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I immediately freeze and step back, but the guards look unpurturbed. The woman I had shared a joke just moments before pointed at my crotch. ‘It’s your belt I think. Take it off and step through again, please.’
I oblige and tentatively step around the metal detector and then through it. Nothing happens.
The woman smiled and handed me back my belt. ‘Don’t look so worried,’ she said.
I passed beyond the security checkpoint and into the main lobby where I saw a number of people, some of whom I recognised from my own village, others from villages nearby. There were no reporters here, thankfully, and I imagine they wouldn’t be allowed through until the meeting was in session so that they couldn’t pester anyone as they were on the other side of the security checkpoint.
I leaned up against a pillar near to the entrance of the hall and surveyed the others. Only humans were here at the moment – I wasn’t really surprised, our invaders usually turn up at the last moment and are ushered straight through from what I have come to understand.
A few moments later, the doors open and we are ushered in. At the other end of the hall there is a mad rush for the remaining people – mostly reporters – to get through security.
There are maybe 200 seats in the public gallery and by the time everyone has taken their seat, it is around half full. I chose a seat near to the front but not in the front row. My pulse raced, I’d never done anything like this before and was starting to have doubts about whether it would even work – or what would happen to me afterwards.
The meeting began with a blessing to our invaders, thanking them for all the help they have given us so far, and to God for their continued presence. Yep, even after a disaster like this people feel the need to thank God that it wasn’t actually worse. I find this in incredibly poor taste, but that’s just me. I never thought so highly of thanking a mass murderer for staying their hand in killing more.
Anyway, our exalted leader opened the proceedings with an appeal to “do something” about the threat of the old canal overflowing. “The last few seasons,” he said “had seen ruined crops, threatening our food supply”. The representatives from our invaders agreed with this but said that their resources were spread too thn already for wholesale dredging of the canal. Yada, yada, yada.
When it came to their turn to talk, they explained that ongoing efforts to the west to remove poisons was proving fruitful, but their chemical stocks – God, I couldn’t pronounce it even if I could remember what he said it was – was running low and they needed to mine more from the hills to the north, which meant taking away some of their manual resources. They may be advanced, but manpower still limited them.
The meeting went on for an hour. Admittedly, it was fascinating but ultimately didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know and in a way, that was quite surprising.
At the end, I remained in my seat while everyone filtered out. The Council Members took their time to leave, all the time my heart was hammering in my chest. Could I do what I had set out to do? This meeting had been so civil, so… normal.
After five minutes, It was just me, the Council and some reporters hastily scribbling down notes. When the Council left, I checked to make sure they were not watching me and slowly made my way forward. Painstaking minutes it took me to shift my seats slowly enough so they didn’t notice. It was not unusual for people to be in here when meetings were not in session, it was public space and kids used it a lot for private study.
I took out a notepad and began writing. Some ten minutes passed before the final reporters left. I packed up my notepad and slowly made my way backstage, slipped through to the hallway and immediately froze. I could hear voices – it was the distinct sound of Kahai and at least two human Council Members.
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