Episode One



On the Saratoga

"Corrupted? Your honor, I saw the file yesterday." Major Hannover paused, "Your honor, I move for a mistrial."

On the stand the chief communicationís officer appeared calm. But General Beckwith had a clear view of the manís agitated hand wringing and it only served to annoy the General further. He should have seen this coming, but in his mind it was one thing to try to influence a proceeding outside of the courtroom. It was just plain underhanded to drag personal interest into a courtroom. Struggling to preserve his impassive veneer Beckwith glanced over at Damon Wallace. The man sat with his hands folded on top of a stack of paperwork. A slight quirk in his brow the only reaction to this new turn of events. Intuitively the general decided Wallace wasnít involved with destroying Captain Vansenís Mission report. With his eyes General Beckwith found Blair at the back of the courtroom. Blair smirked at the Generalís promise of retribution. The general returned his attention to Major Hannover. "Motion denied. Communications will continue to search for a hardcopy of Captain Vansenís report. For now, continue without the Captainís report."

Hannover stood thinking as the head communications officer was excused from the stand. There were undercurrents going on that she hadnít seen earlier. It mad her mad. Well, I damn well better figure it out or Iím going to lose this one. With a slight frown she glanced at Major Wallace. In surprise she realized that despite his calm front he didnít know what was going on either. "Your honor, may I have a ten minute recess with my clients?"

General Beckwith nodded and Major Hannover quickly shuffled Lt Hawkes and Lt. West into a conference room. Cooper paced the room "Thatís it, weíre dead right?" Major Hannover shook her head. "No, but I have to establish some doubt as to the charges. I need to get an account of what happened out there." She was quickly flipping through a note book. "Lt. West, Iím sorry but I have to ask you to take the stand."

Nathan nodded, "ok" It was a relief to finally have something to do. Although he understood how important it was to allow other people to prove Cooper and his innocence, it hadnít been easy.

"What about me?" Cooper asked

Major Hannover shook her head, "That wouldnít be a good idea. We donít want your past record brought up any more than it already has. Wallace would jump all over that. Nathan, For this to work you need to answer everything as simple and straight forward as you can. If you start to get into detail Major Wallace will twist your words until it starts to sound like you are contradicting yourself and hiding things. Unless the judge presses you keep it to yes or no."

"I understand." Nathan stood, his jaw set in determination.

"Defense calls Lt. West to the stand your honor." As Lt. West was sworn in Major Hannover finally found the note book page she was looking for. If this case wasnít going so poorly she would never have called Lt. West to the stand. She was taking a big risk, but she didnít see any other way to establish some doubt.

From his seat behind the prosecution desk Damon Wallace sat up straighter. He hadnít expected this. First the missing mission report, now this. . . What new game was Major Hanover playing? He allowed the defense to establish Lt. Westís credibility and good record. Careful to challenge a couple times just to look like he knew where all of this was going. Although Lt. west was an exemplary officer he did have a few dark spots in his past. He wouldnít have let his personal opinion get in the way of his job, but he had read reports of Lt. West and the 58th. Unfortunately it was his job to take out a hero. It only added to poor moral at a time when the core couldnít afford it. But none of that bothered him. What really got to him was that he couldnít see what Hanover was covering up by putting a risky person on the stand for questioning. Lawyers were like magicians, they called attention to one thing so that you didnít pay attention to something else going on.

Wallace watched defense rest. Right now he had quite a bit of respect for Hannoverís ability as a lawyer. He couldnít see the trick yet and he felt like he was walking into a trap. Standing, Wallace approached the stand. Lt. West watched him. 

"Defense has already established your good record. A record, that I have no doubt, is well earned. Iím going to read from your round hammer mission report. Iíd just like you to confirm by saying yes thatís true or no thatís not true. Ok?" Major Wallace took the direction he felt most comfortable with.

According to the report the whole 58th including both you and Lt. Hawkes encountered and dispatched a squad of chigs within the first few moments on planet." Wallace paused for Nathanís answer

"Yes, thatís true sir"

From there a creature was detected and the whole squad went in pursuit, but the creatures trail was lost, is this correct?"

Nathan answered, "Yes, thatís true sir"

"Is it also correct that Captain Vansen issued an order to kill the creature?"

Nathan hesitated but answered, ""Yes, Sir."

"Then Captain Vansen ordered Lt. Damphousse, Lt. Wang and yourself back to the equipment to complete the mission. At the equipment Wang Damphousse and yourself came across traps. Is this true?"

Nathan answered affirmative.

A jolt of realization shook Major Wallace. If he was right, he had already fallen into the trap. Would she really try to win with logic as simple as if a is true then b must be true? Major Wallace continued, "Later, while the squad was waiting to be picked up the creature still had not been found and Lt. Hawkes left the squad to kill it."

"Yes, thatís true, sir"

Wallace realized it was already to late, he had already unwittingly proved Lt. West was innocent just by the questions he had chosen to ask. Crafty woman he thought. But the fight wasnít over. There was still a piece on the table to play for. "So you never saw the creature until Lt. Hawkes brought it back to the pick up point and you were not present when Lt. Hawkes first came in contact with the creature."

Hannover called from her seat, "Objection!"

"Your Honor," Wallace continued, "I am only trying to establish Lt. Westís location during the events in question" General Beckwith nodded "overruled, answer the question Lt."

Nathan answered, "Yes thatís true sir"

"Was Lt. Hawkes ever alone with the creature?"

Nathan felt like he had just turned the corner of a maze to find a dead end. What could he do? Yes was the truth. Yes would also end the trust Cooper had finally allowed him. Nathan clenched his fists and prayed for something to happen. Anything to keep him from having to answer. Finally General Beckwith ordered him to answer. He answered yes.

"Did you see Lt. Hawkes successfully communicate with the creature?"

"Objection!" Major Hannover called. The gamble had partially paid off. "Your honor, there is no way to establish what the creature could or could not understand."

Damon Wallace waved his hand in dismissal. "I rescind the question your Honor. Did you witness the creature give Lt. Hawkes anything?"

Nathan balked but eventually had to answer yes. Nathan empty, exhausted like he had just witnessed the horror of the front line for the first time, left the stand with his head down. Silently he returned to his seat beside Cooper. Cooper sat like stone, cold, unwelcoming. His expression closed, withdrawn, unreadable. Cooperís explosive anger was better than this. He couldnít think of anything he could say. Silently he berated himself sliding deeper into self-pity and frustration.

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