Chapter 2: Trial
As soon as the battle group emerged from phase space at the neutral world of Ailanthus, they raced as fast as their battered engines would allow, leaping back into phase space on the other side of the gravity well, not stopping until they had arrived back at the safety of the TEC held fortress world of Hegaria. The ships made immediately for the terran planets land based dry docks, the battle group, once a force to be reckoned with, had been reduced to a pathetic band of wounded warriors. The remaining Kol battle cruiser was leaking antimatter in small droplets and its ammo stores on the starboard side had detonated when a stray phase missile had hit them, effectively warping its flak cannon barrels and killing the crews outright, As the bulk heads had sealed the fire had finally been snuffed in the oxygen lacking expanse of space. Only two of the original 10 cobalt frigates remained and all 20 Shriken corvettes has been decimated by the dedicated anti strike craft missiles of the Vasari sentinels who had rapidly closed the distance and destroyed the corvettes in seconds, before they even had a chance to react. Although the Vasari had only fired 3 salvoes of missiles in total, the sheer number of phase missiles had ensured that no ships shields could stand for long, and many had been hit straight through the shields. The only crews in relatively good numbers still were the garda flak pilots, 8 of the original 10 remained. The Pride of Mjolnir was hit also, it took a serious hit that disabled its port side engine, leaving it to limp home on two engines and a phase drive.
The larger capital ships were too big for the planetside docks and so they headed for the nearby argonev star base, which would be able to send tug ships out to lead them into an orbital docking bay in which the ships could be repaired. The tugs lined up and fired magnetic harpoons at the hulls of the capital ships, the harpoons latched onto the hull without damaging it, and then they began to slowly manoeuvre the large capital ships into the docks. As soon as the docking tube was attached and the airlocks opened, Ashleigh found herself beset on all sides by armed guards.
“come with us” Is the only words that were uttered by the guard to her left, a quick glance over her shoulder revealed that sven was being escorted also. Despite the massive size of the Mjolnir, the bridge only required a crew of two, Sven and Ashleigh. The rest of the crew was not involved in what had occurred and had been left alone, however as the bridge had final say in the firing of weapons etc. The commodore and her lieutenant were being escorted off. They were frog marched into a smaller hanger and straight onto a personal shuttle, which then ferried the pair to the massive hulk of the star base. From the hangar there they were marched into what looked almost like a state room, with a large desk and a ring of seating. The seats were empty, but the room, which was unmistakably a military court room, was not completely empty. To the right sat a jury of officers of varying rank but all at the rank of commodore or above. Behind the large desk sat a Rear Admiral, The highest ranking civilian diplomat, who held the rank of military liaison of the highest order, and a man Ashleigh only barely recognised as the head of internal affairs within the TEC military. She had to swallow a small lump in her throat as she and Sven were sat before them. She knew what was coming next, but it was not going to be any easier to deal with.
“Commodore Ashleigh Johansson and Lieutenant Sven Hassen. You sit before the committee today accused of treason in the worst regard. You will be given a chance to present your case to us. Ms Johansson, your career record is somewhat stellar. It says here you served in the colonial forces at the beginning of your career, you showed prowess and tactical expertise and you managed to fast track yourself to the position of commodore. So why did you do such a rash thing like firing your siege weapons at an UNARMED CIVILIAN PLANET!? THIS COMPLETELY DESTROYED THE FRAGILE RELATIONSHIP WE HAD WITH THE VASARI!” The Rear Admiral had turned slightly red in the face as he raised his voice, small flecks of spittle spraying from beneath the thick white moustache that adorned his lip.
“Sir” Ashleigh stood and bowed her head respectfully “If I may Sir, our ship, was infiltrated. There was a rogue AI uploaded into our systems and it took full control of the guns and locked Sven out of the system. We tried everything we could to get those guns offline.”
“Well if your story is corroborated by the tech crews then you might just have a case, let’s give them a call and see what they’ve found shall we?” The admiral tapped away at a small glass keypad inlaid into the desk and a screen popped up before him with a small TEC symbol hovering in the middle, soon a red haired green eyed young man appeared.
“Ah corporal Johnson, then you are. Tell me, what have you found within the ships logs”
“Of course admiral, we have records of the weapons discharge. At approximately 12.34 galactic standard time, we have the beginning of the antimatter diversion to the siege guns. At 12.38 we have a reported weapons discharge, four planet shaker rounds. Then at 12.40 another discharge of four inferno rounds.”
“Do the logs show anything pertaining to a rogue AI being added into the system, even if one had tried to cover its presence there would be signs of its tampering surely.”
“Well Sir there have been absolutely no signs of any AI tampering with the systems at all, and certainly no record of an unauthorized AI being loaded into the system.”
“I see. Thank you Johnson. Dismissed.” The admiral salutes, then taps on the key pad and the screen disappears.
“As you can clearly see, the techs have found no evidence to back up your claims of a rogue AI. Would you like to rethink your statement?”
“With all due respect Sir..” Sven all but spat out, the anger clear in his voice. “I have been a loyal soldier of the TEC for several years now, as has my commanding officer Commodore Johansson. We are both pro peace with the Vasari and have been for some time. It is why we agreed to that escort in the first place. Now with that in mind. Why would we lie to you about an AI in our systems? What would we gain from putting a damper on relations with the Vasari?”
“You know Lieutenant Sven, I really have no idea. But the techs found absolutely no evidence of any AI, they did not even find an uplink node with a single speck of dust out of place. So what DO you have to gain by hampering our peace efforts? Why ARE you lying to us.” It was then that Ashleigh interjected, her own emotion showing through.
“Sir, this is Karkanoid , the AI was there, its voice was mocking us the whole time, announcing as it charged weapons and fired them. IT WAS THERE!” Ashleigh was growing more and more distraught, but more than that she was growing angrier, and it was not looking good.
“Commodore Johansson reign in your emotions and sit down NOW!” The tension in the room was so palpable one could almost cut it with an antimatter blade. “The jury will now offer their deliberations and your sentence shall be handed out.”
The commodore in the centre of the jury stand stood, a young man with blond hair and a faint dusting of 5 o’clock shadow. His gaze piercing and yet, inspiring.
“Admiral Barnes, Liaison Otana, Secretary Homes. We the jury. Find the accused guilty on one count of Treason in the worst degree, one count of genocide, and for the emotional outbursts three counts of being in contempt of court. This is the jury’s verdict.” The young commodore saluted and then resumed his seated position. The committee then leaned closer to one another and debated in hushed tones while Ashleigh and Sven were left to stare at one another, horrified of the events transpiring around them.
Sven reached out and gently gripped his commanding officers hand, more of a comforting gesture than anything else. With a reassuring whisper in her direction that it would be ok. The admiral then stood, his gaze focused on the commodore.
“Commodore Ashleigh Johansson. Lieutenant Sven Hassen. The jury has deemed you guilty. We of the committee concur with their decision and find the only penalty worthy of your treason is execution via jettisoning from the nearest airlock. However as this is considered inhumane, you will be placed in holding cells for the next few days until the DREAM system can be installed.” Admiral Barnes gave them a final salute as the armed guards escorted them from the room. Sven realised he had been holding Ashleigh’s hand this entire time, with a small twitch he made to let it go, but she gripped his hand like a vice, her knuckles white, frankly the prospect of being put to death terrified her and it was beginning to show, she had even allowed a tear to roll down her cheek, the thin trail glistening on her pale skin. One of the guards noticed they were holding hands as he checked them into the holding cells. They were both patted down, their standard issue combat knives and sidearms were tossed into a plastic disposal tray along with their uniforms. They were then thrown into a cell together in nothing but their underwear. The energy shield covering the doorway was activated and their fate was sealed. Sven sat down on the edge of the bed, his arm lifting to stretch around Ashleigh’s shoulders, he pulled her close and rested his head on hers, comforting her as best he could before they settled in for the night. Sven offered to sleep on the floor beneath the bed but Ashleigh insisted on his sleeping next to her on the single mattress for warmth and comfort reasons and so they settled in for the night.