It started with a ten mile wide crater.
ugust 14, 2026. Mashhad, Iran.
The prime minister's hydroelectric limousine slowed as it approached the Tabarsi Street gate of the Imam Reza shrine. Keeping a promise she made to the cabinet yesterday, this would be her final stop before driving over to the national parliament building. None of the shrine's custodians knew she was coming.
Her address to parliament would come later that day, a speech that will mark the end of its special session and a new beginning for the Republic of Iran. Now her thoughts turned to the first leader of the country's last form of government which dissolved literally in flames twenty years ago.
Under the Great Concession, as it is known today, the former theocracy's highest leaders whose graves were in what was once the nation's capital are deemed buried in a thickly lead-lined vault within the shrine. The lead is necessary to protect pilgrims from the highly radioactive soil sample taken from a spot near the center of an extremely large blast crater that used to be the heart of Tehran. That and the relatively smaller craters surrounding it are not only visible from earth orbit, but can even be seen through any low powered telescope from the Taurus-Littrow settlements on the moon.
But the Great Concession's main feature, its opening portion that comprises nearly the whole document, is why she is addressing parliament in this city, just as each of her predecessors had ever since the old republic's surviving leaders signed it. Except she knows this will be the last time any prime minister does so here. Under that portion, formally titled "Articles of Unconditional Surrender," the city that has served as the country's provisional capital for nearly two decades will no longer house the many agencies charged with rebuilding Iran and firmly establishing a freely democratic nation. Most have already relocated to Qom. After today's decision by parliament the rest will move there too. In accordance with the last of those articles' requirements, Iran is finally going to have a permanent capital again.
As the prime minister entered the shrine she felt the ironies of her private pilgrimage even more palpably. When she was a little girl she would often visit the Supreme Leader's grave in Tehran. Even then she wondered about the obvious haste that went into its construction. Why had the makeshift edifice not been replaced? It would be soon, one of the holy men told her. A great center of learning, seminary, shopping malls, all covering over five thousand acres, were planned. The older she grew the less frequent her visits became. But each time she would ask, when will the construction begin? Soon. Why has it not? No one could tell her. Even during her last visit, right before her eighteenth birthday, she asked. But by then no one needed to tell her why or when. She had figured it out herself.
Soon afterwards the bombs fell.
Today she felt like that little girl again, visiting the grave of a leader who died the year she was born. At last it has gotten its new edifice. Not the one any of those holy men dared imagine — a symbolic handful of untouchable soil encased in lead, 450 miles away. A new capital is being constructed as well, close to where that leader first settled after returning from exile to change an entire nation, a nation whose people "do not use this term, 'democratic.'" Except she knows this time the change will be for the better.
On her way to the parliament building the prime minister looked over her speech one last time. The word "democratic" appears in it twenty times.
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