The crowd roars above me, a savage beast crying for my banishment, the death of my avatar. They have yet to come for me, to fetch me from this prison to face my condemnation.
There is no question about whether I'm guilty. Everyone knows what I did, and some even understand why it happened, but no one is willing to listen. No one is willing to hear the case of a man who has served the Plexus as a faithful guardian for his entire life, and even those who know the circumstances are so bloodthirsty that this hearing is more spectacle than it is justice.
This building is well made. Someone put a lot of effort into crafting each of its stones, lining them up. I ascend the stairs into a long hallway, looking down and into the center of the arena. I cannot count how many thousands of man-hours went into building this coliseum, but it cannot have been the effort of one man. The details are too rich, the feel of rock, the reverberation of the crowd, with wave after wave their chanted calls for my death sweep passed me, delighting my guards. I have to admit, forcing me to walk into the arena is a nice touch. The admins have pulled out all the stops for this.
I step into the sand-covered grounds at the center of the coliseum, my head down, for now at least pretending at remorse, but my eyes taking in the vast array of spectators about me. Tens of thousands of avatars are represented here. Tens of millions more see me through simulcast in different replications of the event throughout the Plexus. This is the event to see, to witness the death of public enemy zero. Hundreds of millions are watching in on transmission screens in their homes or watching to remote transmissions in every single sim bar in existence. Billions are tuned in right now, waiting to see me fry.
The crowd chants, "burn him" over and over. Demanding the ultimate sentence, that I be irrevocably removed from the Plexus, that my avatar be disintegrated, and that a signal be sent into my implant, frying its components and preventing me from plugging in ever again. Even the dead have more rights. Their consciousnesses are pulled from their waning bodies to be permanently left sim-side. There, the dead can live forever. No, my punishment will be true death. I will be a footnote in the collective memory, and my mind will be permanently disconnected.
They chant and the adjudicator, a silver humanoid in deep, flowing crimson, lets them chant, smiling at the near riot that is bleeding out into the stands. "Burn him," they shout again and again.
Finally, he raises his gavel and slams it down onto the podium, once, twice, three times, creating booming thunderclaps to silence the thunderous crowd. The world goes mute and not even the echo of a cough is permitted into the arena.
"Zanaklal," his voice booms, the echoes rippling through crowd and stone, "you stand accused of willfully and deliberately conspiring to destroy avatars. You stand accused of using your role as a moderator to further your own designs, for individual profit and the subjugation of others. You stand accused of disabling safety protocols so that you could enact your own vigilantism, over and above your role as moderator and citizen. In short, you are accused of violating every oath you have sworn, of profaning all you should hold sacrosanct. How do you plead?"
I stare at him, contemplating the bloodthirst in his eyes, knowing they expect me to help them further this farce of a trial through pleading guilty or not. Far better to turn this around. Defiance is better, especially since they plan on burning me no matter what I do.
"Adjudicator, you have neither the right, nor the authority, nor the wisdom to understand or judge what I have done. You're just as much of a fool as the rest of them."
The crowd explodes, some moderator allowing the sound of their contempt boom from the stands again. It does not take much to increase theatricality of this trial already, but the more I can milk out of this the better. Defiance will only increase the number of viewers, the number of people who will be marked witnesses.
Again the adjudicator bangs his gavel, releasing thunderclap after thunderclap. His smile has grown unnaturally broad, his triangular teeth visible through his gleaming lips.
"Mr. Zanaklal," he says, "you have an opportunity to state your case, to convince this court to show you some mercy. Many would say that this crowd is right in calling for you to burn. You have just this one opportunity to save yourself."
"I would not give you the pleasure," I speak and begin fumbling with something, something that would have gone unnoticed by the guards, something that would be considered innocuous, insignificant.
"Then Zanaklal, you give me no other choice but to proclaim you guilty, and to sentence you to burn." Again the crowd erupts for dramatic effect, again he slams his gavel, trying to redirect the focus to the task at hand. This is getting old.
And now begins the real spectacle, the part that people will want to watch over and over. I bet some even plan on putting it up as their sleep message. The verdict rendered, the adjudicator raises his gavel one more time. He pauses, and I can see a glint of the artificial sunlight off of the shining gavel, the tool held far above his head. As he brings it down, the sound of the crowd comes rushing in to meet it, the final strike of his instrument of justice will realize the condemnation and enact his proclaimed sentence.
As the hammer strikes the podium, I simultaneously press the device in my hand, disconnecting me from the server and sending a tidal wave of energy into the Plexus. The commands that were initially meant to burn me, to eject me from this system I loved and served so well, instead are reflected on those watching. An unstoppable chain reaction first engulfs the adjudicator and those immediately present in the coliseum, then it cascades into the simulcast locations, finally devastating the casual witnesses, those who were content to sit and watch, or even sit and ignore, from their stools in their virtual bars.
Tonight, the adjudicator did not burn me. I escaped, but he did not, nor did any of those bloodthirsty viewers. When they finally tally the number of people that were irrevocably ejected from Plexus, the amount will be staggering: twelve billion people, over eighty-seven percent of the population of the inner solar system, are now permanently disconnected. I'm not one of them, and vengeance is mine.
— From the archive of Robert Holish "the Zanaklal"