Today’s blog is the continuation of, Welcome to the Valleys. If you would like to catch up with the tale, the first section can be found at this link
“Lad, over here.” Walter beckoned Jeremy to an empty seat next to him. They were seated in the first row of seats on Satal’s right. Surrounding them were several people Jeremy recognized as aides to the president – include her chief-of-staff, Jasim. He glanced around the room as people took their seats searching for the other Senators and quickly spotted Kaitlyn seated in the section which directly faced the podium, surrounded by several people he didn’t recognize. Merkot, he noted, was seated several rows in front of her. Apparently, the Senators all sat in one section.
“I call this Senate Session to order,” called Satal, her voice unnaturally loud in the chamber. She turned to a short, plump, man seated to her left and invited him to the podium with a wave. “Secretary Feld, call the roll.”
“Why aren’t you sitting with the other Senators, Walter?” Jeremy whispered as the roll of senators was called out.
“Hmm?” replied Walter, clearly distracted. He searched for Jeremy’s words in his memory for a brief moment before responding, “Well, lad, I’ve not been officially seated. That’s part of why this session is coming to order.” The old trader turned his gazed toward the gathered senators, shaking his head, “Not sure how much good I’ll do with this lot, though. Still, we do what we’re called.”
As Secretary Feld rattled off names and places Jeremy noted how few locations he actually recognized. Even so, when the roll of Senators was finally closed, less than thirty Senators were present in the session. As Feld declared a full roster, Jeremy wondered how so few people could rule over a population apparently as large as The Valleys.
“Very well, Mr. Secretary. Call the roll of representatives.”
Feld nodded and began calling out more names which Jeremy didn’t recognize. He addressed the seating section to Satal’s left, opposite from Jeremy’s current seat. As was the case with the Senators, people from these ranks people called out, “Present” as their names were called. Jeremy kept count of the names in this body, adding 60 more to his previous total.
“That’s were you’ll be seated, lad. Kaitlyn’s already got a spot prepared for you.” Walter pointed subtly over toward the Representatives and noted an empty seat in the third row. The young men seated on either side of the vacancy noticed Jeremy’s gaze and nodded politely before turning their attention back to the dais.
Finally the roll was called, and Secretary Feld declared a full roster. In response, the gathered Senators and Representatives cheered. Satal, grinning benevolently, returned to the lectern. She remained still for several seconds as the cheering continued, but then her smiled faded and she picked up a gavel and rapped it loudly on a striker.
“Order. Order!” she called. The cheers faded and all became silent, waiting for Satal’s next words.
“We are gathered here this morning to cover those items listed on the agenda you received last evening. Before we proceed with the agenda, is there any business those gathered in session wish to add to our docket?”
Satal stood still, silently scanning the crowd for any who seemed moved to speak. Finding none, she continued, “Very well. Our first order of business comes from the region known as The Coastlands. It currently resides outside Senatorial jurisdiction, but they have sent a representative represent their issues with this body. He is known to us, and I now invite him to the testimony desk.” Satal pointed down to a desk which stood in front of the raised lectern. It’s platform was higher than most desks, and had no accompanying chair. Those who were testifying were meant to stand.
“Well. Wish me luck, lad.”
Walter stood, nodded in deference to the President, and approached the appointed space. He carried with him a small satchel, which Jeremy recognized from the luggage he’d helped shepherd around The Valleys. As Walter approached the desk he turned and bowed once to both the Senators and Representatives before turning his back toward those bodies and facing the lectern. Once settled, Satal addressed him.
“Walter, Old Fox of the Senate, you have been sent from the settlement known to its residents as ‘Highcliff.’”
“Yes, Madam President.”
“And you feel you are qualified to address the concerns of the people who reside there?”
“Yes, Madam President.” Walter reached into his satchel and removed a sheet of paper. “I have a letter of introduction from the council of Highcliff and surrounding coastlands, authorizing me to speak on their behalf.” Walter offered up the paper to a nearby orderly, who snatched it from his hand and offered it to the president.
After scanning it briefly, Satal nodded. “Very well, you may speak.”
“Point of order, Madam President?” Call a voice from the body of the senate. There stood a woman Jeremy didn’t recognize, with hand raised in the air.
“The President recognizes Senator Mirial of Westshore.”
“Thank you madam president. As you have said, the settlement which our illustrious former colleague represents is currently outside Senatorial jurisdiction. By our own laws this would technically relegate the people of The Coastlands to the status of ‘non-persons.’ Without citizenship, nor a seat in the senate, the names of their settlements should not be recognized by this body. It would send a bad precedent.” As she sat down, Jeremy saw a mixture of nods and head-shaking. Clearly, the Senate was divided over the status of The Coastlands.
“Rebuttal, Madam President?”
Satal nodded, “The President recognizes Senator Kaitlyn of Water Gap.”
Kaitlyn stood and addressed her fellow legislators. “Thank you. As my colleagues know, the status of The Coastlands is of great concern to all of the outer settlements. And in fact, no doubt as our former colleague will point out for himself, is partly the reason why he has come.
“We have said The Coastlands are outside Senatorial jurisdiction, which is true. But unlike the non-seated settlements here in the Inner Valleys, or even the farming settlements on the other side of the tunnel, The Coastlands enjoy no special connection either the government or economy of The Valleys. No roads travel there, we pay for no maintenance of their mines or settlements, nor do our guards patrol their lands.
“If that is the case, then they are truly outside Senatorial jurisdiction and our laws should not currently apply. Let us accept our neighbors on their own terms.”
Kaitlyn sat as a murmur weaved its way through both the senator and representative seating sections. Satal nodded in acknowledgement and called out, “Are there any more rebuttals?” When no one responded Satal called out a second time. “Very well, the argument is whether or not the settlement claiming the name Highcliff can be recognized by name. As President I claim right to call a vote.
“All those in favor of recognizing the name Highcliff for the extra-Senatorial settlement found in The Coastlands.” Jeremy glanced out to the Senate and saw a number of hands shoot up, Kaitlyn’s included.
“Very well,” Satal continued. “All those opposed?” The rest of the hands were raised, including the woman who had brought up the point of order.
Jeremy couldn’t tell how many people had voted for each option, and apparently neither could Satal. She turned once more to Secretary Feld, “Very well. Mr. Secretary this will be decided by voice of voice. Call the roll.”
Secretary Feld called though the names on his roster and asked each, “How vote you?” Each Senator replied with either “nay” or “yah,” and the vote seemed close. Jeremy lost track of the votes as he kept his eyes on Walter, who was frowning deeply as his deadened eyes stared up at the lectern. Once the votes were completed Secretary Feld handed his tally to Satal, and she returned her position before the assembly.
“With the votes counted, the totals are 18 ‘yay’ and 12 ‘nay.’ The result is confirmed and there is no need to call the representatives into debate.” Folding the paper she looked down upon Walter and added, “The Senate of The Valleys officially welcomes the representative of Highcliff.”
Walter, with a quiet voice unnaturally augmented in the room, mumbled back, “It’s about time.”