Chapter Nineteen

Chapter Nineteen

Still nervous about the possible further splintering of the colony, Jacques showed up at the Council House a whole half-hour early. This had required him to give up a precious bit of sleep, but when Sheen banged the door open just before eight and sat sullenly at the table, he decided the mental preparation had been worth it. Not that he’d actually come up with any solution, of course.

As usual, Zena and Nora were exactly on time and five minutes late, respectively. Jacques thought of himself as a pretty easygoing person generally but he hated it when people were routinely late. If you’re so routine, why don’t you come on time!

They all sat down at the table without saying a word or even looking at each other. Zena wasn’t looking at Nora, due to the awkward encounter on the Ledges, Nora wasn’t looking at Sheen due to Sheen’s stance on bringing back the Kenazians, (a stance she didn’t believe in), Sheen wasn’t looking at Jacques due to the way she’d semi-lost it in her own house, and Jacques wasn’t looking at any of them, for fear that he would set one of them off. He couldn’t shake the idea that, without Atkin to keep them all on track or at least rebuke Zena when she got a little too personal, the Council would implode.

“Aren’t you going to turn the tape recorder on?” Sheen asked dully.

He swallowed and forced himself to look at all of them. “No. I don’t think we need it. To hell with the system.”

“Just because Atkin isn’t here…” Nora tried to make a joke and knew she’d failed. She let the punch line trail off.

“We’ve never really needed the thing,” Zena said, “can we all just admit that this is a situation none of us know how to deal with?”

‘I know how to deal with it,” Sheen offered.

“Yes, well, ranting and raving to thin air and then pretending nothing ever happened won’t help us here,” Nora snapped.

Sheen threw up her hands in mock disbelief. “Well, I was wondering when you’d get there. Was it hard to hold the words in this long?”

“Since I clearly haven’t been a part of your little alliance drama, would you mind filling me in?” Zena requested airily.

“Certainly,” Sheen agreed, “I have a perfectly pragmatic attitude, and Nora—“

“Let me explain it from a bystander’s viewpoint,” Jacques cut in. To Zena, he said, “Sheen had a meltdown after they left—“


“And she swore off any Kenazian ever coming back into the colony again,” Jacques continued, above Sheen’s protests. When he saw the darts flying from her face, he added, “It’s a reasonable way to think, don’t get me wrong, while Nora—“

“Doesn’t quite agree that Atkin’s group are gutless, cowardly worms,” Nora cut in, “isn’t that how you phrased it, Sheen?”

“Well, I don’t wither, when it comes to that,” Zena said.

Nora smiled. “Yes! Thank you!”

“You?” Sheen said incredulously.

“I don’t think they did the smart thing by leaving,” she assured them. “but they did take a step.”

“Take a step?” Sheen scoffed, “they ran away from their responsibilities, their role in this community, any hope of a good future—“

“They ran away from prejudice,” Zena corrected her softly.  Jacques heard something on the roof and walked to the door to briefly look out. :It’s sleeting,” he informed them. All three of them took a moment to sigh inwardly at this immaturity and then continued their discussion. Jacques eased into his seat, pleased that they hadn’t blown each other’s heads off like the bombs he’d thought they were.


They spent the whole hour talking about the Irkas, as Sheen insisted they be called. “They aren’t just Kenazians anymore, they’re our Kenazians. And it’s easier to saw, as it’s clear we’ll be discussing them for a while.”

“This from the girl who hates the term ‘sneak-elf,’” Zena muttered, but they complied.

When the teachers of the school knocked at five minutes until nine to see if they were done yet, no decisions had been made and Jacques adjourned the meeting. There were also no minutes recorded.

Zena breezed out past the other three, but Nora ran a little to catch up with her. “Zena!”

She stopped walking but didn’t look at Nora, who said, “can I talk to you?”

“Why not,” Zena said with only a trace of sarcasm.

“I’m sorry for what I said yesterday. I didn’t mean it.”

“Sure about that?”

“Well, I meant it at the time, but it was still mean. I have no idea what you’re going through with your community and it was not okay for me to assume anything.”

Zena looked at her for a long minute. She considered blowing her off, taking some satisfaction from seeing her crumpled face, but she didn’t. Nora may be the only one left who can stand you,  she reminded herself. “I said some untrue things too.”

Nora gave a short laugh. “No, they were ture.”

“So was what you said. To a certain extent. I do leave my house sometimes.” Like in the middle of the night.

“The leaving just got me so confused and angry…” Nora offered an explanation.


“You know?”

“Know what?”

“That…we’re friends.” Or something.

“Yeah. How did that happen?”

“I don’t know. It just kind of happened, I guess. A while ago.” It’s always been so easy…one more thing to like about him, I guess.

“You’re lucky.”

Nora was still thinking about Cragg. “I know,” she murmured without thinking, “what, lucky how?”

Zena sighed. “I try not to be racist, but it’s just so deep…I don’t think I could be friends with one of them. Not easily.”

“I don’t think that’s true.”

‘”How I wish.” They were still standing near the Council House. Zena had a sudden urge to talk to someone, even if it wasn’t about something important. Is that what I’ve been missing? “Do you want to come to my house?” she asked.

Well, that was kind of out of nowhere. “Um…sure.”

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