ASK YOUR HEART WHAT IT DOTH KNOW
Previously: Episode Six
JUMPER’s LOG, Star Date 2269, June 3rd (3 Years, 10 Months, 3 Days)
Time eases all suffering. I’d been given a couple more medals, The Ultarian Medal of Crisis and the Karagite Order of Heroism. It took more than a year before I could bear to hang them besides my other awards. I’d taken a six month leave from Starfleet to return to Vulcan and meditate upon what had happened, leaving it to Zane and company to stop the Enterprise (equipped with the M-5 device) from nearly destroying USS Excalibur and severely damaging USS Lexington.
Meanwhile, I… was having what could be described as Vulcan Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome. Do you know why Vulcans are detached, why we pride ourselves on our ability to cleanse ourselves of Emotions? Because, at the heart of it, we are a very, very angry people. The Romulans embrace that anger, letting it seethe and boil and use it as strength. It is what makes them cruel, cunning, and ruthless. We took the other path, the path of renunciation. But enough mental trauma can break through even the toughest control.
So, for six months I communed with my self, learning, like a stroke victim, to put myself back together. To not let the anger that roiled within me take control. Time and again, the elders offered to meld with me, to help me achieve the balance I so desperately saught… but I couldn’t do that. There was too much there that no one in this universe could ever be allowed to know. Or so I thought. But trauma builds on trauma. I’d lived through the violence of my own youth, the gang wars of Conduit LA, the depredations of the Reapers and Geth, the horrors of the Second Wizarding War, and now Ultar. There were not walls high enough to blot it all out, nor mortar strong enough to keep out the creeping darkness.
And so, in utter hopelessness, I finally opened myself to the eldest of the elders “You can never reveal what you see within my mind.” I told Strakkus. “You won’t believe or understand it all, and I don’t know if this is safe.” He simply nodded, taking my hand. He must have been at least 200, his face lined with age, but calm, so calm. I… I won’t go into what transpired. It is too deeply personal, even for this record. What I learned that day was forgiveness. The ability to forgive myself for not being stronger. Strakkus showed me how to be the river, when I’d always tried to be the wall. What he learned that day, was that he was not too old to be surprised.
“I would very much like to see you as an Asari.” He said when we were back in our own heads. I smiled softly, and showed him all my forms; Asari, Human, Vulcan, Infernape, Argonian… “Fascinating. And you really can…” I showed him ice. I showed him fire. I showed him magic. I showed him weapons unknown to the science of this universe and a sword that had been plunged into the antimatter stream of a starship and tasted the blood of a god.
“I have, as they used to say in another world “Seen some Shit”.”
He laughed, nodding “So I see. But you’ve always been true to yourself. Never once have you given in to the temptations of such power and used them to oppress or harm. I fear many would not be so nice.”
“Yeah. Me too.”
A few days later I left Vulcan, returning to the Potemkin. In the time I’d been away, Lt. Commander Struchen had been finally promoted to full Commander and had replaced Braunstein as XO. Lt. Commander Char Cring had taken her place as Second Officer. Braunstein had been given command of the Yamato. And Zane was now Ordnance Officer. Dear Lord, Zane, in charge of the weapons. We were all doomed.
I’m going to jump forward now, 7 months, to the time of this log, rather than tell you what happened as it unfolded, to get to my part in it all. Two months before this, Potemkin and six other ships had been sent to deal with widespread rioting on the Andorian Colony world of Shrivao. The deployment was supposed to be simple peacekeeping, keeping the two feuding factions apart until cooler heads could settle things. Then General Sothel Zh’kothris, Andorian State Security, got involved and 7,200 people had been killed and another 202,300 displaced.
And that is why we, the officers of Potemkin who’d been on the ground for those few fateful weeks, were waiting around on Andoria, preparing to give testimony against one of the most respected members of the Andorian Government who was on trial for War Crimes.
Sothel insisted that she was innocent, that she’d had nothing to do with gassing of civillians, that her security forces had been fired upon from within the crowd and had only acted to defend themselves. The public was divided. The inner systems revered Sothel, hero of the Klingon War. The outer systems viewed her as a jackbooted thug. I… was there to give medical testimony.
What can be said of a War Crimes Tribunal? Trials are bad. Politically charged trials are worse. There were already calls from within the General Assembly that Sothel should simply admit to wrongdoing and spare the state the trouble of convicting her, guilty or not. Many members of Potemkin’s crew were of a similar sentiment. Sothel’s forces had killed civilians. It didn’t matter if they were following orders or disobeying them. They’d seen too much on Ultar and this, to them, was justice. The Human part of me wanted to agree. The Vulcan part wasn’t sure.
Testimony isn’t really exciting. It’s dry, depressing, and often stirs up deep trauma in those giving it. I was on the bench, repeating facts that the Tribunal must have heard at least three times already, when a young man, barely a boy really, burst in through the courtroom doors and rushed to the center of the chamber.
“N… Nobody move!” He demanded.
There was a great deal of “What’s the MEANING OF THIS?”ing from the officials on the bench, and the security guards moved towards the boy, but he repeated himself, sounding firmer this time. “Nobody move. I’m wired. Anyone touches me and we all go.” He pulled open his jacket and revealed that he had an antimatter bomb strapped to his chest, and an old fashion solid projectile weapon in his belt.
“What do you want, child?” asked the chief Andorian magistrate.
“I… I want her dead!” he yelled, pointing his gun at the accused, who hadn’t moved.
“I assume you’re related to one of the victims?” the human member of the Tribunal asked.
“S… Six of them… M.. my whole family. T… they’re all dead now. And it’s her fault!”
“And how is holding a courtroom full of innocents hostage going to bring them all back?”
“I… It’s not. Y… You can… can all g… get out. Th… this is between m… me and the general. B… But… you should know… I… I’m wired. Th.. this thing is linked to my lifesigns. If.. If I’m stunned or… or killed… it’ll blow. I… I’m not sure ho… how powerful it is. I… i was having trouble d… doing the math… b.. But I’m g… good with machines. I… it’ll take o.. .out the building.” I looked at it, then did the math. If there was as much Antimatter in that bomb as it looked like, it would do more than take out the building. It could take out the heart of the city. Slowly, carefully, the courtroom emptied. No one noticed that I didn’t leave.
Soon it was just me, the boy, and Sothel.
“What’s your name, kid?” the general asked.
“W… what’s it matter to you?”
“A warrior likes to know the name of their killer.” Her antennae twitched in faint amusement as the boy scowled.
“D… Don’t you m… mock me.” He stammered.
“I would not dream of it,” she said, calm as lake water.
“T… Then why are you smiling?”
“Because I have nothing to prove, nothing to lose. Either you’re going to shoot me, or not. It’s out of my hands. So tell me, what’s your name.”
“T… Tibass Ch’rallen.”
“Ah… I met your uncle Rylib once. Good man. Good Soldier.”
“He’s DEAD!” the boy shouted.
“Yes, well, that happens when you’re part of a mob.”
“We just wanted to be heard!”
“And we were listening, right up until your people opened fire.”
“You gassed the entire Obyr district!”
“I did nothing of the kind.”
The general shrugged. “Believe or not. Shoot me or don’t.”
“I Hate you!”
I stood up from the witness stand at this point. “That’s a terrible reason to shoot someone,” I said.
Both Andorians turned to face me, shock on the boy’s face, curiosity on the General’s.
“Wh… what are you doing here? I… I said everyone could leave.”
“Could. Not had to. I did not feel like it. You really should put that gun down.”
“W… well, I’m not going to. And you… get out” he jerked the gun at the door.
“I said get out!” he screamed, voice cracking.
“And I said No.” I sat on the edge of the prosecution’s table, where I could see both of them. “You won’t shoot me. And you are going to give me the gun.”
“No… I mean I won’t give you the gun.” he pointed it at me “I could shoot you.”
“Yes, but you’d miss. I’m very fast. And even if you didn’t, you wouldn’t kill me. I’ve been shot before. Lots of times.”
“If you’re so tough, come and take it from me.” he challenged, temper flaring.
“I have no interest in being vaporized… nor in allowing you to vaporize an entire city. That’s pretty much what that bomb you’re wearing will do. I’m pegging it right around 70 megatons.”
The kid gaped and the General scooted back some, then realized what she was doing and chuckled. “Habit.” She explained to me with a shrug. I nodded.
“Look, Tibaas. You can’t kill the General.”
“I can. I will.”
“No. You can’t. If you do, things will get worse.”
“How can they get worse? Everyone’s dead.”
“No. I’m sorry. But that’s not true. For you, maybe… but there are millions… billions more Andorians. And what happens here is important.”
“She killed my family!” he sobbed, gun hand shaking.
“Maybe she did. Maybe she didn’t. But that’s not important.” I knew I was being cruel, but it was the only way to reach him through his anger. I’d been there, not too long ago.
“How can you say that?!” He wailed, rounding on me, taking his eyes off the General completely for the first time. “Th… they were…. Were… damn you… you Vulcan bitch! Don’t you understand? I loved them!”
“Oh. I understand completely. And that’s why you can’t do this thing.”
The General spoke up, “Actually, if you’re going to argue that they wouldn’t want him to kill me, that’s not really how Andorian society works. Revenge Killings are very much part of our culture.”
I nodded “I know. But it isn’t that. This is about more than guilt or innocence. It’s about more than politics or justice. It’s about stability, continuity… the essence of civilization.” I dropped off the table and approached the boy slowly. “This trial is important. If you kill the General, she becomes a martyr, a symbol of the government and national pride, gunned down by a terrorist. If you kill all of us, you become a martyr to the anti-government forces.”
“So what? What’s wrong with the anti-government forces?”
“Revolutions never work. Not in the short run. Often not in the long run. Change takes time, stability, hard work. Everyone thinks Revolutions are a short cut. But they’re not. They shake up the system, lots and lots and lots of people get dead… way more than this… and things get worse. No revolution in history made things better in the short run… at least no first time revolution.”
“What’s a first time revolution?”
“That’s the one that brings down the old system. Eventually, the people who did that… the ones who were fanatic or angry or crazy enough to attack the old system… they begin fighting themselves, arguing over policy, over power, over who gets what share of what’s left. Eventually, they make things so bad that there’s another Revolution… or a Civil War… or a Holocaust…”
“Tibaas. I’m not going to tell you violence doesn’t solve things. It very often does. Violence is often the only way to deal with Violence… but Violence begets Violence. If you kill the General, what’s to stop the next person with a grudge against a government official… or a neighbor, from doing the same?”
“It doesn’t matter if she did or didn’t. It doesn’t matter to you in the slightest. You want… you need someone to blame, and since everyone is asking if the General is to blame, you assume she’s the one. But it doesn’t make any difference. Innocent or Guilty, your family is still dead. You should go and mourn them. Let the system provide justice. If it does, it does. If it doesn’t, and you still feel wronged, work to change the system so it doesn’t fail the next time. But remember. Even if the General gave the orders, her men pulled the triggers. Her men released the gas. If she didn’t, then someone else did. But I was there. Someone started shooting from within the crowd. I can’t say what happened. I can’t say who was right and who was wrong. But I can say that killing her won’t make anything better. Not. One. Thing.”
I held out my hand “Please. Give me the gun.”
Slowly, shaking, tears rolling down his face, Tibaas handed over the gun. “Now, carefully, let’s get you out of that bomb.” He nodded, shivering, drained of emotion as I undid the explosive and disarmed it.
Tibaas turned to the General. “I’ll never forgive you.”
The General nodded softly “You shouldn’t. I’ll never forgive myself. It happened on my watch.” She turned to me. “You seemed pretty passionate about all this… for a Vulcan.”
I looked up at her from where I was kneeling on the floor. All I said was “I was on Ultar Prime.” She flinched, then nodded.
Tibaas was arrested, but sentenced to counselling and public works. The General was acquitted on lack of evidence, but retired immediately after the trial, taking full responsibility for the actions of her men and the debacle. I got a letter of commendation, which I very much considered throwing away. Never again will I revel in the idea of getting medals for valor. All it takes is being in the right place at the wrong time.
Next: Episode Eight