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‘Black box’ has always been an interesting term to me. It’s both defined as a nigh-indestructible flight recorder, literally designed to preserve truth through catastrophic circumstances, and a system whose inner truths remain hidden. I’ve always wondered how people can trust a system that won’t share how it works or why it does what it does. How do you find truth when the forces of darkness specifically try to obscure it? I don’t know about you, but my name is Parker Terrell, and I won’t let anything stop me from trying to find the Plain Truth.
Before we dive into today’s topic, I want to share something. I was wrong. Let me admit it right here, right now. Dedicated fans of the show know that I’ve claimed countless times that an independent candidate could never be elected Imperator. Or, to be more accurate, that the powers that be would never let it happen. Yet, here we are. The people have elected Laylani Addison, an independent candidate and self-professed education advocate, to be our next Imperator. This time last year, most of us didn’t even know Laylani Addison existed. Now, she’s months away from taking control of our empire.
Let me admit something else to you now. Addison’s election has surprised me in more ways than one. I never thought I’d see the day an independent got elected, and I never, ever expected that day to worry me so much.
Now, I haven’t really hidden my general disgust for this crop of Imperator candidates: bland, boring, and shockingly silent about anything related to the Vanduul war. Forget about asking how much more money they’re willing to waste on it. I spent the past few months arguing why none of the major-party candidates deserved to be Imperator, and, in some twisted way, I got exactly what I wanted.
During the campaign, I didn’t go on the attack against Addison often, but when I did, I called her pro-AI policies reckless and potentially catastrophic. I found the hubris of her position to be absolutely infuriating. After all the issues Humanity has had with AI, after all the close calls, how can she suddenly claim that it’s safe to proceed? Her intellectual arrogance is on full display with her assertion that she’s the one who can ensure this will be done safely. If this doesn’t concern you, then it absolutely should. Because if she’s wrong, the downside won’t just be wasted taxpayer credits… history has taught us that lives can be lost as well.
My issues with Addison aren’t all related to her audacious AI stance. About her proposed budget, I went on record saying that negotiating peace with the Vanduul feels like a more realistic policy goal. There were also big red flags around her commitment to increase Synthworld spending and sell off taxpayer-funded tech. An interesting, uber-capitalist position for a candidate who bragged about not taking donations from mega-corps and swore to only be beholden to voters.
Well, you know me, I’m not one to take a politician on their word. I might not have talked about Addison much during the last leg of the campaign, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t digging around, investigating what was real and what was political posturing. Well, today’s entire show will be dedicated to sharing the details of my investigation into Imperator-Elect Addison and the truth hidden beneath the shadows of her campaign. Hopefully what I’m about to tell you concerns you as much as it does me.
Let me begin by saying that my findings are not complete. Certain avenues of investigation are ongoing and, out of an abundance of concern for my sources, I’m not going to disclose everything I know. But I promise you, the truth won’t stay hidden forever.
My investigation began exactly where it all started for Imperator-Elect Addison: Oya III. She may have spent time on Rhetor, but the relationship with her homeworld is what really defines her. She grew up next to the only slice of Xi’an sovereign land within the UEE and it makes her the first Imperator to have spent her childhood under the overwhelming influence of true Xi’an neighbors. A formative life-experience she credits with inspiring her passion for learning, but it surely must have shaped her in other ways, right? How could it not?
Oya III is also where Addison met Jesse Baigent, her longtime spouse and recent campaign manager. Born and raised on Terra, they first met when Baigent was running an Oya III-based consulting firm focused on increasing Human and Xi’an trade. Baigent relocated the firm to Rhetor when Addison’s academic career brought the couple to the system, and he ran it right up until the day he joined his wife’s campaign. Though not well known publicly, Baigent recently made a name for himself in diplomatic circles when his firm was hired by the UEE government to consult on the HuXa negotiations, allegedly receiving several lucrative contracts related to this work over the years. Although his specific involvement in the trade deal remains undisclosed, I’ve gained some insight into his relationship with the project. Be sure to stick around so you don’t miss those specifics later in the show.
For now, let’s keep our attention on Imperator-Elect Addison. Someone I understand less and less the more I get to know her. Somehow, she represents both definitions of ‘black box’ that I mentioned at the top of the show. Her entire life’s history is clear, yet how it all coalesced into her being elected Imperator is a complete mystery. How does a respected academic go from a political unknown to the Imperator within a year? How does someone with no public office experience also happen to be a gifted debater, an effective campaigner, and be blessed with killer political instincts? Addison’s campaign claimed that she and Baigent planned and strategized for years for this campaign. They’ve admitted that it took an incredible amount of work to shape Addison into the political figure she is today. But, I’m not so sure that they did it alone, and I’m not alone in this belief.
Let me be clear, my investigation has yet to turn up any evidence that supports some of the wilder conspiracies swirling around the spectrum, like Imperator-Elect Addison is a Xi’an sleeper agent. I won’t add any fuel to that fire until I see evidence to support such a claim. Plus, that ploy seems too inelegant for the cunning Xi’an. They know that directly controlling an Imperator would be extremely risky and potentially catastrophic to xeno-relations if that connection was ever uncovered. No, they would probably prefer to keep their influence a bit more discreet. So, who might be such a force within Addison’s campaign? Well, there are several powerful players with strong ties to Xi’an entities who we’ll take a look at a little later in the show.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this election has made me consider the old saying, “better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” Through my investigation, I’ve realized that come January it will be impossible to predict what Addison will do once in control of the Empire. And as an independent, there’s no political party or corporate operative poised to keep her aligned to its interests. Sure they’re all fighting for her attention now, but they don’t have the same influence over her as the other candidates. So who is she beholden to? Do you really believe it’s just us, the voters?
Maybe I’ve just become too cynical. Maybe it might be too early to pre-judge an Addison administration, but there’s something off here. Either she was somehow the perfect candidate running at the perfect time, or an unknown force helped mold her into the ideal empty vessel and pulled strings behind the scenes to help her get elected. Until we really know who Laylani Addison is, we must remain vigilant and ready to respond to any injustice, because our empire could need us now more than ever.
We need to take a quick break. When we return, I’ll speak with Shigemori Wakefield about the specifics of Jesse Baigent’s work on HuXa and other strong ties between Xi’an-controlled businesses and members of the Addison campaign. Then, I’ll do a deep dive into every aspect of Addison’s personal history and ask if her background is too good to be true, and most importantly, is there anything we can do to save the empire. That and more when Plain Truth returns.