13th Dec 2020, 11:14 PM

Commence planning

Commence planning
Hmm. "I should probably figure out where I'm sleeping tonight. ...But it's not even 8:30 yet, I could probably squeeze in some video work. I don't want to rely on, uh... mushroom hunting in the woods for money. ...We need to start planning what we're going to do tomorrow, too. We need to talk to Maria, and Marlow... we need to figure out our approach for the dungeon, and maybe think about seeing if I can talk to Franklin--"

"You're worried about way, way too much shit at once," Kate remarks. "Like, we don't even know what's gonna happen tomorrow--the harder we plan, the harder our plans could get fucked."

"We need SOME kind of plan, though," you reply. "We have too much shit to juggle to just... wing it, and also I need to worry about money now. ...I've been having to worry about money."

"When was the last time you ate?," Cici asks.

. . .

"I don't remember."

Cici looks at Kate, who immediately calls out to the bus. "Cherry, we're goin' to Plaire's house."

There's a brief pause before Cici adds, "Did anybody get a picture of that possum?"

"I did," says Cherry.

The three of you crowd around one of the bus' screens as it lights up, showing the (blurry, slightly distorted) footage from one of her exterior cameras. Featured is, indeed, the monstrous creature you encountered earlier, recorded when it was hissing at Cherry's headlights.

"Oh, shit," Kate begins, "Plaire, you didn't say it was a mutant."

Cici shrugs, and smiles a little. "I kinda assumed when she said how big it was. ...That IS a big possum, though!"

"I didn't even think about it," you mutter. "...I don't think I've ever seen an opossum that wasn't mutated, like, up close. Even in Addersfield they all had... weird growths, or extra eyes, or dangly limbs. That weirded me out a lot less than it being FUCKING COLOSSAL did."

"Opossums are pretty tough!" Cici states. "They're almost immune to a lot of diseases and stuff, like rabies--maybe they're better at surviving mutations 'cuz of it. I dunno, I'm not a doctor! ...They don't normally get that big around here, though."

"Good," Kate laughs, "they'd be taking over. The fuck are we doing to the possums."


You arrive home without incident, and thank the bus upon exiting.


While you update the journal on your computer (and discover that, at some point, you did just randomly type Y ARD with no additional context, thanks for that Past Plaire) Cici cooks up some kind of rice dish, and Kate does a lot of texting. Cici and Kate also clean up a bit, though you don't realize that they're doing so until you're all meeting back up in the living room to eat (and in Kate's case, smoke).





"So here's what I'M thinkin'," Cici begins. "We split up duties tomorrow--I can prob'ly get in to see Franklin after work since I know some folks in the station. Kate has history with Marlow, so she's in a better position to fill him in and see if we can borrow his stuff. She works in the evening, so she'll have to do that before she goes to work. Plaire, YOU can talk to Maria if you feel up to it."

Kate points an accusatory finger at Cici. "When I said Plaire shouldn't be worrying about tomorrow I meant everybody. Fucker."

Cici shrugs. "You shoulda specified!"

... "What am I supposed to do with the rest of tomorrow, then?"

This time it's Kate that shrugs. "Work on your videos. Read a book. I dunno, whatever nerds do."

"You HAVE to be in all the dungeon stuff," Cici says, "but you DON'T have to do everything else. You gotta relax, too! Work on you things."

. . .

Kate leans forward. "I've been thinking about that, actually. ...The dream shit."

"Oh, of course," you say with a slight smile, "you tell US not to worry about anything so you can get a head start on it."

Kate gives you and Cici the finger, then continues. "I wanna see what happens when Plaire's not here."

"...What?"

Kate takes a drag of her level. "With Plaire here, she enters as herself, one extra person goes in as an accomplice. What happens if Plaire's not here? If I sleep in the house by myself, does nothing happen? Do I go in by myself as an accomplice? Plaire, you want to take the night off--I skipped the dream stuff last night so I'm still fresh. You need a place to sleep, so we can just... like... trade. You sleep at my place, I sleep at your place."

Hmm.

"I also wanted to test if the heart counter will go down if none of us go in," you point out. "I don't know what it represents, but I need to figure it out if we're CAUSING it to deplete, or if it's ticking down on its own regardless--it would make a pretty huge impact on scheduling this whole thing."

"And I'm not letting you do the dungeon by yourself," Cici states firmly. "There's no reason ANY of us should anymore. If something happens we should have somebody with us! There's too many weird deaths and all this memory crap for us to take that kinda risk. I don't want us wakin' up and forgetting you were in the house or something."

. . .

Kate leans back, grimacing. "Fuck, that's a thought. We still don't know what caused the witches to get half-forgotted."

"We don't know what FULL-forgotted looks like," you add. "'Cuz... y'know. We'd have forgotten." You hesitate before adding, "There could have been four of us at one point."

"Fuuuck," Kate exclaims, laughing like she's trying not to. "Don't even SAY that shit. That's dark even for me."

"It's silly anyway," Cici states. "We'd remember if something happened to one of us."

"Would we though?," Kate asks.

You cross your arms, mulling it over further. "We still don't know if Marlow never learned the old librarian's name, or if he knew it at some point and forgot it. ...And the witches had access to magic, maybe even defenses against that sort of memoryholing. If what happened to them happened to one of us..."

"To be fair," Kate begins, "we still don't know if what happened to them was the house or the feds doin' a cover-up. The house can do memory shit, as we know from the back yard--but that could be a coincidence."

Cici squints. "What are the odds of that, though? Everybody AND this house all just happen to have unrelated... uh... amnesia guns?"

Kate gives a wide shrug. "We're in the fucking magic zone now, I don't know what's normal. Maybe memory shit's like the first thing they teach at Wizard School. Federal agents altering memories is like, the third bullet point on any list of conspiracy theories about 'em."

You give a smaller shrug. "Magic houses or... well, magical anything being able to wipe memories WOULD go a long way to explaining how they've kept hidden for so long. Look--if we assume the house itself memoryholed the witches, then we have to accept the possibility that we've already lost friends to the house and we don't even realize it because the house memoryholed them, and that we too could wake up tomorrow Damnatio Memoriae. I'm not a big fan.

If we assume the feds memoryholed the witches, then we assume the feds memoryholed the witches. Feds are bad, we already know this."



Kate looks like she'll be the first to ask, but then Cici sneaks it in. "...Damnatio Memoriae?"

"Latin for condemnation of memory," you state. "When ancient societies would remove a person's name from any official documentation, scrub all evidence they existed, and enforce harsh penalties for mentioning the person's name. Basically, to write someone out of history. ... I may be splitting hairs and still looking at everything like a video game, but so far the house has only used its memory shit to hide parts of itself. What killed the witches was likely inside the dream, not the physical house; what hid the aftermath, I think, is the group of government agents who showed up later."

Cici nods. "...Makes sense, I guess. Which is ALL the more reason for none of us to go in there by ourselves!"


There's a moment of pause, where you briefly pace,

gears turning around the fleeting thoughts of history and government,

when suddenly you have an idea.


"Wait." You stop. "...Rill Parsons is opposed to the police force. Right? One of the things I've heard about her is that she's been defunding and firing cops. The police are essentially working for or with MondolGroup, who Parsons is also not too big on."

"...Yeah?," Kate replies. "That about sums it up. Why?"

You take a breath. "What's to stop Rill Parsons from declaring Ninelives a like... a sort of sanctuary city, where customs get full human rights? Fire the old cops, hire Deedee, who from what I understand would be a better cop than all the current cops combined, and start actually getting shit done in this town."

Cici chuckles.

Kate takes a long, slow drag. "I..." she begins, "don't know jack fuck-all about sanctuary cities."

Pffft

"But if we DO turn Ninelives into a sanctuary city for customs," she adds, "we should turn it into like... one of the regular style sanctuary cities, too. I mean, at that point, fuck it. Write NO RULES on the water tower."

"Yeah I have no idea how any of that stuff works," Cici also admits.

You smile, and nod. "Alright, so the next conversation with the mayor is probably on me, then."


Average Rating: 5 (4 votes)
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13th Dec 2020, 11:34 PM
BoredOne
Well, food! We did admit we forgot how long since we last ate, and we should have some groceries left.
14th Dec 2020, 3:50 AM
Guest
Cici was kind enough to make food, so we'll probably be eating that instead of cooking.
On another note: ask whose place we'll be staying at if Cici and Kate remain here.
14th Dec 2020, 3:50 AM
Guest
Cici was kind enough to make food, so we'll probably be eating that instead of cooking.
On another note: ask whose place we'll be staying at if Cici and Kate remain here.
13th Dec 2020, 11:38 PM
Limrix
Kate has blooded the house, which may impact the results of the experiment. I'd like to read the ghost book we got at least a bit, as well as contact the First Lie commenters to see if they have any advice on running a dream dungeon.
14th Dec 2020, 12:33 AM
Snervalton
+1 to reading the ghost book.
14th Dec 2020, 12:38 AM
Snervalton
I wouldn't want to help Rill Parsons to further her agenda in any way until we know more about what that agenda is. Just because the mayor is "opposed to the police" doesn't mean she's in favor of anything good or that would be in our best interests. (Edit: I mean, is she trying to weaken the town's defenses so that she can dominate it and use it as her own personal blood bank?) Also, Deedee would have to be asked whether or not she was interested in this plan.
14th Dec 2020, 12:53 AM
Limrix
+1, we don't have nearly enough information on this yet. The mayor thinks we're incompetent, let's keep it that way for now.
14th Dec 2020, 1:05 AM
Guest
Hmmmm. Could we use this somehow? Lure her into a false sense of security into revealing her cards because she thinks we're incompetent? This whole thing with the cops does seem like the ideal "wall" to press ourselves against, without actually being cornered.
14th Dec 2020, 5:21 AM
Portal In Time
We're still pretty incompetent outside of the dream, all things considered. We don't know the extent of what Parsons knows, or even Mondol, if that monolithic corporation is involved in the spooky magic side of things - but we're still pretty new to this, and I think the mayor knows that.

+1 to staying away from the mayor with non-house related things for now, I don't think she'd like the attention from declaring Ninelives a sanctuary city.
14th Dec 2020, 8:43 AM
lilWitchPepper
-1
While her main concern seemed to be getting that house, she didn't just think, "Oh, this girl will be dead in a week, and then I can claim it. It's fine." or "She'll hand it over on her own."
She seemed to care that Plaire got out safely. If she wants blood, she can go to a blood bank. She's not a foolish woman. Turning the town as a feeding grounds would just cause more trouble, because people would fight back.
Staying on plan and forging an alliance with the lesser of two evils here (she's certainly better than Mondol), or at least a healthy acquaintanceship, is probably in our best interests.
14th Dec 2020, 11:33 AM
Snervalton
Sorry Pepper, but I have to disagree. I didn't detect one ounce of caring from the woman who, on her first meeting with Kate and Plaire, opened the conversation by threatening Kate's mom. I went back and read that encounter and it seemed to me that the only reason Parsons didn't want Plaire to die is because she didn't want to explain another Spooky House death to the Feds.

We don't know enough about the Mayor yet to know whether she's a greater or lesser evil than Mondol and in Plaire's own words: "The mayor may not be trying to kill us, but she's still playing her cards way too close to her chest for me to trust her." This doesn't mean that we shouldn't pursue this plan at some point in the future, we just don't have enough information right now to know whether it's sound.

Also, Deedee is her own separate person who deserves to be consulted as to her own wishes before we go to the mayor with any proposals concerning her.
14th Dec 2020, 3:02 PM
BJBlack
-1 to paranoia mode in interacting with Mayor Parsons. She might have sinister intentions? Even if true (and I doubt it), big deal, this isn't about helping her. It's about slowing down Mondol.

The status quo is unsatisfactory, to say the least. We've had a "noise complaint," arson, assault, and an arrest under false pretenses. Mondol's fingerprints are all over these incidents (but not in a way that would convict them in court), and the police are helping.

Let me know if this state of affairs is okay with you.

Even if it's true that Parsons is up to evil of some kind (and, I repeat, I doubt it), the proposal is a trade-off between harming Mondol and helping Parsons. Given the uncertainty, we couldn't be sure whether the positives or the negatives are greater to Player.

I, for one, would take the uncertain consequences of doing it over giving Mondol free reign to continue its nefarious plots.

That said, gathering intel is always good, and I would never oppose it; if something unexpected comes to light, one side of this debate is likely to have a change of heart (it could even be me!).

--------

For what it's worth, I endorse lilWitchPepper's interpretation of Parsons's character. Whatever else might be said, I think she really does care that Player gets out alive.

--------

Some have suggested that Mayor Parsons thinks Player is incompetent. In her own words (link), "This is not a problem you can solve, Ms. Stevens. What you have become entangled in is a very complex, very precarious and very dangerous situation."

That was immediately after the noise complaint that disrupted the concert. If Mondol is really escalating... whatever it is they are up to, and it's really Player's fault, Parsons will connect the dots, too. The arson, the assault, and the false arrest are added to the evidence, and that's just what Player and her party know about. Mondol's a big organization, and could be operating on multiple fronts. If, outside of our immediate awareness, there's also been a suspicious disappearance of an anti-Mondol malcontent and a burglary of a retired occultist, we'd have no way to know...

But Parsons might.

The more desperate Mondol gets, the more credibility Parsons will give the theory that Player is really throwing a wrench into their sinister plot- because it would be true, and Parsons isn't stupid.

I wouldn't rely on Parsons underestimating Player at this point.
14th Dec 2020, 5:21 PM
Snervalton
Once again, could we stick to discussing our ideas about this story, which is supposed to be fun and enjoyable. Could we not adopt a personally insulting tone or argue as if our self esteem hung in the balance? Thank you. Labeling some one else's concerns as "paranoia mode" is intellectually dishonest and unnecessarily insulting.

Returning to discussion of the story: Parsons' first words to Kate and Plaire upon meeting them was a naked and unprovoked threat. It would be perfectly reasonable to be wary of somebody who threatened a loved one in that way. Moreover, Parsons used the phrase "I have a right to know", just like one of the tentacle monsters in the dungeon. This sets her up as an antagonist in the story, just like Mondol. Parsons could turn out to be just as dangerous as Mondol and a situation like Plaire's does warrant caution. I'm not rejecting your plan entirely, I'm just saying we need more information in order to know how to proceed. Remember how you wanted to get more info about Brainsate before taking it regularly? That's exactly what we need to do here.

Also, Deedee would have to be asked what she wants to do because she is not our pawn.
14th Dec 2020, 7:16 PM
lilWitchPepper
+/- 0
Okay. I don't think we should Shelve talking to Parsons so much as Table it. Discuss it with the others, see what our friends think about whether we should look into her or talk to her.
We at least want to talk to her before that timer hits 0, and that's a smaller time frame than it feels like, so investigation of/talking to her should be a high priority. It'll help for either avoiding her, or if she *is* ally material, joining with her instead of having a passive aggressive rivalry.

+1 to DeeDee's right to choose for herself, though. Absolutely agree on that. Autonomy is importan.
14th Dec 2020, 7:30 PM
Snervalton
Ok, cool. +1 to tabling the plan and discussing it with others. I think Marlow would have some valuable input on the subject. Maybe he could recommend a more trustworthy city official who could keep Deedee on retainer?
15th Dec 2020, 1:10 PM
BJBlack
Hey, I call them as I see them. And as I see it, if you condemn someone as evil until she proves herself to be good, you're being excessively suspicious of her (violating the principle of presumption of innocence). Further refusing to do something that you would yourself benefit from, based solely on that same assumed evil intent, and you're being paranoid.

Declaring you won't help her in any way until she reveals more to us is a recipe for a deadlock. An impasse. A stalemate. Breaking a deadlock isn't easy; one party has to take the initiative, and take a goddamn risk. I endorse taking that initiative, and taking that risk. Of course it could turn out badly; that's what a risk is. But the alternative is to sit on our thumbs until our good author gifts us a compromise from Parsons... or perhaps drives us to such desperation that we reconsider. As much as he's a great guy, I tend to lose interest when he has to lead us around by the nose in our journey through the plot.

In fact, I think bold, interesting (and yes, risky) ideas are the most important thing we can contribute to this comic. A certain barrel ride springs to mind.

wait 'til you hear my plan to get Cherry a humanoid body

As to Parsons's supposed evil intent: Parsons says Heather invited her in for a cup of tea? Says she's a sweet woman? Says she has photos of Kate all around the house? Well, wouldn't you know it, she did the very same thing for Player the next day, so Parsons's "naked and unprovoked threat" was a set of factually accurate descriptions of Heather, Heather's home decor, and Heather's behavior.

Parsons was being completely honest and forthright. Frankly, if we met an angel, with wings and halo, and she recognized Kate because Heather likes having tea with complete strangers, I don't see why Miss White Feathers wouldn't start the conversation basically the same way.

Hell, let me take that analogy and run with it. Just for the purpose of this analogy, Parsons is one of God's own angels, on a mission of pure good; however, she must not endanger the innocent, and has to rebuff them- or even terrify them- in order to keep them as safe as she can manage... and the whole conversation goes exactly the same way as with "obviously evil vampire mayor." The confrontation is incredibly tense, and she keeps her intentions secret? Well, yeah; if Player sees Parsons as sympathetic, she might become determined to help, i.e., endanger herself.

Honestly, I'm thinking it's most likely Parsons falls somewhere in the middle. She's not Evil with a capital E, but she is out to pursue her own interests. She's not Good with a capital G, but she has scruples that she won't compromise.

And that's why I think we can consider common cause with her against Mondol.

Gathering info along the way, of course. Especially when you're considering a risky course of action, you've got to keep your eyes and ears open, so you can change course if the situation calls for it.

--------

As for Deedee, I haven't monologued about how I think the details will work themselves out, but apparently a bit more speculative narrative will clear up a little confusion.

First things first, Parsons would set up an interview with Deedee. She's not going to Declare Sanctuary based solely on Player-says-Cici-says-Deedee-will-be-a-good-cop. She's going to gauge Deedee's suitability herself- and she needs to personally convince Deedee to accept the change.

Because once you recognize human rights, those humans can do really inconvenient things like refuse to work for you if they smell a rat... or you want to use them as your personal attack dog, and they're not signing up for that. So Deedee can quit her animal control job to be Parsons's cop... but she doesn't have to. Cici's told us that she wants to be a cop instead of animal control (link), but that doesn't mean she'll accept being a cop under any conceivable circumstance.

Deedee would do it only if, in her personal judgment, the new job's better than the old job.
15th Dec 2020, 6:16 PM
Snervalton
"I call them as I see them" is no excuse for shooting your mouth off any way please on the discussion board for a story that's supposed to be fun. Again, let's not argue like our self-worth hangs in the balance.

Parson's opening words to Kate and Plaire were without a doubt a threat. They produced an immediate "uh oh" and "oh shit" reaction in Kate and intimidated her into silence, as intended. No angel would immediately launch into a detailed description of the inside of your loved one's home without prompting. The subtext of this factually accurate description of things nobody asked her about was "I've been inside your mother's home and I could get in again." Again, she used the phrase "I have a right to know", which establishes her as some one who is being inappropriately intrusive in Plaire's life, just like the tentacle monsters were inappropriately intrusive in Plaire's face.

I've trusted plenty of characters in this story without demanding evidence of their good intentions. I'm rejecting working with Parsons without knowing more about her because she took a threatening stance when Plaire approached her. The enemy of your enemy is not necessarily your friend and it is not clear at this time that allying with Parsons will benefit us. I might back this plan if Deedee agreed to work under another politician or official at city hall, maybe one with a proven track record of opposing Mondol.
15th Dec 2020, 6:43 PM
BloodyPaladin
15th Dec 2020, 8:13 PM
BloodyPaladin
To Snerves original caution btw
15th Dec 2020, 11:08 PM
I'm onboard Team Cautious Optimism w.r.t. Parsons -- even if she is a 100% Evil Dracula Lady whose goals are to enslave the entire town and drink everybody's blood, that's still less sinister than Mondol, since corporations in general would do anything to turn a profit, up to and including unmake all Creation. So, I guess she's the Spike to Mondol's Angelus?

That's all with a definite emphasis of the 'cautious' part of cautious optimism, though.

I suppose one of the main reasons I'm pro-Parsons friendship -- I think I mentioned this before, but I don't remember for sure -- is that, depending on what the Rules are for vampires in-universe (if Parsons really is one), she's Plaire's current best chance at giving Cici a long life (albeit one with little sunlight and an unpleasant diet change).
16th Dec 2020, 3:22 AM
YetAnother
We're not revolutionaries toppling all the evil.
Plaire came here to get a breather from opressive assholes. Howhever, due to unfortunate coincidences, other opressive assholes make attacks in her general direction, and as of now, our only line of defense is obscurity. We (at least now) don't have any magical powers that can help us in a straight-up confrontation. So, we need to get somebody powerful to back us. Sure, we should be careful, but allying with mayor out of necessity seems to be our only option to get a second line of defense. And I have a feeling that if we want the terms of alliance to be anywhere near acceptable, we'd better not drag this out until obscurity fails us.
16th Dec 2020, 8:43 AM
BJBlack
I've said my peace for the most part, but I observe this:

"Deedee is not our pawn."

One day, 55 minutes later:

"I might back this plan if Deedee agreed to work under someone else."

Hahahahaha.



(Paraphrased: "I respect Deedee's autonomy; unless she doesn't conform to my strictures, in which case, I reject her autonomy.")
14th Dec 2020, 1:11 AM
Snervalton
Plaire should sleep at Kate's and ,before the Brainsate wears off, playfully suggest leaving her sleeping bag at the Spooky House. I mean, they've already spooned once so it shouldn't be any big deal, right?
14th Dec 2020, 1:28 AM
Orphiex
I'd vote for both Kate and CiCi to sleep in the spooky house while Plaire sleeps over with BeBe. Better for neither of them to be in the spooky house alone, and BeBe makes for better protection than Kate's mom in the event that Shit Goes Down At Night.

On the other hand, it might be that it's Kate's mom who needs backup, and BeBe sleeps in a Mondol building. Sure we've slept there before, but Mondol seems to be escalating. Thoughts?

Sanctuary cities sound familiar, but I can't remember the details. Can we try and get some exposition out of Kate? Or could anyone post a link to the relevant page in BiM?
16th Dec 2020, 3:57 PM
Guest
ooh, is the possum footage any use for videos? or is that strictly Mondol IP now?
16th Dec 2020, 4:35 PM
Spyder
+1 to playing Mondol and the Mayor off of each other. We don't have to be allied with her to make suggestions for "improvements to the town" and since you've been hanging out with Cici, it makes sense that you care about her welfare.
Simply mentioning that she also has a sister who would love to be police as well but can't right now - and leaving it at that, like someone who's just trying to help her friends.
(Mayor does not have to be included in the friendzone for this plan to work)
The whole point weakest point here(us) playing the stronger powers off of each other to weaken the more dangerous (currently) entity - denying the Mayor more power may not be a bad idea in the long run, but she's not the one actively attacking right now, being on her back foot due to Mondols aggression.
Giving her an idea to combat them may also give us more time with the house as she focuses on what appears to be a more winnable plan against them than what she had. At the very least, helping them fight each other harder gets us more out of the spotlight.
16th Dec 2020, 4:47 PM
Spyder
Maybe try to find a way to suggest it anonymously?
16th Dec 2020, 9:45 PM
37212513
Okay! This got back up before I expected it to..., sorry I missed a few pages. Got an idea for how to spend some of our down time in a manner both relaxing and productive, but I think I'm to late in this post to make a difference. Might bring it up next page, based on context.
17th Dec 2020, 3:49 PM
poggers
try putting another tarot card in your pocket (specifically the hanged man) and then try going to the dungeon
25th May 2021, 11:45 PM
BJBlack
I'm going to dump a bit of my personal speculation about the political prospect of the Sanctuary City idea might shake out. Morgenstern, you may use any ideas that you see fit. Everyone else, incorporate into your headcanons if you want.

Ninelives is in a bit of gridlock, politically speaking. Mayor Parsons has some authority, but the city charter doesn't make her a dictator; there's also the City Council. It consists of six elected members. Under the old mayor, there were three Mondol stooges (the two suits you saw at Maria's, and the company Vice President), two personal flunkies of the mayor himself, and an independent, Mrs. Chase. She's a timid sort, sure to vote against any major change, but the mayor and Mondol didn't need to replace her, so they didn't. Parsons's election shook things up, as the old mayor moved to The Capitol and took his two flunkies with him.

So, the flunkies' spots on the council went to two other candidates that weren't supposed to win. First is Mr. Marshall, a firebrand whose only real political stance is being anti-Mondol. You'd think they killed his dog or something (and maybe they did). Second is Mr. Emperatriz, Maria's father.

That's a story. A friend suggested it, and he — by way of campaigning — chatted to some customers about it. Then some local small businesses got behind him, and now he's an accidental small business advocate.

He mentioned the campaign offhand to Maria, but didn't actually inform her when he'd won. While to a significant extent, he did it for her, he doesn't need her gratitude. That it helps her is enough for him, and he's happy when she can focus on her own projects, and has a fair environment for her business.

So, the council is deadlocked. Mrs. Chase only votes for any change from the status quo if it's minor, bordering on insignificant, and it's a toss-up whether Marshall's passionate argument or Mondol's sophisticated argument is the one that swayed her.

(For pro-Mondol changes, Marshall, Emperatriz, and Chase vote against the three Mondol members, whereupon Mayor Parsons votes as a tie-breaker– against Mondol. For anti-Mondol changes, Chase votes with the Mondol clique to defeat it, 4-2. A small set of issues are non-partisan enough (like, not letting the sewer treatment plant collapse for lack of maintenance funds) that they can get passed.)

But, the city charter has rules about the implementation of citizen petitions. Petitions submitted to the mayor with signatures of 10% of the electorate can be implemented by her prior to council approval, and petitions with 20% of the electorate must be implemented, and require a super-majority (5 of 6 instead of 4 of 6) of the council or a repealing referendum in order to nullify.

For this reason, Mayor Parsons can't simply declare Ninelives to be a Sanctuary City. It requires approval by the council, or a petition with a lot of signatures... but with the population loss over the past several years, that's not as many signatures as it used to be.

You may recall that the Mondol suits didn't acknowledge Mr. Emperatriz at Maria's, when they were there. They don't really recognize him as "a colleague." He's a "stupid, dirty immigrant," or an "unsophisticated rube who doesn't understand business or politics," or "his daughter's petty servant," in their eyes. They don't attribute his general quiet in council to (A) not being good with political and legal English vocabulary, and (B) Marshall's tendency for practically breathing fire when speaking to or about Mondol leaving him with a lot less reason to speak.

One last thing about Marshall. Half the council shows up early, but the Mondol trio shows up exactly on time, every time. Their punctuality is so precise, it's actually kind of obnoxious. And every time, Marshall scornfully declares, "Well, Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe are here." Then the lead suits says, "It's Decker, Clinton, and Howe, Mr. Marshall," as he takes his seat. It's so consistent, you could set it to music and make it the council's opening theme song.