Topic: 03.08.104 - The XXXIIth Ringleader Meeting

As you approach the audience platform opposite The Window, the seats are already getting sparse. It seems half the Tower has skipped on their daily jobs in order to attend the meeting.

A few ringleaders are already there, absent-looking, probably going through their agendas on their ring channels. They're sitting on seats arranged in three semicircular rows, facing the audience. At the center of the semicircles is a single seat, facing the ringleaders - the seat of Bahar of Da Vinci Collaboration, the Chair of the meeting.

You know it's not possible, but you can almost hear the storm outside hammering the multilayered glassteel window, blocking the sunrise from view. The storm is even more humongous than usual, as if Da Vinci itself was trying to crush the meager gathering of the unwelcomed vermins on its surface.

Tagato sits beside Andrea.

Mizuki moves to stand together with the other The Horizon members.

Andrea walks in to sit on a seat without trying to get in contact with anyone he knows. He's got a hint of a strained and irritated expression on his face

Ishi walks up to stand near Mizuki."

Mizuki nods to Ishi

One after another, the ringleader seats are filled by people coming in from the corridor in the back. Some move to their seats straightforward, some greet the audience curtly, while a few wave extravagantly.

As he arrives on the scene, a few minutes before the beginning, Sinuhe takes a long pause looking up to the audience before taking his seat. He sits upright, his legs crossed, giving quick glances to the ringleaders.

Punctual as always, Sebastian walks onto the platform, nodding curtly to the audience before taking one of the last remaining seats. Soon after, the XXXII Ringleader Meeting begins.

Bahar's voice echoes from the speakers placed on all sides of the hall. The lighting on the audience platform turns dim, leaving the Ringleaders bathing in a cone of bright, white light. "Welcome to the thirty-second Ringleader Meeting", Bahar says, turning around to face the audience. "Every month we gather in this hall in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, to talk about matters concerning each and every one of us."

Bahar: "Before we begin, I must remind you all about the courtesy of submitting the topic descriptions in good time before the meeting, in order to give everyone time to familiarize themselves with them. This time we had several topics delivered during the last three days, one only yesterday, which is bad form. Thank you."

Bahar then begins to introduce the Ringleaders present. The light focuses on each leader as he or she hears his or her name and stands up to greet the audience.

After the introductions have been conducted, Bahar opens the discussions about the first topic on the list: the Lurker Investigation Project and Sinuhe's suggestion to open a diplomatic channel to them. First, the floor goes to Sebastian of The Horizon.

Sebastian quickly reminds the people about the facts about the Lurker situation - the killings, the thefts, the recent developments. "I'm sure we all agree, in the light of these events, that Aleksei was a poor choice for leading this project. He didn't even volunteer for the task - he accepted it out of a sense of duty after we pushed it on him, because we were too deep in our petty disputes to choose someone more qualified. Now he pays the price for it."

Before Sebastian gets to go further into his arguments, Bahar gives the floor to Sinuhe, who explains his point of view. He refers to the message on the TAU Space Message Boards and urges everyone to sign it. After giving his usual pacifistic arguments, he requests permission to invite Ping of The Association of Scholars to tell her story about the time she spent as a prisoner of the Lurkers and her feelings about the matter.

Clearly nervous about half of the Tower staring down at her, Ping steps into the focus of the cone of light.

Shaking visibly, Ping begins her story about being lured into a trap by the Lurkers, having to survive on inhibitors, the deaths of her companions, the panicked escape, getting lost in the endless maze beneath... The fear, the uncertainty, the constant fear of dying. But even though she talks about fear and horror, her voice remains steady and afterwards she answers the bombardment of questions in a calm, detached tone.

Bahar: "But now that we've heard one side of the argument, let's move on to the other. Sebastian, you have the floor."

Sebastian: "Thank you. Before I say my words, however, I'd like to ask another participant in the expedition to give her side of the story. Ishi."

Bahar approves the request.

Ishi walks up to speak.

The ringleaders turn to face the back of the platform.

Ishi explains about the first time they met the Lurker, just wandering around and being attacked, she reminds people of how Hideo was killed, just because he was standing in the way. She explains the conversations she overheard and the things Shamha said to her, and says she doesn't think their pacifist faction is very large or powerful, as a lot of others of them clearly kill for hardly any reason at all.

Ishi goes on to explain how it seemed like there was a lot of hatred for us up here, among the Lurkers, for no reason that she understood. And finishes with explaining how even if they contact them and get a reoly, she doubts that would be such a good thing, since we have no reason to think they wouldn't lie to us, and that they hold all the cards, knowing much about us and us knowing next to nothing about them save for their violent tendencies. And says how she fears that they would only be in a position to use us.

Ishi bows to the audience and leaves again for her seat.

Ishi too is bombarded by questions, such as "how do you know they'd be lying" and "what bad would it be to just ask what they want".

Ishi explains they were lied to by them before, when the seemingly pacifist man told them they'd be let out of the hole soon, but then they were left there for ages, and after that Shamha came along to try and see if she would levae the others behind if they promised to let just her out, and told her they would all be killed after all after Ishi refused t ocome out without the others.

Sinuhe: "You say it is foolish to trust them, and I agree. We're not planning to go into this blindfolded. But don't you think it would be at least as foolish to confront them, violently, since we, as you said, know hardly anything about them?"

Ishi also explains that she thinks that they might ask for unreasonable things, or ask for things and give false reasons for them, maybe build things with them that they could later use against us, as they seem to hate us so much.

Ishi asks why he thinks anyone was planning on doing anything violent.

Reneb: "Perhaps we can quell the hatred by being reasonable ourselves. They might not expect it, and be positively surprised."

Sinuhe: "Perhaps because that's all what the 'Lurker Investigation Project' has been doing so far?"

Ishi: "Perhaps. I can help you hope but I have little faith in it, you think we did not try to be reasonable with them down there? Asking them why they were doing what they did?"

Ishi explains they went on just one exploratory mission to try and gain -some- infromation.

After a few more questions and answers they die down and Bahar asks Ishi to return to her seat in the audience.

Ishi returns to her seat.

Sebastian: "Thank you, Ishi. But now since we're all familiar with the past events, we'd like to move on to the solution, which is to continue the Lurker Investigation Project with a proper leadership. We do not, in any circumstances, support the idea of cooperating with the Lurkers. As Ishi mentioned, we have no reason to trust any of their members, even if they claim to be of a peaceful faction. Instead, they've shown time and time again they have no problem with murder or betrayal. Talking with such people is not only a waste of time - it'll make us vulnerable."

Sinuhe: "That kind of a cynical attitude we would expect from you, Sebastian. But I wish the rest of the tower hasn't lost their faith in open-mindedness, patience, and understanding. Did it ever occur to you that there may actually be a reason to their hostility, a reason that would perhaps be worth learning?"

"We all know it's Shamha, the one who murdered our own Ringleader that's leading the radical faction of the Kingdom", says Reneb of Da Vinci Collaboration. "We also know that when the floatbeds malfunctioned she escaped from quarantine with a group of dangerous individuals. Three of them had been diagnosed with a psychopathic disorder. These are likely to be the ones responsible for the killings, and their motives may not go beyond their madness."

Reneb: "But we've learned there are many others who have either joined or collaborating with the Kingdom. Recent investigations to a detail of Ishi and Tagato's story have shed new light on the motivations of at least part of that group. The word they use to refer to themselves - 'Kingdom of Orph' - has a history. We'd like to call Solomon to give us his expert opinion."

Bahar accepts the request, and Solomon emerges from the back of the Ringleader platform.

Solomon: "The phrase 'Kingdom of Orph' dates back to the later centuries of The Technocracy. It's a fairy tale, an urban legend of sorts. A tale about a safe haven for all those luck has abandoned in their lives. The poor, the sick, the intellectually challenged. Some historians even claimed it true - that a good-willed billionaire had indeed created a hidden paradise for the societal outcasts."

"So you found out about all this - and decided to spill it out in the Ringleader Meeting?" says Eeb of The Stargazers and The Dreamers' Alliance. "Did you actually want the Lurkers to know we know about their plan, or would you just diagnose yourselves as intellectually challenged?"

Reneb: "We brought this up because we believe everyone needs to know what it is we're being afraid of. And we wish to send the Kingdom the message that we're willing to understand them if they're willing to help us do that. For that, we need honesty, not paranoia."

Sebastian: "This is all very interesting. But it's trivia, and changes nothing in the end. Whatever the reasons they believe they have, they're still a serious threat to the Tower. A threat that must be fixed, not fed by listening to their lies and empty promises. My suggestion stands: continue the Lurker Investigation Project with a new leadership, someone with the required knowledge about the Tower and the experience about human nature. Someone smart and wise who can lead without hesitation. Not a political choice this time, but a wise one."

Sebastian's suggestion gains support among the ringleaders. The majority, being still sceptical about Sinuhe's suggestion, are in favor of a renewed project to investigate the Lurker threat without giving in to them. They also grudgingly agree that Aleksei may not have been the best choice.

"So, who do you suggest to lead the project then, Sebastian", asks Alexandra of The Association of Scholars. "One of your lackies, perhaps?"

Sebastian: "I'm not suggesting any of my ringmates for this job. Even though I trust them explicitly and know they're capable of a lot, this project needs something more."

Sebastian gives the crowds time to contemplate, then stands up in his full height. "I, Sebastian of The First Patch, volunteer to lead the Lurker Investigation Project!"

When the gasps die down, Sebastian sits back down on his chair. The room is filled with arguments and complaints, each shouted over the next, but he doesn't seem to be even hearing it. "What? The mighty Sebastian steps down from his throne to get his hands dirty...?" "...must be very important to him..." "...I would rather have an amoeba leading this..." "...a very good idea, actually..." "...well, who would be more qualified...?" "... you, perhaps? I don't think so..." " can't be serious, I won't trust him as far as I can throw him..."

When order is finally restored, Sebastian says: "You will tell me all the information you know about the Lurkers. If you don't, we'll find out and you'll be considered collaborators. I will make up my team later today and begin."

After that Sebastian answers to none of the arguments. During the next half hour, other rings suggest several other leaders for the project, but none of them seem to get the same support as Sebastian.

Finally, Bahar has no choice but to call silence on the ringleaders and move on to the next topic of discussion.

Bahar opens the second topic, concerning the life support project. He asks Laura to give her views.

Laura: "As we all know, there are several parts of the Tower that have unreliable life support systems. Those places include Ringlab Beta, and - Recspace, including the floatbed chambers. I don't think I need to stress the seriousness of the situation."

Laura's speech is greeted by excited muttering all over.

Laura: "That's why it causes me great concern that the project has had such difficulties. Led by a man that, understandably to his age, doesn't enjoy the respect and trust of an experienced leader. His decicions have been rash and erratic, his organization of things less than ideal. We don't blame Andrea for this - he's done better than most of his age. But we do think the project should be moved to a more capable leader."

Mizuki looks at Andrea quietly, studying him.

Sinuhe: "So you would believe yourself more capable of taking care of this problem in the Floatbed Chambers - and, I must stress, in the Ringlab."

Andrea is sitting quietly, without making any visible reactions. His eyes do become a bit distant, though

Ishi glances at where Andrea is sitting.

Laura looks at Sinuhe, then frowns. "No. In fact we find it more feasible to take care of the matters in Recspace and leave the Ringlab to someone who's more familiar with it. But we need a leaderhip to govern both sides of the project, a leader that can handle it smoothly so the efforts don't hamper each other more than they must."

Bahar: "So, who would you suggest?"

Laura: "We believe the person best equipped to handle it would be McGregor of Tower Engineering Society."

McGregor looks at Laura with surprise.

Laura: "You've got just the experience, and the resources, to handle a major-scale project like this."

McGregor: "Um, well, I'm flattered by all the attention, I sure am, but like I've told everyone, including you, before, this is not the *only* high priority job here. And I'm working on pretty much all the others."

Laura: "Is that your final word on this?"

"Yes", McGregor says fairly stressedly.

Laura seems a little disoriented as she continues. "Oh, well then, I'm open for suggestions."

Andrea shakes his head with an almost sad expression

"We would be willing to take care of it", says Igaros of The Canyon A Collective. "We know how to handle such things."

"I doubt it", says Hama of Dreamers of Gaia. "You've been stuck in your Canyon A for who knows how long. We, on the other hand, have just the expertice needed."

Hama's argument is countered by a third ringleader, who seems to have no trust in her leadership ability at all. Then another counters that, until there's a chorus of cacophonic voices again.

After another long while of bickering, Bahar finally managed to bring order to the hall. "Since there seems to be no agreement, we'll have to move on to the next topic..."

He is, however, interrupted by Sebastian, who simply states: "I would like to add, if you don't mind, that The Horizon would also agree to the role. We have several good leaders and teams trained to work under them. We have prior experience on similar projects as well as patience to see it through."

Sebastian: "But we're only taking upon this role if asked."

The familiar chorus of complaints arises, but is soon quelled by Sebastian's continued assurances the last thing he wants is to force his ring on this project.

Alexandra: "I just wanted to add that The Association of Scholars will not accept The Horizon as leaders of this project. They've wanted to pin us down in Labspace for a long time, and we're not going to give them the chance!""

Sebastian returns to his musings, ignoring the rant.

Bahar finally opens the next topic of discussion, which is about public polls.

Gwandoya of The Technocrats explains her concerns about the state of democracy in the Tower. She suggest the colony takes a step forward by creating a system of public polls that bind the decisions of ringleaders.

To Gwandoya's annoyance, but seemingly not surprise, the motion doesn't seem to be of much interest to the other ringleaders. She gets a few tired comments about there being no way to enforce decicions so there's no point to such a system.

Most of the ringleaders don't even say anything, and when Bahar finally asks them who's in favor of the suggestion, only a handful raise their hands. Gwandoya's topic is closed.

The fourth topic is about whether the factories of Bit 5 at The Mall should produce Condensed Nitrogen Cells Mark 5 or Mark 7. Ting of Patch 178 feels Mark 7 would give better performance on many applications produced today, and now they have to settle for the less efficient Mark 5s. However, as several people point out, Mark 5 has a much longer lifespan, making it ideal for low-power items such as vehicles and hand-held tools. However, Ting argues that the requirements for power have steadily increased according to graph A12 in her research report X25...

Finally the more engineering-minded ringleaders come to the conclusion, that Mark 7 will indeed better satisfy current needs and agree to correct the production accordingly.

Bahar sound a good deal less frustrated as he concludes the discussion and introduces the next one, this one too brought forth by Laura.

Laura: "As many of you may have heard already, there was a serious accident in Recspace about a week back. In that accident, five of my ringmembers were injured. One of them, Jake, had to get a spinal prostetic, which is still hampering his movements. This accident was caused by a circular... toy... being thrown at my ringmate Sara, while she was working on fixing the structure of the ceiling near The Garden. This toy hit the back of her head, taking her and the ceiling with her off balance. We were lucky there were no fatalities."

Laura: "Since this woman, called Merry Smile, has been behaving erratically before, we must consider her to be a threat to the tower. And like all such threats, measures must be taken to make sure it won't happen again."

Bahar: "Thank you, Laura. Now, I understand this woman has been given a guardian responsible for her. I'd like to invite Tagato, a ringless colonist, to our circle to give his views."

Tagato stands up from beside Andrea and walks down to the platform.

Bahar: "So, Tagato, is it true your... daughter... caused this accident?"

Tagato looks at Bahar, then at Laura, "From what I know, she could have tried to... play with those who were working in that room"

Bahar: "I see. And does she often do that?"

The light from above is focused on Tagato's face as he answers the questions. The ringleaders all gaze at him from the rim of the light cone.

Tagato: "Also, I'm sure you know, that at that time, I was either in a coma becouse of the inhibitors, hoping with all my heart that someone would get us rescued, or after that, in the floatbed."

Laura: "Her other guardian, Mike, doesn't have that excuse, though."

Laura: "And it was not the first time one of them leaves Merry Smile alone in The Garden."

Tagato: "The thing... that she used, is something Mike and me made for her. As for Mike, I don't know what did he do in the meantime, probably securing the nanofarm, that the Lurkers tried to take from us, and with the help of one of us!"

Tagato: "Was it not for our secrecy and planning, they would have taken it."

Mizuki smiles very slightly, wryly.

Igaros: "Don't change the subject. We all know you've done all kinds of heroic things, but we're talking about Merry Smile now."

Laura: "Yes. Her mental disorder makes her a threat."

Tagato nods. "But that doesn't give you the right to just put her in the floatbeds forever."

Bahar: "In fact it does. It's been done before, in case of dangerous individuals."

Laura: "And it's not forever. When we have the proper facilities for treating her illness..."

Hama: "Right. Except if the Tower falls, she'll never wake up!"

Tagato: "Of course, I know that we don't have the facilities to treat her, but you can't take her under the same case then those who are dangerous becouse of their mental disorder. She has no mental disorder, she's just a child, at least in mind, that wasn't a crime ever. "

Sebastian: "Nevertheless, the safety of the Tower must come first. It's unrealistic to expect Mike and Tagato can keep an eye on her constantly, and still manage to do their jobs. There are several ways a mentally problematic individual can cause serious harm to the Tower and also herself. One mistake and she might end up dead next to a smoldering hatch."

Laura: "I'd like to ask the opinion of an expert on this: Eleonora, the psychologist of Common Good."

Laura: "Eleonora, would you consider Merry Smile a child?"

Tagato: "You always argue about the constant newborns from the floatbeds, then you argue about not having enough manpower. Why can't we create a facility, where someone with the right knowledge tells the newborns which field to learn, so we will have the specialists we need. Every newborn comes out of floatbed with their individualistic ideas, which creates disorder.""

Laura: "Well, if you think that would be a good idea, then why not make it a project? But please try to keep on topic."

"It is on topic, I suggested an alternative to yours", Tagato smiles at Laura.

Eleonora: "So you would... quarantine Merry Smile into this facility to keep her from harming others?"

Tagato: "Just today, you said a *three months old* newborn isn't enough to lead a project, and yes, though I wouldn't call that quarantine, only if you think it would be quarantine for the rest of the newborns."

Laura frowns. "Andrea isn't throwing things at people, so your comparison is weak..."

Tagato: "Of course, if you think the current system of dealing with newborns is good, then it's useless. But I seriously doubt that."

Eleonora: "I'm not saying your idea doesn't have merit. It would actually be an interesting idea to me. But we don't have such a facility now, and we may never have it."

Sebastian: "I suggest we place Merry Smile in floatbed quarantine now, and in the future if such a facility is built, we move her into it. That way she won't need to be in the floatbed forever, and the safety of the Tower won't be compromised either."

Eleonora: "However, I'm not sure how such a facility would differ from quarantine for her. We wouldn't be able to teach her anything - the speedgrowth packaged available in the backup of the backup database are high-order, not elementary."

"And will you suspend the idea of creating such facility for an undecided time?", Tagato turns to Eleonora "You are the specialist, we just have to teach them... her at least, we can't rely on TAU in everything.", Tagato looks back to Sebastian.

Eleonora: "We might be able to teach her some very elementary things, but those wouldn't be of much use to the Tower. She wouldn't be able to learn with the other newborns - she'd be on a completely different level."

Laura: "Well, I suppose you'd just have to see to building that facility if you want her out. Unless you have another solution to the problem."

Tagato: "Alright, given you are still argueing on the projects where my skills could be used, I will do that, given I have no other choice."

Laura: "It's good we have an understanding."

Tagato: "I just hope, that there are others who think that such a facility isn't worthless."

Bahar: "I'll inform TSR about the quarantine order later today."

Bahar: "Topic closed."

Tagato walks out of the platform and out of the meeting, heading towards the Garden, alone.

Andrea follows Tagato with his eyes

Having more or less covered all the listed topics, Bahar informs the public that the Ringleader Meeting is over. "It was a pleasure to have such a wide audience today. Shows clearly that the people of the Tower are indeed interested in matters that touch them all! Thank you!"

Sebastian sits there for a while alone, until Amas and Ilieth walk out of the shadows. They follow him in his wake as he leaves for Canyon C.

The crowd disperses back to their jobs.