Solomon stared out at the clouds from his porch. It was a wonder to him that something that moved so slowly could dissipate to nothing before reaching the other side of the sky. Right before your very eyes. Nothing was permanent. Change was the only constant.
“Solomon?” Judy called from inside.
“I’m on the veranda,” he replied.
Judy stepped out, wearing a light red and yellow muumuu dress, with two fresh glasses of iced tea lemonade in her hands. She was a vision in color. As Abolitionists, they were never allowed to wear anything but their black, brown, or white suits in public. Her feet were bare.
“Beautiful,” Solomon said quietly. She smiled. He reached to help her with the glasses as she settled into a rocker.
“You still thinking about the article?” Judy asked.
“Yes,” Solomon replied.
“Me too,” Judy said, “All that stuff about shetland terriers was really something.”
Solomon looked at her, surprised.
“Kidding.” Judy teased. She took a sip from her glass. “But it is bizarre to me that we’ve spent our entire lives in this glass jar, blocked off from the news, resenting the fact that we were giving up ‘all this knowledge’, only to find that there isn’t much going on Outside anyways. I mean, pages and pages about the lost art of caving, the hidden language of ferns… It’s like we’re stuck looking back and completely blind to what might be forward.”
Solomon absorbed her words without speaking. He turned back to gaze out across the veranda. Stationed all around them were the other Abolitionist homes, separated by neatly trimmed lawns, clean walkways, white and purple flowers. Water trickled in a nearby fountain. Days did not get more serene.
“Why did you choose to forego A/B housing?” he asked.
“Why?” Judy asked. “What do you mean why?”
“Why? Why are you in C/D? And how? How did you get that approved?”
Judy set her glass down, brows knit with concern. “Solomon? What are you saying? Why are you questioning me?”
“It is only a question, and it is our job to question,” he said seriously.
“Was our job,” Judy corrected.
“It simply occurs to me that I'd never thought to question your allowance to live in the C/D bloc, or your choice to, for that matter, when our designated A/B housing is so clearly superior.”
“So clearly superior?” Judy said with equal disdain. “Are you listening to yourself? Get off your high horse, Solomon! It’s called preference! Some people like big empty houses, and some don’t. I personally prefer closer quarters, where I can be around people. Even if I can’t talk to them or be friends with them, I like the din of them. I find comfort in the murmur of their voices through the walls and the buzz from their TVs, which are always on, by the way. Good ol’ Moderators.”
Solomon watched her coolly, revealing no reaction to her words.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re turning this into a class thing, Solomon. Like I’m from C/D so I’m part of some riotous proletariat that you couldn’t possibly associate with. They’re still government buildings for christ’s sake.”
He flinched at the word.
“My only curiosity is how you were able to get it approved.”
“How? I just asked! I just asked Collinsworth and he said it was approved! Simple as that!” She paused, realizing her arms were splayed angrily out in front of her. She gathered them back in and shook her hair indignantly. “Are you happy now? Is the interrogation over? Is your conspiracy theory through?”
“Conspiracy theory?” Solomon laughed. “Just a few days ago you were smoking outside the courthouse suggesting there was some pernicious plot unfolding as we sat helplessly by! ‘Shroud of ignorance,’ wasn’t that what you called it?”
“There is something going on, Solomon, and if that lousy news story about the EIU defector didn’t tip you off to it, then I don’t know what will! I mean, you are really something. Are you really content to sit in your mansion while something huge is going on out there? Maybe even right in our midst?” She paused, and then went on, “I TOLD THAT WOMAN THAT THE ABOLITIONISTS WERE CORRUPT AND SHE PUBLISHED A STORY ON AN EIU DEFECTOR INSTEAD. In what world is that more important?”
Solomon’s hands instinctively tightened against each other. Judy was right. The fact that Paltron had buried the story revealed that she had something else to hide. To anyone else, the better story would have been clear. Outsiders had little interest in the EIU, let alone EIU politics. A corrupt government, on the other hand… that was a story they hadn’t heard in ages. And yet Paltron had buried it. In fact, now that he thought about it, Paltron hadn't just hidden the fact that the EIU was moving into Pureside, she had petitioned Solomon to stop it altogether, knowing full well that it would violate his vows and risk his withdrawal. With one act she had shown tacit approval, or even the willful creation, of a corrupt government. And she had done so flippantly. Now she had blatantly ignored Judy’s account, a second Abolitionist who could attest to a corrupt government. If this wasn’t news to her, then what did it imply about her position? Perhaps she was directly involved… But why? Paltron was already one of the most powerful people in the world. What could she possibly have to gain? Or, perhaps more importantly, what did she have to lose? And if she was involved, who was her connection? Collinsworth?
Solomon could hardly stomach the thought. Collinsworth had been his dear friend, his mentor, his leader. Then in his mind’s eye, he remembered Collinsworth’s face as he uttered the words “— I’d like you to tell us what you heard.”
All of this might explain Paltron’s reticence to expose a corrupt government, but it said nothing about her vendetta against the EIU. There was no doubt that there had been a desperate and nasty undertone to the EIU defector story. What were Paltron’s interests there? What was it that she was trying so desperately to hide?
After decades of working together, Judy could recognize when Solomon was deep in thought. She reached over and added her hand to his pensively clasped pile.
“So what do you say?” she asked. “Shall we track down this Davis person?”