Chapter Three

Chapter Three

There was utter confusion at what was supposed to be the announcement for the election of the new council members. Nora wasn’t sure what she had come, when all there was to see was a mob of people, standing uncertainly, waiting for some unknown power to save the small colony from descending into a cluster of souls with no direction and no order.

A hand touched her lightly on the shoulder. She jumped, squeezing Petto’s wrist tightly, and then grinned sheepishly when Cragg looked at her with a confused face. “Fidgety, aren’t we?” he asked.

“Look at us. We’re the age group that’s supposedly in charge, and no one has any idea what to do.”

“Including you, I presume?”

“What can I do that no one else can? We’re all in the same boat. What are we supposed to do?” Nora felt herself growing angrier.

“The least they could have done was warn us,” Cragg agreed, taking her bait.

“Warn us, or let us choose. We don’t follow their rules, pay their taxes, receive their education. We’re so alone out here, isolated, except when they need our bodies, our strength.”

“They don’t know,” the sneak-elf girl from the trade pointed out, materializing next to Nora, “When they’re looking at the numbers, the maps. They can’t know what it’s like out here. To them, we’re citizens of Kana, nothing more.”

“But they never bothered to find out, did they? They leave our food and reap the rewards when it pleases them.” Nora was too busy internally raging to get annoyed at her sudden intrusion to the conversation.

“Getting angry won’t help,” the sneak-elf said, “they left us in this situation. We owe it to ourselves to get off the floor.”

“What are you talking about?” the discussion had taken a different turn, and Nora was confused.

“I’m talking about a self-sufficient colony. One that won’t kill itself over religious problems. One that has a strong government that makes decisions.”

“Who are you, exactly?”

“I’m Sheen.”

“Well, Sheen, look around,” Cragg interjected, “The oldest among us are seventeen. No one has a clue what to do. We’re all in the same boat.”

Nora, hearing the echo of her earlier remarks in his argument, built upon them. “We’re all in the same boat,” she repeated, “and they’ve taken our paddles away. And we’re terrified of the water. How do you get a whole boatload of panicked kids to reach toward the same tree branch?”

“Maybe you only need one someone to tell them what to do. She’s trying, anyway.” She nodded at the platform. “At least someone has an idea of what to do.”

***

Zena was fed up with the lack of progress on behalf of the crowd, so she stepped up onto the platform. No one seemed to notice. She held a hand in the air and called, “hey!” Surprisingly, people turned and watched her.

“Are we going to hold elections or not?” She asked.

“There’s no candidates,” someone called back. Probably one of the bastards with the snowballs.

“We’ll pick new ones.”

“Like who, you?” Zena was about to respond, but someone else got there first.

“Maybe. If she wants to and she’s elected.” A sneak-elf, one whom Zena had seen in the shadows on the Ledges occasionally, climbed onto the platform. “Who are you?” Zena hissed. She was ignored. The sneak-elf just looked at her. “When the soldiers left, they said we were in charge. Those of us fifteen to seventeen. So why don’t we start acting like it?” Zena said, avoiding her eyes.

“How do we do that? We don’t know how. You gonna teach us, Miss Zena?” the hater shot back.

The sneak-elf stepped carefully in front of her. “The soldiers left us in a boat without paddles, terrified of the water, leaning out every which way. We have to let the water carry us, or we have to work together.” No one said anything. “They expect us to fail,” she explained, “they’ve stacked the odds against us. But when the supply wagon comes back in a month, we’ll have a council. No one will be fighting or starving. NO ONE will be helpless. We’ll have a strong, functional government, and we’ll whip their asses with our competence.”

***

A few people laughed, but no one spoke, and as the silence settled over the nervous crowd, Jacques wet his lips. He swallowed.

He was standing in the back of the crowd, away from the action. He didn’t have enemies, but he didn’t have friends. My father had enemies, because he didn’t make friends first. I need friends first.

No. My father made up his enemies, so he tried to hide from them, so he hid from the friends he could have had. He never talked. Jacques wet his lips. He swallowed.

“She’s right. I vote we hold a vote—an election.” People were looking at him, but they cleared a path for him when he stepped forward, so he kept walking. It was still quiet. “We need friends to stay alive.” He reached the edge of the platform, and when Sheen offered him an arm up, he took it without thinking. He looked at them. They seemed to want him to talk. Umm… “We’re strongest together.”

There was still silence, but it wasn’t anyone on the platform who broke it. It was a Kenezai boy from the crowd. He’s standing next to Nora. He looks like Atkin. Is that Cragg, Atkin’s cousin, Nora’s friend?

“I’ll volunteer to rewrite the ballots, if we need any,” Cragg said, “but it looks like we’ve got three candidates right here. Zena and Sheen and—what’s your name?”

“Jacques.” Louder. “Jacques. Jacques Deptishun.” Me, a candidate? Me, on the council? What’s happening?

“Zena might be crazy, but if she’s crazy enough to try it, ok,” said one of the boys Jacques had watched fire a snowball at Zena’s back. What a big gorilla.

“We should still vote by district,” Cragg said, “should we meet here in twenty minutes to vote by hand? Any candidates can get up on the platform and say something.” There was a general murmur of agreement, and several people broke off to get their friends who were at home.

“I think that only the fifteens through seventeens should vote,” said Zena, “We’re the adults, right?”

“I think we established that,” Nora said from the crowd.

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