect me to run the Domain of State, go to the highest level summits myself, and run the entire federal government's day-to-day affairs, then I am doing grandmaster-level work and need grandmaster-level recognition." It wasn't even hard to convince Dante Maximillian to grant this, given his need to keep Erik happy. Thus, Erik Drammen became the first Grandmaster-General in the Council of Masters for hundreds of years, a sufficient level of prestige to avoid being his own version of disappointing at the Telum summit.
Wesley Greene popped up at the gate and walked up to Erik to greet him. They had never really met, like actually met in a 1 on 1 setting, so he needed to pre-empt Wes, who had noticed the pin and was clearly intimidated by what it represented. "No no no no no," Erik gestured with hands out-stretched, "Forget the formalities, I'm Erik, just call me 'Erik'. Likewise, I'm sure you'd prefer if I call you 'Wes' instead of 'Councillor Greene'."
Dropping rank formality got Wes visibly more relaxed, and they shook hands on it. "It's great to finally meet you properly," Wes said. "This is the first time I've even been home this year, Europolis has me so busy..."
"I can imagine," replied Erik. "Let's talk about how we can make you even busier!"
Wes was puzzled, not sure if it was a joke or intended to be serious, but Erik was gesturing toward the plane, so something to discuss in the air, he figured.
The plane was downright luxurious, it looked more like a flying hotel than transport. Not only that, but there were 2 others identical to it parked at gates nearby. As their plane taxied to the runway, he noticed the others getting in motion, as well.
"They're decoys," Erik explained. "This is how an Aelir or Steward usually travel, with tight security."
"Isn't it obvious that we're going to Spain?"
"Oh, they will accompany us to the beginning of Spanish airspace, then the rest of the journey is secure. The point this time is just to keep a terrorist guessing as to which plane contains government officials. Any other time, they'd be flying to alternate destinations."
"Makes sense." Wes sat down on a large couch and Erik sat down opposite him. Wes instinctively took out a bug detector device and started waving it around, then realized he looked silly with that in front of Erik. Erik was amused with the councillor's training and also impressed with the sophistication of the device itself. He had seen that exact device before, in the hands of Councillor Devoy.
"'Trust No One But Yourself' was the motto of Acwellan Devoy...I know him very well, I also disagree with his worldview. You need friends you can trust and confide in. That said, it's definitely smart to check for bugs in a confidential environment. There are indeed none, you can trust that nothing said on this plane leaves it."
"I'm sorry for being so awkward," Wes laughed sheepishly.
"No worries, that's not even awkward. Standard operating procedure among many of the types who meet on planes like this." Erik could see why Wes was so well-liked - he was genuine, raw with inexperience, but also smart and exceptionally competent. He could work with this, yes.
"So, how are things in the European Council? I know it's been a rough experience at times, this is your chance to tell me anything. And I really mean anything. If something is not working, I can change it."
"I mean I love the Council, but what makes it difficult is when Steward Maximillian tells me I can't do things like introduce legislation or vote on specific acts. People may think I'm lazy or not dedicated or whatever, when in reality, I am simply not allowed to do this or that. I can handle the overt insults, being misgendered as a woman because my name apparently isn't masculine enough for westerners, and the annoying favoritism used by the Speaker, but being gimped by my own side is the real hardship. There are days when everything is fine and days when I feel like I just can't do this, you know?"
"Every job is like that..bad bosses and annoying coworkers!" Erik chuckled. He was hearing what he expected to hear. Erik rarely asked a question he didn't already know or suspect the answer to.
"But really, in all seriousness, I do have a potential solution to that. I could change the structure of the executive branch so you don't need to report directly to the Steward."
"You can do that!?" Wes was intrigued.
"Indeed. What would happen is the Domain of the European Councillor would move to the Domain of State...the office would lose its standalone independence, although it doesn't exactly have any independence anyway, and reporting to me instead of Maximillian would mean you're free to do whatever you'd like in the Council. No restrictions, full stop. Instead of having our national interests dictated to you, you would have a hand in shaping what those interests actually are. You're very close to the people, I trust you to make the right decisions about how to represent them. Joining the Domain of State would also mean that you'd no longer just be our Councillor, limited to what you can do inside the chamber. You'd also have power outside the chamber, able to create, coordinate, and convey policy platforms and initiatives between the European Union, the Duxburian government, and the people. I call this role, 'Councillor-General'. It has never been tried before and I would be very excited to try it with you as a partner. However, whether you want to do that is entirely up to you."
Wes sat there taking all this in. "The Steward would allow this? Isn't that a huge shift in power that could threaten him?"
"Oh...it most...certainly...IS," Erik said. The way he said it and his facial expression got the message across to Wes.
Erik could also read Wes' body language. "Relax, Wes. I am not couping the Steward, nor am I 'using' you for political purposes to that end. I would not insult your intelligence that way. My number one priority is that the government functions properly - the Steward has been an impediment to that. So of course, I will pursue options that un-gunk the flow and restore both our internal and external affairs to normal working order.
I wanted you to come and experience the Telum summit regardless of whether you accept or decline Councillor-General. You're still the face of our country as Councillor - a face our friends and allies are familiar with. They don't know me, they don't know the Steward, our government has declined to the point where nobody knows or understands us and we do not know or understand them. This summit is the beginning of the healing process, a chance to re-engage and re-humanize with our friends. Duxburian civilization needs me and it needs you."
This was heavy stuff and Wes requested the rest of the flight to weigh his options. He wanted full privileges in the Council and to able to create policy, wanted that very badly. However, he was also worried about becoming a rook in a potentially dangerous power struggle between the #1 and #2 Duxburians. Even if Erik could assure that he wasn't a pawn...he was still a piece on the board, a rook or bishop perhaps. He must tread carefully, although he also recognized that Erik was providing a path to gain powerful allies and thus also, political protection. If Erik was taking advantage of him, it was in a mutually-beneficial way with a lot of potential upside.
Wes had plenty of time to think about it, Spain was a decent distance away.
When their plane landed at Torrejón de Ardoz, Erik Drammen was not the only one wearing a shiny new badge.