Nexus 3, Chapter 9

“No,” Bill said, and the entire council was quiet.  

“Well,” I said with a shrug, “the Emperor has spoken, everybody, go home.” I turned towards the door, then paused, and looked over my shoulder. “Wait, we can go home, can’t we, sir?”

“Wise-ass,” Bill replied. “And there’s no way in hell we’re adding three votes to the council overnight. I don’t know why you’re doing this now, but I know better than to completely change the structure of our leadership on a whim- especially one of your whims.”

“Oh,” I said, turning on my heel back from the door, “I can promise you it isn’t a whim. The situation between the Meh-Teh and the Argus has escalated, but discussing with the stakeholders, we think a solution might include representation. But I’m also willing to put a stick alongside this carrot- that if hostilities continue, they lose representation. We can always take away what we giveth- at least by my understanding of givething.”

“It’s maybe not be the worst idea in the world,” Elle said. “I consulted with PsychDiv and MedDiv, and apparently it’s not possible to beat the xenophobia out of the Argus crew- they’d be comatose but still hateful.”

“That explains your strange memo,” Maggie said.

“I think you’ve been spending too much time with him if you thought that was a viable solution,” Bill added, because he didn’t have enough sense not to.

“I didn’t,” Elle said, “but the tendency is to assume SecDiv can handle the overflow while leadership punts. And I don’t just mean here. I mean back on Earth. In every colony I’ve spent time on. When it comes to hard social issues, leaders would rather muddle forward and just assume the security services will pick up the slack. That’s part of why so many mentally ill citizens have been executed extrajudicially by the state, because rather than address complicated issues head on, we abdicate, and pretend people trained very at being hammers aren’t going to treat every problem set in front of them as a nail. And I’m not about to pretend that we can’t do better here.”

“So what’s the objection, then?” Maggie asked. Bill didn’t really have a leg to stand on; it sounded extraordinarily reasonable. And the nagging suspicion that maybe the guy in charge was somehow plotting a 10th-dimensional chess coup… it was hard even for a guy smart as Bill to sell.

“I think the concern, mainly,” Dave said, saving Bill from himself, “is that it’s a rapid expansion. That it could massively reshape the direction and structure of our leadership. And that’s a fair concern. But it’s also a decision I feel like we already made. We chose to let these refugees on board. Keeping them under our thumb but without their own rep certainly isn’t helping with divisions. Medium term, the plan is to absorb the Argus crew into our current leadership, where they’ll be properly represented by the current hierarchy, and any additional rep would be reabsorbed, too; long-term the Meh-Teh will get the same- it’s just a tougher transition because their structure doesn’t line up 1:1 with ours, and I know we’re all a little concerned to see the ranks of the security division swell any more. Our confidence in the current leadership notwithstanding, we’re all familiar enough with colonization to know there are certainly dangers to having too much strength concentrated in a security division. To mollify the reasonable concern, I’d suggest we make the positions probationary- a trial. And while we’re at it, I’d suggest the same for the automatons.”

“Why?” Bill asked. “Why treat them as a packaged deal?”

“Because democracy should be,” Dave said. “That’s kind of the point. It starts to go awry when one group gets a say and another doesn’t, or when one group is given a disproportionate say. Fairness is at the heart of the question. And maybe Haley sat on this as long as she could, but saw this as an opportunity, after prioritizing our safety and survival. I’d position this as a suffrage movement, one that sat through some wars and waited their turn patiently. We don’t have to slow-walk equal rights; we can learn from the mistakes of our forebears. At least, I think we can.”

“Sounds like a consensus is building,” I said. “So I’d like to take a preliminary vote. We can return to discussion if there’s a will, to, or if I’m wrong about that consenus. Those in favor?” I raised my hand. There was a majority, slim, but there. “Do we want to discuss further, or consider this vote binding, creating three new seats on the council to cover the various refugees we’ve added, on a probationary basis?” The same hands went up. “Motion carries. Unless anyone has anything pressing, we’ll adjourn until our next scheduled meeting.” Bill looked unhappy, but I think he was still just going through the motions; I didn’t think it was a genuine object to the direction, so much as a belief that there needed to be a counterweight, a devil’s advocate.

After the meeting, I made a beeline for Elle. “Thanks,” I said.

“I didn’t do that for you. It was the right thing, simple as that.”

“It isn’t, though. It can be difficult to separate how you feel from what you know. It took care, and thoughtfulness. And as someone who cares about you, I wanted to recognize that, and as someone who was working to help some underserved members of our crew, I wanted to say thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” She sighed. “Does this ever get any easier?”

“I hope so,” I said, putting my arm around her shoulder. She rested her head against my neck. “Me, too.”

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