Friday, September 26, 2130, New York

Six hundred and fifty physical people were killed when the St Regis Hotel was blown up in 2130, along with hundreds more injured, who could mostly be put back together again. The hotel was fully booked. By 7 am on Thursday morning a complaint against the Assembly had been lodged with the independent judicial tribunal by Ferdinand Weber, Member of the Executive Management Group of the Educational Advisory Committee of the Assembly, with the evidence in chief being a recording of a meeting of the Educational Executive Management Group on Monday September 24th and a timed record of the destruction of e-clones belonging to a number of 15-18 year group students on Wednesday the 26th, together with copies of the programs which initiated the destruction and their originating protocols.

According to procedure, the Plenary sitting of the Assembly was suspended and its executive powers removed for the duration of the hearing, which took place in the Tribunal's own building on Wall Street, once occupied by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an institution that was no longer needed after 2070.

To people unfamiliar with the conduct of such tribunals, the layout of the courtroom was superficially reassuring. A bench was there for judges, and in front a lower rank of desks occupied by three robotic assessors, all of whom wore black robes and legal wigs. But the judges' seats remained unoccupied throughout, since they were entirely robotic and it was thought inappropriate to give them the appearance of human personality or facial muscles to be used for expression. Their pronouncements were made through the black-robed intermediaries.

This was not a court of law, allowing for cross-examination, juries, and the cut-and-thrust of opposing counsel. It was a quiet place, designed to elicit the factual content of claims and counter-claims, leading to a decision on the part of the 'judges' as to what charges should be brought against which individuals. These charges would then be tried in separate civil and criminal courts, also robotic, with a right of appeal to a sub-Committee of the Assembly, which is hardly ever exercised.

For individuals, sanctions can include loss of contribution and educational status, or in severe cases involving loss of life, transportation to stellar colonies, along with destruction of one's 'fizz' body. Transported individuals are permitted to re-create physical clones of themselves in the colony, and to 'begin again' in neural terms, but the evidence remains mixed after only forty years as to whether this is a truly successful technique.

At the tribunal, given that all evidence exists in electronic form and has been seen in advance by all parties, proceedings are often quite brief. Witnesses are of two kinds: compulsory and optional. Although this was the first occasion on which the Assembly impeachment procedure had been called into play, that didn't phase the tribunal, which had long ago worked out how to proceed, if it ever happened. According to the procedure, the Assembly had to be physically represented at the tribunal by its Chairperson and the Chairpersons of the Three Advisory Committees. The complainant also had to be present. And anyone else wishing to make a deposition could do so. The four 'ex officio' Assembly officers could be represented by counsel, as could the complainant. The media and the public could be admitted at the discretion of the tribunal. And indeed every seat in the public gallery was packed.

John, Jocelyn and the nineteen other surviving members of the three groups were seated on the floor of the tribunal, as material parties to the affair, as was Michael. Robotic attendants were placed around the chamber at intervals. Law enforcement officers, in fact, with powers given by the general law or delegated by the tribunal.

At 9 am precisely a gentle, insistent gong sounded and a hush fell in the room. "The tribunal will come to order," said the central seated robotic assessor, unnecessarily, "in the matter of the people versus the Assembly of the People. The tribunal notes the presence of representatives of the Assembly of the People as required by the law in the form of Chairperson of the Assembly, William McPherson, Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Vadim Adamovsky, and Chairperson of the Sporting Advisory Committee Rowena Silva da Costa. The tribunal notes the absence of the Chairperson of the Educational Advisory Committee, Commendatore Leonardo Stiffelio. Leonardo Stiffelio fell to his physical death at 7 am this morning from the Plaza Hotel in New York City."

There was an audible gasp from the packed gallery, but the monotonous voice continued implacably: "The remains of Leonardo Stiffelio have been certified by the City morgue as irreparable. According to the law, all e-clones of Leonardo Stiffelio are to be terminated forthwith. However in view of their evidential status in the matter of the People versus the Assembly of the People the tribunal has this morning ordered that the e-clones of Leonardo Stiffelio be held by this tribunal until further notice."

The room was deadly silent again. The voice recommenced. "My colleague to my left, the assessor of complaints, will now state the matters on which the Tribunal will rule. Following that, my colleague to the right, the assessor of replies, will state positions taken by the individual representatives of the Assembly of the People. There will then be an opportunity for any further depositions to be made, and finally I will record the decisions reached by the Tribunal. At this time anyone may object to the procedure I have described, which is prescribed by the law."

No-one objected, and the Assessor of Complaints began to speak:

"The complainant asserts that the Educational Executive Management Group of the Assembly of the People meeting on Monday 24th September in New York City ordered and caused to be carried out the destruction of the St Regis Hotel in New York City resulting in the physical deaths of six hundred and fifty individuals and injury to a further two hundred and seventy-eight individuals. The complainant has presented a verified recording of the proceedings of the Executive Group at which this procedure was authorized. The complainant further asserts that the same Executive Group in a further meeting on Wednesday 26th September in New York City ordered and caused to be carried out forthwith the termination of the e-clones of twenty-four members of Brain Sciences Educational Groups Numbers BSGX301, BSGX430 and BSGX98. No evidence has been presented to support this complaint, but the complainant has provided tested and verified trackings of the termination process and the protocols which caused it to operate and which show that the process was initiated from a terminal in the Committee Room of the Educational Executive Management Group in New York City at 9.45 pm EST. The identity of the operator of this terminal at the time is a matter of public record."

The Assessor of Replies now took up the thread of the discourse. You could hear a pin drop.

"According to law, the e-clone and estate of Leonardo Stiffelio is represented in this tribunal by counsel. Counsel has presented a letter written on Thursday 25th September by Leonardo Stiffelio and witnessed by the General Manager of the Plaza Hotel which accepts full responsibility for the actions of the Educational Executive Management Group as resulting in the destruction of the St Regis Hotel on Wednesday 24th September. Chairperson of the Assembly, William McPherson, Chairperson of the Scientific Advisory Committee, Vadim Adamovsky, and Chairperson of the Sporting Advisory Committee, Rowena Silva da Costa, each represented in this tribunal by counsel, state that they had no knowledge of the matters complained about and wish to disassociate themselves from the actions of the Educational Executive Management Group. Each one of them offers to resign at the order of the Tribunal."

The central assessor now began to speak again. "There is now an opportunity for further depositions to be made." The voice paused ever so briefly. "There are no further depositions. The decision of the tribunal is that the Assembly of the People should be dissolved forthwith. According to the procedures laid down by Law 2070-393, A Law To Govern The Process Of Impeachment Of The Assembly of the People, the Assembly will be replaced by a newly elected Assembly consisting of one member for each member country of the United Nations, elected by the nationals of that country. Law No. 2070-393 further prescribes that candidates for election must declare themselves by 6 pm EST on Friday 3rd October and that the elections will be held and completed by 6 pm EST on Sunday 5th October. According to the Law, the newly elected body will have full power to constitute its own rules of procedure, sub-assemblies and committee structures and in all other respects will be fully autonomous. The tribunal rules that no member of the Assembly of the People may stand for election to the new assembly. The tribunal rules that the following ten individuals, members of the Educational Executive Management Group of the Assembly of the People, will be charged with the premeditated murder in the first degree of six hundred and fifty individuals on Wednesday 24th September. Their names are Robert Pearse, Jasmine Takafucha . . . " and the list continued. "On the instructions of the tribunal these individuals were placed in preventative detention at six am EST this morning, where they will remain. Their prosecution is a matter for the judicial authorities." Another infinitesimal pause.

"The proceedings of this tribunal are closed. Good morning."

It was 9.20 am.

Jocelyn and John sat, it seemed for ever, next to Sven and Michael as the room buzzed and whirred around them. One by one, the others all came up, hugged and kissed, sat around them. Nobody said anything. Gradually the room cleared. Even the robotic cops left, until the 21 of them sat there in a circle in front of the assessors' bench with Sven and Michael.

"You've won," said Michael. "We've won."

"What do you mean? Won?" said Jocelyn. "We've lost our friends, our groups, our clones. Everything."

There was a commotion at the door. They all turned to look as Ferdinand burst through the cordon of robocops outside, waving his pass, and ran into the room. Jocelyn rushed into his arms, sobbing wildly. "Dad! How did you get here?"

"Quick," he said, "there's no time to lose, we've got to get you all to a back-up harness. It's two days, it may already be too late."

As he rushed them breathlessly to the Wall Street recovery station he explained that he had recorded their e-clones on Wednesday afternoon, knowing what the Assembly was likely to do. E-clones are self-maintaining while you are in your RCR - all input to and events in the RCR are automatically copied into as many e-clones as you have. And when you're in fizz, the equivalent new data is automatically copied back from the physical body to the e-clone through the magneto-wireless circuits using redundant bandwidth, pending the compulsory daily update. There's an implanted buffer store in the physical brain that can take up to about a day's worth of data in case of breakdowns in communication, but the weight of data is just too enormous to be saved up for longer than 24 hours.

"I couldn't tell you before," he explained. "It would have been too dangerous to hook up the new clones before they were arrested. It's being done now."

All the rest of his life, John would be plagued by strange glitches from that missing 24 hours. Particularly the tribunal proceedings, which had got lost somewhere while transiting the thalamus between the hippocampus and the fore-brain. But it was a small price to pay for having his life back.

"What about the others?" asked Jocelyn once she had understood and had been through the scanner.

"They'll have to start again in fizz," said Ferdinand. "It's just like colonies. You know, we have to grow them all over again. It can be speeded up a bit, but not much. In ten years they'll more or less be back to how they were. Meanwhile they'll have to manage as RCRs. Ersatz input is getting better all the time, it may not be too bad. The tricky bit is patching the RCR brain back into the fizz brain, once it's big enough. It's new territory, but we're getting there."


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