Amélie Magali Brisbois is a government bureaucrat working in the Shffahkian government. What makes her a person of particular interest is the amount of time she has served as an Assistant to the Executive. She assumed her position in the early 80s and has been reappointed to it ever since. In a political climate where administrations come and go bringing with them new people that are in turn replaced, holding on to a position within the government that relies on an appointment from a revolving position is an impressive feat in and of itself. Yet, in an odd way it is this system of rapidly changing positions that necessitates someone like her. In a political climate of multiple parties vying for power and influence over each other, Birsbois possesses, or more accurately, is seen to possess an invaluable trait: nonpartisanship.
Her almost forty-year career began rather unexpectedly. Before entering politics, Brisbois was a zoologist studying the flora and fauna of Mesoaurelia. She worked with various national parks and even appeared in two nature documentaries: one about the Capcostese Wandering Spider and the other about the hidden wurld of termites. Her political awakening came when in 1983 the then obscure presidential candidate Pau-Joan Soler ran on a platform that incorporated many environmentalist policies which inspired the young zoologist to volunteer for his campaign at an early stage. Her organisational skills didn’t go unnoticed as she rose through the campaign staff’s ranks; first becoming the head coordinator for her home state of Delimo and eventually she ended up as a hired assistant in Soler’s campaign. A year of campaigning later as Soler was announced as the winner of the 1984 presidential election, Brisbois was there celebrating by his side with other noticeably higher-profile individuals as the victory was announced on election night.
Brisbois hadn’t initially expected Soler’s campaign to win. Instead she intended to bring environmentalism more attention in national politics by helping his campaign. “Even a third-place candidate sporting environmental policies would go a fair distance,” she thought. But Soler ended up winning which meant that she soon received a call from the president-elect offering her a job as an Assistant to the Executive, a position she would spend nearly forty years in.
Soler had a difficult term as president having to deal with increasing political fracturing. This led to his party, the Revolutionaries of 1902 (Révolutionaires de 1902 ,R02), losing their governing coalition during his term. As a result, President Soler had to govern through broad consensus. Brisbois saw the promising idealistic Soler become a glorified rubber stamp for legislation. It is around this time that Brisbois gained a non-partisan reputation, not because of her own beliefs but simply because President Soler had given up on enacting his political agenda. During this time, Brisbois’s organisational and management skills shined through as she proved to be quite apt at dealing with the web of bureaucracy that made up the Shffahkian government. She soon knew the names one needed to know and the numbers to call them almost by heart. She was a peculiar instance of competence and know-how amongst the inactivity and mediocrity of the Soler administration.
As Soler’s term neared its end in 1987, it became evident that he wasn’t going to run for a second term. When a new president-elect was chosen in 1988, Soler appointed Brisbois as the head of the transition team. Brisbois was saddened that she wasn’t able to achieve the things she wanted but chose to see her job through to the end. As Soler left the presidential residence for the last time, she remained there and helped the incoming administration set up; she instructed them on a plethora of topics informing the newcomers about important things such as the finer details of executive protocol and which names to call when you need which affairs sorted. Her knowledge of the executive and the capital as a whole became even clearer when she told them of the small insignificant details such as the best places to take a break and the fastest bus and train lines to travel through to avoid crowds. Towards her last month as head of the transition team, she received a surprising call from the new president offering her old job post back.
Brisbois accepted, hoping to see her original political agenda through this time around. However, she quickly realised that it wasn’t her political stances or fervour the new president wanted but her bureaucratic expertise. Disheartened, she would eventually give up on her political aspirations not because she lacked the will to see it through but because she simply hadn’t the time being too busy with her work as an executive assistant. Brisbois’s non-partisan nature wasn’t as much the result of some vague sense of national or revolutionary unity as it often was with many non-partisan bureaucrats but more the result of constant busy work gradually doing more and more and expressing her beliefs less and less. This made her significantly useful to any administration to have her around.
And so from administration to administration, she kept working as an Assistant to the Executive. Her bureaucratic know-how and politically unaligned manners landed her the same job seemingly with any president-elect. Like a desk in the office, it was almost taken for granted that she’d be kept around by the next administration. What was truly extraordinary about this situation was that she wasn’t a far-off office worker but an assistant to the president. From one administration to another, she was able to work closely with the highest office of the country. Eventually the glamour of her work faded, and Brisbois became internally irreverent to her position simply seeing as her day-to-day job. She worked for months to assist the Executive in setting up a new social programme only to work to tear it down by the arrival of the next administration.
Now she sits in a dimly lit room filled with numerous government bureaucrats as the current president, Adélaïde Larue, gives a slide presentation on the updated internal goals of her administration to a roomful of newly appointed ministers. Larue is the seventh president under which Brisbois has served up to this point. By the way things are going, she is unsure if there will be an eighth because as the switching slides light up the dark room, she cannot help but utterly despise the woman in front of the room whom she calls her boss and the country calls the president.
There are few things more important in Aurelia, both politically and otherwise, than the railroad. An essential tool of transportation for the continent's millions of inhabitants, it holds a uniquely pivotal role. While elsewhere, the slow establishment of freeways and the dominance of the personal automobile have long eclipsed trains, Aurelia is different. Its nature as a land of civilized areas separated by vast seas of disorganized frontier, oftentimes the possession of myriad tribes or insurgencies, alongside downright oppressive weather conditions, render cars ghastly inefficient. What's more, since the days of the Shffahkian Empire, the vast pre-existing network of railroads criss-crossing Aurelia, the best developed on Eurth for their time, were too central to all continental infrastructure to replace. Thus, a combination of necessity, lethargy, and reactionary tendency has created a state of train primacy, for better or worse. Certainly, carbon emissions are low, but maintaining and protecting the railroads as well as manipulating tribal politics to create a series of dependent so-called railroad states has long been an ulcer on the finances of the civilized states of Aurelia, especially Kirvina and Shffahkia, who as the two first-adopters of the technology also have the largest corporate stake (and the most to lose in the event of mass banditry).
Often quite comical to foreign travelers who enter the region for the first time, and a good tone-setter for the continent, are Aurelian railroad maps. Pockmarked with green, yellow and red ticks indicating the safety of different routes and the chance of encountering a piratical assault on your journey through them, as well as with different track symbols for when one must board an armored train, or dark X's marking branch routes which have been shut down due to ongoing military operations, they paint a poverty-stricken, violent, and dystopian picture. That said, to the average Aurelian, the system is anything but. As a simple reality of life that in truth yields few to no casualties, mostly being a trouble for politicians, corporations, and the nobility, the prevailing opinion in Kirvina is that such things simply must be dealt with, as they have always been dealt with, and that there is nothing abnormal about them. In fact, Pan-Aurelian politicians throughout the continent's history have harped on the railroad system as an example of continental unity and brotherhood, conveniently ignoring the millions of disadvantaged native peoples subjected to economic destitution through the unnatural propping up of banana republics, or on Eurth railroad states, that can barely be called countries. So it is that under the auspices of "unity" and "brotherhood", a young Shffahkian politician by the name of Marcel journeyed to seek the patronage of a Duchess Chrysanthe of Taurapetra in expanding one of the many sub-routes of the Trans-Aurelian Railway, one which tunnels through the Paranne Mountains and into an oft overlooked sector of Shffahkia.
While perhaps Marcel could have hoped to secure money from the central government, or from the reigning Grand Duke Liuvros of Achilleia, it was clear through his corporate liaisons that all the funds of these regions were already tied up with a stout increase in banditry, as well as deploying various arms of the nation's light infantry special operations force (the Rangers, Tasanthai plural, Tasanthes singular) as well as its regulars in the area (the Border Guard, Acranthai plural, Acranthes singular) to deal with an unnerving increase in partnerships between hostile tribes. While the situation around the railroads themselves was more stable than it had been in quite a long time, this was due to an unsustainable policy of promoting the welfare of the citizens of the railroad states, at the expense of the next layer of surrounding federations, which was creating more enemies the longer it dragged on. Tribes which had gone over a century without any Kirvinsét or Shffahkian meddling were now suddenly introduced to the front line of guntrain diplomacy, with not a one happy about the notion. Chrysanthe, though the possessor of a modest fortune and a cadre of family-loyal mercenaries and quasi-feudal bannermen hailing from the district she ruled over which functioned as a portion of the federal army in all but name, had committed little to nothing to the railroad-effort, calling it "a damnable waste of time" and "an endless cycle of vapid paternalism best left to foolish men with deep pockets." Despite her raging antipathy, as the only noble or bureaucrat in the entire country who was not already committed to something, she was the only one who could be approached for this route.
With these thoughts in mind, Marcel emerged from the train taking him into Taurapetra, smoothing down his suit. Having foregone a diplomatic escort, choosing instead to travel incognito, he took the quickest route through the old quarter of the ancient city towards the diplomatic offices and ruler's compound, standing under the small umbrella he had bought at the train station and doing his best to avoid the bad weather. It was geographically arranged in a way that the highest section of the city, whereupon sat his destination, was always held in view, and that no matter how he pivoted across the stone boulevards, it was always visible somewhere at the corner of his eye. Likely a tool wielded in the medieval era to inspire lofty grandeur on the part of the city-state's rulers, he mused, crossing under the alcoves which would take him to his scheduled meeting after around thirty minutes of walking. Saluted by a pair of guards, he snapped his umbrella closed and passed it off to a waiting valet, fashionably two to three minutes late in normal Shffahkian fashion. Once, twice, he rolled out each shoulder, flattening his breathing, and then crossed into the door. Sat across the room, waiting at the other side of an oaken table, was the Duchess he was hoping to meet. Gesturing for him to sit, she took his measure with an imperious, self-assured expression, dark brown eyes boring a hole through his face and out the back of his head. "We are most pleased to receive you," she said with an expression that spoke more of murderous intent than pleasure, " and hope that your journey has not been too taxing. Please. Speak of your purpose in journeying to the other end of the continent, that it might be heard and known." Despite her decorum, she struck a rather militaristic figure, with short-cropped light hair and clothing close in style to an army officer's parade jacket.