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The Great and The Good (A_Great Captain_Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 8 - A plot of ground and a marker

"Reverend Nuell…

…it is so good to see you!" Natalie Roberts greeted an older, thin, gentleman in a tweed coat with a black collar, who stared through a pair of rimless glasses.

"I brought someone home, someone who…may need guidance." Natalie continued.

"Amanda Roberts!" he said, "As I live and breathe!!"

"I don't know you." Amanda said it almost-mechanically, as she resisted the urge to step away from him. The woman she'd spent most of the last two weeks with on shuttles and DropShips, grimaced.

"She suffered traumas, Reverend, she has…lost…memories." Natalie stated. "I was hoping bringing her home would shake some of that loose."

"Yes, I see, you must have been through quite the experience." He kept addressing her, his expression going from stunned to searching. "Did the men who took you…did they do…that?" he waved a finger near her eye-patch.

"Yes." she said, "they did, among other things. But they're dead now, I made sure." Amanda answered in that same deadpan.

"And the others?"

"Died before I could escape." Amanda stated, finally showing some feeling. "They didn't survive what those men in white did to us, I was the only one who lived."

"When you escaped, did you desire vengeance?" he asked.

"I wanted to escape. They were in the way. Revenge had nothing to do with it, When I chained Doakes to an autodoc in the prison on Devil's Breath? That was for revenge. The men in White? I just advanced their case to god's judgment, and his mercy or lack thereof. You might say I expedited their appeal."

His expression turned pitying, "Who was Doakes?"

"An officer in the bandit organization 'The Sons of Plunder' who used surgical and drug therapies, along with explosive implants, to turn girls and women into sex-slaves for sale in a foreign market. I strapped him into his own machines and turned them on, so he would suffer until he died. It's better than he deserved." She stated, "And you would know that, if you saw his victims. The Snow Ravens took him out of that, and finished questioning what was left, before advancing HIS case to the Lord, via airlock."

"They did damage you horribly." he whispered, "The girl I knew would…"

"They cut part of my brain, Reverend, I'm not her anymore." Amanda almost snarled, and pulled her hair back to reveal the sutures, "See? It doesn't heal on its own! This was a mistake!" she flinched, half-turning.

"You still remembered enough to realize their deaths would set them before god's judgment." he spoke up. "The Lord knows all, even what you forgot, even what was taken from you, you can always be redeemed."

"What I don't want to be?" Amanda asked.

"I think you do, even in this state." He told her, "You could have killed this man, this 'Doakes'?"


"Yet you spared his life and left him to contemplate his sin, until others could decide what to do with him, yes?"


"Then you still believe in redemption." He told her, "If you didn't, you would have killed this man Doakes outright, immediately…possibly horribly, but you would not have let The Law have him, you would have brought your vengeance on him yourself. Tell me I'm wrong, Amanda."

Is he right?

"There is a high probability that your motivations were not entirely vengeance oriented. There was definite activity in regions associated with moral decisions, Amanda." Desmond suggested.

"I can't." she said.

"I know. I've known you most of your life-all of it up to your abduction." Rev. Niell said, "You have always tended, even in trying to be rebellious, to be a deep and moral thinker. You were the only girl in Saturday-School who asked 'why', or bothered to question anything in the sermons, not to make trouble, but because you wanted to understand, not merely accept."

"I've killed a lot of men, Reverend. And I am likely to kill more once I return." she said. "That breaks with the teachings."

"God makes a distinction between 'killing' and 'murder', Amanda…walk with me, your mother can wait."

Amanda followed, as soon as they were out of hearing, she said, "I don't know her either-besides her file with Domestic."

"Your mother is a good woman, but she sometimes takes the wrong lessons." Rev. Neill said. "This isn't unusual, The Zero Aggression Principle does not mean zero violence, it means not being the initiator of conflict. You killed to save lives??"

"Forty thousand people are freed from slavers, and five hundred victims of torture and brainwashing are getting help, because I killed men." She answered, "I can show you the documentation, it isn't classified by the President."

"I believe you," he told her. "You did not violate the Creed, only the most extreme interpretations. By killing to save those lives…did you take pleasure in any of it?"

"Doakes." she said, "for a few minutes, then…it felt wrong."

"It should. That 'wrongness' is your moral center, your soul, telling you you're doing wrong, God's agent in your being." he explained. "As a mortal man, I understand the pain that must have driven you to do what you did, and the restraint that kept you from doing worse. The Lord forgives those who seek it, even at the final moment." He rested a hand on her shoulder, "The fact that I can see that you feel bad about enjoying it, means there is more of you there, than was taken from you by these…'men in white'."

"So, not irredeemable." she said.

"Not by half, did you think I was always a priest?" he scoffed, shaking his head. "You must remember this: Always do it for the right reasons, not because you're angry, or offended, Amanda. You have, unless I miss my guess, chosen a path of conflict and blood…but you can preserve your soul if you remember to withhold judgments & passion, and forgive after, especially yourself. Forgiveness is not for the deserving, it is for the undeserving, because the blameless have done nothing to forgive….the Lord said, 'Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone', it was because none but God is without sin…not even those who style themselves to be perfect in their faith."


"I have to work extra hard to get someone like your mother through the gates of heaven, I'm afraid." he confided with a sigh. "She'll make it, but she makes it so much harder with her snap judgments and easy condemnations. Those without self-doubt, are so much harder to redeem…but I'll get her there, don't you worry."

"I wasn't." Amanda stated. "I don't…I don't remember any of it, Reverend. Nothing from my life before the place they had us, and the surgeries, just…blurs and sensations."

'Your soul remembers." he told her, "And god remembers, and some of us remember. Have faith, you will either regain what you've lost or gained something else. Something the Lord wishes you to have."

Bit by bit, Reverend Neill Nuell extracted something like a confession, and offered something like a penance. While they fed the ducks in the pond behind the rectory, then, he walked with her and the discussion shifted to the funeral of her grandfather.

And that's what they were talking about when they rejoined her mother in the chapel.

Daryl Lamb Roberts...

Is a big man. He was large as a child, large as a teen, large when he married Samantha, his wife at age 20. For the last six years, he has had to endure the questions-not from others, but in his own heart.

Six years ago, less than a month after his wedding day, his little sister Amanda was abducted with eleven others from under the noses of the town's sheriff and the school they attended.

For six years, he's lived with that burning doubt, and the wondering over whether, had he been there, they might not have been taken.

Two years ago, the deaths were finally confirmed of eleven of the abductees. They had been tortured and tormented by their captors.

Amanda had not been one of the dead, she had not been a corpse that had to be buried in a closed coffin by grieving parents and siblings. Her absence had been a mystery, and he doubted his own courage that he couldn't make himself go out to find her, or find her body.

But a man with a wife, and two small children can't go haring off into the wider galaxy on a maybe. Not even to relieve a sense of shame and weakness.

A sense of being flawed in some horrible way.

The sound of a motor in the drive brought him from the barn of his own homestead-a place for his wife and children, separate from the family's farm because a man should stand on his own, if he fails to stand for someone else.

He wiped his hands, and saw the old pickup in the drive. It hadn't been a month since the last visit by his mother, a visit that saw his wife stepping in to stop the argument.

"I thought you weren't coming back up-" he froze as the other person in the car got out.


"Hello." the young woman in front of him looked like his sister might have looked-if someone had clawed her eye out, and left a scar on her temple.

"Daryl, I brought her home!" his mother crowed.

The stranger in front of him looked like Amanda might have looked, hints of his father's jaw and mother's nose…and the toss of almost-brown-almost-red hair, framing a tight, strained looking face.

"Amanda?" he asked.

"That's my name." she said, "you…are…Daryl right? The Oldest?" the pinched expression was confusion.

"Yes." he said, and stepped forward, "You're…you're alive!!" He clamped her in an embrace.

Hesitantly, she returned it. "Careful…I don't heal right anymore."

The big man, Daryl Lamb Roberts, was weeping.

"..and so, I…

...declared to them, 'I am the GREAT PIRATE ROBERTS!! The greatest that ever was!! And I will NOT be taken in by the mere likes of YOU!!" The children were hanging on every word as Amanda described her first heist after escaping captivity and torture.

"She has her imaginings at least." Natalie commented. Samantha, the mother of the boys clustered around Amanda, sniffed derisively, and continued to slice limes.


"Your daughter has been a shadow on this household for six years." Samantha said harshly, "She has preyed on Daryl's mind since the day she was taken.", the hard nosed young woman said firmly. "Won this round, didn't you?"

"Come now, it's not a competition!" Natalie argued.

"Isn't it?" Samantha sniped, "Not a month ago, I had a step between the two of you over an argument that really boiled down to your daughter there…and here you are, parading her here, what about your husband, Natalie? Shouldn't her father see her before your oldest son?"

A little bitt of puff went out of the older woman. "He should, but…she's changed."


"Those aren't just stories she's telling your sons." she stated. "My daughter, my little girl has taken lives. I don't know how her father will handle it, given how hard things were with his father over…similar."

"You could've made it easier there too." Samantha said, "Jar??"

Natalie passed the sun-jar with the tea, and Samantha added the limes. "The boys like her, so far." she added conversationally. "At least she's not another Jeffery."

"Their uncle-"

"Is still not welcome here in my home. Not after what he's done and who he is." Samantha stated. "I won't have my sons infected with his Attitudes."

"I just told you-"

"I would rather have them enthralled with a killer and thief, than within earshot of a bigot. I only tolerate YOU because you know better than to let it out in the presence of the young ones." Samantha sniped. "The Snow Ravens are part of this nation now... and maybe if more of us were more like her Grandfather, the old Supervisor, we wouldn't need them, but we do, because we're not. Fetch the tatersalad, if you please."

" Desmond says to me…

...Amanda, you need to eat real food and we're out." she had a rapt audience of two young boys, one four, and one six.

"Who's Desmond?" Saul, the older boy, asked.

"He's my imaginary friend." Amanda said, "For a long time, the only friend I had. He helped me a lot."

"Why were you out of food?"

"Because there's no food growing on a starship." She explained, "and I had no money, and I was in hiding…so I had to get food, and I was getting really sick…so we hatched a cunning plan!"

"But you said the Bonnie had fully stocked?"

"Centuries ago. Even Meals Ready for Consumption go bad, it was bad food that was making me sick." she admitted. "Being sick like that in space can kill you."

"C'mon Munchkins!! Good food HERE!!", her brother's wife, Samantha, announced, laying trays on the picnic table.

"Ooh! FOOD!!!" Amanda was up like lightning, and at the table like a shot.

"Goodness, Amanda, don't they feed you?" Samantha asked.

"I'm usually too busy making sure the crew has food." Amanda confessed, "I managed to pawn the duty off on my executive officer since we're docked at Quatre Belle, getting a restock and inspection from the Ravens."

"The same people you were about to rob for food?" Samantha asked.

"That was then, it was before we took on the Sons of Plunder over Halla, and before we started freeing worlds from them for the Alliance." Amanda confessed, "I…wasn't in my right mind at the time, but it makes a good story."

"You seem to have a LOT of good stories." Samantha urged.

"Not all of them were good." Amanda said, "And some aren't for young ears…like how I lost my eye, or where I got this-" she gestured to her temple scar. "There are some details that have to wait, I guess. I have met…re-met? My oldest brother, where's the middle one, Jeffery?"

Amanda caught the look between her mother, and Samantha. "Jeff Roberts is not welcome in this house." she stated, "Not with the children present. I won't have them influenced by a bigot or would-be terrorist."

"Damn, I just spent an hour telling your sons about stealing from the Snow Ravens and-"

"And that's fine, better, anyway, than trying to poison the garrison with milkseed in their food, a blind effort to make them leave." Samantha actually hissed.

"He been charged?"

"The State prosecutors gave him community service and let the Clanners decide what." she stated, "but he brought it on himself, and god help him if he'd been caught in the act instead of being found out by some of ours!"

"The Clanners generally don't screw around on those." Amanda stated, "He could've been spaced if he'd been able to carry it out and got caught…so what are they making him do?"

"Manual labor expanding the frontage road by the airfield…under supervision, with the rest of the petty criminals." Samantha's tone was unsatisfied.

"He'll make contacts doing that." Amanda noted. "If he's serious enough to put the community at risk on such a stupid gamble, he'll find like minds in those work gangs."

"I know." Samantha noted, "but the Reverend spoke up, so there's some hope he'll reform…but not so much that I want him influencing my boys into such foolish things."

"But you're okay with ME influencing them with my depraved life of piracy?" Amanda speculated.

"News does travel faster than JumpShips sometimes." Samantha stated, then, she laid an offprint with a pricetag and the words 'All the news Fit to Print!!' at the header, "Daryl ignores the news, but I don't. Forty Thousand people on Tresspass, five thousand slaves in the hold of a killer Warship? I read the news. You had a part in that, or you deny it?"

"I had a part." Amanda nodded. "A lot of us did. The Northsun People's Militia did most of the hard lifting before we got reinforced by the Snow Ravens…now I know it wasn't supposed to BE in the news…"

Samantha unfolded it, showing a flatrendering photo. "The coat, and you're missing the correct eye." she said. "I think they got your best side. I was going to show Daryl when you turned up on my doorstep."

"The camera really DOES add five kilos." Daryl noted, comparing the images. "Dad's going to lose it. All the friction between him and our grandfather…"

"My father served under your Grandfather in the OMC, before he retired, and then after he retired. It's how I met your brother-they were friendly."

"I don't remember." Amanda confessed.

"I heard you when you said it before." Samantha stated, "Point being, I know better than to blame the soldier for the war, your poppa not so much, even after he led the ballot measure that stripped our defenses and let you be taken. It left us needing the Snow Ravens here, because we lost the ability to be peaceful and made us helpless."

"This sounds like an old argument." Amanda noted.

"It is. Your mother knows my stance, we've argued it enough."

"One of the conditions of my Letter of Marque." Amanda spoke. "Neutral in political arguments, and that sounds like a political argument."

"Oh REALLY??" Samantha's tone was surprised and…something else. "How is that supposed to work? What you're doing is inherently wrapped in politics."

"Domestic politics, can't take a side." Amanda stated, "not publicly, can't let it influence my actions. The internal politics of Alliance worlds are hands-off unless they're in the hands of Bandits or criminals. Once there's a lawful government, no matter what I think of it, I have to stay apart from the arguments, or I lose my Letter of Marque and just become another pirate waiting to be put down."

Her hostess guffawed at that, "Oh my STARS!! And you say you're not military!!"

Amanda froze up visibly, her organic eye roving for a moment, then, "Oh…right. Huh…"

Desmond, you knew this, why didn't you say something?

"It's not relevant most of the time, and it's the same basic oath given by every professional force since the twentieth century western nations. A standard requirement to prevent military coup attempts or the armed services usurping control of the state…right, you would not know that being as young as you were when I was implanted."

"Do you have a display copy on you?" Samantha asked a little too-sweetly.

Amanda fumbled her pocket , and brought out a flatrender padd, keyed it on, and paged to the text, before handing it to Samantha.

"This…is the same oath every OMC officer had to swear before the merger with the Snow Ravens, Amanda…an this letter of marque? Reads like Dad's commissioning statement."

"We're technically not a military." Amanda amended.

"Technically?? No, but in all practice, you're a branch of the Outworlds Alliance military in all but name, and the proviso that allows members to leave service when in port." Samantha stated, "Your Grandfather swore to a document just like this…mostly. Wow. even when he does things I should disagree with, President Avellar is a genius!"

"He's a nice old man." Amanda agreed. "Still, it says right in the heading 'Letter of Marque and Reprisal'."

"Privateer, not Pirate, though to enemies it's the same thing more often than not." Samantha agreed.

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