“Murderer,” they mutter. Some whisper as if saying the word too loud will spread some airborne disease. Maybe it will; in the countless centuries or maybe even millennia since the ARK ships floated in the dead womb of space, we Patriarchs– or whatever form of government that established order before– never had to proceed over a murder. Even to my own ears – the accused, the guilty – the word seems so … alien… yes, alien would be right word to describe it. The act by itself; the 40 millimeter bolter round to the chest, leaving a hole you can stick your hand through and a mess that is still being cleaned up to two weeks later ….that felt all too familiar. Primal even, which makes this mummers farce of a trial even more annoying, but a trial they must have. A swift execution maybe? Was that what I was walking all too swiftly to? Is that what all my brothers, sisters, and fellow Patriarchs came to see?
I turn the corner. The curious eyes end as I walk into the central command cathedral. The new eyes are hard and stern and belonging to the Wise Men. Though all Patriarchs have a say in our government, it is the Wise Men who set the topics that we vote on if the matter requires one. Increasingly, more matters seem too small to bother the larger body of Patriarchs; details that haven’t been missed by most Patriarchs, but haven’t caused much protest– yet.
“We should close the whole department.”
“To what end?”
“Are you mad? We are in the middle of war.”
“The end of a war; the Samsons are efficient enough to suffer the burden of this conflict without spoiling the minds of Patriarchs with this bloody business.”
“The Samsons will win us the war, sure. But soldiers need commanders.”
“Bugger the Samsons, we can settle this decisively from the comfort of our seats.”
“And we ruin the only inhabitable planet in the Milky Way?”
Arthur Dreadfoot’s last words ended the debate before it truly began. I heard these arguments before – the longer versions – but in the end Noah has always been the necessary evil that holds our war for Earth together. But to what end? Awe, I’m afraid I won’t be here long enough to find out though as the room stands at attention when the oldest of the Wise Men take their seats. A smile crosses my face as I watch our forerunners take their rightful seats of honor amongst us. Seats made during the lesser generations, before Patriarchs numbers swelled. The True Men, or Adams, are the first to enter the cryo and are the ones that remembered when our ARKs hobbled along space, maintained by the unlearned masses too stupid to read and write let alone maintain the very systems that allow us to breathe. It is a wonder how we managed to stay alive in the countless centuries before a true Patriarch system was maintained.
Being tried by such men is too much of honor. I bend the knee out of respect and disgrace, my sin feels less natural and I less smug.
“Patriarch David Matchworth, 92nd Noah Commander of the 122nd Samson mix infantry, you stand accused of the brutal slaying of Patriarch Kevin Steward of the Library of Earth Natural Archive and History, using standard-issue Goliath Slayer …” kicked like a bitch without plate armor to absorb the shock, “… death by gunshot wound through the chest. Do you plead guilty?”
“Can you speak of the motive, if any, for this senseless crime?”
“For the good of all things holy, decent, and human”
I take note of the speaker. She doesn’t look past the age of 40, but those eyes, those eyes told a different tale. A thousand years? Maybe two? Inhumanly old and sure, not hard, not cold, or even judgmental; just sure that I am wrong and she is right– not opinion, but straight fact. I hated those eyes, but understood the logic behind them. Too old; I am 217 years old, six cryo’s and one of them a long cryo at least by the standard of someone my age and rank. Are her eyes my fate as well?
“He wished to communicate with the godless demons below.” I nearly croak. I forced my voice to come out sure and true; the first lesson I learned 205 years ago when I was learning the basis of Newtonian physics– no one believes a shaking, stuttering voice and I have taken that lesson to heart; even now where most men will break into tears under the eyes of the Wise Men or in the presence of an Adam.
“A Patriarch attempting to communicate with the savages on the surface!? Are we to believe this madness? Should we give you a medal for your bravery?”
She mocks me.
“If you had knowledge of Patriarch Kevin Steward’s intentions to travel to the surface with such a foolish idea, why didn’t you simply report to us?”
He accuses me.
“He was stealing a shuttle.”
I silence them for a moment, though not a long one.
“Then arrest him. Surely a man of your prowess can subdue an untrained man in single combat?”
“My martial prowess doesn’t grant me superhuman facilities, especially without armor. It was a split-second decision to kill him before he closed the door, as the place you found Patriarch Kevin’s body should attest to.”
“Who goes patrolling the ARKs hangar with a loaded Goliath Slayer? Did you recently become a David?”
“I was coming from the target range when I saw Patriarch Kevin moving toward the hanger bay, so I followed him until I could ascertain his purpose.”
“So you stalked him with a loaded weapon until you found a good place to dispose of him with minimal witnesses.”
“I confessed to the murder.”
“A whole day after you committed the crime.”
“I was in shock,” a lie, “our people haven’t killed our own since …”
“Enough. If you knew of Patriarch Kevin’s intentions you should have told us first, obviously you knew his plans beforehand or else you wouldn’t have followed him. You also felt he was serious enough to actually commit the folly or his trip near the hanger bay wouldn’t have raised alarms. So why didn’t you make the obvious choice, if that was the real reason to have killed Patriarch Kevin in cold blood?”
The truth is, Kevin wasn’t alone in this fool hardy plan, but he was the one who voiced his opinion to me, believing that laughing together 200 years ago was going to earn sympathy for his cause. He wanted me to come with him. Even when I pointed the gun inches from his chest, he still argued for his “humane” approach to this conflict. Conquest was a bloody business, we all knew that, but with the Samsons, well, we didn’t have to know firsthand how bloody it can be. Maybe if we did, we wouldn’t be so quick to exterminate all of the works of the Scientist with such zeal. Kevin argued a point that anyone in Noah knew already, but only mattered when we judged the difficulty of a campaign. We all knew that they were intelligent, as he often pointed out. Sentient species occupy the surface of our motherland, not mindless beasts that should provoke no more sympathy than a cow being maimed for beef. The ‘gifts’ the Scientist left behind to inherent the Earth are but distorted versions of what used to be humble animals we learned about in Earth biological history. But Kevin … he believed that these creatures were redeemable. The bugs, no, he agreed they must die, but what crawled with two legs instead of six could be reasoned with.
So what did I do when my friend of 200 years past decided that he must steal a shuttle and travel to the surface to “come in peace,” taking with him whatever experimental devices he could smuggle to help translate the clicks and growls considered a language by the savages below? What did I do when he waved away the danger of presenting our technology to the aliens? When he waved away the idea of presenting this plan to the Wise Men so they can give him an armed escort and contingency plan, in case something inevitably goes wrong – “when you get careless,” I remember pointing out. Oh yes, I could have brought him before the Wise Men and they would have laughed and hollered about the foolishness of this “mission.” They may even convince Kevin to concede his point, no doubt, letting him go to his own quarters, thinking all is well, dropping their guard, my guard.
And that wasn’t going to happen. It was treason, against the state, against humanity, against all god-fearing creatures still alive in this cold dead universe. They may say and rightly that the study of the martial, of war and its history, has awakened some deep primal desire for blood mayhem that encompassed much of our early history as humans young in this universe. That the Davids were irredeemable men too filled with blood-lust to rejoin a humanity that survived the emptiness of space for millennia without spilling a drop of blood. Noah will probably be broken down and its memory left only to archives, and that may be for the ultimate good of mankind.
Once the war is over.
But when there is a war, a war that demands the sacrifice of faceless soldiers who are bred for battle and nothing else, then why should we Patriarchs risk the balance between victory and defeat by endangering our one advantage against the demons endless numbers? What right did Kevin have to risk undoing the work of countless men never to have children or live past the age of 30? Rights even the masses that waste space on the ARK ships are afforded, even though all they do for the betterment of mankind is empty their bowels in the designated holes and pop more screaming mouths to feed.
“I’ll take your silence as proof of your guilt. That you committed your crime in cold blood with no just cause.”
I keep my silence; truly what else is there to say? The fools would have never tried Kevin for treason, even if one of the Adams was among their number!
“It is by our right, for the betterment of mankind and the future of humanity, to punish you in proportion to your crimes.”
“However,” a different voice takes over, a grey hair sitting above ageless black eyes. A face that was once dark brown is now a shallow brown leaning to a type of grey because of all the years in artificial lighting. He almost looks his age, if the human lifespan elongated unnaturally over a period of a thousand plus years could even be remotely represented in the long grim face of this man.
“The normal precedent for your crime would not satisfy this court. Life internment would just waste the valuable time of a Patriarch, and no doubt a man of your cunning could easily gull a commoner into slacking his guard just enough to allow your escape, if a commoner could be trusted with such an important task. Some Wise Men suggest we use a Samson for your guard … that is unwise. There is also a matter of what cell would we waste to keep you? Hmm, truly there is a dark corner somewhere on this ship unsuitable for even a commoner to live in. But I ask of you here, my fellow Wise Men, should we debase ourselves to subjecting a Patriarch to inhumane conditions?”
I watch the heads shake in silence, some more bitter about agreeing with the grey Adam than others.
“Nevertheless, there is a precedent to be set here; if imprisonment is not practical, should we partake in your sin Patriarch David Matchworth? Murder one of our own? Find a humane way to end your sin? By our hand I think not. I say nay, we leave your fate to the sword, as you lived by. For killing a man, a Patriarch, not in war, or defense, but in cold blood, with gun in one hand and sword in your heart, this council banishes you to the surface, to spend the rest of your days amongst the godless and abominations. We grant you the rank of David, a rank of honor given to Patriarchs that wish to face the enemy with pistol and lance in hand. You will meet the surface as a David in Goliath armor, armed with the holy flames of napalm with two tanks to sustain your wrath. Understand that this is a mercy, afforded to you by a merciful court that heard your arguments and pleas and judged righteously. When you die by the hands of creatures as abominable as your sin, do know that even your death is an honor, for you to die as a David, and that your soul is cleansed, as you slay the demons of mankind with flame and steel. “
“Any last word before the court, Patriarch David Matchworth?”