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Two minutes to midnight

Posted on Thu Jun 6th, 2024 @ 5:49 by Claire Cavendish

Chapter: Besieged
Location: Claire's personal quarters, Avalon Institute
Timeline: 18:00, Thursday, January 21st, 1993
1182 words - 2.4 OF Standard Post Measure

Claire sat anxiously in front of the television in her personal quarters. Her father had wasted absolutely no time in mobilising the worst elements of the Conservative Party following the incident on Halloween that saw her childhood home reduced to ashes. Looking back, it should've done more to her, but it really didn't register emotionally. That particular combination of brick and mortar might've been a house she lived in, now that she had Avalon and the people within its walls it had become abundantly clear it had never been her home.

The familiar jingle interrupted her ruminations during the commercial break.

"Good evening. This is BBC News at Six. Our top story tonight: the UK government has officially passed the Mutant Registration Act, a piece of legislation that has sparked widespread debate and significant public unrest. The Act, aimed at regulating individuals with extraordinary abilities, was passed earlier today in a vote that has sharply divided Parliament and the nation. Our political correspondent, Sarah Thompson, has more on this historic decision."

The camera switched to a view of Westminster, with grey clouds overhead letting out a show drizzle. Underneath a black umbrella Sarah clutched a microphone and seemed to have misjudged the temperature going off of the clenched jaw with which she spoke.

"Thank you. Today, the House of Commons saw a heated debate as MPs grappled with the Mutant Registration Act, a controversial law that requires all individuals with mutant abilities to register with the government. The Act also mandates that these individuals provide detailed information about their powers, backgrounds, and current whereabouts."

"Prime Minister John Major and his Conservative government have pushed for this legislation, with several prominent members of the party pressuring his cabinet since October last year, citing national security and public safety concerns following a series of high-profile incidents involving mutants. In a statement this afternoon, Home Secretary Kenneth Baker emphasized the need for the Act, calling it a "necessary measure to protect all citizens."

The iconic house of commons took up the screen, the speaker of the house calling for order in what was immediately clear to be a tumultuous environment. At the microphone for the conservatives stood Kenneth Baker.

"We cannot ignore the potential dangers posed by unregistered and unmonitored mutants. This Act ensures transparency and accountability, and it is crucial for the safety and security of our nation. This is not an attack on mutants but a means to ensure that all individuals, regardless of their abilities, are subject to the same laws and protections."

It cut back to the dreary grey drizzle, with Sarah hunkering underneath an umbrella.

"Despite these assurances, the Act has faced fierce opposition. Critics argue that it infringes on civil liberties and could lead to increased discrimination and persecution of mutants. Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock voiced his concerns during today's debate."

The chorus of 'hear hear' petered off as Neil was in the middle of a lively speech, to much support from his own party.

"This legislation is a step backwards for our society. It stigmatizes and isolates a group of individuals based solely on their inherent traits. We must find ways to integrate, not marginalize!"

Another swell of hear hears from the benches as the image cut back to Sarah outside the building.

"Public reaction to the Act has been mixed. Proponents argue that it will help prevent incidents like the recent attack in London, where a prominent member of the House of Lords, Duke Anthony Cavendish, and his wife narrowly escaped harm when their home was targeted by mutant extremists."

"However, many mutants and their advocates see the Act as a violation of their rights. Claire Cavendish, head of the Avalon Institute and daughter of the aforementioned lord expressed her dismay at the passing of the Act."

The dreary afternoon had made for a moody picture as Claire stood in the rain, unprotected by umbrella. The backdrop of Avalon had quickly become a shorthand for the mutant community, to the point where sometimes the BBC simply used old footage of the castle as imagery under stories about mutants, even if Claire, or Avalon, were no part of it.

"This Act isn't about peace or protection. Like all legislation of its kind its about control. All it will accomplish is fear and mistrust. It will deepen an already growing divide between the peopleof the United Kingdom. We need laws focused on aiding, understanding, and integrating mutants. Laws that seek to enable and empower all citizens equally.
Not laws to draw lines and create neat little boxes so everyone can be stuffed in their appropriate corner."

A voice off camera called out to Claire, "Come February first, will you comply with this new law?"

Claire had remembered this question, the initial knee jerk reaction had been to throw out several expletives and refuse outright.

"There are several initiatives ongoing that can now go to court in an effort to stave off the implementation of this unconstitutional and unprecedented encroachment on our individual rights and liberties. We're hopeful that come February first your question will be moot."

At least she had something to thank her parents for. The stuff upper lip political correctness served her well in front of the camera.

"Worst case scenario, though, will you register and will you expect your staff and students to register in accordance with this new law?"

"We have every reason to believe it won't come to that, no further comments."

The image cut back to Sarah as several off screen voices yelled out more questions at a retreating Claire.

"The passing of the Mutant Registration Act marks a significant moment in the ongoing debate over how to balance public safety with individual rights. It remains to be seen how this legislation will be implemented and what impact it will have on the mutant community and the wider public."

There was a beat of silence as the video seemed to be edited between that and the journalist's sign off.

"Reporting live from Westminster, this is Sarah Thompson, BBC News."

Back inside the studio the anchor shifted in his seat and faced the service camera indicating a change of subject.

"Thank you, Sarah. In other news, a severe storm is forecast to hit the south coast tonight, with heavy rain and strong winds expected. Stay with us for more updates on the weather and other stories from around the world, here on BBC News."

The screen audibly clicked to black as Claire switched off the television. She slumped in her chair, letting out a long arduous sigh. In front of the camera she'd been confident and defiant. Having spent the rest of the day in teleconference after teleconference that confidence had slowly wilted away. It seemed increasingly likely that any efforts they'd take would be dead on arrival.

February first would come, and with it the end of their days lived in liberty and equality.


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