It's long. Really long.
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The Inquiry: Day 1
Everyone took his or her seats with the exception of two of the guards. They kept a close watch on Beyer Garret. The two recorders began typing and clicking away on their terminals, their faces intent. They would focus on content, and content only, to record. They had no interest in the outcome or the direction the inquiry would take.
Chancellor Frasier cleared her throat and spoke first. She was, obviously, as the ranking civilian, in charge of the proceedings.
"Commander Garret," she began, her tone formal and business-like, "this Commission has been formed to conduct an inquiry into the death, and possibly murder, of one Maari Hitomi, principal administrative aid to Governor General Albright Soames of the Northern Gulf Region. Charges have been brought by Governor General Soames. Prosecutor Fourth Captain Sykes, you may begin."
Beyer watched Sykes rise. The officer had spent his entire military career in the judiciary. He was, to say the least, clearly uncomfortable in this role. He did not want to present evidence against an accomplished combat commander with a superb record. He cleared his throat, took a sip of water, and began.
"Chancellor Frasier and distinguished members of the Commission, I shall present evidence to the fact that one Maari Hitomi, administrative aid to Governor General Albright Soames of the Northern Gulf Region, was, indeed, murdered in or near the town of Baligichan, in the Siberia Province, by Commander Second Captain Beyer Garret. The two parties concerned were in Siberia at the request of Governor General Soames. They were there to investigate the treatment of the Antisocial. I will show that Commander Garret then returned to Baton Rouge, Capitol of the North Gulf Province, where he was apprehended. I thank you."
Beyer noticed the nervousness in Sykes. The man did not relish this assignment. His body language indicated that he was clearly uncomfortable in his role and that he really did not want to be here and dealing with this case. But, like a good soldier, he obeyed orders. This could possibly be a weapon. Beyer noted it on his pad and waited his turn.
"Thank you, Prosecutor Sykes," said Chancellor Frasier, with a small smile. "Commander Garret, you may state your case."
Beyer Garret took a sip of water and slowly stood. He still looked sharp, even after a month in mean captivity. He collected his thoughts, stood at the "stand easy" position, cleared his throat, and began.
"Learned Prosecutor," he began, preferring to use a legal title on his opponent as opposed to a military distinction, "and members of this Commission, I must first lodge a protest. This Inquiry should be held in the province where charges were first preferred. I protest my being shipped to another province, where I will be unable to face my accuser."
"Duly noted," acknowledged Chancellor Frasier.
"Furthermore," continued Commander Garret, "I was not given any opportunity to confer with legal counsel. I have been kept here for slightly more than one month without any outside contact. Nor did I have the ability to communicate with anyone who could possibly arrange legal assistance. I was not given the opportunity to travel to a city where I could seek out legal counsel. Nor was I given a bail hearing, which is the first step in any inquiry. Instead, I have been treated like a man already tried and convicted. I maintain that these proceedings are immoral and illegal."
"I don't think you really understand the seriousness of your position," commented Governor Xitai. The Governor, the most junior member of the commission, did really not want to serve. Furthermore, he found the heat and humidity of this place stifling and extremely uncomfortable. Those two factors put him on edge.
"If we prefer charges, Garret," he said, a sharp edge to his voice, "you will be placed on trial. The trial will be rough and cutthroat and, because you are military, the burden of proof will fall upon you. You must prove your innocence. If you fail, you will be kicked out of the military, disgraced, and probably imprisoned here. Even if you do not fail, you will still have a blemish on your record that will affect your career. A General's command? Forget it, Commander."
"Governor Xitai," began Beyer calmly, "you may convict me, drum me out of the service, and imprison me. But you cannot disgrace me. I have done the right thing in this issue with the Antisocial, and I have murdered no one. Not a soul. You have not had to make, as of yet, the decisions I have had to make. You have no right to judge me in any capacity."
"Why, you worthless, arrogant son of a;!" shouted Xitai, rising from his seat.
Chancellor Frasier rapped her gavel vigorously on the table, quickly silencing the two men and restoring order.
"Gentlemen! Take your seats! Now!" she commanded.
After a brief period of silence, Chancellor Frasier took a sip of water and thought quietly, "The testosterone was really flowing there. I will have to control this."
"Gentlemen, this is a Commission of Inquiry," she began. "It is our function to determine, firstly, if Maari Hitomi was murdered and, secondly, if charges should be preferred against Second Captain Beyer Garret for the crime. He has been convicted of nothing. Therefore, Governor Xitai, you will treat him with the respect that he has earned by virtue of his rank and record. If you fail in this, I shall dismiss you from the commission, understood? And, Commander Garret, your protests have been duly noted and recorded. Now, compose yourselves."
Throughout this little speech Beyer had been watching Governor General Filetti. His long raven hair and beard, as well as his dark eyes, gave him a quite distinguished appearance. He had sat slouched in his chair, legs extended. He had tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling, fingers steepled and gently tapping the tip of his nose. He had not moved during the entire outburst. His body language revealed nothing. Beyer wondered if this member could be an ally. He would watch him carefully.
"Will the Commission please accept my apology?" asked Beyer.
"And mine as well," added Governor Xitai.
"Accepted," responded Chancellor Frasier, opening a folder on her desk.
"Now, then, Commander Garret," she began, looking him squarely in the eye, "we have here the account of Governor General Soames. Indeed, it is the only account we have of the crime in question. There are no eyewitnesses. Furthermore, we do not have the body of Maari Hitomi. Therefore, the Commission wishes to hear your account of the events leading up to the trip to the Siberia Province as well as what happened there. Are you capable of giving us a clear account, Commander Garret?"
"I am capable, Chancellor," responded Garret.
"Commander Garret," said Governor General Markes, "we shall give you a great deal of freedom in your presentation. This is, after all, only an inquiry. You may, at any time, be interrupted with questions. If you choose to dodge the issue at hand or preach, we may cut you off and proceed immediately to a vote. Understood?"
"Chancellor Frasier, I must protest!" said a clearly agitated Governor Xitai. "This is all highly irregular."
"Protest once more, Governor Xitai," said Chancellor Frasier calmly, "and you shall be removed from this Commission. This is an inquiry, and an inquiry only. I am chairing it, and I make the rules. And the accused has not had a chance to be heard. I am giving him that chance. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Chancellor," responded a chastised Governor Xitai.
"I understand perfectly, Governor General," responded Garret.
"Excellent," said Chancellor Frasier. "Now, Commander, begin at once."