Friday, February 4, 2011

The Other Council pt 1

Tom was looking at the scrawled note in his hands, they were shaking. He couldn’t remember the last time he was this nervous, or anxious, he couldn’t decide which.

Billy came in quietly, so quietly that it took even Tom and his sharp senses a second to notice he was in the small office with him. Tom had long since gotten use to not noticing Billy come and go, though he might have been out of practise.

“Sorry Doc, didn’t mean to startled you.” Billy said in his UMF accent. They’re all here, Jimmy’s shmoozing then now, warming the audience so to speak.”

“Thanks Billy, hey, why weren’t you guys at the welcome home party?” Tom managed to say without cringing.

“It didn’t seem right, more like family ya know. Even after 8 cycles, Jimmy and me, we feel like the new guys. You know how it is.”

“Thank you, but you guys should have been there, you hear?” Tom said. Billy smiled an nodded. Tom got up and lead them into the entrance lobby and through to the main office. When they first set up the BCG office in the Main Core tower it had been Tom’s, now it was Jimmy’s. If Tom had known then how expensive the real estate would become when the Spider built his web arena just outside his door he would have bought up ten lots. Still, the Guild expanded at the compound and the casino and this office became Jimmy’s when Tom’s attention turned mostly towards NuCoal. Now he was back and the generous office felt cramped with this many bodies. He had sort of wished to do this in the galley of the compound, but though he wanted to orchestrate this meeting in a transparent manner, he didn’t mean it to be quite public knowledge. Not yet anyway. He took a deep breath.

“Thank you all for coming, I wanted to start by making it clear that I appreciate that you all took the time to come.”

There were some smiles and a slight chuckle here and there. Obviously they didn’t think he was as genuinely grateful as he was. He realised this was going to be hard. In the office were Billy and Jimmy Croydon, the Guild’s left and right hand in Khayr ad-Din, both standing behind the desk to the side by the window overlooking the glimmering trash heaps. Seated in one of the leather couches was Ellen and the other Julie. respectively in charge of the Guild in Prince Gable and the Lucky Shot here in town. Somewhat cramped on the couch were Celina and Maia Kessler as well as Josephina Dragushan. In the back by the door was Ben Cantor.

Tom was in the corner of the trapezoid office, leaning against the window sil. He opened his mouth but nothing came out. His hands were out, palms up and his eyes were on his feet. It almost looked like prayer and it almost was, it was surrender. He sighed heavily. A few people shifted in the room, this was unusual for the Doc and this kind of behaviour was disquieting and a little foreboding. He looked up and caught a small nod and smile from Jo and he tried again.

“There has been a certain amount of expectation around Kain’s and my return. Though I am not a liberty to discuss it right now, Kain has come back with a purpose and a fixed agenda. Those of you who know him well know that he is driven by a singular zeal and has already put into motion some of his plans. His certainty of purpose allows Kain to come back after nearly 15 cycles and command the respect and devotion of his Regulators. All I can say is he obviously chose his people well back in Baja. I on the other hand am not here to take up my old position. Those of you who thought you knew me aren’t looking at the same man who left here nearly three cycles ago.”

Jo looked on with quiet support, she didn’t know what the Doc was going to say here, but she knew it was part of his “therapy” and she was here to support him. Maia sat poised, attentive but unemotional. She had only recently met the Doctor and didn’t know how he operated in a larger group so she just observed it quietly, Celina was even more removed and curious about the proceedings. Ben was impassive, while Ellen and Julie started to look a little worried. Jimmy looked equally supportive and Billy inscrutable.

“I can’t be the public figure I once was.” Tom started again. “Some for practical reasons which I will get into presently but also because I don’t think I have the right to command you anymore.” His choice of words was meant to be abrasive and it worked, he read the reactions in most to the word ‘command’ and carried on. “I never lead by sheer force of will or stature. I lead and you and others followed because I had the plan. I lead because I needed to get things done and I needed you all to achieve those goals and I made sure it was in your interests to follow. I’m not trying to undermine the virtue in what you have achieved, don’t assume that for a moment. I’m very proud of all of you and honoured to know you, but I never felt I earned your trust and without that I don’t think I’ve earned the right to assume my old position as the head of this operation.”

Discomfort started to spread and grow, Julie was more and more visibly upset and she and Ellen shared a heavy look. Billy started to speak up, wanting to come to the defense of the Doc as someone who was outside the Baja and by extension Kain’s clique but Tom raised a hand and shook his head before Billy could make his speech.

“I’m not looking for a pat on the back Billy, thanks, I’m not feeling threatened by Kain either. I’ve just come to realise that I lead because I could, because of my plots. And because I had to, because of my ego. All the jokes and ribbing is meant well, but its also true. I was an autocrat and manipulation comes easily to me but the successes we had were shared because no mater what my motivations were, you all made it possible and that elevated the Guild and NuCoal above my petty failings. On the other hand I’ve made bad choices, I’ve made terrible compromises and I have to own up to those alone. I’ve let you all down and I need to say I’m sorry to all of you. Will you accept my apology?”

Maia watches as the crowd sat or stood stupefied, apparently Tom Chambers did not apologise or recognise his mistakes, at least not the Tom Chambers they had known.

“How the hell do you expect us to answer that Tom?” Julie spoke up, which did nothing to allay the discomfort of the room, quite the contrary in fact.

“That is a fair question, here is what I propose.” Tom said, apparently bearing the auto-canon gaze from Julie in a way which impressed everyone present except Julie herself. Tom pulled a sheet of paper from his jacket and cleared his throat.

“I stand for Justice and respect for all, for Freedom from oppression of mind and body, I believe that everyone is entitled to happiness and an equal chance at prosperity. I will stand against tyranny and fight for my convictions but never loose sight that I fight for Peace. I will lay down all that I have and all that I am for Liberty knowing that I will never rest in that pursuit. Tomohiro Chambers, 5 Summer, 1935.”

Silence as perfect as that in the halls of a mosque encased the room. Tom broke it gently to continue. “This is my declaration of principles. I promise to live up to this in exchange for your forgiveness for my past transgression and as a bond, a show of support. I am asking you all to help me. I’m not ordering anyone, we’ve moved past that, I’ve moved past that. I want you to work with me. The world is balanced on the edge of monumental idiocy. Groups like the Prophet’s Shield are promoting intolerance as religion in the North and the Republic is preaching domination in the deluded guise of some form of manifest destiny. New Baja was swallowed up and now Massada. The South has troops in Lance Point and the North just outside Prince Gable. Both sides have been increasing the frequency and escalating the intensity of their skirmishes which inevitably leads to Badlander casualties. The Badlands is under threat, Freedom is under threat and I can’t stand by any longer. This world is headed for war and we can’t forget that this world is not alone, there are forces out there in the stars and here in our midst that are waiting for us to fail and succumb to our own stupidity. This is the turning point, and I am taking a stand.”

Still there was no movement, reactions yes, but everyone seemed to hold their breaths. A few long moments passed. Ben stirred, walking around the couch and past the seats, everyone watched him in stupefied silence, the whole assembly was hyper aware of every breath every action. The world had stopped spinning while Tom spoke. Ben took the paper still clutched in Tom’s trembling hands, looked it over very briefly and set it down on the desk. Taking a pen he bared the word “I” and replaced it with “We” in each circumstance and signed his name next to Tom’s.

Tom watched, tears welling in his eyes. Julie was up next and she signed, followed by Ellen who was closest and then Jo. Celina got up from the couch surprising Maia, who only then realised she was not just a witness to these events but a participant. Jimmy and Billy put there johnny hancock’s down and Ben collected the document and placed in his coat pocket as everyone returned to their places, though now they sat on the edge of their seats.

Tom surveyed the assembly, he nodded tersely, wiping a tear from the corner of his eye. he swallowed hard three times “...” he cleared his throat again and managed “Thank you”. He took another moment. He looked at his hands and found they weren’t shaking anymore. He smiled.

“OK, this is where we begin.”


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