Topic: 31.08.104 - The Recording, part 1

The Garden is packed with people sitting on the grass, leaning on the pool wall, or standing, peaking over the next person's head. The only empty space are the wide steps on the left side, where the panelists are sitting, on the stairs, in a relaxed manner. They converse quietly with Bahar of Da Vinci Collaboration.

"All right", says Bahar after everyone has had time to assemble. "Welcome to yet another Panel Discussion. This time we're talking about history, the times before most of us were born at all."

Bahar: "Our panelists are all experts of history: two of them were there to see it unfold themselves, while one of them has studied its ways rigorously for his life."

Mizuki nods to all Horizon members present and seats herself together with Ishi and Mike.

Bahar introduces Sinnai, one of the eldest of the colonists. She's 84 years old, exceeded only by Sebastian and Felman. Her face is as smooth as anyone's, but her hair has turned grey.

Bahar then introduces Sebastian of The Horizon, whose face has gained some wrinkles and whose grey hair and narrow beard fall onto his shoulders like waves. He nods as he's introduced.

Tagato sits near Mizuki and the others, though not next to them

Mizuki nods shortly to Tagato, perhaps with a quick question in her eyes.

Bahar: "And last, to bring another perspective to the discussion, is Zesiro of The Association of Scholars, a scholar of anthropology." Zesiro is a black man with a gaze that seems to look for fault even in the trees shadowing his position."

Tagato nods and smiles briefly to Mizuki.

Mizuki smiles slightly to Tagato before looking at Zesiro with an unreadable expression.

Bahar: "We've all heard stories about the past, I'm sure I have. But which ones are rumors and gossip and which ones are true? And for those less factual, is there still a seed of truth behind them?"

Bahar: "And please remember, this is an informal meeting, so don't hesitate to ask questions of our panelists!"

Zesiro: "I would say many of the stories circulating in the Tower fit in the defination of folklore. Legend, myth. The stories told about the first six are similar in proportion and extraggeration to the myths about Greek heroes by Homeros. This is completely natural in a culture that has lost most of the recordings of the past."

Zesiro: "Take the way they're described in absolutes. Fisher 'never dropped his smile'. Sebastian was 'always finding and solving problems'. Lely knew 'everything that's ever been worth knowing and more'. Is that a way you describe a person? Would you describe any of your friends that way?"

Zesiro: "No, because that's the way to describe a legend. An image built by ourselves based on dreams and ideals more than facts and actual events."

"Really? Then why don't we go through some of those legends and see what's hidden beneath?" And more or less following Bahar's lead, the three panelists talk about several important parts of history from the awakening of the Legendary Six, through the establishment of their unofficial rule, the crises and catastrophes facing them, to the breakup after Lely died.

Mizuki listens attentively, face kept neutral, body unmoving throughout the discussions.

Tagato listens to the discussion, but it's clearly visible that his thoughts are somewhere else.

Sebastian takes turns with Sinnai as they relate the events. Sebastian speaks with skill - without sounding like he's exaggerating he still manages to convey great feelings of joy, comradeship, achievement, despair and loss.

Ishi pays close attention to the discussion, especially the parts pertaining to Sebastian.

Sinnai speaks in more everyday way, adding facts as well as the point of view of a regular First Colonist (a 'non-legendary', as she puts it). At times, she makes jokes about Sebastian's grand tales, but they don't come off as mean. At those times, Sebastian gives her a warm smile.

Zesiro interrupts them at times, pointing out things he finds inconsistent or out of scale. He gets corrected at times, while at other times the two elders have to admit to having remembered or interpreted something wrong. Sebastian lets Sinnai do most of the arguing.

As time goes on, Mizuki starts to tense slightly, almost not noticable for even those sitting nearest.

When it comes time to talk about the death of Lely, a darkness falls upon Sebastian. With sorrow he relates the event: He found Lely's body near one of TAU's consoles - she had been hit by a laser cutter. He took her to their friends, and with long and respectful words, put her into a floatbed.

Ishi sounds surprised at hearing that.

Bahar listens attentively and with compassion. "There's been a rumor going around that you suspected Felman for murdering Lely. Is there... any truth in this?"

Mizuki suddenly looks slightly concerned, frowning very slightly, a bit of anger in her eyes, perhaps worry too.

"There is", says Sebastian. "It was not an accident. There was no way a laser cutter would have accidentally hit her right in the heart at a TAU command console. And Felman had always been ambitious. I knew he was jealous at Lely since she had the control over TAU and not him. He felt he deserved control for he had invented the system, which was true. He admitted this several times before her death. And before Lely died they had severe arguments as they were together in the command center - arguments neither of them wanted to explain. On top of that, Felman was not in the funeral, nor did he ever confront my accusations. He simply retired into hiding, and that's where he still is, with his friends.

"I never believed he would be capable of such an act", says Sinnai. "But you never do, I suppose."

Zesiro: "Is there any proof on Felman's guilt?"

Sebastian: "There isn't. I'd be surprised if there was. Felman is a smart man, he wouldn't leave evidence."

Matt raises his hand and asks: "Are you then comfortable with accusing people without evidence?"

Mizuki shifts her position a little, moving for the first time during the discussion.

Sebastian: "I'm simply saying what I feel is the truth. There is no trial to present evidence at, there's no jury to decide his guilt. There's no attempt on my part to bring him to justice or punishment. There are only my words and I'm just as entitled to them as anyone."

Zesiro: "Your words have a more weight than the average persons, don't you agree?"

Sebastian: "My words have the weight they desire, the weight they're given by the thinking, feeling public. That's all there is to this."

Sebastian's words are greeted with agreement by many in the audience. Zesiro tries a couple of more arguments, but without success. The discussion moves forward.

"Why don't we leave all of this sad stuff behind and talk about something a little brighter?" asks Zing of The Revolution. "Why don't you tell us a little more about that crisis you solved. The 'Corrosion Crisis'?"

"With pleasure." Sebastian relates the story about how he led the Tower through a bad situation involving a corrosive element in the air circulation.

Zesiro: "So, in short, something went wrong in the power settings and you heroically masterminded the tower in order to find it?"

Sebastian: "I wouldn't use those words myself, but in a nutshell, that's what happened."

Zing: "That's not what we heard!"

Zing stands up and walks towards the panelists. He's carrying a portable holoprojector, a black box with a hole in the middle.

Zesiro turns to face Zing in surprise.

Bahar eyes Zing. "What's the meaning of this?"

"Evidence to the contrary", says Zing, standing at the focus of attention now and activating the device. "A record from the time we have no record from."

A holographic projection fills the air amidst the five people on the stairs. It's a recording from someone's eye perspective. He or she is walking into a dimly lit room with computer screens and flickering lights all over.

Mizuki looks at Sebastian.

Zing: "This is a recording by Kazama, a technician who lived around 50 AA. She used to take recordings of events she found interesting."

A female voice speaks over the recording.

Kazama: "This is Kazama. I'm performing a routine check on the waste removal systems.""

The recording goes through the different screens that show different statistics at Kazama's command. She stops at the fifth screen. "Interesting. This shouldn't be. Why are the settings so low...?"

There is an echoish voiceover that's used in recordings to indicate a necklink conversation. Kazama has contacted Sebastian. "Sebastian, I'm wondering if the power level of the waste removal systems of Biotank 3 is supposed to be as low as 3.5. Is it an emergency measure?"

"I'll make a query of that", Sebastian replies on the recording. "It might be only a user's error. I'll see to it. Return to The Canyon - your help is required here."

Zing: "If you look at the date, you'll see that the recording is dated three days before the Corrosion Crisis. But let's watch another one before making judgement."

The second recording is longer. In it, Kazama is looking for the cause of the problem along with other people. She's breathing heavily under the gas mask, receiving constant orders from Sebastian, telling her to hurry to one control station after the next, to read values, report them, read more values...

Then, suddenly, Kazama drops all that and runs through several long, twisting, empty corridors, halls empty of people. Finally, she reaches the same control room, and there it is, the power is still at 3.5. She quickly adjusts the power level up to 10.

Tagato looks at Sebastian, and the to Kazama, finally at Zing, then he shakes his head a little.

Zing fast-forwards the video for some time, but stops to make it clear that the crisis is over in a couple of hours. Kazama travels by tubelift up to The Middle Cluster, where she meets with Sebastian, as well as Felman, and reports.

Kazama: "... and I believe that's when the impurities entered the distribution system..."

In the recording, Sebastian buries his head in his hands. "Yes, I see. And I know your next question. Why didn't I take care of the power levels when you first mentioned them?"

Mizuki blinks.

"Yes. Why didn't you?" asks Felman in the recording. "You didn't...?""

"I forgot", says Sebastian. "There were a hundred other things going on..."

"I thought you could *handle* a hundred things...", Felman starts but is silenced by a wave of Sebastian's hand.

Sebastian: "Very well. I'm going to have to make an announcement."

Felman: "... stating that you found the problem and had it fixed."

Sebastian tries to argue but Felman pushes on: "People have died because of this. Do you think people are going to just let this go? No, they're going to tear apart all that we've built here, and what good will that be?"

Sebastian argues some more, but finally sees things Felman's way. He turns to look at Kazama.

"What about my recording?" Kazama just asks.

Felman: "It'll need to be destroyed."

Kazama: "Very well."

The record ends.

Sebastian calmly watches the recording, then gives a short, dry laugh. "Interesting", he says.

"Is that true?" asks Zesiro, turning to face Sebastian with a grave expression.

Everyone looks at Sebastian expectantly.

"Yes," says Sebastian. "I seem to remember saying many of those words. In a meeting with the Revolution a couple of weeks ago, if I my memory doesn't fail me. If I had known it was being recorded, though, I'd have worn something more appropriate." His words are greeted with a few chuckles here and there.

Sebastian: "They've done wonders with my hair, though. I've not looked that young in ages."

Mizuki sits perfectly still, watching the panel.

Zing: "You think this is a fake? Hah! I knew you'd try something pathetic like that!"

Mike doesn't show much outward expression, listening to the discussion

Tagato watches the scene with a curious expression.

The exchange is greeted by muttering and yelling from the ranks of the audience.

Bahar: "Calm down, people, calm down. It's been an unexpected revelation, but I'm sure we'll be able to get to the bottom of this in a civilized manner."

"I'm wondering how you put together Felman's lines, though, " says Sebastian. "He seems to say most of the... informative bits."

Zing offers the holoprojector towards Sebastian. "You check it out yourself! Do any tests you like, you won't find anything wrong with it."

After yet another uproar, Bahar silences the crowds and gives a suggestion: "I agree the matter needs investigation. I suggest we give the recording to several analysts. There's one at the Scholars, isn't there, Mark?"

Matt: "You mean La? Well, yes, she's studied Data Authentication, if that's what you mean."

"Right. Let's check the database." Bahar spends a while quiet. "Ah, yes, seems we have three experts in Data Authentication. Hussen of The Stargazers, the ringless Marco, and La of the Association of Scholars."

Sebastian: "Zing, would you mind telling us how exactly you came to have this recording in your possession. I don't think your ring has the necessary skill to create it."

Zing: "Create it? You just don't stop trying to accuse us, will you? Try to take some responsibility for your actions, for a change!"

Sebastian: "Taken under advicement, though I'd still like to know where this came from."

Zing: "Well, if you *must* know it came from... Felman himself."

Nanto: "Felman?"

"Why would Felman give this to you?" asks someone. "He's like, the bad guy of the whole scene!"

Zing: "He felt he no longer could live with the lie! Like some people do!"

Sinnai, who's been quiet for the whole discussion, finally speaks. "It doesn't feel like Felman's character to reveal something like this out of mere guilt. I've known him for quite some time, and honesty was never one of his virtues."

"Speaking of character", says Zesiro, almost interrupting Sinnai, "how do you find the material that's been shown here? Is it believable to you that Sebastian would have gone through all this to cover up his mistake?"

Sinnai thinks for a while, giving long looks to Sebastian. "Yes. I do believe Sebastian would have taken any measure to protect his position."

"Well, I for one am full of this!" yells someone from the audience ranks. "Just because he's willing to take responsibility doesn't mean Sebastian's some powerhungry bastard!"

The speaker gets some support and counter-arguments among the audience.

Nanto looks to Zesiro. "Nice change of topics there. One might almost think the Scholars have some interest in which way this goes."

"Just trying to make sense of all this, that's all", Zesiro says apologetically.

"Just wanted people to consider that when you look at La's report, that's all", Nanto responds with equal calm.

Finally, the meeting reaches conclusion. It's decided that each three of the experts will look at the recording to find out if it's original. Sebastian points out that the job might be difficult if the forgery is Felman's handiwork.

In two weeks, there will be another meeting where the new evidence will be evaluated.

The meeting's ended.