Much gratitude to the late – the much mourned – the magnificent – Tom Clancy for creating Captain Red Wegener, an enviable model for any fictional court-martial judge. I just hope this chapter does as much justice to Red as he did to his case.
Slightly less gratitude to Dr. Jonathan Crane, who wins hands-down the ‘most heartless courtroom judge of the century’ award in my books.
Lieutenant Ibrim had the secure locker open and the gilded lightsaber hilt in his hand by the time Obi-Wan reached the hangar. He handed it over wordlessly. For an instant, the brilliant blue glow of the murder weapon illuminated the end of the hangar with an eerie light, before Obi-Wan nodded wearily and deactivated the blade.
“Ibrim, were you there when Captain Yrue was… holding his court?”
“Yes, sir. But you don’t need to ask me about it – I’ll find you the recording. The Captain insisted I take it all down on a holocam. Did you want to see it?”
“Yes.” Tapping the holoprojector added like an afterthought to the wall by the secure locker, Obi-Wan asked, “Can you play the recording through this?”
“Right away.” A few keys clicked, and a hologram of the Red Robin’s mess-room wavered into existence over the projector plate.
At the end of a table, Yrue had sat with a datapad in front of him and Captain Sterling to his right. CT-1313 and Ibrim had occupied a long side of the table, opposite three other clones – an officer and two troopers – and two of the Corellian crew. At the far end of the table, a little separated from the rest, Nasriel had sat alone, head bowed, nervously fingering the black stone charm that now lay in Obi-Wan’s pocket.
“Padawan Nasriel Threeb,” Captain Yrue had begun formally, “You are charged with the aggravated murder of Captain Orde, CT-1166. I must remind you that this is a capital charge. How do you plead?”
“It’s Nasriel Kenobi Threeb,” she had corrected him, and saying the words had seemed to give her courage. “Not guilty.”
“Very well… Nasriel Kenobi Threeb. You are aware that you have the right to either appoint a representative, or speak for yourself, is that so?”
“Yes.” She had been very quiet, and – so far as Obi-Wan could tell from the holo – had looked tired and wan and terribly young.
“Which do you prefer?”
“Speak for myself, I guess.”
“Good. The prosecution will present its case.” He had nodded to Sterling.
The clone captain had stood, carefully avoiding looking at Nasriel, and begun.
“Case consists of four main points. To begin with, the accused has no alibi for the time of the murder, and came up with an obvious – and suspicious – lie when challenged with this. She said General Kenobi came to her cabin and saw her, when at least ten witnesses could testify that he had been nowhere near any cabin at all in that time. Also, she was one of the two people know to be both on the ship and capable of using a lightsaber with any degree of precision. As I’ve mentioned, General Kenobi is the only other person who could have committed this murder, and he definitely did not. Furthermore, the murder weapon was identified by the accused as being her property, or else exactly identical to her property. Finally, the accused could reasonably suspect that Captain Orde meant to harm or kill her, which is a definite motive for murder. The prosecution rests.”
Brusquely, Yrue had nodded. “Thank you. Padawan Threeb, who is going to speak in your defense?”
She had whispered something Obi-Wan couldn’t hear, but then had repeated it. “Lieutenant Ibrim.”
Standing slowly, Ibrim had moved to stand beside Nasriel’s chair, and rested his hand over hers where it lay inert on the table, before speaking.
“Padawan Threeb could not have felt threatened by Orde to the point of considering pre-emptive self-defense necessary. Partly this is because she knew herself to be fully capable of meeting any attack that came, but partly also because she is very sensible for her age and knew that no such attack would come, not after the Major made it so clear we were all to help prevent anything of the sort.”
“Children in realistic fear for their safety, Lieutenant Ibrim,” Yrue had drawled coolly, “are seldom ever as sensible as their age warrants. But carry on.”
“In saying that the murder weapon was ‘exactly like hers’,” Ibrim had continued unhappily, “Padawan Threeb was referring to a weapon she once owned – because obviously the weapon now in her possession is nothing like that one. Finally, as medic 1313 will testify, she hates killing and won’t unless the threat is clear and immediate.” Ibrim had had an expression on his face remarkably close to panic as he had beckoned the other clone from his seat.
“Er… yes. I was in the caverns just a couple hours ago, and… no, I’d have said most likely she’d have trouble deliberately killing anybody. Kid went all to pieces when General Kenobi had to shoot a Seppie.” The medic sat down again quickly as soon as he had finished talking.
Nasriel’s slender hands had flown to her face and her hunched shoulders had begun to quiver with suppressed sobs. Obi-Wan instinctively looked away from the holoprojector, turning his head so that he could just see the image of Yrue. In the past, the Padawan had almost always tried to avoid crying when she thought he might be watching – thought it humiliating to be seen in a state of unseemly emotion, no doubt – and he did not feel quite right to look now, even though it was only a recording, even though she could never know.
Yrue had scowled at Nasriel’s tears, had said angrily to CT-1313, “Get her out of here and calm her down, can’t you?” Nasriel and the medic had left the room together, and although Yrue, Sterling, and Ibrim had continued the debate, Obi-Wan fast-forwarded the recording up to the point where Nasriel reappeared on the holo.
She had not sat down, but had stood facing Yrue, one hand on the back of her chair. In a low, clear voice, she said firmly, “Captain, this is ludicrous. I must request that you stop at once and wait until General Kenobi and Major Zuqof return.”
Apparently almost amused, Yrue asked in mock-incredulity, “You think it’s that easy? You think you were brought back here just to carry on as before? No. Your guilt has been determined. This is merely a sentencing hearing.”
She had not reacted very strongly, but had said “Oh,” in a taken-aback tone, and had pulled out the chair she held and sat down.
“Nasriel Threeb,” Yrue intoned solemnly, and Obi-Wan was irrationally glad the man had left the Kenobi out again, glad he himself had no part, however slight, in the travesty playing out before him. “You have been found guilty of the murder of Captain Orde. I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection. Sentence to be carried out within the hour.”
“Oh,” Nasriel had said again, barely a gasp this time. “I – I see. May I call Master Kenobi to let him know?” The first thing she thought of. Oh, Force.
“You may.” He had turned to the medic who stood stiff and shocked behind Nasriel. “I assume you have the necessary equipment?”
CT-1313 had replied obliquely, “I wish to register my strong disapproval of this sentence, and my extreme unwillingness to have anything to do with it. But I’ll do it, I’ll commit a damn murder myself, because if I don’t you’ll only have one of your crew of blockheads kriff it up and the kid’ll suffer more.”
“It’s on the record,” Yrue had agreed. “This court is now adjourned – take her away.” The hologram flickered and vanished. For a long moment Obi-Wan stood staring blankly at the projector plate. Then Ibrim spoke.
“I’m sorry, sir. I did my best. I should have insisted on waiting for you and the Major.”
“As you say,” Obi-Wan replied quietly, “You did your best. That’s all I could ask of you. She wanted me to prove her innocent,” he added. “I’ll need help.”
“You got it, sir. Anything I can do.”
A clone voice crackled over the hangar intercom. “Kenobi, just letting you know, the line’s all yours.”