Chapter 3
Kangaroo Court, Part I
Camp Beria, Phobos, Martian Sphere
Date: Tue 31 Mar 123
Time: UST 0851

Matt remembered the last time he was in a lonely three-by-three. It was ironic that the events at Yufang seemed to be playing in reverse. Instead of restoring him to his regular life, NIS agents took it all away, leaving him in an unreal limbo.
Before being put on a shuttle, he had a bag put over his head and that bag wasn't taken off until he was processed as a detainee. He did not know where he was, but it was an offworld post, probably somewhere in the Martian Sphere because the shuttle ride was only a few hours. The guards all seemed to be Marines, so possibly a Marine post, though Marines were often used for security at a number of government facilities.
Speaking of the guards, their only purpose in life seemed to be tormenting him. They would never let him sleep for long and meals were served at odd hours. The intention was to make him lose all sense of time and it worked. He had no idea how long he had been there.
There were no interrogations. The guards barely spoke save for the occasional barked order or taunt. He never heard why he was arrested or what they intended to do with him. If their ultimate goal was to drive him stark raving mad, it could very well happen.
"No sleeping!" a guard shouted.
Mat was not in fact asleep, but that was almost always the first thing they shouted. What was it now?
"On your feet!"
Matt slowly stood up.
"Hands in front! Cross your wrists!"
Matt did so. While one guard stood there shining a flashlight in Matt's eyes, another quickly cuffed his wrists and ankles. The two sets of cuffs were connected by a chain which was further secured by a waist chain. Matt could only raise his arms about halfway up his chest and only had enough slack for shuffling half-steps. The guard who cuffed him took him by the arm and guided him out of his cell.
After a lot of winding through corridors and going through several security gates, Matt entered a room with several other detainees. He could hardly believe it, but General Pfeiffer was there and Colonel Vasquez of the Army detachment. Lieutenant Wallace and Chief Bianchi were there, too. The Lieutenant did not have his visor and so he was keeping his eyes closed.
"Ma'am, what are you doing here?" Matt asked the General.
"No talking!" a guard shouted.
General Pfeiffer and Colonel Vasquez simply glowered at the guards in contempt. Lieutenant Wallace gave no sign of emotion whatsoever. Only Chief Bianchi seemed appropriately nervous at their situation. Matt would have tried to get some answers, but he already knew what the inevitable result would be.
The room they were in had four doors, one at each wall. The door to the opposite side of where Matt entered open up and a thickset female Marine dragged Lydia into the room. She looked like she was only half-conscious, barely staying on her feet.
Without thinking, Matt tried to approach her.
"Nyx! Nyx, are you alright?"
The guard who shouted at him earlier stepped in and shoved him back, nearly causing him to topple over.
"Get back! No talking!"
Bleary-eyed, Lydia's body swayed uneasily as she slowly lifted up her head.
Though her voice was barely audible, it was enough to set off the shouting guard.
"I said no talking!"
Lydia looked at the guard blankly, not seeming to have much idea what was going on.
"Who the... Who the fuck're you? Fuck you..."
"What was that!?" the guard snapped.
Before he could get up in Lydia's face, the female guard pulled him back.
"Whoa! Back off the psycho, D."
Confused, the guard called 'D' looked at his comrade and asked, "If she's psych, why ain't she wearin' white?"
"Uniform purposes," the female guard replied. "They got her all doped up, but ya can't be too careful."
The door that apparently led to the female detention block opened again and another female guard stepped in.
"Make a hole!" she shouted.
Lydia was pulled out of the way as a stretcher was wheeled in with one guard pushing the stretcher and two large male guards following along with boxer pistols drawn and ready.
"What the fuck?" an astonished D asked.
The female guard who cleared the way for the stretcher asked him, "You ain't heard 'bout this big Shelly bitch, D?"
Indeed, the woman on the stretcher reminded Matt of the Sheolites who abducted him on Titan. She did not look quite as corpse-grey as they did, but she was still unhealthily pale. She was well over two meters tall, her body too long for the stretcher. As a result, the thick alloy restraints did not line up quite right. For instance, the forehead restraint was around her neck. She suffered this in silence though, still and quiet as a plank of wood.
The doors on both sides opened and in walked a man as tall as the Sheolite and a particularly short female.
"Jack!" the short female exclaimed.
"Shorty!" the tall man--'Jack'--replied.
"Shut up!" D shouted. "I swear ta God, the next one a' ya that talks is gettin' a taste a' Ol' Sparky."
D pulled out a stun gun from his utility belt to emphasize his point, but this did not quiet the short female.
"Why are you doing this to us!?" she asked, her eyes welling up with tears. "What did we do!?"
"That's it!"
D activated his stun gun and jabbed the female square in the chest. She cried out in pain, which threw Jack into a rage.
"Leave her alone, you bastard!"
He broke free of the guard holding him and flung himself bodily at D, knocking him to the floor. D quickly recovered, though, rolling over and delivering a quick punch to Jack's face.
"You want some a' this!?"
He then hit Jack with the stun gun while two other guards pulled him off. Though his muscles were seizing from the electricity, Jack still tried to fight the guards. Then there was an audible creaking as the Sheolite woman started to struggle against her restraints.
"Oh, shit," a nearby guard muttered.
One of the guards armed with a boxer pistol pointed his weapon directly at the Sheolite's head.
"Don't even think about it, bitch."
Before the situation could devolve any further, Colonel Vasquez shouted, "Sergeant Grisson, stand down!"
Jack--or Sergeant Grisson--was apparently one of Colonel Vasquez's soldiers and grudgingly stopped resisting the guards. The guards roughly dragged him to his feet and as things settled down, the Sheolite woman also relaxed.
General Pfeiffer--who had stood by contemptuously watching the entire display--said to the guards, "Marines, I'm going to advise you against further provocation. You're making your lives more difficult than they need to be."
"Did I ask you!?" D snapped.
Even though the Marines outnumbered the detainees, were armed and had full freedom of movement, one of them was getting visibly nervous at all the tension in the room.
"Dammit, why do we got ta have so many of 'em in one damn room?"
"Secure that shit, E," another one growled.
Before the edgy guards could spark an all-out riot, a young Navy lieutenant stepped into the room from the door in the back.
"Attention on deck!" one of the Marines shouted.
The Marines snapped to attention, prompting the lieutenant to say, "Carry on, carry on." Walking to the middle of the room, he glanced at the DataPad in his hand and then said to the detainees, "Hello, ladies and gentlemen. I am Lieutenant De Vries. I have been detailed as your defense counsel."
"This is completely unacceptable," General Pfeiffer said.
"We have been detained for three weeks without charge or legal representation and now a single JAG is supposed to represent the nine of us? This cannot stand."
"I'm sorry," Lieutenant De Vries replied, "but the arraignment hearing is going to start in five minutes, so could you hold any questions and comments until after?"
"In five minutes!? Why have you not filed a motion to delay the hearing until after you've consulted with us?"
"Please, ma'am, we need get going."
Without paying a single thought to General Pfeiffer's complaints, Lieutenant De Vries walked on ahead to the fourth door and the Marines herded the detainees single file into a spartan courtroom. There was a bench for the panel of judges, a witness stand, and desks for the court recorder, the prosecution and the defense. There were no jury box or benches for other attendees, though.
A Marine officer in his service dress uniform was standing at the prosecution's desk and an armed lieutenant in his utilities was posted on the opposite side of the room. None of the guards wore any rank insignia, nametapes or other identifying marks, so the lieutenant with his rank visibly displayed stood out from the rest.
The space behind the defense's desk quickly became crowded with nine detainees and five of the eleven guards remaining close at hand.
"Attention on deck!" the lieutenant at the opposite end of the room shouted.
The Marines snapped to attention as an Army officer entered the room from a door near the lieutenant and then took his place at the center of the judges' bench. Once he was seated, the Army officer struck his gavel.
"This Xray-One-Ten-Alpha session is called to order," he said.
The Marine officer at the prosecution's desk then announced, "This tribunal is convened by Special Order Charlie-Two-Zero-One-Eight, Headquarters, Colonial Joint Operations Command, Camp Beria, Phobos, dated 24 March 123, copies of which have been furnished to the military judge, counsel and the accused, and which will be inserted in the record at this point."
General Pfeiffer spoke up.
"Permission to speak, Your Honor."
"What is it?" the judge asked.
"I have not been furnished with a copy of this order, nor have I been apprised of my rights or the charges against me. Though I cannot speak for the others among the accused, I believe they have similarly been denied the same in violation of the due process of law."
"General Pfeiffer," the judge replied, "you have a copy of the order now and you will be apprised of your rights and the charges against you momentarily."
Continuing to press the issue, General Pfeiffer continued, "Your Honor, we have been held in detention for three weeks without charge or access to legal counsel."
"Habeas corpus is suspended in extraordinary cases in accordance with the Temporary Emergency Security Provisions Act of 103. Counsel, continue."
The Marine officer resumed his announcement, saying, "The charges have been properly referred to this court for trial--"
"But they haven't been served to the accused."
"Do not interrupt, General Pfeiffer," the judge said tersely.
The Marine officer continued, "The prosecution is ready to proceed with the arraignment in the cases of the Earth Union v. Brigadier General Lorraine K. Pfeiffer, the Earth Union v. Colonel José E. Vasquez-Pilares, the Earth Union v. Colonel Matthias C. Harold, the Earth Union v. Senior Lieutenant Lydia N. Han, the Earth Union v. First Lieutenant Jefferson A. Wallace, the Earth Union v. Gunnery Sergeant Miranda K. Grisson, the Earth Union v. Chief Electrician's Mate Eva B. Bianchi, the Earth Union v. Sergeant Johnathan H. Grisson, and the Earth Union v. Specialist Fourth Class Allison P. O'Connor.
"The accused and the following persons detailed to this court are present: Brigadier General Lavrent Ryczek, military judge; Major Claus Gorman, trial counsel; and Junior Lieutenant Winton De Vries, defense counsel.
"In lieu of a human recorder, all proceedings will mechanically recorded in accordance with Xray-One-Ten-Alpha, Section Three, Paragraph 27-Bravo. For the benefit of the accused, all being members of the military and subject to the Revised Military Justice Code, the tribunal will refer the analogous RMJC articles, but it should be noted for the record that this tribunal is not a court-martial and should not be treated as such. The relevant sections of Xray-One-Ten have been noted in all documentation.
"I have been detailed to this tribunal by Lieutenant Colonel Muneer Awad, Staff Judge Advocate, Headquarters, Camp Beria, Phobos. The prosecution is qualified and certified under Article 27-Bravo and sworn in under Article 42-Alpha, Revised Military Justice Code. The prosecution has not acted in any way that might tend to disqualify him in this tribunal."
"Do you have anything to report prior to proceeding with this arraignment, Trial Counsel?" the judge--General Ryczek--asked.
"Negative, sir," the trial counsel--Major Gorman--replied.
General Ryczek then said, "To the accused, you have the right to be represented by Lieutenant De Vries, your detailed military defense counsel who has been provided at no expense to you. Your right to request a different military lawyer to represent you has been suspended. You may elect to defend yourself, but Lieutenant De Vries will remain detailed to you in an advisory capacity."
"What of our right to civilian counsel, Your Honor?" General Pfeiffer asked.
"The right to be represented by a civilian lawyer is suspended in a tribunal like this due to the classified nature of your offenses."
"And why is only a single military counsel detailed to all of us?"
"The government is only obliged to furnish you with a single military counsel."
"I cannot see how it is reasonable that one counsel can effectively defend nine separate cases simultaneously."
"Due to the interconnected nature of the charges against you, it is to your advantage that a single counsel can organize your collective defense."
"I disagree, Your Honor," General Pfeiffer said, giving Lieutenant De Vries a passing glance, "especially in light of the junior nature of the defense counsel."
"Your objection is noted, General Pfeiffer, and overruled. You will let me continue. Do you understand your rights to counsel?"
General Pfeiffer looked over to Lydia and said, "Your Honor, I can't help but notice that Lieutenant Han appears to be sedated."
General Ryczek glanced over to the lieutenant at the door and asked, "Bailiff?"
"Lieutenant Han has been judged a danger to herself and others, sir," the lieutenant replied, "and has been sedated to minimize that danger."
This was not enough for General Pfeiffer to drop her protest.
"Your Honor, Lieutenant Han's sedation cannot possibly render her mentally competent to consent to these proceedings."
General Ryczek looked to Major Gorman.
"Trial Counsel?"
Major Gorman replied, "We have a statement from Lieutenant Han's attending psychiatrist that the sedation should not impede her mental faculties enough to warrant a judgment of incompetence."
"Very well then," General Ryczek said, satisfied with the answers of Major Gorman and the bailiff. "I say again to the accused, do you understand your right to counsel?"
General Pfeiffer replied, "Your Honor, the right to counsel as defined is grossly--"
General Ryczek cut her off.
"I didn't ask if you agreed with it, General. I asked if you understood."
"Yes, sir." she replied stiffly.
"And the rest of you?"
Only Matt, Chief Bianchi and the short female who was apparently Specialist O'Connor replied with "Yes, sir." The others remained silent.
"Those of you who did not reply, your silence will be taken for assent," General Ryczek said. "Now, do any of you have any questions about your right to counsel that have not already been addressed?"
Colonel Vasquez, though he had been silent earlier, spoke up.
"I have one, sir."
"What is it, Colonel Vasquez?"
"If you're gonna just make a mockery of the military justice system, why don't you just take us out back and shoot us and get it over with?"
"Your comment is out of line, Colonel," General Ryczek replied sharply. "Do it again and you'll be charged with contempt." He then eyed the accused and said, "One last time. Are there any questions about your right to counsel?"
Again, only General Pfeiffer, Matt, Chief Bianchi and Specialist O'Connor replied.
"No, sir."
General Ryczek then said, "Lieutenant De Vries, please announce by whom you were detailed and your qualification."
"Aye-aye, sir," Lieutenant De Vries replied. "I have been detailed to this tribunal by Major Heinemann Bloch, Senior Defense Counsel, Headquarters, Camp Beria, Phobos. I am qualified and certified under Article 27-Alpha and sworn under Article 42-Bravo of the Revised Code of Military Justice."
"I believe the defense counsel means 27-Bravo and 42-Alpha," Major Gorman said.
"Yes, sir," Lieutenant De Vries said with an apologetic nod. "Thank you, sir. And, also, I have not acted in any manner which might tend to disqualify me in this tribunal."
With that, General Ryczek said, "As for myself, I have been properly certified, sworn and detailed by Brigadier General Song Yesu, Chief Trial Judge, Earth Union Army Trial Judiciary, to this tribunal. Counsel for both sides have the requisite qualifications and all personnel required to be sworn have been sworn.
"Trial Counsel, please announce the general nature of the charges."
Major Gorman said, "The general nature of charges in this case include individual charges of alleged violations of Articles 81, 94, 104, and 106. That is to say, the accused are charged with a conspiracy to commit acts of espionage and mutiny against lawful military and civil authorities to the aid and comfort of the Sheol Empire, an enemy in a declared state of war with the Earth Union. There are also a number of lesser charges specific to each individual among the accused.
"The charges were preferred by Vice Admiral Artoum E. Bladiev and forwarded with recommendations as to disposition by the same. An investigation was conducted by Special Agent Javier Ferreira, NIS."
"I am not aware of any matter that might tend to be a ground for challenge against me," General Ryczek said. "Does either side desire to question or challenge me?"
"No, Your Honor," Major Gorman and Lieutenant De Vries replied in unison.
"Your Honor," General Pfeiffer said, "we have a right to be tried by a court of no less than five members unless we waive that right."
"Again, General Pfeiffer, you are treating these proceedings like a court-martial. This is not a court-martial and as you should know by now, a number of rights have been suspended in this tribunal. Your defense counsel can furnish you a copy of Xray-One-Ten if you are unfamiliar. As the accused, you have no standing with which to challenge me, but if your defense counsel can find sufficient grounds, he is welcome to present them for consideration prior to the commencement of your trial.
"So there is no ambiguity, allow me to state explicitly that this tribunal will presided over by a single military judge--myself--and this judge alone will decide whether you are guilty or not guilty. If found guilty, the judge will determine your sentence. Do all of you understand this?"
"Yes, sir," the same four among the detainees replied.
"All parties to the tribunal have been furnished with a copy of the charges," Major Gorman said. "Does the accused want them read?"
"The accused waives the reading of the charges," Lieutenant De Vries said.
"No, I don't," General Pfeiffer said. "Your Honor, I would like each of the accused to be afforded the opportunity to have the charges read or to waive the reading."
"Very well," General Ryczek replied. He nodded to Major Gorman. "Trial Counsel."
"General Pfeiffer, do you wish to have the charges against you read?" Major Gorman asked.
Major Gorman tapped on his DataPad before saying, "General Pfeiffer, you are charged with the following:
"Charge one: mutiny. Specification one: In this that Brigadier General Pfeiffer did plot mutiny against her immediate superior, Vice Admiral Ibrahim Mfume, and the federal government at large.
"Charge two: conspiracy. Specification one: In this that starting 11 January 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did willingly enter into the conspiracy to commit mutiny.
"Charge three: solicitation. Specification one: In this that on 4 May 121, Brigadier did solicit Commander Aaron Joachim to enter into the conspiracy to mutiny. Specification two: In this that on 4 May 121, Brigadier did solicit Captain Satoru Nagashima to enter into the conspiracy to mutiny. Specification three: In this that on 30 June 121, Brigadier did solicit Lieutenant Commander Francisco Figueroa to enter into the conspiracy to mutiny. Specification four: In this that on 8 July 121, Brigadier General did solicit Lieutenant Colonel Pierre Duvalier to enter into the conspiracy to mutiny.
"Charge four: espionage. Specification one: In this that Brigadier General Pfeiffer did use her security clearance to acquire classified data on the ESS Ticonderoga in order to transmit it to the enemy. Specification two: In this that Brigadier General Pfeiffer did use her security clearance to acquire classified data on the Ica-85 Tigerhawk stealth fighter in order to transmit it to the enemy.
"Charge five: aiding the enemy. Specification one: In this that on 9 July 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did transmit classified data to the Sheolites during the Ticonderoga's capture. Specification two: In this that on 1 October 122, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did use an abandoned Sheolite destroyer to transmit classified data to the the Sheolite fleet advancing on Mars.
"Charge six: accessory after the fact. Specification one: In this that on 4 May 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did conceal the role of Colonel Matthias Harold and Senior Lieutenant Han in the sabotage of Commander Aaron Joachim's covert mission to infiltrate the pirate organization known as the Seven Deadly Sins. Specification two: In this that on 4 May 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did conceal the illegal cooption of official channels by First Lieutenant Jefferson Wallace to secure the release of Colonel Harold and Lieutenant Han from detention at Yufang Starport. Specification three: In this that on 6 July 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did conceal the destruction of an abandoned blacksite by Lieutenant Wallace. Specification four: In this that on 22 July 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did use her influence to suppress the attempt by Sergeant Johnathan Grisson and Specialist Allison O'Connor to falsely incriminate Lieutenant Colonel Duvalier in retaliation for his refusal to enter into the conspiracy to commit mutiny. Specification five: In this that on 04 November 121, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did suppress the role of Lieutenant Wallace in utilizing a banned artificial intelligence against the Empyrean forces, resulting in the destruction of Selene 03 and the deaths of approximately ninety thousand civilians. Specification six: In this that on 7 September 122, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did suppress the investigation into the conduct of Gunnery Sergeant Miranda Grisson during her alleged capture on the Sheolite base Erebus. Specification seven: In this that on 22 November 122, Brigadier General Pfeiffer did suppress the communication between Colonel Harold and the Sheolites.
"This concludes the charges against the accused."
The list was as sickening as it was absurd and it gave a clear enough picture of what the others could expect. Besides General Pfeiffer, Matt was the only one to request to have his charges read. The worst part was not the charges that were spurious, outrageous though they were, but rather the ones that had a basis in fact and would be difficult to counter even in a fair trial, to say nothing of a secretive tribunal like this where they were as good as convicted before they even began.
After Specialist O'Connor declined to hear the charges against her, General Ryczek said, "Now that the charges have been read, we can proceed with the plan. I have spoken with the counsel for both sides and we shall begin with the trial of Specialist O'Connor on Wednesday, 1 April. That should be more than sufficient time for the defense counsel to prepare his case. As there are no outstanding motions, I ask counsel from either side if there is anything they wish to add to the record at this time?"
"No, Your Honor," Major Gorman replied.
"No, Your Honor," Lieutenant De Vries followed.
General Ryczek then said, "For the purposes of this arraignment, a plea of not guilty will be recorded for all charges by the accused. If the accused wishes to amend any of these pleas, he or she may do so at the commencement of the trial. This Xray-One-Ten-Alpha session is hereby adjourned."
When General Ryczek struck his gavel to mark the end of the session, the bailiff shouted, "Attention on deck!"
The assembled personnel went to attention as General Ryczek exited the courtroom. The detainees were then herded out and returned to their cells. This was only the beginning, but the end was already decided.