Elizabeth: The New Improved Zone

On the day of the Matriarchal killings, the Zone came to a stumbling halt. Any current business, any routine service, and any Matriarchal decisions enshrined by the House of Matriarchs as “laws” continued, and could continue for perhaps 6 months. But no new business of government transpired, no negotiations with foreign governments continued, and anything at all done by the Matriarchs, who actually ran things, ceased. There were no immediate subordinates to step in and do their business, to take things over, kto make decisions about anything that was ambiguous. It was never the place of the heads of agencies to make such decisions, so they simply didn’t get made.

This had the greatest immediate effect on MAT/SERV. Virtually everything they were doing was at a preliminary stage where perhaps 2/3 of what they tried was obvious enough to work without high level choices, but the other 1/3 failed because they couldn’t be modified by Matriarchal decision. Either the things they were trying simply didn’t do what they were supposed to or what they did created more confusion and a larger mess that routinely had to be sent up the Hierarchy to the Matriarchs for decisions. Virtually 3/4 of Matriarchal business the Cabinet and Chief Matriarch had on the table at the moment they were killed was from MAT/SERV.

Zone citizens were, by and large, peaceful, so when the police service started to fail there was no chaos. There was simply nothing. Everybody knew their place and kept to it and if they ran out of things to do generated by the Matriarchs, they just stopped. But the babies didn’t stop and all the things you had to do with or to babies were working only 2/3 of the time. The babies simply didn’t get vital services, and a fair number of them died, which MAT/SERV was also not prepared to handle. It ground to a total halt within a month.

Matters were nearly as bad in agencies whose budgets had been drastically cut, particularly FEM/AUTH. They were trying to “do more with less” and that meant their routine things were already disrupted because they had to work with 1/2 of their previous funding. They had been forced to do a large number of things they’d never done before to respond to that, and most of these novel procedures were in preliminary stages that required Matriarch decisions virtually every day. They ground to a total halt within two months

During those first two months the only resource that continued to truly function were the immediate subordinates of the heads of the various agencies, such as Commander Hawkins. They were, in fact, the nearest thing the Zone had to truly independent decision makers. For about a week they simply spun their wheels within their own agencies and it became obvious to most of them, particularly Commander Hawkins, that they had to band together across agencies and demand that the House of Matriarchs convene, take over, and create a government ministry with a Prime Minister to make the highest executive decisions. To become, in other words, a genuine Parliament.

It took three weeks of Dictapad calls between that level of management across agencies to arrange the face to face meetings and larger conferences for any of them to even see the growing administrative disorder as a whole and determine what they would ask this new Parliament to do. Then they went as a body to the Speakers of BOTH houses. This caused some dissention among them, but the views of those like Commander Hawkins, that what was required was not gender roles but flexibility and brains so the men that had them, who were mostly already available in the House of Men, had to be taken on board, too.

What quickly became apparent was that the men had more of the flexible and intelligent people in the current legislature than the Matriarchs. Flexibility comes from taking orders and brains develop from trying to obey them when circumstances get in the way. Most of the second level administrators of the agencies had this professional profile among the women, but hardly anybody else did. Men in the Zone did nothing BUT take orders and try to find a way among the brambles in a household to accomplish them.

The only possible conclusion this led to was that both Houses had to be combined and reorganized into a “front bench” of flexible and intelligent legislative leaders and “back benches” of everybody else. Commander Hawkins had to put her career on the line by insisting that they needed help to do this and that the only competent help available were the President and Prime Minister of GLC. The Speakers, along with the cadre of second level administrators, had to form a delegation to ask for it. By this time six months had passed and even those most firmly fixed in their place had begun to become desperate. So this solution began to gather almost unanimous support.

As Lady Chief told above, she had just retired and little to no progress had been made at hiring a Chief of Service. The Senior Intelligence Analyst was acting as interim chief and would probably become chief by default. When the Zone delegation came to Chicago, Lady Chief had some unflattering things to say about the Prime Minister’s capacity for accomplishing things. But running a legislature was something he knew how to do, so they were set up promptly and correctly from the first.

The president had a number of private meetings with Commander Hawkins, the Speaker of the House of Men, and the Prime Minister. They were sharp enough to see that she was the major mover and shaker in this discussion and he was the most politically adept of the people on the delegation, and the first one to understand that they had to turn the Zone into a true Democracy because there was no longer any base of clan leaders from the old underground.

Despite the prophecies of Lady Chief, it actually took far less time than expected to get a Zone Legislature into shape. The delegation returned in one month with a plan that, despite the dissents of some of them members, particularly the Speaker of the House of Matriarchs, who didn’t want to be a full time legislator, which was inevitable for all of them, there was broad general agreement that the British House of Commons model, without a written Constitution, would suit the Zone best. The Matriarchs of the House beseeched Commander Hawkins to take the speakership role in the new combined legislature with the Speaker of the House of Males holding a coeval Executive decision function until new elections could be managed.

There would be a single election, gender separated with 1 male and 1 female representative from a district who would take on full time duties, with their household receiving compensation for the duration of the term. Once a legislature was convened, it would elect a ministry for the executive responsible to a parliament that could overturn the ministry by a majority vote of no confidence leading to new elections. Elections would be mandatory after 7 years. At that time, combined elections would be re-examined.

Then with permanent “somebodies” in charge of executive decisions, the legislature would take on the task of integrating men and women into one political entity; curbing, though not eliminating, corporal punishment in the home, including the whorehouses; outlawing it in the workplace, the legal system (except for prison discipline), and on the public streets by citizens, though the police would retain it; eliminating “retraining”; drawing up a new “workplace template” for Zone Life; and coming to grips with the Maternity problem.

They also would determine the fate of Scarlet Fever Lane and it’s financial support. The unofficial consensus was that the costs of Maternity were simply too great to keep up the financial support. There was not a majority yet favoring elimination of prostitution or of the specific zoning of it, but it would have to be on a market system basis only. The expectation was that the market could only sustain about 2 houses, 3 at most. Sally, Commander Hawkins, still looking uncomfortable in civvies, and the male House Speaker sat down to plan how to accomplish this transition. Elizabeth’s Secret would close. The other madams between them would decide who would stay.

The girls and the madams who wished to leave would be given a one time severance payment to be deposited into a money market account under their name in GLC. Elizabeth’s Secret would be transformed into a teaching brothel taking a more limited number of Johns and Janes; favoring long term customers. The Zone would add the girls’ tip losses to their severance settlement. Any girl in another house, on a 2 week apprenticeship basis, could study whore to whore. This included those who planned to leave, since some of them inevitably would slip back into the criminal milleu. These would actually benefit more from the skills training than any severance settlement.

Students would have to follow Sally’s rules, and endure Sally’s strappings, and by now Sally had quite a rep, mostly from introducing the intermediate strapping between Levels 1 and 2 of one Love Pat (Level 3, crisis-cross welts, butt only) with rest for the welts to swell, followed by one Gentle Rebuke (2). Only about 3 of Sally’s girls, who all had been strapped before, had ever experienced it, but it sure made believers out of them and the rest of the house watching them walk crooked, and everyone on the Lane heard about it within a week. Privately, Sally spoke to the madams who had chosen to stay about whore management, the Elizabeth’s Secret way, including issues of clothes, housekeeping, and discipline.

After the brothel closed Sally returned to GLC, one year since the Matriarchal Assassinations. The legends of that house and it’s two madams penetrated Zone folklore indelibly, as part of a general nostalgia for it’s history, stimulated in part by Bernadette Johnson herself, with colorful characters like Henry Peterson, Micha Haaretz, Elizabeth of Montpellier, the ever unknown Spook Who Never Was There and was also Chief of GLICIS, Angie Albertson, Bernadette Johnson, Sally of Montpellier, and Commander Cherry Hawkins–back in the Matriarchal “Wild West”.

The end of that fateful year in the Zone (October 2086) also included the retirement of Commander Cherry Hawkins. Captain Collins became Commander Collins in charge of Counterintelligence at FEM/DOM. Except for having to endure a year or so of jokes about being “just Half the Gal Cherry Hawkins was” and being asked if she enjoyed “filling Cherry’s 10 1/2 D shoes”, she herself had a fine career, supervising the broad Reissuing of Zone Citizen Certificates, vetting of their holders, and the First Citizen Census, which stopped GLICIS’ spy gravy train there.

GLCIS has gone into a risk adverse period under it’s new chief, the old Interim Chief. This simply hasn’t produced a lot of intelligence and has lost GLCIS a lot of in-house morale and a great deal of credit with the political customers. A much more positive evaluation of Lady Chief’s legacy is already under way. When all of us do dinner and drinks at the Agent Club, more and more spys, current and retired seek us out. And Lady Chief never ceases to make clear that her legacy is our legacy, although I never spied, and Sally had never cycled through the Chicago bureaucracy.

The new management at GLCIS took a dim view of the North Chicago Safehouse and my purchase of it severed all my professional ties with the Agency. They do not, however, appear to have any objection to all three of us having permanent Agent Club membership and that is perhaps the best resolution there can be. If the three of us stay in Chicago, this story must pass GLICIS censorship before it can finally be told. But I have resolved that as much of it be told as can be told without revealing any current secrets, and if that takes movement to another country, then so be it. I have independent means from work in one of life’s hardest pasts and so does Sally. There have been no new treaties of extradition signed by any of the new countries of the Shitstorm, so if we must be exiled from GLC and unwelcome in the Matriarchal Zone to tell this story, then, sobeit.

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