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CH 4: P. - DAY ONE
 
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THE HALL OF THE FOUNTAINS, CHAPTER 4: PROCESS - DAY ONE

HOF4-0
     The package containing official documents was delivered to Bruce the next day. The accusation was DCC—Death-Causing Crime—instead of PDCC, and it was issued to the Person in Custody, namely Virgil Bruce Scott, by the ECW Juridical Commission assembled on the Work Base Iradina 41.
     The Process was scheduled to start in five conventional days, after the Accusing Voice arrived on the Base—the Honorable Vort Enai Natral, a prominent lawyer from the great Planet Karan in the Oda System. He was representing a Beneficiary-Group which was powerful enough to be granted total anonymity, until the end of the Process. Only if the Accused party would win, the anonymity of the Beneficiary-Group had to be officially revealed, or traded. However, nothing legal prevented Bruce to start his own investigations regarding the identity of the people hiding behind the Beneficiary-Group name.
     Bruce and the Honorable Vort Enai Natral were going to debate the Process from inside of their own quarters, assisted by holographic technology. If both parties would have agreed on public broadcast, then the Process was going to become a live event on the Work Base Iradina 41, and throughout the Equal Coalition Worlds. There was, however, a great danger in publicly broadcasted debates since they ended, almost always, in particularly harsh penalties, in order to present an example of severe social justice to the public audience.

     Baan and Ab started organizing a few teams of Technicians to work on information gathering. There were two main leads to follow: one was the deceased, namely Jurgin Eben Haber from the Rudva System; the other lead was the lawyer, the Honorable Vort Enai Natral. Both leads were going to be searched and researched as much as possible for any possible clues or . . . leverages! In the same time, Troxi was working with Bruce on top-secret technical data analysis.
     Very soon it became obvious that he gang needed to be re-structured into levels of trust. The first level was the initial group with Bruce, Baan, Ab, R’Ezan, and Troxi. The second level was the teams of Technicians working with Baan and Ab on information, and the third level was R’Ezan and his underground connections—if there was going to be any need for that.
     Meanwhile, the Process became a greatly anticipated event, and the favorite topic of discussions for everybody on Iradina 41.
HOF4-1
   Finally, the day came when Bruce met face to holographic face with Honorable Vort Enai Natral. They both started by presenting to each other their official documents, including their personal registration codes. Natral, an Administrative Level 33, was near the end of his working career at 174 conventional years—still looking very sharp and full of spirit—and he was, for certain, a reputable lawyer. The man had yellow-gray skin color, a rather big bald head with lemon shaped blue eyes shadowed by bushy gray eyebrows, and proportional nose and mouth. Bruce found out that his opponent had spent his last 73 conventional years on the job in top managerial positions. That was a particularly important detail, since it meant that Mr. Natral was overconfident!
     The overall procedure was, the Accusing party would ask for clarifications, and the Accused was expected to explain. The Accused, in turn, could ask questions, and the Accusing Voice was also supposed to answer them. It was, in fact, a dialog with a few simple rules. Each party was free to answer the questions, or not, though each unanswered topic counted as a partial Admission of Guilt into a complex set of calculations based on a judicial fairness formula.
     The ECW Juridical Commission was formed by unknown officials assembled in a remote location, and it was monitoring the Process for compliance with the existing rules. They had the power to interrupt the Process, to declare truce or victory to one party, to ask written questions, to issue penalties, to initiate governmental investigations and, finally, to officially validate the entire procedure.
HOF4-2
     It started with a written question from Commission, “Do you agree to a public Process?”
     “Are you prepared to go public, Mr. Scott?” asked Mr. Natral with a faint ironic smile, while watching Bruce with his head turned to one side.
     Bruce answered in a relaxed attitude, “Of course I am prepared, Sir. However, there are a few wise words advising us that, ‘the first to die is always the first one who unsheathes the dagger’. The issue here, Sir, is not if I am prepared to go public or not; it is if I want to go public with this Process.
     In order to protect my Protégée, and for the good interest of your Beneficiary-Group, Sir, I intend to decline public broadcast.”
     The smile on Mr. Natral’s face turned broader. He replied, “I see you like to express your answers using plenty of fancy words, Mr. Scott. My Beneficiary-Group wishes to declare this Process public. Do you agree, Sir?”
     “Sir, the way I see it, you intend to use the threat of a public scandal against my Protégée, in order to force us into Admission of Guilt. Remember the proverb I just mentioned, Sir. I am appealing now again at your good judgment: please, do not to start this Process as a public one.”
     The Honorable Vort Enai Natral remained silent for a few moments looking at his private K-link interface, then he replied, “No, Mr. Scott. I am sorry, but my party insists that we proceed only with a public Process. Do you agree, Sir?”
     That was a very dangerous decision for Bruce. If he refused the Accusation’s invitation to a public Process, it was the equivalent of almost 20 percent Admission of Guilt. That was 20 percent before the Process was even started! He paused and watched Mr. Natral’s hologram for some time, then he decided, “You leave me no choice, Sir, but to accept.”
     Mr. Natral turned his face away, in order to mask his feelings. He said only, “Good.”
     The lawyer appeared to be pleased, and very trustful. Bruce watched Mr. Natral carefully, as he avoided any unnecessary eye contact, and he concluded that lawyer’s intentions were definitely very dangerous.
     Both of them answered “Yes” to Commission’s question. A blinking yellow “Wait” word appeared on each Commission’s K-link interface: the broadcast was started, and it took some time to catch up from the very beginning.

     The blinking yellow “Wait” word changed into a continuous blue “Start” one. Mr. Natral was the one to launch the first question; he said, “Mr. Scott; are you a Hinna citizen?”
     “Yes, Sir.”
     “But you were not born in the Hinna Planetary System, were you?”
     “No, Sir.”
     “Where were you born, Mr. Scott?”
     “I was born on Planet Ter-Ra, of the Ra Planetary System, in the Milky-Way Galaxy.”
     “How did it happen that you became a Hinna citizen, Mr. Scott?”
     “While I was on my birth Planet, I slipped through a natural spatial-fracture to Hinna. As you are probably aware, those natural spatial-fractures are still an enigma, and many wonder if they are simply spatial-fractures, or spatial-temporal-fractures.”
     “Thank you, Mr. Scott. Could you, please, describe how it happened in details?”
     That was an embarrassing situation for Bruce. It was obvious the lawyer intended to build up some public antipathy towards his person, before anything else. He said, “Mr. Natral, I worked on my Personal File for two conventional years on Hinna. If you want, I can grant you free access to it, Sir.”
     “Thank you, Mr. Scott, that shall not be necessary. Please answer to my question.”
     Bruce explained, “I was sailing my boat on Planet Ter-Ra, when I noticed a strange looking greenish fog ahead of me. Soon I entered that fog, then I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was landed on a crop field on Planet Hinna-Prime, and I had great problems breathing because the air was different from the one I knew. I lost my perception again, then I woke up in a hospital bed. Hinna doctors worked on adapting my physiology to the local conditions for about sixty conventional days, before I started breathing and eating normally.”
     Mr. Natral was not even listening; he kept himself busy with his private K-link interface. He said, “Please, continue Mr. Scott. I would like to hear how you managed to become an ECW certified Level 12 Technician.”
     “During the first two conventional years I learned the Hinna Unified Language, and I cooperated with the Hinna Government towards building my Personal File. When the File was completed, I was offered the Hinna Adoption Citizenship which I accepted.
     The first thing I did when I got a Credit Account was to buy an advanced translation unit, then I programmed it with the language I used on Ter-Ra. That helped, and it still helps me, to understand and manage many technical terms, measuring units, and conversions. Because I had had an advanced technical education on my birth Planet, I decided to challenge the ECW Technical Levels. It took me about one and a half conventional years to pass each Technical Level, up to Level 12.”
     “Are there, Mr. Scott, any physical or physiological differences between you and any other race of the ECW?” asked Mr. Natral while turning his head to look squarely at Bruce.
     “Yes, Sir, there are. I was told the closest ECW race to my anatomy and physiology lives in the Ba’Ta’Gy System. Doctors, however, have completely adapted my physiology to the standard ECW environment.”
     “I am certain they did it, Mr. Scott, I am certain they did . . . How old were you on your birth Planet?” asked Mr. Natral while continuing to look at Bruce.
     “I was 45 Ter-Ra years old, Sir.”
     “Noo, Mr. Scott. Please, answer the question in percentages relative to your entire life span, on your birth Planet.”
     “On Ter-Ra, I spent anywhere between 45 to 55 percent of my life span.”
     Mr. Natral appeared to be surprised, “That is so incredible, Mr. Scott! What is your biological age, now?”
     “I was advised to use a new biological age, which is 67 to date, out of a life span of more than 200 conventional years.”
     “Ha, ha! It should’ve been most amazing to you to become a very young person again; wouldn’t it, Mr. Scott?”
     Mr. Natral appeared to be way too much interested in that unrelated subject. To Bruce, his attitude meant imminent danger. He replied cautiously, “It was; at first, Sir.”
     “Have you been married on your birth Planet, Mr. Scott?”
     That question touched an unhealed wound inside Bruce’s memories. He replied nervously, “Mr. Natral, I would like to protest, Sir! Your questions regarding my personal life have no bearings to this Process. Besides, I repeat that I shall grant you a complete access to my Personal File on Hinna.”
     “Do you refuse to answer, Mr. Scott?” asked Mr. Natral, and his voice was all honey.
     No, Sir! Yes, I have been married on my birth Planet.”
     “Did you have any children from that marriage, Sir?”
     “Yes, Sir, I did.”
     “How many, Mr. Scott?”
     “Two.”
     “What about now? Do you intend to marry again and father other children? That is, of course, if your physiology allows it.”
     “I was told I could marry and have children, Sir. However, I do not intend to do so.”
     “Never, Mr. Scott?”
     “Sir, I would like to protest: your question makes no sense!”
     “And why is that, Mr. Scott?”
     “Because I cannot answer NOW if I shall marry again or not. I have a long life span ahead of me, and many things may, and they for certain will, change into the future.”
     “Your protest is noted, Sir. However, it is our intention that you tell us what you think NOW about another marriage in the ECW.”
     “Now, I do not think I shall marry again, Sir.”
     Mr. Natral appeared to be delighted by the answer. He paused for a few moments smiling very pleased, then said, “I am not an expert, Mr. Scott, but I was told that you are quite handsome, as a man, among the ECW races. I would like to know if you do not want to marry again because you find the ECW Ladies ugly, and they are not worthy to you.”
     It became clear to Bruce that Mr. Natral intended to discredit his person, before anything else. He paused and tried to relax, then said, “Sir, I reserve the right to answer your question, after you answer one of mine. Are you a racist, Mr. Natral?”
     It was lawyer’s turn to be nervous. He replied, “What? No, Sir, I am not a racist!”
     Bruce continued pushing the subject, “Then, could you please detail why you keep on asking questions related to my race and physiology?”
     Mr. Natral explained, “Mr. Scott, you are an exceptional individual, and you DO HAVE physical, physiological, and psychical differences, when you relate to ANY race of the ECW. It is our intention to ask the Government of Hinna to reconsider their Adoption Citizenship, based on those differences. Does my answer satisfy your question, Mr. Scott?”
     Bruce took it as a low, hard blow—very hard! He decided that it was the right time to start his own offensive. He said, “Thank you, Mr. Natral. I understand your point of view, and I shall answer your question after I finish commenting your last answer.
     You say you are not a racist, Sir, yet you DO TRY to strip me of my Hinna Citizenship based on racial differences which you have mentioned to be physical, physiological, and psychical. I cannot deny that there are a few minor physical differences—I presume it was your intention to say anatomical, not physical—therefore there are also particular physiological characteristics generated by my unique anatomy.
     However, inside the ECW there are very many people different from everybody else: those who have suffered severe accidents. We know that those people who had about sixty percent of their body reconstructed in laboratory—hence they are unlike any other ECW citizen—are still perfectly good, valid ECW citizens. I can provide you a partial list with the ECW citizens who had sixty percent or more of their bodies reconstructed artificially . . . Here it is,” said Bruce when the data popped on his K-link—it came from Ab’s Communications Center.
     He continued, “As you can see, Sir, in a first approximation our count is 17,624,343 people. Anyway, in a near future it may be sufficient to save only the brain of a person, or even a part of the brain, in order to recreate that person. My point is, both the anatomical and physiological differences you have mentioned, Mr. Natral, are not important when we define the ECW Citizenship requirements.
     As for the psychical differences, Sir, I do not believe you will ever succeed in proving anything, because there are very specific, legal, psychical requirements for ALL the citizens of the ECW. The ONLY legal requirement is this: SANE citizens give their agreement or disagreement FREELY, when asked. That is all, Sir! Personal opinions are just personal opinions, and everybody is responsible for their own deeds.
     Now, regarding your intention to ask the Government of Hinna to denounce my Citizenship, it is your privilege to do so, based on the ‘Freedoms and Privileges Act’ of the ECW citizens. However, you should also ask the ECW Technical Examination Commissions from Level 1 to 12 to denounce me, because each ECW Technical Level IS EQUIVALENT to the ECW Citizenship!
     I needed the Hinna Adoption Citizenship status only for admission to the first Technical Level; after that, each Technical Level qualification comes, automatically, with the ECW Citizenship. I am confident you are aware, Mr. Natral, that Personal Registration Code changes with each new Level of qualification. However, in case you have any reservations about my statements, Sir, I can provide all the statutes and the entire legislation I mentioned here, at your request.
     To end this topic, I strongly encourage you to study the ‘Formation Act’ of the ECW itself. You could read there, Mr. Natral, the definition of the ‘Premises and Criteria’ for the very foundation of the Coalition. The Premises and Criteria document state that any World joining the Coalition MUST have its people of a race as defined by Drs. Kull-Mosky: that is, intelligent and carbon-based organisms.
     That is all, Sir! No physical—or anatomical—no psychical, and no physiological references! Even more, according to the ‘Formation Act’ of the ECW, I could ask that Planet Ter-Ra of the Ra Planetary System in the Milky-Way Galaxy to be included into the ECW, with I being THE ONLY REPRESENTATIVE, because the Formation Act says NOTHING about a World of the ECW belonging to another Galaxy. It is my strong conviction that subtle nuance has been intentionally omitted, because the origin of the Planet DOES NOT MATTER!
     Now, I shall answer to your question. No, Sir, I do not find the ECW Ladies ugly, or not worthy. Is my answer sufficient, or you want me to detail it?”
HOF4-3
     The honorable Vort Enai Natral was finished, and he knew it. His mistake had been, he didn’t expect a low level Technician to attack him with the same weapons he used: harm to the reputation, based on legislation. It was too late when he realized that, given Mr. Scott’s unique situation, he had studied the ECW legislation intensively, in order to protect himself. Even worse, Mr. Scott was right about everything he had said. The ECW legislation was intentionally very loose, and it had as a psychical legal requirement for all its citizens only the sane voluntary acceptance.
     He had planned to scare and to destroy the insignificant Technician with his knowledge and reputation; instead, he became terrified by Mr. Scott’s erudition! He had been caught on the wrong foot, therefore the best way out was to abandon the day’s debates.
     For the first time during that meeting Mr. Natral bothered to examine Mr. Scott’s facial complexion attentively. Next, he discovered something there that shook him right up to the marrow of his bones, as never before in his entire life! He saw a faint ironic smile, much relaxation, and inside those intelligent alien eyes there was . . . PITY!

     Mr. Natral replied, “No, Mr. Scott, we are pleased with your answer. We would like to close the debates for today until tomorrow morning. Do you agree, Sir?”
     The man was finished, and his voice sounded more like begging. He was perspiring noticeably, and he had haunted looks in his eyes. “That is a perfectly good picture for public broadcast!” thought Bruce with satisfaction. He felt pity for the man, though he couldn’t afford to be too generous because the Process was just started, and many unpleasant issues were waiting to be unveiled.
     He said, “Frankly, you surprise me, Mr. Natral. We were just about to warm up this Process, a little bit. I am confident that, with some efforts, we can make it even interesting . . . for our public audience.” He paused and watched smilingly at his opponent. The man looked terrified and he didn’t dare to reply. Bruce continued pushing the lawyer in an ironic tone of voice, “There are so many exciting topics we need to explore, Mr. Natral! Wouldn’t you like to reconsider your proposal of closure?”
     The lawyer replied hastily, appearing to be scared, “No, no, Mr. Scott! We need little time to gather more data for this Process. We appeal at . . . at your generosity, Sir, to . . . to conclude the debates for today.”
     Bruce felt well satisfied with the existing situation, and he decided that it was the perfect moment to end the day. He said, “I must admit, Sir, that nothing gives me more pleasure than to gratify a decent sincere request. I agree to conclude the debates for today, Sir.”
     “Thank you very much, Sir,” managed Mr. Natral to articulate, then he quickly severed his holographic connection.

     That night was celebration inside the Hall. It was, possibly, the first time when everybody drank the waters of the Fountains just for fun, and for good disposition. They didn’t even bother to reach the orange drink because the red one had, in fact, a better taste!

     Later, the gang met in Ab’s suite, the Communications Center, where they had long and hot discussions until late into the night. It was obvious that it was useless to further look for mistakes into Honorable Vort Enai Natral’s life. Consequently, Ab’s group was assigned to work with Baan’s on investigations into the life of the deceased, Mr. Jurgin Eben Haber, because they had uncovered many unusual—though greatly promising—facts!

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