Entity MS: Chapter 22

The previous interview with Dora One had been a small affair. Only those who needed to be in attendance were there, and that number on that occasion had been no more than twenty. This, however, was the final, and grand interview. The twenty Grace previously present had listened and made their notes. They prepared their final questions. The answers that would be forthcoming from Dora One was now to be a presentation to all the representatives of all the four hundred thousand Grace that were living on the ships.

This time the number of attendees would exceed ten thousand. From each of their respective ships they would transport to one of six, and there take their seats in the huge auditoriums aboard The Beh, The Strad, The Hurum, The Mela, The Vost, and The Ipsolea according to their assignments.

The halls were waves of activity. Long lines trailed from the transporters as each Grace representative waited to be sent to their prescribed ship.

Cathy took a package from her desk and put it under her arm. She made her way to the elevator, sidestepping the sea of mobile Grace so as not to get knocked over. Once in the elevator, rather than go to the fifth-floor public transporter station, she went to the seventh. There was a transporter there too, but just one rather than a series.

She punched in a code on the wall plate for the door that said ‘Authorized Personnel Only.’

“Good morning, Bas,” she said cheerfully to the conductor.

“Morning, JM,” he said. “How are you today?”

“Fine, thank you. You?”

“Can’t complain.”

“How’s Grenna?” Cathy asked.

“Good, good.”

“The kids?”

“Tolerable, tolerable. Where are we off to today?”

“The Strad. I have a parcel for Second Captain Noh.”

He opened the doors of the transporter and Cathy stepped in.

“All set?” he asked.

Cathy raised her hand and pointed her thumb up.

“What does that mean?” asked Bas.

“Ready.”

“Oh,” he said, then to himself absent mindedly mumbled, “Must be some damned Earth thing she picked up,” as he set the controls for going.

And with a shock of light and a piercing shriek she was gone.

Cathy stepped out of the Strad’s receiving transporter. She looked at the attendant. “Second Captain Noh,” she said.

“Down right, up two, then, like, twenty yards from the end,” the Grace said.

“Thank you.”

Cathy entered the corridor and dumped the empty parcel package in the first waste bin she encountered. She found a plaque on the wall that said ‘You Are Here’ and determined where she needed to go in order to find the auditorium. When she got to the right floor, she made no effort to clear herself from the congested sea of giant moving Grace as they moved into the auditorium, but instead utilized them as a shield.

She found a chair way in the back and in the middle of a row, but where other Grace had mostly filled in. She hoisted herself up into the seat that was three feet off the ground. Her legs dangled. There was a Grace on her left and one on her right, and a conveniently tall one in front of her. The Grace on her right took note of her presence and took a good hard look at her. The Grace on the left then did the same. The Grace on the right looked at the Grace on the left and shrugged his shoulders, then turned back to the viewing screen at the far front of the room. Cathy turned slightly to the right and eyeballed the one Grace with her peripheral vision, then did the same with the other. Secure that they were disinterested and/or only minimally curious, she turned to the screen at the front of the room as well.

Vaka chaperoned Alvin into the auditorium. As before, she stood near, tablet in hand.

Alvin swept his eyes from one side of the huge hall to the other. There were a thousand Grace present, some seated on the main floor in chairs, others on benches behind the upper-echelon-chair-people, and others standing in tiers high above him. He saw Taus and Parma Das seated on the main floor dais with the Nadrum between them—the latter appearing not the least bit thawed out since the last time he saw her, and again displeasingly intent on him. “I feel like Mary Queen of Scots,” he said to Vaka.

“I have no idea who that is,” she said without apology or interest in finding out.

“It’s okay.”

Alvin took the one chair that was obviously for him at center stage. The session began as the previous one had. Within a minute, he was gone, though his eyes remained open.

The Nadrum stood. She swept her gaze from left to right, and addressed everyone. “Welcome.” She paused, casting her gaze upon all so that it was clear she meant everybody. “This proceeding will be brief. That should not be a reflection of its importance. While questions are relegated to the members of the Sutto Council, everyone here is nonetheless important. Your importance rests within your duty as witness.” She turned to Taus and took her seat.

“Dora One,” called Taus, “Are you with us?”

“Yes,” said Dora One.

“Is Alvin there?”

“Within but not present.” While Dora One seated itself proper and upright, there was nothing robotic or neutral about the manner in which it spoke. As it had before, at times unexpectedly, it talked with inflection and casualness, as a human being would. It had its own thoughts, but Alvin’s voice and Alvin’s mannerism and persona. 

“Thank you,” said Taus. “We’ll now begin the final interview.” He paused a moment to allow a few late arrivers to scurry into their chairs. The entrance doors closed.

“Dora One,” Taus began, “You’ve provided us with a great many details regarding Earth. Today we wish to hear a summation so that we may reach a conclusion regarding the matter of Earth, its inhabitants, and our future. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I understand.”

“Questions will be posed to you by others than myself. Feel free to answer them without hesitation. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“I yield now to Nen Seh.”

“Thank you, Taus,” said Nen Seh, standing. “Dora One, what is Earth?”

“It’s green,” said Dora One. “Verdant. Beautiful. There are rivers, lakes, mountains, fertile valleys. It possesses abundance.”

“And the atmosphere.”

“The atmosphere is clean and pure where humans are not plentiful. Where they are, is sewage.”

“And is this true of America?”

“Yes.”

“What is the ratio of clean and pure air to what you refer to as sewage?”

“Ninety percent clean and pure, ten percent sewage.”

“This sewage of the air, is it spreading?”

“It spreads only by design. It spreads only if the humans cause it to spread by their actions. It does not spread on its own.”

“So, ninety percent of America has air that is clean and is unlikely to be infected by the air that is not clean. Is that correct?”

“Yes, that is correct.”

“Thank you, Dora One.” Nen Seh sat down.

Taus checked his list then looked up. “Moath Het?”

“Thank you,” she said and stood. “Dora One, other than the humans, there is a great deal of other life, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Are these other life forms a danger?”

“Some. The range is extraordinarily vast. It may be difficult for you to comprehend it. It’s as seemingly infinite as the universe. Things that can’t be seen can be a danger, or they can be benign. Things larger than us, or the Grace I should say, or things even relatively large in respect to other Earth creatures, are however, almost always a danger.”

“Regarding the large things that are a danger, is there a defense against them?”

“Yes, they are simple carbon-based life forms, as are the humans, and with sufficient weaknesses so that they can be overcome.”

“If they’re a danger, then why haven’t the humans eliminated them?”

“That’s a very good question.” Dora One smiled. “In many places, the dangerous creatures, animals as they’re called, the big ones I mentioned, have been eliminated. Oftentimes this was a needless slaughter, but oftentimes it was a practical necessity. However, a great many humans feel as though it is necessary to maintain a natural equilibrium between human and large animal. They have gone so far—in areas where the dangerous animals have been eliminated—to repopulate them so that they are again a threat to the humans. The mindset is that since the dangerous animals were present naturally, it was unnatural to have removed them, killed them, in the first place, and so they should be returned.”

Moath Het paused and considered it. “That seems stupid.”

“Mm hm.”

There was some chuckling in the audience.

Dora One continued. “The philosophy of those who insist that such animals be reinvigorated and be seeded for the purpose of maintaining a thriving population is stated as—let me quote here—‘We must learn to live together.’”

“And, so, the humans learn and adjust to this mindset of living together with the animals,” Moath Het posed.

“Yes. The humans feel as though they must make accommodations for the presence of the animals as that is the natural order of things.”

Paddum Sek cut in. “That’s seems quite moral.”

He got a lot of turned heads and disapproving looks in his direction, followed by silence.

“Just, you know, noting,” he added.

“And are the large animals in agreement with this arrangement?” continued Moath Het.

“Oh, no,” said Dora One. “They kill anything that’s in front of them: sheep—which are a kind of very passive animal—people, pets, whatever. There’s no concept of a contract, at least as far as the animals are concerned. Probably because they can’t write and consequently can’t sign their name.”

That got a subdued laugh from the majority.

“Doesn’t really seem to be a harmonious two-way street,” said Moath Het.

“Not really, no. The humans killed them initially, the bad animals, when the humans were trying to farm and such, and the bad animals would destroy their livestock—”

“Their what?”

“Livestock—animals kept primarily for food.”

“What do you mean?”

“Humans raise animals, then kill them and eat them.”

She had to think on that as it was initially confusing. “The bad animals.”

“No, the passive, non-violent animals.”

There was gasp from the enormous crowd as this didn’t go over well.

“They kill the non-violent animals and tolerate the violent animals? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Pretty much. Of course, they do kill the violent animals, the groups that they’ve repopulated, but only when the reinvigorated group becomes a problem.”

“So, they killed the violent animals. And you note that sometimes that was wrong, a needless slaughter, as you say. But then they re-populate them, because that’s moral, and then kill them again because they’re a problem. Am I getting this all this right?”

“Yes, that pretty much sums it up.”

Moath Het rolled her eyes and shook her head. “Thank you. I have no further questions.”

Taus stood and gestured to another on the dais. “Kattrus?”

“Thank you, Taus,” Kattrus said and stood with his notes in hand. “Dora One, I’d like to continue with this animal business for a moment. “Now, from what you’ve told us before, and expanded on today, all organisms on Earth exist by killing other organisms. Is that correct?”

“Most. Not all. But yes, essentially that is the norm and has been the norm for billions of years and continues to this day.”

“Which creatures do not involve themselves in this activity?”

“The plants and the herbivores.”

“And what are they?”

“The plants are like our kammet. Your kammet, rather. An unthinking and unfeeling organism which is capable of sustaining its own life without ingesting other life. It absorbs its life-sustaining energy from the nearby star and occasional water that falls upon it. And, like kammet, is an abundant food source.”

There was a pleased “Ooh” from the audience when they heard that the Earth had something like kammet.

“And what are the herbivores?” asked Kattrus.

“They are the animals, large animals usually, that feed on the plants.”

“And the plants don’t experience pain or suffering when this occurs?”

“No—though, some say otherwise, but they’re mainly mentally and emotionally unstable people and lacking in any sort of education in a field that has anything to do with plants or animals. Or logic.”

“Mm hm. And the humans kill these and eat them. The herbivores.”

“Yes.”

“I see. Interesting, very interesting. And how do the humans feel when they do this, when they kill the herbivores?”

“I’m not aware of an emotional response.”

“So, there is no emotional response. Like, they don’t feel sad or anything.”

“Not that I’ve observed.”

“Mm hm. Um, what are dogs?”

“Primarily—well, I don’t think you have a word for it. Humans would call them pets.”

“And what is their purpose?”

“I don’t have the slightest idea.”

“They must have some purpose.”

“You would think. They have cats too. I’m even more unsure about their purpose than I am dogs. But I think the basic purpose of pets is to make humans feel less alone. However, I’ve not been able to determine how that actually works.”

“Council member Kattrus,” the Nadrum interrupted, “It’s best we not get too weighed down with minutiae. Perhaps you have a more pertinent question.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Kattrus responded. “But if I may continue for just a moment on this.”

She extended her fingers toward him to signal approval to continue.

“You say the pets make them feel less alone,” Kattrus said, returning to Dora One. “Do humans feel alone? Is that normal?”

“Yes. I think that’s why they join clubs. Religious societies. Gravitate to football teams. I think they feel alone. Those who don’t want to join clubs, religious societies, or watch football have pets. Sometimes they do all those things and still have pets.”

“Why do they feel alone?”

“I don’t know. They seem to be a lonely species. If I had to assess, I would say that each human’s self-worth comes entirely from other people. They thus have the need to huddle together in an attempt to draw essence and identity and self-worth from the group. Of course, it’s not always bestowed, and oftentimes there’s not even a group to huddle with.”

“What do those humans do then?”

“Buy a dog.”

“Well, that seems an innocuous reaction, wouldn’t you say?”

“Or a gun.”

“And what is a gun?”

“A destructive human nineteenth century metal device that fits into the body or the hand as though it’s an extension of the body itself, thus giving the holder the sensation that it is, in fact, a natural part of them, and therefore not a device but rather a powerful appendage that they have been singularly blessed with and are also singularly blessed with the liberty to utilize in whatever fashion naturally occurs to their id. Earth has a lot of guns. Also a lot of ids.” 

Menn Jot’s eyes looked across the six screens as he sat some forty feet from the dais, somewhat amazed at being able to view this many people all at the same time. It was a sea of gray and black. A sea of gray-faced and black-haired Grace. It was an amazing sea of gray and black. And then, there was an interruption. There was an interruption of not gray and black. For a brief moment he thought he saw something that was not gray and black. Something very small. And neither gray nor black, but more pink and brown. Very far in the back. There! He saw it again.

He stood up and made his way to the dais, fumbling through people and chanting, “Excuse me, excuse me,” as he went. He got between Parma Das and Taus, bent over, and whispered to them.

“Stop!” yelled Parma Das, rising from her seat.

“What?” asked the Nadrum.

“JM-4 is on the Strad.”

Cathy winced.

“JM-4, come forward,” Parma Das commanded.

Cathy didn’t move. She felt a heat in her body that she had not ever previously experienced. Her head was low and she wondered, ‘What if I don’t?’

“JM-4, come forward. Now,” repeated Parma Das.

Cathy slid off her inconveniently tall chair, the tips of her toes first reaching for and then contacting the floor. The Grace in the row stood up and backed away two inches, maybe three if they pushed their chair back a tad with the back of their knees, so as to make way for her. Once in the aisle, she stopped, looked forward, and collected herself. She then proceeded, with dread but head up, to the front of the room to where the camera made her the focal point on every screen.

“You’re not authorized to be here,” Parma Das said. “Remove yourself immediately.”

For the four years of Cathy’s entire life her decisions were always reasonably easy—albeit requiring some assessment time, but nonetheless without extended turmoil. They were always logical, or pragmatic, or allowed to be governed by chance given that nothing could really hurt or injure her. Suddenly now, things were different. For the first time in her life she felt a viable threat, and she was unsure how to respond. A score of books and their hundreds of perspectives, their fictional and non-fictional valid pleas and reasoned philosophies went through her mind rapidly as she tried to find the correct answer and decision. When she could find none that provided a resolution, she realized she was entirely on her own, without guidance, or wisdom, or safety. The next choice would be entirely up to her, and that choice, she knew, was a dangerous gamble.

“I’m unable to comply,” she said.

There was an audible inhaling of air through open mouths by everyone in the hall.

“Why is that?” asked the Nadrum.

“I told Alvin I would be here. I promised. I have to keep my promise. It’s moral.”

“You need not advise or define for me what is moral.”

“I was stating my position, ma’am. I was only informing you of that, not attempting to educate on what is moral.” 

“And you’ve done so. You’ve stated your position and promise. And now that you’ve fulfilled your promise, you may leave.”

“The intent of the promise was to help. Staying is helping. Leaving is not helping. Therefore, leaving breaches the promise. Alvin asked me to be here, I agreed. He’s now not capable of rescinding the request that I agreed to. Therefore I’m not able to comply with your request.”

Parma Das turned towards Taus. “What the hell?”

“You’re the one who gave her free will,” said Taus. “Don’t look at me.”

Parma Das turned back to her superior. “Your Majesty, I would strongly advise that JM-4 remove itself from the hall as it has the capacity to compromise the proceedings and everything said.”

“JM-4,” said the Nadrum to Cathy, “Please depart.”

“I’m not able to comply,” Cathy said.

“Captain Nesset Tac, you are present there on the Strad?” asked the Nadrum.

“Yes, ma’am,” she replied.

“Have JM-4 removed.”

Captain Nesset Tac pointed to two nearby Grace on her ship with a ‘you and you’ gesture and they moved forward.

Cathy had been standing at relaxed though respectful attention. Her hands and arms were limp at her side and her feet close together. But as the two Grace approached her, she gave them a quick glance from the side, spread her feet eighteen inches apart, planted them firmly, looked back at the people on the dais, and closed her eyes.

The two Grace approached Cathy on either side. They each grabbed hold of an arm and pulled backwards. Nothing gave way in the slightest. While Cathy’s clothes shifted in their hands, nothing else did.

“I can’t move her,” said one of the Grace.

“Oh crap,” muttered Parma Das.

Cathy opened her eyes and looked straight ahead at the dais.

“What do you mean you can’t move her?” said the Nadrum.

“I can’t move her.”

“Pick her up by the feet and carry her out!”

The two Grace each pulled at one ankle, but they were unable to pull either from the floor.

“We can’t move her, ma’am.”

“Well, this is different,” said the Nadrum with a note of sarcasm as she looked at Parma and Taus. “What is it?”

“Well, Your Highness,” Parma stammered, “given JM-4’s duties, mainly having to visit Earth, and our relative ignorance in regard to the atmosphere of Earth, um, wind and things, at least at the time prior to JM-4’s initial visitation, coupled with the fact that there were a few times JM-1 fell down, being constructed of very light materials, as is JM-4, we felt it necessary to develop and incorporate in JM-4’s design a stabilizer. In lay person’s terms, we would call this a gravitational accelerator. JM-4 can remain stable in all conditions, or even immobile, by accessing the Earth’s gravitational pull and accelerating the response to it.”

“Don’t you think you kind of overdid it?”

“Well, we found in the development of this application, that degree was not really an issue, in terms of complication and expense, so, we kind of, um—”

“Went all out?”

“Not without good reason,” Taus cut in, trying to support his wife. “We also felt this would provide JM-4 with some sort of defense mechanism in case of an emergency.”

“What sort of emergency?”

“Like if somebody tried to steal it,” said Parma Das. “And put it somewhere. Like the government or something. Or a kidnapper. And then put it somewhere where we couldn’t get to it or locate it. So, the gravitational accelerator, the stabilizer, allows JM-4 to stay put in an emergency or maintain stability in any unforeseen and disadvantageous atmospheric conditions.”

“Like a tornado.”

“Indeed, yes,” Parma Das said with a positive tone, feeling and/or hoping that this was drifting to her advantage.

“By assessing the Earth’s gravitational pull and accelerating the response to it.”

“Exactly.”

“We’re not on Earth,” said the Nadrum.

“True, true. But, as you know, since we’re out here in a normally weightless environment, we have a gravitator in the hull of the ships. This keeps us from floating around. It’s the Messo Six. I think that’s what it’s called.”

“I’m aware of that. It’s this other business—,” she began, flicking a finger at Cathy, “—that’s all new stuff.”

“Yes, I understand. I’m assuming that JM-4 has tapped into the Messo Six and is responding with its gravitational accelerator.”

“Why didn’t you ever mention this particular attribute of your device?”

“Well, it never really came up.”

“I see. Is there anything else about this android that never came up but you might want to clue me in on? Does it have a force field of some sort? Does it shoot death rays out of its eyes when you screw with it? Does it have an autodestruct mechanism that might kill all of us?”

“Oh no, of course not. That would be near impossible. Well, some of it. But I assume you’re not being literal.”

“The hell I’m not! You came up with this other thing!”

“Well, we did consider the autodestruct mechanism,” Taus chimed in. “But we thought, ultimately, given the expense of the unit, it would be ill-advised to allow Cathy, or JM-4, to kill herself, like, on a whim or something.”

“Like if she had a bad day,” said the Nadrum.

“Kind of.”

“I see.” The Nadrum looked at Cathy. “Are you listening to all this?”

“Yes,” said Cathy.

“All this business with the gravitational thing and your accelerator,” the Nadrum said to Cathy, “is that what you’re doing?”

“Uh huh.”

“Well, knock it off.”

“Can I stay?”

The queen rolled her eyes and then looked to Taus and Parma Das. “Doesn’t this device have a program of some sort where it’s supposed to obey commands by whoever built it?”

“Well, that’s tricky,” said Taus.

“How so?”

Taus looked to his wife, indicating, ‘Your turn.’

“JM-4, well, Cathy in this instance,” began Parma Das, “is designed to interact with humans as well as Grace. She’s designed to learn as she goes. It’s sort of an experimental program, but not without good reason. To interact on Earth, with humans, which is her mission, she has to be able to respond to input. Since we have no way of knowing what that input might be, it was necessary to allow her, um, complete autonomy. Any sort of directive, or program, would undermine the ultimate goal.”

“She’s being kind of a brat at the moment,” said the Nadrum.

“I can turn her off,” said Parma Das. “Pega,” she called to someone by the door, “go to JM-4’s chamber and get the primary control.”

“That really shouldn’t be necessary!” said the Nadrum. She turned back to Cathy. “JM-4, I want you to disengage from whatever it is you’re presently doing.”

“May I stay?” asked Cathy.

The Nadrum rose from her seat. “Damnit, girl, I’m giving you an order! Don’t give me conditions!”

Cathy was unable to respond. She felt vulnerable and tense and yet at the same time a sliver of euphoria had just inserted itself within her.  None of the Grace had ever addressed her as girl, or woman, or anything other than a machine—until just now. She smiled for a moment. And while the smile remained in her mind it faded from her lips. “I’m unable to comply.”

The Nadrum sat and tapped her fingertips on her knee. She looked at Taus and Parma Das. They tried looking elsewhere. The Nadrum looked back at Cathy and shook her head. “Taus, Parma,” she said, “a word.” She turned to the group in the auditorium. “Everyone remain here, including you,” she added, looking back at Cathy on the screen. She knew Cathy wasn’t going anywhere, but felt the need to issue an order she had confidence would be obeyed.

Taus, Parma Das, and the Nadrum got up and adjourned to an anteroom of the auditorium.

“What exactly is the plan here?” asked the Nadrum.

“With what?” asked Taus.

“With Alvin, obviously.”

“We’re still discussing that.”

“I would have thought that particular subject would have been addressed some time ago. Years ago.”

“Because we didn’t know what Dora One would present,” Parma Das said, “the issue of Alvin has always been…” she looked for the word.

“What?” asked the Nadrum.

“Fluid,” said Taus.

“And what sort of options are in this mix of fluidness?” asked the Nadrum. “It occurs to me that I should have asked this before, but didn’t imagine it was necessary. Are you going to kill him?”

“No, of course not,” Taus quickly said.

“Why of course not? Seems reasonable. An answer of ‘no,’ I might understand—’of course not,’ I don’t.”

Neither of the other two could come up with an answer, at least not a pragmatic answer.

“Is he going to stay with us?” asked the Nadrum.

“We would be leaning in that direction,” said Parma Das. “With what he knows and what he’s seen, simply relocating him on Earth—other than where we intend to be—would be disadvantageous. And probably difficult for him.”

“So, what are we going to do? Build a terrarium for him? Start a zoo with one attraction? Give him a little bed and a little desk and a fake tree and a water bowl? Killing him would be more generous. Don’t you think?”

“No, nothing like that,” said Parma Das. “Either.”

“Well, like what then?”

“He would stay with us. Among us.”

“And you think he’ll be fine with that?”

“We would find him a mate,” Taus said positively.

“A mate. Really. What are you going to do, drop a net over some human female and give it to him for his birthday?”

“The mate issue is still in discussion,” said Taus. “There’s more details to work out.”

“Well, as far as the mate issue goes,” countered the Nadrum, “he seems to have already got one.”

Taus and Parma Das turned to each other, then back to the Nadrum and simultaneously responded with, “Oh, no. No,” with Parma Das adding somewhat weakly, “They’re just friends.”

Taus then added, “Which is not surprising given their superficial species similarity.”

“Well, that’s special,” said the Nadrum. “Still not really okay.”

“I don’t think there’s anything there to be concerned about,” said Taus. “He’s human and she’s just, well, you know—”

“A machine,” the Nadrum finished. “Yes, well, that creature out there with her feet planted in my floor is not behaving like a machine—not emotionally anyway. But let’s move on to the immediate problem.”

“I can turn her off,” said Parma Das. “The gravitational device will be disengaged, then we can continue.”

“That’s not the immediate problem as I see it,” said the Nadrum. “What exactly did you plan to tell Alvin? The truth?”

“He’s well aware of the Grace’s situation and their having to depart from the planet,” Taus said.

“No,” said the Nadrum, “I meant everything else. The next part.”

“That’s still under review,” said Taus.

“Well, it needs to stop being under review and we need to damn well figure it out now.”

“He was insistent on hearing the interview with Dora One from Cathy,” said Parma Das.

“Yeah, I got that—just now,” she said, pointing back toward the hall. “So, let him.”

Taus and Parma Das tried to determine if this was an order or an opinion. “Well, we’re uncertain if that’s the right direction to head in,” said Taus. “I mean entirely.”

“What difference does it make? It’s going to become obvious to him eventually. What are you afraid of? Let him hear. This is the last interview we’ll have with Dora One. Anything Alvin knows afterward is irrelevant. What’s he going to do, phone the Earth and warn it? Put a note in a bottle and throw it into outer space?”

“Ma’am,” Parma started, “with all respect, I don’t see any positive coming from letting JM-4 record the interview and then allowing Alvin Zaronsky to be privy to it. It could pose a potential threat. His reaction is unknowable.”

“His reaction is moot, whatever it is. Confine him afterwards if necessary, but we need to move on, and I don’t have the patience for these petty interruptions. I appreciate your concerns, but again, we’re moving on. And this conversation is over.”

The three of them re-entered the auditorium and took their seats. The Nadrum addressed everyone. “The proceedings are of course being recorded. However, JM-4 will be allowed to record them simultaneously as well.” She turned to Cathy. “JM-4, you’re at liberty to remain. However, please move to the wall on the right side of the dais.”

Cathy was on the verge of saying ‘Thank you, ma’am’ but squelched it. She felt no requirement to be thankful for what she thought of as a right that she be present. She disengaged and moved to the right side of the dais. And continued recording every word.

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