The honorable Syth Welker felt anything but honorable. He doubted very much that anyone on the council could feel honorable after news had broken about the nature of councilor Rojet Mayet’s “handling” of the UTS Rose Dawn and her crew.
That was, he corrected, the late councilor Rojet Mayet. The monster had orchestrated the mass murder of the entire ship’s complement; 3,000 men and women, and even some children if the ancient reports were accurate. He sighed audibly, but the council room was in such an uproar he was sure nobody heard.
He allowed the commotion to go on for some time. Time wasn’t exactly of the essence right now; the deed had been done, and it was too late to change that. Letting them vent to each other might lessen the tension and make the upcoming session a little easier to deal with.
Finally he rapped the chairman’s sounding box, the mark of his station. The room started to go quiet as one by one, groups of councilors stopped their bickering and turned their attention to him.
“Councilors,” he said gravely, “You’re all well aware of the news that broke two days ago and the bloody aftermath that it spawned. I’m going to tell you again now. The story has been twisted and turned as it has spread, and if we’re going to pick up the pieces of this disaster, we need to all be working from the same starting point.
“Two days ago, sources inside the University province released highly classified information that implicated the late councilor Mayet in a horrific crime. He was accused of designing and deploying a weapon to kill the First Colonists, 3,000 men, women and children. Yes, children,” he repeated, as appalled whispers followed that pronouncement. “His weapon was an AI module, something the University researchers are well familiar with. They worked from the specifications of the UTS Rose Dawn’s construction and most particularly her computer’s original architecture. They designed an AI specifically tailored to counter the computer that the Dawn Rose was equipped with, and initiated a secret, highly targeted launch to deliver it to the ship, there to attach itself to the hull and establish control over the computer system.”
He sighed again; the sound carried well in the near-silence. “The AI’s first priority then was to shut down the cryogenic suspension pods containing the crew and colonists. It was then to allow the ship to continue on its planned course, and finesse the ship into an orbit around our world. Things get more speculative from here on out. We believe the orbit was intended to be secret. Our satellite system does not cover the entire globe, as you know, so they could easily have parked the ship on the far side, and nobody would have been the wiser. From there, they could have plundered whatever they wanted from the ship free from interference.”
“Based on what we’ve been able to piece together of Mayet’s time table, I’m afraid it’s too late to save the poor souls on board the Dawn Rose. We estimate that they died no less than four weeks ago.” The room exploded into noise again, a wave of emotion washing through it. Sadness and anger dominated, with undercurrents of regret.
He rapped the sounding box again after a suitable time had passed. “Councilor Rojet Mayet himself, of course, is beyond our judgement now. The First Colonists are revered by a majority of our populace as heroes out of folklore. When they learned what had become of them and that Mayet was responsible, a mob gathered outside of his headquarters. He made a personal appearance to try to appease them; a fatal mistake. His end was …” he grimaced, “graphic. He was in the company of a rec crew. There is a visual record of his demise, but we shall not play it here today.”
He looked across the room, meeting as many pairs of eyes as he could. “That is the situation as we know it, and that brings us to our purpose here today. We are gathered here this afternoon, councilors, to determine the who among the University province governing bodies is most directly responsible for this outrage and see that they answer for it.”
Another swell of sound and emotion, this time favorable. “And further, we must decide what is to become of the Dawn Rose herself, and the remains of her crew.” The mood immediately sobered. It was going to be a very long day for everyone.