The Meeting After the Storm

Day 34 Morning
The number of colonists present was very noticeably smaller than at our last general Council session and the pre-meeting noise level dead silent in comparison. Lester Reye tapped once rather than pounded his gavel down and had everyone’s attention.

“Thank you all for being here this morning. I’m going to first talk about the current state of the colony after the events of the last several days and then Karl Nash will say a few words and we will open the floor for questions and comments. Please no interruptions or questions till that time.

The only sound was that of a baby crying, and Reye paused a moment looking at his audience as the mother calmed the child down. When the unnatural, even uncomfortable, silence returned he continued reading from his notes.

“Including those deaths caused by the storm we’ve lost to death nearly ten percent of our population during our first month here on Alchibah. The storm was directly responsible for five of those deaths We now number only one hundred forty nine. Eleven of that one forty nine are spacers. We have been unable to locate or to contact as of yet, William and Janie Bartlett, Laura Seaworth and my son Mike or the two robots they have with them. We haven’t given up hope, but I will not gloss over this, it does not look good. Another two robots from here in town are missing and presumed destroyed. Six robots have suffered enough damage that they can only be used as a source of spare parts.

“Eighty percent of the crops we had started will need to be replanted if there is sufficient seed remaining. This seems likely but until we finish our inventory we can not be sure. One quarter of all colonist personal construction will need to be rebuilt. At least one of our windmills is a total loss and we need to unearth the newly delivered shuttle craft, transport and the small sawmill before we can even assess the damage to them. The lower bridge needs extensive rebuilding and repair.

“We have eleven people either in the hospital or injured severely enough that at least for the time being they are unable to do any useful work. Two of those in the hospital are critically injured and unlikely to survive. Another nine of us are fit only for light duty. Understandably morale is very low in many of us who escaped with no physical injury. And if all of this wasn’t enough we have been reminded again just how deadly the native species on this planet truly are.

“And to make matters worse we have had our first reported incidence of a major crime. Karl Nash is investigating the rape of Kathy Osborne.”

Reye paused again, taking a sip of water, while all of that sunk in.

“I didn’t come here to talk of nothing but doom and gloom. On the plus side, the community building and structures built in Liberty City came through with little or only minor damage. We have discovered many new sources of food and starvation does not look to be a problem. We have more than enough electrical power for our current and projected needs, or at least till winter. What will happen next is our decision and responsibility. Digging out and rebuilding is our first priority. The future is still ours if we refuse to let it go.

Reye looked over towards Karl Nash and signaled for him to take over. Nash came up front as Lester took a seat besides the lectern. Finally a low pitched murmur could be heard but it too became inaudible as Karl began.

“I didn’t want this job when it was first offered to me, heading the police and local militia, and want it even less now. But I know, even though it may be hard to see after what we have just come through, that progress has been made.

The baby began squalling again and the child’s mother stood up as if to leave but as she neared the exit stopped and turning to face the front of the room said in a loud voice filled with both anger and pain.

“You can talk of your progress but my baby has no father and I have no husband. You can.. you will….” Her voice tailed off and her entire body seemed to slump as she turned once more towards the exit.

“Mrs Burke, please,” was all Nash could get out before the woman was through the door and out of the hall.

“Aldo Burke was acting as a member of the militia under my command, doing his job to the best of his ability and training but constrained by all that was happening around him. And yes I gave the order rescinding the requirement that two guards must be at a post at all times. Given the need for disaster relief and aid to those unable to help themselves I would do the same again. I may have been wrong but my decision was an honest one based on the facts I knew.

“This morning before this meeting began I offered Mr. Reye and the rest of the Council members my resignation, they declined to accept. Some of you may feel that a mistake on his and their part, please feel free to talk to them about it, but for now I have a job that still needs doing and will continue as best as I am able.

“I hadn‘t planned to do this but I will take the time now to publicly thank all the militia members who were on duty the last several days, those who instead of devoting all their time and effort to helping only themselves or their families worked for the benefit of all of us in this room. Aldo Burke was one who gave that last full measure of devotion and I will honor his memory as long as I live.”

Nash lowered his head as if in prayer, then looked up and started again.

“Everyone in this room by now knows at least the outline of the crime committed against Kathy Osborne. I have talked to many you already. And either myself or Joe Fortson will talk to those we haven’t gotten around to yet. We have some evidence and expect to develop more. This crime will be solved. What we don’t have is any kind of codified procedure for dealing with a trial afterwards.”

A voice broke in from the rear, “We don’t need any procedures, we know what to do.” All at once the quite hall became loud enough to notice as more than a few people began responding to the statement in hushed tones to their neighbors.

Les Reye took this time to stand up and say, “Thank you Karl, If you would like I’ll take over now.”

Nash, obviously relived was all to happy to return to his seat in the front row and clasped his wife’s hand as he sat down.

Reye just needed to begin raising his gavel this time and all eyes were on him. He set it down turned sideways without making a sound and said, “This concludes the official part of this session. I, along with several of the council members, will remain to talk to those who wish to speak to us. Karl has more important things to do right now. Let’s try to keep this next part short. Only stay if you have something which can’t wait. We will hold another formal town hall type meeting as soon as we have enough people lined up to form a committee of law and justice. All those interested submit your names to Kara. If we don’t get enough volunteers membership on the committee will be by appointment or random selection as determined by meeting vote. Is there anyone present who must make a statement for the public record at this time?”

“No…”, he said glancing about, “I suggest then we end this session now and I look for a second. Do I hear a second?”

A chorus of voices answered in the affirmative and Reye’s gavel finally did come down with a resounding bang!

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Colony: Alchibah is a science fiction blog novel.
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