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Silent enim inter arma Tribunals (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 43[]

Silent enim inter arma: Tribunals[]

Unity City
North America, Terra
Sol Star System
Republic of the Sphere
3079


[Tribunal Courtroom....]

"...Mister Mertz, before the bombing of Geneva, were you aware of the conflict with the Lyran Commonwealth?"

"Uhhh...what?"

"Were you aware that the agency overseeing your government, the Word of Blake, was prosecuting a war on the people of the Lyran Commonwealth? In any way?"  Seether asked.

"A...little? I guess?  We knew that ComGuard forces were engaging in open conflict. There were a few stories about the liberation of worlds that belonged to the Terran Hegemony, and of course, there were the popular uprisings bringing worlds into the Blake Protectorate."

"Were you aware of outbreaks in Inner Sphere nations?" she asked.

He frowned, "Yes, the news was full of your using germ bombs to prevent the liberation of worlds!"

"I see." Seether paced a moment. "SO...what you were told, was that it was...what, domestic suppression? Interstate Warfare?"

"Our free press insisted-" Mertz began

"They lied to you." Seether said quietly, laying a hand on the evidence table.  "You were lied to.  Billions of your people were lied to, mister Mertz. probably over the span of decades."

"I...I don't understand."

"Of course you don't. You're a citizen, and governments often find it easy to lie to their citizens." Seether told him.  "What did the Government tell you about Belters?"

"That the Belts were full of religious nuts and misfits, and they..." he stopped.

"You're a businessman. There ever a time you had to deal with a contractor or employer who wasn't being honest with you?" she asked.

"Yes."

"At times, you filed lawsuits, I assume, when that harmed your business, yes?"

"I did, yes...why am I here?"

Seether gestured, "You told Colonel Haskins that the woman sitting in the dock over there murdered your family." she told him, "In Geneva. YOu said you wanted justice."

"I don't...understand." he sputtered

"That's the problem.  Lots of people outside this room don't understand." She sighed, "A powerful lot of things were kept from you, here on Terra, for a long time now.  Your pain is real. The deaths and the gap in your soul is real. So tell me, if a man with a wrench beats you and robs you, is it the fault of the wrench, or the fault of the man??"

"I suppose we can't give a wrench a mind, so it is the man."

"If that man who beats you, is acting on behalf of another man, under orders, is it the man who beat you that is at fault, or the man who gave the orders?" Seethers asks Mertz

"The man who gave the orders-mostly, the man who assaults me is also partly to blame."

"And if the man who gave the orders...if he is deceived into giving those orders, who is to blame?" she asked.

"The blame is shared at that point. He had a choice not to give the order."

Seether paused, "That is the reason you are still alive, Mister Mertz." she told him, "Thats because after a certain point where does the blame actually lie?  We don't know, but I can tell you this. It will be confirmed even by my enemies...Alarion, Necromo, Galedon, these were not domestic disputes, and there was no war between nations.   At Alarion and Necromo, the biological weapons were delivered from This Solar System, aboard products from your homeworld. At the orders of men who see men like you as unworthy of the respect you do deserve.  Many of those men were in the fortress structure under Geneva.  They chose to use your family as ablative armor to avoid facing responsibility for their actions, Mister Mertz.  They lined your family up to die, hoping that your family, and twelve million other...lesser...citizens to themselves, would be shield enough to protect them while they plotted more deceptions, more aggression, more mass murder."

"That isn't true!" he denied hotly.

Elizabeth stood up, "Your Honor, he came to shoot me, because he believes something that isn't true. We're breaking ground here, but I believe in the Clans, there is a thing called 'Grievance'."

"There is." McKenna acknowledged

"Seether, have a seat, I've got this." Liz said.

She walked up to the witness box.

"I'm the one who ordered the strike." she told him.  "Nobody else in this room ordered it, I did."

She turned to McKenna, "Your sidearm is a standard Nine Milimeter, correct?"

"Yes." replied Khan Lyrnn McKenna

"Do you have it on you?" she asked.

"Why?" she asked Liz

"I want to ask you to take all but one bullet out, and hand it to the witness, please." Liz said.

"That is a very complicated way to commit suicide, Commander!"

"No, if I can't convince a decent man his anger is pointed at the wrong person, there's no point in this." Liz told her.  "Give him his weapon, let him make that choice, and could someone get a writ of pardon started for this man? he doesn't deserve to suffer more than he already is."

Lynn looked dubious.  "This is irregular." she said.

"No, this man deserves justice." Liz stated, "Or, at least, he deserves some chance at it...or something like it-he did nothing inherently wrong beyond being deceived, and he wasn't even deceived about who I am. The only about the conditions that led to the deaths of his entire ****** family."

Luciano was visibly confused, "What...are you-"

"Someone set up a backstop, if he misses, or if that round overpenetrates. It should not hit anyone else." Liz quietly ordered.  Haskins stared at her open mouthed.

"Mister Mertz, while the Khan here is preparing your weapon, I will give you the answers you want. You'll make your decision, and either I will live, and see my own children grow up, or I will die here. You will have what you were looking for."  she leaned against the witness box, "Are you prepared to listen to me, or do you need a moment to process?"

He drew in a shaking breath, his face twisted into a grimace, "Speak."

"I gave the order.  It was my order that destroyed your home city." she told him, "If I could have done it another way stopped them, I would have. However, we were in space, Geneva is a major city. A landing would have torn it up, and they would have had time to arm the spoilsport procedures for one thousand nuclear missile batteries scattered over seven continents.  Do you know what a spoilsport protocol is?"

"No?"

"It is a protocol in which, in the event of a specific military defeat. A command center orders fire on their own assets to deny them to an enemy.  If that protocol had been enacted, the only survivors would have been in Brian Fortresses and fortified, internally self-sufficient, bombardment proofed bunkers like the one under Geneva.  The city would still be gone, your wife and child would still be dead, and you would be likely burned, bleeding, and rotting out from radiation sickness. If you were unlucky enough not to be in the blast radius of immediate vaporization and death.  The first day after the strike landed, I nearly ate a bullet in the bathroom.  I can imagine what you feel, Mister Mertz.  All I have to do, is wonder what I would do, if my children died like that."  she held his eyes, "I don't think I could be strong enough to live with it as long as you have if that were MY children."

"Is it ready, Khan McKenna?" Liz asked without looking up.

There was a clicking and clatter as the weapon was unloaded, and another as a single round was placed in the chamber.  "Yes."

"Please give mister Mertz his weapon." ask Elizabeth

She maintained eye contact. "The government that used your lives as shoddy armor plate, ordered the deaths of between eleven and fifteen billion human beings, then lied about it, Mister Mertz. They lied to you, because you, and most of the people here are good people who would never ever tolerate such deeds in their name...but if you believe I am lying..."

She straightened, "The safety is on the grip, the other on the trigger, line the red dot on the center of my chest.  Then, all you have to do, is gently squeeze the trigger like the militia instructors taught you, and it will be done. Mission complete." she held her arms open, "You may fire when ready, Mister Mertz, and maybe gain a measure of peace."

The muzzle trembled in his hand, and he blinked repeatedly.

"No one charges him for anything!" Liz barked.

The muzzle dipped, and the pistol lay on the stand in front of a weeping man.

unfired.

Liz walked up, took the pistol, and handed it butt-first to Khan McKenna.  "There there...you're an honest man, and you've been done wrong. Let it out..." she said softly.  She turned to Haskins, "Your witness, counselor."


[..Deliberation chambers after the recess is called..]

"That is so not going down into the procedures! 'you think I'm guilty, shoot me' is NOT going to be admissible as evidence or a means of resolution!"

"I disagree?" Ilena said, answering Eric's outburst, "It seems to be remarkably efficient."

"NOT going to be standard practice.  Think about it. Every step in this hearing thus far, with regrettable elements. It has been public except our deliberations here." Ivanka noted, "With so much coverage, all the evidence presented? Has been available, and Terra is media-saturated, the move was bold, but the deck was certainly stacked.  She placed her true judgment in the hands of a merchant-technical caste who...probably would have pulled the trigger a week ago."

"Do WE have a decision?"

"I think we do. The summations are yet to be done, but minus some new evidence. I think I know where most of us are on this subject."


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