Alchibah - Day 885.
Les Reye looked at the colonists, all those seated and standing, waiting to hear his presentation. It was cold and dark in the thirty by forty five foot cavern; not enough power for heat unless a lot of insulation went up on the walls, they didn’t have it and they hadn’t strung all the lighting as of yet. The meeting was restricted to adult citizens only, no children would be eyewitness to this little bit of history. Not really enough room even for the eighty adults. And he was missing his gavel. He saw when Bart and Janie arrived and stood in one of the two entrances and figured he had best get the show on the road.
He raised his voice to cut through the din. “Quiet everyone! Quiet! I call this Council session to order.” The babble subsided and he began. “Everyone with a com unit should have read the download we sent out earlier today already. I am not going to repeat anything we said there but I will answer questions at the end. Remember much as we would like to answer everyone there are many things that we just don’t know and others that we will not comment about.”
“What do you mean you won’t comment about,” Lars Neilson called from the rear, “We’re all citizens here and have a right to know what’s going on just as much as you or anyone in the military does.” There were murmurs of support from a half a dozen others scattered throughout the room.
“Please, no interruptions, but I will answer that point. It is possible that our enemies have means of finding out what we say. This will come as a surprise to most of you, and I apologize for holding it from the colony, but we have known for some time the Guardians had the ability to watch and overhear pretty much whatever they wanted to. The Rogons may be able to do the same thing.”
“More than a few of you have asked if there might be spies in our midst. All I can say to that is it is a possibility we cannot afford to ignore.” Les paused a moment and watched as most of the people in the room started turning their heads and looking at their neighbors. “If the evidence is strong enough we will not hesitate to arrest and restrain anyone we suspect. So I don’t want any of you getting an idea and taking things into your own hands.”
Les paused again to let that sink in. He wasn’t going to say in the open about there being strong suspicion and circumstantial evidence pointing straight at Burt Buchanan and that they had decided instead to watch him closely, hoping he might do something that would let slip some information that could help the colony’s defense. Buchanan sitting up front looked fidgety and nervous but not all that much different from a lot of the other folks here.
“To all of you who have lost family I give my heartfelt condolences but this is not the time for a memorial service and I must move to other things. The only monument we can raise to those that have lost their lives is to make sure that Liberty City survives. This must be our only focus. And yes, we may fail. But we are sure to fail if we let anything get in the way of working towards that end.”
“We are working on a number of things now. Some I can talk about and some I can’t or will not. There is one thing though, that is so pivotal, I must tell you all about it and bring it to a vote.” Les paused again, marshaling his thoughts before continuing.
“Every one of you should know that the Guardians have warned us about interfering with the Soessossins. We have tried repeatedly to get in touch with the Guardians and all of our efforts have been met with silence. For some reason they have left Jedediah Dobswell and his band of Leviticans alone, and have no doubt…They are interfering in a big way.”
“When Dobswell left we had a choice about whether to leave him be or bring him back. For better or worse we left him alone, but using our orbital cameras kept an eye on him and waited for the Guardians to handle the problem. No such luck. Now there are Rogons and Goonies down there with him and it looks like some kind of a battle is shaping up. Our choice is to try to help him or to stand aside and watch him and the Llamas with him and on his side die. Because with the kind of power the Rogons command, and we’ve seen first hand what it can do, he has no chance at all.”
“Let him fry!” came a voice from the back.
“No interruptions!” Reye said. And before anyone else had a chance to jump in Les spoke again, “That’s a damn popular sentiment and not one I am sure I disagree with. But… Any of the Rogons and UN forces he can tie up are that many fewer that we have to deal with. And with that in mind the military people have stated that we need to do what we can to help that misguided band of religious fanatics in any manner we are able. So…what does that mean?”
“It means we send them weapons, rifles and ammunition, grenades. At the Stuarts and here in the caves we have far more of that kind of thing than we can use and with our numbers. And with our low numbers it‘s mostly too low tech to bother the Rogons and Goonies that we face. But on the southern continent, it looks like the Llamas siding with Dobswell vastly outnumber the Rogons, Goonies, and Llamas on the other side.”
“Of course when we judge the military quality of spears against energy beams we find they don‘t count for much. Rifles and explosives just might. And I recall hearing once that an old time military man, maybe Napoleon, said ‘Quantity has its own kind of Quality.’ We run a risk here in that the Rogons detect us making delivery or that the Guardians see that kind of aid as the last straw. And except working on our defenses here, at least on the planet, there is not much else we can do right now.”
“I will answer questions on this point, nothing else, and then we vote. When that is out of the way I will open the floor to general questions. So…Anyone have something to say about aiding the Leviticans.”
It was almost like she was primed and ready. Michelle Seaworth jumped to her feet and in a voice tinged with palpable fear, said, “You can’t do that. We need everything we have to protect us here and my daughter isn’t going to risk her life again by driving the cargo bus anywhere.”
“Mother, be quiet!” Laura Seaworth’s soprano, icy cold compared to her mother’s tone came through sharp and clear. “I will speak for myself thank you!”
Les spoke rapidly, not giving time for an argument amongst family members to break out, “Mrs. Seaworth, we have made no decision about how we move the weapons and certainly none considering who does the job. Your daughter is a full citizen and you fail to honor her or the memory of your husband when you speak for her in this fashion. If that sounds hard then so be it. We know where you stand so please be seated and let someone else take the floor. And try to think about what is at stake.”
Les Reye was almost thankful, no that wasn’t strictly speaking the truth, he was relieved, or maybe just reacting to previous training when Mrs. Seaworth made the comments that set the rest in motion. He watched without alarm as she slowly deflated, just to sink silently back into her seat. And he was more than grateful Laura had cut her off in mid stride. Just maybe he could make sure that the debate was based on the merits of the plan and leave out the emotions. Les had pretty much used all of his emotional reserve up by now. He hoped that those emotion were buried and couldn’t somehow recharge on their own. He needed time to face them. It was like pulling teeth but finally had convinced his wife Judith to say nothing and support the council’s position.
And then came a torrent of questions.
“Who will you send?”
“I can’t say.”
“When will you send them?”
“I can’t answer that either.”
“How do you know they even want our help?”
Frank Turner spoke, “If any of us has another plan I think he or she should say what it is now or else we just get on with the vote.”
“Thank you Frank. Can we do just that?”
Burt Buchanan had been biding his time and figured now was the moment. “Mr. Reye, I would call you Mr. Council President but you are shredding the constitution to such an extent that I cannot bring myself to refer to you by that name, under what used to be the constitution, what gives you the right to withhold information from us in a public session? How can we be expected to vote on such an all-important matter without all the facts? What you are really saying is ‘Trust me, do what I say is best,’ and that kind of attitude and behavior is what we all left Earth to avoid.”
“I for one will vote no on any proposal when the details are kept by a cabal of the anointed, be it the Leviticans, or you and your precious Council. And every one should take a good look around and see how well things have worked out so far following your lead. Yes, I call for a vote too, and I say, protect Liberty City and to hell with the Leviticans.”
Reye ignored Buchanan and addressed the room as a whole, “Well there it is. Tie ourselves up in knots and wait for the Constitution to come to our rescue. Back on Earth there were a lot of people who said that the U.S. Constitution held our guiding principals and was not a suicide pact. And that was true until it wasn’t. That Constitution got stretched and nicked, and then chipped away until it meant whatever those in power wanted it to mean. And for all I know it’s still there getting reinterpreted back on Earth even as the Rogons run everything instead of the UNWG.”
“I won’t lie to you. I won’t say that withholding information is justified by our Constitution, but I will say that I will not stand idly by again and watch our Constitution, the one we worked so hard for, replicate the one we had on Earth and become another suicide pact. Mr. Buchanan, in so many words, is accusing me of turning into a tyrant.”
“Taking any kind of chance, doing anything that might possibly weaken Liberty City in order to help the Leviticans and Soessossins wasn’t my idea, but I have come to support what we propose now, and so does every other member of the council. You can see, we are all here, none are drugged or being held in a cell somewhere waiting for our marching orders. So let us get on with it.”
“Do I hear a second for Mr. Buchanan’s motion for a vote?”
It was a lot closer than any of us thought it would be, but the vote came home. We were going to the aid Jedediah Dobswell. The rest of the session seemed anticlimactic and I was more than happy to have the other Council members do most of the talking.