Chapter 4
Kangaroo Court, Part II
Date:
Wed 01 Apr 123
Time: UST 0910

Ally stood tremulously at the desk next to her lawyer. At least during the pre-trial hearing she had Jack with her and the others as well, but now she was all alone.
The prosecutor--trial counsel or whatever they call it--was looking directly at her as he said, "Specialist Fourth Class Allison Patricia O'Connor, you stand accused of the following violations: mutiny, espionage, conspiracy, aiding the enemy, misbehavior before the enemy, failure to obey orders, false statements, resisting arrest, disloyal statements, and fraternization. A plea of not guilty has been entered on your behalf for all charges. Do you wish to change your plea to any of the charges or specifications at this time?"
"No, sir," Ally replied numbly.
In truth, she hadn't seen the charges in any detail, even though she was pretty sure she had a right to it, not that her rights had much meaning here. Then again, her rights became pretty meaningless ever since she was drafted.
She didn't know what she could've possibly done to deserve this. Maybe she didn't deserve it. It didn't make much difference. She could cry about injustice all she wanted and it wouldn't change anything. She just wanted it to be over with.
"Approach the stand, Specialist O'Connor," the trial counsel said.
"Yes, sir."
She walked stiffly over the stand next to the judge. Once she had taken her place, the judge nodded to the Marine lieutenant by the door to his right.
"Bailiff."
The bailiff walked over to the witness stand. Even with the stand being raised a good twenty or so senches off the floor, Ally still didn't meet his eye level.
"Raise your right hand," the bailiff said. Ally did so and he then asked her, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?"
"Yes, sir."
The bailiff then returned to his post and the trial counsel spoke up.
"State your full name, rank, serial number and date of birth for the record."
"Spe, Specialist Fourth Class Allison O'Connor, Nine-Six-Oh-Charlie-November-Lima-Oh-Nine-Six-Five, 14 Fe, February One-Oh-One."
Ally couldn't help but recall that the Big Four was the same information she was obliged to give as a prisoner of war. It really wasn't that different.
"I would like you to confirm some basic information, Specialist O'Connor," the trial counsel continued. "You were drafted on 19 March 120, correct?"
"Yes, sir."
"You were inducted into service on 5 April 120."
"Yes, sir."
"You attended basic combat training at Camp Velasquez from 9 April 120 to 6 June 120."
"Yes, sir."
"You attended military specialty training in the human resources specialist course at Fort Rossmeyer from 11 June 120 to 8 August 120."
"Yes, sir."
"You were assigned to S-1, HHC, 602nd Transportation Battalion at Camp Weir on 24 August 120."
"Yes, sir."
"You attended infantry training at Fort Abizaid from 26 November 120 to 21 December 120."
"Yes, sir."
"Airborne School also at Fort Abizaid from 7 January 121 to 25 January 121"
"Yes, sir."
"You then followed up with the air assault course at Fort Kwan from 30 January 121 to 15 February 121."
"Yes, sir."
"Sniper School at Fort Chatree from 21 February 121 to 29 March 121."
"Yes, sir."
"And then you were assigned to your current duty station in Second Platoon, Charlie Company, 78th Combined Arms Detachment on 3 April 121, inprocessing on 12 April 121."
"Yes, sir."
It was dizzying to be barraged by all those questions. In all truth, she was a little fuzzy on the dates, but it all sounded close enough to being right. Given the charges against her, did it really matter if she got a Tuesday and a Wednesday mixed up?
"Tell me, Specialist O'Connor, why would a soldier such as yourself reclass into combat arms?"
Ally felt her throat tighten. She was told her reclassing was top secret. Did that mean she was supposed to keep it secret even here?
"Specialist, don't you have anything to say?"
Should she just say that it's top secret? Would that be enough?
The trial counsel continued to press her.
"Is it not true that you received an offer you couldn't refuse?"
What was she supposed to say?
"You agreed to train as a sniper in order to infiltrate the crew of the Ticonderoga."
"No!" she exclaimed. She quickly corrected herself. "I, ah, I mean, no, sir." From there the words began spilling out. "It was, it was a medical experiment, they told me. They said if I didn't do it, they'd draft my brother. I had to! My brothers and sisters, they need him!"
"So they used your brother as leverage to get you to betray the Union."
"No, sir! That's not true at all!"
"Is it?" the trial counsel asked. "We have more than enough reason to doubt your loyalty, Specialist. Your own words condemn you."
The trial counsel pressed a button and Ally's voice filled room.
"Jack, I... I can't do this anymore... The Shellies... They're us... They didn't ask to be Shellies... They can't help it... And we're killing them... I'm killing them... I didn't want to... They made me... I couldn't stop myself... It's no different than what the Shellies do... We're no different... We're no different..."
Those were her words, but she didn't remember saying any of it. Only vague fragments of Jack holding her in the ruins of a hab-dome in Argyre.
In a mocking tone, the trial counsel repeated her last words on the recording. "'We're no different'... That's what you said, Specialist. The Union is no different from her sworn enemy. If that's the case, where does your true loyalty lie? Again, let's listen to your own words."
"The Shellies, they singled me out. Treated me different from everyone else."
That was from one of the times she spoke with Chaplain Teufel. What happened to privileged communication? The Chaplain told her what she said was just between the two of them. Did he know they were being recorded?
Before Ally could protest, the trial counsel said, "This refers to your purported capture by the Sheolites from 9 to 11 July 121. And why would you be singled out among over 200 people taken aboard the Hades?"
He didn't wait for Ally to answer, or at least not in person. Again her voice played on the speaker.
"The Empress... She, she's my mom."
Ally felt sick. She didn't have much on her stomach, but it was a wonder she didn't throw up then and there.
"The daughter of the Shelly empress," the trial counsel said. "Perhaps I should address you as 'Your Highness'."
It took all Ally's willpower just to stay standing, to hold her lurching stomach in check. The trial counsel didn't let up, though.
"What do you have to say for yourself, Specialist?"
She didn't have an answer. What could she possibly say that would make any difference at this point?

* * *

Date: Thu 02 Apr 123
Time: UST 1028

"And when Colonel Duvalier refused to enter into your conspiracy, General Pfeiffer sent you and Specialist O'Connor to secure his silence. When that failed, you spun it into a story claiming he assaulted Specialist O'Connor."
"That's a damn lie!" Jack snapped.
"Sergeant Grisson, you will maintain discipline!" General Ryczek barked.
"That's a damn lie, sir."
"You will refrain from profanity in my courtroom."
Jack was having none of it.
"Gotta keep our damn mouths clean when everything else is dirty."
"Sergeant, I will hold you in contempt."
The General's threat meant absolutely nothing to him. He was facing life in the Icebox or some rock on the Belt. Being held in contempt was the least of his worries.
"What difference does it make!? This whole tribunal's bullshit an' you know it! Why don't ya jus' do like the Colonel said an' have the decency ta take us out back an' shoot us?"
General Ryczek had his fill, turning to his right and saying, "Bailiff, remove the detainee."
The Marine lieutenant moved in along with two of the guards posted by the walls. As the bailiff took hold of him and started to drag him off the stand, Jack realized that rebelling against the tribunal's proceedings wasn't going to accomplish anything, but if he was going to go down anyway, maybe there was something useful he could do for it. He wouldn't get his chance if they carried him out first, though.
"Wait! Goddammit, get offa me!"
"Stop resisting, Sergeant!" the lieutenant barked.
Straining against the bailiff, Jack looked to General Ryczek and said, "Let Ally go an' I'll say whatever ya want me ta say. I don't care what ya do ta me. Jus' let Ally go. She ain't gonna hurt nothin'. Whatever shit you're tryin' ta bury, she don't know nothin' about it. Please..."
His appeal fell on deaf ears. The General wasn't moved in the slightest.
"I'm not here to make deals with the like of you, Sergeant," he said. "Nothing you can say or do will prejudice any other case being tried here."
With his last-ditch effort to get some good out of the situation going down in flames, Jack now had absolutely nothing to lose.
Jack glared at the General and with all the gall he could muster, he told him, "In that case, sir, you can go right to hell. All y'all can fuckin' burn."

* * *

Date: Fri 03 Apr 123
Time: UST 1042

"Twenty-seven people died to put you in the perfect position, Chief Bianchi."
The uniform of the detainees didn't include a StatSuit, so Eva could feel the beads of sweat trickling down her back. There was no talking her way out of this. The fact that they were here was proof that someone managed to tear apart Jeff's story, but the new narrative they cooked up was every bit as false and ten times worse.
They were trying to say that she was part of the conspiracy that turned over the Tico to the Shellies. Whatever she'd done wrong, she wasn't a traitor and if they thought they could get her to admit to as much, they had another thing coming.
The best thing she could do was stick to the facts as much as possible. Truth always beats lies, doesn't it?
"Sir, I was well on my way to being Number 28 when I... when I got out."
"And how exactly did you... get out?"
The trial counsel was deliberately mocking her hesitation. Here was where the truth had to end and she could only hope her lies beat theirs. She was able to convince Commodore Frazier and the Admiral. She was able to get through Intel's investigation. She just had to stick to the story, even if it couldn't save her. At very least, she'd be consistent and maybe, just maybe, she could shield Jeff a little. She only hoped he would return the favor.
"The men in black, the mutineers, they came under fire. Specials, I guess. Normal MAs wouldn't be that good. One of them chucked me into the maintenance tunnel. He told me to get out and I sure didn't have a mind to stick around."
"Pretty difficult to crawl around in maintenance tunnels when you're zip-tied."
"I had a multitool in my pocket. I got it out and cut the ties."
"How did you manage to reach your multitool? Your hands were zip-tied behind your back."
"I got my hands out in front."
"How did you manage that?"
"I'm bendy, sir."
"You must be quite the contortionist to do all that in a one-by-one tunnel."
"It's a wonder what you can do with the right motivation, sir."
Eva was rather proud of herself for not flinching through all that. It came easier to her than she would have ever through. The trial counsel had to pause for a moment and size her up before continuing.
"Chief, it's clear that you're well-practiced in this story. We can go about this all day and maybe I can catch you in your lies and maybe I can't. Not that admitting the truth will mitigate your sentence, but it might soothe your conscience."
"My conscience doesn't need any soothing, sir."
"Doesn't it? Chief, I look at your file and I see a good sailor. Maybe a little apt to stick your nose where it doesn't belong, but no one's perfect. You strike me as a victim of circumstance, an easy mark to advance a sinister agenda.
"Who do you think you're protecting, Chief? Lieutenant Wallace? We're all too aware of your illegal fraternization with him. We know he is the one who brought you into this conspiracy. I have to ask you, though, how well do you know him? Do you know that he is a convicted criminal working for ISIS? Do you know that he is responsible for dozens of deaths all from the comfort of his computer? Human life is just a toy to a man like him and yours is no different.
"Or did you think you were special? Do you think he loves you, cares for you, sees you as anything but a useful puppet in his schemes?"
The trial counsel let her have it with both barrels, but Eva didn't back down. She couldn't. Jeff never talked about himself and it was entirely possible that more of the charges leveled against him were true than false, but none of that mattered.
"I don't know Lieutenant Wallace, sir."
"You--"
The trial counsel stopped himself. Eva's words had a double meaning and he was sharp enough to catch it.
He gave a low chuckle and said, "I see. Well played, Chief Bianchi. You're a smart woman, but that won't save you."

* * *

Date: Mon 06 Apr 123
Time: UST 1115

It took all of Miranda's brainpower to lie on the stretcher still and silent. Her exoskeleton responded to reflex more than conscious thought and if she did not focus entirely on staying in control, her restraints and the five armed Marines positioned throughout the courtroom would not be enough to stop her.
She was a monster and needed to be buried. She was a liability to her fellow Marines and had no place in the civilian world. There was no need for this farce of a tribunal.
Why did they need to lie, though? What she was, that was enough to condemn her. The more they lied, the angrier she became and the angrier she became, the more difficult it was to stay in control.
"It must be difficult being one of the few females in Mobile Armor," Major Gorman said. "Even with the suppressants, all too many people find their way into inappropriate relationships."
Miranda never cared about things like that. It was a stupid angle of attack. They had all they needed to condemn her. It was like they were trying to provoke her. If they wanted to shoot her, they should just shoot her.
"I find it interesting," the Major continued, "that someone with your personality would be pursued rather than the one doing the pursuing. That would be something for the psychiatrists, I'm sure."
Her arm twitched. She had to redouble her concentration. If only she could tune him out, but she was too well-trained to ignore anything around her. She knew it was only going to get worse from here.
"You must cut quite the dramatic figure, sure to inspire the admiration of your subordinates, and possibly something more. Take Corporal Rudolf Hoek, one of your squad leaders. All evidence points to you two being a little closer than a platoon sergeant and squad leader should be. Inappropriately close."
If there was anything between Miranda and Hoek it was all one-sided on his end. She had pulled his tail out of the fire once or twice, but it was nothing she would not have done for any of her Marines. But then...
"He even went so far as to risk life and limb for you at Erebus, and he was rewarded for it by undergoing the same Sheolite cybernization process as you. And then you killed him."
Miranda's restraints creaked as she unconsciously strained against them. She quickly brought herself back in check. She had no choice. Hoek had gone full Shelly. It was kill or be killed and living like that was no life at all. Then again, her life was not much better. Perhaps it would have been best if they finished each other off back then.
"The official reports state that Corporal Hoek was completely overcome by his Sheolite programming, but what if he was nothing more than a sacrifice to allow even as obvious a Shelly operative as you back into the ranks?"
Shut up, shut up, shut up!
Miranda wanted to silence Major Gorman once and for all. The desire was so strong that it was a wonder she could continue to hold herself back. When would it end?
Against all reason, necessity or good sense, Major Gorman continued to press her.
"Of course, far more prejudicial to good order is your relationship with Major Knox. It was quite the open secret, so much so that you went so far as to assault an officer over it. The evidence is--"
What happened next was a blur. Much like the incident with Lieutenant Cranitz on Phobos, Miranda lost all control when false accusations were laid on Major Knox. She would not allow anyone to dirty his good name on her account or any other.
She came back to her senses when she hit the deck stiff as a board. The fact that Major Gorman was not a pile of hamburger told her that they must have stopped her before she could get to him. Her joints were locked up tight. They must have figured out some sort of override for her exoskeleton. She was not sure if she had taken any hits from the guards' boxer pistols. Either way, it did not matter much as her vision faded and everything went black.

* * *

Date: Tue 07 Apr 123
Time: UST 1322

Without his visor, Jeff was blind and helpless. He cursed himself for being outmaneuvered. He thought he was better than that, but he underestimated his opponents and now it was all over.
There would be no deals this time around. ISIS had clearly disavowed him. For all he knew, they were in on it, eager to pounce on the first opportunity to cut him loose now that the war was over. Why didn't he see it coming?
At first, he thought they were just after him, but the pre-trial hearing revealed everyone else caught in the net, but it raised more questions than it answered. If they were after him, he could understand Colonel Harold and Eva being collateral damage. Lieutenant Han and Specialist O'Connor were Berserkers, but they weren't the only Berserkers on the Tico, so it wasn't just about the Einherjar Project either. Then there was General Pfeiffer and Colonel Vasquez, the heads of the chains of command but not directly involved with either Jeff or the Berserkers. Yes, they were given cryptic warnings about the Berserkers under their command, but nothing that revealed their true nature, Neither of them had dug into any deeper as far as Jeff knew and he was pretty sure he would've caught them if they tried.
Perhaps there wasn't a single common thread that connected them. Jeff might have suspected there were others, but if the goal was to keep the scope of the sweep under wraps, the nine of them wouldn't have been brought together for the pre-trial hearing.
He could only wonder about the cases made against the others, but the greater part of the charges against him were true. The false charges were just a clumsy tool to tie everything together into a single narrative. If the Union still allowed execution, he'd have enough against him to warrant several death sentences.
Nothing he could say would get him out of it and trying to make a scapegoat of himself wouldn't save Colonel Harold or Eva. All he could do was stay quiet and let them have their little show trial. He wondered who it was even for. They could've just spaced everyone on the ride over, tossed them in an incinerator, chopped up their bodies and fed them to the proles in some barely-legal starport. It would've been so much easier. None of this made any sense.
And maybe that was the trick. So long as they were playing these big convoluted games, maybe there would be an opening. He didn't have all his toys twenty years ago when he broke out of the orphanage. Maybe he could pull off the same trick again. It was worth a shot. All he had to do was watch and wait until the opportunity presented itself.

* * *

Date: Wed 08 Apr 123
Time: UST 1128

Lydia didn't know where she was or what was going on. She'd been in a fog for so long. She couldn't remember the last time she could think straight. There was biting involved, she was pretty sure.
Her head lolled back and forth as she looked around the room. Greenback, leatherneck, squid... What, no Airhead? Where was the love for the boys in the wrong shade of blue?
The leatherneck in Alphas had been asking her a lot of questions, saying a lot of stuff that didn't make any sense. It was really annoying. If it was something she could make any sense of, she might mumble a yes if it was right and a no if it was wrong. It was hard to keep any of it straight.
The greenback would sometimes say stuff too, but she didn't really pay any attention to him. He didn't seem to like that, but fuck him. She may have said as much, because some leathernecks were taking hold of her and dragging her away. Whatever. Fuck them too.

* * *

Date: Thu 09 Apr 123
Time: UST 1418

Matt was thoroughly exhausted. The tribunal was every bit the mockery of justice he had come to expect. They took his every lapse and failing and mixed it in with all manner of lies and insinuation. For better or for worse, he did not lie in return in an effort to protect himself, Lydia, Lieutenant Wallace or anyone else. He did not go out of his way to volunteer any information either, though. He was not going to give them any additional ammunition to use against him.
Though Matt was exhausted, Major Gorman seemed utterly tireless. He did not let up for a moment. He was as tenacious as Lieutenant De Vries was passive. What good was a defense counsel who made no effort at defending his client?
"Colonel, you've worked very hard to cultivate the image of being this white knight," Major Gorman said, "but we're all too aware that this is a carefully crafted facade to hide your true identity as a Sheolite sleeper agent."
"How do you intend to substantiate that, Major?" Matt asked, keeping his voice as level as he could in the face of such an outrageous accusation. "This has been going on for over four hours. You've questioned every step of my career, impugned my honor and shamed my associates. What more do you have at this point?"
"We have security camera footage from 12 June 122," the Major replied. He tapped on a holoprojector to bring up the footage in question. "Perhaps you recall, Colonel. Stumpy's Bar and Grill on Titania. You were on shore leave celebrating your birthday with Captain McCormick and Lieutenant Han. Is this not you leaving with three unidentified men?"
"It is," Matt replied. Even without looking at the footage, he remembered the experience all too well.
"And who would these people be?"
"Sheolite operatives."
"Again, please."
Matt repeated himself, this time a little more loudly.
"They were Sheolite operatives. They abducted me."
"I don't see any signs of coercion here."
"I agreed to go with them willingly in exchange for Captain McCormick and Lieutenant Han's safety."
"I've never heard of anyone making deals with the Shellies before."
Matt did not dignify Major Gorman's insinuation with a direct response.
"It was me they were after," he said. "They threatened Kodiak and Nyx to get my cooperation."
"And why were they after you?"
"They wanted me to meet someone."
"Someone?"
"Yes."
"Care to be a little more specific, Colonel?"
Matt hesitated for a moment before replying, "The First Handmaid of the Empress."
"Could you elaborate on that?"
"No."
"Are you sure about that?"
Matt could feel his jaw lock. Even if he wanted to answer, he did not think he could. However, his silence did nothing to slow Major Gorman's advance.
"Perhaps you're reluctant to elaborate because the First Handmaid of the Empress is none other than Tabitha Harold, your mother."
"That was what she claimed," Matt said stiffly.
"And did you believe it?"
Matt did not answer, so Major Gorman pressed him.
"Colonel, did you believe it?"
Reluctantly, in a low voice, Matt replied, "Yes."
"Why is that?" Major Gorman asked. "Our records show that Tabitha Harold was actually Tabitha Lerner, your sister, who was killed in the same car accident as your parents, James and Adine Lerner."
"You wouldn't have called her Tabitha Harold if you believed those records."
"Yes, our investigators did find evidence of tampering in the official records. How did you know?"
"I have my sources."
"By 'sources' you of course mean Lieutenant Wallace."
Matt had no intention of incriminating Lieutenant Wallace. He had avoided doing so this far and was not going to start now. Surprisingly, Major Gorman took up a different tack rather than following the line of questions further.
"Were you aware that your co-conspirator, Specialist O'Connor also has a Sheolite for a mother? Lots of family ties to the Sheolites, it would seem."
"I've never met Specialist O'Connor," Matt said, "but I imagine you'd find a lot of Union citizens with Sheolite relatives."
"The daughter of the Empress and the son of the First Handmaid both on our most advanced warship. A little too convenient for coincidence, don't you think?"
"Coincidence simply means two things occur at the same time, Major. Convenient or inconvenient, it just is."
"You're quite the philosopher, Colonel," Major Gorman said, his voice dripping with his usual derision. "Here's a moral dilemma for you. Let's assume for a moment that you were not in fact a Sheolite sleeper from the start. What do you think happens when a purportedly loyal member of the Union Armed Forces discovers that his own mother is a Sheolite?"
"You tell me, Major."
"Perhaps he agrees to destroy the Ticonderoga."
Matt was not the sort of person known for sarcasm, but this latest absurdity was too much.
"The last time I checked, Major," Matt said dryly, "the Ticonderoga was still around."
"Yes, Colonel," Major Gorman said dismissively, "we all know about your great heroics, single-handedly destroying the Hades, dealing the decisive deathblow to the Sheol Empire and effectively winning the war. Perhaps you had a moment of conscience and perhaps you simply took the opportunity to burrow deeper."
As absurd as the proceedings had been up to this point, things had now gone beyond the pale. Whatever sense or logic guided the case against him, it had long since been abandoned.
"Burrow deeper?" Matt asked critically. "To what end?"
"A Hero of the Union tends to get on the fast track. Who knows how high you would have climbed until it was time to strike?"
"What time to strike?"
"The attack on Mars was a feint and when the Sheolites reveal their true numbers, the sleeper will awaken."
After everything, Matt had finally reached his limit. He could not take any more of this.
"Are you listening to yourself, Major? Do you have any idea how insane you sound?"
"You're out of line, Colonel," General Ryczek said sharply. "Do it again and I'll hold you in contempt."
Turning to the General, Matt asked him, "Sir, how long must this go on? Why are you allowing this circus to continue?"
"Colonel, this is your last warning."
Refusing to give ground, Matt continued, "Sir, I have been honest and cooperative with these proceedings and if you have any honor, you will put a stop to this."
General Ryczek was not listening, though.
"That's quite enough, Colonel. Bailiff."
The bailiff promptly moved in to take Matt away. Standing up to the proceedings accomplished nothing, but neither did cooperation. He was condemned before any of this began. Part of him knew that from the start, but another part still wanted to believe there was some justice to be had. He was wrong, though, and it was a bitter truth for him to accept.

* * *

Date: Fri 10 Apr 123
Time: UST 0914

"El hombre del hombre es hermano!"
"Shut the fuck up!"
"Derechos iguales tendrán!"
"Shut up with that shit!"
"La Tierra será el paraíso!"
"Goddammit, if you don't shut the--"
"Patria de la Humanidad!"
The guards slammed Colonel Vasquez into the wall before he could go on to the next verse, hard enough to knock the wind out of him. He was already on his second repetition by that point anyway.
As a native Martian, the Colonel didn't like talking about Earth as paradise and the homeland of humanity, but he wasn't singing "The Internationale" out of conviction. Because the tribunal was a big sham, there was no reason for him to cooperate. What better way to mock their Soviet-style thuggery? General Ryczek had him thrown out of the courtroom in record time.
It was a wonder he even remembered the words after all these years. His grandfather was as fanatical a Red as you could find and, really, you couldn't find too many people that honestly bought into Marx's bullshit anymore. Whatever avowed Commies were left were mostly just going through the motions.
Colonel Vasquez didn't really care about politics, though. It was all bullshit and whatever letters they had after their name, all the damn pols were crooks. His current situation was proof enough of how crooked the system was. How many years had he served? How much had he bled for the damn Union just to get fucked over in the end?
He wasn't going to make it easy for them, though. If they were going to make his life hell, he was sure as hell going to see that they got their share.
"Agrupémonos todos en la lucha final," he continued to sing. "Y se alzan los pueblos por la Internacional."

* * *

Date: Mon 13 Apr 123
Time: UST 1635

General Pfeiffer kept her eyes fixed on Major Gorman. She made him flinch once or twice during the proceedings. It was a small victory. It did not count for much in the grand scheme of things, but she had to take what she could get.
Maintaining as much of her bearing as she could in chains and a detainee's uniform, the General straightened herself up to address General Ryczek.
With a brief glance at Lieutenant De Vries, she said, "Because my defense counsel is a shameful incompetent, I would like to make the closing statement for the defense."
"You will refrain from any needless abusive language, General Pfeiffer."
General Pfeiffer did not suppress a grin at the threat.
"In that case, I will stick to needful abusive language. I cannot speak for the cases of my alleged co-conspirators, but what has been presented by the trial counsel this day has been the most baseless, nonsensical mishmash of hearsay, lies and speculation I have ever had the displeasure of witnessing."
"General, you will--"
General Pfeiffer cut off General Ryczek before he could stop her. She would not be silenced. Not yet, at least.
"Furthermore," she continued, "were it not for massive leeway for abuse inherent in Xray-One-Ten, granting carte blanche to prosecute the most absurd charges without any respect for due process--"
"General, I'm warning you--"
"And for your participation in this, this circus beggars all belief. If there is any conspiracy at work here, it is you who are a part of it. You are either willing participants or the greatest assortment of imbeciles I've ever--"
"Enough! General, I will have you removed!"
Furious, General Pfeiffer shouted, "You shame the uniform! You shame the Union!"
"Bailiff!"
As the bailiff was dragging her away, she continued to shout, "You should have just killed us from the start! It would have saved you this embarrassment!"
The bailiff was strong and it took him no time at all to pull her out of the courtroom. With just the two of them in the corridor, General Pfeiffer asked him, "What about you, Lieutenant? Whose side are you on?"
"I'm just following orders, ma'am," the bailiff replied. "Maybe if you did the same, you wouldn't be in this position."
"'Just following orders' is never an excuse," General Pfeiffer told him. "You should know better."
"Look where you are, ma'am, and look where I am and you tell me which one of us is wrong."
General Pfeiffer did not say anything in return. Not that she had no answer but because she realized she was wasting her breath. There was nothing for her to gain and perhaps there never was.