Topic: 08.01.105 - We tried our best

People are already waiting in The Garden when Mizuki walks in, with Andrea, Sinuhe, and Aviah walking right behind her.

Ishi watches them walk in, expression mostly blank, looking tired or unhappy otherwise.

Andrea follows last, his face set in a neutral expression, but one hand twitching slightly

Sebastian and Nanto are standing on the stairs to the left of the entrance, above the rest, ready to lead the meeting. Nanto is standing one step below Sebastian, closer to the public.

Andrea scans the crowd with his eyes, a slight frown forming

Mike is standind under the tree, looking at the defendants

Tagato sits in a more remote place, with a tired expression on his face, his eyes are closed, and he rests his head on his closed fists, his elbows on his knees.

Mizuki leads the three people to their indicated place, then bows to Sebastian and takes up a position next to Ishi, face looking calm and neutral.

Andrea locks his eyes with Hansila's

The defendants' place is right at the foot of the stairs, where everyone can see and hear them. It seems the hum of the machines is slightly lower than usually in The Garden, so there should be no need to yell as long as everyone keeps quiet.

Nanto speaks: "Welcome everyone and it's good that you all noticed my message."

Nanto: "We've requested Bahar of Da Vinci Collaboration to chair this meeting for us, to ensure the neutrality of it. Please, Bahar, join us and let up begin."

Andrea's shoulders slumps almost imperceptively

Bahar steps away from the crowd and stands next to Nanto. "Welcome on my behalf too. We've gathered together due to a serious matter brought to us by the Lurker Investigation Project. Even though the matter at hand is serious, even dire, I'll ask that every one of you remembers the principles of a civil and impartial trial. Let us hear the evidence and judge the defendants on that and that only."

Bahar: "Nanto, as representative of the investigation, please read the charges against the defendants."

Nanto: "Thank you, Bahar."

A slight wry smile forms on Andrea's lips as he looks up at Sebastian and Nanto at the top of the stairs

Ishi keeps her yes on the defendants, mostly Andrea, expression and body posture indicating sadness, feeling down.

Nanto: "The defendants - that is Andrea, Aviah, Sinuhe, and Jaana of Society of Free Colonists - Jaana, will you join the rest please?"

With her head down, avoiding people's eyes, Jaana steps in to join the other three.

As Jaana gets close Andrea whispers something to her

Tagato looks up, scans the crowd with a thoughtful expression then returns to his earlier position, eyes closed.

Nanto: "The defendants have been charged with conspiring with a criminal organization, hiding things of crucial importance to the lives of the colonists, and working against the direct decicion of the Ringleader Meeting."

Mizuki's eyes glide slowly over the crowd and the defenders, settling on Nanto and Bahar afterwards.

Andrea turns his attention towards Nanto with a frown

"Please elaborate", says Bahar. "Put simply: what are you saying they've done?"

"Let's let them tell you themselves", says Nanto, and takes out a small holoplayer.

An image of a small room emerges between Nanto and the crowd. At the foreground, Andrea is standing, with Sinuhe and Aviah behind him.

Mike eyes the hologram suspiciously

Andrea looks surprised as Jaana says something to him

Tagato opens his eyes and looks at the hologram.

In the recording, Andrea starts to speak:

Recording: Andrea: "I don't know how contact was made initially. I was invited to a meeting with someone and showed up. It turned out to be Ma-Ti looking for
help with solving a hormonal imbalance that was causing the Lurkers to
become.. aggressive.. violent"

Andrea turns to look at the hologram, then pauses as his eyes widens

Andrea's head snaps around to look at Mizuki

Mizuki looks back at Andrea, tilting her head and looking slightly curious.

"Very good", says Sinuhe, looking at the hologram, "but I think you forgot the scholar.."

Recording: Andrea: "He allowed us to take a blood sample for us to check this for ourselves.. ""

Andrea seems to forget all about Mizuki as he turns towards Sinuhe, still not saying anything

Laura: "Has this material been verified?"

Hansila: "How could it? Our only reliable expert died - conveniently - in the Blackout."

Recording: Andrea: "The sample collaborated his story, but he didn't trust the entire tower with this.. so he asked us to keep this to only bring those in on it that we trusted and needed to know. Otherwise there would've been no more contact. I went along on the chance it might solve this Lurker problem"

Andrea seems to gather himself together and turns to the recording again, studying it closely

"You could still have told at least the ringleaders", Laura says sternly, looking at Andrea and the others. "We would have kept it quiet if needed!"

Recording: Andrea: "Regardless.. I was soon contacted by those two.. hmm.. Klatch and Simeone. They had some knowledge of the meeting we'd had. I suppose things began to go wrong for our cause there"

"As you must have heard", Nanto inserts, "Klatch and Simeone have been conducting some interviews for the investigation."

Recording: Andrea: "It didn't take us long to figure out that Sinuhe and I had been 'fitted' with a listening bug."

"Devious", McGregor comments, grinning. "Except for the discovery part, of course."

Andrea's clothing in the recording, as well as those of the others, looks shaggy, even broken at places. They don't look very clean in general.

Recording: Andrea: "Knowing we were suspected, we tried to great efforts to avoid being compromised. In the end, it wasn't enough. "

Recording: Andrea: "A week or so ago, we were ready to test a solution or cure, so we needed to arrange a meeting with Ma-Ti. It was planned, but then Mizuki here contacted me.. telling me of cameras not only in the populated areas but littered throughout the service tunnels as well."

Recording: Andrea: "In hindsight I should've called it off at that point, but the Lurkers were becoming more and more aggressive and I felt some pressure. I chose to trust, " Andrea sounds almost sick of himself "Mizuki when she offered to cover the cameras on the deal I'd speak with Ma-Ti and convince him to help get Shamha neutralized"

: "Very devious indeed..."

Recording: Andrea: "So we changed our plans slightly to work this in. When we finally did meet Ma-Ti.. and had begun testing the cure with very promising results, we were attacked by masked people with some kind of weapons"

Mizuki looks at Alexandra.

"Weapons!?" Hansila yelps.

Alexandra is watching the recording, quietly.

Recording: Andrea: "We tried to escape, but there wasn't anything we could do. They shot us with those things. Some kind of non-lethal guns, but they aren't exactly pleasant."

Mizuki's attention goes to Hansila for one moment, shaking her head slightly, before her eyes focus on Alexandra again.

Stina: "Shot!?"

Hansila: "This is outragous!"

Andrea casts a quick glance towards Hansila before turning his attention back at the recording, his eyes now narrowed in an expression of concentration

Laura raises her eyebrow. "You have... weapons?"

Mizuki smiles without humour at Hansila and Stina.

Recording: Andrea: "We woke up in a room with a locked door and was led to believe we had been captured by the Lurkers"

Everyone is quiet.

Recording: Andrea: "With someone acting the part of Shamha, they made us believe they'd kill us all but one.."

Reneb: "What... What is this?"

Ishi runs a hand over her eyes, keeping them closed for a moment before opening them again.

Reneb's face betrays disgust before he quickly rearranges it. "This will need to be discussed."

Tagato watches the recording without showing emotion.

Recording: Andrea: "I don't know Shamha, but Ma-Ti told us that Shamha.. hmm.. challenged the ways they did things in that community. Eventually Shamha took the leadership down there, something I suppose was made possible by the aggressive behaviour that had been introduced or enhanced beyond their ability to control. I believe Ma-Ti in this"

Andrea seems tense for a moment

Klatch: "Yeah, you seem to believe just *anything* he says!"

Andrea just looks up at Bahar

Recording: Mizuki: "Who contacted you for this meeting, and who were present at the meeting?""

Recording: Andrea: "Sinuhe contacted me""

At this point, the people have started talking loudly, almost drowning the recording underneath the horrified chatter. Bahar silences them proficiently.

Ishi remains entirely silent throughout it all.

In the recording, after this, Andrea also expresses a concern about how, in his opinion, the investigation should have been handled very differently. At request, he also lists the people present in the first meeting. That is, many of SoFC, including Hansila and Stina, who left halfway to the meeting. Then the recording ends.

The crowds begin to chatter again.

Tagato closes his eyes again, looking relaxed.

"People!" Bahar yells in his loud bass. "I know this is a lot to digest but now it's the more important to listen! Defendants, do you have anything to say in your defence?"

Finally, silence falls again.

Andrea looks at Sinuhe

"I'd just like to point out", says Sinuhe, "that the recording we were shown seems to have a little glitch. Maybe the person behind the camera wasn't very competent or maybe there's something more to it. But isn't it so that there's supposed to be a Mira with us on the background?"

At this, Mizuki smiles slightly, almost gently.

Andrea sighs slightly

"No", says Nanto simply.

Ishi still looks at the defendants.

"Yes there is!" says Aviah. "But the Scholars paid The Horizon off to keep her out of her responsibility!"

Andrea crosses his arms obviously not pleased, but apparently not willing to interfere

Nanto sighs. "Whatever your argument is with Mira, I can assure you she's not and never was, on that recording."

Andrea smiles wryly

"Something we can never be sure of, I suppose", says Laura, glancing at Alexandra. "Unless someone else has something to confess?"

Mizuki looks at Ishi.

Alexandra speaks calmly and quietly, almost icily: "We have been falsely accused of several things in the past", she says. "But usually our enemies have at least bothered to fabricate some proof. Have I missed something or are these accusations nothing but empty words?"

"She *was* there, with us from the beginning!" Aviah screams. "Who else could have made that floatbed fix for us?"

Alexandra: "I have no idea. Someone incompetent perhaps?"

Andrea's frown deepens

Aviah spits in Alexandra's general direction but she's too far across the room so it hits McGregor instead.

Andrea places a hand at Aviah's shoulder "This doesn't help anything"

Aviah: "They're idiots!"

Sinuhe: "I must agree with Aviah on this."

"Do you have any proof to back up your words with?" Bahar asks Sinuhe.

Andrea shakes his head slightly, but removes his hand

Sinuhe seems to think for a moment, then resigns: "No. This was well orchestrated."

"Very well", says Bahar. "Is there anything else the defendants wish to say in their defence?"

Andrea glances at Sinuhe and Aviah again, then speaks up. "Si. I do wish to say a few things"

Bahar: "Please do."

Mizuki turns her head to look at Andrea.

Andrea looks thoughtful for a moment then turns slightly, as if speaking to the crowd as much as the people on the stairs "The recording of my words is true. I said all that and meant it. I did do those things..."

The Large Crowd gasps.

Andrea takes a deep breath before continuing "I'll not excuse my actions, however. I was presented with an opportunity, I thought could avoid bloodshed and, at least partially, solve the Lurker problem. Had we not been stopped, I believe this particular problem would be severely limited already."

Mizuki's lips twitch, almost as if she looks darkly amused at something.

Andrea glances at Mizuki "And I wonder if it's not working as it is"

Ishi shakes her head in a tired way.

Hansila speaks: "I must say on behalf of Society of Free Colonists that we fully support Andrea and his actions. The meddlings of The Horizon and their investigation have not brought us closer to a solution but further away from it. Would it have been too much for them to see if it could have actually worked before rushing in with their guns blazing and destroying all hope of peace?"

The Prophet nods to Hansila's words.

Mike nods in agreement as well

Andrea: "We took a chance, si. Working towards a goal where people weren't firing weapons towards eachother. A chance on an opportunity, that would have disappeared, had we let it be known. At least that was our evaluation at the time."

"I think", says Nanto, "I and Hansila will have to agree to disagree here. As someone who's watched the investigation from close up, I can assure you that that very option was seriously considered. However, we had to put it aside as infeasible."

Laura: "I'm still saying the ringleaders would have kept it a secret if we'd thought it was a good idea."

Reneb: "I agree that going behind the backs of the Ringleader meeting was a grave mistake on your part."

Andrea: "Then, I'll ask this: could we have contacted all ringleaders with this information and trust it didn't reach the Lurkers' ears?"

Andrea: "In hindsight, perhaps it would've been a better option, but you can't look into the future when making a decision. You have to base it on what information you have available."

"You should have taken that chance, my friend", says McGregor.

Reneb nods. "Otherwise this tower will be headed towards chaos."

"I'd like to get back to 'infeasible'", says Hansila. "Why was the plan of the defendants so 'infeasible' that it had to be smashed with a steel mallet?"

Bahar: "Order, please! One topic at a time."

Andrea smiles wryly "Open exchange of weapon fire is too. I'm not saying it's nessecarily heading towards that, but we made our choice to fend it off, in case it is."

"Indeed", says Hansila. "This will need to be discussed seriously."

"As for 'infeasible'", says Nanto. "I'd like to ask the opinion of the tower's best phychologist about her opinion on the effect of hormonal imbalances. Eleonora, do you believe a hormonal imbalance is a feasible defence of violent aggression?"

"I must say I don't know all the factors here", says Eleonora. "But from what I've heard about the Lurker activities, they can't be explained simply by chemical imbalances. There must be other factors coming into play, many of which can be categorized under the heading of free will."

Nanto: "In other words, whether or not this imbalance is real, the Lurkers *want* to commit violent acts upon us. They've chosen to attack the colony and seriously hinder our survival. It's their choice and they must bear the responsibility.""

Andrea: "I haven't claimed it would be the final solution. Nor that this hormonal imbalance is the sole cause. But rather I think it helped one faction gain and keep control"

Reneb: "Do you wish to exlain these different factions further? What have you learned from them?"

Andrea: "Speaking of which.. What is it with this... singlemindedness. Thinking a Lurker is a Lurker? If one of them does something, they're all involved?"

Tino: "They've chosen to act as a group. They must bear responsibility for the actions of the group, or split from it."

Mizuki nods.

Isabel sits with the other The Horizon members.

Andrea glances at Ishi, then turns his head towards Tino

Andrea: "Split where?"

Tino: "Return to us perhaps?"

"That's true", says Alexandra. "We never banished them there if that's what you're saying. They could return to us at any time, if they're willing to accept responsibility for their actions."

Andrea looks up at Nanto, then at Mizuki "Do you wish to play the rest of the recording, or should I just repeat it all now?"

Mizuki looks completely unfazed.

Nanto raises his eyebrow. "If you have something to add, please do so."

Andrea snorts

Relay silently observes proceedings

Andrea seems deep in thoughts for a moment before turning towards the crowd "I'm not sure what they expect to gain from omitting certain parts of my confession. I fear I'm being manipulated in this. However.. Ma-Ti told us something.. and from the way our contact with Ma-Ti worked, we did come to a.. if not a conclusion, then an idea about some of what made people join them. One of the 'better' floatbed column six cases, to be exact."

Laura: "What do you mean?"

Laura glances at Sebastian and Nanto and frowns.

"What I'm getting at is this: If you don't feel you're treated well in this cluster, where do you go? Is it only crimes that might make people chose to take refuge? I don't doubt that some of the Lurkers became such because of this, but.. " Andrea pauses for a moment. "I don't think it's all of them. If a hormonal imbalance makes it possible for one of those criminals to take power and control the rest, then it can make a difference."

Nanto: "Please, continue."

McGregor: "I'm sorry, but there seems to be a lot of questions in there. Do we actually know any of this?"

Manny: "What we do know is that they've killed some people who've done nothing to them. All of this other stuff is just guessing and rumors!"

Andrea pauses again, then a quick glance back at Nanto, before continuing "Several things has not been mentioned here yet. The fact that Ma-Ti was also taken into custody, as far as I'm aware. We did get a blood sample of Ma-Ti. The hormonal imbalance was present. It might be, that Ma-Ti contacted us in desperation due to a power struggle amongst the Lurkers, but doesn't that suggest there's more than one opinion amongst them?"

Manny: "Guessing.."

Andrea: "Si.. as it is only a guess that they're all willing participants. Do we really know?"

Manny: "We haven't done anything to them! Why would they want to be with that group if they don't just love violence!?"

Ishi: "That was not the point. The point was that even if they are not willing participants, they stay with them and consider themselves part of that group. If they split off from us for less, as you are suggesting..."

Andrea: "Ma-Ti was clearly having trouble controlling himself, yet when we finally managed to produce a remedy and tested it, it did seem to help. And why join them? Before or after the violence flared? Staying with them? Out of fear perhaps? I know it can be seen as guesswork and assumption, but I considered them questions we couldn't ignore."

Mizuki smiles somewhat darkly again.

Laura: "There seems to be a lot of this guesswork and assumption you've based your decicions on. Had you told the ringleaders about this, at least we could have evaluated this together."

Manny: "Or maybe he's one of them full on and is just trying to defend them! Murderers!"

Mizuki raises an eyebrow, considering Manny for a moment.

Ishi shakes her head.

"Please", says Sinuhe. "Let's try to keep in mind what the charges are, shall we?"

"Agreed", says Bahar. "Manny, control yourself."

Manny: "I'll control myself when they start controlling themselves!"

Andrea narrows his eyes "Is that any less guesswork? My intentions were as mentioned; to make use of an opportunity to help our situation. If we made a bad decision there.. well.. then we did. But nothing more than that!"

Sinuhe looks at Manny. "Which is exactly what we were trying to achieve before..."

"End to the guessing!" Bahar shouts. "Does anyone have anything else tangible to say?"

Andrea: "I'm not done yet"

Andrea: "To round off the previous revelations; Ma-Ti told us that Shamha applied fear and threats to lead. True or not.. it's what we were told."

"Nonsense!" Ben snaps. "If they'd just come back to us, what could Shamha do to them? Random violence seems all she can do to anyone in the Middle Cluster."

Manny: "Oh, I thought it was the hormones that made them follow her."

Andrea sighs "Add to that the hormonal imbalance."

Andrea is beginning to look somewhat annoyed "I sure hope it's not neccesary to repeat everything in all sentences, in which case I'll never finish"

"Look", says Sinuhe. "It's a combination of many factors as is everything in life. If it seems complicated and incomprehensible to you, it is simply because that's what it is."

Manny: "What's that supposed to mean?"

Bahar: "Silence."

Andrea: "If there's nothing else, related to this particular topic, can I continue?"

Mizuki crosses her arms, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.

"I'm sorry but threatening people suffering from hormonal imbalance doesn't sound like a valid strategy of leadership", says Eleonora. "The subordinates could easily turn against the leader who's attempting to threaten them."

Eleonora: "I'd find it more feasible if she controlled the imbalanced by feeding their anger through encouragement, not conflict."

Laura: "Makes sense."

Sinuhe: "If we prefer simplifications of a complex circumstance, then yes, sense it makes..."

Andrea: "Look.. All I'm trying to say, is we believed this hormonal imbalance made things worse and tried to alleviate this. If it allowed Ma-Ti to take the leadership, then it could have had a major impact, if not, minor. But I still believe it would have helped"

Ishi sighs and shakes her head sadly again.

"I think we've been cleared of your motives", says Bahar and adds pressedly: "Did you have something to add?"

Andrea nods and looks at Laura, then McGregor "I'd simply like to know how much control there is with this Lurker investigation? How free are their reigns?"

Nanto: "Sebastian was given the authority by the Ringleader Meeting..."

"... And with authority, the responsibility", says Sebastian, who's remained silent for the entire meeting so far. "Which is why this trial needs to be two-fold."

Andrea: "Development of, admittedly, non-lethal weaponry, is sanctioned by all the ringleaders?"

Mizuki looks at Sebastian, changing her posture.

Ishi looks up at Sebastian.

Sebastian pushes this away with a wave of his hand. "Non-lethal weaponry was developed before I became leader of the project", says Sebastian. "Even though it was a wise decicion, I can't take credit for it. Instead, another matter must be settled here and now."

Andrea: "The order to trick us into believing we'd been captured by Shamha and claim we'd be killed off one by one, was sanctioned by all the ringleaders?"

Mizuki's lips twitch briefly.

Ishi looks resigned and seems to even look forward to what she suspects will come next.

Sebastian doesn't seem to be responding to Andrea at all, and as it is, most people's attentions are centered on him. "The investigation has used unorthodox methods during interrogations, and those responsible must be tried here." Sebastian walks down the stairs to stand next to Andrea and his friends. "Ringmembers Ishi and Mizuki: join me."

Andrea raises an eyebrow

Mizuki moves to stand besides Sebastian.

Ishi steps forward to take her place.

"The three of us will now stand to defend our actions", says Sebastian. "Colonist Andrea, will you read our charges?"

Ishi looks at Andrea.

Mizuki looks at Andrea

Andrea's eyes widen in shock

Tagato looks up and a touch of surprise plays on his face, his mouths curves in a small smile.

Andrea looks around the crowd, suddenly self-conscious

The Large Crowd looks at Andrea, expectantly.

Andrea sighs and looks questioningly at Bahar

Bahar nods at Andrea.

Mizuki looks up at Tagato briefly, then back to Andrea.

Andrea mutters something unintelligible to himself then speaks up "If you insist. But should we do this before investigating? That order came directly from you?"

Sebastian: "Please be more clear."

The people have started babbling again, apparently as a result of an unexpected turn.

Once again, Bahar hushes them into silence.

Andrea smiles wryly "I just find it hard to believe there wasn't any others involved in the.. unorthodox decisions. It is also somewhat.. difficult to read charges before making an opinion as to who can be said to be involved in what"

"I'm responsible for everything that happened during the investigation", Sebastian simply states.

Andrea: "I can do this with some of the more clear charges, however, and I will, if it is insisted upon"

"I volunteer to take my own part of responsibility in this," Ishi interjects after Sebastian, looking at him somewhat apologetically.

Mizuki nods. "As do I."

Andrea: "Va bene.. "

"Of course", says Sebastian, nodding to Mizuki and Ishi. "Responsibility isn't a
zero-sum matter, however."

Relay looks as if he was about to say something, but kept his silence

Andrea speaks up "Ishi, you are charged with applying a psycological form of torture. Mizuki, charged with knowingly collaborating in applying said torture as well as the use and application of unsanctioned weaponry. Sebastian, you are charged with the development of unsanctioned weaponry, as well as in knowingly ordering the use hereof as well as the torture." Andrea pauses and looks slightly appologetic "That's the best, I can do without an investigation"

"All right", says Bahar, perhaps a bit unsure of how to proceed. "Let's begin with psychological torture. Tell us more about this, Andrea."

"Well", says Sinuhe. "We were led to believe we were held captive by the Lurkers."

Ishi looks at Andrea again, expectantly.

Mizuki studies Andrea, frowning a bit at the edges of her eyes, looking thoughtful.

Aviah: "They threatened to kill us!"

"... but one", Sinuhe points out. "I think that one was a true work of art."

"Va bene.. When we were caught, it was by people wearing black masks and we were rendered unconscious. As a result, we woke up in a dark room, with very little information about our captors." Andrea pauses, seemingly considering something "As we were trying to test this remedy on Ma-Ti and since he was also going against some of the Lurkers.. when a dark silhouette of a woman appeared in the door, and threatened us, spoke of what they'd do to us.. kill us off, si. We were led to believe it was the Lurkers having taken us"

The Large Crowd gasps.

"This is outrageous!" Laura yells. "No Ringleader Meeting has ever approved of such inhumane methods!"

Sebastian stands still, as if not having heard Laura at all, focusing on Andrea instead.

Ishi raises her eyebrow a bit and inclines her head at Andrea, as if to tell him to go on.

"Defendants", says Bahar. "How do you defend? Sebastian?"

Andrea continues "It's a bit vague now, but.. she started out by saying Ma-Ti had been killed. As he wasn't with us. Then.. told us she'd use us as an example for the rest of the cluster

Ishi looks questioningly in Andrea's direction again.

"The reason for this method", says Sebastian, "was to verify Colonists Sinuhe, Aviah, and Andrea had not been in direct dealings with the Lurkers. We all know by now that the Lurkers have willing associates among us. The reactions of these colonists proved beyond reasonable doubt that they indeed weren't in dealings with Shamha, only Ma-Ti, and can thus be treated less harshly than they would be otherwise. It is regretful we had to resort to such questionable methods but as we know, fear drops all the masks."

Laura frowns at Sebastian's explanation. "And no other method could be found? And, again, no one thought of consulting the other ringleaders?"

Andrea looks from Sebastian to Laura then continues almost mechanically "Also.. asking us to decide which of us should be the 'messenger' to the rest of the cluster before seemingly changing her mind and pointing someone out"

Sebastian: "Ishi - the one performing as Shamha - had the orders to act like Shamha to the best of her ability."

Andrea: "Do orders make one excused?"

Ishi: "Why do you think I'm here?"

Mizuki nods at Ishi's words.

Andrea: "Exactly.. since you're there, I thought we'd get it all into the open to judge wisely"

Ishi: "Then go on and tell them all of it."

Mizuki looks at Andrea.

Andrea nods "I'm getting to it."

Ishi nods.

Sebastian: "I have nothing to add at this point."

The crowds have gone silent, everyone listening with anticipation.

"After we'd been left in that belief for a while.. how long.. " Andrea shrugs "Dark without necklink access. I only know it's been a couple of days since we were captured. Nevertheless, I was taken from the room first, and set down to interrogation by Mizuki. Seeing her, made me realize what had happened. During this talk, she expressed regret at the previous actions and I made her promise to tell the others back in the room in an attempt to alleviate their fears. I believe she did."

Bahar nods.

Andrea: "Later, all four of us had been interrogated and had to wait back in the cell, I was told Ishi wished to speak with me. I accepted and was led back to the same room, were Ishi told me it was she who had played the part of Shamha. She was not happy with it, believed it to be wrong, but she'd followed orders. She appeared to be sincerely regretting her actions""

Ben: "I think anyone would."

Andrea looks up at Ishi "If there's more I have missed, it is not intentional. Please add on to it, if I've forgotten anything"

Ishi nods at Andrea. "Do I get my say now?" Ishi asks of Bahar.

Bahar: "Please do."

"I promised I would be judged for this and here I am." Ishi takes a breath. "My voice, among others, was measured with some device and I was told I came closest to Shamha. I was told we would need to pretend to be Lurkers and instill fear so that we would get a confession. Later, this turned out to be wrong, they just wanted to know if they were working with Shamha. I could have vouched for this, I know Andrea, and to a sufficient extent, Sinuhe. If the real reason had been known to me I would have flat out refused, but that is irrelevant, because I should have anyway."

Ishi: "I questioned the usefulness of this method for the purpose of getting a confession, but in the end I trusted in someone's judgement, thinking I was missing something and afterwards it would be clear to me."

Ishi: "This is also no excuse. I should have trusted my initial judgement."

"So..." says Laura. "Are you saying this was a mistake?"

Ishi: "Even if we got a confession out of it, and even if it showed beyond a doubt that they did not work with Shamha, this was wrong and should never have happened."

Ishi: "I don't know if you can call such a thing a mistake."

Ishi: "But I'm not done."

Hansila: "What would you call it then?"

Ishi: "A crime of course. That is why we are here. Can I go on now?"

Mizuki smiles very slightly.

Ishi looks around, waiting.

Andrea just stands still, waiting

Bahar: "Please... Go on."

Tagato watches the scene with an amused expression on his face.

Sebastian stands still, face untelling.

The crowds look baffled and surprised.

"So, I went to their cell and spoke. I did not know if I was going to be able to do this, because I did not want to do this to anyone, much less someone I like." Ishi looks sad. "Regrettably I surprised myself. I don't remember if I was told what to say, initially, but I know I came up with most of it myself. I modelled it after the real Shamha, when she spoke like this to my group when we were really her prisoners."

Ishi: "I was more verbal than she, I think, and more subtle, but mostly I imitated her methods as best I remembered."

"I remember what it feels like, to be on the receiveing end..." Ishi seemingly drifts off a bit.

Ishi glances at Tagato.

"So", says Ami. "What should have been done?"

Ishi looks up. "What do you mean? And I'm still not done."

Ami: "If this course of action was wrong, and a crime, what should have been done?"

Ishi: "I'll get to that."

Ami speaks stressedly and loudly, with force in her low bass voice.

Tagato watches Ishi, and gives her just a slightest nod, a touch of sadness on his face.

Sebastian listens to the exchange.

Ishi: "It truly is unspeakable torture. I don't know if anyone is interested in hearing some of the things that were said, and I don't literally recall all of it, but I remember some..."

Ishi: "I think to understand better, even if not fully, people might need to hear."

Andrea closes his his eyes for a few seconds

Mizuki looks at Ami again, with a softer expression on her face than her usual completely neutral look.

Ishi: "No one?"

Ami raises her eyebrow.

Ami: "Just say it then."

The Large Crowd is listening intently.

They're apparently very interested.

Mizuki frowns slightly, a flicker of doubt in her eyes, looking at the crowd.

Ishi shrugs. "As they said, there were threatened with the death of all but one of them. I think I started by saying that they did not see all of them in their cell because they were the only ones left alive."

Relay stares at nothing

Ishi: "I also taunted them with the possibility of freedom. If they would betray the others."

The Large Crowd gasps.

Andrea looks at Sinuhe and Aviah, then scans the crowd

Ishi: "I'm happy to report not one of them bit."

Ishi: "I didn't expect them to, but for a moment I feared one would."

Sinuhe looks a bit taken back for a moment.

"So", says Ami. "Did you hit them?"

Ami: "Touch them?"

Mizuki looks at Sinuhe for a brief moment.

Andrea shakes his head

"She offered this to us as well, when all but one were under inhibitors..." Ishi recalls again, a bit unfocused. "I don't actually know if anyone but me was offered the same back then..."

Ishi: "Hmm? No, as far as I know no one was even in the room with them, or they'd have seen it was me."

Ami: "How long did all of this last?"

Ishi: "Not very long."

Andrea: "Scuzi, I must interrupt here. I did state the charge being psychological torture. Not physical"

Ishi: "In the end, we would not have been able to back up any of the threats and it was clear that they were not any more inclined to confess because of this, even if that was not the actual goal, and indeed it may have delayed things a lot..."

Ami: "So you, what, scared them off for half an hour, maybe? Made them fear death?"

Ishi: "I think I just said that. Can I go on now?"

Ishi: "You can save your questions for afterwards."

Ishi: "Just note them down."

Ami: "How can you seriously make such major fuss about three people charged for assisting the *Lurkers* fearing death for a few minutes? If I had the luxury of, just once, finding out my fear of death wasn't real when I had it, I'd thank the world for it!"

Ami doesn't seem to be in the mood for courtesies and court procedures, and her voice is a good match for Bahar's.

Andrea looks tired

Some in the crowd nod at Ami's remark.

Others shake their heads.

Mizuki seems to be struggling keeping her face neutral, though what she is feeling is still hard to see.

Ishi mutters. "I see my final suggestion is much needed." Ishi just ignores Ami. "Afterwards I questioned my own sanity for having gone through with it. It was no matter of simply following orders liek some kind of drone, if that even exists, because that is not what I am. I made a choice."

Hansila: "Just because we live in a world of fear doesn't give us the right to apply *torture*!"

Ishi: "Indeed."

Relay looks slightly exasperated

Ami: "So *what exactly* should have been done?"

"Ends don't justify means. And I'd like people to remember that and apply it to more situations than this one." Ishi continues. "So I told Andrea what I'd done and trusted he'd convey the message. I was too ashamed to tell them all at once. I said I'd try to see it brought to trial and I did."

Ishi: "What should have been done is trusting that they were not working with Shamha, of course. Enough people would have been able to vouch for each of them. Even if it was a risk it should have been taken. We don't have to stoop to their level in this fight, or we lose more than we think."

Hansila nods. "Makes perfect sense. If we went this far any time we have doubts about something, we'd be swimming in blood before we know."

Ishi: "Anyway. I have this more to say:"

Ben: "Trust them? They just tricked the entire tower.."

Ishi sighs, annoyed. "There are different types of trust."

Ishi: "Can I make a final statement?"

Andrea frowns at Ben's outburst

"Yes, you can!" Bahar shouts and is surprised to find out he didn't have to yell over Ami at this time.

The notion about trusting Andrea and the others doesn't seem to be very well received among the crowds.

"I would like people to keep something in mind." Ishi says. "You cannot treat someone in any way you like just because they have committed a crime, or are suspected of such. Likewise, being treated badly does not somehow make you right in all matters." Ishi takes a breath and seems to muster courage. "I have a suggestion to make. I know in the end we will all be judged. I'd like to ask, just for myself, not for my Ring, that you consider trying this: It feels to me like a some people here are not taking any self-reflection. Not considering others' point of view. This might have made a difference in all of this. Certain courses may not have been taken if things were considered by certain people, that others' did consider. I am wondering if it is possible to make a simulation. The viewpoints of people on the Investigation, of a few outsiders, and of Andrea and his companions will be loaded into it. Their knowledge and feelings, and such. Then people would be able to load the simulation and see from those points of view. I think this will accomplish more than punishment, whatever it is. Not much can be learned from that, but this has the possibility to actually teach. Afterwards, having seen others'  viewpoints, more reasoned conclusions could be come to by the one who now has a broader experience."

Ishi: "That was long. I think Im done now. Unless anyone thinks of anythign else."

Mizuki looks around the crowd, waiting for their response.

The people seem baffled by the simulator idea.

Relay looks slightly curious

Andrea seems surprised as well

Hansila smiles. "We don't have the technology for this - it would require many things we're seeking in the Knowledge Transfer Project taken to the extreme - but I think this is an absolutely wonderful idea!"

Ishi: "I hope we can accomplish it sooner than we think. Punishment will serve no purpose except give some people a warm feeling inside. It will not help those punished."

Hansila: "I've always said that all the tower needs is that people understand each other through dialogue, but this is even better! I'm looking forward to researching this with you, Ishi!"

"More important than punishment", says Nanto, "is to make sure these things don't happen again. This should be the focus when we consider what to do with our criminals."

Ishi: "All of them."

Nanto: "Of course."

Mizuki waits for a moment, then speaks. "I would also like to speak, before any judgement is decided on."

Bahar: "Mizuki, what did you wish to say?"

Tagato smiles slightly, watching 3 of his batch on this strange trial.

Mizuki nods to Bahar, then looks at Andrea. "I am guilty of the interrogation part of your accusation, and will admit this.", she says, bowing her head slightly. "I was the leader of the interrogation process, and I was standing next to Ishi as she acted as Shamha. I adviced her on some of the things to say.", the dark-haired woman explains. "I also agree that we did indeed put fear into you."

Bahar nods. "Is that all?"

Andrea nods slightly

"Iie. I wish to say that the Free Colonists accused have shown a complete lack of regret of their own actions. At all times, they have thought what they did was the good thing to do, while we who have stopped them have been the evil ones, mindlessly following orders and not being able to see what is right. Their lacking self-reflection and arrogance in believing they can go against democratic decisions passed by the tower and still feel morally superior to those of us who stop them has been complete.", she says slowly, looking displeased with the attention she is getting. "Their arrogance in believing their own views to be the right ones rivals the arrogance they attribute to my own ring, which I find interesting.", she goes on. "However, I wish to say that this means I believe they are indeed sincere in their belief that what they did would be for the good of the tower.", Mizuki ends. "That is all."

"Good", says Bahar. "Anything else or shall we move to the charges about the weapons?"

Andrea's face reddens and his eyes narrows "It would perhaps.. have been better had we taken one trial at a time"

Tagato watches intently as Mizuki speaks.

"I would like to close this one first", says Sebastian.

Bahar nods.

Sebastian: "Before I make my statement I'd like us to spend a moment remembering Aleksei and the other brave Firefighters who perished with him. They are not dead because Li Ping was a Lurker - they're dead because we did not know it."

Ishi shakes her head.

Sebastian: "What we've committed in the course of the investigation is a crime - in all the books of law of the Technocracy. What matters in this tower, however, is the consequences of our actions. Due to our actions, Colonists Sinuhe, Andrea, and Aviah experienced mortal fear and great personal intimidation. Now, they're alive and healthy. If they so choose, they can find solace in the fact that they've proven their innocence to anything beyond naivete.""

Sebastian: "Our crime still stands, however, and we're willing to take any repercussions the colony wishes to subject us to."

Mizuki nods, looking at the crowd.

Some in the Large Crowd seem to have been impressed by the speech but most still seem to find the whole matter appalling.

Relay stares at all of the accused

Ishi is looking mostly at Andrea.

Bahar: "Well, I think that concludes this part."

Bahar: "Let's move on the the weaponry. Andrea, will you elaborate your charges?"

Andrea shrugs "I think it's apparent that I was thrust into this role as accusator without any chance of investigation or preparation. I know nothing more than the fact that they have these weapons"

Isabel: "Well, it seems they've admitted to all your charges so far, so what's the problem?"

Ishi: "May I?"

Andrea waves his acceptance at Ishi

After a while, Sebastian nods to Ishi.

Ishi: "The stunning weapons were developed almost at the start of the Investigation, long before our Ring took over. They are nothing more than sedations, in a projectile form, created because we found that the Lurkers had long-range weapons, so we could take them out without harming them without having to get close. No one has even hidden their existence, they've been worn openly and they've been talked about plenty of times. By me, for example, after I was resqued from down there with Tagato. I'd be surprised if no one else here remembers them at all."

"This is correct", says Sebastian. "We admit they were used in the course of this investigation to sedate the colonists under investigation."

"Hai.", Mizuki agrees.

Hansila looks baffled. "No..."

The Prophet: "There were weapons already?"

"This is correct", says Reneb. "This is basically common knowledge, and I don't know why this charge was ever made."

"Their usage was wrong then and it's wrong now", says Sinuhe. "It being common knowledge only means the investigation will be far easier."

Andrea sighs "Very well. If this was known and accepted by the tower population, this particular charge is retreacted"

Sinuhe: "That tower population never included me."

Andrea has a peculiar smile on his lips

Sinuhe: "One of the reasons, in fact, that made me realize this 'investigation' was going to cause more problems than it would solve. I rest my case."

Hansila and some people around her nod.

"Perhaps this would sound more righteous, had you included the tower population you refer to into your own decisions Sinuhe.", Mizuki suggests.

Sinuhe: "I'm simply stating facts, Mizuki."

Andrea: "As already stated, I see no reason to continue with these particular charges with the current information."

Bahar: "Well then. I think we're concluded."

Reneb: "I think we're going to need some time to process this. The question is, what shall be done to the charged while we're deliberating?"

Laura: "We could place them in sealed floatbeds temporarily, and reconvene in two weeks to decide their final fate."

"In floatbeds?" Jake sounds startled.

Ishi mutters. "Better not be another Blackout"

Andrea smiles wryly

Nanto: "I think this makes sense. The other options would be to release them, or return them to their cell."

Laura: "Can anyone provide reasonable guarantee that if they're released, they won't be joining the Lurkers once they're out of here?"

Ishi sighs.

Andrea suddenly laughs "I doubt we'd be welcome there"

Laura: "That's true."

Tagato smiles, opens his mouths but stays silent after all.

Nanto: "I believe we can release you for now."

No one seems to argue against release.

Andrea's laugh trails off as the circumstances reasserts themselves on him

Ishi: "You could place us all under constant surveillance? If you want to be more appeased."

Andrea sighs "Si.. I suppose we're used to this"

Ben: "You mean place Sebastian, you, and Mizuki under surveillance too? It makes no sense."

Hansila: "It would certainly be fairer that way."

Mizuki frowns slightly.

Ishi: "You never know when next I'll threaten people's lives under the guise of someone else... If you think there's a risk of them joining the Lurkers then you have to take that risk just as seriously."

Sebastian: "I will do whatever the tower decides, of course."

Relay appears relieved

Mizuki nods.

After some argument, the people finally decide to place all of the accused under surveillance of their locations and personal transmissions.

Andrea simply says "Si"

It's agreed that TSR is consulted in order to arrange this.

Mizuki doesn't look very pleased, though she agrees to everything.

Andrea runs a tired hand over his eyes and mutters "I hope we'll be allowed to wait for that surveillance in the floatbeds"

In the end, people take pity on Andrea and the others and allow them to enter their floatbeds.

Ishi: "If it's ok I'd like to spend some time in the floatbeds as well. Before or after the surveillance is fixed."

The people accept.