Deterrence Era, Year 13 Trial
The Bronze Age case was tried by a Solar System Fleet court-martial. Although Fleet International’s main facilities were located near the orbit of Mars, the asteroid belt, and the orbit of Jupiter, due to the intense interest in the case from Earth International, the trial was held at the fleet base in geosynchronous orbit.
To accommodate the numerous observers from Earth, the base spun to generate artificial gravity. Outside the broad windows of the courtroom, blue Earth, bright Sun, and the silvery brilliance of the stars appeared in succession, a cosmic metaphor for the contest of values. The trial lasted a month under these shifting lights and shadows. Excerpts from the trial transcript follow.
Neil Scott, male, 45, captain, commanding officer of Bronze Age
JUDGE: Let’s return to the events leading up to the decision to attack Quantum.
SCOTT: I repeat: The attack was my decision and I gave the order. I didn’t discuss it ahead of time with any other officer aboard Bronze Age.
JUDGE: You’ve been consistently trying to claim all responsibility. However, this is not, in fact, a wise course of action for either you or those you’re trying to protect.
PROSECUTION: We have already confirmed that a vote by the full crew was taken prior to the attack.
SCOTT: As I’ve explained, of the one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five crew members, only fifty-nine supported an attack. The vote was not the cause or basis for my decision to attack.
JUDGE: Can you produce a list of those fifty-nine names?
SCOTT: The vote was conducted anonymously over the ship’s internal network. You can examine the cruise and battle logs to confirm this.
PROSECUTION: More lies. We have ample evidence that the vote was not anonymous. Moreover, the result was nothing like your description. You falsified the logs afterwards.
JUDGE: We need you to produce the true record of the vote.
SCOTT: I don’t have what you want. The result I recited is the truth.
JUDGE: Mr. Neil Scott, let me remind you: If you continue to obstruct this tribunal’s investigation, you will harm the innocent members of your crew. Some members did vote against the attack, but without the evidence that only you can provide, we cannot exonerate them, and must declare all officers, noncommissioned officers, and enlisted men and women of Bronze Age guilty as charged.
SCOTT: What are you talking about? Are you a real judge? Is this a real court of law? What about the presumption of innocence?
JUDGE: The presumption of innocence does not apply to crimes against humanity. This is a principle of international law established at the start of the Crisis Era. It’s intended to ensure that traitors against humankind do not escape punishment.
SCOTT: We’re not traitors against humanity! Where were you when we fought for Earth?
PROSECUTION: You are absolutely traitors! While the ETO from two centuries ago only betrayed the interests of humanity, today, you betray our most basic moral principles, a far worse crime.
JUDGE: I want you to understand the consequences of fabricating evidence. At the commencement of this trial, you read a statement on behalf of all the accused expressing your remorse over the deaths of the one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven men and women aboard Quantum. It is now time to show that remorse.
SCOTT: [after a long silence] All right. I will produce the true results. You can recover the vote tally from an encrypted entry in the logs aboard Bronze Age.
PROSECUTION: We will work on recovering those immediately. Can you give me an estimate of how many voted to attack Quantum?
SCOTT: One thousand six hundred and seventy. That’s ninety-four percent of the crew.
JUDGE: Order! Order in the court! I must remind members of the public to maintain silence during the proceedings.
SCOTT: But it wouldn’t have mattered. Even if less than fifty percent had voted yes, I would have attacked anyway. The final decision was mine.
PROSECUTION: Nice try. But Bronze Age was not like the newer ships at the other end of the Solar System, such as Natural Selection. Your ship’s AI systems were primitive. Without the cooperation of those under your command, you could not have carried out the attack alone.
Sebastian Schneider, male, 31, lieutenant commander, in charge of targeting systems and attack patterns aboard Bronze Age
PROSECUTION: Other than the captain, you’re the only officer with the system authorization to prevent or terminate an attack.
SCHNEIDER: Correct. JUDGE: And you didn’t. SCHNEIDER: I did not.
JUDGE: What went through your mind at that time?
SCHNEIDER: At that moment—not the moment of the attack, but the moment when I realized that Bronze Age would never return home, when the ship would be my entire world—I changed. There was no process; I was simply transformed from head to toe. It was like the legendary mental seal.
JUDGE: Do you really think that’s a possibility? That your ship was equipped with mental seals?
SCHNEIDER: Of course not. I was talking metaphorically. Space itself is a kind of mental seal.… In that moment, I gave up my individual self. My existence would be meaningful only if the collective survived.… I can’t explain it better than that. I don’t expect you to understand, Your Honor. Even if you boarded Bronze Age and sailed twenty thousand AU from the Solar System, or even farther, you still wouldn’t understand.
SCHNEIDER: Because you’d know that you could come back! Your soul would have remained on Earth. Only if the space behind the ship turned into a bottomless abyss—only if the Sun, the Earth, and everything else were swallowed by emptiness—would you have a chance of understanding the transformation that I went through.
I’m from California. In 1967, under the old calendar, a high school teacher in my hometown, Ron Jones, did something interesting—please don’t interrupt me. Thank you.
In order to help his students understand Nazism and totalitarianism, he tried to create a simulation of a totalitarian society with his students. It took only five days for him to succeed and his class to become a miniature fascist state. Every student willingly gave up the self and freedom, became one with the supreme collective, and pursued the collective’s goals with religious zeal. In the end, this teaching experiment that began as a harmless game almost spun out of control. The Germans made a film based on Jones’s experiment, and Jones himself wrote a book about it: The Third Wave. When those of us aboard Bronze Age found out that we were doomed to wander space forever, we formed a totalitarian state as well. Do you know how long it took?
That’s right. Five minutes into the all-hands meeting, the fundamental values of this totalitarian society had received the support of the vast majority of the crew. So, let me tell you, when humans are lost in space, it takes only five minutes to reach totalitarianism.
Boris Rovinski, male, 36, commander, executive officer of Bronze Age
JUDGE: You led the first boarding party onto Quantum after the attack?
JUDGE: Were there any survivors?
JUDGE: Can you describe the scene?
ROVINSKI: The individuals aboard died from the infrasonic waves generated by Quantum’s hull as it was struck by the electromagnetic pulses of the H-bomb detonation. The bodies were well preserved, showing no external signs of damage.
JUDGE: What did you do with the bodies?
ROVINSKI: We built a monument to them, like Blue Space did.
JUDGE: You mean, you left the bodies in the monument?
ROVINSKI: No. I doubt that the monument built by Blue Space had any bodies in it, either.
JUDGE: You haven’t answered my question. I asked what you did with the bodies.
ROVINSKI: We refilled the food stores on Bronze Age with them.
JUDGE: All of them?
ROVINSKI: All of them.
JUDGE: Who made the decision to turn the bodies into food?
ROVINSKI: I … really can’t remember. It seemed a completely natural thing to do at the time. I was responsible for logistics and support aboard the ship, and I directed the storage and distribution of the bodies.
JUDGE: How were the bodies consumed?
ROVINSKI: Nothing special was done. They were mixed up with the vegetables and meats in the bio-recycling system and then cooked.
JUDGE: Who ate this food?
ROVINSKI: Everyone. Everyone onboard Bronze Age had to eat in one of the four mess halls, and there was only one source of food.
JUDGE: Did they know what they were eating?
ROVINSKI: Of course.
JUDGE: How did they react?
ROVINSKI: I’m sure a few were uncomfortable with it. But there was no protest. Oh, I do recall eating in the officer’s mess hall once and hearing someone say, “Thank you, Carol Joiner.”
JUDGE: What did he mean?
ROVINSKI: Carol Joiner was the communications officer aboard Quantum. He was eating a part of her.
JUDGE: How could he know that?
ROVINSKI: We were all fitted with a tracking and identification capsule about the size of a grain of rice. It was implanted under the skin of the left arm. Sometimes the cooking process didn’t remove it. I’m sure he just found it on his plate and used his communicator to read it.
JUDGE: Order! Order in the courtroom! Please remove those who have fainted. Mr. Rovinski, surely you must have understood that you were violating the most fundamental laws that make us human?
ROVINSKI: We were constrained by other morals that you don’t understand. During the Doomsday Battle, Bronze Age had to exceed its designed acceleration parameters. The power systems were overloaded, and the life support systems lost power for almost two hours, leading to massive damage throughout. The repairs had to be conducted slowly. Meanwhile, the hibernation systems were also affected, and only about five hundred people could be accommodated. Since more than one thousand people had to eat, if we didn’t introduce additional food sources, half of the population would have starved to death.
Even without these constraints, considering the interminable voyage that lay in front of us, to abandon so much precious protein in space would have been truly unconscionable.…
I’m not trying to defend myself, and I’m not trying to defend anyone else on Bronze Age. Now that I’ve recovered the thinking patterns of humans anchored to the Earth, it is very difficult for me to speak these words. Very difficult.
Final statement made by Captain Neil Scott I don’t have much to say except a warning.
Life reached an evolutionary milestone when it climbed onto land from the ocean, but those first fish
that climbed onto land ceased to be fish.
Similarly, when humans truly enter space and are freed from the Earth, they cease to be human. So, to all of you I say this: When you think about heading into outer space without looking back, please reconsider. The cost you must pay is far greater than you could imagine.
* * *
In the end, Captain Neil Scott and six other senior officers were convicted of murder and crimes against humanity and sentenced to life imprisonment. Of the remaining 1,768 members of the crew, only 138 were declared innocent. The rest received sentences ranging from twenty to three hundred years.
* * *
The Fleet International prison was located in the asteroid belt, between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Thus, the prisoners had to leave Earth again. Although Bronze Age had reached geosynchronous orbit, the prisoners were doomed never to travel the last thirty thousand kilometers of their 350-billion-kilometer voyage home.
As the prisoner transport ship accelerated, they once again drifted and fell against the portholes at the stern, like fallen leaves doomed to never reach the root of the tree. They looked outward as the blue globe that had haunted their dreams shrank and, once again, became just another star.
Before departing the fleet base, former Commander Rovinski, former Lieutenant Commander Schneider, and about a dozen other officers returned under guard to Bronze Age for the last time to assist with some details of the handover of the ship to her new crew.
For more than a decade, this ship had been their entire world. They had carefully decorated the inside with holograms of grasslands, forests, and oceans; cultivated real gardens; and built fishing ponds and water fountains, turning the ship into a real home. But now, all that was gone. All traces of their existence on the ship had been wiped away. Bronze Age was once again just a cold stellar warship.
Everyone they encountered in the halls looked at them coldly or simply ignored them. When they saluted, they made sure their eyes did not waver, to make it clear to the prisoners that the salute was for the military police escorting them only.
Schneider was brought to a spherical cabin to discuss technical details of the ship’s targeting system with three officers. The three officers treated Schneider like a computer. They asked him questions in an emotionless voice and waited for his answers. There was not a hint of politeness, and not a single wasted word. It took only an hour to complete the session. Schneider tapped the floating control interface a few times, as though closing some windows out of habit. All of a sudden, he kicked the spherical wall of the cabin hard, and propelled himself to the other end of the chamber. Simultaneously, the walls shifted and divided the cabin into two halves. The three officers and the military policeman were trapped in one half, and Schneider was alone
in the other.
Schneider brought up a floating window. He tapped on it, his fingers a blur. It was the control interface for the communications system. Schneider brought the ship’s high-powered interstellar communications antenna online.
A faint pop. A small hole appeared in the cabin wall, and the cabin was filled with white smoke. The barrel of the military policeman’s gun poked through the hole and aimed at Schneider.
“This is your last warning. Stop what you’re doing immediately and open the door.”
“Blue Space, this is Bronze Age.” Schneider’s voice was quiet. He knew how far his message could travel had nothing to do with how loudly he spoke.
A laser beam shot through Schneider’s chest. Red steam from vaporized blood erupted from the hole.
Surrounded by a red fog made of his own blood, Schneider croaked out his last words:
“Don’t come back. This is no longer your home!”
* * *
Blue Space had always responded to Earth’s entreaties with more hesitation and suspicion than Bronze Age had, so they had only been decelerating slowly. Thus, by the time they received Bronze Age’s warning, they were still heading away from the Solar System.
After Schneider’s warning, Blue Space instantly shifted from decelerating to accelerating full speed ahead.
When Earth received the intelligence report from the sophons of Trisolaris, the two civilizations had a shared enemy for the first time in history.
Earth and Trisolaris were comforted by the fact that Blue Space didn’t currently possess the ability to engage in dark forest deterrence against the two worlds. Even if it tried to broadcast the locations of the two solar systems to the universe at full power, it would be almost impossible for anyone to hear it. To reach Barnard’s Star, the nearest star that Blue Space could use as a superantenna to repeat Ye Wenjie’s feat, would take three hundred years. However, it hadn’t shifted its course toward Barnard’s Star. Instead, it was still heading toward NH558J2, which it wouldn’t reach for two thousand more years.
Gravity, as the only Solar System ship capable of interstellar flight, immediately began to pursue Blue Space. Trisolaris brought up the idea of sending a speedy droplet—formally, it was called a strong-interaction space probe—to pursue and destroy Blue Space. But Earth unequivocally refused. From humanity’s perspective, Blue Space should be dealt with as a matter of internal affairs. The Doomsday Battle was humanity’s greatest wound, and after more than a decade, the pain had not lessened one whit. Permitting another droplet attack on humans was absolutely politically unacceptable. Even though the crew of Blue Space had become aliens in the minds of most people, only humanity should bring them to justice.
Out of consideration for the ample time that remained before Blue Space could become a threat, Trisolaris acquiesced. However, Trisolaris emphasized that, since Gravity possessed the ability to broadcast via gravitational waves, its security was a matter of life and death for Trisolaris. Therefore, droplets would be sent as escorts, but would also ensure an overwhelming advantage against Blue Space.
Thus, Gravity cruised in formation with two droplets a few thousand meters away. The contrast between the sizes of the two ship types couldn’t be greater. If one pulled back far enough to see the entirety of Gravity, the droplets would be invisible. And if one pulled close enough to a droplet to observe it, its smooth surface would clearly reflect an image of Gravity.
Gravity was built about a decade after Blue Space. Other than the gravitational wave antenna, it was not significantly more advanced. Its propulsion systems, for example, were only slightly more powerful than Blue Space’s. Gravity’s confidence in the success of their hunt was due to their overwhelming advantage in fuel reserves.
Even so, based on the ships’ current velocities and accelerations, it would take fifty years for Gravity to catch Blue Space.
do you like《Death's End》? do you likeliu? like to praise