TRAVELER ON TRIAL
In the void there was nothing. Merely floating in vain continuance. Adrift... Lost... Unconsciousness... and yet not so deep and dark that he was aware of nothing. He was aware of the floating. He was aware of the drifting. He was aware of the light. The light... Was it the first light of morning, shining through an unseen window? Was it the light of a warmly glowing fire? No, it was too cold for a fire. It was empty, and yet full of meaning. It was blue. Blue... Blue...
“Blue!” Rex shot up off the table, startling two doctors standing at it’s foot. “What the frill?! No, not here. No, stang it!”
“Calm down, child,” spoke a silvery, blue haired, man in a doctor’s uniform. His hair and cold blue skin marked him as a Cnoral, a race that the Traveler, Icis Novitaar had not seen for millennia. That as much as anything else was the proof that he really was home, that is if he still counted it as such. “Just sit down and get your breath,” said the Cnoral, huffing through his giant, bushy mustache.
“Icis,” the eerily thin woman beside the Cnoral reached out a hand, gripping Rex’s shoulder in an attempt to keep him on the table. Rex thought about resisting, but he was afraid that he might hurt the poor little woman. “It’s alright. You’re in Medical Lab 12,789,542. I’m 3rd Physician of Humanoid Rehabilitation Joeneni Bula. This is Chief Scholar of Humanoid Exocrionic Studies Ghrim Gusto. You are safe and in good care.”
A she spoke, Rex began to feel that he could trust her. She was innocent and pure. Poor and defenseless. Shaking his head to clear his mind, Rex asked, “Why am I here?”
The woman was the first to respond, childlike voice tinkling. “You either fractured or broke most of the bones in your hands beating at your cell door. Since you were back in our care anyway we decided to finish the follow up bantene bonding process to make sure your system was stable.”
“Bantene bonding...” Rex trailed off. Of course. If she said it, then it must be true.
“Yup,” the Cnoral known as Ghrim Gusto shook his head. “Your bio-armor was infected with tetracylic parasites. Gramfrie’s beard but I’d like to know where you ran into those. I haven’t seen a case that bad in 12,000 years. I’m truly amazed it didn’t kill you. Still you were pale as a ghost.”
Rex shook his head. The man’s words made sense, but somehow lacked the glowing light of purity that Joeneni’s did. She was so innocent, so pure. Rex just wanted to wrap his arms around her, hold her and protect her from all the wrongs of the galaxy. He shook his head. “What the frill are you doing to my mind?!”
Joeneni Bula stepped back, with a look of surprise on her face. “Oh, I’m sorry.”
She sounded sincere, but then again, everything she said sounded sincere. Rex grit his teeth in frustration, growling, “Stop using compulsion!”
“I’m not,” she put her hands up in front of her. “Icis, you’re wearing a nullification collar, I couldn’t use compulsion on you if I wanted to.”
“Then what is it, what’s happening to me?”
Dr. Gusto hrrmphed rather loudly, mumbling something about the younger generation. “Boy, calm down, it isn’t her fault. She’s an Illenia. In her race, all of the males are great bulky cave man types, and the females are small childish types.”
“Chief Scholar Gusto...” Joeneni sputtered, shocked to hear such a crude explanation from such a renowned mind.
“Now miss Bula, you know about interrupting me,” Dr. Gusto said, puffing out his mustache with every word. “You’ll have to excuse her,” he said to Rex. “She just transferred in.”
Rex saw the chance to interrupt. “Of course, Mr. Gusto, but ...”
“Dr. Gusto,” the Cnoral corrected. “Anyway, the point is that the male Illenia are dumb as a brick. So, the females of her race developed an advanced pheromonal capability to allow them to control the males. Now, when you startled her with your little panic attack, she unintentionally started producing pheromones to cause sedating, trusting, loving, protecting feelings in you.”
“What? Why me and not you?” Rex asked.
Joeneni blushed and answered, “Humans are a compatible species, Cnoral are not.”
Ghrim Gusto huffed. “Congratulations! You just interrupted me again.”
“Chief Scholar, I ...”
“Never mind. Its obvious you don’t respect me. I’m leaving.” With that, the Chief Scholar of Humanoid Exocrionic Studies, Ghrim Gusto, turned around and walked away.
T-Rex was stunned by what he had just seen. It was insane for any adult Traveler to behave so erratically. What was going on? “What’s wrong with him?” Rex asked.
Shaking her head, Joeneni Bula seemed disturbed by his actions. “I’m not sure. A lot of the older Travelers have been getting weird recently. Some of them have shut themselves off in their chambers, others have begun to frantically drill themselves and any who they find to follow them in military procedures. Then there’s the ‘Children of the Gold Sky’. I’ve tried to ask some of the others, but they either don’t know anything or won’t tell me.” Suddenly, Joeneni stopped, aware of the intent gaze of the T-Rex. “Then again, this is nothing that would concern you.”
“On the contrary I am quite concerned. You mentioned the ‘Children of the Gold Sky’. What do you mean by that?”
“Oh, they’re nothing, really,” Dr. Bula back-peddled.
Rex could tell that Joeneni was hiding something. “Come on, who are they? It’s not like I’m going to ...”
“Icis Novitaar,” a new arrival interrupted.
Turning to face the newcomer, groaning in annoyance, T-Rex mumbled under his breath, “What now?”
The man stood facing him, dressed in a red tunic with gold/tan slacks feeding into a pair of black leather boots. He wore a black cape, trimmed in gold and a gold/tan sash studded with small pictural buttons. He looked human enough except a pair of pixie ears which Rex guessed were fake. “Icis, you father asked me to speak with you. He has hired me to be your legal representation.”
“My lawyer? He’s got to be kidding. When is the last time a Trial of Error has included a lawyer?” Icis laughed slightly at the thought. It was normal procedure to just stand there and take whatever attacks the Elder wanted to throw at you. To actually argue back...
“Actually, there was a case just last year, and for the record you are not charged with an Error, but an Intervention. That makes this a completely different case.” At that point, the lawyer seemed to become aware that Joeneni Bula was still hovering, listening in. “May I help you Dr.?”
“Uh,” Dr. Bula stumbled, “uh, no. I was just making sure that he was alright.”
“Of course, and I commend you, but my client and I will need a moment alone,” the lawyer hinted.
Shaking her head in agreement, Joeneni said, “Of course, sir, I was just leaving.”
“Very well.” The lawyer paused, surveying the room. “Then again, I think that we may wish to take this outside.”
“Yes sir, go right ahead sir,” Dr. Bula bowed slightly, and took a step back.
The lawyer gave T-Rex a steady stare, making the hair stand up on his client’s neck. “Come with me.”
The lawyer, who identified himself as Banglore Doan, led the T-Rex through a maze of internal corridors, crisscrossing in such a way that only their Traveler memories prevented them from becoming hopelessly lost. The whole way they were followed by a pair of armed guards dressed in black non-organic armor. When Icis asked Doan why they were under watch, he received the obvious and expected answer, “Mr. Novitaar, you must realize that you are no longer a free man. From this point until you are released from planetary custody, you will be locked away or under watch. The Council cannot risk your escape.”
Icis didn’t respond, instead just allowing Doan to lead him on. He was unaccustomed to imprisonment, and it had been millennia since he had been on the Traveler homeworld. He tingled with the sudden realization that he was no longer the lone Traveler observing the younger races, but instead a young Traveler being observed. With that thought, Icis felt a wave of despair creep up his spine. He felt so powerless...
One step lead to the next and soon both men had emerged onto a scenic bridge overlooking a forest bio-haven. Below them families sat and ate, children played, and tame forest creatures frolicked. “So,” Icis began, “I hear that things have been a little out of sorts here recently.”
Banglore Doan stood with his back to his client, gazing down at the scene below. “Mr. Novitaar, that is not my concern.”
“That may be. However,...” Icis paused to move beside his attorney, “I wonder what could have changed so much that I have become a Most Wanted Criminal.”
Doan absentmindedly rubbed a spot on his ear with one finger. “You broke the number one rule of all Travelers. You interfered with another culture. No more explanation should be necessary.”
“I’ve done that before. As a matter of fact, the last time cost millions their lives. Do you know what happened to me for killing millions?” Rex paused, waiting for the lawyer to respond.
Banglore didn’t even turn to face his client. Calmly, with a tone that said that he considered the question trivial, he responded, “Yes, I believe I do.”
“I was punished, my powers were halved, and I was sent on the assignment from Hades.” Icis paused again. Doan was doing his best to ignore Icis’s questions. “I was not imprisoned. I was given a second chance. Do you know why?”
Doan turned to face his client, and with a slight roll of his eyes, asked, “Is this really important?”
“My father was a high ranking council member at the time. He was able to take action to keep me from suffering the full wrath of the Traveler courts. However, if you recall Moa Gault was not on the Supreme Council at that time. It is my understanding that he is now. Also, I haven’t done anything quite so blatant as bombing a capital city. So why am I here? Why can’t he cover for me again?”
Tugging at his sleeve, Banglore Doan turned to face Icis. “Mr. Novitaar, things have changed considerably.” The man scratched at a prosthetic pixie ear, “We have always had those who wished to defy the rules, but they have been nothing more than rebellious youths looking for some ‘cause’. With a little encouragement they have always come around and grown into fine members of the Galactic Society. But now...”
Doan looked down at the chrome plates of the bridge, and shook his head. “What’s changed?” Icis probed.
“This is the real problem that we are going to face in court,” Doan answered. “You see, you have become somewhat of a legend among the youth. They see you as the great deathchild who has risen to become greater than the system. You were an outcast, but now you are a leader, even if you don’t know it.”
“A leader?” Rex asked, stunned. How can I be a leader? I haven’t even been on the homeworld in thousands of years.
“It’s an unfortunate turn of events,” Banglore Doan explained. “When your father made the Supreme Council, some 50 years ago, it spawned a probe into his family life. He was an outstanding citizen, and your sister was a shining star in Traveler society. You however were an absolute disgrace. Your history was dug up, and your father drug through the mud for it.”
Icis hung his head. He felt genuinely sorry for causing his father so much embarrassment. He couldn’t even claim that what he did was for a noble cause. It was revenge, pure and simple, and his father had suffered for it.
“This new interest in you could not have come at a worse time. When investigations came as to your current movements, it was revealed that far from mending your ways, you were working behind the scenes to prepare for the Altarin attack. Those youths who were just looking for an opportunity to rebel against Traveler society latched on to you. Your struggle against a renowned father and sister reminded many of these youths of their own battles against tradition and society. The fact that you are a deathchild just added to your legend.
“You can’t imagine how hard it has become to deal with so many of the young Travelers who see you constantly increasing your level of involvement and rebellion and want to mimic it. There have been outcries from many members of the Galactic Community to deal with the “Traveler Revolt” and we are losing the people’s confidence. If we don’t do something to turn this around, we will lose our position in the Galactic Community and without us everything will crumble.”
Icis was shocked. He had no idea that a large chunk of the young Travelers had been following his “exploits”. I’m no role model! Why are they following me?
Banglore Doan stared Icis in the eye. His eyes were like steel and the intensity of his gaze like lasers. “Icis, you’ve got to realize what you’re up against here. They’re not after you to punish you for your crimes. If they were, your father would have already persuaded them to move on to another target. The Supreme Council is afraid that you will rally the troops and destroy our order. They think you might be the next Malduke.”
“That’s insane!” the T-Rex roared. “I’m not anything like that! Beside which I didn’t know that I had a following until today!”
A number of picnickers on the forest floor below looked up to see where the shouting had come from. “Mr. Novitaar,” Doan hissed, “please keep your voice down. Making a scene in front of a group of families won’t help your position. I don’t know you, but I know your father, and from what he has told me I don’t think you’re the kind of person who could lead a revolt. I think that you want official help in your causes, or none at all. However, what I think amounts to a handful of ions in this case. The Supreme Council thinks that you are a threat, and they want to stop the youth uprising by stopping you. If we had a death penalty, some of the Council members would use it. Get the picture Icis, you are in way over your head.”
“I see now why I need a lawyer,” Icis thought out loud. The shock was still fresh and he really hadn’t had time to digest it all. “Can we win?”
Banglore Doan snorted and replied, “Well, that all depends on what you mean by winning. Can we get you cleared of charges? Not a chance. Can we keep you from spending the rest of eternity on the homeworld? Probably. Play it my way and I may even have you out of here this century.”
“Century?!” Icis couldn’t believe it. “I can’t wait that long! By then the war will be over!”
“Mr. Novitaar!” Doan hissed. “Your voice, please.”
Some of the families below were beginning to get up and move away. Icis could look down and see mothers covering their children’s eyes as they pulled them away. “Why are they leaving?”
Doan looked first to the forest floor, and then back to his client. “It’s you. They just realized who you are.”
Rex couldn’t believe the calm in the man’s voice as he relayed such hideous information. “Me?”
“Don’t you see, Icis? You’re a monster.”
“No,” Icis made eye contact with his lawyer. “I may have been a monster when I when I avenged my wife’s death, but they were monsters too. I may have become a monster when I was with the Altarin’Dakor, but it was something that was forced on me. Eventually I broke free of that. I’m not a monster!”
“But they think so, and that’s all that matters here,” Doan tried to explain. “Beside which, they really don’t care about any of that stuff. What they care about is the way you have thrown all of our rules out the airlock, content that you are wiser than the Supreme Council.”
“Maybe I am!” Icis all but shouted. “Maybe I’m not, but I’m doing my best. I know what the Council says, but how can I stand by and let the universe go to blazes and do nothing?”
“The universe?” Doan laughed. “What universe? A handful of backwater societies. Many of them aren’t much more than barbarians. If the roles were reversed your so-called friends would be doing the same thing that the Altarins are.”
“You don’t know that!” Icis accused.
“Don’t I? I’ve lived among them myself. I believe I understand their kind.” Banglore Doan smirked, scratching at his pixie ear prosthetic.
“Are we any better?! For all our rules, and all our technology, are we any better? Are our hearts any different? Any more pure?” Tears began to well up in the younger Traveler’s eyes. He couldn’t see how it was possible for such an intelligent person to have lived among the younger races, seen them be born, live their lives, and die, and still be so bigoted. It should be obvious to anyone having been in both societies, that some of the rules may be different, the technological environment may be different, but the hearts and spirits of people everywhere were pretty much the same. Good, bad, pure, tainted, jealous, loving, hating, giving, fearing, knowing... they were the same.
Doan paused for a moment, carefully choosing his words. “Mr. Novitaar. I can see that this is all a bit too much for you. I understand that its difficult to readjust to your surroundings after running from them for so long, and the shock of your present legal situation probably has you on edge. I suggest that you return to your quarters and get some rest. I’ll be in to check on you later.”
There were so many things that Icis wanted to say. The first thing that came to mind was a smart remark about his quarters really being his prison cell, but that wouldn’t do him any good. The next thought was to challenge Doan to his face to explain himself, but that would end up going nowhere and make Icis look like a cranky child who needed a nap. He thought that he might apologize and see if he could gain any useful information from the lawyer, but Doan’s tone of voice suggested that the tap had be turned off, and wouldn’t be turned back on until later. In the end, with all of these ideas floating through his head, Icis did nothing. He merely stood there and waited for Doan to finish.
With one last look at his client, Banglore Doan turned and began to walk away, calling to the guards over his shoulder. “Gentlemen, please escort Mr. Novitaar back to his room.”
“Sir,” one of the guards nodded. He was a gray skinned man with jet black hair. The man squared his shoulders, making his body as rigid and tall as it could appear. “This way,” he motioned to Icis.
With that Banglore Doan turned a corner and was out of sight, leaving Icis alone with the two guards. The gray skinned guard seamed to be in charge, while the other guard (a blue scaled reptilian species) stood just a few steps behind his leader, eyes looking in opposite directions to scan both ways down the hall. The gray skinned guard cleared his throat and repeated, “Please, sir. This way.”
“Of course. Please forgive my momentary lapse.”
“No problem,” A slight pause, then, “This way please.”
Icis sighed to himself and began to walk in the direction the guard was motioning. It was, unfortunately the opposite direction from the way Doan had went. “Oh, well.” Icis thought out loud.
The two guards’ booted feet clicked out a sharp rhythm as they escorted the prisoner back to his quarters. The Traveler home world was completely artificial, and the interior was comprised mostly of claustrophobic hallways ending suddenly in awe inspiringly spacious rooms mimicking planetary regions. There were forests, plains, swamps, desserts, seashores complete with oceans... virtually every type of environment known. Many of these grand vistas were suited to human life, but there were a number that were too hot, cold, acidic, had gravity too high or low, or possessed other hazardous features that could only be appreciated by certain races. Beautiful to look at, but not somewhere you’d want to be without a sealed enviro-suit.
Travel on planet was mostly done by teleporter. The teleporter centers were spaced so that at least one would always be in reach, requiring at most a 10 to 15 minute walk. Each center was capable of handling anywhere from 50 to 5,000 (depending on center size) human-sized passengers simultaneously. In each center, large doorway sized spacial gates were available, leading to null space chambers, which in turn connected to spacial gates at the destination’s teleport center. It was leaving such a teleport center, guards in tow, that Icis caught sight of the Mirami Bele.
Looking through a view window in the side of the hall, Icis could make out the distinctly metallic and artificial form of the Bele. Or at least he thought it was the Bele. It had the famous three tiered, oblong saucer and tapered fin design that the Bele had, but... “What’s that?” he asked, staring as the Bele floated peacefully against the shimmering blue background.
“Sir?” the gray-skinned guard asked, looking around in an attempt to locate the object in question.
“That,” Icis began, then pointing at the ship in the distance repeated, “What is it?”
The guard looked in surprise at the ship, then answered, “It’s the Mirami Bele, sir. I thought you would be familiar with it.”
The Mirami Bele was a ship of legend. The last of the Watana Cruiser line, it had been a museum piece in orbit around Gratbi Prime, an archive world, when the planet was attacked by a group of marauding pirates. A team of historians and tourists managed to restore power to the ship’s engines and weapons systems and ran off the pirates before any serious damage was done. Then, realizing that the pirates would be able to escape and go into hiding until they could strike again, the historians pursued the pirates to their base, recorded its location and retreated to Gratbi Prime. That information allowed the authorities to capture the pirate group and made the Bele famous.
Shortly thereafter, the Kajeat Naval Force purchased the ship and refitted it with organic technology. Although it was never intended to see combat, the Mirami Bele participated it two major battles, managing to emerge without a scratch. This grew the Bele’s legend and reinforced it as a symbol of hope. Generations of Travelers had grown up dreaming about commanding the Bele on one of her many diplomatic missions. However, the ship that Icis had known was not the ship he was looking at... at least he thought it wasn’t.
“But it’s not organic!” Icis argued. “It’s so... artificial. What happened?”
“Oh, I didn’t realize...” the guard trailed off. “She had a complete overhaul about 15 years ago. The original mechanical design was restored with the latest technological improvements. She’s not the ship she used to be.”
“Why did they do that?” asked Icis, just as they turned a corner and lost sight of the ship. Then it hit him. He couldn’t believe it hadn’t occurred to him before. The guards were wearing non-organic body armor, not the bio-armor suits that he was used to. For that matter, Icis didn’t remember any organic tech in the med lab. What was going on?
“It’s the latest phase in our technological development. Organic technology proved to be unreliable when used with some of our latest advances, so we had to revert to more conventional materials.” The guard abruptly stopped. “Your quarters, sir.”
“What?” Icis paused. “Oh, yes, I see. Thank you for your time gentlemen.”
The gray-skinned guard nodded, but all his partner did was look nervous and nauseated. Returning the first guard’s nod, Icis stepped into his quarters and let the door close and lock behind him. There was much to think about.
Banglore Doan sat in his office, lost in thought. Sometimes the whole act was a bit too much for him. He knew that he needed to present the proper, sanctioned set of views, but still...
I should have just left this case alone. I should have turned Gault down the second he asked. Doan thought. But that wasn’t the way things worked with the Council. Once you reached his level of involvement, your career depended upon friends and favors. He couldn’t just turn Gault down, no matter how much he wanted to.
Moa Gault was very serious. He felt that he had worked too long and too hard for his rebellious son to destroy his political career. That was why the case was not being tried before the Supreme Council, but in a lower court. The key was to keep things as low key as possible, and Gault knew that Doan was the man for the job. However it was a job he really didn’t want.
What was killing him inside... what he couldn’t bring himself to admit... was that he agreed with his client. Mr. Novitaar was young and rebellious, but for good reason. The society that Doan had grown up in and the society that Mr. Novitaar had grown up in were two different things. After Malduke, the Council worked furiously to insure that nothing like that could ever happen again. Each generation born after that point had to put up with more and more of the politically correct bilge flowing down from the Council. The non-interference rule and the concept that nothing the younger races did really mattered, as eventually time would restore all things were fine for the youth to come to believe. The problem was that it wasn’t a free choice, but a view that was forced on everyone. It just wasn’t an option to believe that it was the role of Kajarn to help the younger races to grow. If you expressed a view like that, you would never be given the chance to carry it out.
The truth was that the “barbarians” he had spoken of were not unlike many of the friends that he had made during his studies of the younger races. He remembered one time in particular. A man that he had worked with in the legal field for almost ten years had be imprisoned for crimes against the state. In reality, the man was just an innocent legal practitioner who was too popular with the local district. The government felt that he might become a leader in the rebellion against their oppressive system, and so they had him taken away, sentencing him to public execution.
Doan had given thought to rescuing his friend, but had decided against it. It wasn’t the risk of being caught by that planet’s government - the Force had yet to be discovered by that people and technology was primitive by Kajeat standards - but the risk of being caught by his own people. Such a minor transgression would not have caused him any undue trouble, but he knew that it was the first step toward political suicide. It was a black mark on his record that could come back to haunt him later. He consoled the family after his friend’s death.
Banglore Doan just sat there, scratching an ear absentmindedly, staring at papers that he couldn’t seem to focus on to read. Now he was being asked to do the same thing again. Gault had everything worked out with the Council and the Elders of the Corrections court that would try the case. Arguments would be presented, Mr. Novitaar would plead guilty, by taken away to like in seclusion, and everything would return to normal.
“Normal,” Doan chuckled to himself, “Nothing’s normal anymore.” Ever since he had heard the news, he knew that nothing would ever be normal again. “They” were returning, and all anyone could do was wait and hope. Some said, “Prepare for war!!” but how can an enemy like them be stopped by even the Kajeat Naval Force. The stress was starting to crack some of the others, who were now hiding, or becoming involved with religious cults that promised them peace in a time of trouble. And maybe the worst things were the ones, like himself, who refused to even consider the coming darkness.
Deep down inside, Doan wondered if his client really did have the right idea after all. Maybe the Kajeat had been doing things wrong by isolating themselves. Maybe, if they were to survive, they would have to reach out to the younger races. They needed to find those things they had lost so long ago. The spark of hope, the flame of humanity, and the will to fight.
“Step/Punch.. Step/Punch.. Step/Punch.. Turn.. High Block.. Round Kick.. Turn.. High Block.. Round Kick.. Turn.. Step/Punch.. Step/Punch.. Step/Punch” Icis went through the motions of one of the first katas he had ever learned. It soon progressed into more and more complex forms, ending in a rapid flow of motion. It felt good to move and let out some of the tension that had built up during the last few hours Icis had spent thinking about his case. His mind needed a break, and his body needed exercise.
The katas were taught to him during childhood. As a matter of fact, during the first 100 years of life Icis’s teachers had trained him in 152 forms of unarmed combat, 87 classical weapons, and 28 modern combat weapons - a fairly standard education for a Traveler. It was considered vital that Travelers be trained in athletics, as well as academics, because a complete lack in one area would create a weakness that could be exploited under the wrong circumstances. And seeing as Travelers possessed unlimited life spans and perfect recall, you had all the time you needed and never had to teach something twice.
Sweat streamed down Icis’ face as he continued the motions. Without the Force’s assistance, he found himself becoming winded. Still, he continued on, enjoying the opportunity to exert himself. He had always enjoyed combat exercises more than academic endeavors, and had relished the opportunity to teach others during his brief stint as Dean for the SoH. One exercise in particular came to mind.
He had taken a group of Novices out to one of Varnus’s less popular beaches (for the seclusion) and had them practice dueling with wooden swords. The four students, Veironius Muridico, Siadare Burson, Gaestial “Gastron” sul Ambrac, and Cousner Nibiuri, found it challenging enough to maintain the exercise on the soft and giving sand, but Icis thought they needed a little more. He told them to stop and then, with a fine level of telekinesis, created a 3 meter tall, humanoid form out of sand. “Now defeat this enemy.” He instructed.
Veironious and Cousner raced in, striking at the monster with their swords, but were quickly knocked away and sent sprawling onto the sand. Siadare followed up, leaping into the air to thrust down into the sand creature, but was knocked away by a casual backfist. Gastron was probably the most interesting, as he threw down his sword and raced toward the monster. The two and a half meter tall Gastron was from a high gravity world with an acidic atmosphere, and felt and acted as if he were indestructible. With super-human strength and armor-like skin he was almost right.
Five meters away from his target, Gastron made an almost horizontal leap, extending his fist in a powerful blow that penetrated the creature’s chest and continued on to drive through his back. That’s when the surprise was triggered. The sand creature suddenly reformed, completely engulfing his assailant. Gastron struggled to free himself, but the creature moved with him, cutting him off from the life sustaining oxygen of the outside world.
The others had recovered by this time and stood in a small triangle, gripping their swords and gritting their teeth. None of them could see a solution. Then, as they seemed to be giving up hope, Veironious suddenly dropped his sword and sat down on the ground, legs folded, eyes closed. He had found the solution. At the top of the creature’s head was a weak spot in the telekinesis, from which the latticework of Force energy was suspended, allowing the creature to move. In an instinctive motion, Veironious formed the Force into a “needle” and stabbed at the weakness. Instantly, the creature vanished, leaving Gastron gasping for air, and the other students slack jawed.
The purpose of the exercise was to demonstrate that not all conflicts can be solved by brute force, but that some require cunning and intellect. What Veironious had done was the difference between pulling at a knot randomly and making it tighter, and pulling on the right strings and easily untying it. Icis couldn’t help but feel that if there were a solution, it would have to be something like that. If he went in there to fight the case straight out, he would certainly lose, but if he found the right string to pull... he might have a chance, however slight, to win.
Icis ended the kata and sat down, trying to catch his breath. The problem was that no matter how long he thought about the problem, he couldn’t come up with anything resembling a plausible solution. His only hope was that his lawyer had everything planned out, and would be able to manage more than that “out of here this century” stuff. He knew that the next day would be hard, but he had to go through it. He had to get back to the New Imperium. He had to win.
Banglore Doan walked in with a serious and intense expression that reassured Icis of the lawyer’s dedication. It was morning and in about an hour the trial would begin. “Mr. Novitaar,” Doan began before the door had even closed, “Let’s get down to business.”
“Bring it on.” Icis replied, standing up to face the man.
“How much do you know about the legal system in general, and the corrections court in particular?” asked Doan, bringing up files on his datapad. Icis started to come around beside the man to see what files he had brought up, but one stern look dissuaded him.
“Just what I was taught during my training.”
The lawyer cleared his throat. “Good. You should know enough to keep yourself out of trouble. If there’s one thing I hate, its a stupid client. Now please, have a seat.”
Icis sat on the window seat of his room, turning his back to the glowing blue void, just as Doan pulled up the room’s only chair. The two men sat facing each other, Icis looking at his lawyer expectantly, Doan merely staring at his datapad. The man seemed lost in thought for a moment, then blinked suddenly and set the datapad on his lap.
Finally making eye contact, Doan began to speak. “Let’s walk through the court proceedings. As you know, the standard procedure is to begin with the prosecution for the first period, adjourn for lunch, continue with the defense for the second period, then adjourn for the evening. The second day we will lead out and the prosecution will follow in the afternoon. This trading of positions will continue until the trial is concluded. This morning the prosecutor will probably lead out with his best witnesses to try to turn the case in his favor early on. He knows that the public will be watching and he’ll want to end it quickly and decisively. No matter what happens, you must remain calm. Be patient and keep your voice down. We’ll get our chance later, and things will be easier if you’ve been controlling yourself.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” Icis put in, a little upset that his lawyer seemed to think he was a risk to his own character. Icis felt himself quite capable of keeping his emotions in check.
“Now the prosecution’s case is built on several key points. One of the first things they’ll probably bring out is your history of breaking various Kajeat laws. Now, some of this would normally be excused or overlooked, while in other cases you will have already been tried for the crime. The prosecutor’s goal here is to show that you are by nature rebellious and out of control. This will strengthen the case that you need to be confined here so that you can’t embarrass our people anymore.”
Icis nodded, taking it all in. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, he had always known that his past actions would come back to haunt him. “Who is the prosecutor?”
“Kusa Manonglin. He’s one of the best.” Doan paused, striking a few keys on his datapad, then handed it to his client. “His record is even more impressive than mine, however he has not conducted half of the field studies that I have. In a good case we would be evenly matched, but this, Mr. Novitaar, is not a good case. As I have said before, our best possibility is to go for a light sentence, maybe less than a century.”
Doan handed the datapad to Icis before continuing. “Once Manonglin has weakened the perception of your character, he’ll strike at your current defiance of Kajeat law, namely your interference in the Altarin conflict. Our best option to counter is to defend your character and convince the Elders that your actions were merely misguided, but came from good motives. Then they may allow you to undergo additional training and psychological tests during your incarceration. Once you are set free, you’ll be able to resume your career as an active member of Kajarn’s field research division.”
Icis raised his head from the datapad display of Kusa Manonglin. “I can’t wait that long. I’ve got to return to the New Imperium to help my friends. Beside which, I don’t like the sound of telling the Elders I’m some misguided fool with a pure heart. I may not be innocent, but I’m certainly not misguided. I have a difference of opinion with the Council, but that doesn’t mean that my views are wrong.”
“Whether or not that’s true, Mr. Novitaar, you don’t have a prayer of winning on that defense.” Doan pulled the datapad back and gave Icis a critical look. “Believe me, I am very skilled in legal matters and I’m working hard to give you the best representation possible. You have to put your feelings about this aside and trust me. I’ll try my best not to let you down.”
Icis let out a deep sigh. “As I see it, Mr. Doan, I don’t have much of a choice. Please continue.”
The courtroom was a large circular room with vaulted ceilings and white marbled floors. Every five paces around the walls of the room were white stone columns, covered in designs of gold and sparkling blue gems. The tiled ceiling was painted over with scenes of Traveler history, all circling a central skylight that shone with the blue rays of the homeworld, brought in by a series of reflectors.
There were four doors opening into the court room. One door for the prosecution and across from it the defense entrance, and one door for the Elders, and across from it the public entrance. Between the public and prosecution entrances on one side, and between the public and defense entrances on the other were rows of benches. Each bench was made of light grained Braisali wood, trimmed in gold and intricately carved, topped with soft spin-silk stuffed cushions.
Facing the public sitting areas was the Elders’ bench, with seven seats, the center most of which was raised about 25 centimeters. This was the seat of the Supreme Elder of the bench. On each side of the courtroom stood a desk for the prosecution toward the right (facing the Elders) and the defense toward the left. The center of the room was a large metal chair on a raised, circular, metal platform. This was the witness’s chair.
Although Icis couldn’t see them, he knew that there were holocameras throughout the room, recording everything that happened and broadcasting it to any Traveler who cared to watch. He sat quietly as the guards took up their final positions at the doors and the Elders’ bench, knowing that there would be many of his people tuning into the trial. He understood that most of his people thought him a monster and a corrupter of the youth, but he couldn’t let that affect him now. He had to remain calm and focused.
The public benches in the courtroom were almost full as Kusa Manonglin strode in. He was much as he had appeared in datapad image. A large, green, scale covered reptile, standing on four tree-like muscled legs, with his tail lifted slightly so that it wouldn’t drag the floor. Icis guessed that he must be 5 meters from his beak-like nose to the end of his tail. Possibly more intimidating than Kusa’s sheer size was the intense look that he focused on Icis. In the presence of the glare, the much smaller human suddenly wished that he had his lightsaber in hand.
Banglore Doan tapped his client on the shoulder to break his attention away from the colossal prosecutor. “Calm down Mr. Novitaar. Don’t let anyone see the first sign of fear on you. It is very important that the court perceive you as something other that a sniveling coward.”
Icis gave the man a hard look. He didn’t particularly like the way Doan kept making not-so-subtle attacks at his character. Did the lawyer really believe that his client was so erratic of emotion that he needed to be reminded about temper and fear? Was that really how he viewed his client?
Suddenly the chief guard stepped forward, calling loudly, “The Elders of the Bench!” With that, the whole room fell silent. The public observers rose to their feet and Mr. Doan pulled at Icis’s arm, prompting him to do the same.
“Enter Elder Solus Emsu!” the chief guard boomed out, as the Elder in question passed through the door. “Enter Elder Solusek Rho! Enter Elder Ode Dravan! Enter Elder Aru Sulato! Enter Elder Aeale Monoor! Enter Elder Nar Seiv! Enter Nua Shakk, Supreme Elder of the Bench!”
“Here we go,” Icis whispered nervously.
Doan leaned in closely so that he could not be overheard. “Just take it easy and let me handle things. There’s no need for worry.”
Icis almost laughed. Of all times and places... ‘No need for worry?’ The obvious attempt at calming Icis’s nerves was easy enough to see through. Running a hand over the collar that kept him from touching the Force, Icis wished nothing more than to be able to sense just a little spark of it’s energy.
The Supreme Elder cleared his throat loudly, then spoke, “You may sit. The proceedings will now begin.” He was human-sized with bronze skin and no hair except for a tight silver pony tail that fell down his back. The bones in his face and hands seemed somewhat larger an thicker than that of a human, and when he spoke he revealed teeth that were square and rounded, meant more for grinding food than for biting it off. By far, the feature that stood out as clearest sign that the Supreme Elder was not human was his four arms, one set of two right below the other. As he adjusted his black cloak with two hands, he waived yet another at Kusa Manonglin. “Is there any business that we should see to before the trial begins?”
The creature shook his massive head, “No, Supreme Elder, there is nothing that should disturb this case.”
“Very well. Doan, do you have anything that you wish to add before this trial begins?”
Doan stood up. “No, Supreme Elder, the defense is ready.”
“Very well.” Supreme Elder Shakk smiled slightly, speaking in a deep and commanding voice, “I am honored to have two legal minds as renowned as you gentlemen in my courtroom. I trust that this case will be handled in the appropriately respectful and serious manner.”
Both lawyers made motions to indicate their compliance. Supreme Elder Shakk paused for a second, before adding, “This court is well aware of the great public interest in this case, and it
understands that the actions of the defendant have been somewhat controversial. However, I want this court to remain focused on the goal of seeking truth and enforcing law, not on providing a forum for sensational material. If all of this is clear, the prosecution may begin its case."
Kusa Manonglin stepped forward around to the inside of his desk, and spoke to Nua Shakk “Thank you, Supreme Elder. I am honored to serve in your court.” Then broadening his gaze to take in all of the Elders, continued, “The case before us today is of great importance to the future of the Kajeat legal system, and of the Kajeat people themselves. I present to you this day, that the defendant, Mr. Icis Novitaar, has committed crimes against society and has further mocked our ways by his constant defiance of orders to cease his reckless actions. Mr. Novitaar has been given every opportunity to change his ways and become a functioning member of our great society, but has instead chosen to throw our offers of assistance back in our faces. Now many of the youth have begun to see our lenience with him as a sign of acceptance and have begun to diverge from our traditions in like manner. If this continues, our position among the Galactic Community may be at risk. The prosecution intends to prove Mr. Novitaar guilty of interfering with a younger race and asks that his sentence be such that both Mr. Novitaar and those that follow him will know that our honorable traditions cannot be taken lightly.”
Icis leaned closer to Banglore Doan. “Followers?”
"Shh. We can talk about that later.” Doan quietly responded.
“The first focus of the case will be establishing that interference has indeed taken place. For that I call my first witness, Noa Rytor.” With that, the Traveler in question appeared through the prosecution’s entrance and made a steady walk to the witness’s chair. “Mr. Rytor, please state your name for the court and report the relevant actions of Mr. Novitaar.”
Noa Rytor, the Traveler assigned to the New Imperium’s region of space, nodded once and answered, “My name is Noa Rytor. Eight years ago I became aware that Mr. Novitaar had somehow made his way to my region of space, and was conducting unsanctioned activities.”
“What sort of activities?” interrupted Manonglin.
“At first it was just out of the ordinary for a Kajeat researcher. He seemed to be infiltrating and capturing certain black-market distributors, and then reorganizing their operations. From what I can tell, he helped them become more efficient in their illegal activities, and then reinvested their increased income to develop a network of informants and suppliers. By the time I had become aware of his activities, his private contacts almost rivaled my own sanctioned informants, and he had developed the resources to gain access to equipment that I would normally place a supply order to Kajarn for.”
“If I may inquire,” Manonglin broke in. “Why do you think Mr. Novitaar was gathering such resources without the knowledge or approval of Kajarn?”
Noa Rytor, paused for a second, and then responded, “It would seem to me that he was planning something that he did not believe the Council would approve of, and needed to find resources that were not tied into the existing Kajeat system. I believe that his later actions fully support this interpretation.”
Kusa Manonglin began to circle the witness’s chair. “Indeed, I believe that you are correct in this assumption.” Then turning to face the Elders, “Let it be noted that Mr. Novitaar didn’t just find himself in the position of opposing Kajeat policies, but carefully planned his course of action and prepared himself for his eventual rebellion. Also note dereliction of duties in hiding in someone else’s assigned space instead of patrolling his own.”
The Elders were a mixture of head shaking, side looking, and fixed stares. It was obvious that they were listening, but had yet to encounter any earthshaking evidence. Kusa Manonglin, turned back to his witness, and said in his low, gravelly voice, “Mr. Rytor, your account of the defendant’s actions in direct interference.”
“Yes,” Rytor acknowledged the question, “it seems that the interference in question all revolves around a small group of people, most notably one Xar Kerensky, sovereign of the planet Varnus. Mr. Kerensky leads a small group of Force sensitives and has at times been very active in the region’s military and political functions. It seems that at some undetermined point, Mr. Novitaar fell in with Mr. Kerensky and chose to give aid to this person’s cause. He seems to have participated in several confrontations in active or passive rolls, and may have divulged information about the nature of the Force that could tip the balance in that section of the galaxy.”
Manonglin flicked his tail slightly, and formed what appeared to be a smile on his stiff features. “Could you elaborate?”
“Of course,” Rytor formed his answer. “The local Force sensitives follow a belief system that there are only two sides of the Force, the light side and the dark side. Because of these beliefs and associated approaches at manipulating its energies, the so-called lightsiders lack the ability to use the Force effectively in combat, while the darksiders are often consumed by their inappropriate application of Force energy. In this environment, those attuned to the Force are more powerful than non-attuned individuals but not to such an extent that they could dominate the great masses of normal sentients.
“In aiding Mr. Kerensky in his search for more complete understanding of the Force, Mr. Novitaar has increased the likelihood that persons strong in the Force could conquer their galaxy and rule without serious opposition. This would change the entire structure of that galaxy’s government, culture, traditions, and way of life. I personally view this as an incredible breach of protocol and an absolute threat to the younger races of that galaxy.”
“Thank you, Mr. Rytor.” Manonglin turned to once again face the Elders. “I believe this is a clear case of interference, and also illustrates the severe consequences of interfering in the affairs of younger races. But there is yet more to this story as Mr. Rytor will tell you. Mr. Rytor...”
“The focus of the defendant’s activities appears to be helping a small military group prepare for an invasion of their space. The Altarin threat to this region of space has been known and well documented over the years and finally the predictions have been proven true. Facing the threat of extra-galactic invasion, Mr. Novitaar consistently aids one side in the conflict, thus preventing nature from taking its course.” Noa Rytor stopped there, waiting patiently for further instructions.
“Hmm,” the behemoth prosecutor growled. “What form does Mr. Novitaar’s aid usually take. Does he participate in personal or fleet battles?”
“He does take part in such battles on occasion,” Rytor replied. “However, the majority of his work is done in behind the scenes efforts. My informants lead me to believe that his has assisted in the development of some technology and has provided the New Imperial forces with information that they can use against the Altarin'Dakor.”
“Thank you,” Kusa Manonglin stopped his witness. “As you can see, he is using a most dangerous form of interference. If he were merely joining in the fighting, his effect would be minimal, but instead he chooses to strengthen his allies from behind the lines which will have a more noticeable effect. Also, if the New Imperial forces survive this war, which I do admit is not probable, their galaxy will be left with a military force much more advanced than the galaxy standard, and Force users that far exceed the capability of their peers. What we would see is a galaxy out of balance, and one of our own would be to blame. Again, clear cut interference with serious possible consequences. However, the story doesn’t end here.”
Manonglin turned to face his witness. “Noa Rytor, the prosecution thanks you for your testimony. You are dismissed. The prosecution now calls Ione Paua.”
The observers in the court began to murmur about calling the defendant’s sister to testify, but they quickly quieted down as she eased into the witness’s chair. Ione Paua was cool and focused as Manonglin turned to begin the questioning.
“Ms. Paua, I’m sure that the court is aware of your reputation of dealing with problem members of our race. Your track record is perfect and your honor unquestionable. However, your brother is not so dedicated to the continuing prosperity of the Kajeat people as you are. In fact, Mr. Novitaar became so out of line and dangerous to the younger races’ development that you were called in to bring him to justice, were you not?”
“I was,” she answered simply.
Kusa walked back to the prosecution’s desk and began to search through a number of datapads there with his right, clawed ‘hand’. Seeming to find what he was looking for, he turned again to the witness, and said, “Please state your name before the court and inform us as to the nature of your efforts to bring back your wayward brother.”
“I am Ione Paua. I was summoned by the Supreme Council when it appeared that my brother’s actions were not only in direct and dangerous violation of Kajeat law, but were also having a strong detrimental effect on the youth of Kajarn. I immediately set out looking for him, but my brother was quite proficient at covering his trail. I searched for almost a year before I finally encountered by brother on the planet Jengar. There he tried once again to evade arrest, and even attacked me in an attempt to escape.”
Kusa smiled. “We all know that when Kajarn has found fault with the actions of one of our members, that person is required to return with the informing authority immediately and without question. Many times, such a fault may be corrected and the person return to their duties. However, Mr. Novitaar was desperate to escape, even when his own sister was brought to deliver the news. I suggest that this shows that Mr. Novitaar was fully aware of the illegal nature of his actions. He was also so set on continuing to defy Kajeat laws that he was willing to kill his own sister to get the job done. This behavior is not only illegal, but I would say excessive. I hope that the court agrees.” As Kusa Manonglin finished, a number of the Elders shook their heads in affirmation. Only Nua Shakk and Aru Sulato remained motionless. Turning back to his witness, Manonglin continued, “Thank you, Ione Paua. You are dismissed. The prosecution now calls Ghrim Gusto.”
At this point, Icis could hardly restrain himself. “Ghrim Gusto?” he asked Doan in a whisper. “That crazy doctor? What business does he have here?”
Banglore Doan looked up from his datapad only briefly, and then returned to his work, replying, “The prosecution will build the case that you are not fit for service and a societal deviant, whether or not it actually pertains to the interference. They must feel that his testimony will help them do that.”
Icis watched in amazement as Dr. Ghrim Gusto shuffled over to the witness’s chair and sat down, playing with his white doctor’s uniform the whole way. He couldn’t believe that someone as erratic as Gusto was the day before, would be allowed to testify. The witness’s chair was a Force artifact that detected the truth or falsity of anything the witness said, which, combined with flawless memories, was why the Travelers’ legal system relied so heavily upon verbal testimony. However, it occurred to Icis that a lunatic could probably say anything, and if he believed it, the chair would show his words true. If so, Ghrim Gusto’s testimony could be very interesting.
“Mr. Gusto, please state your name for the court,” the giant prosecutor began. Kusa paused for a moment, waiting for his witness to respond, but nothing happened. Turning around, he was surprised to see his witness just sitting there, staring at a spot on his shirt. Manonglin coughed loudly to get Gusto’s attention, and repeated, “Mr. Gusto, please state your name for the court.”
With that, Dr. Gusto raised his head and finally acknowledged the prosecutor’s presence. “Oh, hello Mr. Manonglin. Sorry I didn’t answer at first, but I’m just trying to figure out what’s going on here.”
“That’s quite all right, Dr. Gusto. Many people find this process somewhat confusing.” Manonglin consoled.
Puffing out his mustache, Gusto jumped in. “No, no, I am well aware of how the court system works. What I want to know is how this stain got here. It seems like every day I put on a clean uniform, and every day I end up with this dark purple stain. Some days its on the left side, sometimes its on the right side, but its always there somewhere. I can’t for the life of me figure out where its coming from. I don’t eat much purple food, just the occasional seasoned nyurpul liver. Only a handful of my medical supplies are purple, and those I rarely use. So how am I ending up with these stains? Could it be a side effect of ereficious radiation from my astrascan projector, or maybe a...”
“Dr. Gusto!” Manonglin all but yelled, trying to keep control of the situation. “I sympathize with your problem, but maybe this isn’t the best time to discuss stained uniforms. What I would really like to talk about is the defendant, Mr. Icis Novitaar, and your observations of him.”
Ghrim Gusto looked rather surprised. “Oh, I’m sorry. Yes, I know and have treated Mr. Novitaar, and think that he needs a good talking to.”
“Really, Dr. Gusto?” the prosecutor seemed to calming down as the witness returned to the intended topic. “Why don’t you state your name for the court and then tell us about Mr. Novitaar?”
“Of, course,” Gusto puffed through his overgrown mustache. “I am Dr. Ghrim Gusto. It is my observation that the defendant is as looney as an ilkori on Feast Day. Also, I think that...” Gusto’s eyes shot wide open, a look of surprise on his face. “AHHH!! By Gramfrie’s beard that stings!”
Mr. Manonglin shook his head in disappointment. “Dr. Gusto, the witness’s chair is a powerful artifact. If you knowingly lie about something, it punishes you with pain. The more you lie, the worse it gets, so I ask that you reign in any forms of exaggeration that the chair might pick up on.”
“I wasn’t exaggerating. I was just... AAHHH!! Stang it!” Gusto almost jumped out of the chair. “Ok, maybe I was slightly overstating the situation, but... YIKES!” The chair seemed to have shocked just his right arm. Apparently he was getting closer to the truth.
Icis could barely repress a full on belly laugh at the sight of Ghrim Gusto banging on the chair, telling it to back off, and that he was just being creative. Kusa Manonglin, however, did not seem to see the humor. “Dr. Gusto, please... just answer the questions with no embellishments.”
“Ok, sorry.” Gusto crossed his arms and puffed out his mustache a few times before starting his story over. “Mr. Novitaar shows definite violent tendencies and seems to have anger management problems. In his quarters, awaiting trial, Mr. Novitaar beat on the locked doors until he had broken half the bones in his hands. Also, when he revived in my med-lab, he almost attacked me and one of the doctors that work under me, until he fully recognized his surroundings. This indicates to me that it is his nature to fight and solve his problems with his fists, and that it requires a conscious effort to respond otherwise in situations of stress.” Gusto paused. “There, is the chair happy?”
The prosecutor ignored Dr. Gusto’s last remark and shook his head. He seemed to be trying to decide whether or not it was worth it to ask the witness another question, but one last look at Ghrim Gusto staring at the stain on his shirt seemed to make up his mind. “Let the court note that the defendant shows signs of deviancy in his exaggerated responses to normal situations. This is actually very common among the criminal class, whose own treacherous actions cause them to fear the counteractions of others.” Then turning back to his witness, Manonglin said with relief, “Thank you, Dr. Gusto. You are dismissed.”
As Kusa Manonglin continued to bring evidence against Icis, each witness or source became a little more trivial that the last. There was actually very little evidence that was not testimonial in nature, though there were a few medical records and a handful of shipping records that tracked the flow of goods Icis had sent and received at certain points in the not-so-distant past. Icis quickly found himself becoming board with the whole situation, and was glad when the court was adjourned for lunch.
“Don’t worry, Mr. Novitaar,” Banglore Doan said as they both got up to exit the court and head for the cafeteria. “Next time, it’ll be our turn.”
Shaking his head, weary grin locked on his face, Icis replied, “Then you’d better make it count, Mr. Doan. If we don’t stick this next period, it’ll be over. Manonglin isn’t about to let us out of here with anything less than a minor war.”
Icis was separated from his lawyer over lunch, and sent to the inmate’s cafeteria. It was a little unnerving to see a room full of other Travelers, all wearing the baggy white prison uniforms and tight nullification collars. Most of the Travelers that Icis knew were field researchers like him, and all had held a common love of freedom. Now, seeing even this tiny fraction of the great Traveler society imprisoned, it nauseated Icis until he wondered if he would be able to eat anything.
The food in the cafeteria was dispensed from a row of food replicators along far wall of the cafeteria. The wall across the rectangular room from the replicators was the guards territory, with a thin transparisteel window running for the entire length of the short end of the rectangle, broken only once by a large door. Looking out from the guard station to the right was the beautiful - or sickening, depending on the observer - blue void of the homeworld. The other side of the room was a dull white wall with multiple doors that the prisoners used to enter or leave the cafeteria. White was again the dominant theme, with only the blue void and brown tables giving any variety.
Icis sat down at one of those tables, as far away as he could get from anyone else, and looked over what was left of his meal. Even though you could request any food order, Icis had been anything but hungry and told the replicator to surprise him. It did. He had to throw out a bowl of live grub worms and a pile of boiled tendons, but what was left was reasonably edible. Still, food was the least of Icis’s concerns.
After about ten or so minutes of sitting at the table, playing with his food more than eating it, Icis pushed his plate away and began to think about getting up and dumping the remainder in a garbage reclaimer. Just as he was about to stand up, a moderately built Traveler in the same prison garb, but with a brown leather mask over half of his face, sat down in front of him.
“You know,” the man began, “just moving it around the plate isn’t the same as eating it.”
Icis gave the man a hard look. “And who are you supposed to be?”
“Jura Avis. I’m here because I used Kajeat funds to buy controlling interest in a company, then took over it’s management, then began using the company’s power to take over the government of a small planet. For some odd reason, those old garafins on the Council didn’t approve of that.” Jura Avis smiled. “Why are you here?”
Taken aback by the man’s attitude, Icis replied, “That’s rather blunt of you. Why do you think it’s your business what I did or didn’t do to get here?”
“Oh, it’s none of my business, but it really doesn’t matter. I know who you are and why you’re here already. I just wanted to see if you would give me a straightforward answer like some goody son of Kajarn, or if you had some of the backbone they say you have and would tell me to go frill myself. Frankly, I’m not surprised that you chose the third option.”
Icis looked at the man, trying to figure out what his motive was. The man spoke with a crude accent that would never have been used during any decent Traveler’s childhood. Obviously he picked that one up along the way and continued to use it in defiance of the Traveler code of manners and proper behavior. Icis was not impressed and remained silent.
“Okay, Mister Lockjaw, just sit there and look at me. I’ll tell you what I know. You’re that Icis Novitaar guy who has the Council all hot and bothered. You frillin’ stood there while they yelled ‘till there gums bled and just kept doing things your way. You may not know it, but a lot of us younger folks, you know the ones that still have the will to lead a life instead of just watching others lead theirs, are right behind you. I say, let the Council just sit there and eat their own dung, but I’m going to live my life. We need to stop watching and start doing. We’ve got the power, we need to use it.”
Icis stared at him coldly. Jura Avis stopped for a second and looked Icis up and down, trying to see what was wrong with him, why he wasn’t joining in. Without breaking the cold glare that he was giving Avis, Icis spoke only one word. “Continue.”
“Okay. We all see it like this. We are older than the other races, we are more advanced, we’re immortal for the Void’s sake! We just weren’t meant to sit around and watch other races rise and fall, but to step in and solve their problems by ruling them.” Avis paused. “That’s why they’re so messed up. They battle against one another and their leaders don’t care about the long term results of their actions so much as their short term gain. Frill the grandkids, let’s enjoy today. But we could rule them. We’ve seen the past unfurl and will be around for the future. We’re fit to be kings or more... maybe even gods. Think about it!
“Things are moving slow now, but the younger generation is rising up. In a few more centuries, all the ruling Elders will be thrown out, replaced by the throng of real Kajeat, who will have the guts to stand up and make things happen. We’ve been waiting a long time, thinking to ourselves that there has to be more than this... more than just an eternity of this. Finally, we know we’re not alone. You’ve served your role well in showing us that there are others like us. People like you stand up and tell the old fools where to go and give us a voice. Icis, when we have grown so large and powerful that we can’t be ignored for another frillin’ second, when we are able to reshape Kajarn in our own image, then you’ll be at the head, the new Supreme Elder of the Supreme Council. I frillin’ love ya’ man, and I’ll stand by your side when that day comes.”
Jura Avis just stood there, waiting for a response. Icis could feel white hot anger burning inside of him, and longed to be able to touch the Force again so he could fry the masked man where he stood. “You don’t understand anything, do you.”
“What?” Avis was surprised by Icis’s cold words. “What the frill are you talking about?”
“I don’t have anything against the Council, other than that they are so busy sitting on their tails that they can’t help people in need. They turn deaf ears to the suffering of the people just because they are younger races. When I defy the Council, all I defy is their right to keep me from giving aid.” Icis paused for a moment, staring at Avis and forming his thoughts.
“Well, right, I mean, that’s what I’m talking about.”
“No, Mr. Avis. You are not talking about helping the younger races, but dominating them. You may be shocked to learn this, but we are not gods and we are just as flawed as any of them. You think that if we merely end war there will be peace? You define peace as merely the absence of conflict? Peace, Mr. Avis, is also the presence of justice. Your “justice” would be slavery, and I would fight you to my dying breath, and then fight you again. Your movement is nothing more than a rebellious mob, and you are nothing more than another Malduke.”
Jura Avis shot up out of his seat as Icis calmly compared him to the greatest monster in Traveler history. “How dare you! Where the frill do you get off calling me that! Well I’ve got news for you, you can go suck the void for all I care! Maybe you’re not the one we’re waiting for, maybe there is another leader! Maybe, Mister Novitaar, I am the one who will lead the youth to freedom, and maybe you are just another old fool!”
Icis sat calmly and watched Avis’s tantrum, anger burning in his stomach, but willing himself not to react. Within seconds the man was being pulled away by a pair of guards, screaming curses at Icis the whole way. Icis understood, he knew that he had just ruined the man’s fantasy image of “Icis Novitaar - The Great Leader”, but the man would have to get over it. Maybe we would try to replace Icis as the leader of a youth rebellion, or maybe he would realize the truth of his former hero’s words and look for other ways to express himself. Either way, he would have to deal with it.
Slowly, pushing himself into a standing position, Icis picked up the barely touched serving tray, and began to walk for the garbage reclaimer. He couldn’t believe that he had become the focus of such dangerous delusions. Maybe the Council’s wish to bring him back and silence him had good reasons. Icis knew one thing... he had just lost whatever appetite he had started with.
“Come to order!” the chief guard cried out. “The Elders of the Bench! Enter Elder Solus Emsu! Enter Elder Solusek Rho! Enter Elder Ode Dravan! Enter Elder Aru Sulato! Enter Elder Aeale Monoor! Enter Elder Nar Seiv! Enter Nua Shakk, Supreme Elder of the Bench!”
Once again, court was in session. Banglore Doan stood next to Icis, focused on a last minute rearranging of datapads. Icis looked at him somewhat nervously, knowing that what his lawyer was about to do could make or break the case. In the Traveler judicial system, great emphasis was placed on letting each side start out fresh (which was why the sessions were in the morning and after lunch) and continue uninterrupted. The strongest evidence was almost always brought out first in an attempt to sway the Elders, and then follow that up with more trivial evidence that would help those Elders reinforce their views for your side. Being the first session for the defense, Doan would be carrying the entire case over the next few hours. Icis hoped the man was ready.
Nua Shakk held up a hand from behind the Elders’ Bench, and bellowed, “You may sit. The proceedings will now continue.” There was a good chance that Shakk didn’t need any of the microphones that were trained on him, as his natural voice could fill a room. “Mr. Doan, please begin with the defense argument.”
“Thank you, Supreme Elder Shakk.” Icis watched as Doan began a slow walk to the center of the courtroom. “Mr. Manonglin has presented a very strong and convincing case against my client, Mr. Novitaar. However, I feel that his portrayal of Mr. Novitaar is grossly incorrect. We all know what he did, the physical actions, but do we know why he did it? If someone kills another person, then it is murder, yet if it was done in self defense, then it is not even a crime. If someone kills in war, he or she may even be called a hero. And so, we must take into consideration what my client’s motives were, and what his perceived situation was.
“Mr. Manonglin was very quick to assume that my client is basically a barbarian. He wants you to think that Mr. Novitaar is a compulsive societal deviant who must exert great effort to fit in with other Kajeat, even for a short while. As I see it however, Mr. Novitaar is a champion... a fighter... someone who came from the worst of circumstances among our people, and managed to come out a caring, devoted son of Kajarn. It is clear in his record, and never disputed that my client had the disadvantage of losing his mother at birth. Not only was the loss traumatic, but it sentenced him to a life of being branded a ‘deathchild.’ From the beginning, he did not reject society, but it was society that rejected him.
“He fought through that, however, and proved himself to be an excellent student, finishing in the 94th percentile of all students in his graduating year. His record for the next three thousand years is spotless! Does this sound like a societal deviant to you? It sounds to me like a role model and a hero. I know that it is difficult to accept that. It implies that anyone, even the greatest of us, can fall, but it is the truth. If the conditions were right, almost any of our valued leaders and heroes could have ended up where Mr. Novitaar sits today.
“The question that you must ask yourselves, is, ‘What caused someone so dedicated to Kajarn... someone who had overcome so much... to fall?’ Mr. Novitaar’s first recorded offense, is one that almost all of us has at one time or another brushed against. Sometimes we become tired, or disillusioned with our own role in society. Mr. Novitaar, after over three thousand years of excellent, spotless service, was still near the bottom rung of our system. We all know why we must require such a wait for promotion, and those who are like me and many times my client’s age, may think that such a wait is relatively short, and yet for him it had been all of his life.
“So what did he do? Did he run out and found a rebellion? Did abuse his power to rule or destroy to alleviate his frustration? No, he did not. Mr. Novitaar did the only respectable thing that anyone could do in his situation. He settled down, and went into semi-retirement. He wouldn’t allow his own feelings to destroy his work or bring ridicule to Kajarn, so he virtually removed himself from the picture. He married and started a family, hoping to find fulfilment in his new life. Even then he did extensive research on the people he chose to live with, and sent that research home for study. Mr. Novitaar was diligent, even in his weakened state.
“So what happened? His adopted home was overrun by a nearby race. His wife was slain, and left for him to find. His home was in ruins. His friends were dead. His city was burning. His life was in turmoil. Yes, my client should have walked away at that moment, but I’m sure the Council can understand the emotions running through his head. He struck down and killed the military force that had killed his friends. He then struck down the leaders who had ordered the attack that killed his wife. I am aware that this was far out of line, but can anyone say that they don’t understand his torment? After he had committed his first offense against his beloved people... knowing that his actions would reflect on all of them, he was heartbroken yet again.
“He did not run, or hide, or make any effort to defend his actions, but instead submitted himself to whatever punishment the Council would decree. His sentence was the loss of half of his Force power, and reassignment to a galaxy that was overrun by a single, dominating, military force. This was a harsh sentence for a good Kajeat.
“Yet when duty called, my client did not run away. He managed to survive in that galaxy for hundreds of years, sending back detailed reports, before he was finally captured by the military government. Mr. Novitaar was tortured, brought to the brink of death repeatedly, and yet not allowed to die. His mind was manipulated and torn apart, only to be reconstructed in a manner that fit the government’s leaders. And yet, Mr. Novitaar was stronger than the torture, and stronger than the reconditioning. He broke free of their control and escaped by the only avenue... a galactic gate.
“Where yet is his offense? What has he done, that any of us wouldn’t do placed in those terrible circumstances? Ahh, yes... and this is the galaxy in which he interfered and brought the Council’s just wrath down upon him, but look further. Once he had arrived, he had to get his bearings. He had to learn where we were stationed in that galaxy, and in the process he met people and made friends. He began to see the Altarins, the inhabitants of the last galaxy, as a threat to these new friends, and to a young and apparently defenseless galaxy. It was his temporary home, and like his other home that had been destroyed because he failed to act, he was afraid that just going by procedure would doom his new home too. Also, his hatred of the Altarins is not surprising seeing what he had to endure by their hand. This, combined with the emotional instability caused by his torment and mental reconstruction is why he deviated.
“And so I believe that it becomes quite clear that what Mr. Novitaar did, was not a matter of defying the Council or the Kajeat people, but the result of a confused mind that desperately wanted to do good. He wanted to help people who had become his friends and to rescue a society from his perceived enemies. Even though his actions were wrong and misguided, his motives were as pure as ever. The actions he took to achieve his goal of protecting that society, were in and of themselves, harmless. He didn’t try to seize control of the local governments, and marshal an army and a fleet to take on his enemies, instead he tried to help indirectly and get native leaders to prepare themselves and lead the charge. When he did have to interfere directly to achieve his goals, he did only what was required, and then stepped back out of the way.
“Now I ask you all... are these the actions of a deranged or deviant Kajeat? Or are they instead, the actions of one who is trying his hardest to cope with desperate situations, and carry on the Kajeat code in the midst of personal chaos? Has anything before his first crime indicated to you that he was anything less than an exemplar for our people? Has anything since indicated that he does not want to resume that place of service? Look at his father, and his sister... both are among the greatest heroes of our society. I suggest to you that Mr. Novitaar is nothing less. Given the chance to reform and retrain, he will once again be among the best of our people. I ask the Council to take all of this into consideration throughout the remainder of the trial.”
With that, Banglore Doan returned to the defense’s desk. “Supreme Elder Shakk,” Doan made direct eye contact with the Supreme Elder, “I have no further evidence today, and I rest the defense for the remainder of the session.”
“Thank you, Mr. Doan,” Shakk replied. “I will enjoy the additional time to reflect, and will certainly consider your words. Is there any final considerations that need to be made before we adjourn?”
Kusa Manonglin raised his head, “No, Supreme Elder. The prosecution is prepared to adjourn.”
Doan responded in like manner, “No, Supreme Elder. The defense is prepared to adjourn.”
Nua Shakk stood up and, adjusting his black robes slightly, addressed the court, “Very well. The court is adjourned for the remainder of the day. We will meet again tomorrow morning at the standard time. May you all have a good evening.”
“What the frill were you doing out there!” Icis demanded the second his lawyer walked through the door. Icis had been fuming for the last several hours, waiting for Doan to show up. He had barely been able to hold it in during the trial, but now they were alone and it all came rolling out. “You made me out to be some frillin’ nice boy who’s guilty as sin!”
“Icis, calm down.” Doan’s eyes were cool and focused. “I did what I had to do. We have no case, Mr. Novitaar. The prosecution has established beyond a shadow of a doubt that you have interfered with the affairs of the younger races, and they are going to put you away. We have no witnesses, and we have no evidence. The best that I can do for you now is to lighten the sentence.”
Icis was boiling, but he knew that Doan was probably right. Still, “Isn’t there anything you can do to get me out of here? If they put me away, they’ll at least hold me until the war is over. I can’t allow that.”
“You’re going to have to. I can’t get you out. Mr. Novitaar, nobody can get you out. What’s worse is that you insist on resuming your activities in the Altarin conflict the second you are released. They’ll never let you out like that.” Doan was trying to reason with him. Scratching a pixie ear, he continued, “Here’s what we have to do. My source are indicating that if we open up tomorrow with a guilty plea, the Council will let you go with 50 standard years. Once you’ve finished your term, you’ll be allowed to rejoin the field research division and continue your work. But if you fight them and go for a not guilty finding, or try to argue them down on philosophical issues, they’ll bury you. You’ll get several hundred years, and then find yourself hard pressed for anything but a desk job. Do you get the picture? Do you understand what is at stake?”
Icis let out a breath he hadn’t known he was holding. Slowly, he drew air in and released it again. He needed to stay calm and focus, or else he could kiss his fight against the Altarin’Dakor goodbye. “I understand what is at stake. What is at stake is a galaxy full of sentient beings who may be destroyed unless I help. I don’t really know that my help will change anything, and yet if I don’t try then I will only blame myself if they die. This is my fight as much as theirs and I will not throw it away to save my own skin.”
Doan shook his head, and sighed, “Mr. Novitaar...”
“No, Doan,” Icis cut him off. “I know that I have almost no chance, but I’m going to try. I’m not a Corellian, but I know when to ignore the odds and do what I feel is right. You will not enter a guilty plea in my name, Mr. Doan. Do I make myself clear?”
“Very clear, Mr. Novitaar,” Doan conceded, “But you’re making a mistake.” With that Banglore Doan turned around and walked straight out of Icis’s quarters.
Icis waited until the door had closed, then shook his head, staring at the floor. “I know, Mr. Doan. I know.”
Doan hardly said a word the whole way to the courtroom. For that matter, Icis didn’t feel very talkative either. Icis felt that in the end the only chance he might have was to become a witness himself, and get a chance to reason with the Elders. However, being a realist, Icis knew that his chances of convincing the Council that he was on the right track and that he needed to be released to continue were about as good as his chances of surviving in the vacuum of deep space.
The courtroom was full again, and the guards were carefully scanning the room, checking for anything out of the ordinary. After all, Icis was a very unpopular person and trouble could spring up at a moment’s notice.
Kusa Manonglin stood on his thick legs behind the prosecution’s desk, digging through some datapads and generally ignoring the guards actions and the murmur the public observers. His smug look gave Icis the impression that he knew how strong a position he held and was standing ready to wrap this case up and walk away.
The chief guard cleared his throat, then called out, “Come to order! The Elders of the Bench! Enter Elder Solus Emsu! Enter Elder Solusek Rho! Enter Elder Ode Dravan!”
As the guard continued to run down the list, Doan turned to Icis and said, “One last chance. Enter a guilty plea and we can get you off easy. Remember, you won’t do your friends any good if you get locked up trying to win over the court. You might as well make it easy on yourself.”
“My answer is the same,” Icis replied. “Just put me up there and let me make my case. If they don’t like it, this will be over soon enough and you can move on.”
Doan didn’t answer, but turned back to face the Elders, just as the chief guard announced, “Enter Nua Shakk, Supreme Elder of the Bench!” Doan seemed to be fixed on his course of action, which Icis liked. He needed all the support he could get.
“Please, be seated,” Supreme Elder Shakk began. “Today’s proceedings will now begin. Is there any business that we should attend to before this session begins?”
Kusa Manonglin shook his head. “No, Supreme Elder. The prosecution is ready.”
“Yes, Supreme Elder Shakk.” Doan popped up out of his seat and quickly made his way to the Elders’ Bench. “The defense has a matter to discuss.”
Shakk raised a heavy eyebrow in surprise. “Really, Mr. Doan. How interesting. Please, explain.”
“Supreme Elder,” Doan began, “I have counseled my client that it would be in his best interest to enter a guilty plea, however he has refused. Sir, I believe my client to be under great emotional stress at the moment and in need of psychiatric help. As I mentioned yesterday, he seems confused as to his priorities, and I believe that he can no longer assist in his own defense. Supreme Elder Shakk, I move to have the defendant declared incompetent and the trial suspended until such time as he is fit to resume.”
Icis shot up, slamming his palms on the tabletop. “What! What are you saying!”
“Mr. Novitaar,” Doan turned to face him. “You are confused. You need treatment.”
“I know what I’m doing, and my priorities are quite clear, Mister Doan.” Icis was growling now. “For that matter, I can see that your loyalty is more toward my father than toward me. Doan... you’re fired!!”
Banglore Doan turned to face Nua Shakk. “Supreme Elder, please...”
“Didn’t you hear me Doan!” Icis screamed across the court. “You’re not my lawyer anymore, so I suggest you pack up your things and leave!”
The entire courtroom was in a state of pandemonium. The crowd was becoming a low roar of questions and crosstalk. The guards glanced nervously to the Elders, then to the crowd, then to Icis, then back to the Elders. Doan was yelling over the noise, begging Nua Shakk to ignore his client’s remarks. Everything was flying apart. Then Shakk spoke.
Supreme Elder Nua Shakk’s voice tore through the courtroom and instantly silenced the crowd. “Come to order!! Quiet down!! Doan, control your client!”
Doan almost jumped. “Yes, Supreme Elder.”
“I’m not his client anymore!” Icis yelled across the court. “I demand to be heard!”
Shakk’s look of annoyance was like lasers burning into Icis’s chest. “Guards!” Shakk called out. “Remove Mr. Novitaar!”
With virtually no delay, the guards began to close in on Icis. He thought for a moment to fight them, or to run, but neither were real options. Icis could feel the collar tightening around his neck. They were going to take him out of the courtroom, put him in a mental ward, if he ever got out of there he would still have to stand trial, and after what had just happened it looked like he was going to be put away for a long, long time. The crowd’s voices began to rise again. He had failed, and now it was all over. There were no options left. Except for.....
“Supreme Elder Nua Shakk!” Icis cried out as the guards began to drag him off. “I appeal to the Supreme Council! I exercise my Traveler birthright and appeal to the Supreme Council!”
Suddenly, the guards stopped pulling, and the room fell to dead silence. Everyone in the courtroom, even Doan and Manonglin, seemed shocked. Every Traveler was born with the right to appeal a case to the Supreme Council, the Traveler’s highest form of government, but very, very few used it. The Supreme Council had the power to refuse to hear cases that they thought trivial and send them back to lower courts, or to change the rules of procedure in a trial at will. There was no higher court to appeal to, so if you won there, you won, but if you lost there, no one could help you.
Supreme Elder Nua Shakk broke the silence. “Mr. Novitaar. Would you really appeal to the Supreme Council? They may be far harder on you than I would be. And yet, would you still choose them?”
“Yes, Supreme Elder,” Icis said, voice full of determination. “I still appeal to the Supreme Council.”
Shakk nodded his head. “So be it.”
“Wait,” Doan waived his arms in the air, fighting for Shakk’s attention. “You can’t let him do that! He doesn’t know what he’s saying!”
“Mr. Doan!” Supreme Elder Shakk bellowed. “You are out of line! As I have spoken, let it be done. This court is adjourned and Mr. Novitaar is recommended to the Supreme Council.”
Icis’s heart rose with those last words. The guards released him and began to move away. Laughing on the inside, Icis felt suddenly free, even though he knew he still had an even tougher fight ahead. That was when Nua Shakk broke into Icis’s private celebration.
“Mr. Novitaar,” Shakk said with a grim expression. “I hope you know what you’re getting into.” He paused. “And for what it’s worth, I wish you luck.”
Icis looked up as the door to his all-white cell slid open with an unexpected hiss. His hall guard entered and fixed him with a hard stare. Icis' eyes shot wide open as he recognized the figure who entered immediately after. He blinked twice, unsure whether his eyes were playing tricks on him. His visitor was a tall woman, fair-skinned, clothed in a purple dress with a long overcoat. But her most distinctive feature was her hair, flaming red and spreading wildly around her head and down her back. Icis knew her on sight, though he'd never met her personally before. Few ever did. But he'd seen enough Holos.
The visitor rested her deep green eyes on Icis and spoke up. "Guard, leave us."
The uniformed man hesitated, glancing sideways at the woman. He started to open his mouth…
"Do it," she said, still looking at Icis.
"Y…Yes, Supreme Elder," the guard stammered. He bowed, then scurried out of the room. The door closed with a hiss.
The instant that they were alone, the woman's expression brightened. She broke into a pretty smile that was reflected in her eyes. "So you're Icis Novitaar, the young upstart," she said, moving toward him purposefully. "I heard you appealed to the Supreme Council today."
Icis tried to open his mouth, but no sound would come out. Instinctively he shrank back into his seat as the woman approached and stared down at him. Of all the people who might have come to visit him, this was the last Traveler he would ever have suspected.
The woman arched a sly-looking eyebrow. "What's wrong? Can't you speak? Maybe you don't know who I am. My name is Angol Moa. …you did know that, right?"
"Y…Yes," he managed, flinching in surprise as she reached down to rub his head. How could he not know who she was? All young Travelers learned about the great and legendary Angol Moa, oldest of all living Travelers. As eldest, she held the position of Supreme Elder of the Supreme Council itself. There was no one as renowned and famous as she. No greater genius discovered in the entire universe. It was rumored that it was she who had given the Travelers their energy-based forms, and had shaped the entire structure of Traveler society. Virtually all of Traveler technology was derived in some way from her brilliant scientific mind. She was so ancient that it was said all of the current generation was descended from her in some way. Though she was rarely seen, and even more rarely engaged actively in Traveler politics, no one disputed the fact that she was their leader. It was amazing that he would have the opportunity to speak with her directly.
"Well, that's good," she said lightly. "Since that's out of the way… Why don't you tell me all about your predicament? Why have you appealed to the Supreme Council of Kajarn?"
Icis tried to compose himself as he looked at a figure he considered to be his superior, his teacher, his mother, and a living legend, all at the same time. All he could do was stare into eyes that possessed more intelligence and wisdom than he could hope to comprehend. With those eyes, framed by that smiling, kind face, he knew he could tell her anything, trust her with everything. He began speaking.
"Appealing to the Supreme Council was the only chance I had to win. I can't afford to spend fifty or a hundred years in prison or a rehabilitation facility. I can't let myself be confined."
Angol Moa took a step backwards and sat down on the round eating table in front of him. She reached up tapped her chin with a finger, a curious expression on her face. "And tell me, child," she said, making him sound exactly that - and compared to her, he definitely was! "If we were to believe your case, and free you, what would you do? What is it that is so urgent?"
"I would return to the New Imperium and help my friends," Icis said truthfully. "As it looks, the NI is about to be completely swept away by the Altarin'Dakor. I may not be able to make much of a difference, and maybe I can't stop the enemy tide, but I'll do the best that I can."
"And why do you want to help out such a terribly primitive society?" Angol asked.
"Because I have made the New Imperium my home. Because I don't want to see my friends die at the hands of a ruthless enemy. This war is completely one-sided. I was sent to the AD galaxy. I was captured there and tortured by Zalaria, one of their worst Warlords. I was brainwashed and made to serve their evil will. If I don't help, then the New Imperium will stand an ever greater chance of destruction."
"Are you prepared to die for your belief, if the Altarins win?"
"I am," he said, without hesitation.
"And what if you win? What plans do you have if the Altarins are driven off?"
He paused, taking a moment to consider his life before the Altarin'Dakor, the life that he wanted to live inside the NI. "I'd like to settle down, live a quiet life," he admitted. "Maybe start a new family."
"You would not set for yourself a position of power?" Angol Moa asked, arching an eyebrow.
"I haven't taken one so far, and I have no intention of doing so," Icis said, trying to project force into his voice. If they were concerned he wanted personal gain from this… if they thought he was like Malduke…"
"Aha!" Angol Moa exclaimed, launching forward and jabbing her index finger into his chest. He jumped back in shock at her sudden outburst. This woman was impossible to get a read on!
"And is this your reason for abandoning the heart of the Kajeat code?" she asked pointedly. "You want to retire someplace and live apart from Intergalactic society? What is it that has so disillusioned you with our ways, and with your Kajeat heritage?"
"Well… It's not that," he said, holding up his hands in attempted defense at her words. "True, I believe we aren't following exactly the path that we should. We should be helping people in addition to recording their lives. We can live in other societies, still conduct our work, but we can't stand idly by and let innocent people die. I’m not saying this to start a revolution. I don't like the means that others are taking. I just want to deal with my own situation, this one isolated event. I'm not trying to be…"
"…a role model," she interrupted, finishing his sentence. "A symbol for the other upstarts."
"How'd you know what I was going to say?" Icis asked, amazed. He fingered the nullification collar around his neck. "I didn't think the Force could affect…"
"It wasn't the Force," she said, leaning back against the table with a smile on her face. "Call it experience in reading people. I am a genius, after all."
Icis' mouth shot open in shock, but Angol Moa continued. "But, Icis, your case has implications beyond your current situation. More than you can possibly know…" Her face took on a distant look, just for a brief moment, then her attention returned to him. "I like you, Icis. You remind me a lot of myself when I was your age. You're not the typical cut of Kajeat; you go against the grain a bit. I find that very interesting."
She smiled, and he felt himself warm inside. At the same time, her words were completely unexpected. The last then he'd expected was empathy. But now, he felt like she was almost a kindred spirit. And that she was interested in him… How, exactly? That part concerned him a bit. "I know I'm a deathchild, and that has implications, but…"
"I don't care about your being a deathchild," Angol said soothingly, again taking the tone of mother figure. "I knew your mother. I mourned her death, as did we all. Unfortunately others don't see it that way. They think on past events, and see the larger effects of what you represent. The Supreme Council will keep that in mind."
With that, she rose and gave him a slight inclination of her head. "It was a very stimulating discussion, Mister Novitaar. Thank you for the conversation." With that, she turned, her wild red hair swinging behind her head, and started out. Icis tried to think of something to say in return, something that might help convince her more of his case. A flurry of conflicting emotions held him at the moment, and he needed time to sort through them.
But just before she reached the exit, she turned back and gave him a mischievous grin. "I'm flattered that you found me attractive," she said, raising the pitch of her voice to an almost playful sound. "I do look so very young for my age!"
Icis froze stiff, feeling the heat rush to his face as the woman exited the room. How had she known that!? Even he hadn't consciously realized that, not until she mentioned it! He sat there for a long time before moving again, sorting through all the thoughts and emotions in his head. If anything, he was more confused about her now than he was when she'd first entered…
The Supreme Council's private meeting chamber was already full when Angol Moa arrived. The twelve other members of the Council - the six Junior and six Senior members - were all present for this meeting. It was a rare case for such a thing to happen, but it was an even rarer case that they were about to preside over.
Everyone turned to look at the new arrival as she moved over to stand with them, gathered around the large conference table. If anyone was surprised to see her, they covered their reactions well. Ralagos Dairam, second eldest on the Supreme Council, gave her a nod of respect before she sat down at the table's head. He was her second, the next in command. And, since her presence at the meetings was so rare, he was usually the one who conducted affairs. This time, however, he accepted her presence wordlessly, and after she sat down, the remaining Elders followed suit.
Angol Moa glanced around the table at each person present, with the Senior Elders on her right and the Junior Elders on her left. One of the Junior Elders was first to speak.
"It is a rare pleasure to see you attend, Angol Moa," Zann Xeiro intoned. "What brings you to this meeting?"
"A special case lies before the Supreme Council," Angol answered smoothly. "I could hardly pass up an opportunity like this, could I? Many things will be riding on the outcome of our decision. What is the Council's opinion of the young Icis Novitaar?"
"He's a troublemaker, a disgrace to our entire race," Deamous Xandur, a Senior Elder with a stark reptilian appearance spoke up first. "He's already the second worst blemish in Kajeat history, next to Malduke. I say we put him away, permanently. Lock him up and throw away the access card." He leaned forward and stared hard across the table at one of the Junior members. "Well, Moa Gault? What have you to say about your troubled son? Your… deathchild?"
The large, dark-skinned man let out a long sigh, placing his hands on the table. "He is beyond my understanding. If I'd had my way, this would have been over long ago. But he has defied me at every turn. His fate no longer concerns me."
"Doesn't it?" Bahara Sumi of the Junior Elders countered. The gray-skinned Vijin turned his yellow-pupiled eyes on Moa Gault and showed a needle-toothed grin. "Perhaps your meddling in his past is the cause of this escalation."
"Gentles, please, do not be hasty to lay blame," the musical voice of Senior Elder Phadeus Luna broke in. The large-beaked avian ruffled her multicolored head feathers in a display of calming. Angol Moa smiled at her. Phadeus Luna was one of her offspring.
"The purpose of this meeting is not to assign blame," Phadeus Luna continued. "Rather, we must determine how best to handle the situation and render our verdict. I believe that the former task is clearly before each of us."
"True," Senior Elder Madeloer Dinnt said, putting his massive paws on the table. "We should process this case as quickly as possible. Give no time for anyone to prepare more trouble. Let us take care of this immediately."
"Agreed. Tomorrow, even," Zann Xeiro replied. A round of affirmatives followed around the table.
Arching an eyebrow, Angol Moa stood up from her seat. "Well then, if we are going to handle this tomorrow, then we must all come to a consensus on what our verdict will be. And as a matter of fact, I have a proposal to make which should take care of everything."
The whole table went silent at her words. Obviously, no one had expected her to step out with such a line of attack. Beside her, Ragnos Dairam's eyes widened slightly, indicating his surprise at her taking the lead. She knew he would support her decision, however. Looking out at the other Elders, Angol Moa continued. "I believe I know how to take care of Icis Novitaar while helping to mend the damage that recent events have caused."
She knew they'd catch the hidden meaning in her words. The Kajeat were not without their differences in opinion, which in turn had caused different factions to spring up. Some of the Elders present were part of those factions, though it was little known. She planned to show them a course that would not only relieve tension among the younger generation, but at the same time give Icis the outcome he desired.
"Supreme Elder… Are you sure this is… wise?" Bahara Sumi spoke out. A mistake, not containing his thoughts. Angol Moa's eyes narrowed toward him.
"Exactly what are you implying, Bahara Sumi? That my years of experience have not been serving me well, recently?"
"No, I only meant to question the consequences that a hasty decision could bring," Bahara Sumi tried to cover for himself, putting up his hands. Angol Moa felt a twinge of vexation. She knew that a lot of them considered her too erratic to lead, a mad genius obsessed with her scientific experiments. Her reclusive lifestyle and loose demeanor constantly kept them on edge. Head of the Council she might be, but they would not like it if she started taking an active hand in things. Not at all. And that, of course, was exactly what she was going to play them against. She began speaking quickly.
"Well then, listen to what I have to say. Mr. Novitaar, whether he means it or not, is a role-model to many of the younger generation. They look up to him, and all eyes will be on his trial tomorrow. If we find him guilty and assign him the mandatory punishment, he will languish away his years in prison, and his presence - and our decision - would cause further strife and conflict amongst us. Placing him in prison would make him into a martyr - and that is not what we want to do, Elders."
"What, then, should we do?" Madeloer Dinnt asked.
"Make it so he loses all respect with the younger generation," Angol Moa replied, snapping her words out. "Give him an alternative that will completely discredit him, but will actually be something he will not refuse." She planted a hand down on the table, leaning forward. "As punishment for his first offense, his abilities in the Force were reduced by half. This time, we shall take away those abilities completely. Secondly, we shall officially disown him, strip him of all his Kajeat privileges and his heritage, and cast him out from us. Banish him from Kajarn forever. He will no longer be Kajeat."
"That's preposterous! No Kajeat would ever accept such a punishment, not even Novitaar," Deamous Xandur blurted out, shocked. "Such a punishment is far worse than imprisonment!"
"True. But I believe you underestimate Mr. Novitaar's resolve," Angol Moa said. "He is so focused on his path that he will do virtually anything to return to his new home. We will allow him, at the price of his powers, his contacts, and his heritage. What he will have to lend the New Imperium will merely be his own knowledge and experience, little more. In return, not only will Mr. Novitaar be out of our concern permanently, but a great focal point for dissention will have been alleviated."
"An interesting and unique proposal," Senior Elder Oaren Merratus spoke up. "And let us assume that Mr. Novitaar will accept such a trade. But what I am interested to know is why you have taken such an interest in this case. Forgive my bluntness, but why should we accept this proposal when we may find other ways of dealing with him?"
Angol Moa fixed him with him with a green-eyed stare. "True, you may find other ways. What I have offered is only my own suggestion." She broke into a cold smile. "But this case is of particular interest to me, and I want to see it dealt with as smoothly as possible. If you would rather not take my suggestion, then it might persuade me to become more involved in Kajeat politics. I've realized recently that I haven't really been fulfilling all my duties as Supreme Elder. Perhaps I should participate more actively in the future. To… insure that my opinion becomes more known and respected."
The rest of the table remained silent as she scanned the various Elders' faces. No, they definitely wouldn’t want her more involved in their politics. Not when they were so comfortable in their own positions, and in having a Supreme Elder that was rarely seen - or heard - at all. She had little doubt that they were willing to compromise on this one. She would have her way.
"The evidence is on the table, Elders," she said. "I have shown you the benefits that my plan. Why don't we bring this to a decision?"
Minutes later, the vote had been tallied. Nine to three, her proposal had been accepted. Tomorrow's outcome had already been decided. All that remained was carrying that decision out.
Icis was caught off guard when a small patrol was sent to pick him up from his quarters and take him to see the Supreme Council. However, he was ready to get things over with and gladly joined them on his way to the Grand Council Chamber. Maybe Angol Moa had something to do with this, Icis thought, trying to figure out why he was able to get a trial date almost instantly. Normally, something like this could take weeks to months, but a day... that was almost unheard of. Not that he was complaining.
The Grand Council Chamber was a lot like the mid-level court that he had been in before, that is, with the exception of size. Icis suspected that you could easily fit twenty of the other courtrooms inside the Grand Council Chamber. The reason for the size was obvious to anyone who had grown up on the Traveler homeworld. Traveler society was controlled by a system of ranks and councils. Ranks functioned on the low to mid levels of Traveler society. Age, experience, and achievement would progress you through a series of more important and powerful positions, more like corporate than military promotions. Once you reached the highest levels, you would become a member of a council.
There were basically three types of councils, Legislative, Judicial, and Operational. Legislative councils made the law, judicial councils interpreted the law, and operational councils carried out the law. Across all three types, were five levels. At the lowest levels were “task force” councils that were temporary in nature, and may be formed to advise a higher council in a specific area, investigate a specific problem, or carry out any other minor, short-term council matter. Above that were the low-level, mid-level, and high-level councils. Finally, at the top there was only one-fifth level council for all three types... The Supreme Council of Kajarn.
As Icis looked around, he could see parts of all three types. The centermost region was basically an oversized model of the mid-level courtroom he had just been in. Just outside of that area was legislative region, made up of rows of benches and tables. Then came the outermost region that was devoted to operations. It was collected into groups of benches and tables with large walkways in-between. The entire Grand Council Chamber was joined by four dominant entrance/walkways and the large, partially enclosed Elder’s section.
The Elders’ section began in the judicial courtroom with the court’s bench. This was where the Elders would actually sit and preside. Directly behind that was the assistants’ area of the Elders’ section. This is were each Elder’s 5 personal guards, 5 personal assistants, 5 personal couriers and 5 personal advisors (or 10 guards and 10 advisors for the Supreme Elder) would stay, waiting for orders from the Elders. Finally, all the way back in the operations region, the Elders’ private meeting room and personal entrances were completely enclosed and soundproofed. This was where they would meet to discuss vital issues among themselves or with important advisors. Nothing that went on inside that area was for public knowledge.
The entire Chamber was laid out like a shallow crater, with the judicial section level, the legislative section ascending 5 meters from the judicial floor to the legislature's highest point, and the larger operations section ascending 10 meters over its entire width. The Elders’ section sloped upward in like manner, but was always about 2 meters higher than the surrounding sections. The Elders’ bench itself was also built to signify the power of the Elder by the height of the bench. The flat, desk-like surface was raised 2 meters from the floor of the judicial section for the 6 junior Elders (3 on each side), raised an additional 25 centimeters for the 6 senior Elders (3 on each side), and raised an additional 25 centimeters for the Supreme Elder.
Filled to capacity, the Grand Council Chamber would hold in excess of 10,000 Travelers. Though compared to the Old Republic’s Grand Senate Chambers this might seem a trivial amount, Icis knew that given the Travelers’ government and social structure, the entire Traveler race could easily be run from this one room. It was truly a sight to behold, and Icis would have felt honored to be there, if not for the intended purpose of his visit.
Icis would be defending himself before the Supreme Council, the half-filled Chamber, and all of the Travelers who would ever view recordings of this day. Every fiber within him prayed that he wouldn’t lock up or fall over his words while addressing the Council. Every part of his mind was now consumed with either what he was going to say, or in a fight to slow his racing heart and still his trembling hands. He felt like a two-credit crook tossed in front of a hungry rancor, and he hoped with all of his being that it didn’t show.
Sitting alone at the defense desk, he poured himself a glass of water. There was no prosecutor waiting to pounce on him. The Elders were the prosecutors. The Elders were the judges. The Elders were the jury. And unless some miracle occurred within the next hour, Icis was afraid they would be his “executioners,” locking him away until the New Imperium was rubble and all of his friends were distant memories. In this courtroom, he was nothing more than an gnat.
As Icis tried to prepare himself for the harsh gaze of the Elders, the chief guard of the Chamber stepped to the front of the court. He/she/it (Icis couldn’t tell) was a humanoid feline, with large eyes and thick orange and black fur. It was covered in a black robe, which Icis guessed it wore because most human clothes were too constricting. It’s voice roared out with all the ferocity of a primal carnivore pouncing on unsuspecting prey.
“Come to order!” it roared. “The Elders of the Supreme Council of Kajarn! Junior Elder Rein Daigus! Junior Elder Teale Dien! Junior Elder Zann Xeiro! Junior Elder Moa Gault! Junior Elder Bahara Sumi! Junior Elder Soelen Faiduin! Senior Elder Madeloer Dinnt! Senior Elder Ragnos Dairam! Senior Elder Deamous Xandur! Senior Elder Sirris Phoebus! Senior Elder Oaren Merratus! Senior Elder Phadeus Luna!” The cat-like chief guard paused, for a moment, drawing in a deep breath. “Enter Angol Moa, Supreme Elder of the Supreme Council of Kajarn!”
Icis was shocked. He could barely believe it. It was common knowledge among the Travelers that Angol Moa was somewhat of a recluse, and only appeared for the most important functions and in the direst situations. That the oldest of all Travelers should appear for his case... it was unthinkable. What was going on?
The Elders took just a moment to prepare themselves, passing datapads and whispering last remarks before the actual trial was to begin. Supreme Elder Angol Moa finally brought the Elders to order, calling out, “Icis Novitaar, approach the bench.”
Icis stood up and slowly made his way to the center of the Grand Chamber’s judicial section. The look in Supreme Elder Moa’s eyes was cool and focused, though not menacing. There was not a trace of the warmth they had held the night before. She seemed entirely focused on the task at hand, and Icis could do nothing more than stand quietly in the presence of a legend.
“Mr. Novitaar,” Angol Moa began. “You are accused of interfering with the natural development of the younger races. This is the greatest of all Kajeat offenses. If you are found guilty today, the sentence will be five hundred years of imprisonment, plus five hundred years of retraining and service on Kajarn. Only then will you have the chance to restart your career as a field researcher. In the event you are found innocent, you will be free to go. Do you understand what is at stake here?”
Icis’s voice almost caught in his throat. “Yes, Supreme Elder.”
Angol Moa paused for a moment, examining Icis from her seat two and a half meters above him. “Very well, Mr. Novitaar. There will be no prosecution in this trial, and no witnesses or evidence. All of these things are already entered against you, and have already been considered. The only defense you have left is to argue your case, your reasons for your actions and why we should overlook such a great offense, before the Elders. We will then determine your fate. Is all of this understood?”
“Yes, Supreme Elder.”
“In that case,” Angol Moa said bluntly, “You may begin now.”
Icis was stunned. Only seconds after learning of his probable fate and his only chance at avoiding it, he was now expected to speak in his own defense. No warning... no prepare yourself... just “begin now.” Gulping hard, Icis began, “Yes, Supreme Elder. I would like to being by saying, um, that I, uh...” The faces of the Elders were like stone. “What I mean is, uh, I think that we should consider that, uh...”
Icis stopped. He was breathing heavy and beginning to sweat. He had to control himself. He had to reign in his terror and face the Council or he was done. Icis closed his eyes and thought about his friends... about Xar and Mathis... about Nico and Alex... about the annoying Delta 1 and Thad Balfin... and about little Derek who still called him Mr. T-Rex. He had to fight, not just for himself, but for them. They would be destroyed if the Altarin’Dakor were allowed to overrun the NI, and he had to be there to fight alongside them. If the Council wanted to stop him, then they could go frill themselves. He wouldn’t run. He would stand and fight. He opened his eyes.
“Supreme Elder Moa... Elders of the Supreme Council... you say that you want an explanation of my actions. I have helped some of the younger races to fight against other of the younger races, and now I am being held at trial. I have broken the greatest of our laws, and you ask why.” He turned to face the gallery of observers in the Grand Chamber. “Would you like to know why? Would you like me to tell you?” Then, turning back to the Supreme Elders, “So be it. Let me tell you.
“Maybe you think that I am some deviant... maybe from a certain point of view I am... but I am not the misguided fool that my previous lawyer made me out to be. What I did, I did with full consciousness, and I accept the results of my actions. You say that we must never interfere, and that it is only our place to observe and study, and I say that I almost agree with you. We should never interfere in the internal workings of a race, or attempt to subject that race to our will. We should never be the aggressors in dealing with the younger races, or give them knowledge for which they are not yet ready. But I disagree that we must stand by and watch them suffer.”
“Imagine for a moment that you are dangling from a cliff, unable to pull yourself up, and someone were to happen by. This person, amazingly enough, had rope that he or she could use to pull you up. You cry out to that person, ‘Help me! I’m going to fall, please help me! Throw down your rope!’ but that person merely looks over the side, and proceeds to pull out a datapad and write, ‘Found person hanging from ledge. Believe person has less than a minute before giving out and falling.’ You hold on and cry out again and again, but the person above you merely stands there and records your words. Eventually, you fall, and the person records your time of death and walks away.
“How can we be so cold? How can we watch while others, whom we could easily help, suffer? You claim that if we interfere we will do more harm than good, but I say that not all interference is bad. If we dominate a people, then surely, whether or not they are physically improved, we overstep our bounds and do evil. But I contend that if we stand by and do nothing while the innocent suffer, we are no less evil. It is okay to interfere in order to do good. Why should we sit on our technology and our knowledge when we can employ it to help others?
“And yet I understand that the Council does not wish to become involved. I understand that, and I accept that. But do not punish me because I want to help. Do not censor me because my views are different. In our society, generation after generation, we tighten the hold of the oldest of us upon the youngest. We all know that if someone expresses a view contrary to the one that was pounded into their head in training, that person will spend the rest of eternity at the lowest rung of our great society. We do not tolerate the politically incorrect, but we should know better than this. We should know from all of the volumes of history and knowledge that whenever a culture has claimed to hold to “the one and only truth,” and when they have shut out all that disagree with them, eventually that culture begins to tighten the reigns on the people and exploit them. They force everyone into their established patterns of behavior, ignoring the differences of the individual, and cause their culture to stagnate. Do we really believe that we are any different?
“Order! Order! But there is no real order without freedom. Peace! Peace! But there is no peace without justice. Don’t think that by ignoring problems and issues, they will just go away. Not only will they not go away, but they will grow and strengthen themselves until you can no longer handle them. I’m not saying this because I’m part of, or as some have suggested, leader of a youth rebellion. From what I can tell, this rebellion is merely a mob that thinks defying the Council’s rule is the same as bringing justice, never once realizing that the Council’s rule has been just and may yet be so. I am not a part or leader of a rebellion, but I am a realist. I believe that you must face the issue, and not hide behind tradition. Also I believe you must face me, and not hide behind what people think of me.
“What I did was to see a need, a people being overrun by a race that would surely kill or enslave as many as they could lay hands on, and act to help. I couldn’t stand idly by and watch billions upon billions suffer and die as an entire galaxy was conquered by a cruel and unjust force. And so I chose to help, but in ways that did the least damage to the Traveler code. I helped as much as I could from behind the scenes, and indirectly. As a matter of fact, once I began working with a group, I received constant complaints because I wouldn’t tell them everything. I kept most of my knowledge to myself and only told them what they needed to know, when they needed to know it. I admit that I did interfere with the working of certain criminal organizations, but I did so in a way that left both the people that they used to prey on and the criminals themselves, better off. I did fight directly against the Altarin’Dakor, but it was always to protect my friends and their society. Even in breaking the law, I tried to uphold the law.”
Icis paused for a moment. “I ask you, ladies and gentlemen of the Supreme Council, what is the law? Is it the written words that spell out how we should act? Or is it rather the concept behind those words? The law as it is written says that I am guilty and must be sentenced. According to that law, you must put me away. But what does the law mean? Why is it there? Is it not there to prevent another catastrophe? Is it not there to keep us from harming the younger races? I say to you that if I had done anything to harm the younger races I would have broken not only the letter, but also the spirit of the law. And yet I did not. I acted to help the younger races. I may have broken the letter, but I upheld the spirit. The law was for their good, and I acted for that good.
“And so I ask you... You who have the power to both write and interpret the law... Do not look on the written word that I have broken, but on the living spirit that I have upheld. Look into your hearts and find compassion, not for me, but for those who I am trying to help. I do not ask you to get involved, but only to allow me to involve myself. My argument is complete, and I am at your mercy.”
The Elders began to look back and forth between one another. They whispered for a second, and then returned to their stone-faced stares. Supreme Elder Angol Moa spoke, “That was a very moving speech indeed. I am impressed with your courage and am almost inclined to agree with you.” She paused. “However, Mr. Novitaar, I do not.”
A cold, sick feeling began to form in the pit of Icis’s stomach. He had failed to sway the Council. Now his fate was decided.
“Mr. Novitaar, I agree with your motives, and understand that it is important to care for the well being of others, and yet you do not understand the full scope of what you are doing. Once an action is made, who can say what other outcomes may have occurred? Maybe your friends would have come together without your help and gone on to defeat the Altarins. Or maybe the Altarins are supposed to win. Maybe millennia from now, they will make incredible discoveries and advances that are made possible by some phenomenon existing in your friends’ galaxy. Maybe by stopping them, you stop that advance, and allow the races you support to go on about their way, killing each other and stagnating in their tiny pocket of the universe. Or maybe you’re right, and your assistance is the perfect action. In the end you really can never be sure.
“Also, I must ask where you draw the line. Is it acceptable to help them from behind the scenes? Is it right to give food and medicine to the poor and the victims of tyrants, even if this allows such tyrants to continue cruel policies that they would otherwise be forced to change? Is it all right to help in wars, so long as there is a clear good side and bad side? What if the sides aren’t so clear? Is it acceptable to help civilizations set up their governments and their economic systems? Is it acceptable to participate in those governments? Is it acceptable to lead those governments? Where, Mr. Novitaar do you draw the line?” Moa paused again, increasing the significance of her last words. “When do you stop being an helper, and start being an oppressor?
“You’re analogy of a person hanging at the edge of a cliff has two major flaws. First, how do we know that the person with the rope can really help the person on the cliff? The rope might break, or the person hanging on might fall trying to change over, or the person with the rope may be pulled off the cliff in the attempt. In any of these cases it would have been better for this person to record the last words than to get involved. Also you must keep in mind that a person and a society have major differences. A person might pull up that other person in need, out of a pure heart. However, societies tend to change over time. A society might pull up that person out of a pure heart, and then somewhere down the road begin to think that the other person owes it something. Given enough time and a powerful enough society, the rescued person may find that he or she has escaped death to end up a slave. And all this assumes that the person cannot pull himself up.
“So, Mr. Novitaar, while I understand your reasons, I cannot agree with them. No member of Kajeat society may do what you have done without punishment. And so I must find you guilty, and sentence you to five hundred years in our the Kajarn correctional facility, followed by five hundred years rehabilitation.” Angol Moa’s words were like daggers plunging into Icis’s soul.
“I understand, Supreme Elder,” Icis said quietly. “I accept the judgement of the Supreme Council.”
Angol Moa smiled for the first time in the entire trial. “Do not be so hasty, Mr. Novitaar.”
Icis looked up at her, confused and desperately hoping the smile indicated that she would help him. Maybe she would give him a chance to redeem himself.
“Mr. Novitaar, as I have said, no Kajeat may be allowed to interfere in the affairs of the younger races. However, I also understand that we cannot ignore other views or turn a deaf ear to the pain of other people. And so I will give you a choice. You can accept the judgement I have just handed down, or you can chose my second option. We will remove your Force abilities, and cut you off from all of our suppliers and informants. We will completely and officially disown you. You will no longer be Kajeat. And once you are no longer Kajeat, we will have no say in whether or not you can help your friends. You would be outside of our jurisdiction. You would also be cut off from your people forever.” Angol Moa looked at him intensely. “Which do you choose?”
Icis was shocked. He had never thought of life outside of the homeworld’s influence. Even when he was defying their authority, he still thought of himself as a Traveler. If he chose to help his friends, he would have to give all that up. Also, without Force power or Traveler connections, he didn’t know if he could help his friends at all. But still, he had to try. His choice was clear.
Looking Supreme Elder Moa straight in the eye, Icis responded, “I choose the second option. I will give up my birthright and become a stranger to my people.”
Angol Moa nodded solemnly. “So be it. The alterations will be made immediately. This case will be thrown out on the grounds that the defendant, Mr. Icis Novitaar, is not a member of our race. You will be released.”
The silvery, shell-like, Traveler shuttle descended into the jungle world’s atmosphere. Onboard, Icis sat absentmindedly twirling a small metal cylinder with his fingers. He was still in his white, baggy, prison garb. The nullification collar was gone though. With his ability to touch the Force permanently removed, he no longer needed it. It was strange however to reach out for the Force and find nothing. Icis guessed that it was the same feeling that a person had when they lost an arm or a leg. The mind still wanted to return to the old routines and kept trying to get a non-existent body part to function.
The two pilots who were taking Icis down to the planet’s surface sat quietly and attended to their work, hardly taking notice of the former member of their race. They just focused on bringing the shuttle down to a rocky outcropping on the planet’s surface. Once they had offloaded their passenger, their job would be done.
The landing was flawlessly smooth, and within seconds the engines had been tuned down and the boarding ramp extended. Icis didn’t wait for the pilots’ cue, but instantly stood up and began making his way toward the ramp. The air outside was warm and humid, quite a shock after the constant atmosphere of the homeworld and the shuttle. Icis stepped out and walked down the ramp into the warm, dark night of the jungle world.
Brief instants after Icis had cleared the ramp, it began to retract and the shuttle’s hatchway closed. As if the ground were on fire, the shuttle jolted up, and raced off into the clear, night sky. Watching them leave, Icis wondered how exactly he was going to help his friends without his previous advantages. He still held knowledge, but that wasn’t the same as the ability to fight and the vast information resources he had held as a Traveler. But he still had to try, and it was certain that there was no turning back now.
The moonlight glinted off the metal cylinder as Icis slowly pressed the button at the top end. With that, the transponder beacon activated, sending a message out across the sea of space to the Raider, which would catch the message and pick him up. Icis laughed out loud as he lost sight of the Traveler shuttle. He wasn’t about to give up, and at least now he wouldn’t have to worry about Traveler regulations. Now his arms were unbound and he was free to fight. Now the battle would truly begin.
The End of
TRAVELER ON TRIAL
co-written and edited by Sauron
a Knightworks/Varnusan Production