"Enough," cried Becteau, "the council must decide." She paused for effect. "Now!"
Jonathon wondered if she could hear the screams coming from within. He had brought the complaint. By now, he wished he hadn't.
Becteau gathered around her shiny, black, long organic robes. She started to exit.
Jonathon had hoped it would have been avoided. Everyone in the room had been hoping the same thing. It wasn't to be. At least, not this time.
The room went silent. That was to be expected. Becteau turned slowly, lazily and looked around. That was also to be expected. She was a Fallion.
The question was irrelevant. Everyone knew it was Oronto.
The hysteria within was building. Becteau squished back into her seat.
"A challenge. We must sit until resolution. Jonathon?" "I avoid the challenge, Becteau. I wish to retreat to tomorrow. I cannot answer."
"Jonathon, you know the rules. You cannot retreat. The challenge must be met. It is contained within the unbroken rules. It is sacrosanct"
Jonathon knew this. He was attempting to avoid the challenge. At any cost. He had retreated into Tomorrow once before. He had very nearly been unable to return.
Sensing this, Oronto pressed her advantage. "Paralysis, I will not yield."
"We are waiting."
Becteau's voice sounded bored .. She had seen one too many of these councils. But she was a professional if nothing else and would make sure the rules were satisfied.
"Oronto is wrong, Becteau. That challenge is not applicable. The situation varies from the Glasium convention."
"If it does, Jonathon, I cannot see how. We have all been sitting too long to have things dismissed on such a trifle."
Jonathon wished her robes would stop making the sucking sounds as she shifted her weight.
"I must insist, Becteau, that my rights under..."
"Under what? You have made the charge. The procedures are clear. You cannot exit. In any dimension."
She need not have added that. Jonathon was only too aware of the consequences.
"I cannot surrender the authority of this council, to split hairs with some judgments that have no bearing in this case. I have spoken and my decision is absolutely final. Answer the challenge."
Jonathon felt the screams intensify. His eyes searched the room. Was there a weak point? Could he bluff? They were waiting.
"Oronto has spoken. She has challenged and been judged according to her rights. But I defer..."
"You cannot defer." She was getting angry. The screams were getting louder.
"Yes, but Becteau, nowhere is Paralysis allowed. It was contradicted..."
"By Shinto and reaffirmed by the Dimensional Council. It is what will happen to the care-givers. It is the Law."
"Oronto, will you withdraw?" It was his only hope.
His skin started to crawl with the screams.
"I cannot deal with this," Jonathon thought.
He felt the screams subside. The room released the compressed tension, hissing and turning as the weight descended. The screams were lessening.
"Reveal." Oronto knew the rules. She was engaging in the second step.
"Time," Becteau screamed at Jonathon.
"Don't break the chain." It was the first time that the chorus has participated. The end was approaching. The chorus continued.
"Any problems with this being..."
"Enough!" Becteau was intervening again.
"Becteau, respectfully, you are now a participant. You are effecting the outcome." Jonathon was convinced that he had her this time.
"Paralysis," Oronto paused, "is still effective." She knew the rules as well as any of them did.
The screams were rising. Again. Jonathon looked around the room, wondering if anyone else heard them.
"Becteau, you must answer. You have participated. That is not allowed."
"I rule now in total arbitrary measure. It is allowed."
The screams were breaking through the ice of the decorum. This was definitely unusual. Jonathon wondered if anyone else sensed the wrongness.
"It is allowed, It is allowed." It was the chorus again.
"Any problems with this being: CONTACT 705."
She was revealing his weakness, she was restating the charge. Jonathon waited.
The pall of the room was pierced with the silent screams. He could see in their eyes they were all being affected. How long would they be able to stand it?
"Paralysis, challenge, restate, there is no alternative." Oronto repeated her analysis.
"End." Becteau had reacted first. She knew that she could not control the screams anymore. Jonathon was frozen. He wished they could hear them like he heard them.