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Rob Morris



From the Personal Journal of Samuel T. Cogley, Attorney At Law

October 1st 2266, 6:00pm

My former client, Captain James T. Kirk, has kindly and promptly sent me a character deposition concerning his one-time friend and my current client, Benjamin Finney. Sadly, that is the only thing that has gone right in the past few days. Captain Kirk’s only bitterness, unlikely for the present to be addressed, concerns why Mister Finney never openly told him of how deep his hatred of his old friend ran. In an accompanying package, he also includes a gift, a book from his own collections. It concerns various legal efforts throughout the centuries to ban Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. I look forward to reading it. I only wish I had one-tenth the enthusiasm for my current case.

In short, my client does not wish to be helped.

In the conference room, Ben Finney waved his hands in the air. "There’s no point in this, Counselor. I did it, I was seen doing it, I admitted doing it all, and they can prove everything. Let’s just throw my fate on the mercy of the court. My head is clear for the first time in I don’t know how long, and while it is, I want to do the right thing. For Jamie’s sake, if for nothing else."

"I must warn you, Mister Finney. That mercy is apt to be no mercy at all. Institutions hate being tricked, and their penalties against the trickster are often much stiffer than normal."

"No. I can’t mount a defense. It actually took Jamie telling me how hard my faked death was on her for me to even get that. I won’t hurt her any more. Besides, there is no defense. I know this organization. You don’t threaten the lives of other officers and not get sent away. The moral and personal implications are taking awhile to sink in. The practical ones, though? I see those just fine."

Cogley shook his head. "I’m not sure you do. They’re likely to severely limit any use of insanity as a mitigating factor. Your coherence and meticulousness in putting the scheme together will work against that. Mister Finney, you may even end up in a facility that will not let your daughter see you on anything resembling a regular basis. It may in fact be years between visits."

Finney’s face lost its hard edge at those words. "Do what you can. You have my permission to go where you have to, at least to keep me somewhere I can still see my daughter when possible. I couldn’t live without that. But there is one exception, Counselor. And on this I will not relent. Not one little bit."

Cogley nodded. "Just don’t tie my hands too much..."

"Well, it shouldn’t, but I don’t care if it does. My exception is Jim Kirk. Don’t involve him in my defense. At all."

"He did give me a deposition..."

"Not what I mean. I mean, even if you find that something he did led me down this path, or some mitigating circumstance like that, some legal obscurity that shows he didn’t let me have enough shore leave or whatever—don’t involve him."

Cogley had not intended, nor had he seen among his options, any defense that involved James Kirk in any substantive way. His role as prime target of Finney’s scheme was well established and not a point of contention between the legal adversaries. "Are you still bitter towards him?"

"Yes—and no. Last night I thought about an old argument we had, just after he reported me. Jim asked me whether or not I would tolerate an officer who would cover up the kind of error I made." Finney glanced around the empty room, his eye catching the holocam in the corner of the ceiling. "At the time, I just kept yelling. It was too fresh a pain. But this time, I could see what he was saying. If he had tried to cover for me, I would have been furious. That’s not the officer I trained. That’s not the officer I was." His eyes met Cogley’s. "I want to find that man again, Mister Cogley. Maybe someday, I can even find the friend I lost in all this. But love him or hate him, I’ve caused Jim enough grief. So even if it means the worst—keep him out of it."

I can’t say having this line drawn decreases my options, because there is nothing less than zero. Adding to my dilemma is the intransigence of my esteemed opponent, Areel Shaw. I am often forced to wonder why a defense attorney who attempts to ensure a fair trial for a client they know to have committed a crime is called a legal obstructionist, while a prosecutor who demands merely an up or down vote on the yes or no of the accused’s guilt with no mitigating factors is dedicated and focused. Areel Shaw is no mere zealot, and I would be a fool to underestimate her. But she is also too apt to see a given case, even one such as this, as simply cut and dry. It is her sole weakness as a jurist, and to serve my client well, I must exploit it.

"A plea agreement? Mister Cogley, tell him to plead guilty. Please remember, your tour de force performance in the acquittal of Jim Kirk was backed up by his provable innocence. But we all heard Finney gleefully confess to at least five serious crimes. You’ve made sure that my team crossed all the T’s and dotted all the I’s, to a degree we rarely have before. You’ve done everything to ensure your client receives fair treatment. I’d let it go at that."

"And if he pleads guilty, Madame Prosecutor? What then? Isn’t it true that under Starfleet’s uniform code of service, any number of officials can intervene in Mister Finney’s sentencing, for good or bad?"

A nerve had been struck. Shaw plainly disliked this aspect of her job. "Starfleet is a military hierarchy, Counselor. If you’re asking me if there will be pressure to throw the book at Ben Finney no matter what his plea, then the answer is yes. A betrayal of this sort is deeply felt. I’ve had inquiries asking about whether Finney’s entire reason for joining the Enterprise crew was to carry out his attempt at revenge. If that sort of possible pre-meditation is taken into account, it will not carry in Finney’s favor."

Cogley laid it on the line. "Miss Shaw, can you, in exchange for a full plea of guilt on all charges, guarantee that my client will be able to see his daughter on occasion, without excessive travel time or hardship placed upon her?"

"The anger in this fleet runs too deep, Mister Cogley. If the death penalty could be invoked, there are those who would like to see it invoked here."

"Even though Finney’s scheme failed?"

"An example will be set, Mister Cogley. Ben Finney had a grievance with Captain Kirk and with Starfleet. There are ways of addressing those kinds of grievances, outside of vigilante actions and insane conspiracies. If Finney is even perceived as having gotten off lightly, it will send a message to every officer that decides to hold onto a grudge: Just frame the party that’s offended you, and if necessary, blow up a ship of the line filled with high-ranking officers in order to do it. No, Mister Cogley, I will not allow that message to be sent. Not by this officer."

Cogley did not back away. "We both know that no such message would be sent, and that my client is not facing anything resembling a light sentence. I accept that my client did bad things, Madame Prosecutor. Very bad things. I just spent a good week prior to all this helping to undo some of those things. But I will not in good conscience let you lock the door and throw away the key on a man who is so obviously broken in mind, body and spirit."

"Well, that’s a damned pity, Counselor. Because I plan to personally take a phaser to that fabled key, and then use that phaser to seal the door shut. If somehow Commodore Stone buys some of the wilder arguments I know you are capable of offering up, I’ll ask for his recusal. No machine to rail against here, Mister Cogley. Just one vengeful man and the piss-poor choices he made!"

Cogley pulled back, but to change tactics, not to retreat. "It must have been difficult."

"What must have been difficult, Mister Cogley?"

"Prosecuting Captain Kirk. Even if I disallow every last bit of gossip, I know that you two are close friends. But you gave it your all. Strictly by the numbers, you had me beaten. Soundly."

Shaw smiled. "Don’t try and use flattery on me, Mister Cogley. You’re not as good at it as your former client."

"It’s not flattery. It’s a fact. You had me beaten, despite the sharp pain of doing your best to level an old friend’s career."

"We all do what we must. Surely you’ve had clients you felt needed to be represented, no matter how personally loathsome you found them. The same holds true doubly for someone in the Starfleet JAG."

Cogley was not as good as his former client in some methods of social interaction. In other ways, though, he was better. "Yet as you pointed out before, both my loss and your victory were rendered meaningless by the exposure of Ben Finney’s scheme. It eats at me to lose my case based on records so easily falsified, at least relatively speaking. I think that it must pain you to know that the summoning of will to have at your old friend Captain Kirk was not only unnecessary, but predicated upon a fraud."

Shaw’s smile was gone. "Your point?"

"My point is this, Miss Shaw. I am privately warning you not to visit your rage at being tricked and used upon my client. You found the will to press charges against a man you hold dear. I task you to find that same will to keep that rage in check, as you prosecute the man who made you prosecute your friend."

"I am a professional, Mister Cogley. Just as you can find it in you to defend a man who tried to kill you and several others, I can and will find the means to give your client the fairness he deserves, but has not remotely earned. Got me?"

Cogley nodded. "My apologies if I went too far. But a plea agreement is still in the best interest of all concerned. He’ll serve real time, so long as he is permitted to see his daughter every so often. Why are you so resistant to a settlement?"

Now, Shaw looked neither angry nor combative. "There are rumors that should your legal sorcery see Mister Finney to a lighter sentence than some highly-placed figures want, the case will be lifted from Commodore Stone and a trial for Finney on different charges will follow. Let me put him in the ground, Mister Cogley. I can at least guarantee he sees daylight once in a while. If you help him too well, you will condemn him to a fate quite possibly worse than death."

October 1st, 2266, 9:00pm

It’s wrong to antagonize her, and it’s unlike me. But my blood boils to hear that facts other than those of the case will play such an overt role in this trial. I am as stuck as I was when I saw the altered video evidence that nearly ended James Kirk’s career. What worth has this trial, our system of justice, and my career as an attorney if all I can do is guarantee my client that the paperwork was properly filed?

I cannot stop Ben Finney from spending a significant amount of time in prison. But I must find a way to remove the word ‘example’ from his fate. He will answer for what he’s done. He must not be made to answer for who he might have offended. Not while I practice law.


"Mister Cogley?" The officer ran to catch up to Cogley.

"Can I help you, Mister...?"

"Tim DeLugo. Are you still in contact with Jim Kirk?"

The question slightly confused Cogley. "Yes, of course. But is there something wrong with the Starbase communications center?"

"Not at all. Its just that Jim was in an understandable hurry to get out of here, and well, I wasn’t sure he’d want to talk to me."

"An argument?"

DeLugo shook his head, and looked a bit pensive. "I didn’t give him time for one. When I thought—when we all thought—that Ben Finney was dead, I’m afraid I really got in his face."

Cogley felt a stirring of something, but he couldn’t define it just yet. "Was this during the trial?"

"No. It was before Commodore Stone even met with him. We heard about Ben, then we heard there was evidence saying it was Jim’s fault, and tempers built up pretty quick."

Cogley’s nerves were still a bit raw from pondering his difficult case. "We lawyers have a saying about those kinds of situations, Mister DeLugo. A little concept called ‘innocent until proven guilty’. The next time you hear loose talk, you may not wish to tighten it up so much. It may end up forming a noose around your own neck."

DeLugo did not respond in kind, but nor did he back off. "I guess I have that coming. But you know what, Counselor? I know why Ben Finney went mad. He and our entire graduating class live in Jim’s shadow. It’s not an unearned light, but living in that shadow gets to every one of us, except maybe Lystra Davis and Thrax. Hell, it broke Janice Lester before she even graduated the Academy. I wouldn’t want to be Jim’s kid or relation entering the Academy someday. That shadow will probably eat them alive. Wait. You’re not going to use what I said in court, are you?"

Cogley reassured him. "Even if I agreed with what you’ve said, and even if I thought it would sway the board of inquiry, my client has requested that I refrain from basing any defense on criticism of Captain Kirk."

"Well, at least he’s finally standing up instead of skulking in the shadows. What I said aside, Ben has to pay for all this. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s someone who doesn’t have the guts to say it to your face."

While this talk echoed Kirk’s lament about Finney, Cogley still questioned it. "Ben Finney should go to prison for not being able to fully make Kirk aware of his hatred?"

"No. He should see prison time for attempted murder, among other things. For not speaking up and laying it on the line, though? For that he should suffer."

October 2nd 2266, 2:45pm

I wish that Mister DeLugo were alone in his opinion. But soon after that encounter, I met with a young lady who, if I infer correctly, turned down an inquiry/advance from Captain Kirk, this despite hearing favorable things about him from a friend. She also described Mister DeLugo’s tense encounter with Kirk, and seemed to describe a room ready to lynch my former client, who at that point had yet to even be accused. James Kirk’s case is done, though, his name cleared and those who jumped the gun on his judgment left to ponder the risks and pitfalls of doing so.

I talked with these people in hopes of gaining some insight that would help Ben Finney. But all I am seeing is how deeply his actions have enraged the culture he was once party to. They acted in haste to roundly condemn one man. They did not like what that brought out in them, especially when it was revealed they had been tricked. They now seek to roundly condemn the deceiver, the trickster in question, while reflexively ignoring the hard lessons of any rush to judgement, even against one whose technical guilt is not in question.

I say technical guilt, because guilt exists on several levels. If I cannot mount a true insanity defense, then I must find a factor that places Finney one to several steps away from being in control and cognizant of his own actions. Miss Shaw’s opinion of me aside, I am not so skilled as to make a man in Finney’s position walk off lightly. Yet I am charged with keeping him in a position to one day walk as a free man again. That task may in fact be well beyond me. Perhaps it’s time I admitted that. Perhaps Ben Finney’s only chance lies with someone else as his defense counsel.

Stone wasn’t having any of it. "I won’t release you from an obligation you yourself sought out, Mister Cogley. If in a fit of self-approval after clearing Kirk, you took on a case too big for you, I think that you must learn to live with it. But I don’t believe that to be the case, so to speak. You are uniquely qualified to see to it that Finney is well represented. You showed your skills in Kirk’s case. I know that the challenge of facing you again has sharpened Areel Shaw and her people to their very best."

Cogley moved to end this, as best he could. "What use are either of our skills, Commodore, if any verdict short of the harshest will see this case retried under another jurisdiction?"

"Heard about that, did you? Well, while it has some basis, Counselor, I will say that for now, it is more rumor than reality."

"With all respect, sir, I can’t allow that to be good enough. I won’t fight for a client whose doom is predestined. Is this a modern twist on the courts of Post-Atomic Horror China? Are the defense counsels merely to be neutered, instead of lined up and shot?"

Stone had listened to all that Cogley had said, perhaps better than Cogley himself had. "I don’t think that Finney’s defense is unsalvageable, if not strictly defined by a verdict of guilty. That is nearly inevitable, I’m afraid. Perhaps the problem is yours, Mister Cogley. Perhaps you simply don’t understand Starfleet."

"No, Commodore. I understand very well Starfleet’s uniform code of justice, and the wide latitude it has against the accused, by prior agreement of the accused when they take their oath of service. Though I will scrutinize the new charges brought against him, if it comes to that, for the instance of double jeopardy."

"His actions crossed multiple jurisdictions, Mister Cogley. There won’t be any double jeopardy. And I wasn’t referring to the Starfleet legal system. No, I was referring to the culture of Starfleet. I don’t wish to have this case taken from me. The best way I can insure that doesn’t happen is to have you, Miss Shaw, and myself all at our very best, and producing between our efforts a verdict that no one dares to dispute. And I’m not just offering you help here. Should you be at anything other than your best and brightest when in that hearing, I will, based on the conversation we’ve just had, refer you to the Federation Bar Association for disciplinary action."

While not wishing it to happen at phaser-point, Cogley was partly pleased to have been talked out of abandoning his client. "I understand, Commodore. But if I am in fact ignorant of Starfleet culture, how do I go about correcting that?"

"Read a book. There happens to be a hard-copy of a classic piece in our reading room written by Soo Chi, a ship’s captain who served Starfleet almost a century ago. It’s a brilliant piece. While written about Starfleet before the Klingons presented themselves as a major threat and the Orions were the bane of the spaceways, its lessons tend to be transcendent. Other than that bit of information, Mister Cogley—you’re on your own."

October 2nd 2266, 7:38pm

He’s a brave man. What he’s done could be seen as collusion, though I think I could handle that one. I wish that my problem with Finney were a mere crisis of confidence, or halting rage rising to the surface over having been one of the inadvertent targets of his deadly sabotage. Either of those I could overcome. I’ve done it before, with people far worse than Ben Finney could ever manage at his worst. No, my problem is that I fight for my client. I find a way. I find that angle that the prosecutors, bless them, always overlook even when prosecuting the worst of defendants.

Of course, by that I mean, alleged defendants.

It is one thing for Miss Shaw and the commodore to have pre-judged this case. Although that fact is technically loathsome, I’d be a fool to expect that they would carry none of the baggage of the previous court-martial. Yet they have a third partner in their potential rush to judgement, and that is my client himself. Like so many drunk on anger, he’s become sober and is showing the beginnings of true repentance.

He wants to pay, and they want to make him pay.

There are forces lined up against me, all with the best of intentions, with the possible exception of those unnamed parties that feel an arrived-at sentence can be too lenient. For them I hold nothing but contempt. Perhaps in order to help Ben Finney, I must speak to the one remaining person who without a doubt wants him to one day again be a free man.

I hope.

A young woman understandably nervous and upset did her best to help Cogley. Her voice broke only a bit as she read from the document. "...and he goes on.

"But I’ve come to realize that Jim Kirk is only the shiny tip of a huge iceberg. He did his job. Maybe with a little too much zeal, and without regard for who he was hurting, but he only started the boulder rolling. It’s the others. All the others. I think Jim at least has some inkling of the ruin he’s made of my life, and perhaps regrets it, though it won’t be enough when the time comes, and it’s coming soon.

"The others, though? Officers and gentlemen all. Raised up on the backs of ‘failures’ like myself. Jim will face ruin, because he is still enough of a man to recognize why it has fallen on him. But for all of those who really killed Ben Finney, payment has to come in kind. I’ve already started to cipher it all out.

"Maybe I’ll have to let them all finish off poor old Finney. One way or another, they’ll provide me with the opportunity. Then, the best and the brightest, those who spend so much time excluding people on the basis of invisible rules they make up as they go along, will find that in the end, a list is a list, whether it’s the bottom of the promotion listings or..."

Jamie Finney’s heart seemed to be in her throat.

"...or the top of the obituary listings."

She swallowed and took a deep breath. "Mister Cogley, he starts out more coherently and less angry, but his diaries always have something of this. It’s like I didn’t know my father at all."

"When did you discover these?"

"Just before I was asked to board the Enterprise. I have to admit, I thought Uncle Jim was grasping at straws to say that my father might be alive. Now, I have odd moments where I almost wish he had died. He was planning all this while writing back to me about how great things were, and that he and Jim were starting to reconcile. I’d heard him say some things before he was assigned to the Enterprise, but until I was informed of...of the pod’s ejection, I’d thought it was all behind them."

Cogley sighed. "My hands are tied, Miss Finney. Disclosure rules for both sides mean that I have to let Miss Shaw see these diaries. Though they seem to contain nothing of a concrete plan, they are highly indicative. I have to ask you once again if you know anything that takes some of the punch out of these words."

"Should the punch be taken out? My father—the one I knew, not the bitter man in these diaries—always taught me that you have to deal with the consequences of what you do. He tried to ruin Jim’s career, kill people, destroy the Enterprise—all based on the reporting of an error he doesn’t dispute making."

She turned away. "I don’t want to think poorly of my father. I love him. But he was so deeply buried in his hate that he didn’t even think about what it would do to me or our family to think he was dead. Mister Cogley, that’s the only time in his life he’s ever disregarded me."

"Are you angry with him?"

"Somewhat. But I’m also confused. Was he delusional, or did this one mistake really end his career for all intents and purposes? If it did, does that mean there was someone out to get him? I can’t see any mistake that didn’t kill anyone ended up having such an impact."

Jamie was far from being the only one confused on that front.

October 3rd 2266, 10:22am

Finney’s mistake aboard the U.S.S. Republic—when Kirk reported his leaving a switch to the atomic matter piles open—could easily have been catastrophic. It easily explains why Finney was sent to the bottom of the promotion list. I am not so clear, however, as to why he stayed there. That may be the point that leads to the angle, the opening I’ve been looking for.

Commodore Stone’s book has been helpful. The captain who wrote it, regarded as one of the greatest captains of his day, has some interesting insights to offer, albeit mixed in with some disturbing xenophobia...a product of his times, I suppose. It’s not so much blatant bigotry as a wariness of the survivability of Terran culture against the ‘challenge’ of alien peoples such as the Orions. It almost borders on the superstitious, and so far it helps me not at all. The slight paranoid edge that inhabits the book’s era of early warp space travel does make me think, though. As Finney was for Kirk, is there someone out there for Finney? Not someone trying to frame him, so much as someone who perhaps placed him in a frame he could not escape? I know who to put that question to, and this time, I will not be put off.

"Frankly, I wish there was a conspiracy. You know what the nice thing about conspiracies is, Mister Cogley? That there’s someone behind it all. You break into the lead conspirator’s headquarters, get him to confess, then punch him in the nose and have him hauled off. Then, everyone who badmouthed you comes around to apologize, and you walk off with the girl." Finney seemed misty while saying this, and almost chuckled a bit.

Cogley was not having it. He threw down the diary files, opened to the entries Jamie Finney had showed him. "Don’t lie to me, Mister Finney. Your own scheme was predicated on revenging yourself on all those you felt wronged you. Do you have any idea what Areel Shaw will do to you on the stand if I try and make you seem like some kind of philosopher? Revisionism won’t help you reconcile with Jamie. Very much the opposite."

Finney slammed his hand down, drawing the attention, but not the actual entry, of the guards outside the conference room. "It’s not revisionism! Yes, I now have some perspective on what I tried to do. Time to think is all I have, all I’m likely to have for the foreseeable future, and all my actions are now staring back at me. You try and be in that position and not gain something from sifting through the ashes."

"Do you deny being bitter towards James Kirk and other officers?"

"I deny nothing. Yes, I was bitter. I still am bitter. Bitter as hell. We wouldn’t be sitting here right now if I wasn’t."

Cogley tried to calm things, and happily, Finney seemed prepared to let him. "All right. Do you feel that these officers and others were out to get you? Because that’s what these diaries seem to be saying, and I can guarantee you, that is how Miss Shaw will characterize them."

Finney breathed in, and then offered up a distinction. "I never said that they were out to get me. I said that they ruined me."

"Semantics. I couldn’t fault Commodore Stone if he allowed them as evidence of mindset."

"It’s not just semantics. I never believed I was under a conspiracy, Mister Cogley. See, that’s the other reason people believe in conspiracies against them. It’s comforting to know that someone gives a damn, even if they’re doing their damnedest to destroy you. I didn’t want their hides because they had set out to ruin me. I wanted revenge for what they did—and what I perceived they did—while not giving a tinker’s damn about me. I guess I wanted revenge against Jim, most of all, because he still seemed to care while joining with them anyway. Do you see now why I wanted to just throw myself on the mercy of the court?"

Cogley brought out Stone’s book. "That time may yet come, Mister Finney. But before that, you are going to guide me through this book, and help me to understand things I plainly don’t. Things about the culture of Starfleet."

"If it helps me to eventually see Jamie again, I’ll do it. But why do you want this?"

Without realizing it, Cogley quoted his former client. "I have a plan."

October 3rd 2266, 1:36pm

I think that I gained what I wanted from my reading with Finney. Whether it was what I needed is yet to be determined.

I now sit with my client as Miss Shaw expertly takes him apart. The diaries are not the help to her I feared, but that is because she plainly does not need them to make her case. Even if fighting it out on the objections was in my game plan, I’d find very little to stand on in this trial. My game is a dangerous one, and it places my client in potential jeopardy. But as he himself put it, potential jeopardy beats the guaranteed kind hands down.

These small entries will end, now, along with the summation of Areel Shaw’s case.

"So, Doctor Freimensch, is it then your opinion that Ben Finney was not so mentally disturbed as to not be cognizant of his actions, and of their potential for mayhem?"

"That is my opinion. If Mister Finney had been truly insane to the point of not being responsible for his actions, he would have allowed his plan to have a noticeable flaw. A cry for help, so to speak."

"And do you concur with Doctor Couernoveau that what Commander Spock found in his diagnostic of the Enterprise computer was not such a cry for help?"

"Yes. The plan was airtight, except for that tiny flaw, and the genius of the man investigating it. There is nothing in this plan or my subsequent interviews with him that makes me believe that Mister Finney meant to do anything but succeed in that plan."

The psychiatrist was dismissed, and Shaw began to make her closing statement.

"Mister Cogley has allowed his client to enter a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. As you have now been shown, this was simply not the case. With the defendant already conceding the actions of which he has been accused, Mister Cogley would have you believe now that his client was not responsible for those actions. Starfleet has proven that Ben Finney knew what he was doing, and was capable of stopping himself, as when he did so to save the life of his daughter. A truly insane man would have not cared about his child, so long as his desire for revenge was sated.

"Was Mister Finney disturbed? I think I can concede that with no problem. His actions were those of a disturbed mind. But does this meet the criteria necessary to excuse his actions in a court of law? The prosecution rests at this time, feeling certain that we have proven our case, that Finney cannot be excused from the consequences of his actions. We reserve the right to re-engage at a future point, though I see the need for this as being technical only. Ben Finney was not insane, and the full force and weight of Starfleet law must be brought to bear, to punish his egregious acts."

Shaw sat, and Cogley felt he would know whether his next and really his only surprise would work by what she did as he began.

"I call as witness Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Finney."

He didn’t look at Shaw directly. Rather, he watched as one of her assistants left. This was the sign he’d hoped for. While she may have prepared to possibly deal with Finney in cross-examination, Shaw had obviously not thought she’d really have that chance. The assistant, if Cogley read things correctly, was sent off to fetch that file from her office. Cogley only hoped he’d be far enough along in his path by the time Shaw got her chance at Finney.

"Mister Finney, what are you charged with?"

"Sabotage, multiple accounts of attempted murder, fraud against a fellow officer, and more than I can honestly remember."

"And what plea have you entered for these charges?"

"Not guilty by reason of insanity."

"Have you heard the argument presented by prosecution witnesses as to why you were arguably not insane?"

"Yes. But they’re wrong. Look, I wasn’t off giggling in a corner somewhere—"

Finney stopped for a second. It was only the lack of even the barest hint of levity in his voice that kept Shaw from raising objection when he resumed.

"At least not all of the time. But while those doctors can tell you that my coherence cancels my claim to outright insanity, I can sit here and tell all of you that I was more insane than not. It’s my mind, and I wasn’t right in it. About anything."

Cogley continued his tactic of seemingly doing Shaw’s work for her, though no one anywhere in the room saw it as anything but a tactic. "Mister Finney, I myself can vouch for at least one of the psychiatrists brought in by the prosecution, and I’ve heard nothing but good things about the other. Please tell me why you believe them, these learned men, to be wrong."

"Because they don’t understand Starfleet culture in my circumstance."

"Yet aren’t both witnesses Starfleet officers? How could they fail to know a culture they are immersed in?"

Finney on occasion gave Cogley a look of genuine annoyance. Counsel and witness had prepared, but they had not practiced, the testimony given that day. Its intent had been discussed, but never its content. It was this spontaneous element that kept Stone and Shaw from speaking up sooner than they might have. Yet Cogley knew full well what would happen when their patience was drained. In a page taken from his former client, Cogley had decided to risk the worst when it seemed that the worst was the biggest probability in any event.

"They know it all. I don’t mean that the way it sounded, but they do know a lot. But no one knows me. No one knows the path I’ve been on. The path I started on when I failed to catch the mistake that Jim Kirk caught for me."

"And what is it you allege about your path?"

Finney seemed to have a true lump in his throat. "I got sent to the bottom of the promotion list for that error aboard the Republic. And that is where I stayed. It took me a long while to figure that one out. When I did, that is when I began to draw up my plans to do the things I’m now charged with."

"Are you alleging that there was a conspiracy against you?"

Finney waved his hand in a slicing motion through the air in front of him. "No. No one ever said, ‘Let’s get Ben Finney.’ I almost wish they had. You can expose such people, or confront them and maybe persuade them that they’re wrong. But I wasn’t facing the vendetta of one person. I was the subject of a campaign against me. Against all like me."

Cogley saw the first signs that the theater was wearing thin on its audience. "Then what do you say you faced? And who was like you?"

"What I faced was a campaign of whispers. No one honest enough to tell me they didn’t want me around. Just looks and glances. The new people on a posting pulled aside and told that dealing with me beyond the necessities of duty was maybe not the greatest idea. I don’t know that this was said. I simply know what the results seemed to be."

Since it had taken Cogley several go-rounds with Finney to grasp what he meant, he didn’t need to feign confusion too hard then and there. "In the absence of a conspiracy or like vendetta, why would such a campaign be undertaken?"

"Because of my failure to catch the open switch on that atomic pile."

Cogley called the legal show to a halt before its last legs gave way. "So you are saying that the mistake in question haunted you socially as well as in your career?"

"Yes. Because while mistakes like mine are seen as possibly indicative of future negligence by Starfleet Command, in the rank and file, it means something far worse. In the first instance, you eventually get to earn your way past the mistake. It takes time, but you get off the bottom of that list, and maybe look better for having done so. Not in the second instance, though. Not by a long shot."

"It’s impossible to re-prove yourself to the rank and file?"

"It’s happened. But it takes an extraordinary circumstance. Barring that, you are something to be shunned, walked away from, and kept isolated. You are a failure. For a fleet that keeps overt religious expression to a minimum, there are still quite a few superstitions. One of those is to avoid the failure. Shun the one that makes the mistakes. He or she is infectious. Keep away. I’d seen it before my mistake. I’d even participated in it, unknowingly at the time. But now I was its target, and you can never remove those targeting scanners."

Cogley attempted to bring home his point. "Surely there was some posting in which this was called a halt to?"

Finney smiled somewhat grimly. "There was. It was the Enterprise. Jim was the first one to give me a major posting, and to make sure his crew put that kind of attitude aside. Looking back, it’s probably why I went after him. Even beyond who I blamed for that first mark on my record, it was the first taste of fairness, after so long being defined as some sort of jinx, that was more than I could handle anymore. So let the psychiatrists have their say. Let me be placed in the deepest darkest hole you can find. My words will still be true. Starfleet has two ways to punish failures, and it’s the unofficial one that drove me to the actions which I freely admit I undertook. I wasn’t incapable of rational thought. I just had no use for it anymore, because the process by which I’d been excluded was also not based in rational thought."

A silence fell over the courtroom, and Cogley’s best instincts told him that at the very least, the testimony was not being dismissed out of hand. "While we reserve the right to speak again, the defense rests at this time."

Cogley never once imagined that Areel Shaw would let this go unchallenged. In fact, her challenge was to be a ferocious one as she began her cross-examination.

"Mister Finney, did Starfleet Command order you to fake your own death, deceiving everyone, including your own child?"


"Did the board of review for the nuclear pile incident aboard the U.S.S. Republic force you to alter and falsify ship’s records, for the purpose of framing Captain Kirk for your wrongful death?"


"And did these alternately silent and snickering officers you speak of plot out the suicidal destruction of a starship along with valued members of its senior staff and a peer group of starship commanders? Mister Finney, are these supposed tormentors of yours the actual ones to commit these crimes, crimes you seem not to dispute?"

"No. I did it all. Me. Ben Finney."

Shaw shrugged broadly. "Are you certain? Because it seems to me that what you’re saying is, it’s all someone else’s fault."

Finney shook his head. "I did it all, and I am going down for it. But where I am, Madame Prosecutor, I didn’t get to alone. And when I am sent away, it’ll be for definable wrongs actually written down, with consequences written down and codified with reason as their guide."

"Would that be the same reason you used when plotting your commanding officer’s downfall and disgrace?"

"No. That would be the reason I failed to use. Had I used my powers of reasoning, I would have called all of you out, and demanded that either my one early mistake become part of the past, or that everyone just say what was on their minds. No more shunning. No more whispers. If someone didn’t want me around, then at last I would have demanded they have the guts to say it out loud. But reason failed me."

Shaw was allowing him nothing. "You’ve played many parts in this, Mister Finney. But you simply don’t play the part of victim all that well. Why don’t you just admit that this pastiche of a defense was the final play of a brilliant attorney in his attempt to save a client who has already conceded every last technical point before arguments even began?"

Finney was yielding nothing. "I am a victim. A victim of myself, and my own blind rage. Rage as blind as the attitude that so enraged me; I turned against the one man who might have given my grievance a fair hearing, had I just let him. You indict me. That’s your right for what I’ve done. Well, I indict the culture of Starfleet itself. It’s a good thing. It works. People who make mistakes need to be reminded of them, up to a point. But in its zeal, this culture has produced a casualty. Not a victim, but a casualty. Cost of doing business. But if I’m to be struck down by a necessary flaw in the system, I’ll want that considered as I am punished. I’ll own up if you will."

Shaw turned and briefly looked at Cogley, then back at Finney. "A superior job of rehearsal. You and your attorney are to be commended on that, at least. Mister Cogley obviously spent a lot of time preparing your words..."

Cogley stood up at that. "Objection! Your Honor, my client is the defendant in a case that decides his freedom. In that instance, such coaching is a fair and reasonable method of preparing the case. Miss Shaw’s efforts to impugn this are repugnant."

Stone looked at Shaw, and it was very clearly a look of warning. "Objection sustained. Prosecutor, you will limit your comments to Mister Finney’s, not how he arrived at them."

"Understood, Your Honor."

Stone looked at Cogley. "That said, I will add that perhaps these very well-prepared statements might be better received if they came from you, Mister Cogley."

Finney raised his hand slightly. "Your Honor?"

"Yes, Mister Finney?"

"I’ll keep it brief. The words are Mister Cogley’s. But the thoughts are all mine. I’ll swear that to whatever you want me to swear by."

Stone nodded. "A defendant does have the right to have someone else help them focus their thoughts. But if your words start to sound like a summation, I’ll clear this hearing room at warp speed. Got me?"

Cogley was taking a chance, having his client deliver so much of what would normally be the province of the defense attorney. But he and Ben Finney had already come to the conclusion that in this lay their only real chance.

"I do understand, Commodore. I’m also tapped out on the speech-making. Those are the extent of my thoughts. The prosecutor can ask what she likes now. I’m just going to say what I’ve already said."

Shaw seemed determined that the defendant, especially one whose guilt was essentially a given, was not going to emerge with the stature Finney now seemed to have.

"You say you’re calling out the culture of Starfleet. Indicting it. Do you at least concede that your moral standing to do so is nearly non-existent?"

Finney accepted this diminishment, but not without exception. "My moral standing is exactly zero. And yet the charge stands. I was a good officer once. I should have been permitted to move past my mistake at some point. I wasn’t, and so here we are."

"Not quite, Mister Finney. Your crimes stand in-between that early error and your appearance in this court."

"And I will pay for those crimes according to codified law, and not rules written on air by nervous young officers wanting to avoid mistakes like mine by shunning people like me. Yes, I will pay, if for no other reason than I want to be able to look my future detractors in the eye and say unflinchingly, ‘debt paid in full.’ Whatever wrongs I’ve committed, and I’ve committed plenty as of this point, I will from now on demand that people speak up."

Shaw shrugged broadly. "If you do not dispute either your actions or the events surrounding them, then why not just plead guilty and have done with it? That is what a repentant accused felon does, Mister Finney. He owns up, as you put it, and takes the consequences. He doesn’t veer between the corners of a complicated insanity defense meant to take the focus off the very real crimes—not wrongs, but crimes—he’s committed."

Finney had the final word, whether he’d wanted it or not. "Because I don’t trust the system. The system was supposed to eventually end my punishment over the Republic incident. It never did. So I don’t trust it now to separate that incident from my actions aboard Enterprise. That I have to use this defense is what’s insane, Prosecutor. I have to attempt to get off scot-free just to make sure my punishment is nothing close to a life sentence, because that I do not deserve."

Perhaps finally realizing that she was diminishing her own status and enhancing Finney’s by this engagement, Shaw ended her questioning, while not resting her case. An aide running up to Commodore Stone would change all plans.

Stone made an unexpected announcement. "This hearing stands in recess. I will confer with the attorneys for each side—as well as the defendant—in my office. That’s immediately, people."

October 3rd 2266, 4:04pm

This was the part I had been looking forward to anxiously. But it had arrived early, forced on perhaps by the gamble I took with Finney’s insanity defense. Was the case about to be taken away from Commodore Stone by higher-ups dissatisfied with the possibility that Finney might only see a light sentence? Or had something clicked during my wager, that legendary mix of preparation and chance?

The story goes that a military officer on Earth during the 1950's became an ad hoc defense attorney for a man in his unit accused of grand theft. Flubbing his task infamously, the officer was heard to selfishly plea that the man’s guilt or innocence aside, the court-martial board should at least think of the officer’s reputation if he should lose the case. While I could never be so callous, my own fate is on my mind.

Will it now be Sam Cogley who endures a campaign of whispers, for a failure that could have been avoided by a simple guilty plea?

Shaw was close to incredulous, and Cogley was not too far behind her in that. "I don’t question Starfleet’s technical power to do this, Commodore. But to pull the rug out from under us before a verdict, or even closing arguments?"

"I stand with Miss Shaw on this one, sir. Starfleet’s been told truthfully of the thorn in its paw, and now it wants to eat the mouse that helped it to realize this!"

Stone sat, nearly as impassive as his surname, riding out the attorneys’ relative fit of privilege. "I believe that all I said is that Starfleet Command would prefer that the defense offered up by Mister Cogley not go forward. It has raised issues that Command would vastly prefer be settled internally. To that end, a plea deal can be arranged. It’s not a blank check, so don’t treat it as such. But Mister Finney may just get his wish in this on all levels. The potential problems involved in such ‘shunning’ will be explored, and some regulations placed to hopefully prevent this unofficial practice from being codified off the books, so to speak."

"But any plea deal in a case where the facts are this clear is nothing but an unconditional surrender. Sir, even the defendant has made no attempt to dispute the prosecution’s record of the chain of events!"

Cogley shook his head. "I cannot in good conscience advise my client to abandon a defense that has created such a complete turnaround in his accuser’s approach. I will in fact advise him to see matters through. If they wish to forget that this defense was ever raised, then I have to wonder if they will then conveniently forget any deal made with my client."

"Permission to speak, Your Honor?" asked the very subject of the trial.

"Actually, Mister Finney, I was hoping that you would do just that. Granted, with an extra allowance for due candor."

With an armed guard on either side of him, Finney showed that while his mind perhaps still plotted, it now did so far more soberly. "I have an offer to make. To get through the last few weeks, I imagined what I would ask for if I could in a circumstance like this. Mind you, I was certain it would never come up. But I have an offer. Fifteen years. The first five to seven at a facility geared more towards punishment than rehabilitation. During those years, regular video contact with my daughter, plus an annual brief visit. And that’s all I ask."

"Ben, I can guarantee you that we can get a better deal. Don’t do this," urged his attorney.

"Problem is, Mister Cogley—they have to agree to it as well. If I try and write too big a check, they’ll never cash it. Plus, I’m appealing to another court. The same unofficial court of opinion that helped drive me out of my mind. Do I still resent Jim Kirk reporting on me, beating me to Captain, and bringing Jamie on board the Enterprise? I think I do. But I’m a man who falsified records, framed another man, and tried to kill my peers while destroying a starship. In time, I’ll figure out how to stop hating a man who isn’t my enemy. For now, I have to stop people from automatically resenting me anymore. Let the whispers say, ‘He did his time,’ not ‘He got off easy.’"

Stone took down some notes, presumably on Finney’s proposal. "It sounds good, though I can offer no precise guarantees, of course. You do understand that not a single charge will actually be dropped?"

Cogley looked directly at Finney. "Ben, listen to me. You may feel like you’ve been given a measure of control over your own fate. But to my mind, you are no more prepared to make this choice than you were when Captain Kirk confronted you aboard the Enterprise."

Finney returned a courtesy. "Sam, you’re forgetting. It was only at that point, when Jim forcibly reminded me of Jamie, that I began to wake up. Now, I have another chance to wake up, from the twin nightmares of my own actions and the stubborn opinions of certain people. In many respects, I’ll never be more rational than this. I have to use my sanity while I have it. Because good deal or great deal, the years ahead of me are going to be rough."

Shaw made another attempt to keep the case in the hands of the people she deeply felt it belonged with. "Commodore, while I firmly disagree with Mister Cogley’s argument, displacing as it does responsibility for Mister Finney’s crimes, it is a theory that deserves to be heard and hashed out in a court of law. I feel I can beat it. It has glaring holes and many weaknesses. But win or lose, I fail to see why Starfleet wants it dispensed with entirely."

Stone nodded. "Madame Prosecutor, whether we like it or not, there is some legitimacy to Mister Finney’s claims of shunning and its effects. I feel you could beat it as well. But if it were to purchase the defendant verifiable relief from serving one sentence versus another, longer one, Starfleet fears that those defendants with claims far more baseless than the one given here will start citing this defense. Better that we address it now, quietly. That is what Starfleet Command, including the Judge Advocate General’s Office, want done in this matter. Mister Finney has agreed to this, and I have a feeling that Mister Cogley will acquiesce to his client’s wishes. The only question is now, will you?"

After that, the parties involved parted company, pending the finalizing of the proposed deal. Notably, Ben Finney did not either look like a man facing a long stay in prison, nor a man who had avoided an even longer stay. But a brief sighting of his daughter seemed to lift his spirits, at least a little.

October 3rd 2266, 4:04pm

The final deal was somewhat different than what Finney had proposed. It will be twenty years, video contact with Jamie once a month only, with personal visits twice yearly. But on the other hand, he is eligible for reduction of sentence based on good behavior after ten years, and after the first seven, he will be eligible for transfer to a new rehabilitation facility like that of my old friend Simon Van Gelder on Tantalus Five. I’ve heard only good words about the things he and his associate, Tristan Adams, have accomplished.

I am still humbled. My client, who I actually believed at one point I could deliver from any sentence, will instead willingly see a long one. By my initial arrogance, I did him a disservice, and this is a lesson I will have to carry with me forever. In this, I am not alone.

Dinner with Areel Shaw seems likely to be eventful.

Shaw took down only half of her small crock of broccoli and cheese soup, despite prior claims of being famished. "The defendant is going to prison, perhaps for a much longer time than I could have gotten unaided. Yet I don’t feel like I’ve won, Sam."

Cogley, whose appetite seemed to be functioning directly contrary to hers, gladly took the remaining soup. But his mood seemed no better than Shaw’s. "Our case was taken away from us, Areel. My client and the powers set over him in judgement engaged in a wholly legal–and yet maddening–collusion. We respectful adversaries were cut out of the process." He smiled. "And just when it was getting good, too."

Shaw smiled a bit, but still seemed badly put off. "I don’t know how I feel about that. That point of view makes us either mindless barbarians, hell-bent on battle for battle’s sake, or even worse, bratty children, demanding that the grown-ups let us play our game."

Cogley looked over the menu while considering his refutation. "We each had our points to make. We weren’t allowed to. Regretting that diminishes us not at all. By the way, I’m told that my now-former client made one last demand that nearly cost him the deal we hashed out, but he wouldn’t tell me about it then. I’d ask him now, but he and Jamie only have the next twelve hours together before he leaves."

Shaw decided on a steak prepared exactly the way she often ate it with James Kirk, back in the day. "I can tell you that much. He wants, allowing for good behavior and the approval of rehab counselors, to teach at the Academy when his time is served. One senior jurist was incredulous that he would even ask, and that nearly soured the whole deal. Tell me, do you really think that Commodore Stone was right? Would others have seized upon your defense model?"

Cogley, whose weakness for mystery meat went back to his law school days, ordered a double-baked meatloaf platter before he answered. "Ours is a noble profession. Yet with some members of it I’ve met, I can sometimes see the humor in the one that goes ‘What do you call five thousand lawyers fallen into a star’s gravity well?’ A good start.’ Yes, lesser lights would have used and misused my work. But that’s the problem of the judges that allow them to. My responsibility is to my client, just as yours is to Starfleet."

"But did we fulfill that in either case? We both had a chance to keep our ball before it was taken away. Yet at various points, we both nearly laughed off a plea deal. Were you that determined to have two wins in a row? Was I that determined to avoid the same thing?"

Cogley took a step he would never regret. "Areel, we both know the law is a messy business. We each serve not one but several masters, from the concrete to the wholly abstract, and yes, sometimes to the ridiculous. As ridiculous as pitying ourselves over an issue that will now never be resolved in our arena."

For a moment, his words seemed like they would provoke her. But Shaw easily caught herself. "Maybe, Sam, we accomplished a lawyer’s true purpose. We forced the lawmakers to do their job and look over a dark corner of the world we inhabit. That will eventually involve a research conference of officers and outside experts. Those are always a bit wild. Yet they are good for clearing out the bad blood, every seven to ten years. You’re likely to be invited to it. We’ll have our battle and then some when that happens."

Her smile at last started to emerge fully, and Sam Cogley decided that, whatever of James Kirk’s reputation with the ladies was fact and whatever was fiction, the man would have indeed been foolish not to pursue this lady.

"I could never do what you do. My first case out of the Academy was handling the final appeal of a man convicted of xenophobic hate crimes while serving aboard Captain April’s Enterprise. By that point, he was lying so often, he couldn’t have kept his stories straight with a starship’s computer. I was disgusted and repulsed that someone so obviously guilty was trying to obfuscate so many horrible things, rather than trying his best to redeem himself. I decided after that to be waiting for people like him as they hit the system, not as they tried to leave it."

Cogley remembered his own rubicon. "Four young men stole a vehicle. The last reconsiders and gets out. The remaining three recklessly strike a residence, killing an older man. It fell to this bright young prosecutor, fresh out of law school, to prosecute—guess who?"

"The one who got out? But why?"

"He was part of the action that, without which, there would have been no vehicular homicide. Two of the others turned on their leader, who pleaded guilty and looked good doing it somehow. But the one who left the vehicle fought the charges, lost, and he looked good to no one. It took years for this now-resigned junior prosecutor to get him a fair hearing. By then, he had served more time than his friends who had never had a second thought, or reportedly, a single regret. My former supervisor angrily confronted me, saying that I had undone some of his most solid work. I asked him where justice was in all that. He sneered and said ‘Justice, Mister Cogley? This is not about justice. This is about the law.’ And Heaven help me, he’s been proven right more often than not in my career."

Both sat there awaiting their food rather despondently, til Shaw gave this up and raised her glass. "To truth and justice, Sam. And the gray hairs their pursuit brings out in all of us."

Cogley raised his glass. "To the rule of law, Areel. And to the feeble, fragile mortal beings that craft and battle using it."

Shaw kept on. "To a universe where it seems the only constant is that Jim Kirk can survive anything."

Cogley nodded. "I’ll drink to that."

In an uncertain profession in an uncertain universe, two adversaries talked of victories barely won, certain victories snatched away, and of one of the pillars of civilization. Justice and the law, like Finney and Kirk, were sometimes silent to one another, and sometimes even seemingly at odds. But like those two officers, a friendship existed that sometimes needed only to be rekindled, when at long last frank and open talk replaced the uncertainty of a campaign of whispers.

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