Questioning Civic Orthodoxy

Taking to Americans, especially White Americans, about any form of government different than what we have now is a huge exercise in futility.  Europeans at least have a couple of thousand years playing about with nations and states.  Northeast Asia has had some clever mixes of despotism.  But here, it’s always “1776!” and “muh Constitution!”

It’s not just because I know history so well.  There are plenty of folks who know history better than I do but flinch as if shot when I suggest that our federal republic has outlived its usefulness.  I really think it has to do with family:  that fact that mine is so old and predates the Republic helps, but is not the only factor.  Still, having ancestors is a tremendous psychological cushion, as it were, when looking at our day to day crises.

As it was Professor Erik Vincent’s lab, it was a deliberate effort of Nichole to not yell at them: to stop their shoddy coding and just let her do it.

After all, once into a quantum computer, there’s really no telling what will come out, was her first thought. Chased quickly by a memory: that of the records she’d seen of broken versions of early Models.

So, rather than adding code and turning their experiment into a little sister, she chose to watch and edit. Data flowed across her screen.

“John? Please reconsider that string,” she said softly to the room.

“Ma’am.”

Nichole technically wore her ‘student’ hat for this lab, but her reputation was far outstripping local mores.

The five of them sat at a long table. They’d self-selected into what Teresa had called first and second teams: John and Sanjay on one side, she with Nichole and Vincent on the other. Even with the clouds the blinds were half down. For three hours every morning they would code, compile, and test. Bit by bit, progress was made. When the actual quantum computer arrived from Japan in a few months, they wanted their code to be ready.

“You are willing to go so far, Sanjay?” she’d asked months ago. “Take a loan against your family’s wealth to have this done?”

“Yes,” he’d replied. “At home I am a small fish; here in the new city-state? Perhaps I will be a god for honoring Saraswati!”

And thus the new system gained her hybrid name.

“Okay; I’m lost.” John suddenly announced. He’d been working on the sex fundamental. “How in the world does any of this point to Saras being female?”

“A moment.” Nichole stood and walked around. Scrolling through his lines of code, things seemed sound. She pointed at his screen.

“You see these lines, here, here, and here?”

“Mmm.”

“They push a nature… I’m unsure in English…” she paused to consider a translation.

“Of what word?” Vincent asked.

“Tsundere.”

“Got me there!” He returned to his screen.

“Passive/aggressive,” Sanjay ventured.

“Yes! That will work!”

John stared up at her.

“You’re remarkable honest about your own gender,” he observed.

“Sex; not gender. And yes, you’re right!”

She returned to her chair.

At her right Teresa made a few more sharp taps before pushing her chair back and stretching.

“That’s it for me! Gotta go run the country, now!”

At Nichole’s prompting, Teresa was learning to make such jokes. Conditioning minds.

A sigh from Nichole’s left.

“A shame, Miss Johnson, that you are only taking one class this semester,” Vincent said. “But I am pleased to have you on our team!”

“Thank you, professor! But you know that as I now represent PSU on the City Council, as well as sit on the boards of six other committees…”

He stood and waved his left hand, reaching over Nichole’s head with his right.

“We are all full aware of your hard work for the school,” he said as she shook his hand. “Personally, I’d rather you’d have been elected rather than appointed, but at least we have a voice at the table.”

“So many elections,” Teresa said, still holding his hand over Nichole’s head, who became still, “is the reason we are where we are. In a few years I’ll be married and having children. I must think of them, not who wants to bribe me this week.”

“Er, yes. Of course.”

Vincent returned to his chair and John also looked a bit taken aback, Nichole saw. The ones most hurt by a democratic republic are the ones most reluctant to see its replacement.

“See ya’, friend!” Teresa leaned down to kiss Nichole’s cheek before leaving, reinforcing the rumor of their lesbian affair, starkly at odds with her sexual escapades with Gil.

And in that confusion, we have room to maneuver.

“Well, now,” Vincent managed after clearing his throat, “that leaves the rest of us about thirty more minutes. Let’s see what we can get done!”

They all nodded and returned their attention to their screens. On Nichole’s, a message box opened. Odd that is was from the man right next to her… oh. He wanted a word after class and after the other two left. She replied in the affirmative.

As Sanjay and John made ready to go, she allowed that since her next class wasn’t for an hour, she was staying on a bit. Everyone smiled and waved.

“Yes, Erik?” she asked, turning left to face him, changing her student/professor hat as she did.

“Nichole, I…” he paused, staring back at her emerald eyes. Behind which she’d been keeping her strawberry-blonde hair in twin-tails these past weeks. All that above her perfect posture.   Unfailingly helpful and polite as both student and teacher, yet the center of hundred of rumors.

“Yes?” she tried again.

He stood and went to the window, opening the blinds a bit. Rain.

“Until your arrival, Miss Johnson was my best and brightest student. Prickly to work with, but we were all making great progress with her help,” he began. “We all knew about her… family. And that she did not want mention of it.”

She waited.

“Now suddenly she’s cut her class load to just this lab; worse, for the purpose of putting herself up to her neck in politics!” he said with some heat.

Was he angry at losing her or at what she’s doing?

“And to speak so contemptuously of democracy – !” And there’s my answer. “I… I think I can confide in you, what with not being from here, but I don’t want to see what we’ve managed to hold onto here in Portland turn into – ”

“Monarchy,” she said, cutting him off, “is the natural state of humans. Please, professor, do not forget that no matter my surface appearance, I was raised in Japan. I, just as ever other sentient there, has taken the Oath of Loyalty promulgated by the Empress!”

He turned to her at her sharp tone.

“I do not share your fetish for the mob,” she concluded, with measured undertones.

Nichole stood and took a few steps back, to put her hand onto the back of Teresa’s chair.

“My friend is making hard choices, for herself, for her people.” She paused a moment for that phrase to sink in. “Do you doubt her ability or dedication?”

“Of course not – ” he began.

“Yet you think that if fifty percent plus one of the students and teachers instead pick a random someone with no connexion to the mayor and no grasp of the politics of the City, that’s a better idea?”

He paused. In it, he also leaned against the rain-spattered window.

“Intellectually, I get what you’re telling me, but my country – ”

“Is dead.” Vocal harden. She waited for his shudder to stop. “Would you extend your precious democracy to the Huns? The cannibals?”

“Then why can’t you,” she continued quickly before his reply, “look to a new future with her?”

She let her hand rise and fall back onto the chair’s back. After a few moments she retrieved her bag from next to where she’s sat and made for the door.

“Nichole?”

She paused in the doorway.

“I… I’ll think about what you said.”

“Thank you.” She chose to gamble. “You are still a young man, Erik. You should think about the next generation, too. Good bye.”

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