Chapter 17: Dante
I sit at the long table, my hands folded, resting on top of it. I nervously tap a finger and shake a leg, anticipating the series of questioning that’s about to ensue.
Everything hinges on the few moments of speaking this hearing will provide. If Anderson says anything that tips off the Commander to Lauren, he may just decide to put his focus on her.
The double doors open, the Commander stepping in first, causing the lot of us involved to stand at attention. He steps to the head of the table nearest to us. Behind him enters Anderson, escorted by two guards, his hands restrained.
They guide him to the side of the table opposite us.
Commander Walker examines our small group “I see you all decided to clean yourselves up and wear the proper uniforms. Good. Everyone, have a seat,” He orders.
All parties sit down, keeping our backs straight, maintaining our military bearing. Walker takes a deep breath in and out before speaking.
“Now…how I understand things, is that this whole mess of information being passed on to my department began with an operation?” He says, awaiting an answer from anyone on our side.
“That’s correct, sir,” I say.
“Who ordered it?” He asks with authority.
“It was Anderson and I both, Commander,” Lauren answers.
Walker turns to Anderson “Is this true?”
Anderson stares at Lauren with a grim expression as he answers “It was, sir,”
“Why? What need did you have to send personnel to a Charlie class hostile planet?”
“We deduced that there was useful plant life residing on the planet that would forward Doctor Cain’s research,”
“Is that the case, Doctor?”
Lauren returns Anderson’s gaze for a moment before answering, that devious smirk of hers showing.
“No, Commander. It’s not,” Anderson clenches his fists tight in response. “Anderson has always had an...obsession with old relics. Religious in particular. We’ve always done periodic scans on the surface of the planet, just in case anything popped up. The most recent scans revealed that there were old structures beneath the surface, prompting Anderson to send a party down to investigate. I will, however, admit my own fault in stating that I also wanted my motivations fulfilled,” Lauren explains, lying through her teeth as planned.
Walker narrows his eyes at her, reluctantly accepting her explanation. I turn my eyes to Anderson, who glances his eyes at mine, then back to Lauren.
Did his eyes just turn black?
“You want to explain this, Anderson?” Walker orders more so than asks.
“What is there that I can say to argue, sir?” Anderson asks, slightly less composed than I’m used to seeing.
“I didn’t ask you to argue, Captain. I asked you to explain,”
“Acceptable safety conditions were followed in the protocol for this particular class of planet. Protocol states that at least two junior security personnel or one senior security personnel must accompany a landing party of the size I sent to the surface. Blake’s experience in his previous field qualified him as senior security personnel. I did nothing wrong in this instance,”
“Then what prompted the forwarding of the information?” Walker asks, looking back at Lauren.
“I can answer that, sir,” I speak up.
“By all means, First Class,” He says, motioning a hand towards me.
“The issue during the operation wasn’t necessarily the operation itself, it was how Anderson responded to the crises that took place during the op,”
“Elaborate on that,”
“The party was attacked by a large creature on the surface of the planet. Spaceman Collins picked up on it during his surveillance of the op,”
“Ah…so that’s why you’re here,” The Commander says, turning his attention towards Collins.
“Very well. If you could, explain to me what you saw, Spaceman,”
“O-of course, sir. Our scanners are always a few hours behind in transmitting images to my display as they’re old and set on a static scan time. So, naturally, if something goes wrong, it becomes a more expedient emergency than normal. First Class Hall was with me observing my monitors when the scans showed a large hole had been created near the landing site. The one thing our scanners do have is that their image quality is excellent and easily manipulated. First Class Hall and I were able to trace the path of events and mock up a theory as to what happened,”
“That’s quite clever,” Walker returns his attention back to me “How did Anderson respond to this situation?” He inquires.
“Well, not how I would expect a Captain to respond, sir,”
“I informed the Captain that I was going to take a ship and a rescue party to go extract, as my job dictates me to do. However, The Captain attempted to stonewall me. He directly ordered me to cease any rescue operation. Even went as far as to threaten me. Suggesting I might find myself on the wrong end of one of these…expeditions,” I finish, looking at Anderson, noticing he’s grinding his teeth hard.
“What did you do next?” Walker questions further.
“At that point I felt that the best course of action was to appeal to Doctor Cain. During my conversation with her I expressed that the Captain had stepped over the line and that it was time for the chain of command to be notified. Doctor Cain agreed and told me she would appeal on my behalf given her station here,”
“Bullshit!” Anderson suddenly exclaims as he slams his fists into the table.
His reaction startles the lot of us, causing everyone to jump back. The two guards quickly step to Anderson’s side and force him into sitting back in his chair.
Walker calmly glares at Anderson “I’d suggest you contain your outbursts Captain. Otherwise I’ll have you removed and we’ll conduct this hearing without you present. Compose yourself and act like a damn officer,”
Anderson focuses his vision on the table, inhaling and exhaling heavily. I notice that his skin has turned significantly redder.
I could swear I saw his eyes flash black again.
“Next question. Doctor Cain, the information you provided to my department was quite extensive. It spanned a couple years in total. Why sit on this information until now?”
“To tell the truth, it was for a moment exactly like this. I had a feeling that one day the Captain would take things too far. I wanted to make sure that when I did finally pass on the information, it would be concrete. I had no idea what he would do if an inquiry were conducted and he was cleared,” Lauren lies as if her speaking of the words would make them suddenly truth.
The insanity of this hearing is that I’m sure all of us, including Commander Walker knows we’re all telling an elaborate set of lies in order to bury Anderson. Somehow, I think he’s okay with it though. I guess he figures that it’s better to accept the lies to take down one bad egg then try to take down the roost and come out empty handed.
“Well now that we’ve gotten that sorted, Petty Officer Blake, Technician Prydwen, I have a question or two for you,”
Ethan and Elena nod their heads simultaneously.
“First off, Blake, in your time here, did you ever experience anything in regards to the Captain’s character that would corroborate the events that have been explained?”
“Several times, actually, sir,” Ethan looks at Anderson for effect “It began from the moment I stepped off the ship here. When I first met the Captain, he expressed he didn’t like me. Which is fine. But he also informed me that we wouldn’t be making my job easy here. Stating, that I, and I quote, ‘Should consider this a prison sentence,’. I understand my appointment to this station was not under the best of terms, but the way the Captain addressed me fell directly under the articles of discrimination in the UCMJ, sir,” Ethan explains, delivering his obviously rehearsed and long desired account.
Walker raises a judgmental eyebrow towards Anderson, who’s now shaking on his side of the table in rage.
“Technician Prydwen, anything to add?”
“All due respect, sir, but I feel my experiences would only beat a dead horse on the matter,” Elena states.
“Very well,” Walker digresses.
“Now that we’ve gotten everyone’s statements on the most current events. I suppose it’s time I present the information that was passed on to me,” Walker says as he lays out a series of pictures and documents, documents that I recognize well.
“These pieces of evidence dictate that you, Captain Anderson, were performing conduct unbefitting an officer. And more so than that, committing crimes against the Republic of Earth through the act of black-market dealings, illegal genetic and weapon experimentation, and good old-fashioned bribery and blackmail of Earth and alien officials. Do you deny any of these charges, Anderson?”
The captain simply continues to stare at the table without answering.
“Okay…I don’t feel it’s necessary to go into the details of these documents so I will proceed forward with awarding you your punishment,” Walker finishes, stacking the papers together and placing them back in their respective folder.
“Wait…I have a testimony to give,” Anderson says, speaking through his teeth.
Walker gives a frustrated sigh “Well…go on then,”
“I have evidence. Evidence…that…” Anderson stops, clenching his fists so hard they start to shake.
“Evidence that what, Captain?” Walker asks.
“Ev…Evi…d-dence,” Anderson can hardly form the word before stopping and clutching his head in his hands, resting his elbows on the table.
He begins to gnash his teeth, causing his neck to tighten and the veins in his forehead to protrude. His skin turns an even more crimson color, almost as if his body is growing hotter.
I notice the Commander become nervous and motion the guards to take hold of the Captain. As the guard to his left steps forward, Anderson suddenly lunges at him, yanking his pistol from its holster and hammer-fisting him in the face with it, knocking him unconscious.
He places a hard elbow into the other guard’s nose, breaking it with a sickening crunch. The guard falls to the floor, unconscious as well.
Anderson aims the firearm at the person he can. That person unfortunately being Spaceman Collins. None of us can react before he pulls the trigger, placing three rounds into Collins’ chest. His body immediately goes lifeless in the chair.
Ethan and I leap from our own chairs at this point as Anderson turns the pistol to Lauren. My heart stops in my chest as he fires upon her. I hear her yelp in pain and watch her fall to the floor as a spray of blood hits the wall behind us.
My blood boils in my veins as I jump over the table. However, it’s Ethan who reaches Anderson first. He deflects his arm upwards, causing Anderson to ricochet a few bullets off the metal ceiling. The rounds bounce in the room, stopping in the wood panel walls and the surface of the table.
Ethan strikes Anderson’s wrist, forcing him to drop the gun. He then goes further, placing his shoulder underneath Anderson’s arm and jerking down on his wrist in the opposite direction the elbow is meant to bend, snapping it in half. The sound is like that of a wooden board breaking.
Anderson screams in pain as Ethan knocks him on to his back, placing a knee in his chest to hold him down. Ethan swiftly lifts the pistol off the floor and places against Anderson’s forehead, causing the commotion to finally stop.
My heart pounds as I look on. I finally regain my wits and look around the room. Walker stands tall from his chair, clear anger on his face, blood that isn’t his coating his fine dress whites crimson. His fists are clenched at his side.
My eyes move to Elena who is crouched next to Collins who is still in the chair. His body is slumped down, his eyes are lifeless, blood coats his chin. Elena’s hands are painted red as she seemingly tried to fruitlessly apply pressure to his wounds. She stares over the other side of the table with angry tears in her eyes.
My heart speeds up even faster as my eyes reach Lauren, who, by the grace of a god I need to thank later, lies on the floor. She’s clutching her shoulder, wincing in pain.
“Are you okay?” I ask, my voice wavering.
Lauren looks at me for a moment, then gives me a nod.
I look back to Ethan, who I know is seriously considering pulling the trigger on Anderson.
“Ethan. Stand down,”
His head snaps to mine as I break his focus.
“Why should I, Dante? He’s a piece of shit and he deserves to be put down. He killed that kid. You hear that you son of a bitch?! He was a kid!” Ethan exclaims as he presses the muzzle of the pistol in Anderson’s forehead.
“Petty Officer Blake. Stand down. Let this trash spend his remaining days in the confines of Tyr,” Walker interjects.
Ethan stares at Anderson, his eyes wild with all of the pent-up anger he’s had over the time he’s been here. All of it is finally coming out, and focused squarely on the gun barrel that he now points at Anderson. Ethan starts to depress his finger on the trigger slowly. I await the inevitable bang that will follow.
“They’re right, Ethan. Stop. He doesn’t deserve the quick way,” Elena says timidly from across the table.
It’s only then that Ethan relaxes for a moment, turning his focus towards Elena. I take the opportunity given to me, stepping closer as Ethan stares at Elena, his mind attempting to come to a decision other than the one he’s already made.
I creep closer as I see his expression become cold again.
“I’m sorry, Elena. I can’t do it,” He says as he turns his head back towards Anderson.
It’s then that I quickly traverse the remaining steps and strike Ethan with a hard-enough kick to the face to knock him unconscious. He falls backwards off of Anderson as I hit him, his body becoming limp.
I look down at Anderson who has now become delirious from the pain he’s in.
“Not going to get away with this that easy, Anderson. I hope you rot in that cell,” I say as the doors to the room open, a flood of security officers storming in.
The voices become muffled as I stare into Anderson’s shock-filled eyes, getting lost in them. The gravity of the situation finally striking me as the adrenaline comes down.
It shouldn’t have ended this way.