April 3, 2017,
11:22 local time,
Erasmus Campaign Headquarters,
Alert, Roman Forces Base Ellesmere Island
“While I can appreciate the efforts and intentions behind their wish,” said Consul Praeliata at a news conference outside of the Senate buildings, addressing Viridis’ blog post that had gone viral, “and while I too share many of the same sentiments that a vast majority of the population share, as do many of my colleagues within the Senate, after much consultation, deliberation, thought and prayer, we made a firm decision that denying Erasmus his legitimately obtained, clear and decisive victory in the Caesarean election would be tantamount to destroying the democracy that the Roman Empire has so strongly defended and upheld for over twenty-five hundred years. For our democracy to work, we have to respect the way elections work, even if those results do not go our way. Furthermore, denying one a legitimately won election will only serve to erode the public’s trust in the process, irreparably so, and would set a precedent more dangerous than even the election of the poorest possible candidate. Therefore, I, on behalf of the rest of the Senate, am announcing that on April 21, 2017, the first day of Erasmus’ reign, we will crown him Caesar. Thank you.”
“That was earlier today,” said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer after the video clip of Praeliata’s announcement. “Which was not unexpected…but then, moments later was this.”
“I have heard you all loud and clear,” said Valerius, holding his own news conference at the Flavia Domus. “Today I was supposed to give you a concession speech…however, I will do no such thing. The people of Rome have spoken…they regret the decision that was made. Therefore, I will not be stepping aside and will resume my reign as the 294th Caesar in Roman history.”
Erasmus shut off the TV in disgust.
“He can’t do that, right?” he said, nerves tinged in his defiance. “We legitimately won, right?”
“Yes we did,” said Licinus Ludus, his lead counsel, joining him alongside his campaign chairman and long-time friend Primus Gratius.
“We can challenge that, can we not?” Erasmus said, hanging on to the faint hope that he had.
“We could,” said Ludus, sensing Erasmus’ worry.
“So let’s get in front of a magistrate and do it!” Erasmus said, goading Ludus to pick up his phone and make the call.
Ludus could only sigh.
“Erasmus,” said Ludus, “you’re right…we could go in front of a magistrate. We could go in front of several…we’d probably do very well. Until we get to the last step…which is appealing to the Caesar…who is still Valerius.”
“The Twelve Tables are very clear,” said Erasmus. “He has to relinquish the throne if he legitimately lost, which he did. Not even he can rule against that.”
Gratius jumped in, giving Erasmus a look.
“Do you really think that Valerius would rule against extending his term?” said Gratius. “No matter what the law says, he is the ultimate interpreter of it…he’ll find some way to interpret it so he can keep his power.”
Erasmus let out a heavy sigh.
“What do we do?” he asked, almost breathless.
“I’m not sure,” said Ludus. “From a legal standpoint, you have nothing.”
“We could organize some protests,” said Gratius, “maybe see if the Senate or the Plebeian Council will go to bat for you, but I doubt they’ll accomplish much, if we can even count on their support anyway. Other than that…there is the Army. They could forcibly remove Valerius…but he’s still their boss, and military intervention is always a risky proposition, on every front.”
“A province or two can break for me,” said Erasmus, hopefully. “The Army may support me...there has to be a lot of people who be angry at Valerius.”
“Bill,” said Gratius, using Erasmus’ birth name, “that may happen. I don’t think it will. You don’t have too many endorsements from politicians...the Senate nearly all hates you...and besides, if you are seen as instigating violence what support you may have for the crown will evaporate. You need to play it cool Bill. We’ll release a statement condemning Valerius for his actions, urge everyone to do what they can to uphold the voice of the people and leave it at that. More importantly, though, we need to tell the people to remain calm and tell them to contact their Councillor. There’s going to be a lot of anger, and the potential for violence will be high. At the very least, we don’t want anyone blaming us for whatever violence breaks out.”
Erasmus was downtrodden, unable to rectify how his dreams could be crushed so easily and so recklessly. What does it say about our democracy if the people can choose to brazenly disregard its rules?
Ludus picked up on Erasmus’ feelings.
“We should call the Mundiali,” said Ludus.
“The Mundiali?” said Erasmus, starting to get hopeful.
“Wait,” said Gratius, “Licinus, didn’t you just say that nothing illegal happened?”
“I know I did,” said Ludus, “but that doesn’t mean Valerius did something illegal to spur his legal decision.”
“He’s right,” said Erasmus. “You don’t subvert democracy on a whim, and Valerius is usually a man of honour. Someone got to him…and I’m going to find out who.”