In our last episode, ArcGeneral Thomas Hastings, his XO Helena Romano, and Marine Commandant Gerald Kingsley decided upon a plan to defuse a possible military coup led by the Navy Marine Corps. Phase one was to transport the entire Corps to the planet surface for hastily scheduled training exercises – thus separating these enraged soldiers from the hated Crusader army. Phase two involved Hastings persuading the High Chancellor and his top Crusader general, Shappa Durant, to punish the Crusaders who perpetrated injustice and sexual violence upon a Marine and two civilian relatives of another Marine – unjustly executed.
After Romano and Kingsley left his office, Hastings had his office contact Hayes and Durant to arrange a meeting later that day. Eventually, the High Chancellor was persuaded that it was an urgent matter. Once that was accomplished, the ArcGeneral paged through his copy of the Unity National Church Holy Scriptures. The Navy CO growled aloud, “I’ll be damned if I go into this meeting unprepared.”
(Office of The High Chancellor a few minutes before the arrival of ArcGeneral Hastings)
“What does that scum, Hastings, want to see me about, my Lord?” Shappa Durant doesn’t try to hide his disdain for the Navy CO in front of the High Chancellor.
“I’m not sure…” muses Hayes while tapping the desktop impatiently with his fingertips. “Perhaps he just wants to whine.” At that moment the High Chancellor’s aide, knocks, waits for permission to enter and ushers Hastings into the office.
The ArcGeneral stands before the Crusader CO and High Chancellor in silence, as protocol dictates. Neither of the Churchers rise to greet him – nor does Hastings expect any sign of respect. Hayes makes him wait a full two minutes before acknowledging his presence.
“Sit, ArcGeneral.” The cleric waves carelessly at a chair opposite the Shappa.
Hastings takes the chair and waits in silence. I’ll play their stupid game… this is too important to let their rudeness get my goat, he muses. Durant waits in silence as well, but his facial expression communicates his impatience. At last, Hayes regards both men, on the other side of his desk, and speaks to Hastings.
“Please, tell us, ArcGeneral, why you need to waste our time today. Your message conveyed a certain sense of urgency.”
“High Chancellor, Shappa, I come before you with a very urgent matter. Time is of the essence, so I’ll get right to the point.”
“Thank you, ArcGeneral!” Hayes interrupts with a great deal of sarcasm. Durant smiles and glances at his Navy counterpart.
Ignoring the Churchers’ blatantly smug and hostile attitude, Hastings continues. “Commandant Kingsley and I were made aware that a revolt among the Marine Corps is brewing…”
“A revolt, you say?” The Crusader general’s words are spat out as an accusation, rather than a question. Smirking, “Well, that’s what you get for poor leadership decisions, ArcGeneral!” Hayes sits back with a small smile, enjoying the exchange.
Hastings doesn’t blink, but forges ahead, knowing full well, that averting massive bloodshed that can doom the mission of setting up a new civilization on Genesis, was far more important than a verbal sparring match with the Shappa.
“Actually, it was a series of poor leadership decisions by your underling, Shaspa Hendricks, that sparked the outrage among my Marines.”
“How dare you…” Before Durant’s indignant retort is completed, Hastings rises from his chair and cuts him off with a passionate declaration.
“You bet I dare! I dare to confront you with the terrible truth that your Shaspa, knowingly and willingly executed a heroic soldier for a misdemeanor, tortured the man’s innocent brother, let his flunkies rape his two sisters, and then he coerced a young female Marine into his bed! By the Gods, I dare!
Hayes rises from his chair, staring at Hastings, looking like he’d just been slapped. “ArcGeneral, this is blasphemy…”
Hastings, not about to back down, tells the Churchers the whole story complete with names. The Crusader and the cleric listen, without interruption, dumbfounded by the grisly tale. He then picks up and opens the book of Holy Scriptures, resting on Hayes’ desk, and reads the prohibitions against lewd behaviour towards women, torture, and false convictions. Finished, the ArcGeneral resumes his chair, waiting in silence.
The High Chancellor glances at the passages Hastings read aloud, looks at his Shappa, then bows his head – as if in prayer. Both commanders wait, the tension mounting by the second.
“You realize,” the High Chancellor begins in a menacing tone, “you take your life in your hands speaking of these things in this way. I admire your courage, ArcGeneral, but I may have to make an example of you…”
A small smile began to form on Shappa Durant’s face as he watches Hayes try to reclaim the high ground and turn the tables on Hastings.
“High Chancellor, you know I’ve always been a respectful man. And I know you have the power to judge me. But before you do, you must be aware of the larger issue. I don’t come to you with false rumours – it is the truth I bring to you today.”
“And what, would you have me do with this… truth?”
“High Chancellor, Shaspa Hendricks and a group of his men must be punished for their crimes against these innocent people of the Naval class. If this matter is swept aside as inconsequential, I fear that I’ll not be able to defuse the outrage motivating a large number of Marines to rebel – to take the law into their own hands!”
Shappa Durant rises menacingly and spits, “I don’t take orders from the Navy!”
Tom Hastings knows that a shouting match – or worse, with Durant, will serve no useful purpose. He locks eyes with his Crusader counterpart, struggling within, to remain calm. Hayes sits back in his chair, watching the confrontation play out, between his two top military commanders.
Hastings fights to project a calm, yet unyielding tone. “Nor should you, Shappa. I’m not here to pick a fight – or to disrespect the Vicar of the Gods (glancing at Hayes). I want us to work together to avert a catastrophe. I have ordered Commandant Kingsley and my XO to organize a transfer of the entire Marine Corps to the surface tomorrow morning. They will be told it is a training exercise in the jungle. Kingsley and Romano will march them into the jungle and gather them in a large clearing where this issue will be aired out. I will join them later to address the Corps – but I can’t go down there empty-handed! If my soldiers come after the Crusaders, the ensuing confrontation can very well end any chance at settling Genesis peacefully and successfully.”
“I see…” the High Chancellor murmurs. Hayes stands and faces both men, “Alright, ArcGeneral, the Shappa and I will discuss this now, and inform you of our decision tomorrow morning. You are dismissed.”
Making a respectful departure, Hastings makes his way to his office in the aft section of Divine Scepter. He hopes he’s been successful in swaying the two powerful Churchers… There’s just too much riding on their decision…