Pero’s stock was rising; smart investors had got in on the ground floor when the price was rock bottom. Now it was blowing sky high, through the roof and into orbit. He was a star, the new rising star leaving trails of pure zeitgeist in his wake. The name Pero was trending, he was a #hashtag, a movement, a school of thought, a brand name and a new hope.
He had even earned his father’s respect with his machinations and political nous. Following the award ceremony, the CAP née GAP considered his next move. He participated in a series of interviews with the newspapers; from the high brow, low cunning of the respectable papers to the gutter rags of the tabloid press. For each he presented an immaculate case; a presentation of whatever appealed to the potential audience. His staff had grown; now complete with two young researchers scouring the internet by day for popular opinions, and downloading pornography by night using the office broadband.
For the broadsheets, he donned a suit and poise of a statesman. Magnanimous to a fault; even forgiving a reporter instantly when he knocked over his WJC bust. No harm was done; Pero was made of sterner stuff. He had a battle board on his wall where he pinned clippings and articles from his campaign. A selection from his interviews made for colourful reading:
The General, when pushed over the issue of economic reform and the creation of a new trading bloc was typically bombastic in his answer; ‘This country will grow, with business and industry hand in hand with the state. The people need jobs, they need pay and answers and we can provide, we can provide for all.
In trade our friends will come begging to us! I have had many dealings with foreign businessmen and I know their ways; they come looking for bargains, they do not understand the true worth of the products we supply through the hard work, sweat and blood of our countrymen. I shall strike a hard deal, we are no pushovers.’
The Financial Gazette, ‘The General of Blood, Sweat and Industry’ (9th Sept.)
‘Those sly criminals in this country and living off the work of the common man. They do not care whether you eat nor have a nice house, they only want to live off the sweat of someone else’s hard graft. These politicians – they are bad – they only care about their salaries and perks, not about poverty and paying people right.’
The Daily Rag, ‘Punchy Pero Fights Back For The Common Man – Pow!’ (15th Sept.)
Pero had one particular cutting set apart from the rest:
Today, in a sensational vote in Parliament, the government lost an opposition motion that called for the impeachment of the President over claims of corruption. Details have emerged following the sensational disclosure by General Pero of the Armed Forces of an elaborate money laundering scheme involving foreign criminals and drug dealers. The paper trail led to the highest echelons of power with the President himself named as a beneficiary of a Swiss bank account, under his wife’s name; which has seen funds deposited in from the mafia connection. The President so far has refused to comment on allegations but a spokesman has denied involvement, with counter accusations that the General is involved with the heroin trade and using child soldiers. Asked for a response to these claims, General Pero, now the forerunner for the leader of a new political party, The Honest Citizens Union, rubbished the story:
‘The President is a powerful man and I am but an officer in the army. He thinks that setting the press onto me will diminish his wrongdoings but he is wrong. We have a fair and unbiased media who I am proud to say would not publish such tripe.’
Voice of the Country; ‘President impeached over corruption and drug money claims’ (16th Sept.)
Pero’s brand appeal attracted cash cows to the cause. Sponsors and backers were found from within finance and business. Industry leaders would lobby and court Pero for attention and he would lend them a friendly ear. With the army already behind him, all he needed was for the people to follow and he would be unstoppable. A tsunami of change and prosperity.
Out on stages, performing speeches around the city he promised a ‘new, honest politics’ where the truth would be told, no matter how painful. Dressed in his full military regalia he was an impressive sight to behold. The preparations for his final victory must be made; on two fronts, firstly the slums and the city must be cleaned, then his attentions must be focused on securing the country; through democratic means Pero had no doubts about his final triumphant march into the Capital. What glory it must be, to walk into a city as conqueror and relieve the beleaguered populace. To emancipate them from the slavery of the selfish politicians, to set them free.
Pero contemplated destiny; the need for a wife and a child to carry on his dynasty. Why lose everything so easily but for the carelessness of not having an heir? His father maintained a respectful distance over the issue, but offers were there.
He sat in his office in the barracks; in a lush burgundy cushioned armchair. His advisors had left him a book to read, they felt it might help his evolution. Pero took an instant love to the subject matter and had even one phrase from it written across his heart. He could imagine a boot stamping down on the face of humanity for all eternity. He envisioned it being his.