2750 The Interactive VR-Drama Executive Decision

In the final phase of the Kisor War, the Solar system was pushed to the defensive when the guilds involved in the war on Kisor's side besieged the Solar system. The Tika guild having been responsible for psychological warfare violated the war contract to engineer a hopeless situation in the Sky Cathedral where 150,000 human civilians had to struggle desperately to defend themselves against superior and merciless enemies. The result of certain conditions of the war contract was that the desperate situation of the people trapped in the Sky Cathedral was broadcast live to the entire system. All of humanity had to watch without being able to help. In doing so, the Tika guild was trying to morally break humanity in order to compel the Solar system to surrender. The plan did not succeed. Ultimately humanity had to be defeated militarily. However due to the 6 year long public suffering the tragedy in the Sky Cathedral has remained present in the collective memory, more than the war itself.

The spectacular rescue of the survivors from the Sky Cathedral by the Solar Liberation Front with moral conflicts on both sides serves as the historical background to the VR drama *Executive Decision* by Marktorf Filmkraft Produkktion. The plot is basically a replay of the rescue mission in 2727 with many different playable endings depending on the player's decisions.

The small rescue fleet of the Solar Liberation Front (the SLF) fought its way through the Kisoran guard ships. The final battle took place in proximity of the Sky Cathedral, as the Kisori were using the structure for cover. Unfortunately, warheads of SLF anti-ship X-ray lasers detonated close to the Polaris Arc of the Sky Cathedral destroying it completely. The adjacent Spica Section of the Sky Cathedral was also heavily damaged with 7145 people losing their lives. The SLF was then able to land troops and rescue 23,647 survivors.

Since the end of the war there have been recurring discussions whether the decision of captain Mauro Toselli of the "Washington" – after the State of Washington, the site of the decisive battle in the 2nd American Civil War in 2259 – to fire at the Kisoran frigates behind the Polaris Arc was justified.

The tactical situation of the attacking SLF became increasingly desperate at that time. The heavy cruiser of the SLF flotilla *Francis Marion* had been immobilized and drifted away. Thus, the missile defense shield of the remaining SLF units provided by the *Francis Marion* quickly disappeared. It was to be expected that the missile defense of the remaining units would soon be overwhelmed by the Kisoran forces. So, the liberation attempt would have failed and there would probably not have been another one. The survivors at the Sky Cathedral would have been left on their own and they probably would not have survived the war.

Toselli's bold shot was a unique opportunity to take out two defenders at once and turn the tide. The Kisoran frigates were unusually close together, so that both could be taken out simultaneously by the last remaining SLF anti-ship torpedoes. Toselli knew from the Sky Cathedral live broadcasts that the Polaris Arc had been evacuated some time ago. Apart from that the whereabouts of the survivors were unknown because they were constantly on the run. In any case losses were to be expected. So, Toselli was faced with the decision to abandon all remaining survivors or accept some losses to be able to save many of them. Perhaps there would have been other possibilities, but Toselli had only ten seconds to assess the situation and take action.

We know how he proceeded. We know that it cost the lives of 7145 people. The number of casualties was much larger than the SLF command had ever expected. On the other hand, they were smaller than the Kisori had assumed. The Kisori had used the Polaris Arc as a cover because they had not believed that the SLF would fire at the large living areas in the Polaris Arc. The Kisori did not follow the drama of the Star Cathedral live feeds as closely as the human crews. So, they had failed to notice that the Polaris Arc was no longer inhabited at that time. Otherwise they would probably not have used the Arc for cover.

However, we also know that more than 23,000 people were saved by Toselli's action. And we know that this was in fact the last possible liberation attempt, because no other group in the asteroid belt could have saved them. The humans entrapped at the Sky Cathedral would not have survived another four years until the end of the war.

Later Captain Toselli is sued by relatives of the victims. As the commanding officer of a militia force, he is accused of mass murder. The suit is dismissed on the grounds that the self-proclaimed Solar Liberation Front had been part of the military through an informal alliance with the coalition forces. The casualties thus being collateral damage of war actions and not victims to mass murder. This decision defers the responsibility to the military. Captain Toselli has to answer to a court martial and is eventually acquitted.

Much later it becomes known that the Kisoran high command intended to end the Sky Cathedral blockade as early as the start of the ground offensive on the Earth. So, the humans in the Sky Cathedral would have had to endure only 15 months instead of four full years. Still, it is not sure how many of the trapped people would have survived for so long.

The interactive VR drama *Executive Decision* with Maurizio Magris and Sren Tot Plok is based on the dramatic situation around the Sky Cathedral. A remarkable feature of the play being that it is not only possible to play the people on the bridge of the "Washington", but also to impersonate Kisoran decision-makers with a very close look at the moral aspects on the Kisoran side.

It is historically proven that the captain of one of the Kisoran frigates, Trash Prek Nuang, played by Sren Tot Plok, was a fan of the drama unfolding in the Sky Cathedral feeds. Since he was following the action closely, he must have been aware that the Polaris Arc had been evacuated. Knowing that human crews would also watch the Sky Cathedral feeds and thus knowing that they would be aware of the evacuation he had to expect the SLF's attack on the Polaris Arc.

Following one interactive version of the VR script, Prek tries to convince the captain of the other frigate to leave the shadow of the Polaris Arc. This way he can save both his command and the humans in the Spica Section. Yet, at the same time he will reveal that he is closely following the events in the Sky Cathedral which means that he will risk being charged with treason for "empathy with the enemy". Yet, the other commander refuses to follow his advice. As a senior to Prek he is the commanding officer of the small Kisoran flotilla. Prek's moral conflict is an important plot device. He is torn apart between loyalty towards the guild, a possible accusation of treason, and his personal guilt of being responsible for the cruel scenes in the Sky Cathedral as an officer of the blockade fleet.

A popular endgame unfolds when the interactive Prek-player keeps his detailed knowledge about the Sky Cathedral secret. Since both Kisoran captains belong to the same clan there is also internal clan politics at play. Invoking old clan obligations he would be able to force his superior officer to leave the Polaris Arc's shadow thus denying the SLF captain an easy target for his last remaining salvo. But Prek does not resort to clan politics. Instead Prek accepts the possible destruction of the two frigates and his own death as an atonement for the guilt that the Tika Guild had incurred by creating the Sky Cathedral tragedy in the first place. Prek thereby enables the rescue of 23,000 survivors while at the same time sentencing over 7,000 human civilians to death. Some of whom Prek had come to know and like through the feeds and whose lives he has accompanied from afar in the recent years.

The historical fact that Toselli attacked the two frigates and that the survivors were finally rescued indicates that Prek knowingly sacrificed the civilians in the Spica Section, the two Kisoran frigates, and his own life. We know how he decided, but we will never know his motives. The VR drama leaves the interpretation to the player.

For a Human production *Executive Decision* receives amazingly many awards on Kisor.