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Silent enim inter arma Tribunals (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 34[]

Silent enim inter arma: Tribunals[]

Unity City
North America, Terra
Sol Star System
Republic of the Sphere

[Corpsman Vien on the Stand.. ]

"Corpsman Vien, you were assigned to the Marine Complement 3rd Platoon, Company I, on the Battleship LCS Hermann Steiner, Correct?"

"Yes ma'am." Vien replied

"Are you permitted to discuss your duties with India Company, Corpsman?" asked Seether

"Yes ma'am. "

Seether waited, "Go on."

"Ma'am, my platoon was specifically assigned to the security role shipboard, and to Prisoner handling and control when deployed off the ship, ma'am."

"And have you been at this long?" asked Seether

"Define 'long' ma'am?" Vien asked

"More than two years." she said

"Yes ma'am." he said.

"During those two years, did you handle Blakist Prisoners and did you encounter or handle Manei Domini prisoners?"

"I did, ma'am."  He said, and looked ashamed.

"What was your experience and what was the difference between handling standard Word of Blake personnel, and handling Manei Domini?"

"Aside from the physical differences?" he asked.

"Yes." she replied

"Standard Blakist personnel exhibited few traits that would be distinguished from other POWs. I had to administer treatment to wounded, care for wound treatment and occasionally I would provide them with someone to hear their problems. Which were mostly normal people problems, and on occasion, debate theological subjects with them.  Pretty standard stuff really, most rank-and-file Blakies are pretty normal as long as you don't stumble on their triggers."

"Triggers?" Seether asked

"They're brainwashed, ma'am." he said, "It could be anything, a pattern of colors or the wrong spoken phrase and the person in front of you would completely shift in their demeanor, took a while for our people to work out what you might call a 'standard package' of things not to say or show them. If a trigger was hit...whoooo..."  he rolled his eyes, "Sedation barely worked, I had one patient try to open me up with her fingernails for quoting one passage from the bible."

"Would you feel comfortable enlightening the Tribunal what that phrase is?" Seether asked.

"Not without preparations." Vien said firmly, "I would not utter those words in front of the press, either, because we don't know how many people planetside might have been exposed to related indoctrination.  Riots, Colonel ma'am, are generally bad for innocent bystanders, and even a lone wolf can kill a lot of innocent people before he's stopped."

"Has this happened in your experience before?"

"Yes ma'am." he said.  "Galatea, Skye, Thorin, New Earth, and a few other places. The Coventry incident in 3072, the shooter wasn't even a POW, but he'd been a Blakist POW for three months and one of the known triggers was spoken in his presence."
"Could it be anyone?" she asked.

"Yes ma'am." he asserted, "Look, the guys captured a lot of enemy data, but they didn't get all of it.  Commonwealth Medical Corps is working on a means to rehabilitate victims of programming, but it's all theoretical so far, practical applications are..." he shrugged and held his hands open, "We don't have it.  Some of the Jade Falcon docs have tried their methods too, wit no real success. Not until a victim is triggered, we don't know who is, and isn't, programmed. Its just that they're out there. Once they're hearing the wrong words or seeing the wrong symbol or picture or some pattern of symbols?  Will set them off.  We know of around a dozen so far, but it's hit-or-miss. Not all POWs were indoctrinated, not everyone who was indoctrinated that way were even formally prisoners."

"'s dicey?" she carefully asked

"Very. Triggered personnel are very hard to restrain and treat, they pose an immediate and if given a chance, lethal threat to everyone within range." he asserted, "They make it very hard to restrain them without lethal force."

"Have you been forced to resort to lethal measures?"

"No ma'am." he said.  "I have however had to treat infantrymen who did have to, after the fact, Ma'am...and I had to try to save lives after a triggered civilian set off four kilos of blastex in a hospital."

"You're sure they were triggered?" she asked

"Why would a housewife mother of three have four kilograms of plastic explosive when she went into an emergency room to visit her son, ma'am?"

"Shifting the subject a little, what about Manei Domini? Anything specific about them?"

"Check the hairline above the temple for small burns." he said, "Also look for three millimeter scarring under the hair or on the scalp skin if bald. Not all MD's have visible prosthetics, but every cybernetically altered soldier has those burns. An MRI will show alterations to the prefrontal lobe and frontal cortex, cutting off certain nerve clusters normally active when a person is trying to make a moral decision."

"What do you do when you find one?" she asked.

"Keep him drugged and restrained if possible, because he can be completely reasonable sounding while he's disemboweling an infant." Vien stated, "It's not their fault, this was done to them.  Naval Intelligence, CMC services and our Clan colleagues are working to develop a treatment, but until we have one. All Manei Domini and cybernetically altered personnel are to be considered to be incapable of moral decision making in the same manner as a person with severe antisocial personality disorder.  In layman's terms, they've been surgically altered to be psychopaths with no moral or ethical restraint, and programmed to subsume their own well-being to that of their 'master'. A figure we have not identified.  You can ask the FedSuns officers present if they have the clearance, some of the work, some of the identifiers, have been shared from that side of the sphere with us."
"Do they have triggers?" she asked.

"Not that we've been able to identify." Vien said.  "They are very difficult patients, if one is conscious enough to tell you what hurts or itches, they're dangerous if not restrained."

"Is that universal?" she asked.

"Ma'am, nothing is 'universal'." Vien stated, "I just gave you basic guidelines that fit with a majority we have records of encountering or that I've had to treat myself.  I can't imagine anyone would apply that kind of...alterations to all of their elite soldiers, because that is to put it in Commander Ngo's words, 'A losing strategy'. Eventually the Blakists had to think they would win and weapons like that can't be left loose without supervision, it unthinkable, Ma'am."  He shuddered a little, "I...I've seen horrible things, but I can't accept the idea that anyone could both have the ability to be that cruel, and the resources to make it happen."

"Your witness, Mister Haskins." said Seethers

"You...ah...won't say the triggers you know of?" Haskins asked

"No, Sir." Vien stated, "I would never do something that harmful on purpose. I can't guarantee the safety of anyone within hearing distance of even one of those phrases, sir.  It would be more than unethical or immoral, it would be outright evil, sir. Innocent people would be harmed without reason or right, and I won't do it."

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