Imagine waking up one day unable to recall who you are or where you came from – only to find you are serving a sentence as a convict conscript for crimes you have no memory of ever committing…
Vane’s jaw tightened.
“I don’t think you understand your legal position, soldier. You are acting as if it is your right to be released. It is not.”
“The justice system of the Coalition has granted me the legal right to apply for a discharge into the community after five years service, sir, and the legal right to appeal your decision to the Criminal Rehabilitation Department tribunal if necessary. My lawyers assure me they will honour my instructions and take my case back to the CRD if it is refused here. I have already completed four lower level appeals, I will take on another if I have to.”
Vane drew a sharp breath. That came as close to a threat as he had ever heard from one of his men. It shocked him any ranker of the Special Legion knew their rights so well. Again he was left with the impression of an acute mind behind the blank green eyes and the sense of discrepancy between that and the idea of total amnesia.
“It’s still my decision, soldier. You can appeal as many times as you like and I can refuse you every time.” He snapped out the words, his tone harsh. “I can order you suppressed and retained in the Specials indefinitely, or insist your discharge is made conditional upon your enrolment into another military unit. I have the right to veto your discharge – on any grounds or none.”
Nothing. No visible response.
This was ludicrous. To turn this man lose on the streets constituted a dereliction of his duty for the protection of the community. To have allowed proceeding for Revid’s release to begin, let alone allow it to go through four appeals – had the system gone mad? Behind the holofacade Vane could see the unwelcome observer becoming agitated. More words appeared: Just do it. My responsibility. Except that was the problem. It remained his responsibility. No one could take it from him.
He shook his head to answer the observer, but he looked at Revid. The soldier’s green gaze was once more fixed into the anonymous distance, as if he had no interest in the result of this interview. Vane felt his breath escape in a sigh. The easy route would be to confirm the discharge and hope it didn’t come back to bite him. After all, every other agency involved had checked into the background. They wanted to let the discharge go ahead – and they were the ones who assessed and probed the issues deeply. They must know more than he did in this case. In theory, Vane’s only role in the entire legal process, as he had been reminded by his unwanted observer just before the interview began, was to rubber-stamp those previous procedures. Who was he to challenge the combined weight of expertise recommending this man walk free?
But something stank and Vane could not ignore it. At the end of the day, it would be his name on the discharge authorisation and if – when – something went wrong, questions would be asked. ‘I was only following orders’ remained a popular but useless defence and a ludicrous one when offered by the man in command of an entire Legion. Vane already planned on further promotion, his eyes were on the highest of military ranks, so he had no intention of allowing the risk of such a scandal jeopardising his future career. With a dismissive gesture, he closed off all the screens around him and stood up.
“Sergeant Hynas, escort this man back to barracks. He can maintain training only status for now, until my final decision is confirmed. I need to review some aspects of this application further, for administrative reasons, I want to make sure this kind of thing can’t happen again. But I am not going to approve the discharge.”
Vane said the last for Revid’s benefit. Whatever else the man might be, he was an intelligent individual, being misled by those more concerned with his rights than the rights of society. Not his fault, but it would be unfair to hold out any further false hope. Now, for the best outcome, this whole mess needed to be dismissed and Revid put back on active duty as soon as possible. The decision made, Vane felt his jaw relax. It was insanity to have imagined coming to any other conclusion.
The Sergeant saluted smartly but failed to hide a vicious grin as he turned away. If Vane’s statement impacted at all on Revid it did not show externally. The green eyes remained impassive. He responded precisely to the brusque orders given by the Sergeant and marched out of the room without any attempt at protest or appeal. The door closed, and for a moment Vane stood staring at it, lost in speculation.
From Trust A Few – book one in Haruspex, the second Fortune’s Fools trilogy by E.M. Swift-Hook – which is only 0.99 to buy throughout November.
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