The last of the special council’s members shuffled across the plush red carpets and took their seats. Councilman Go nodded for the bailiff to bring int he guests.

Three scientists in impeccable clothes that were utterly wrong for their complexion and bearing were accompanied by a much more accurately dressed pair of lawyers. They walked to the long authentic oak table in the center of the chamber and took their seats facing the council.

A bailiff recited the ancient litany of a council opening complete with 18th century “oyehs” and all and the Council Chief banged his gavel.

“This meeting of the complete council of the city of Los Angeles and all its districts, dependencies and aligned municipalities is called to order. The council will yield its opening time to the Mayor of the Citadel and Supervisor of the Hall of Justice.”

The Mayor rose quickly and mechanically recited. “The citadel recognizes the City Manager and yields the floor for the business of the department.”

And thus the real leader of the Citadel of Ellay as it was styled in more modern terms, began the actual meeting.

She did not rise or speak a word of ceremony, but directly addressed the scientists.

“You are the members of the mathematical sociology department at UCLA?” they nodded their agreement. “Thank you for coming. We called you hear to discuss your recent published and reviewed paper, “Rise of the Anti-Citadel Movement and Best Practices for City Management.” I think it would be best if one of you summarized your findings of rthe benefit of those int he council who may not have had a chance to read and or understand the paper in question.

A slightly built researcher named Miu took the lead.

“Thank you Mr. City Manager. Our paper very simply put, lays out the mathematical basis for the finding that the current Anti-Citadel Movement will be the most effective one yet, and will likely disrupt the governing ability of most citadels. Our paper also lays out the benefits and deficits of several considered responses the Citadels could take.”

The City Manager nodded, “Succinctly put. And what does your paper say is the best course, and why?”

“With respect, Mr. City Manager, it doesn’t choose a best option. There are an array of positives and negatives that are beyond the realm of science to discern as an objective best. Some leave the citadels in ruins, but create conditions for a swift recovery. Others smash the movement, but replace current stability with a rising dictatorship. Others lead to wars of varying fatality, or climate events, and other such negatives. It is up to government to choose what course seems best. Our job was to lay out the choice. ”

She continued before the City Manager could finish interrupting. “That said, two of our scenarios have proved most popular and seem to carry the most effectiveness. The so-called ‘Branding’ option, recasts the Anti-Citadel Movement as heretical and relegates them to a persecuted class. This would lead to the fall of the citadel system but has the benefit of a quick return to prosperous civilization within a few hundred years.

“The other option is the “Reed-bending” plan which sees the citadels accede to most of the demands of the Movement but not all, thus depriving them of momentum and support. This will significantly slow the decline of the Citadel System at the cost of some social stability. However it raises the probability of a long period of low prosperity and organization went he citadel system finally does decline.”

“So dump the problem on our descendants and give them little hope for a quick recovery, or rip the bandage off and hope for the best. Do I have it right?” Asked the City Manager.

“Yes sir,” the scientist nodded.

“Questions for the team?” The City Manager opened his time to the chamber. He knew nobody would ask a thing. All the discussions and debates were handled on public forums in front of any interested citizens long before this meeting.

“In that case we would like to–” Councilman Go raised his hand.

“How many will die?” Go asked without waiting to be called on.

The scientist didn’t pause in her answer. “In the branding scenario, over 945 million in the interim between fall and restoration. A few hundred years. In the “Reed-bending” plan 15 billion total at the end of the decline.”

Her colleague a young sandy-haired researcher added “Those are weighted numbers of deaths attributed to cause above the standard churn at a current baseline.”

The chief scientist smirked. “He means those are the deaths that wouldn’t happen if it weren’t for the upheaval. Not total deaths for all causes.”

The City Manager barely heard the answer. Councilman Go had just performed a coup. It was unheard of to ask a question in these cases, because it made the council member look unprepared. But Go had risked it in order to gain this moment. Now the council could not vote for reed-bending because in every summary, report and truthful edit of the proceedings, it would look like a bot on how many people should die. They were now locked into the distasteful religious option.

The City Manager did not bother to dismiss the guests, but moved straight into a vote. The bailiff escorted the. Scientists out anyway. The vote began and the age of the Citadel ended.