The Ten Weeks is at its simplest a story about several teenagers—and their parents—who are forced to deal with change, not only from within but from the world around them. To get some idea of what they went through, and what their response meant, we need to look at the political situation of the nation they lived in, the Republic of Verecunda, at the south-western end of the Island. At the centre of these changes was one man—Allan Kendall—who dominated the Republic for nearly three decades.
Allan Marshall Kendall was born in 1930 in New Jersey, but when he was five his family moved to Verecunda. The Island had seen a boom during Prohibition; at the end of that social experiment, Verecunda and Collina saw some retreat but were also better known with the travelling American public. Kendall’s family had seen its hard knocks from the Depression and hoped to start again. His father was a greengrocer and started a small store in the north-western part of Verecunda, across the canal from the so-called “Dillman-Arnold” addition, which was just starting to be developed.
Since its founding in 1828, Verecunda had been dominated by its “first families,” the Arnolds, Dillmans and Hervers. Multi-generational wealth splits and family problems had diluted their holdings both individually and collectively, which invited a power challenge. That power challenge came in the form of Lucian Gerland, son of Italian immigrants and an aggressive player. Gerland’s main base of wealth was his real estate holding, but an extension of this was his retail activities. Independent greengrocers such as Kendall’s father stood in his way; he planted a rival store nearby and, through very aggressive pricing, drove Kendall’s father out of business. Kendall never forgot nor forgave his father’s business failure; it drove him on through his entire career.
Through all of his father’s business difficulties Kendall was a diligent student; upon graduation from secondary school, he returned to his native state to attend and graduate from Rutgers in 1952. In spite of the ongoing anti-Communist scares, there was plenty of left-wing activity to take in, and Kendall, nearly a Marxist by that time, did so with a vengeance. At a time when American leftists were wondering how to get back at a McCarthyite nation, Kendall realised that he had a reasonable shot at doing so himself on a much smaller scale. During his time at Rutgers he got another shot of inspiration when he met Laura Millburn, a fellow Verecundan two years his senior. They married in 1950; their only daughter Denise was born three years later.
Laura was more to Allan than a lover and wife. She was the granddaughter of Maximilian Herver, who owned the largest estate in Verecunda proper, extending along the eastern seaboard of the city. Herver had no male heirs and an impending fight amongst the daughters—one of whom had married into the Dillmans—was brewing. Unfortunately Herver wasn’t the best manager of money, and Gerland saw his chance. Whipping up popular support through his political operatives, in 1946 Gerland managed to get a real property tax enacted. Gerland and his other rivals had enough income from their commercial holdings to afford such a tax, but for Herver—whose estate had largely reverted to a wilderness—the burden was unsupportable. Gerland had lent him money, so he called the loans, Herver went bankrupt and committed suicide, and Gerland ended up with the entire tract.
Like Allan, Laura bore a grudge against Gerland. At this point, however, Gerland miscalculated. Having no desire to bear this new property tax alone, and hoping to cool the backwash from his takeover of the Herver Estate, Gerland donated about half of the land, some to the Republic for a seashore park, but most to the University of Verecunda, which relocated to its new spacious campus from what became the government’s central complex. The growing university needed teachers, and Kendall came back from Rutgers to teach history and just about anything else they needed him to.
Although nearly a Marxist, Kendall understood that a straightforward, “proletarian” revolution would not succeed in a tourist-agrarian economy such as Verecunda’s. He also realised that, if Verecunda went formally Communist, it would face the serious possibility of American intervention. He also had some ideas on his social agenda that went beyond standard Marxist-Leninist thought. So Kendall decided to “go it alone” without help from the Soviets, hoping that the vulnerabilities in Verecundan society would bring him victory.
His first move was to found the Committee for Personal Liberty (CPL) in 1955 with fellow faculty member Arthur Moran. They spent the next decade radicalising the student body through their own classes and through the meetings and activities of the Committee. Kendall also used the broad structure of the Committee to include off-campus elements. Chief amongst those were the underground trade unions. All of the ruling families of Verecunda—including Gerland—had stoutly resisted the right of workers to organise. With Kendall’s encouragement, the unions resorted to sporadic violence in an attempt to organise Gerland’s hotel empire, among other companies. This led to the authorities arresting Kendall on two occasions, although he was released when the authorities could not directly connect him with the attacks. Kendall’s release was also related to sympathetic people in the police force, which made Kendall see the house of cards he was up against.
But Kendall was patient; he resisted attempts by his trade union allies—to say nothing of Moran—to rush the process. In 1960 the CPL, operating as the Verecundan Peoples’ Party, elected two members to the Verecundan Senate, from the same part of Verecunda that his father had operated his grocery a quarter of a century earlier. But Gerland wasn’t idle either; the same year he secured the National Party nomination and subsequent election of Roland Campbell as President of the Republic. Campbell strengthened the police and managed to get both Kendall and Moran expelled from the University faculty. Moran fled to Alemara to avoid arrest. Kendall would have been arrested himself, but Laura got her Dillman relatives to intervene, and Kendall was able to get a job teaching at Collina Comprehensive. With its leaders on the run, the CPL was in disarray, its senators were an isolated minority, and all seemed lost.
But it wasn’t lost, in part because Kendall’s anti-Gerland stance was getting traction amongst land-holding people in both Verecunda and Uranus. Gerland continued to acquire property under duress. In 1962 he finally managed to buy out the Arnolds’ holdings out at something of a discount, the result of family splits and Gerland’s financial power. In addition to the large Uranan land holders, the branches of the Dillmans which held large tracts (urban and rural) were under pressure. They decided to throw their lot in with the People’s Party, against the (well justified) objections of their other relatives, especially those in the medical profession. With that they began to prepare for the 1964 elections.
Moran was the first of this “dynamic duo” to return to Verecunda, which he did in early 1963. Kendall left Collina Comprehensive to return that summer. The CPL was reactivated. Campbell wanted to move, but by that time he was embroiled in a power struggle within Gerland’s own organisation. Gerland wasn’t getting any younger, and his own interests were more focused outside of Verecunda. Gerland discovered that several of his own people were involved in a scheme to defraud him and that Campbell was involved in covering for them. The two main leaders of the plot were tried and imprisoned; others fled the country, some becoming CPL members. Campbell would have been forced to resign but Gerland didn’t want the embarrassment, so he put Campbell on a short leash until his term expired. That “short leash” prevented Campbell from moving against the CPL, and in any case Campbell was drawn towards Kendall’s organisation (he was Kendall’s first Secretary of State/Foreign Minister.)
Gerland was left with a decidedly “second string” group of people to work with, and this showed in the election of Joseph Bucek in 1964 as President. A reasonable hotel manager, Bucek was totally unprepared for the situation in the Republic. The fact that he was Roman Catholic didn’t endear him to the other leading families either. The People’s Party had grown to hold about a third of the seats, and many of his own party were sympathetic. The CPL became a dominant force through its protests. Moran wanted to start pushing their social and political agenda through the Senate but Kendall held back; he felt that Gerland’s people would get the credit if they did so at this time. So paralysis was the order of the day. What looked like a stand-off was in fact a situation where Kendall’s situation improved as Gerland’s deteriorated.
Making Gerland’s situation worse was the situation in his own family. After years of secret accounts and corporations, it became clear that his desire was to leave his entire empire (except for some cash trusts) to his son Ernie. This enraged his daughters Victoria and Eleanor, especially since Lucian had sexually abused them as children. Victoria was the first to openly come out against her father, joining the CPL in 1966. Eleanor was slower to come out but joined the Committee two years later.
Kendall decided that his time had come in 1968, and so he was nominated as the People’s Party Presidential candidate, with Moran as his running mate. He was handed the best gift of all in that Gerland decided to run himself. Not an effective campaigner and the object of many Verecundans’ hostility, he still would have beaten Kendall had the Uranans not given the latter protest votes over Gerland’s land acquisition schemes. The People’s Party did even better in the Senate, sweeping that body, and Kendall became President of the Republic, a position he would hold for nearly a quarter of a century.
Kendall’s proceeded aggressively on the social front, with liberalising legislation on a variety of issues ranging from the nationalisation of health care to the legalisation of abortion on demand. From a political standpoint, the aim of this and other legislation was to consolidate his own political power along with that of the CPL and the People’s Party.
Kendall had some personalities to deal with as well. The first one was Moran himself, who died in a mysterious private plane crash just seven months after he took office. Moran was replaced by none other than Roland Campbell, who owed a great deal to Kendall. But Kendall’s greatest challenge was still Lucian Gerland, wounded but not yet down. Kendall had many operatives in Gerland’s organisation. Moran wanted to finish Gerland off through a show trial, but Kendall was, as usual, more patient; he knew that Gerland still had a good deal of offshore money and friends. He also knew that Gerland, who felt betrayed by the country that he had “built,” was sick at heart; he didn’t even choose exile to escape the inevitable doom, whether in life or in death.
As the Unix Era began, Gerland’s health slipped away as he isolated himself in Santa Lucia, his palatial estate on Point Collina. But before we go to those fabled times, we start our story at the royal palace in Serelia, on the opposite end of the Island and twenty-seven years after the events of this tale.