Today was the last day of the trial, and we only just saw Liga’s testimony.
Liga dressed the most formally out of all who gave testimonies, a in a yellow men’s haukaptu with puffed fabric at the elbows. The embroidery, predominantly gray and amber, reminded me of a harvest I saw in Iturja when I was still a child. It looked altogether too warm, but ler white eyeliner and the banded, gray-and-yellow face paint over the bridge of ler nose hadn’t started to run. It must have been waterproof. Le sat with ler dark hands neatly folded on the table, the tips of ler index fingers twitching slightly. A copper medallion inscribed with prayers to Yilrega dangled from ler neck.
Le had red eyes, so le had removed the contacts. Hiding those eyes wouldn’t have made anyone in the audience sympathetic given the questions, though.
The interrogator asked lim to describe the situation from the beginning, and Liga did: “It first came to our attention several weeks ago. A woman I know, Akah Nitañi, who will also testify, I believe — le overheard a disturbing conversation on the Skyrail. We tried to engage with lim in the best way we could, but faced some limitations due to the legal issues surrounding gathering evidence without police authorization. There was no real way forward. I deeply regret—”
“Is the collective capable of regret?”
Liga tapped ler fingers twice on the table before continuing. “Le became intimate with Akah Sehutañi so le could gather more information on our behalf. My personal limitations prevented me from managing my relationship with lim to the best of my ability. I was under some stress. We did what we could.”
“Okay, then. What is your function within the nuamua?”
“I don’t know how to answer that question because I am not in the nuamua. Is it important?” Le frowned. “I would be able to answer the same question if it were about Equilibrium Nexus instead.”
The Tveshi name for the Kohjenya sounded odd in ler mouth.
“What is your function within Equilibrium Nexus?”
Liga cleared ler throat and steepled ler hands in front of ler lips. “I do software development and coding, among other related tasks. Karatau Meiyenesi is exempt from the legal restrictions surrounding public safety video feed hacking, and because I am in Equilibrium, I am also exempt.”
The interrogator paused. I think that le must not have known how to respond to Liga’s answer. I know only the basics about Equilibrium Nexus now, and were I in a state to march to Karatau and demand a ride on a daraiga so le could tell me everything, I would do so immediately. This is not the case, nor will it be for a while.
It is excruciating to be on the cusp of finding good information.
“Could you explain the specific tasks you undertook in your role that are related to this case?”
Liga nodded vigorously. “Certainly. I hacked into communication bands and computer accounts. Akah Nitañi allowed me to install malware on ler tech for easy access. I used a comm band message to infect Akah Sehutañi’s band with the same software. Software injections like this are routine. The Karatha, for example, have done this. You will ask a follow-up question about the evidence that we collected, and that is related to the bill being introduced in the Senate by Regent Thassañi to revoke Code 1830-229-17. I am within my rights to withhold any further commentary until that happens. My daughter completed a friendship ritual with Akah Nitañi, and I will protect their interests.”
“Did Equilibrium Nexus withhold information to force the government’s hand regarding Code 1830-229-17?”
“No.” Liga flattened ler hands against the table. “If there were no Code 1830-229-17, fewer assassinations would happen, and I wouldn’t have to do this much work.” After waiting ten seconds, le clicked ler tongue and said, “While you think of a response, I can elaborate. Code 1830-229-17 did not ultimately matter to us once we knew the target. Before we knew, I pushed back against others in Equilibrium to protect my daughter and ler friend. There is no blame in anything I did.”
The interrogator stayed silent. I strained to hear the sound of breathing, but the rustling of people around me prevented me from hearing it. It is only now, rewatching the testimony from the safety of my room with Suka beside me, that I know that the interrogator’s breathing is too regular. Le is nervous, according to Suka. We have been speculating — while I write — as to why.
“How could one of you go against the wishes of the collective for a relative? That runs counter to everything we know.”
Liga smiled. “That proves only one thing: You know nothing. Do you have any other questions for me?”
“Go back again to what you did. Could you explain it to me again without referencing Code 1830-229-17?”
“Of course. I used communication bands and computer accounts. And — I think before my previous explanation, I had mentioned the public safety video feeds. That required some hacking, too. Akah Nitañi allowed me to install malware on ler communication technologies, which I used to improve the range of what I could do. At one point, I used Akah Nitañi’s comm band to inject malicious software into Sehutañi’s comm. Afterward, I could see the messages le was sending and receiving. Akah Nitañi wore a bug. There is audio from every conversation that le had with Sehutañi, including several ones of interest to the prosecution. The majority had nothing to do with the assassination. I submitted data files of the relevant conversations along with my pre-interrogation briefing.” Le cleared ler throat. “Is that all you wanted?”
“Go back to what you said about Sehutañi’s comm band. You hacked into it and could read everything?”
“In Akah Nitañi’s testimony, le discovered Sehutañi’s identity. If you had access to those comm band messages, why didn’t you have the information sooner?”
“Ah,” Liga said. “Allow me to explain. In all of the messages, Sehutañi and ler co-conspirators referred to the Fadehin as the khava. It was shorter and less respectful, obviously. Sehutañi’s papers only had a few mentions of the Fadehin.”
“Okay. Go back. Tell me what happened after Akah Nitañi gave you the information and intervened on ler own.”
Le steepled ler hands again. “We convened a meeting and decided to position counter-snipers along the route, along with some High-Wilds technology for surveillance. You have the video we captured from the procession. We would have gone further, but Adviser Tenes Sari contacted Karatau Meiyenesi to ask about coordinating something to keep the Fadehin safe. The plan went as anticipated. We don’t know how the Daybreak assassin found ler way into the Senate while it was closed. That isn’t easy. They might have used the shipping area.”
“So, on their side, they had a network of conspirators. On your side, you are Suka’s father, and that led you to Akah Nitañi how?”
“Akah Nitañi called Suka first. Suka contacted me.”
“I see. So, Akah Nitañi and Akah Suka are friends. Karatau Meiyenesi and Adviser Tenes Sari obviously have the same connection, and you are mediating between the two because you are Karatau Meiyenesi’s subordinate and Akah Suka’s father. Adviser Tenes Sari has direct access to the Fadehin, and Karatau Meiyenesi controls others like you. How did Akah Nitañi know Adviser Tenes Sari?”
“Akah Nitañi moved to Galasu to work for the Progressive Movement, and they met in that capacity.”
“How did you know that the police wouldn’t catch this?”
“We had a contact.”
“Le died when one of the explosions detonated. A lot of people died.”
The conversation continues on for another eight minutes, during which the interrogator cycles back to the same questions over and over. I could not rewatch my own interrogation because that circular rhythm was excruciating enough the first time. I don’t like looking at myself injured. I prefer to think about the cream that I have and how easily it makes things heal.
The court debated the outcome shortly after midday. The assassins will be executed. Some things are beyond rehabilitation, and if we allow them to live, we allow them to suck more life out of our nation.
Sehutañi will die. I don’t know how I feel about this. I fell in love with lim, and I still love lim, and I am marrying Kitesrati. Kitesrati is nothing like Sehutañi. Kitesrati is everything that my mother, father, and matriarch want in my wife. Kitesrati is worth the bride-price for taking a woman out of another family. Sehutañi would never have been worth it: So much older than me, so much more scarred than me, so much less ambitious than me — and a part of me hates myself for saying that.
My thoughts keep circling around my death: Whether Liga and Karatau and Tenes would mourn me for very long, what would happen to my family once they lost me, how many children I would leave behind. I have the sense that something is looming on the horizon and that it was set before I was even born. When Liga looked into the camera the first time, something clicked into place. It is as if it has already happened and the hours are just counting down.