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.When they were all seated, Councilman Thompson began to address the courtroom.“If the Court will now take note, an official vote by the Ambassadors Council was previously made, deeming Ambassador Hamlin Fairbanks a biased party on the matter at hand in today’s proceedings.For this reason, the Ambassador will observe from his position on the stand but shall not participate in the official vote to determine judgment.Therefore, I, Councilman Zieg Thompson, will preside over this session of the Court.” Quiet murmurs spread through the room, most being unaware that Hamlin would not be allowed to vote.Councilman Thompson continued without faltering.“Before we begin, we would like to mention our thanks to all media outlets in attendance, which have been both prompt and professional in making arrangements for today’s proceedings.Now, without further delay, we declare this Court in session.At this time we would like to remind the Court that several witnesses have previously been brought before the Council on this matter, and all judgments will be based on both previously provided information as well as anything heard in the Court today.Now, at this time, we call to the stand…Agent Rayne Stevens.”The cameras all turned as the large double doors at the back of the room opened.Rayne appeared through the entrance, wearing his formal Academy uniform, escorted on each side by an official Court guard.Hamlin felt a surge of emotion.This was the last place he wanted Rayne to be.Their steps thudded down the marble staircase, echoed through the silent room, then crossed the center aisle, as all eyes focused on Rayne.He appeared surprisingly calm.Hamlin, on the other hand, clutched the arms on his chair with growing apprehension.When the guards presented Rayne at the podium, they both remained at his sides, as if they had been instructed to consider him a flight risk or a danger to the people in attendance.Hamlin took a deep breath, willing himself to remain still, to resist the urge to protest.It would only create embarrassment for Rayne if he made a scene regarding the matter.Much of the public did not even understand the gesture, or realize that it was out of the ordinary.After Rayne was asked to affirm his name and repeat the oath, Councilman Thompson went straight to his questioning.“Mr.Stevens,” he began, “are you aware of the serious charges made against you in regard to actions allegedly taken at the Threshold border as well as the Sacred Pool by you on May sixth of this year? Including, abuse of authority, assaulting a government agent, breaking into a high-security facility, failure to report to authorities in a timely manner, failure to report an undocumented person at the border, betrayal of the Sacred Oath of a Water Keeper, and aiding a possible threat to national security?”“Yes, sir,” Rayne said.“I’m aware of the charges.”Councilman Thompson’s tone remained steady.“Mr.Stevens, we have, in previous sessions of the Court, heard from witnesses and viewed ample evidence in the form of video feed that would suggest you not only restrained a border guard against his will, but also attacked a fellow agent outside the Sacred Pool in order to gain unauthorized access to the facility, all while transporting an undocumented woman from outside the Threshold, who you failed to report to authorities.Do you deny these allegations?”Every person in the room went still, and probably every person in Banya, anticipating Rayne’s reply.He paused for only a second, then looked up at the Council without a hint of shame in his eyes.“No,” he said, “I do not deny these allegations.I did, in fact, commit the acts you just described.” Immediately, gasps and murmurs permeated the air.A lump began to form in Hamlin’s throat as Councilman Thompson asked, “Mr.Stevens, is the Council to understand that you wish to plead guilty to all charges?”“No,” Rayne said.“Not to all charges.If the Council will allow it, I would like an opportunity to explain the reasons behind my actions.”Councilman Thompson held up a hand of approval.“We will allow it.”“Thank you,” Rayne said.He took a deep breath.“Originally, I was outside the Threshold border working on a special assignment.” His eyes glanced in Hamlin’s direction.Hamlin wondered if this was the moment Rayne would tell them the truth, about everything Hamlin had done to lie to them and betray them all.Hamlin sent a deliberate, yet subtle nod in Rayne’s direction, urging him to reveal it all.But instead, Rayne simply said, “The Ambassador made me aware that someone I know quite well, Agent Ash Hastings, was MIA at the time and under investigation.Under the Ambassador’s approval, I agreed to investigate Mr.Hastings absence.”When Hamlin heard Rayne’s explanation, he shifted slightly in his chair.But he didn’t make any sudden or obvious movement that would give away the true depth of his concern.It was still early, and Rayne had made a promise.Perhaps he had come up with an explanation that would appease the Council without giving his secrets away.Rayne continued his account by saying, “Unfortunately, through my investigation, I found evidence that Ash may have been involved in some illegal activities, including stealing Healing Water and selling it to unauthorized third parties on Earth.When I came across a news casting about a doctor in California who appeared to be using Healing Water on his patients, I felt it was my duty to look into the matter.I found the doctor and questioned him.He gave me information that also pointed to Ash’s involvement.When I finally tracked down Ash, I was surprised to learn that he wasn’t working alone.He was actually working under the direction of his father, Voss Hastings, who was presumed dead.”Suddenly, more gasps filled the room.The air seemed to be sucked away, as if each person had swallowed it down and held it captive in their lungs.The Council had not revealed this knowledge to the public [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]