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Old 03-27-2006, 01:23 PM   #52
machievelli
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The Prisoners

The woman’s staff moved slowly, tapping before her as she walked. It had been only two or three hours since she had arrived on Bandomeer, but already she had detected a quick shuffle in the police and prosecutors attached to the case.

It was simple on the face of it. Two young men from the Mandalore Embassy had entered a cantina, started a fight, and seriously injured fifteen Bandomeeri. They had been charged, and only the fact that Mandalore was a newly discovered planet had stopped the locals from simply buying a couple of lengths of 12 mm cable and stringing the pair up.

The Ambassador had found that a Jedi Monastery ship was coming through the system, and asked for assistance. She had agreed, more from curiosity about these newfound people than anything else. Their language was archaic and rife with words for honor and battle. So like her home world in that regard. But the quick dance being done behind the scenes had drawn her interest even more. Why would they now try to adjust an open and shut case? Ahead of her she could hear chanting.

“Bal kote darasuum kote,

‘Jorso’ran kando a tome,

Sa kyr’am Nau tracyn kad, Vode a.”


She paused, thinking of what the words meant. Then she turned the corner. The cell was set in the very back of the local constabulary headquarters, far enough back that only the person delivering meals would ever see the prisoners.

She walked up, and stopped two meters from the door. She sensed two pairs of eyes scanning her. “Hut’uun.” A young voice snarled.

“I have never been a coward, ad.” She replied. There was silence from the boys. “And glory, eternal glory. We shall bear its weight together. Forged like the saber in the fires of death, Brothers all.” She translated the chant smoothly. “So like my own people. Except we don’t speak of glory so much.”

“Which people?”

“The Echani.”

They thought about this. She stood patiently. “Why are you here then, Yuru’ike?

“Little mother?” She smiled gently. “Since I will be adjudicating your case, I wondered what type of boys did as much damage as is claimed.”

“You are the judge?”

“Yes. At the request of your father, Sev Soochin.”

There was a laugh. “Buir’ike finally acknowledges me?” He snarled. “So he sends me a blind woman to help? Such is his concern for his son.”

“I am not here to help you. I am here to judge this case. As for my infirmity, it is said that justice is blind, but it is neither stupid nor deaf. If you wish I will leave, hear only their side, and find you guilty. The punishment here is ten years per act of personal violence. Neither of you will live to see the outer world again.

“Or you can answer some simple questions.”

“Ask.”

She went over the particulars of the case as explained to her. While she listened, she also probed outward with that sense she had only discovered when she had been blinded. Not using your eyes meant you had to read the person before you. Something she had been teaching the Monks of the Monastery of Jedi for five years now. That you must know the inner person when you meet, when you talk, and when you fight.

“So you went to this cantina at the request of a young lady. You had two drinks each, and then things became hazy. When you awoke you were in this cell, and were told that you had attacked 15 of the locals.

“Yes. But we knew it was a lie.”

“Why?”

“Because only six of those that supposedly fought us were injured. The other nine were unmarked.”

She tapped the staff on the floor gently and the voices stilled. “Enough. I have only one question. You are what, thirteen and fifteen?”

“Yes.”

“What is your training?” There was a deep resentful silence, and she sighed. “Mando’ade are known for many things to those that study them. What level has your skills reached?”

“I am judged verd by my teachers.” The older of the two replied. “Vode Anak is ge’verd. We would not be allowed to travel from our homes with less standing.”

“But you are small for your ages, yes?”

“Does that matter?”

“More than you might know. Very well, tomorrow we go to court.”

*****
Prosecutor Moruth looked around, irritated. The idiots in the government had started this mess, but who would be blamed if it failed? No one had anticipated a damn Jedi Monk arriving when she did.

Make sure the case succeeds The Governor General of the continent had told him. We need soldiers to deal with the uprising on Beta continent, and we can’t just recruit here. Too many have family on Beta. Too many will pass information. So we need the Mandalore. Who cares if a few hundred die?

Moruth snarled. He understood the colonial government's problem. Too many free spirits leaving the safety of Alpha continent. Too many not being supplied by the government, fending for themselves, trading without government oversight and tariffs. Wondering why they should have to pay for a government they didn’t need and didn’t want.

Where is the damn judge? He asked himself. Court should have been in session five minutes ago. Some blind woman was wandering about the court room. She had already spoken to the three best witnesses he had, spoken with the Chief Constable, with the officers called to testify. The ruffians that had shown exactly how inefficient they were. Now she was walking toward the front of the court room. Why didn’t someone tell her to sit down?

“Madam, will you please be seated?” He growled. She stopped, leaning on the staff, her blind eyes turned toward him. “That is exactly what I had in mind. Too much time wasted on this as it is.” She continued walking forward, her staff shoving open the door between the audience area and the court itself.

Moruth stood, then his jaw dropped as the woman made a beeline to the steps up to the Judges seat. She drew the sword at her belt, and suddenly it flipped into a pair of blades on opposite ends. She sat primly, the naked steel across her lap.

“In accordance with the request of the Mandalore Ambassador to Bandomeer
I, Breia Sookor Bai Echana have been asked to adjudicate this case. The Bandomeeri colonial government has agreed with protests.” She looked at the woman recording the trial. “Young woman, unless I say, the record will be taken regardless of protests from any party to these proceedings. Nothing shall be expunged from it without my authorization.”

She stood, looking at the room with her blind eyes. “Bailiff, please bring in the accused.”

The two were unprepossessing. Sev Soochin was perhaps a meter-five tall, and sticky. Anak Vau his companion was perhaps two fingers shorter. Both were manacled with full restraint chains.

“Bailiff, remove the chains.”

Moruth leaped to his feet. “Your honor, I must protest!”

Breia looked toward him. “Sit down and shut up.” She turned to the bailiff. “Remove them.” The bailiff did as he was bid, stepping warily back, the stun rod he carried ready. “Unless you want me to remove that weapon and your hand with it, I suggest you sheath it.” Breia said calmly. The bailiff sheathed the rod.

“I know the form of jurisprudence used here on Bandomeer, and I will not use it. I see no reason to assume that the defendants are automatically guilty. Instead I will use the form I grew up with. There is no book to swear upon, no gods to claim. My people believe in the sword and that is what it shall be.

“I will warn the people in the audience that once I invoke Echani law, no one will leave this room. If you try, I will stop you. All oaths are sworn on the blade.” She touched the sword on her lap. “There is a precept under Echani law that states ‘the steel speaks truth alone, and does not abide the lie’. Under it, any proven to be lying under oath will lose a measure of flesh equal to that lie.”

She seemed to scan the room with her eyes. “Under Echani law I call all witnesses to stand before me. The prosecution may question them, but only after I am done to assure that all evidence has been revealed. As I wandered around just now, I spoke with many of you. I have discovered many things of interest that must be brought to light before this trial can continue. Witnesses, step into the room provided.”

The men who would be called shuffled into the room she had earmarked. There were no windows, no doors. The only way out was past the harridan holding court. The bailiff at her command stood before the door. What they did not know was that the listening devices in the court had been deactivated. No one in the witness room could hear what was going on. She smiled. It helped to have a droid now and then.

“I call Boroda Soochin, Ambassador of Mandalore to Bandomeer to give testimony.” The bailiff leaned in, called, and the Ambassador entered the court. “Ambassador, touch the blade and repeat after me. I swear by the steel beneath my hand, that all I say in this court shall be the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I shall keep opinion to my breast unless asked, and will not allow it to color what I will testify to.”

The Ambassador, fully ten centimeters taller than his son gave his oath.

“Your planet was discovered four years ago.”

“Yes, your honor.”

“Please, no titles. I am Padawan Teacher. Call me Padawan.”

“Yes, Padawan.”

“Ambassador, Mandalore is a poor planet, correct?”

“At this time we have yet to produce exports.”

“So what do you export at this time?”

“Our warriors are hired as bodyguards, security forces for planets that need them, and soldiers.”

“Has there been talk of a contract with the government of Bandomeer?”

“There has.”

“Tell me. What did Bandomeer need from you?”

“One strike force of ten phalanxes.”

“Five hundred men.” She mused. “What was their assignment?”

“Padawan, I must protest-”

“Prosecutor, I feel no taint in you. Those that have placed you here hope for victory but refuse to pay for it.” Breia looked at him in her uncanny way. “The protest is noted, and denied. Ambassador, please answer the question.”

“They wish to bring the second continent named Beta at this time back under governmental control.”

“What have these rebels done to deserve an attack?”

“Nothing, Padawan. When I spoke with the Governor General, he said merely that they have ignored the government. We were to land forces and convince them otherwise.”

“Was this contract signed?”

“No, Padawan.”

“Why not?”

“Money, Padawan. We asked for 20,000 for transport, 100 credits a week per man, Our supplies paid for from a disbursement account, 20,000 credits on completion, and costs of ammunition and replacement costs of all damaged equipment. They countered with 5,000 for transport, 75 per man, Our supplies paid for by us, and 15,000 on completion.” He shrugged eloquently. “That would not even pay for transport of the men hired. All they would have to do is delay our departure four months to dispose of every centi-cred except for the men’s wages. Paying for supplies would eat that up very rapidly.”

“Was your contract offer standard?”

“Yes.”

“Ambassador, has the situation changed since that negotiation fell through?”

“Yes, Padawan. When my son and his companion were arrested, an unknown person screened me at the residence, and told me that the charges against them could be expunged if I would accept the government’s offer.”

“A pity there is no proof of that.”

He smiled, holding up a datachip. “Your honor, as asked, I have pulled the communications records of the residence, and they are here. The person was recorded.”

She considered. “Prosecutor? Do you have any questions?”

“No, Padawan.”

“I call the defendants.” They stepped forward. She swore them in. They recounted the events in the cantina.

“I find it curious that two young men could injure six men even under the effects of what might be a soporific.”

“We are trained well, Padawan. I am judged verd by my teachers. “Vode Anak is ge’verd.
“For the edification of the court, explain.”

Verd means I am considered a full warrior, able to serve or take contract. Anak is almost fully trained.”

“Tell us more of this training. Would it help you if you had been drugged?

“Our training assumes injuries, wounds, and the effects of drugs, Padawan. A Mandalore warrior is sudden death on two feet even if he is dying.”

“Were you armed?”

“As we always are.”

“Describe what you were carrying. Not both, just one.”

Koororil, shiv, strangling wire, I also carried a Shukilo.”

“That is a metal knuckle plate for striking, a knife, garrote and a battle-chain?”

“Yes. Anak carries a sakilo-si instead of a shukilo.

“Ah, a whip baton?”

“Yes.”

“So you would have used these?”

“Only if attacked.”

“Yet none of the men you supposedly injured were injured by a weapon?”

“That is correct.”

She nodded. “I call the chief constable.”

The constable came in and was sworn. “Sir, Describe to me the events of the evening three days ago.”

The report was brief. A call from Kuptir’s Cantina of a riot in progress. Three units arriving to find two Mandalore men fighting with the crowd.

“Now, where is the Cantina located in relation to the Mandalore Embassy?”

“One half kilometer.”

“How often have Mandalore been there?”

“It is the closest cantina to the residence, Padawan.”

“So they are common. The Mandalore embassy has been here for seven months. Has there ever been a fight there between Mandolorians and the locals?”

“No, Padawan.”

“Have the defendants been there before?”

“Perhaps a dozen times.”

“Was there something different this time?”

“Not that I am aware of.”

The sword in her hand spun, stopping less than a finger’s breadth from his face. The constable stared in frozen horror at the blade. “One lie I will accept. On the next, there will be blood. Was there something different this time? Speak!”

“They were alone.”

The blade did not flinch. “So there were no adult Mandalorians there. Who contacted you first?”

“I fail to see-” The blade whipped, and he felt blood on his cheek.

“No more lies. Who?”

“The Governor’s attache, Brenner Voss!”

“And what did he have to say to you?”

“That an incident would happen at the Cantina, and I was to treat it as it appeared.”

Her hand snapped, and at the back of the court room, a man who had been whispering into his comlink dropped it as the small sliver of steel punched in like a toothpick, shorting it out.

“Brenner Voss, come forward.” When the man didn’t move, her hand snapped again, and another sliver punched into the wood beside him. “I will not ask again. I will have your corpse removed instead.”

The words galvanized the man to his feet. He stumbled forward, hand reaching for the small of his back. “If you draw that weapon, I will kill you.” The hand leaped back into view, empty. He came forward, entering the court.

“Swear, Brenner Voss. Swear and pray that I ask you only what is connected with this case.”

The man reached forward, fingers trembling as she extended the sword. Then he tried to snatch it.

He screamed as four fingers dropped to the floor, sliced off by the monomolecular blade.

Breia stood, waving the constable aside. “Blood has been shed, and it was not I that did so. Now, speak!”

Voss began, speaking rapidly for several minutes. Finally he ran down. The court recorder reached for the pad, then flinched back as Breia’s hand rose in warning.

“So you arranged this. Did your master know of it?”

“No. He was considering accepting the proposal by the Mandalore.” Voss gasped, clutching his hand. He flinched back as the blade came down, touching his undamaged hand but not cutting it. “Yes he knew!”

Breia stood back from him. “Prosecutor, have you anything to add?”

Moruth stood. “Padawan, I ask that all charges be dropped. That the defendants be declared free.”

“So ordered.” She turned. “Bailiff, release the witnesses. Tell them what has happened in here, and if any wish to give further testimony, I will hear it.” She walked over to the recorder, picking up the transcript of the trial. She handed it to the Mandalore Ambassador. “For your pains, Ambassador.”

“What can my people do to repay you?”

“Repay me for what? For seeing justice done?”

Sev walked over, kneeling. “Yuru’ike, like your people, we feel a debt must be paid. Accept me into your service until you judge it paid in full.” Anak walked over, kneeling as well.

She looked down at them. “Ambassador?”

The ambassador looked down, face glowing with pride. “My son has proven he is worthy of the title warrior. Unless he has sworn to another, I have no say in what he does this day. He is a man full grown able to make contract as he sees fit. Do us great honor, my son. And forgive me any faults I have had in your rearing.”

“Forgiven and forgotten, Buir.”

Just what I need Breia thought. A pair of coursing predators without a leash. “Very well.


'To argue with those who have renounced the use and authority of reason is as futile as to administer medicine to the dead.' Now who said that?

From the one who brought you;
What we die for...
Acceptance
KOTOR excerpts
Star Wars: The Beginning
Star Wars: Republic Dawn
Return From Exile

Last edited by machievelli; 03-27-2006 at 08:29 PM. Reason: proofreading error
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