That evening, she joined Natalie Knox for dinner with the rest of the Knox clan. After dessert, when the conversation drifted away from current events and the adults started swapping stories, Kendrik asked to be excused and went up to his bedroom.
He'd become a news junkie in the past year under his grandmother's tutelage, and spend a good deal of his time tracking down the facts behind the headlines with the pad she had gotten him. His newfound motivation was a mixed blessing for his parents, though. On the one hand, he'd become better informed about the world; on the other hand, like his grandmother Natalie and his great-grandfather Oscar before him, he insisted on getting personally involved. That came to a head the day of the arrests. Over breakfast before school, he made the rounds of the video streams from various Occupy Wall Street encampments, and one of them was from his own city. What he saw that day frightened him to the core: his grandmother Natalie was being hauled off by two policemen in riot gear. His father had lectured him repeatedly about the dangers of fighting the system, but that only strengthened his resolve. Instead of going to school that day, he hopped a city bus and went downtown to try to find her. That's where he first met Althea. It had been his steadfast support of his grandmother that induced the crowd that gathered to tear down the fences and re-take the site. And he was thanked for his effort by being the first to speak on the restored Occupy's livestream.
Kendrik's father had led a much safer life than his own grandfather Oscar had, or for that matter, his mother Natalie led now. To convince himself of the wisdom of that choice, he kept memories of the trouble he'd gotten into for even mild indiscretions at his fingertips, and recycled them way past their freshness dates. Tonight was no exception.
But innocuous stories of past foolishness have a habit of bringing up more recent ones, and Althea told them what had happened at the mall. "We were so lucky," she said. "I think Buster relies on that "racist' act of his to keep people off-balance, but he doesn't realize he sabotages himself anytime someone pushes his own buttons." Then she puffed herself out and launched into an impression of his performance. "I've had about enough of your guff, sir!"
At that moment, Kendrik came rushing into the room waving his pad. "I think you're going to want to see this."
"Kendrik," his father said harshly, "you're interrupting."
"This is important, dad." He placed the pad on the table and tapped the play button.
The screen showed Dori in the office at Kendrik House. "Why be so formal," an off-screen voice said. "Just call me Mark." The camera shifted a bit to take them both in while Althea walked past on her way out.
Althea gaped. "That's from this morning."
On screen, Dori glanced at the camera, and gave a spiel about the center and how members of Occupy Wall Street had created it to offer other distributed communities a place to meet. "And if the change to the city charter is approved," she concluded, "it could be a starting point for creating other virtual districts. So tell me, what organization are you from?"
"There's an invisible community in this city," he said earnestly. "When they move into a house or an apartment, the entire neighborhood is alerted. And yet none of these people know whether others like them are nearby, or where they live. Heck, there's no way to know how many of them are in the city because the system keeps them all under a cloak of secrecy. This community needs a voice. These people need a place to meet one another, because without that, their lives are empty, their world an invisible prison of intense isolation."
"My god," Dori said, "that's terrible. Of course we'll allow your people to use the center. Does this community have a name? Who are these people? What did they do to deserve such treatment?"
Althea raised both hands, gesturing for everyone to hold their comments a bit longer.
"So, what should I put down," Dori asked, "for the community's name on the schedule?"
"All, right," Althea said, drowning out Mark's response, "she's fired. And we'll have to straighten this mess out tomorrow. There's no way we can let a group like that use--."