5 Ramadan 1423 yp
"So you've got the Multiverse in an uproar. Until it settles down a bit, I think I'd better keep you home. But what the hell do I do with you?"
My poor boss! Ice tried, and probably failed, to look innocent. "There's always the Millennial Census."
"The what?" Ox looked at him blankly.
His boss's boss, President Izzo, slapped his forehead. "Oh. Dear. One!"
Ox frowned, then leaned back, "Wait, that clause in the constitution . . . a thousand years after it is signed . . . a redefinition of representation in the council? According to a census of all citizens everywhere."
Ice nodded. "Yep. It officially became the law of the Empire in 424 Year of the Prophets. Three thousand councilmen. One from each of the Warrior Clan districts. Who had wisely spread themselves out so that each Councilman represented roughly equal numbers of people."
Ox shook his head. "To be updated in a thousand years. I suppose that seemed safely off in the distance. Or so far in the future we'd have replaced the whole thing by then."
Izzo nodded. "They did add a councilman for each of the independent smaller nations that joined the Empire--generally under threat--and one for each new Colony World, and Homestead negotiated two hundred reps when they joined."
Ox was tapping at his comp. "And it looks like all that was by Council and Presidential approved acts, not actual amendments to the Constitution." He looked over at Ice. "I almost hate to ask how long ago you saw this coming."
"Seventeen years ago. I wrote a paper on it my senior year at the Directorate School. My Civics teacher seemed to think it could just be ignored . . . but he did look a little worried." Ice grinned. "He especially disliked my suggestion that by the time of the Millennial Census we'd have a population of about ten billion, so five thousand councilors would be needed to represent citizens at the current approximately two million residents of the Home World per councilman, ignoring Homestead's 200 and the Granite Peak, Vista, and Tall Trees Natives with one appointed councilman each."
"Right." Ox shut his comp firmly. "I'll sic a team of lawyers on it and . . . why don't you send me a copy of that report and any updates you've just happened to have made since."
Izzo nodded, sat back and eyed Ice. "And when you've gotten Tall Trees . . . what? Close to two hundred reps instead of one? Are you going to run for office?"
"The thought has occurred to me . . . despite having very little, if any, Tree in me. But frankly? It sounds tedious."
Ox pinched his nose. "However entertaining Councilor Ice would be . . . Damn, I'd miss having you around. Well . . . not having anyone around who was capable of doing anything would be a relief. Until I needed the impossible done."
Izzo nodded. "We'll look into this and . . . in the mean time, go keep an eye on all your . . . I don't know whether to call them adoptees or henchmen."
Ice grinned. "Some of each. Yes, sirs." He pretended to not hear the President of the Empire muttering something about putting Ice in charge.
President Izzo looked out over the Council of the Empire. Three thousand, two hundred and seventy-four men and women. And only three vacant seats, for a Presidential address. Most of them looked shocked.
Not enough of us read the Constitution often enough.
"My legal experts say we can't weasel out of this and just pretend it's not there.
"There's no procedure in place for this unique . . . action. And since the decadal Census is a Council function, I suspect we'd better leave the counting to the experienced people, and deal with the ramifications.
"Specifically, right now you Home World councilors each represent two point two three million people. The Homestead councilmen represent eight and half million people each. The Tall Trees Councilor, over four hundred million people. And the Vista Councilor, over six hundred million people."
Yeah, that got a stir.
"So in order to even things out, we'll either have to have a lot more Councilors--a bit over four thousand five hundred at two point two three million per voting district--or each councilor will have to represent more people.
"Not to mention figuring out how we're going to split out voting districts.
"And whether people are going to be represented by their district of birth, or by where they live, or whether they can individually choose that."
Izzo looked over at over three thousand appalled faces--and a lesser number getting thoughtful, and a few gleeful. The PC looked like he had a head ache.
"And deciding that is your job, gentlemen and ladies. I will assign a representative of mine to . . . monitor the process, and also assist, so we can smooth out problems before they get too serious."
He nodded politely to the Prime Councilor. "Thank you Igsu, Councilors, for your attention."
Away from the microphones, Igsu grumbled, "Are you sure we can't just ignore it?"
"Positive. Election years are always a mess . . . now imagine all the losers suing to prevent verification of the vote because the whole thing is unconstitutional."
Igsu's reply was fortunately drown out by the rising acrimony on the floor.
Izzo shrugged. "We're going to have to have more Councilors, because none of them are going to just shrug and say, 'Oh well, I got squeezed out' are they?"
Igsu closed his eyes in pain.
"I'm going to assign Ice to this. He got along very well with your ministry people, on the Cyborg Task Force."
Igsu frowned. "Do you know . . . I'm think I may pull some people out of there, at least temporarily, to get an information packet together, with all our options." He looked around the graceful domed chamber. "And then figure out how to shoehorn in another thousand Councilors."
1 Yusef 1424yp
"Paris?" Ruin Withione South Oasis Dune tried hard to look alertly interested. Not terrified. Oh my One! I'm going to Paris!
The councilor looked amused. "Report to Project Coordinator Icka Withione at this address, by the third. I recommend you show up during working hours. Icka has been notified of your assignment, please do coordinate with Fayt, as she will also be working there for the next six weeks."
Oh, thank the one, someone who might know the city!
The councilor sobered. "Be careful. Treat every man as if they were Action Teamers looking for an excuse to rape you. Paris is . . . a fascinating, but dangerous place."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir." Ruin took the paper and walked out of the councilor's office, and across campus to the dorms.
All the Juniors were down in the main room, comparing assignments.
Fayt waved a paper at her. "Yo! Pardner. My granny's all excited about me going to Paris and insists on driving me, I told her we'd give you a ride."
"Oh, good. I haven't a clue how to get to this address. The councilor said 'Project Leader Ick' or something like that, but there's no project name on my paper. How about you? Did you think to ask?"
Fayt rolled her eyes. "Something to do with the census. I suspect it'll be dead boring paperwork, but Paris! It's going to be awesome to spend six weeks in Paris!"
Ruin swallowed. "Yeah. I can put up with a lot of boredom, just for the time off." I hope! Oh One, Fayt's not going to get me in trouble, is she? She's got a reputation . . . that I don't want to share. The lectures from my mother . . . maybe I won't mention Paris to her . . .
"My Mom freaked over me going to Paris." Ruin heaved her suitcase into the trunk of Fayt's Granny's car. Two young women's luggage fit, with a bit of maneuvering. An eye-searing sour-green sports car, and Granny was a darn good looking hundred and twenty-year-old.
Dressed like a sixteen-year-old.
"Oooo, Paaaaris! I luuuv Paris." Granny flipped the end of her scarf over her shoulder, grinning. "Now, Ruin, you're pretty skinny, so just slide into the back and we'll be off."
With a screech of tires and roar of an engine, music blasting . . .
A nerve wracking hour later, they pulled up beside a modest brick building.
Ruin peered at the building. "It's the right address . . ."
The front door open and a man walked out.
Granny ran her window down and bellowed across the street. "You! Young man! Is this the Census Analysis Task Force Office?"
The young man looked startled, but pointed up and behind him. "Second floor!" He yelled back, then pointed along the sidewalk. "Parking's though there."
Granny revved the engine and took aim at the parking lot entrance, hauled the wheel over and skidded sideways, to pull decorously into a slot marked "Guests."
Ruin refrained from kissing the ground,, and hauled her luggage out of the trunk.
I think I'll risk the station creepers on the way back and take the bus!
Granny was frowning at the building. "Humph! Looks like an apartment building, if you ask me! I think I'd better come and see what sort of office they expect my granddaughter to work in!"
The young man from the street edged up closer. "Ah . . . would you happen to be Ice's interns?"
Fayt gave him an obvious once over.
He is cute, well, maybe average. brown hair, grey eyes, good tan, tall, nice suit . . .
Ruin hesitated. "My instructions say Ick-ah Withione?"
"Ice-kah. Everyone calls him Ice. Let me help you with your luggage." He swooped and grabbed Fayt's big case. "I'm Ozmo, I'm was with the Cyborg Task Force, we've got about half the building . . . Umm, I mean the Drei Mächte Bündnis Task Force." He was talking over his shoulder as he walked back toward the street, and didn't quite trip when he got to the sidewalk.
I think we've scared him. Ruin slung her small case over her shoulder and hauled her big case around the corner and headed for the two steps up to the front door.
"Umm, we're Ministry, well, I mean, they are . . ." He stopped and cleared his voice. "I mean, I am now temporarily assigned to the Census Task Force. It's a joint Ministry-Directorate . . . thing. Also temorary."
"Temporarily? For how long, and how long so far?" Ruin heaved her case up, as Fayt, toting a single small case, trotted up and held the door open.
"Well, I was notified a week ago, but we just got the furniture in this morning. So it's a good thing you didn't come earlier." He glanced up the stairs. "Hey Ice! Your interns are here."
The blond guy up on the balcony turned to look them over. "Oh good, I've got the office more or less arranged."
"Ooo! Paris drawl." Fayt whispered. "And oh my One!"
He eyed their luggage as he trotted down the stairs. And the closer he got, the better he looked. Ruin swallowed.
"Ice-kah Withione Tall Trees. Call me Ice. So Ruin and Fayt? Which of you is which?"
Ruin half raised a hand. "Ruin."
He cast a glance toward Granny.
Fayt took the hint. "I'm Fayt and this is my Grandmother Fear Neartuone New York."
"Madam Fear. A pleasure. Do you live in Paris?"
"No, no, I just drove them. Now, where are the girls going to be living?"
"Their choice. They can share an apartment upstairs here, or I'll get them hotel rooms, moderately nearby." He hesitated and glanced from Ruin to Fayt. "I don't know if you'd consider commuting a problem or an adventure."
Fayt rolled her eyes. "I'm from New York. There's nothing exciting about the Metro."
Ruin bit her lip . . . all the warnings we get . . . "Whose apartment is it?"
"I'm the lease holder, but it is not my abode. I kept it because it's so handy to the Cyborg Task force that's got half the building, where I've been working off and on for a year of so.
"Why don't I show it to you? Then I'll get in some furniture for you, if you want it."
They attracted a bit of an audience, mostly from the balcony. Two more young men galloped down the stairs.
"This is Wspu, badly nicknamed Whisper, and Azuv. You've met Ozmo. And with our secretary Pook, that's the entirety of the group."
Whisper, tall and broad enough to bear a close resemblance to a wall, flashed a smile, and gave her a deep foghorn "Hi!" as he swooped up Ruin's big case and headed back up the stairs. Aznu looked a little put out, but cheered up as Fayt smiled and handed him her small case.
Ruin followed, ignoring Granny's grumble about no elevators.
Ice led the parade, waving at a door as he turned for the next flight of stairs, "That's the office. The apartment is directly above. Now the legal status is a little wobbly, as I'm the lease holder and you are fellow employees and guests. So I'll just mention to the young gentlemen here that any serious misbehavior and they'll never find your bodies. Got it?"
All three of them nodded quickly.
Is he scarier than he looks? Wait . . . he isn't the Warrior from the vid Ice . . . is he?
Ice unlocked the door to an empty apartment. "I moved all my furniture last year. I rescued a historical house south of here, which didn't actually get completely finished until a few weeks ago, but I moved in as soon as it was even close to habitable, as I was working at Versalle at the time. So it's a bit dusty but perfectly habitable."
Ruin walked over to the closed curtain, and shoved it aside. And there was Paris.
"Woo!" Granny joined her. "Now that view's worth climbing up a few stairs!"
Whisper thumped her big case down. "I couldn't believe he wanted to move--until I saw that mansion he renovated. That is one damned pretty place."
Fayt skipped in from the back. "It's got a nice big bedroom."
"If you guys want it, you can either share the bedroom, or use this as another bedroom. All depends on if you want a living room." Ice shrugged. "Or, as I said, a hotel."
Granny swayed up to him. "Oh, this would be much safer, especially with a big strong man like you to show them the City."
Ruin winced as her brand new, unknown boss looked down his nose at Granny Fear. "I'm much too busy with my wife and family to show these two around, although I will familiarize them with the neighborhood and introduce them to the metro system."
"I think this apartment would be excellent." Ruin spoke up firmly. "Fayt? I think we ought to share the bedroom and set up the living room for social activity."
Fayt grinned. "Deal!"
"Right. I'll bring in furniture this afternoon. So leave your luggage and c'mon down to the office."
Whisper looked around. "They're converting the apartments to offices, and mostly rip out the kitchens."
"And add cubicle walls." Ozmo put in.
"Which is exactly what you'll have downstairs." Ice shook his head. "I keep think I'm going to get promoted to a real office someday, but that's probably not going to happen until they rebuild Government House."
And downstairs, yep. Cubicle walls. At least they were two meters high. Half the kitchen was gone, just a sink, a small fridge and enough counterspace for a coffee machine.
The space from the door to the partition that blocked off the, umm, break room, sported a single desk. Piled with boxes of office supplies.
"Pook, that's yours until we decide we need a conference table." Ice pointed at the living room, divided by a partition. "First half is mine, the interns share the other half, you three guys have the bedroom, and if we get another person, they're stuck in the former laundry room."
The desks, including Ice's were pretty utilitarian. Metal. Standard desk chairs, and a comp on each desk.
"Those are your work comps. You can take them home with you, if you feel like doing any reading over the week end. But do not connect them to the grid anywhere except here, where we have some serious security. Do not load games or even reports unless they got a directorate check on them. Like this." He pulled two little cases out of his pocket, handed them to them. "Check the seal, then you can download anything on the chip. Today, load everything on these, onto your comps. And start reading. I numbered the reports in the order they make the most sense. So dive in." A glance at a watch. Then back to Granny. "Are you staying in the city for a while? I'll cut the interns loose at five, if you want to take them to dinner or whatever."
Granny sighed, hearing the clear dismissal. "Oh, you break my heart, you handsome devil! Girls? I"ll be back at five."
"So everyone grab a desk. Whisper, you're my second in command. Everyone give serious consideration to what he says. Pook, start a list of what people need that isn't already piled on your desk. And . . . now I'd better start on my reading. So think about it over the weekend, and Monday we'll put together an action plan." The boss eyed them. "Our job, basically, is to advise the Council as to all their legal options, and what will result from each."