“Well,” said Orlacc. “I guess we’d better get back inside.”
“I’m really worried.” Jeremiah was up against a wall near Ania. “I mean, it seems that the attorney knows that we are to be condemned. Even with your wonderful testimony, Peter, and your words, Princess, I’m still worried.”
Ania held his hand and whispered to him, “No, don’t even get worried about it, Jeremiah. The judge seems fair. The jury was tested thoroughly by him. From where I sat, it seems Mr. Dobson is the only one who is so terribly biased.”
Jeremiah took her arm and they began slowly back to the courtroom.
“I believe the princess is right,” Orlacc said. “You will do your best, and when it is time for us to give our final arguments, we will be in luck. We have more people on our side.”
The crowds began moving towards the doors of the courtrooms when the gong signalling that the judge had returned was sounded.
The four in the court’s question sat down in the bench once again. Ania looked around, hoping that she could get an idea about the opinion of the jury. If Jeremiah was convicted, then they might be tried as well, as accomplices.
Mr. Dobson entered the room, and everyone stood up, as the judge entered the room. “Court is in session,” he said. “We will now have the accused take the stand. Mr. Handell?”
Jeremiah stood up and the princess began to help him to the stand but was stopped by the judge. “Straight forward,” he said. “Your hand will touch the stand after four steps.” Jeremiah shrugged his shoulders in puzzlement, but did as the judge said. When his hand reached the stand, he followed it to the edge where he was to be questioned.
“State your full name,” said the attorney.
“Jeremiah Donovan Handell,” placing his hand on the Bible that he felt the attorney place under his palm. He recited the vow that Mr. Dobson said, and began the long interrogation which would prove him to be innocent or guilty.
“Mr. Handell. You once worked for the Police, did you not?”
“Yes, in fact, I did. I was an admiral at the time that I was dismissed.”
“Why were you dismissed?”
“I was caught trying to turn information over to the governments of Aria.” The audience murmured in surprise.
“What information was that?” the attorney asked. “Was it plans for a new structure?”
“Well, yes, in a way, but it was for the destruction of all the opposing members of parliament. They were to destroy Aria, which they did. It was ruined.”
“But you agreed to the laws when you joined. You vowed to remain loyal to the Police.”
“Yes, I did.”
“What did you do after you were dismissed?”
“I worked on my own, making deliveries and transporting goods and people.”
“You had your own ship? Where did you get the money?”
“I worked on a farm for a while, and received the ship as payment.”
“So why did you seek revenge when you did?”
“Well, I met up with Her Highness, and she seemed to need... I was available to fly her out. I did not want to see her go up against them alone. I knew what they were about. I had, after all, been nearly killed by them.”
The attorney was in a fix. He had known about this development, but had refrained from bringing it up. Now he had to ask about it. “In what way were you almost killed?”
“When it was discovered that I had stolen the information, I was tortured by manner of electrocution and heat. I was hospitalized for over a year.” Jeremiah paused, a little shaken. He did not enjoy these memories. He did not especially like to speak about them. “The doctors said I was lucky. I was alive, although I probably shouldn’t have been.”
“Was this the doing of the Police?”
“Well, yes. It was under the rule of Senator Alkis.”
Mr. Dobson turned and walked to the jury. “What were you thinking when you entered the Police base?”
“I wanted to stop the Police.”
“Did you have thoughts of murdering Senator Alkis?”
“I... yes, I did, but I was captured. I actually wanted to talk to him first. I didn’t get that chance.”
“Two officers, one was General Aldeh, caught me and took me to the senator.”
“And he knew what you were there for. He did not kill you, though, but merely stunned you, put you unconscious.”
“That was just to keep me for further torture. I was to be killed. I was told so by him. Besides, he did this to me.” Jeremiah pointed to his eyes.
“Yes. You are blind, correct?”
“How can you be sure it was him. Maybe it--”
“It was him.”
“Explain. Explain that reasoning. Why is it that you are blind?”
“I was an officer. I can be sure that I know. On the officers with power, we had guns with many settings. One of the settings was one used on me by Admiral Rakin. He liked this particular setting. It is called poison stun setting. It puts a poison into the bloodstream, which attacks the brain and the neurological system. It first hits the back of the brain, in the area that sight is controlled. If it’s not stopped, speech is affected, and then movement. One by one, each function in the body shuts down while the victim remains conscious. It is very painful, I know firsthand.” He paused. “The senator was pleased that this was the setting that Rakin used.”
“But Jeremiah,” said Mr. Dobson. “Does not each gun have a different antidote? How did you receive the antidote? Is it true that Senator Alkis gave you the name of the antidote before he was killed?”
“Yes.” There was much noise. “But it was before he died, not before he was murdered. He was not murdered.”
“Can you tell us what happened those last few minutes, from when you took the senator hostage?”
Jeremiah paused. What had happened? He had to strain his mind to remember what had gone on. It was all a big blur of sounds. It had been visions in his head. Could he get the story right? What was real and what wasn’t? How would they believe him if he didn’t even remember what had happened? He closed his eyes and fought hard to remember. He would tell what he knew, but his mouth was dry. He shot his hand out to find the glass of water that he knew had been placed there, but knocked the microphone off the stand. He tried to catch it but only succeeded in hitting the glass to the floor. He was becoming too nervous now.
“It’s alright, Mr. Handell,” said the judge. “No harm done. Just take a deep breath, relax, and try to remember the series of events that went down.”
“It’s very difficult. I was very dazed.”
“Just do as much as you can. Do you need a break?”
“No, thank you.”
“Alright. Miss Coldwell? Bring Mr. Handell a fresh glass of spring water, will you?”
“I was losing all reality at a point there,” said Jeremiah. “I remember we tied the senator up to take him back to Peter Orlacc’s ship. We weren’t going to kill him. When we got to the ship, I was a bit more focused. That’s because I had had an episode on the way but I had resisted it and was minding only what was happening around me. Anyway, we got to the ship, and I was sitting across from the senator. Mr. Orlacc had gone up front to start up the ship and the princess was there with me. The... the senator was talking. He was saying something about joining him, helping him begin a better Police force. I didn’t know what to do, I couldn’t think. He was obviously taking advantage of my condition. I recall him saying I could be a leading officer. I was in the middle, and I didn’t know what was going on.”
“Could he have been making a reasonable deal?” asked Mr. Dobson.
“No. I remember that it was about he and I starting a new Police.”
“But he could have meant a compromise between the two of you.”
“I don’t... no, no it wasn’t. He just wanted me to help him.”
“Then what happened?”
“I told him no, I would not help, and... he jumped up.... I think he jumped at me. We were struggling. The princess tried to stop us. I heard a shot and the... the princess screamed. I wasn’t sure if she were hurt badly, or if she were... I didn’t know what had happened. So I struggled some more with him, and I managed to get the gun from his hand.”
“What did you do with the gun?”
“I don’t know. We dropped it. I threw it away, I can’t remember exactly what I did with the gun.”
“And then what?”
“We hit the door. It opened and--”
“Why would a door open if it were just hit?”
“I don’t know why one would JUST open, but there were two of us, and we hit it pretty hard. I heard it snap and I was falling. I only fell so that the upper half of me was out, but the senator fell all the way. He had his hands holding onto the floor board.”
“Doesn’t the door have a prevention device keeping it from opening all the way? Shouldn’t it have been sturdy enough to hold him until you could pull him in?”
“I don’t know about that door. I know that there was something wrong or different about it. It did open up all the way, and was hanging down under the ship.”
“Well, I grabbed for his hand. I tried to pull him up, but I was so weak from the poison. I felt the princess come behind me. She tried to help me pull him up, but he started to slip. He... he gave me the antidote combination, and... and then... he fell.”
“Yes. He had slipped. I tried to grab him, but I couldn’t see his hand.” Jeremiah paused. “The princess pulled me back in. Peter was there by that time.”
“Why didn’t you fly down and position yourselves under him?”
“By the time Peter had gotten in there and back to the controls and erased the old coordinates, it would have been too late. There was nothing we could have done.”
“Did you report the death of Senator Alkis?”
“We went directly to the hospital. I don’t remember anything after that until the antidote had been administered, and I had regained consciousness.”
“Did you find out if it had been reported.”
“Well, actually, no. You see, I had more important things to worry about in my life at the time. I was blind, and then I had this trial to worry about. My life was falling apart.”
“The senator’s life is gone.”
“Yes. That’s true. But I tried to stop that. I wanted no one to die. He had killed my family, my friends, my planet. He caused much pain. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to hurt anyone. That’s why I stole the plans in the first place. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.” Jeremiah’s voice was quavering.
“Okay, Mr. Handell. But you did threaten the senator?”
“I held my gun to him. I might have threatened him, yes, but I don’t remember clearly. I could have. If I did, it was because I was in so much pain, mental and physical, pain that he caused. I was under the influence of the poison.”
“Did you want him dead, if by someone else’s hand?”
Jeremiah thought for a minute. “No, I wasn’t sure what I wanted. I know that I didn’t want to kill anyone. I didn’t see another choice, other than what we ultimately did.”
“And what was that?”
“Taking him hostage. We were going to take him to the opposing government. We had the plans, the senator did. We made a deal to not kill him if he kept the plans but brought them and gave them to us upon handing him over to the authorities. We kept up our part of the bargain.”
“Did you get the plans?”
“We have the plans in our possession, but we can’t get into them, because there is a lock shield on them. We won’t be able to get into them unless we come across a computer of the same grade and type as the senator’s. That will be rare.”
“How did you get those plans.”
“We found them on the floor of Mr. Orlacc’s ship. They had been in Senator Alkis’s pocket. They must have fallen out. I don’t know. I just know that we found them.”
“What did you, or will you do with those plans?”
“We are giving them to the Fleea Freedom Fighters.”
The attorney walked around by Jeremiah. “And what will they do with them?”
“That I do not know. It is out of my hands. I did all I could for the citizens of the planets here. I have been punished quite severely for what I have done. I did it for the people under the new system. We were being repressed, and I saw the means of a way of an escape.”
“Thank you, Mr. Handell. That is all for now.”
Jeremiah was taken back to his seat by the attorney. He sat down with great uncertainty. There was chattering and murmuring all through the courtroom.
“Please. Quiet!” said the judge. “Will there be any rebuttals?”
Orlacc nudged Ania. He had an order to this refuting. He wanted her to go first, and bring the points to the jury first and last, as Jeremiah would be the final speaker.
Ania stood up. “Yes, Your Honour.”
“Go ahead, Your Highness.”
Ania walked slowly to the front of the court and towards the jury. “Mr. Handell has shown clearly what it takes to be a citizen of the New World. He tried to oppose what he believed to be wrong. Unfortunately, he had no power or jurisdiction to do so. So, he was punished. Plain and simple. Almost killed, this man was, because of his brave efforts to save people from Aria. And now, after the Police were killing people who resisted their rule, he tried to stop them with a deal, and he was punished again. Almost killed again, and now he can’t see. If someone did that on my planet, I, the ruling head of Xailier, would award this man or woman. Instead, he faces the rest of his life in jail. I cannot hope to understand this turn of events.” Ania turned and went back to the bench, pleased with her words.
Orlacc sat in thought. The princess had proved to be an invaluable aid to proving Jeremiah innocent. That speech had been short and very much to the point, perfect for an opening statement. But who should go next? Should he risk Araignea going up there? After all, he was hired to kill. He waited now, hoping that Aldeh would think that was it. If Aldeh’s statement was sandwiched in between theirs, he wouldn’t stand much of a chance.
His plan worked. Aldeh stood up.
“The court recognises General Aldeh.”
“Yes, Your Honour. Since I am the opposing client here, and Mr. Handell must speak last, I guess it is my duty to speak.”
Orlacc shook his head and rolled his eyes to himself. This was not a smart man. He clearly was under orders from someone else. But who was that someone else, and where were they?
“Mr. Handell was definitely running this mission, even if it was not his original idea to begin with. He had thoughts to go and murder the senator. After all that the senator had done to him, things that he had rightly deserved after signing documents of loyalty and then betraying them, he wanted revenge. Why else would he deny the others to go with him to confront the senator and take the plans? He demanded on going alone. We were lucky we caught him first, but not lucky enough. He still managed to escape and get to Senator Alkis.
“Mr. Handell has killed many in his time. He did so with or without the ruling of Senator Alkis. Think about how, on the way in to get Alkis and the plans, he and his accomplices killed all those men. They had not held a gun to Handell; he shot them before they even saw him.
“We saw the hatred he had for the senator. He tried to get him when we were still in the room. Handell had handcuffs on, but he raced at him when Alkis was talking. We stopped him in the best possible way. And yet Handell and his friends did not give up. He was determined to kill the senator. He got the plans on the file and so he could kill him. The door on the ship was broken, because doors are always hinged so that they only go so far. If a body or object was to land on the door, it would support it until the object could pull or be pulled inside. This was not the case on the Myglord ship. Who knows whether the door was actually broken. Perhaps he was pushed from the door. Perhaps the door was deliberately broken, and Mr. Handell pushed the senator to the door purposely. Who knows? But Jeremiah was heard on several separate occasions threatening to kill the senator. He told many people that he would kill him. And that is what he did. Senator Alkis is dead. Jeremiah Handell was the last person to have spoke to him, and Jeremiah Handell was the last person to have had his hand on the senator’s person. Jeremiah Handell killed Senator Alkis.”
Orlacc took a deep breath. The general’s statement was good, but a lie. He decided to proceed with his own testimony. “I will go next, Your Honour,” he said, standing up.
“The court recognises Peter Orlacc,” said the judge.
“Jeremiah Handell is on trial for what? Supposedly killing one man. The one man who has killed millions. A whole planet was destroyed by his hand. Many more on other planets were killed. Ships were shot down out of the skies. Some were fighter ships from the Freedom Fighters, true, but many were transport ships, with people on vacation, people visiting their families and friends on other planets. I can’t refrain from speaking about this man. We know he is not on trial, but what if he were? Perhaps he should have been. I believe him to be wicked. But it’s not what I believe, it’s what you believe.
“Jeremiah Handell was doing what he did, not for revenge on what had happened to him, not even for what had happened to so many innocent people, but for the people who were left. He risked his life for you. He was willing to forsake his precious life for the women, children, men, every life form, in order to stop the rules of the Police. Look what he has lost. He could have let Alkis and his troops continue their bludgeoning, perhaps he would have had his hand in that, but he knew it was wrong. So he tried many ways to arrest the evil, and he tried every way he knew. None of those ways included murder. He did not do it, even if he had contemplated it. He was a peaceful man, true to his ways. This can be seen by the things he has done to ensure peace. He did what he was brought up to do, to be as good a human being as possible under the circumstances, and so, when the time came that he could have loosened the grip on the senator’s hands on that ship, when he could have pushed him off, he didn’t. He tried to save him. That is in the blood of the man you call on to persecute. We will be less one more man of this kind if you do so. Can we afford to lose that when there are men like Alkis gaining power to control our lives? Perhaps he still does run our lives. But you can change that. I don’t think we’ll be able to, if all the honest men, the men like Jeremiah Handell, are put away. I ask you again, can we afford to lose that?” Peter Orlacc looked long and hard at the members of the jury, and the members of the court. He had offered the jury his heart in the matter, he had given his soul. He was a man of the Myglords, and he knew nothing could take that away. If Handell was found guilty, he would not stand by and watch the Police be put back in leadership. He was very wise and very powerful. The court knew that now, and they were swayed by his words. A Myglord did not lie in matters such as these. Peter Orlacc sat down with the court’s honour now.
“Are there any more?” asked the judge. There was a silence. The judge turned to Jeremiah. “Alright then, Mr. Handell, you may speak.”
Jeremiah stood up and took a few steps. He stopped, turned around to face the jury, and took a deep breath. “Ladies and gentlemen. I cannot take you back to the past to show you that I did not kill the senator, but I can try and prove myself. Why was the senator not put on trial for his murders? In his words, they were not murders, but a disservice to the system. I wonder why one should defend a man like this? I wasn’t out to kill him. I only wanted to kill what he did. Can you see that? Can you believe that? I hope so, for life’s sake.” Jeremiah turned and stepped back, feeling Ania’s hand pull him back to his seat. It was over but the ruling. What would they say? Might he be put in jail, to be followed by the princess and Orlacc? This was it, and it would be over either way.