The Present – ESS Endeavour
Captain Anderson Bell looked into the serious eyes of his security officer. Lieutenant Tareen was not joking. “What insanity is this Lieutenant?”
“No insanity Captain. I have evidence which makes you the only possible suspect.”
Commander Lin approached. “Lieutenant are you sure you know what you are doing? This is a very serious charge.”
“I’m aware of that Commander, but this is a lawful arrest. As second in command of this vessel I formally request your support in this matter.”
“Enough,” the Captain bellowed. “I don’t want to hear any more of this. You can’t possibly have conclusive evidence because I didn’t do it.”
“That will be determined by a court martial Captain.”
A realisation came on the Captain that this was actually happening, and if he had any respect for the law and the chain of command he could not refuse.
“I demand to see this evidence of yours Lieutenant,” Lin said. She then turned to look into Bell’s eyes. “In the meantime Captain, you had better go with them. I promise you, if you’re innocent you will be released and returned command of this ship.”
Anderson took a moment to calm his emotions. He knew that Lin was right. He had no choice.”
“Commander Lin, I hereby place you in command of the Endeavour indefinitely. Your orders are to return to Xinju and complete our mission.”
He turned to Tareen. “Lead the way Lieutenant.”
As soon as the Captain was secured in the Brig, Tareen had returned to his office. Commander Lin had been waiting at the door. He invited her in and took her through the evidence. After he was finished Lin nodded with a deep sadness in her eyes.
“I can understand what you have done Lieutenant, it does not look good for the Captain, but this evidence is all circumstantial. I don’t think you have enough to get a conviction in court. Don’t you think you were a little premature in your arrest?”
“I wrestled with that question all the way to the Bridge Commander, but the truth is I couldn’t wait. This ship holds the surviving community of humanity. We can’t afford to have a murderer and saboteur in command. Guilty or innocent, Captain Bell had to be removed.”
“You have opened Pandora’s box here Lieutenant. We are going to have to set up a court – we’ll need to form a Judge Advocate General Corps.”
“I suggest we may want to use a civilian jury Commander. We can’t expect a group of officer’s under Bell’s command to decide his fate.”
“That might be a good idea – although not strictly according to rules. Nothing is going to be easy from this point on, and you still have work to do with the prosecution if you expect to have the necessary evidence for a guilty verdict.”
Lin stood and began to pace the small office. She looked to Tareen as if she were about to pick up something from his desk and throw it.
“Why did you have to find this Lieutenant?” Her eyes blazed with fire.
“I had to pursue the truth, no matter how unpleasant it is. Do you think I want to see our Captain put away like this? He was a strong leader and we’re going to need that in the days ahead.”
Lin stormed out of the office without saying another word – and slamming the heavy door behind her. Tareen latched the door and sat down in his chair – nursing his own frustration. Lin was right about this being a terrible situation. Part of him hoped that Bell was innocent, but another part of him could see no other explanation. The thing that troubled Tareen the most was the lack of motive. Why would a decorated Captain, who had been given such an important assignment, do such a thing? What was to be gained?
Tareen turned his computer terminal on and resumed his analysis of Commander Murphy’s logs.
The Surface of Xinju
Half an hour ago, Professor Toledo had decided there was little he could do sitting around waiting for the shuttle to return, so he had gone into the bush to search for a creature similar to the one that had attacked Gardner. If they could find a sample then it might assist the medical team when they finally returned to the Endeavour.
Gardner himself was sitting on the ground, leaning against a large rock. Every now and then he groaned out loud.
Laura Banks felt helpless. She hated to see people suffer, but there was nothing she could do to help. Spearwood sat on a log nearby. Laura took a seat next to him.
“It’s funny Geoff,” she said. “We’ve been working together on and off for what, five years?”
“Closer to ten.”
“That long huh? We finally get the expedition of a lifetime. We’re on an alien planet filled with unknown wonders, and here we are sitting on a log watching a man die.”
“We don’t know that Doctor.”
“Tell me something, ever since we were assigned together to the Endeavour you’ve been calling me Doctor. You used to call me Laura. What’s with that?”
“You’re my superior again.”
Laura shrugged. “I’ve been your superior many times before.”
“I dunno Laura, this is different somehow. This is more than just a temporary job, we’re going to be here doing this for the rest of our lives.”
“Isn’t that more reason to drop the formality?”
Their conversation was cut short by the roar of an engine. Laura looked up and saw the shuttle overhead. It descended and touched down close by. “It’s about time.”
Banks and Spearwood ran to the shuttle and jumped in as soon as the hatch opened.
“Sorry I took so long,” the pilot said. “I think wild weather is going to be a part of our lives here on this planet.”
“Never mind that now,” Laura said. “Give me your medical kit.”
The pilot handed a white box over and Laura ran back to where Gardner was sitting. She fumbled through the kit until she found an automatic ice pack. There was a small tag to pull. Laura yanked it out. The chemical reaction inside turned the floppy sack almost immediately into an icy brick. Laura placed it on Gardner’s arm wound.
“I hope this helps soldier. I really do.”
Gardner nodded his appreciation through pained eyes.