The debate was arough one. Concepts, ideas, changes and compromises were being bandied about between the houses and the legislators of each house. That they wanted the treaty was beyond question. The problem lay in how to shape it as to allow the two factions full citizenship and yet be able to cater to their unique needs and continue to conceal precisely what they were. The first thing was to determine whether or not they were already citizens or not. If not, that would take constitutional amendment, and they were not sure at all they could then continue. How could they keep certain concealments if all the states governments had to be in the know in order to have the option as to whether or not they wanted to ratify the amendment? After kicking it around, they looked at the 14 amendment, and they realized that this truly already guaranteed them rights as citizens. However, they would also have to look at their own structure of operation.
The problem came in the fact that they had their own inner laws and leaders that they worried would run interference with the proper operation of rights to citizens. All it would take was one grumpy vampire feeling that he or she had been wronged by their own leadership, and then they could cause a fuss, go to court, and cause a huge mess. What they decided was that the two worlds would be treated in the most unique way that could ever be conceived. However, they called in to the session certain ones of both factions to see if this idea would work.
Jean-Claude and Anjou were in the Capitol building's chapel area, deep in prayer and thought. The room had the feel of the architecture of the time, the room being dominated by the sizeable stained glass window of George Washington kneeling in prayer. The age and colonial flavor added a sense of reverence to those who entered, and the peaceful silence seemed to grip one as they entered, seemingly demanding that reverence out of even the staunchest atheist. It was in this room that they prayed, with Anjou kneeling at the altar, and Jean-Claude pacing the floor, but pacing in such a fashion, albeit unconsciously, so as not to break the silence that seemed to allow the Holy Spirit the clearest space through which to speak without interruption. Both of them were barely audible when they did speak, each one seemingly afraid that, if they raised their voices more than that, then whatever spell the Holy Spirit was weaving at that point would be broken. It was into this that one of the house pages entered, and her hurried pace was suddenly arrested at the sight. She almost felt like she shouldn't say anything, not wanting to disturb whatever...well, she didn't quite know what to call it that she would disturb, but she knew that she had to say something. She therefore, almost at a whisper, announced, "Mr. Makka, the Speaker is summoning you to the house chamber. They have a question for you."
Even at the whisper, it caught him by surprise, and he seemed to snap back as if his spirit was on some remote world. The page apologized, and he looked over at Anjou as if he needed her approval to go, and she nodded and returned to her devotions. He then followed the page.
Once inside, he saw that the royalty had already been consulted, and were still in there, as were two representatives of the American Lycanthrope society. The Speaker then asked, "Mr. Makka, we are sorting out the details of how we shall be structuring the extension of rights to your peoples, and we are about to attempt something unique in this country's history considering the unique circumstances under which we are now operating. In order to insure that all rights are extended, but that nothing runs in conflict with the state governments or in civil rights, we are proposing that those of the vampire world who are a part of the system be considered a state without defined borders. In other words, if you could work out with your councils the details, we could do this and insure that you would have proper rights."
"What about representation?" asked Jean-Claude.
"That would be the interesting part," answered the Speaker, "Your representation would come through the state within which you resided, and one would have to be subject to the state and federal laws. However, the laws you pass would have to be in accordance with those two bodies, but you could still pass laws unique to your needs."
"This sounds like something the Native Americans have," said Jean-Claude.
"Sort of," said the Speaker, "except that the laws within your Clan would also be upheld by the federal government. It will be similar, but it would allow you to govern your unique needs at the same time that it allows you all the rights of any citizen."
He pondered this matter, and realized that there were many vampires that did not even have social security numbers, and having that would grant them access to everything that the country had to offer. As if they had read his mind, they also said, "What we propose is that all vampires and vampire-like creatures such as you would be given social security numbers starting in the numbers 996 and 998 respectively. 997 and 999 would be reserved for the lycanthropes. Any humans that are a part of the Clan would keep their current numbers, but they would also fall under your governance considering the knowledge that they bear. Thus, you can still recruit humans if you wish. Considering that you could wipe their memories, if they said no, this would not be a problem. We are also going to establish a cabinet level position-a secret one, of course-called 'The Department of Extra-natural Affairs.' This would govern the affairs of the already established AMS, and then include your two groups as well. Thus, if there are matters of national interest that seem to fall under your jurisdiction, we would then call upon you to aid us in whatever means that you have to resolve the situation. If any of your groups would want to serve in the military, then a special unit would then be created to meet their needs, and serve in ways to aid in defense of this nation in ways that no foe has ever seen, and had better dread. What we need from you is to tell the councils of all this, and then see if they agree."
Jean-Claude pumped his head up and down, pondering the situation, and he realized that would make every vampire in the nation a member of the Clan whether or not they liked it. However, considering how generous that Congress was being at that moment, he wondered how the councils could even refuse this. They already recognized the rule of the kids, so taking this step should not have been a great matter. He looked up and said, "If you can give me an hour, I think we could work this out."
The Speaker then took up his gavel and said, "Then this meeting will be in recess for one hour."
He smacked down the gavel, and everyone then began to file out for a short nap, coffee, and even asnack. A page was sent to the house, and they went into recess as well. In the meantime, Jean-Claude was making some calls.
An hour later, the houses met again, and each side sent across their proposals. They were almost identical, and the small differences would not affect the major proposals much, and they were able to hash out those things before Jean-Claude returned. When he did, he came back in with a smile on his face. The Speaker then said,"Well, do you have some news for us?"
"It has passed!" he said, "All the councils agreed to every last jot and tittle. This has been the best chance for us to date, and there was no way they could pass this up."
The American Lycanthrope Society also came in with an approval, and as a result, both houses went to a vote. Of course, there were a few dissenters here and there who, though they did not disapprove of the treaty, they did not like how some things in the bill were shaped, and they wanted more time on it. However, they were not things as such that, if it passed as it was, they would raise too much of afuss. It was more of a show of patriotism than anything else, oddly enough, in that, if they didn't dissent, they could not say rightly that they were not properly representing the people of their districts and states respectively. They at least wanted it on the record that they wanted more time to fine tune the details, and so that it could be shown that they were indeed doing their jobs. If they had not done so, it would almost have seemed as if they had done so because everyone else was doing it or that it was being forced on them to do so. Jean-Claude came out of the House chamber screaming,"YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYES! IT PASSED-IT ALL PASSED! IT'S GOING TO THE PRESIDENT RIGHT NOW!"
All the vampires, werewolves, and Sean Hartley bunched together in one tight group hug, bouncing up and down in joy. It meant no more sneaking around, living in secret, having to hide, and most of all, living in fear. It wasn't exactly what they had aimed for, but considering the latest revelations of the world of the night, it was for the best, and the best they could have expected. It wasn't a complete merging, but at least the Clan could continue to operate, and by the way things were, many humans could be brought into the fold without having to expose the existence of vampires at all, and yet to cause it so that enough humans in the know would mean less and less prying eyes. Jean-Claude then said, "We need to mark this day. For the vampire and the werewolf, this is Year Zero, and our year of Jubilee. We're free."
He let those words reverberate in his head and he then began to build into a crescendo and said,"We're FREE, WE'RE FREE! MOM, DAD, GRAMPY, WE'RE FREE! WE DID IT! WE DID IT!"
He was in tears of joy as they all began to yell anew. Jean-Claude then dropped to his knees, saying, "Thank you, Lord: thank you for all you have done! Now, assure that my up there can rest in peace!"
They all helped him up and hugged him as a page came up and said, "I hate to break up your celebration, but the President would like you all there when he signs the bill. He said that he would like to be there to celebrate with you."
They were all escorted to the waiting limos and taken to the White House brimming with joy and a sense of hope that they never knew they could have. Freedom had finally come.
It was mid-march, and Madison Square Garden had a sizeable crowd that night. It was not what one would consider a packed house, but there was enough noise as both teams took to the ice. It was last game in a "best-of-five" series to determine the city hockey league championship. Because this was New York City, the league itself could have been considered semi-pro, as the players did receive some compensation for their time. On the ice in black uniforms with yellow vertical stripes and a lion's head emblazoned on their chests was the Central Park Lions, so called because the team was now owned by Karin Usui and sponsored by her restaurant. On the ice was Jean-Claude, wearing number 4 in honor of Bobby Orr, and many compared his play to him, and to other hard hitting defensemen of the past. He was indeed an enforcer, but he also was the top scoring defenseman in the league. The team also had the only female player in the league, Chiyuki Tanaka Makka, playing in goal, with the best goals against average of any in the league. Again, she could have stopped them all, but in order to keep the illusion, she again did as she had before, and let through the occasional shot. However, she had never lost a game in which she kept goal, but alternated between herself and the other keeper, just to keep things from being suspected as being odd. Tonight, she was in goal, and it almost made Jean-Claude feel a bit lax, but Chiyuki bopped him in the back of the head with her blocker as she said, "Hey, keep your head in this. Just because I can stop it all doesn't mean you relax. You do, and it could be the one time I really do miss, and that could be the thing that kills us!"
"Yes ma'am," he said with mock military respect and a smile on his face, and they laughed as they got ready.
As he stood on the ice, he looked up into the stands. He was quite noticeable by his tinted half visor and Ray-bans, as well as by his massive size. He looked up to find his family there to cheer him on. He also noted the amount of rings he saw in the crowd, and he was heartened by the sight, knowing that the Clan was growing. It had been blissfully peaceful ever since that session of Congress, and he had not had to fight in that time. He now felt more like a dad than before, but he also knew that, since that time, the kids had been growing more into their roles, and he knew that there would come a point where he could not deal with them as he had. Yet, that was okay, because it was all meant to be. As things settled into place, there were some snags, and that was to be expected. However, once things were in place, the world of the night enjoyed a peace that they had never had before. They could hold jobs, be a part of society, lend their wisdom and knowledge to those in which they came in contact, fuss about bills, complain about prices, about the government, all the things that anyone else would have taken for granted. At first it seemed odd, but then a breath of fresh air, because, now, they were a part of the system. No more would they have to live in fear, and they were the best citizens that could be met, because, above anyone else, they appreciated what they had, and worked to ensure that it was never taken away.
As he scanned the crowd, he saw Blade sitting in an area where no one else was sitting, wearing his characteristic black leather trench coat and sunglasses. He had come in by invitation for this game, and he was interested. He knew this wasn't the Red Wings, but then he did expect a good game. However, he still had a problem being in with crowds as if everything was normal. It is said that old habits die hard, and it seemed that, no matter what happened, he would always be the loner. Marc Spector was also there to watch as was Sean Hartley and the rest of Cleric Team. They had been instrumental in bringing things together, and Jean-Claude indeed wanted them there for the game. Certain members of Die Kaiserenhand had gone on missions with them since that time in matters that were more the worry of the Cleric Team, but were such that their abilities would be helpful, and it tightened that bond as well. It was then that the referee's whistle blew and brought him back down to earth, readying him for the face off.
The game itself was hard hitting and a fast moving affair. However, the score was tied after three periods, and it was not like either team locked the puck in a long and dull mid-ice battle. It flowed back and forth, play after play, neither offense letting up, raining shot after shot on the goals. However, neither defense was willing to yield, as Jean-Claude made every wing and center pay for coming in to his zone, or pay for a momentary lapse of concentration as he zipped down the ice with a stolen puck. Both keepers were a brick wall out there, neither willing to yield. There had even been a fight or two, as Jean-Claude went after a couple of goons that were harassing his teammates and Chiyuki in particular. It may have gotten him five minutes in the box, but at least that goon wouldn't be out their either. It became an epic struggle of the kind that, whoever blinked first would blow the whole game. It went through two sudden death overtimes, and it was now into the third. The play slowed noticeably as both teams were exhausted. The only one that seemed to have any energy left was Chiyuki, who seemed as fresh as when the game began, and she had not come out of goal. It would now be a matter of which team was fitter. Finally, with about 43 seconds left in the third overtime, there was an overload on the left side of the Lions' end, and an opponent was trying to set up the one-timer. However, just as he was passing, Jean-Claude pasted him to the ice with a hard shoulder that made the whole crowd groan as if they had been the ones hit. The puck then went loose and Chiyuki snapped it to the other side to an open defenseman. He started to take off as Jean-Claude skated to the middle and forward of the play. As he crossed his blue line, the puck was dumped to him and he took off on a breakaway. However, a defenseman that had been behind the net came out to challenge, forcing Jean-Claude to veer right, and then to snap to the left. He dragged the puck with him across the front of the goal as he passed, and by the way he moved the puck, it looked like he was going to pass. However, instead of that, he quickly moved his stick to the other side of the puck and leaned forward hard as he flicked a back hand shot. The goalie wasn't ready for it as he had positioned himself to anticipate aone-timer, and it went in just as the momentum had carried Jean-Claude straight forward and caused him to look like Superman as he flew by. The horn sounded and that was it. The Lions won one to zero. The crowd erupted, and even the few sports writers that were there said that was as good as any Stanley Cup game they had ever seen. The team piled on top of Jean-Claude as the celebration began.
As they were in the locker room finishing their showers and celebrating there, they were now all dressed and still talking to reporters here and there. Many were going to the Cavern to continue the celebration as Karin promised them all meals on the house. Karin came in, and they all cheered their owner, as she said, "This is a great day for all of us, and remember: if you want these free meals to stay free, I had better see the cup in our restaurant next year!"
They all cheered and began to head to the Cavern. As they walked back, Karin, Kenta, Anjou, Jean-Claude, and Chiyuki with Ren and Keelin and the rest of the kids were walking together. Jean-Claude did manage to slip up to Kenta, and he said,"How's it been? I haven't really talked to you since the change."
"There was an adjustment period," answered Kenta, "But mother and Karin helped pull me through it well enough. Once I got used to things, it was as if this was normal for me."
"Do you have any regrets?"
"Not really, because there was nothing left that really held me to the old world. It's like that old man died, and a new man was born."
"Good to hear," responded Jean-Claude, "Remember that I am always here for you."
As they talked, Karin was talking with a girl that was in high school and worked as the team's statistician. She looked down in the mouth at that point, despite the fact that the team had won it all, and she said, "Hey, Mary Ann, why are you so sad?"
"Well, there was this boy," she said, "and we were starting to get along. He really acted like he liked me."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, at the game tonight, I hoped it would be me and him to celebrate, but..."
She began to tear up, and Karin said, "Why are you crying?"
"He had a girlfriend!"she sobbed, "and he had led me on the whole time!"
Karin gave her a sisterly hug, and she said, "Hey, you don't need creeps like that."
"It's not that," Mary Ann answered, "I mean, look at me: I'm an ugly Betty! I thought he liked me for me!"
"Oh stop-you are not ugly. It's just that your rose hasn't quite blossomed yet," assured Karin, knowing that the only thing she needed to do was to gain some confidence in herself and it would all change. However Mary Ann said, "I just wish there was some kind of people I could fit in with, that didn't judge just by outer appearances. I mean, why can't people love like a family and not be superficial?"
"You really believe that it should be that way?"
"Yes, I do."
Karin then smiled and said, "Well, guess what: I have one I can introduce you to, even tonight, and one that will always be there for you no matter what."
"Really? Where could that be?"
Karin smiled even broader and said, "Part of them is around you."
Mary Ann looked confused and said, "I don't understand."
"Once we get back to the Cavern," Karin answered, "We will explain everything."
Karin knew that this girl would come over with little problem, and she knew that it could be the thing to make her blossom. Karin put an arm around her shoulder and drew her in saying,"Welcome to the family."
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