Chapter 4: Any Which Way You Can
Perhaps you've never been in a situation quite like this before. Perhaps you've never been faced with a choice that really isn't a choice; just a one-way ticket to disaster. When you haven't got a hope, you haven't got a chance, and you haven't got a choice, what must it be like? Few people experience this often. Perhaps, right before you die. The pirates of the Magellan system were about to die.
'Morgan, the ESF has blocked the stargate on every side. There's no way we can get through.'
Morgan was the captain of the pirate ship Interstellar. It was the largest and most heavily armed of the ships in the pirate group, and thus he was the leader. At the moment, the pirate group was significantly smaller than what it had been moments ago. ESF raiders had jumped into the system, weapons firing, nuclear bombs exploding all over, using them to set up vital checkpoints, herding the pirate squadrons into killing zones where neutron missiles pounded space. Empty once more, the survivors had retreated to a remote area of the belt. The ESF had stayed to blow up the station he had treated as his home.
Some of the ships - he hoped had left the system. The other ones like his, they would have to try and escape out of the belt the old fashioned way. Via a stargate.
He didn't know how they had done it, really. A belt was a difficult thing to scan, you couldn't do it from a distance. Additionally, since it was the heaviest natural resource for metal in the galaxy, most of the ships in the belt were actually constructed of the material the asteroids were. So it was hard to pick anything up in that mess. Not to mention, asteroid belts were large.
But here they were. Without even sending in a recon picket. Should he feel responsible?
'Alright, put me through to Taclic and Andra, tell them to attack the gate. Maybe we can get a few ships through. We'll all attack it together.'
The woman patched through the instructions to the other pirate leaders. They signalled confirmation and good luck. He began the assault. Because his ship had been built as a long range vessel, he hung back from the vanguard.
The pirate fighters came in firing like mad things. Left and right, weaving up and around as they dove towards the more heavily armed and armed ESF ships. At about 1000 k's, the missiles began to detonate over the ESF positions. A counter wave of missiles slammed into the front lines of the pirates, daring them to fly into atomic explosions. Some of them did, and the destruction from them ricocheted around the tightly packed space of the belt.
Machinegun turrets deployed themselves now, against those who were lucky enough to make it past the firewall that was rapidly expanding. They were shot down fairly quickly. Jupiter Command had brought in mainly light cruisers, but there were a few carriers. They had not deployed fighters. It was not worth deploying fighters against a bunch of pirates.
Now, the main pirate ship class accelerated towards the stargate, right about where the neutron explosions were dissipating. They were heavier and would put up more of a fight. In accordance with this, the railguns on the light cruisers began to discharge ingots of black, lead propelled at hypersonic speeds and leaving lasting impressions against the ships they encountered. Bursts of blue and white exploded from the necks of the pirate ships.
Morgan knew, before the first ship exploded, that he was dead. In fit of panic, he ordered the ship to halt. While the other ones went and were blasted to pieces, his ship stayed still. Waiting.
The ESF ships noticed this, but did not make any overt moves for the moment. They seemed content to mop up the remaining pirate ships. He detected survivors from the wreckage, but did not move to pick them up. That would be a waste of time.
The 4 Light Cruisers, a ridiculous match, accelerated.
'Lay down suppression nukes, maximum range.' Ordered Morgan. The ship rumbled as hundreds of neutron missiles went out from the ship. Unfortunate he ruminated, that they had not finished the stardrive on his vessel.
The Light Cruisers brushed the nukes aside, their armokur was hardly even affected by such paltry weapons. Morgan doubted that even a single crew member would die from the radiation.
He also noticed they were not discharging their own missiles. Perhaps it was better to preserve them?
His own ship intercepted a railgun shell. It smashed through the navigation bows, just above the bridge. It impacted out the other side of ship, trailing fire and oxygen.
Railguns fire fast and furiously. Thousands of shells exploded into his ship, over the entire vessel, turning it into so much swiss cheese.
He died, facing forward.
'Admiral, we've neutralised the pirate fleet.' The lieutenant to Admiral (Second-Tier) Ferguson spoke. Outside, the drifting hulks, splintered remnants of the pirate fleet attested to his truth.
'Right, damage report?'
His officer's radioed the fleet, tallying the damage the pirates might have inflicted. This was their 3rd pirate system this week. Alot them hadn't even stopped for repairs, just tach'd to each system in turn.
'Carriers Negalron, Fortress have suffered minor hull breaches. The Light Cruiser Ylepres is suffering from major damage to the port bow.'
'Okay, Negalron, Fortress will come with us on the next pirate raid. Tell the captain of the Ylepres to rendezvous back at the nearest fleet base for repairs. Is she still tach worthy?'
Admiral Ferguson considered what to do next. He had planned this pirate raid, along with the other Admirals, based on the information Murda had provided Jupiter Command. They had approached things effeciently, but his next system was 39 light years away. The question was whether or not to salvage any wreckage.
'That pirate ship we shot down...'
He thought a bit more. The pirate ship they shot down hadn't been particularly impressive. Large yes, but without armokur, any ship would be shot down quite quickly. It wasn't a question of armour, it was a question of whether armour could withstand. Railgun shells. Metal couldn't.
'Never mind that. Let's investigate the station. Helm, can we risk using the stardrive in the asteroid belt?'
'No sir. We suffered minimal damage coming in here, but it we will suffer alot more if we make a straight course against the asteroids.'
'Okay, helm, full speed.'
The ship accelerated, a heavy cruiser, towards where the pirate station had originally been obliterated. The heavy cruiser ship, actually, was obselete. Being replaced by the newer and more agile light cruisers. Apparently, speed and manouevrability were now being valued above raw firepower. But ships like his were always going to be useful, even if they moved like sleepy morays.
Eventually, with minor hull damage, it reached the originally station. The wreckage no longer scanned for power signs. All heat in the area had disappeared, except that which was caused by the collisions of asteroids.
He surveyed with his second-lieutenant, on the monitor display. There was not much there. The pieces of wreckage were fairly standard for a makeshift battlestation.
'Record, catalog everything. Tell the other ships we'll make course for Laevi Vi in 30 minutes.'
'Mr President, will you admit to using the Ragna party's influence, the influence of another major political party, in the context of gaining power in an upcoming election?'
Director Naccali, as director of Mercury Command, had asked for leading the senate enquiry in regards to Molex Reeves. He had been granted it - indeed, he had earned alot of respect in the lawmaking circles for his hardline against corruption. The problem was that the impeachment would have to be ratified by a majority of parliament and the Corporate Senate. A double dissolution in other words. If this failed, then Molex Reeves would, by law, no longer be persecutable for impeachment for this. Also, it would set bad precedents for his actions. He continued:
'No leader of the parties in history beforehand has had the influence or daring to use another entire political party for his own ends. Coalitions have, and will be made, but the use of a party, equal to your own, is a brazen act. If you would, please give us an explanation over the events preceding last wednesday.'
The Director was standing up in the central pedastal of the huge chamber that formed the Corporate Senate. It was higher than the others, the others were occupied by 2 speakers who were, as far as he could tell, rather impartial. Molex Reeves stood up opposite him, alone. The CEO's and some MP's behind him had not yet cheered his speeches nor cheered his enemies'.
'Certainly my good Director. But first, perhaps I can ask you a question in turn?'
Naccali assented. 'Yes, you may Mr. President.'
'Are you not applying, or have applied, for a position on the Cossack cabinet?'
There was a faint stirring in the audience.
'Yes I have. As soon as my duties have finished here, I will be joining the Cossack party. This is however, not the object enquiry of the tribunal. Mr. President...'
Molex interrupted. 'Would you not describe your appointment as a conflict of interest with your presiding over this case?'
Naccali paused. The eyes of the senate were turning in a new direction, and it was not towards Molex Reeves.
'My current duties are not associated with my position in the Cossack cabinet. If you believe that my charges against you arose out of my affiliations with your opposing party, you are welcome to contest the validity of my charges. They are not invalid. If you wish to refer to any favouritism or spite on my part, please do so now.'
Molex Reeves realised he had played his card too soon.
'I wish to remind the Director that prejudice can be known to have taken place during impeachment trials in the past. I wish to avoid any hint of prejudice in this enquiry.'
Naccali sat down again, somewhat pale. He had not considered it really tangible, but these people might, that he could be swayed by his preference for another party. He decided to let another one of the judges continue. He motioned beside him to his colleague, Speaker Revaro.
'My honorable friend wishes, to allay the concerns of the accused, that I take up the enquiry. Excuse me.' Naccali swapped places with Speaker Revaro. The people on the benches approved of this activity with a low murmur.
'Molex Reeves, you have asked Aedal Eshem.' Aedal Eshem was sitting somewhere to the right of Molex. He was did not seem really concerned about the fact that he was on trial. 'To ask his party to show clear bias in favour of the Jihilite party. Is this correct?'
'Please define agreement.'
Molex Reeves seemed to be playing for time. It was not a good idea, under the circumstances, to annoy the Speakers or people present.
'I do not wish to partake in meaningless conversation with you Mr. Reeves. An agreement is a token of confirmation, on behalf to 2 or more parties, to act in a specific way. Do you agree with this?'
'Mr Speaker, I do agree with this. Except, under this context, I cannot be said to have agreed with the honourable member of parliament Aedal Eshem.'
This brought a low humming of conversation from the backbenches. The Speaker suddenly remember, that before becoming a politician, Molex Reeves had been a lawyer. He groaned inwardly.
'Then how do you define the actions of you and your associate Mr. Reeves? If you have another definition for agreement, I would like to hear it.'
'I do not offer a new definition Mr. Speaker. Merely that the definition you gave me did not conform to my actions.'
Revaro contented himself with a low: 'How so?'
'You said that it was a confirmation on behalf of 2 or more parties to act in a specific way. I do not believe that, when I met with my honourable friend Mr. Eshem, we gave any token of confirmation nor did I or he ask me to act in any specific way.'
'Mr Reeves, we have no transcript of the conversation you had with Aedal Eshem. Until you can provide one, official and without any danger of tampering, we cannot assume that you acted as you said. However, I am prepared to take your argument on board. In your words, what transpired between you and Mr. Eshem?'
'I discussed the administration after the next election. In the course of our discussions, I realised that it was in my best interest to support the interests of my colleague. I believe Aedal Eshem may or may not have taken the same path of thought. I am not responsible for what the honorable MP thinks.'
There was token laughter from the benches.
'That is so. However, it is illegal under the Convention, and let me quote: 'For any of the 3 main parties of parliament, to ally with each other in any way, or any way, give credence to the possibility of coalition.' Does that sound familiar to you?'
'Yes sir, I studied the extensively Convention during my tenure as a lawyer.'
'Then you agree that an alliance between 2 major parties is illegal, and goes against the Convention?'
'Yes, I do.'
'Then you agree that the alliance between your party and the Ragna party is against the Convention?'
There was no possible way out of this question. Naccali wondered, with the comfort of being on the other side of the room, exactly how Molex would respond. The audience went quiet, tense with the moment.
'If an alliance between our parties was in existence, then that would certainly be true.'
'What particular part of 'alliance' or 'coalition' do you not understand.' Said the other Speaker angrily. He had seen other cases like this many times before, and was tired of politicians inventing new definitions of words to explain their actions.
His friend motioned him to be quiet. 'Mr Reeves, you will not, I hope, try to redefine the word 'alliance' right here in this room.' There was a muffled laughter. 'So without further ado, please explain how the Ragna party head, can ask his followers, to vote for another party, without giving credence 'to the possibility of coalition.''
'Gladly. As I said before, we never went in, or out of our way to give credence to any rumour. You are associating a conversation we had, with the agreement that the actions that have taken place were fruit of those agreements. If 2 parties decide to act in a certain way, independant of each other, the those parties are not in alignment, except by coincidence.'
'That is... correct.'
'Then the Ragna party and Jihilites are not in alignment, except by coincidence.'
There was a stirring from the bench. A stir of annoyance.
'Excuse me Mr. President, but if certain sound waves hit your ears by coincidence, do you then claim that acting on the knowledge that you heard is a result of coincidence?'
Revaro leaned back. There was laughter in the chamber.
'No Mr. Speaker. But the principles of the Convention are related to how people react to the them and choose to interpret them. The Convention was never written with the intention of forcing people to view them only a certain way. It is a flexible document, and that is it's marvellous virtue.'
'Mr Reeves, take that position, and you can make the Convention mean anything you want.'
He continued, undaunted, despite the sounds emanating from the audience.
'When it was formed, the Convention was the result of the deliberations in a warring and constantly changing environment. The very strictures of the Convention were designed to encompass and react to changes in that environment and the government of the ESF. Thus, in our **** -stable society, we cannot view the Convention in the way it was meant to be perceived, that is, in relation to the question, a way to prevent a single party using unfair means to hijack an election.'
Speaker Revaro did not answer, but let the point simmer in the air.
'Nor, can we claim, either the Jihilites or the Ragna's, to have control over our respective factions. I do not claim this. I am sure my colleague does not. My colleagues actions, and the actions of the MP's in both parties' There were cries of 'Shyster' and 'Lier' from the benches. 'Both parties, and neither do we direct the citizenry who choose to vote and how they vote.'
'This is absured Mr. Reeves. You clearly have control over the Jihilite party.'
'Only because the Jihilite party follows and respectives my decisions. You see Mr. Speaker, this is another case of 2 parties arriving at a decision without an agreement. I do not browbeat every single politician' Molex Reeves might have disagreed with this a more honest forum. 'into following me. You're promoting the idea that this great institution is run on a dictatorship. Why? Because you think I have absolute control over my MP's and the people who choose to vote for me. And since you view the Convention with this perspective, then that perspective is not pertinent to the Convention or to this trial. And because of that Mr. Speaker, I can and will have to contest the meaning of alliance with you.'
There were cries from the benches. Some booing, some, especially the Jihilite MP's were clapping. He stood there, considering what to say next, and all the while, the Speaker's glared at him derisively. Naccali, watching the proceedings, allowed a minor shake of his head, wondering at the deft defense of the President. Murda was right, he thought of a conversation not so long ago, he needed a long way to go to become politically experienced.
The Speakers moved towards each other and talked quietly. Over the din, there words were all but incomprehensible. Some of the people might have guessed what they were saying. Naccali nodded, the other Speaker followed suit. Revaro rose.
'I propose the senate be adjourned for 3 hours.'
(This message has been edited by Joveia (edited 05-17-2002).)