As always the standard disclaimer applies: I do not own the Happy Tree Friends; they are the property of Mondo Media. In addition the character of Fresko the Feline belongs to the Deviant Art user Rainbroach (formerly known as Yoshi Lord). I own only my own characters and this story.

78 – COUNCIL CONFRONTATION

As Fresko was moving toward the nearest door to leave the roof he found Lifty and Shifty next to him. He stopped.

"Yes?" he said. Both raccoons seemed somewhat abashed, but finally Shifty plucked up his courage.

"You saved us" Shifty said.

"I suppose so" said Fresko.

"Why did you do that?" asked Shifty. Fresko stared at both brothers. He felt a strong urge to give the classic reply of "If you have to ask, you'll never understand" but he restrained himself from saying that.

"We're animals" was what he said instead as if that explained everything. Actually it sort of did because both Lifty and Shifty nodded as if they understood before moving away.

Meanwhile things were moving quickly with the Council. Flippy, still furious with the way the Mayor had acted, had, with Toothy's support, ordered the Council to reconvene in a spur of the moment session to demand that the Mayor explain herself. It did not promise to be a happy occasion. And it became even less happy when Flippy arrived at the meeting to find several soldiers standing guard outside the meeting room.

"What is the meaning of this?" demanded Flippy.

"We were ordered here by the Mayor" said one of the soldiers, "to keep the meeting calm."

"You mean to intimidate everyone into silence, isn't that so?" said Flippy, "what are your orders exactly? Did the Mayor tell you to wait until after the meeting so she could give you additional orders?"

"Yes" said the soldier.

"Is it going to, by any chance, consist of a list of names of Councillors that you will then be told to arrest?" asked Flippy shrewdly. The soldier blinked.

"I don't know sir" said the soldier, "she didn't say that, she just told us to wait."

"You don't have to wait" said Flippy, "I'm relieving you" and before they could protest he told them the truth that the Mayor had not properly invoked Power of Emergency and therefore they were not bound to obey personal orders from her. Toothy, at Flippy's side, confirmed this and the soldiers, after a caution from Flippy not to discuss what happened with anyone else, then left in a rather confused way.

"It's gone further than we thought" said Flippy.

"Why do you think she would have people arrested?" said Toothy.

"Because that would be the logical thing to do when trying to seize power with questionable motives" said Flippy grimly as they entered the meeting room, "get them out of the way before they can organize an effective resistance or counter-attack. It's an approach that's been around as long as there have been people seeking power."

Flippy and Toothy were the last ones to enter the room. The rest of the Council had already assembled, and Mayor King was in her place at the head of the table. It was quite clear from the tension in the room that this meeting would not be painless.

Toothy took the lead, striding right over to the table, leaning on it in an angry way, and glaring at the mayor.

"You have tried to take power by using my name and the names of the other community leaders under false pretences" he said, "explain yourself!" Mayor King stood up glaring back.

"Explain myself?" she exclaimed, "and who are you to make such demands of me?"

"I am the leader of the animal community of this city" said Toothy, "and if my name is going to be used to authorize projects without my knowledge or consent I have a right to demand an explanation."

"I outrank you" cried the mayor, "and everyone else here. I don't owe you or anyone else an explanation for the actions I take to defend this city."

"I beg to differ!" said Dane, also standing up and putting his hands on the table, "you used my name falsely too. Have you decided that "King" is no longer just your name?"

"I believe" said Robot cutting in with his, as ever, calm voice, "that as the highest official of this city you, more than anyone else, is required to give explanations for what you do. Only if you adhere to giving answers when asked for can we be sure that you are fit to continue your service."

"Are you saying I'm unfit?" demanded the mayor.

"If what they're saying is true, and you really did try to usurp extra power" growled Virgil "what are we supposed to think?"

"Not to mention posting soldiers outside this room to keep order" said Flippy, "and wait for extra instructions afterwards. What are you going to do? See who opposes you and then arrest them all?"

"I am the Mayor of this city" said Mayor King, "and more than anyone else it is my job to defend it. Will you hamper me in that?"

"We all know what your job is" said Tony Ride, "and you should know better than to ask a question like that. There isn't one person in this room who doesn't care deeply about this city and want to see it kept safe."

"Is that so?" asked the Mayor, eyes blazing, "and yet my actions are challenged in the crisis!"

"What crisis?" cried Flippy, "there is no crisis. Two escapees who are not in a position to threaten the welfare of the city and who can't even leave it do not cause a city-wide crisis. There was no reason to try to grab total power!"

"Like I said" responded the Mayor, unmoved, "my actions are challenged. Is this how you protect Metramegopolis? By challenging me? Are you with this city? Or are you with the Marauders?"

Toothy pounded the table with his fist.

"How dare you!" he yelled, "after all the time we've served together and all we've been through! And you act like you're the only one who knows anything. Do we have to remove you from office to get you to see reason?"

There was a sudden silence in the Council Chamber.

"That better not have been a serious statement" said the Mayor with deadly calm.

"Why not?" said Flippy.

"If you try to dislodge me you'll regret it" said the Mayor grimly.

"Will we?" said Dane, "what will you do? I think it should be pretty clear that the animals will not support you, and a lot of the humans won't either. Will you set us all against each other? Will you start a city-wide civil war?"

"In that case why not just hand everything over to XL-Jack-3 now?" said Flippy. At that the Mayor turned very red.

"I'll have you arrested for saying such a subversive thing!" she cried. Flippy backed up and assumed a defensive posture.

"You can try" he growled.

"If you attempt to arrest Flippy" said Splendid, "I will defend him with all of my strength!"

"As will I" said Toothy, "though I'm not much of fighter."

"And I" said Barry, speaking up for the first time at the meeting.

"I will too" said Anna Ride, clenching her fists. The meeting looked like it was getting ready to descend into a brawl. It was at that moment that Robot stepped in to regain control of the situation, and he did it in a way that immediately gained everyone's stunned attention because what he did was something that almost no one had ever heard either him or any A.I. do. He did not do what he did out of anger; he had no emotions of any kind that a human or animal might understand. His logical mind however had perceived the degenerating situation and he had decided that the best way to regain control of the meeting was by grabbing everyone's attention in an overwhelming manner. This he did by shouting out loud at a level which, if he had been human, would have been the top of his lungs – or whatever passes for lungs in a robot. That may not sound impressive on paper, but believe me, if you've never heard a yell by a state-of-the-art Metramegapolitan robot then you have never actually heard a true yell.

"THAT IS ENOUGH!" boomed Robot's loud voice around the chamber, louder than any organic life-form could have yelled, and suddenly snapping everyone to attention, "STOP THIS AT ONCE!"

Everyone looked around in surprise at Robot, not quite believing what he had done. Nobody said anything, and Robot didn't give them a chance to.

"This cannot go any further" said Robot, immediately resuming his usual calm, dispassionate voice, "please everyone sit down. Nothing will be solved by our fighting amongst ourselves. For all of our sakes please remember that we are all on the same side."

There was a long pause, and then slowly everyone in the chamber relaxed and dropped their defensive postures. Those who were standing came back to the table and sat again. However the tension did not entirely break as the issues were not yet resolved.

"Thank you" said Robot, now the undisputed master of the meeting, "I think we should conclude this meeting quickly but before we do I have this to say: We will not help our own cause if we fight like this. The question of removing Mayor King has now been raised, however before this is pursued any further we'd all better be sure we want to take that step. You know that removing a duly elected Mayor is such a serious action that it can only be done in a grand assembly called by all three community leaders and endorsed by the Council. Is that a step you wish to take now?"

There was a long silence as the members of the Council looked at one another.

"Yes" said Toothy finally.

"I concur" said Dane.

"I see" Robot said gravely, "well I – do not. You are both acting in the heat of anger, quite understandable considering what has happened but not the best state in which to make such a weighty decision. I say that we wait for at least a week before we make such a decision. After such time we can take up the question again when we are all in a more rational state of mind."

There was another silence as everyone considered what Robot said.

"I think that's a sensible course of action" said Sniffles breaking the silence at last, "and I second it."

"So do I" said Tony Ride.

"I would like to but I have a concern" said Kevin, "the Mayor has already attempted to seize power and has threatened at least one of us with arrest. What's to stop her from trying something else between now and our next meeting?"

"Excuse me" said Mayor King suddenly, "you shouldn't all talk about me as if I weren't here. I'm still in the room."

"But it's a valid concern" said Robot, "which is why, Madame Mayor, I recommend your suspension from all but the most routine of duties."

"What?!" cried the Mayor.

"The Council can handle the running of the city government for the moment" said Robot, "and if necessary the three community leaders can act for you in all important matters, including city security."

"I cannot agree to this" said the mayor.

"If you will not" said Robot, "then I will withdraw my objection to an immediate convening of a grand assembly and we will proceed to a consideration of that question at once."

Faced with this sudden immediate threat to her position, Mayor King was forced to agree to a partial suspension of her duties. The rest of the Council approved the measure and the meeting ended with a decision to consider the question of calling a grand assembly at the next regular Council meeting in one or two week's time.

Mayor King left the meeting room as soon as the meeting ended, not staying to talk to anyone and, as it happened, refusing to accept any calls or visits during the rest of the day.

"That's not really surprising" said Barry that evening as he talked the meeting over with Emily as they were on their way to get dinner, "if all that had happened to me and I was under fire like that I'd probably react the same way."

"And now?" said Emily.

"I guess we'll see" said Barry.

"Will you support a grand assembly?" Emily asked.

"Who knows?" said Barry shrugging, "it's not the same for you and me. We're not community leaders. I can't remember the last time I've seen Toothy so mad."

"Robot's right" said Emily, "at least we can think it over for a while. That's a good thing."

While they were talking they arrived at a local dining-room where they found some of their friends (other teenagers like them, not fellow Council members) waiting for them. Hailing their peers they promptly put their official cares away for the night and joined them at the table.

(To Be Continued)