On the day of the trial, the Council chamber was nearly filled to capacity. The first row was empty and only Mason and Claridee sat in the second row. The three remaining Council members were seated on the stage. Looking up at them, Mason was struck by how Proust’s actions had so decimated the Council. However, he knew it would be the people of Myscreth who would suffer because of it.
The Council chamber grew silent as Counselor Anklin stood and addressed the audience.
“Leaders of Myscreth, on behalf of the Council I welcome you. It’s such a rare privilege to have all of you here. I only wish this meeting could have happened under happier circumstances, but it is the obligation of the Council to uphold the laws of Myscreth regardless of who is involved.”
He walked to the front of the stage as he continued. “During the recent crisis, some of our people supported former Counselor Proust. This has damaged the trust our people have always placed in the Council.” He stopped and surveyed the crowd. “We’ve invited you here to help us restore that trust. All we ask is that you tell the people in your communities all that transpires here today. It is our hope that when the reasons for the Council’s actions are fully understood, we can once again concentrate on our shared goal of rebuilding Myscreth.”
Counselor Anklin looked to the back of the chamber and nodded. Turning around, Mason saw guards leading the seven prisoners forward. All the prisoners except Klarth and Betrine still wore the bandages that Claridee had modified. At the sight of the prisoners, a murmur passed through the audience. Counselor Anklin remained standing as the guards seated the prisoners in the front row.
Once the prisoners were seated, Counselor Anklin resumed speaking in a somber voice. “Darnia, Nornol, Glorine, Thurold, Betrine, and Klarth are here today because they were trained to modify scientific laws by former Counselor Proust, contrary to the laws of Myscreth.”
He looked out at the crowd before continuing. “While these six people didn’t set out to break our laws, the knowledge they now possess is too dangerous to allow them to return to their former lives. The improper training of these people by former Counselor Proust has forced the Council into the difficult task of deciding their fate.”
Soft sobs could be heard coming from some of the prisoners, but Darnia stood up, a noticeable snarl in her voice. “How dare you think you’re worthy of judging us! Only Counselor Proust truly cared for our people, and because of that, you labeled him a criminal.”
“Sit down!” ordered Counselor Anklin forcefully. “You will be given an opportunity to speak in your defense.”
She opened her mouth as if to reply, but instead felt around for her seat before sitting back down.
Counselor Anklin continued, voice heavy. “Tranlee stands before the Council because she aided former Counselor Proust in his actions and provided him information about the Council’s efforts to capture him. As she assisted in his crimes, she must also be held accountable for them.”
Counselor Anklin returned to his seat as Counselor Janice called out. “Tranlee please stand.”
Tranlee slowly rose to her feet.
“Have you anything to say in your defense?” asked Counselor Janice sternly.
Tranlee just stood there in silence, but at last blurted out, anger evident in her voice. “It isn’t fair that I’m being treated as a criminal while Gorwold sits up there with you. He did everything I’m accused of, yet he was welcomed back to the Council with open arms.”
Mason saw Counselor Gorwold look down in shame as Tranlee spoke. In contrast, he saw Counselor Anklin’s face flash with anger. Mason was taken aback as Counselor Anklin began to shout, his voice echoing through the chamber.
“How dare you use the forgiveness of another to justify your actions? Counselor Gorwold was nearly killed by Proust when he told him that he was going to tell the Council everything he knew. He also expressed genuine remorse for what he did, something we’ve not seen from you.”
Mason could see Tranlee’s lips turn in to a defiant sneer. “Fine words Anklin, but meaningless. Counselor Proust knew Gorwold was weak and would betray him if he was ever discovered. That’s why he told him so little about our plans. As for remorse, the only thing I’m sorry about is the additional suffering our people must endure due to a Council that’s too timid to do everything in its power to help them.”
Counselor Anklin sighed, his anger suddenly gone. “Tranlee, you give the Council no choice. You will be sent away from the people of Myscreth to live the rest of your life in exile. The bandages over your eyes will be removed and everything you need to survive will be provided, but never again will you be allowed to live among our people.”
Tranlee looked down, and Mason thought she might be crying. Instead she tossed her head back and started laughing. Glancing at Claridee, Mason could see a look of horror on her face. He reached for her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze.
“Exile?” she cried. “For my alleged crimes, the punishment should be death.” She continued in a shrill, mocking tone. “Does the thought of killing someone frighten you, Anklin? Your weakness will be your downfall. As long as some of us who were with Counselor Proust live, there will be people who will yearn to fulfill his vision.” By now she was yelling, and the audience appeared stunned. “And in time, when enough of them see the truth, they’ll bring me back in triumph!”
Mason watched as the Council members stared at her in silence, expressions of disbelief on their faces. It was as if they no longer recognized the woman they’d served with for so long. Mason saw Counselor Janice’s face harden.
“Guard, return Tranlee to her quarters,” she commanded in a firm voice.
Looking over at Claridee, Mason was surprised to see her eyes were moist. “The Tranlee I knew would never behave this way,” she whispered. “Proust did this to her,” she continued, fury in her voice.
Mason didn’t know what to say, so simply squeezed her hand in reply.
Counselor Anklin addressed the remaining prisoners.
“Nornol, Glorine, Thurold, and Betrine please stand.”
“Over the past two weeks I have spoken with each of you,” continued Counselor Anklin “and in those conversations you acknowledged that you were deceived by former Counselor Proust and regret your actions on his behalf. Is this true?”
The four of them nodded and replied in the affirmative. Mason could see each of them bow their heads and hunch their shoulders in shame as they replied.
“You traitors!” muttered Darnia angrily. “After all Counselor Proust did for you, how could you betray him like this?”
Mason heard the sharp voice of Counselor Janice interject. “All that Proust did for them is condemn them to a life away from their families and friends.”
Counselor Anklin glanced at the four prisoners before staring out at the audience, folding his hands in front of him.
“I was taught to not waste anyone’s talents and to always give someone a second chance if they proved they were willing to change. Both of these lessons are relevant to the four people standing before us today. Even though former Counselor Proust trained them against our laws, their abilities can still do much good for our people. They have expressed remorse and have told me that they are willing to accept the consequences of their actions.”
He paused and glanced over at Counselor Janice. “However, as has been pointed out to me, words alone do not prove that someone has changed.” He looked down at the prisoners. “Therefore, the Council has decided that the four of you will be given the opportunity to prove yourselves by becoming probationary candidates to join the Council.”
Cries of outrage came from the crowd. Mason looked back at the audience and saw several people shouting. “They helped Proust! How can you trust them?”
The shout resounded throughout the room, causing Claridee to jump and grab Mason. Turning back around, Mason saw Counselor Anklin standing and staring out at the crowd, eyes blazing. It had the desired result and the room grew silent.
Counselor Anklin walked to the front of the stage, exasperation evident in his voice. “Where is your compassion? How can you write someone off without even giving them a chance to prove they’ve changed?” He continued speaking, now seeming more earnest that angry. “Proper precautions will be made to protect our people. The probationary candidates will be trained in an isolated settlement, well away from any other settlements. The only outside people they will have contact with will be members of the Council. Their training will be even more intensive than for normal candidates and none will be allowed to become Council members until the entire Council is convinced of their fitness.”
Mason watched the leaders as Counselor Anklin spoke and could see that some were still not convinced. Counselor Anklin must have noticed as well because his tone became even more intense as he continued speaking.
“You may say that giving these four the opportunity to join the Council is condoning what Proust did, but it isn’t. There’s one more thing that must be considered,” he paused and scanned the entire room, “and that’s justice. Was Proust being just when he gave these people abilities that changed their lives forever? He didn’t care about them, he only used them to try and achieve his own twisted goals. How can we do the same to them? As people with a conscious, we are obligated to try and do what’s right. If that makes things harder, then so be it. I only ask that you allow us to try.”
As he finished speaking, Counselor Anklin gazed out at the audience with an expression of determination before walking back to his seat. Mason looked around, unsure if the speech had convinced the leaders. However, as Counselor Anklin sat down, the sound of a single person clapping could be heard. However, it was soon joined by others and the sound grew louder until a deafening roar filled the room. Up on the stage, Counselor Janice looked over at Counselor Anklin with a smile.
As the applause died down, Counselor Janice motioned to the guards to return the four prisoners to their quarters. Mason was gratified to see some of the leaders offering them shouts of encouragement as they left the room. After the four had left, all eyes turned to the Council and the two remaining prisoners.
“Darnia and Klarth, please stand,” ordered Counselor Janice.
When the two didn’t move, she glanced over at Counselor Anklin.
He nodded. “Counselor Janice asked you to stand,” he directed in a harsh tone.
Mason saw the two prisoners slowly get up, clearly taking their time.
After the two were standing, Counselor Anklin rose to his feet. “When I attempted to speak with the two of you, you refused to see me. However, the Council is willing to offer you the same opportunity for redemption as the others if you will renounce Proust and submit to the Council.”
Klarth stood there silently, but Darnia immediately answered in a malevolent tone. “I will never renounce Counselor Proust! Someday our people will recognize his greatness and the greatness of all those who served with him. On that day I will be vindicated and eagerly take my rightful place as a member of the true Council. I have no need of your forgiveness for I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Murmurs of anger could be heard throughout the audience and Mason felt Claridee tense up at Darnia’s words.
Mason could see Counselor Anklin sadly shake his head and look over at Counselor Janice. She nodded and looked down at Klarth.
“Klarth, have you anything to say in your defense?” asked Counselor Janice.
He replied in a low voice, gone now was any trace of the arrogance and anger he’d shown previously. “Counselor Proust took care of me when no one else would and I won’t abandon him for my own benefit. Regardless of what anyone else may say, he was a good man who only sought to serve Myscreth and I was proud to be with him.”
Some in the crowd jeered, but looking back behind him, Mason could see some of the leaders had been touched by Klarth’s words. He had to admit, he’d never expected to hear something like this from Klarth.
Counselor Janice leaned over and whispered to Counselor Anklin, who nodded.
“Klarth, consider the consequences of what you’re saying.”
He shook his head. “I’ve made my decision.”
Counselor Janice sighed heavily. “In that case, the Council has no choice but to sentence both of you to spend the rest of your lives in exile,” she announced with resignation in her voice.
“You can’t exile me, “scoffed Darnia with a laugh, “unless you plan on keeping these bandages on my eyes for the rest of my life.”
“No, that would be much too cruel a punishment,” responded Counselor Anklin in a calm voice. “Due to your ability to manipulate relativistic physics there’s no place on Myscreth where you can be exiled. Unfortunately, there’s only one other option. The rest of your life will be spent on Earth.”
“Earth!” she cried hysterically, blindly rushing forward. However, she only went a few steps before the guards pulled her back. She struggled against them, crying out. “I’m a true daughter of Myscreth! How can you expect me to live with those aliens? I’d rather spend the rest of my life unable to see than to be forced to live there!”
Mason couldn’t help but feel sorry for Darnia as he watched her continue to struggle against the guards. He knew firsthand what it was like to move to a strange new world - and he’d done it willingly.
“I’m sorry, but you have no choice,” responded Counselor Anklin. “Trainee Mason and I will teach you what you need to know before you are sent there. In addition, I have friends there who can help you get settled.” Mason couldn’t help but notice the sadness in his voice as he continued. “I can only hope that in time you’ll discover that the people of Earth aren’t the monsters you imagine them to be.”
Counselor Janice motioned to the guards who started to lead Darnia and Klarth away. Klarth walked in silence, his head held high. However, Darnia fought the guards every step of the way, kicking and screaming. Finally, the guards had to carry her from the room. The last thing Mason heard her shout was. “How dare you treat a member of the true Council in this way!” before the door slammed shut, silencing her voice.
After the prisoners were gone, Counselor Anklin stood up and addressed the audience. Mason was surprised to see he was now smiling.
“There is one last piece of business that needs to be taken care of.” He motioned to Mason and Claridee. “Trainees Claridee and Mason, please come forward.”
Mason and Claridee looked at one another as they stood up, not sure of what was going on. Walking forward, Mason could see the other Counselors also smiling and felt Claridee grab his arm excitedly.
As they stood before the stage, Counselor Anklin continued speaking.
“Claridee and Mason, your conduct during the recent crisis has demonstrated to the Council and to all of Myscreth your commitment to serving our people. Furthermore, you have shown your dedication to upholding the principles of the Council even at the risk of your own lives. Therefore, it is our judgment that the both of you are not only qualified, but eminently worthy of becoming Council members.”
Mason was dumbstruck and Claridee burst into tears as the audience stood up and cheered. He could feel tears of joy welling up in his own eyes as he hugged Claridee. On the stage he saw Counselor Anklin and the other Counselors standing and applauding.
Looking back, it almost seemed impossible that an unexpected visitor had led him to Myscreth and Claridee. Looking up at Counselor Anklin he silently mouthed the words “Thanks, Professor.”
- Parker T. Allan
An engineer who enjoys writing something other than technical reports. Writing lets me share all the ideas floating around my mind. I hope my writing jump starts your imagination as so many books have done for me.
If you enjoy physics, check out https://physicswithcats.com/ for some fun stories which explain various physics topics.