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Short Story: "Engaging Constituency" (7th/Last of a series)

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Marty shooed the old man away and stepped in front of Norman. "Clearly," he said, "we were wrong. It's not a vacation you need, but a backbone transplant." He grabbed the papers out of Norman's hand and tossed them over his shoulder. "What are you now, an usher at a loser's convention?"

The PA system suddenly crackled to life. "Good morning everyone! I'm Sid Carson, and I'd like to welcome you all to the first General Assembly of the city's newest city council district."

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Marty shook his head in disgust. "Well that figures. I should have known that bozo would have a hand in this charade."

In 2011, Carson, the owner of a low-key shopping mall that engages in community outreach, had offered a vacant building site to the city's Occupy for as long as they wanted it. JonesCo then took an option on the property, conditional on OWS vacating the site. But Wendell Jones was notoriously impatient, so he had the mayor institute an absurd rule that outlawed concerted action of any kind. The next morning, the riot police swept in to clear the site. They arrested everyone -- including the OWS librarian, Norman's mother Natalie, so that Jones could claim the site.

Because the encampment had been warned in advance, Natalie Knox had enough time to coach a team of live-streamers in Wobbly-style hand-off tactics before the raid. Thanks to them, when she and a string of others were arrested for using the People's Mike, everything went out over the Internet. Which was why Norman's son Kenny saw Grandma Natalie being arrested. He tried to tell his parents about it over breakfast, but because they ignored him, he ignored their orders and ditched school to go looking for her. Later that day, he ended up on the Internet himself for inspiring friends and families of the arrestees to retake the site.

The following week, while JonesCo's claim to the property was being heard in court, and he was petitioning city council to rezone the site, he sent his construction crew in to clear the site. They refused, and his actions lost him both the property claim and the rezoning request. Once the dust had settled, Sid Carson revoked Jones' option and deeded the property to a trust to serve the needs of the community. He hired Jones' former crew to build a new shared community center on the lot, which was named for Norman's unionist grandfather, Oscar Kendrik.

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Beset on all sides by liberal activists in his family, Norman finally capitulated. He was surrounded. And it felt good to be home again.

"What's gotten into you, Norm?" Frank said, shaking him roughly. "I watched you stand up to your whole socialist family way back in college. Unions!" He spat in disgust. "They'll steal you blind and then tell you they've saved your life."

Norman glared at him, grabbed his wrist, and pulled it free of his shoulder. "Get out of here, both of you. This is a closed meeting, and you're not invited."

In the silence of their momentary standoff, Carson's voice echoed through the deserted entrance. "Instead of the People's Mike," he said, "our facilitator teams are equipped with Google Glass, so when you're recognized to speak, everyone will not only be able to hear you, they'll see you as well on these big screens. Watch""

"And you," Marty said angrily from an inch in front of Norman's face, "have no business here either. These are not your people. They're not your customers. Hell, they're not even useful for an introduction! Losers and takers, every one of them."

"My family's here."

"Them, too," Frank said. "And if you can't even control an eleven-year-old kid, so are you!"

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Norman saw red. His heart pounded. "That's it! I've had enough from both of you. It's one thing to rail on me; it's another thing entirely to pick on Kendrik."

A stocky man in a bright orange vest came out of nowhere, reached between Marty and Norman and pushed them apart, a callused palm on each man's chest, while a younger man, also in orange, watched from a few steps away. "Cool it! All three of you!" the older one said forcefully, his voice echoing unnaturally in the deserted entryway. "Now what's going on here?" After getting a look at Norman, he added, "Hey, aren't you K2's dad?"

"Jesus," Frank said, "your brat's a celebrity now, too?"

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Ever since I learned to speak binary on a DIGIAC 3080 training computer, I've been involved with tech in one way or another, but there was always another part of me off exploring ideas and writing about them. Halfway to a BS in Space Technology at (more...)

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