It was becoming hard to direct the insects now, so Randidly largely let them go, buzzing too and fro, attacking monsters and leaving people alone. As he straightened, the old woman was there with her arms folded, regarding him frostily.
Sighing, Randidly said. “Look, you saw the notifications, right? A new magical apocalypse has hit earth. Everything is governed by the System. It lets you grow strong, but it also throws monsters like that at you. You were stuck in frozen time for the past year and a half, and I’m just here to try and rescue you, and people like you. So stop making trouble, and just let me get you to safety.”
“Hmph, you are single, aren’t you young man.” The woman said, shaking her head as she walked past him. “Still at that age when you get angry at women for forcing you to be honest. Well, what are you waiting for? Don’t just stand there collecting giant bugs in your open mouth, lead me to safety.
Fuming, Randidly closed his mouth and did so.
Alan felt a headache coming on when he received the news. This was exactly NOT what he wanted.
Perhaps it had been callous of him, but he had been carefully diverting resources from the rescue missions at the borders to other areas. It wasn’t that he didn’t know about the loss of life, but Alan believed it was worth it. Right now, the influx of so many people who didn’t understand the System, or the threats that they were facing, was undermining everything he had been able to build in the prior months. There were so many votes coming into districts that it was almost impossible to keep track of them all.
And no matter how much support the Tier initiative received, Congress had always been careful to emphasize that voting did not require citizenship. They were elitists, but many of those that survived the early days of the System had clung strongly to their root beliefs about the nation. All could who registered could vote.
Still, there were very real roadblocks in place to deter a casual registrant. Often, it would be more hassle than it was worth to spend the time to register to vote. You would need an organization supporting such an effort on a vast scale to make it worth it.
Which was, Alan knew, exactly what Father Foster was doing.
The speaker cleared his throat. “Mr. President, I believe the floor is now yours, to say your piece on the diplomacy issue.”
Alan stood, casting a glance over towards Senator Firefly. The man’s pompous grin was more of an eyesore than his extravagant suit. The momentum was shifting in Firefly’s direction, and Alan knew that they would likely call this Randidly Ghosthound before Congress to speak. Still, even Alan was curious what the man could tell them when he was directly questioned.
However, one thing at a time. That victory cannot go easily to Senator Firefly.
“I do not want to derail the discussion,” Alan said, planning on doing just that, “but I want to speak briefly about today’s rescue operations and the refugee issue. I just received word that the preliminary numbers are in, and across the Zone we have liberated 150,000 Americans. I have no doubt they will make splendid citizens of the UHF. Congratulations, ladies and gentlemen.”
Everyone clapped, but many did so only out of politeness. Everyone knew that the refugees were growing, and growing far, far too fast to keep up with. But It had been in the thousands before. Not 150,000. This was two orders of magnitude above what they were prepared for.
“Even… even the most optimistic estimates stated that only around 30,000 would survive the rescue operations, even with our most talented troops there.” One senator said, confusion clear in his voice. “So… so….”
“We appear to have grossly underestimated the size of the expansion. In addition, the Western expedition… was uncommonly successful. Almost 69,000 just from that one area. But now, we have 150,000 people who need places to settle down and grow. Does anyone have any suggestions?”
The hall went silent. Everyone thought about the volatile elements that refugees could bring into a district. No one wanted to subject themselves to that.
Unsurprisingly, the first suggestions were to send some of them to the already established refugee camps. These locations were built to handle them, so a few more wouldn’t hurt. Alan almost wanted to smile at this unintended joke. There were 10 of those refugee camps already, operated by the state. Each was designed to house about 8000 people. They all had over 10,000 there currently.
How would 150,000 people fit in these already overstocked camps?
The obvious second option was to make new camps, but again, that would mean someone would receive more refugees, and none wanted to volunteer. On the one hand, it could be said that a desperate man might consider accepting refugees. They would possibly be indoctrinated into the district and become a staunch voting block of support for some of the Senators. But on the other hand…
All eyes turned to Senator Lazar. He had come out of one of the first expansions of refugees along with 5000 or so others. But all of those were moved to a district together. When that happened, they hadn’t realized that the former senator from that area was Senator Lazar himself. So when the next election came around, and the previous Senator was ousted by the refugees working together… Everyone took note. Any group of people could have someone charismatic and famous. Bringing them into your district was a dangerous gamble.
“I do have one suggestion,” Alan finally spoke, breaking the small arguments that had sprung up over making more requests to Father Foster. That was exactly what he didn’t want.
“Ghost has established a special work area in quite a few of our current districts. Unfortunately, the drone initiative hasn’t taken off as he had hoped, but no one can deny that they are a positive economic force in the area,” Alan said. Several faces flushed and turned ugly as if they knew what was coming. Other faces split apart into grins. “Perhaps part of that problem is available labor. If we move 1000 to each of these work areas-”
“This is preposterous. They aren’t economically beneficial! You just admitted they have largely been failures,” Senator Kane said. She pounded her hand on the table. “Throwing more Tier Zeros into the mix will do nothing but hurt those districts already burdened.”
“How funny,” the House Speaker said dryly. “The 20 of you that received the work areas fought so hard for them. And now you claim they are detrimental? Then why haven’t we heard a peep about this before now? No, I agree with President Howard.”
There was a chorus of agreements. There were currently 61 districts in Zone 1, and only 20 of those had work areas. It had been a bitter fight to obtain them, and the losers were more than happy to foist the refugees on the winners now.
“You are being ridiculous!” Senator Kane bellowed. “That’s only a fifth of the total number of refugees! We need real solutions to the problem. This isn’t the time to latch onto petty disputes, or get even for perceived slights.”
“I actually agree,” Senator Firefly said, surprising everyone in the room. Alan was especially suspicious of the calm serenity on the man’s face. Alan had hoped that the vicious arguments about refugees would knock off some of the enthusiasm for speaking with Randidly Ghosthound and believed it had. And yet, Gary Firefly was completely unphased.
“In fact, I was going to propose two things. Combined with the methods we discussed earlier, I believe the crisis will be adequately handled.”
“Your methods are?” Alan asked.
Senator Firefly smiled. “First, that we keep them where they are. Some might see it as… inhumane, to subject them to those conditions, but for most of them, it will be a transitory stage. There, they can build dwellings and farm to raise their Skill Level while we determine their… relative aptitude. Perhaps we can move the camps farther away from the border, but with a sufficient military presence, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch.”
“These should be new districts,” Senator Kane interjected, her eyes alight with the discovery of a scapegoat. “If this chunk of populations is going to become something lasting, they should become separate districts.”
Most were in support of this, but there was some discomfort with it. After all, more districts mean more people sharing the power in Congress. But it looked like they would have enough of a consensus to push it through.
“And your other method?” Alan asked.
Chuckling, Senator Firefly said, “Well, I recently realized that the population and economy of my district aren’t keeping up with some of you closer to the two Providences. So I plan on allowing a refugee city to be built in my district. Say about 20,000 people. I hope my small contribution helps.”