Episode One

     
 

 

On the Saratoga

Damon Wallace rose from the prosecutor's table and acknowledged the defense attorney with a small nod before facing the jury to begin his opening arguments. "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, as military officers we all understand our duty to obey the orders of our superiors, and to maintain the chain of command. Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes and Lieutenant Nathan West are accused of insubordination -- willfully disobeying their commanding officer's orders. The evidence will prove that the actions of these two Marines led to the fatal compromise of his mission -- in fact, the entire operation."

Hawkes listened to Wallace with a really strange sense of detachment. The whole thing seemed unreal, as if he was watching it all happen to someone else. Their defense attorney, Major Hannover, was calm and unimpressed with Wallace's bluster. But Cooper thought cynically that it was all part of her job. Whether he was found guilty or not, Hannover and Wallace would move on to the next trial, which might just as likely find Hannover prosecuting and Wallace defending the accused.

Hawkes knew what evidence Wallace was talking about. In the discovery process before the trial had started, the major had gone over it with him. To practice for the trial, she'd questioned him just as she expected Wallace to do. She'd explained that he had to tell the truth, but the way he told it would be just as important to the jury as the truth itself. After hearing it again and again, he was pretty sure of his answers. But as to the real question, whether he was guilty or not, Hawkes just didn't know. None of this would be happening if he'd just shot that chig.

General Beckwith, the judge, directed Wallace to call his first witness.

"The prosecution calls Captain Isaac Cohen to the stand."

Cohen rose from his seat. He was a tall, rawboned man whose uniform always seemed a size too large. After being sworn in he settled into the witness chair.

"State your name and duties for the record, sir."

"Isaac Joseph Cohen, Captain, United States Navy. I am the Commander of the Air Group aboard the USS Saratoga."

"Thank you sir."

Wallace stepped forward. "Captain Cohen, were you involved with the preparations for Operation: Roundhammer?"

"Yes."

"And are you familiar with the 58th squadron's assignment on the moon known as Anvil preparatory to the operation?"

The CAG stuck directly to the facts, answering all of Wallace' questions about the mission without adding any unnecessary details. Hawkes didn't know if that was good or bad. He didn't know Cohen that well, except to salute when they passed in the corridor and to listen when the CAG addressed the ship's fighter squadrons. Did he believe Hawkes was responsible for everything that had gone wrong since Anvil?

Wallace asked, "How important was the element of surprise to the success of Roundhammer, Captain Cohen?"

"It was vitally important. We handed the enemy a thrashing at Ixion, but the remnants of their fleet returned to the home system to reinforce planetary defenses there. We knew we were going to have to act quickly to successfully establish orbital superiority."

"So allowing the enemy civilian to escape fatally compromised the operation?"

Hannover interrupted, "Objection, your honor, speculation."

"Sustained."

Wallace asked, "Captain, was there an investigation following the failure of the Anvil mission and the subsequent suicide bombing at the peace conference?"

"There was."

"Who headed up that investigation?"

"I did."

"And your findings?"

"The enemy knew about Operation: Roundhammer. They used the supposed peace conference to assassinate as many members of the high command as possible, as well as CEO Wayne."

"You found, sir, that the bombing was a direct result of the loss of surprise."

Cohen hesitated. ". . .Yes, I did."

"No more questions, your honor."

Hannover asked, "Captain, did you find that the actions of the 58th on Anvil were responsible for the loss of surprise?"

"I made no such determination."

"How long was it between the time the civilian chig was released on Anvil, and the time that the alien ambassador's ship was first spotted on LIDAR?"

"Approximately fourteen hours."

"And estimated travel time?"

"Two hours at a minimum."

"So that's a total of twelve hours from the time the civilian was released, until the ambassador's ship lifted off? Not much time for the civilian to report in and for the suicide bombing to be planned and executed, is it, Captain?"

Wallace rose to his feet, but before he could object, Hannover said, "I withdraw the question, your honor. Nothing further."

General Beckwith directed, "Call your next witness, Mr. Wallace."

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