This portfolio originally appeared in Jump Point 9.3.
Imperator Erin Toi’s autobiography, “On the Path,” provides an honest and insightful look at her personal life and political ascension to becoming the first post-Messer Imperator. The book’s unique format finds the former Imperator focusing on important days that forever changed the trajectory of her life. Below is the excerpt from March 11, 2777.
March 11, 2777 – SHANGHAI, EARTH, SOL SYSTEM
“It’s time to go, Senator Toi.”
When asked about that day, those words are first to mind. Calmly whispered to me by Irfan Udell, my security chief, before I could ask the crowd of constituents for more questions. My first in-person event since my election to the Senate was already an hour over schedule. I apologized to those still waiting and asked my staff to gather all remaining questions.
Irfan casually chatted with me during our walk to the hangar. Something he rarely did in the early days. Waiting inside was a full military transport. I had expected a small hopper to ferry me to Shanghai’s waterfront gardens for a sunset walk. Before I could inquire, Ifran handed me a dossier. Irfan informed me that Shanghai officials had just arrested two individuals involved in a plot to assassinate me. Flipping through the files, I saw records of comms discussing my scheduled visit to the gardens, schematics, three suspect profiles, and photos of two people being arrested while unloading crates from a handcart. Since the third suspect was still at large, he deemed it imperative to get me off-world.
Whenever I reflect on that day, Irfan’s calm, professional demeanor always stands out. Only later did I learn how his team had worked tirelessly for weeks to orchestrate the sting without allowing it to affect my appearances or tip their hand to Messer loyalists. If Irfan’s team could defy the regime, then so could I.
To anyone paying attention, the Messers effectively began hand-selecting Earth’s senators in the mid-2600s. Although Senate elections still occurred, the eventual winner was always obvious thanks to pervasive ads and a non-stop media blitz focused on a specific pro-Messer candidate. Around the same time, particularly vocal political opponents began to disappear (we now know to Charon’s secret prisons). Earth’s opposition parties withered along with any enthusiasm to run against a Messer-backed candidate, eventually leading to several Senate elections where only one candidate appeared on the ballot.
By the time I registered my run for the Senate in late 2775, I knew the risk I was taking but didn’t let it deter me. Honestly, I never expected to win. Only to show the empire what was clear to many of us on Earth; the Messer’s political influence was waning.
Once elected, the Senate assigned me a security team led by Irfan. I had heard that Messer loyalists were known to be installed with the Senate security services to keep tabs on senators, but an emboldened block of anti-Messer senators had recently restructured and reformed the security services to end such surveillance. Irfan’s team quickly earned my trust and eventually my eternal gratitude for their actions in Shanghai. As we broke atmo leaving Earth that day, Irfan promised that his team would continue to do everything within their power to keep me and my staff safe, and I promised to fight like hell to save the empire from the Messers.
Exhausted yet strangely energized from the events of the day, I spoke with Terran Senator Heng Ibrahim who was then the head of the Senate’s Defense Committee. He told me privately what could never be uttered publicly, that the Messers were responsible for sending my would-be assassins, but they still had enough loyal senators to stop any investigation. Despite my desire to confront Imperator Messer X over the incident, now was not the time to pick a fight.
Unofficially though, further details about the failed assassination attempt continued to trickle in. The arrested conspirators, Shigeki Renshaw and Dalton Boudet, were both in possession of valid employee IDs that allowed them to bypass security checks at the Shanghai gardens. An attempt to access information on their comps was thwarted by an advanced encryption system that wiped the devices when a password wasn’t entered within the allotted time. Despite a variety of threats and incentives, Renshaw and Boudet refused to talk and both were killed in jail before making it to trial.
Strategically, it was better to focus that political anger and energy onto issues that improved the Empire for all. To show voters how a good, responsible government could work if they wanted it. Publicly, this included legislation that restored the voting rights of political dissidents (which failed upon introduction, naturally), and behind the scenes, attempting to establish positive diplomatic relations with the Xi’an that eventually led to the Akari-Kr.ē Treaty of 2789.
History has proven this strategy effective. In the aftermath of the Messers, we now know the failed assassination attempt angered Linton and Fiona Messer, who believed it made their father look weak. Due to this and various other grievances, the two began plotting what would become the coup at Khanos Stadium that deposed Ulysses Messer X in 2781. While the regime festered from the inside, Senatorial influence increased and positively reformed other parts of the government. I saw the system begin to heal before my eyes. That’s why, when the terrible and bloody 11-year reign of Imperator Linton Messer XI finally came to an end, I felt more confident than ever that everything was going to be ok.
Let’s go to that day next, May 3, 2792.