Autumn Spring, her black hair against her silky white, gentle, slender face, gracefully walked up to the podium. Her white trousers, white shirt and slim black tie gave her a look of authority; her composer, despite or perhaps because of her youthful age, commanded the room. All seventy members of the parliament were present, including a very livid, very angry Mar. She had almost hit TJ Tallie with cane on her way in, only to be stopped by an unbearable pain in her right shoulder. Nearly two-thousand people had come from all over Park; The Long Road filled to the brim with eager denizens. A good day for business for the owners of shops along the main road. A show, a serious show of representative democracy, a serious showdown was about to begin.
Placing her shoes to the side of the speaker’s platform, Autumn Spring spoke clear and loud, with a legato structure to her sentences. Her accent had been informed from an early age; educated, fluid, politic and eloquent. “We are assembled under the most grave of circumstances.” The room fell completely silent. The whispering among the public audience stopped. “The Youth and Freedom of Movement Platform along with our allies among The Merchants and Traders Cooperative Alliance have moved, unanimously, to censure administrator Tallie. I do not take censuring a member, the central member, the administrator of our laws, the upholder of our Prime Amendments, I do not take this lightly. In point of fact, I resisted it. When the two aforementioned groups met, I listened, as the Chair of our loose collaboration, to everyone. And everyone, to put it mildly, wanted to officially reprimand the administrator. He is here today, and he will have to answer to this motion. Aside from violating a motion, Tallie has brought an inter-regional and juridical crisis of the worst kind since the post-calamity transition ended. Marin is threatening sanctions, an innocent and very well man, Shattered, a member of this body, is being held without cause, and therefore we have no choice but to act. Do I have a second?”
Joyful, her voice full of anger, yelled out, “I second the damn motion!”
“A formal vote will now take place, members, please find the pencil and paper on your desks. Mark ‘yes to censure’ or ‘no to censure.'” Autumn Spring walked back and forth, slowly, addressing both sides of the hall. The members section sat at a stepped twenty-degree angle; the large room, filled on both sides of this section, packed with people in chairs, or standing up, all in their beige, white and grey clothing began talking softly as the members voted, and passed their cards down to a Park civilian defense force clerk. A young, beautiful Black man of twenty-and-three, a prodigy trained by his father – a man who helped found Park’s system of governance as a director with FEMA and later as one of the drafters of the Prime Amendments; this young man sat upright, his chiseled face looking over the proceedings like a statue, with thick, dark hair in the shape of a halo around his head. His muscular body filled the standard issue silver, form-fitting suit, and he wore the symbol of the blue circle, a sign that he worked for the parliament. One year ago, after his father died, he took the position with community assent. His allegiance was to upholding the rules of the parliament, organizing protection – when rarely necessary – for members, and keeping a log of motions passed. He also served as the Chief Archivist for Park Amendments and Motions Secure Section, located deep under The Forum. In total, he commanded a team – autonomous from the rest of the defense force – of one-hundred and two persons. His name was Jamal Cohen.
His voice, deep like a base drum, resonated, “The motion passes 48-22.”
Autumn Spring exited the stage and took her seat among the other members. She had already voted before announcing the motion, the prerogative of the both the leader of a party and one bringing forth a motion. Tallie, standing preternaturally tall, his one functioning and one glass eye scanning the room – almost in synchronization – without blinking, took to the stage. He wore, most exceptionally, a crimson red shirt without a collar, buttoned up to his thick neck, falling to his lower buttocks, and dark black trousers. Shiny black shoes.
“What exactly am I being censured for? This motion is not clear – it does not state the reasons for it being brought, and although Autumn Spring has stated her reasons, those reasons are not included in this motion. There are reasons, and they are not benign my fellow denizens! They are ulterior reasons of a few – forty-eight – who want to subvert to core values of our Prime Amendments; they are reasons bound to profit, personal interest, the eventual – what do they call it – opening up of our society in clear contradiction of our core values. Since the beginning, when the motion that passed to allow Shattered on his expedition, to allow him to train in Marin, I have been nothing but accommodating – have I not?” The isolationists cheered. This was their man in action, the reason he’d been selected. He had gotten his stride back. No more rolling over to youthful forces who did not know what life was like before the calamity. No more rolling over to the greedy merchants who wanted to trade more, more, more like the people before the calamity, amassing wealth at the expense of the community.
“Why is it that I hold him now? Why is it that I would slow this process for this body to have time to re-think its position? Because I have information that he is a spy. A spy for the government of Marin, and for that matter, and for this reason, I vote that he be removed from medical quarantine and placed, after his mandated stay, in the…”
“Not the damn holding space you fascist bastard!” Mar couldn’t resist. She could no longer contain the rage inside her. Her son, stuck in a yurt, then a small enclosure like the animals she visited as a child, or the people she knew – the dissidents, the outcasts – who had spent time in the prisons of the last world. No, she couldn’t bear it. She shouted obscenities. She banged her fist against the desk. She turned red. Autumn Spring walked up to Mar, sat with her and held her hand. Mar cried a little. Autumn Spring, a true politician, sat – holding Mar’s back with her arm – sympathetically but without expressing much emotion. “What evidence do you bring administrator?” Autumn Spring boomed. “And what nonsense. Shattered has been with us since before the calamity. He was born here. He has never been to Marin before this in his life. Again, what evidence?”
“That’s currently classified, but I am possibly willing to discuss it with a select committee.”
“Willing? You will be more than willing; you will be forced to now. What is the evidence?”
“I can’t say here.”
“I call for a motion to command the administrator to release all classified information regarding his claim that Shattered is a spy.”
“I second the motion, and damn the man who made me do it!” Joyful, almost always vivacious and on the side of optimism, shouted while recoiling in anger.
“Mr Cohen, please call the vote.”
Bits of paper were passed around. Members looked at each other. A sea of faces, the diversity of skin color standing in stark contrast to their monochromatic sartorial choices, whispers. Heads nodding. Heads shaking. Pencils being held above a yes or a no. A binary. A choice. The sound of chairs moving back and forth. The collective anxiety in the room reached a crescendo. After twenty-and-seven minutes the last paper ballot had been passed to Jamal Cohen.
“35-35, the motion does not pass.”
Silence in Shattered’s yurt. He heard of the votes two days later. He sat motionless. The day passed as though everything was sped up. The light ascended and descended. He sat on his bed, going outside to urinate on the ground twice. He did not eat. He did not sleep until the next morning, just as the sun ascended over the pines on the eastern side of his yurt. A note came in,
Are you a spy? I must know the truth. Tallie is refusing to release information, even in closed session with a select group.
Am I a spy? Do I look like a spy? How could I be a spy? How could anyone even think that? For who? Marin — I spent thirty-days there? – his mind, too tired to race, fell into blankness.
Joyful Paine met Autumn Spring outside The Forum on that day of the vote. The hot dry air, slightly acrid with the smell of a distant wildfire, met their faces, lips and made their noses itch. Autumn Spring and Joyful hugged.
“I have a solution.” Joyful, shorter than her friend, rounded face, with long straight stunning jet-black hair that fell to her waist, held out her hazel hand, and pulled Autumn Spring toward a cannabis store owned by the First Peoples’ Autonomous Collective. “Hello, Ma, just going downstairs.”
Down the spiral staircase, Joyful took Autumn Spring. They had done this countless times before. “I know, my love, you tremble. You never let them see it. You are strong. I have an idea. You know Park Amendment thirty-seven?”
“The one related to the autonomy of First Peoples? The inclusion of formations of sovereignty within the governance of Park? Vaguely.”
Joyful poured Autumn Spring a glass of lemonade; it was cool from sitting in the underground larder. The pitcher, that contained lavender lemonade, was made of ceramic, had been in the Paine family for decades. “Sit.” Autumn Spring, never one to take directions – except in private, from Joyful, sat on the small, newly made white couch. “Like the couch? It’s one of yours — Ma, bought it yesterday.”
“I didn’t recognize. I am in such a state. How can they call Shattered a spy? Is he? I will send a message asking him, directly. No. Maybe.”
“Yes,” Joyful said as she sipped her lemonade, sat sideways and pulled her hand through her hair, smiling at Autumn Spring, “send it to cover yourself. It will hurt him initially, but I have a plan. I am going to invoke that Prime Amendment thirty-seven, which allows me unfettered access as a First Peoples’ representative and member of parliament, to see whatever Tallie is hiding; he will never allow a committee to see it. You know how he works — put that in the letter too, but don’t mention the other part.”
“And what of Tallie, don’t you need to request…?”
“Not with PA thirty-three, I can go directly to Jamal. He’s the only person with full access, and he is also versed in all the amendments. I will see him tomorrow, at the meeting of the key-holders.”
“Of course, Joyful! I love you!”
They embraced and kissed, their lemonades sat on a small wooden table in front of them, gathering drops of water as the cool liquid interacted with the warm room.