The trial phase of the extraordinary court martial of four Crusader soldiers had just ended. They were convicted of the torture of the civilian brother and rape of the two sisters of Marine Sergeant Ames – who died by execution for ‘blasphemy’ by spacing him. (See: 14. There’s Trouble Afoot, Sir!) The Tribunal judges were, Marine Commandant Kingsley, Navy CO ArcGeneral Hastings, Crusader CO Shappa Durant, and High Chancellor Hayes. They had agreed unanimously that the accused were guilty of the charges brought against them. Now they had to decide upon the punishment. We join the four judges in the comfortable office of High Chancellor Hayes.
“The Gods are pleased, I’m sure, that we four agreed unanimously on the guilty verdict.” Hayes eyed each of his companions in turn. “And now, we need to return a just sentence so we can put this ugly chapter to bed. Shappa, what say you?”
The hard-nosed General and Commanding Officer of the Crusader Army, Shappa Denning, openly disliked this shared Tribunal duty and proximity with the two Navy officers and spat out his opinion.
“My Lord, the law is clear. This crime warrants the death penalty – death by spacing!” Sneering at Hastings and Kingsley, he then continues. “I suppose that will satisfy your people’s lust for Crusader blood, correct, ArcGeneral?”
Hayes took in the narrowing eyes of the Navy CO and a small smile formed on his lips. Perhaps now we’ll get some fireworks. Kingsley can be a hothead, he mused.
Hastings gave Kingsley a warning look and then locked eyes with the Shappa. “Shappa Durant, with all due respect, it is evident from the details of this incident that the blood lust belonged to your Crusader thugs, not the Marine Corps. Although I disapprove of Private Soares’ murderous act of personal vengeance, I fully understand it.”
Sensing a challenge, Hayes glared at Hastings. “Be careful, ArcGeneral.”
“High Chancellor and Shappa Durant, I must respectfully disagree with the death penalty in this case. There is no doubt that Shaspa Hendricks and his four underlings were guilty of despicable acts against innocent people. But, I’m convinced that they allowed their baser desires to be unleashed by the widespread and socially acceptable intolerance toward the naval class.”
Intrigued, Hayes nodded at Hastings to continue.
Hastings went on to illustrate his thinking with examples of discrimination and bullying the naval class had endured throughout the long journey to Genesis. Then he made his pitch. “High Chancellor, there are no evil people aboard Scepter. We differ only in our religious beliefs. The naval class is no threat to the people of your faith, nor to the Church itself. The real threat is unbridled intolerance and discrimination. We have an opportunity to begin anew on the surface below. I propose we start by showing the four prisoners mercy and sentence them to life imprisonment in a prison facility built on Genesis.”
Hayes responded cautiously, “Interesting proposal, ArcGeneral. Do you agree, Commandant?”
“High Chancellor, I’d love to see those goons spaced because they deserve that fate. But the ArcGeneral’s proposal addresses the bigger picture. I’m not sure that in this matter we can ignore our past and the impact that will have on our future. We all want the same thing on Genesis, and I think it is important that we, as a Tribunal, send a hopeful and conciliatory message to everyone. Yes, I agree.”
“Shappa? How do you vote?”
Durant was sceptical and looked from one Naval officer to the other and back again, looking for hints of a hidden agenda. He didn’t trust them, but they seemed sincere.
“My Lord, I’ll be frank.” Hays smiled appreciatively and nodded his head for his Shappa to continue. “I have no use for the unbelievers of the naval class, and I don’t like either of you, ArcGeneral and Commandant. I don’t trust you.”
He paused a moment to see if there was any change in the demeanour of Hastings or Kingsley. Their faces betrayed nothing, so he continued.
“I’ll go along with the suggested sentence, and if it is your will, I’ll incarcerate the four guilty parties in the Crusader brig until we build a proper prison on the planet.”
High Chancellor Hayes, nodded curtly to Durant and rose abruptly from his chair. “I’ll make it unanimous. ArcGeneral and Commandant thank you. You are dismissed.”
With that, he waved a hand dismissively in the Navy officers’ direction and watched them leave. Turning to Durant, he noted, “Those monkeys think they got what they wanted, but they’ll soon see that the attitude of the Church remains intolerant of their blasphemous existence!”