“There’s one more thing.”

Bored heads looked up around the meeting hall at the center of the two concourses. Once it had been an airport-themed playground, wasted space at the airport to teach children about the wonders of flight through space-filling models. Now, it was the only place big enough to hold full-zone meetings indoors that wasn’t a cargo bay. At least there were some chairs.

“Sara Wilson, Tyresha Wilkins, and James Bigsby, ages 8, 9, and 10, all were caught Thursday by patrolling members of Corpse Corps trying to dig under the fence in order to leave the zone un-escorted. Their parents will now bring them to the front of the hall for their spankings before we adjourn.”

A murmur was heard around the hall. It got louder as children’s wails were heard from three different points in the hall. No one moved.

A voice rang out over the hall. “You can’t do this!”

“Mister Schick, of Maintenance, isn’t it? Sorry, Mister Schick. This one isn’t open for discussion.”

“I’m Razor of Corpse Corps on temporary leave. And it is open for discussion. It violates at least four parts of the Bill of Rights–No trial by jury–that’s the Sixth Amendment. No due process from the Fifth. No privacy–that’s the Ninth and the Fourteenth. And worst of all, listen to them cry! It’s cruel and unusual–the Eighth! You can’t do this!”

A hum of approval went through the crowd. Brooks didn’t blink, but the lawyer’s constitutional arguments were beyond her. She paused a second. Slater stood up to help.

“Razor, we also violate the second every single day. Corpse Corps always checks its weapons, and we’ve still got the strongest militia in Upstate. “

Schick would have smiled. He was fighting his nemesis on his home turf now. Instead, he made his tough-guy face that had worked so well on the commercials and in an indignant, self-righteous voice said, “But we’re not a free state.”

He heard the “Yeahs!” from around the room and continued to press his advantage. “What sort of government are we here, anyway, Brooks? Who died and put you in charge?”

Brooks took a deep breath. “There’s no name for our style of government. The triumvirate reports to me. I make the decisions. Everyone contributes according to their best abilities. We hold meetings like this. There’s a republic, fascism, socialism, and democracy all rolled into one. Sorry that I can’t do any better than that. I never graduated college, just high school civics. The second question is simple. Central New York did.”

“What about the Constitution? What about our civil rights?”

“Far as I can see, the Constitution went west after Yonkers. You want civil rights, you can walk to Denver.”

This should have drawn a laugh, but it did not. The withdrawal was a sensitive topic. Once again, Schick knew that he had the undereducated plumber where he wanted her. He proceeded as though he were in re-examine and the entire zone was his jury.

“But who elected you, Brooks? When did we ever choose you?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. You didn’t. No one did. It just happened.”

“And doesn’t that go against everything we held dear in America? We have no say in our leadership.” The ‘yeahs’ got louder. “We need an election. We demand a say in our leadership!”

From the opposite side of the room, Schick’s sidekick J.J. called out, “I nominate Razor.” The murmuring reached a crescendo. There was a second from the back.

Brooks replied, “I don’t need this shit. I never asked for this job and I never wanted it. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Only an idiot would want to be in charge around here.”

Slater stood up and called out. “Schick, it looks like you’re running unopposed. Before you take charge, I want to know one thing: Why aren’t you in Corpse Corps any more?”

Razor turned to glare at his nemesis. “Personality conflicts.”

Slater responded, “Is that what you call it? You destabilized your squad and tried to turn in your squad leader so you could take her place. That didn’t work. Now you want the whole zone. Payback perhaps? Got a grudge that you’re too chicken to deal with directly? You call it democracy. You’re staging a coup. If you want to live by that sword, be careful, because you just might die by it.”

Razor said flatly, “I only want what’s best for the people of the Zone.”

Slater interrupted him. “So do I. This zone needs a leader. Not a king. I nominate Brooks.”

There was a five-second silence before twelve people seconded the nomination. The voice vote was nearly unanimous. Schick’s supporters had the sense to stay quiet.

Brooks stepped back up to the podium. “Thank you. I know it’s getting late and you have homes to return to. We still have that last item to finish.”

The parents and three young children came to the front of the hall. The kids’ lips quivered as they tried not to cry in front of their friends, but the two young girls were unable to hold back tears.

“Sara, Tyresha, and James, you have put your lives in danger by violating the rules prohibiting children from going outside the fence. These rules are designed not only for your safety, but for the safety of the entire zone. Because you have not learned your lesson, you must be punished.”

“However, your defender Mr. Schick is correct. It would be wrong to punish you because you are young and fairly innocent. I believe it takes a village to raise a child, but more importantly, it takes a family to raise a child successfully. As a result, your punishment will be worse than a public spanking.”

“Sergeant at Arms, spank these children’s parents.”

Sara, Tyresha, and James moaned like zombies as the sergeant at arms stepped forward with the paddle.

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