Chapter 7: Mutiny
Captain Darren starred at the view screen. That the admiral had called on the power hungry fast links testified to his fury at her disobedience. Reserved for urgent business only the fast links was the only way to communicate without long delays over interstellar distances.
"No, sir, I will not," said Captain Darren forcefully.
"You have your orders, Captain," replied the admiral. "If you wonít obey them Iíll relieve you of duty and have your second in command carry out my orders".
"Admiral, neither I nor any member of my senior staff will obey that order".
"Then call your second in command and weíll just see wonít we," growled the admiral through gritted teeth.
"Iíll do better than that admiral." Captain Darren touched her wrist communicator and opened the shipwide band, "All senior staff report to my office immediately. IMMEDIATELY"!
The senior officers piled through the captainís door all at once: Commander Loncosky, the second in command, Dr. Branch, Chief Engineer Fallon, Security Chief Sentry, Navigator Mayo and Supercargo Carson. All were quick to notice the Admiralís face on the fast links.
"Commander Loncosky, your captain has refused a direct order. I want you to relieve her of duty and carry out my orders".
The commander snapped to attention, "Which are, sir"?
"To destroy those genetically altered animals youíre carrying".
"They arenít animals, sir, theyíre people," replied the commander stiffly.
"They are animals and the law is very clear on this subject. All genetically engineered animals must be destroyed".
"Iím sorry, sir, but I can not obey that order".
"Lt. Sentry, sir, and I wonít obey that order either".
"Doctor, you must understand the ramifications of allowing genetically altered creatures to exist. Explain it to them".
"I know the arguments, sir, but in this case we arenít dealing with animals. We are dealing with people. They should at least have their day in court, sir".
"Then you are all agreed are you?" demanded the admiral, eyes flashing with anger.
"Yes, sir," chorused the senior staff.
"This is mutiny, you realize".
"Yes, sir," chorused the senior staff, louder this time.
The admiral gestured and the screen blanked out. Every member of the senior staff deflated a bit. "So, what do we do now," asked Commander Loncosky.
The captain opened the shipwide band again. "Attention, all crew members. This ship has just been declared a mutineer. I and the senior staff have refused a direct order from Earth. We feel that this order violates human decency and we will not comply. If anyone wants off of this ride report to the landing module at port A. It wonít be an easy ride but the landing module can still make Zion in a few days. The landing module leaves in two hours. Leave now or follow my orders". She snapped the band closed.
"That landing module is full of cargo, captain," said Supercargo Carson.
"Then you have a job to do, donít you, Carson?" demanded the captain viciously.
"Yes, captain," snapped Carson as she exited the room.
"If youíll excuse me, Captain," said Dr. Branch, "I have to go pack".
"Deserting me, Doctor?" snapped the Captain.
"No, captain, but I want my sons to return to Zion".
The captain nodded, "Youíre right of course, doctor. This is no place for children, even if that is who weíre trying to protect".
"With all due respect, thatís suicide captain!" exclaimed Commander Loncosky.
The landing module had left fifteen minutes before carrying all of the crewís children and eight crew members. The senior staff had reassembled in the Captainís office to discuss their situation.
"Thereís no choice, commander. Earthís authorities never listen to the colonies. We have to get the Jellicles a hearing with Earth authorities and that means taking them to Earth or Mars. We wonít be able to land them on Earth so that leaves Mars".
"What about returning them to Zion," suggested Dr. Branch.
"The authorities there would receive the same orders we have," replied the Captain.
"Zion is still sparsely populated. We could land them in an unpopulated area" Dr. Branch persisted.
"Have you read the news? There are riots all over Zion because the authorities there let the Jellicles go. Theyíd be hunted down and killed. Even if they miraculously avoided hunters how could they take care of the kittens? No," said the captain, "these people need legal protection".
"I donít suppose thereís another colony that might protect them?" asked Carson.
"Iíve already calculated the distances," said Navigator Mayo. "There is no colony other than Zion that we could reach before one of the warships could intercept us. The only warship in position to intercept us this way is the Firestorm. Theyíll come at us directly from the Sol system and intercept us in nine days. Be grateful weíve had peace long enough to have so few warships".
"Nine days doesnít give us a lot of time to change peopleís minds," said Fallon.
"We could run", said the captain, "but I think weíll get a lot more sympathy if we appear positive that we are right".
"In other words," said Lt. Sentry, "the plan is to form a human barrier between the Jellicles and our own security forces and hope they decide to hold their fire".
"Iím hoping to have some better options before they intercept us," replied the captain. "All right, as of now I am authorizing unlimited use of the fast links for the senior officers. Call anyone you think can help get our orders changed. Dismissed".
After her officers had left the room Capt. Darren allowed herself a moment of doubt. She had hoped that someone would come up with a better plan but everything she had heard she had already discarded. She gave herself a moment to center herself and send up a silent prayer for the protection of those in her care. Then she steeled herself for the next task ahead. Tapping her communicator she said, "Ensign Jessel, bring Munkustrap to my office".
Munkustrap entered the captainís office wearing a tight scowl and followed by Ensign Jessel. Capt. Darren offered him her hand and asked if she could get him anything.
Ignoring the offered hand Munkustrap hissed, "I heard you say that you are disobeying your orders. I think that you will get into big trouble and I want to know how that will affect my people".
Capt. Darren sat down behind her desk and motioned for him to take a seat. "Hopefully, my disobedience will be a good thing for your people. I know that it canít be a bad thing", she replied calmly. "Munkustrap, the order that I am disobeying is the order to kill you".
Munkustrap leapt to his feet with a cry, staring at her in wide-eyed disbelief.
"I am going to need your help if I am going to keep the Jellicles alive," said the captain keeping her voice low and steady. "I need you to understand what is going on".
"Why are we to be killed?" he demanded flexing his claws.
Capt. Darren leaned forward folding her hands on the desk. "Dr. Ferran created you using a process that is illegal. Under our law animals created using this process have to be destroyed".
"We are not animals"!
"That is why I am disobeying the order to kill you".
"You would not find it so easy to kill us," he hissed.
The Captainís eyes turned hard as she said, "Killing is easy, Munkustrap. Protecting can be much more difficult".
Munkustrap froze at the sound of those words. His years spent protecting the Jellicles had taught him just how easily they could be hurt. Humans were cleaver creatures and he did not doubt their capacity for cruelty. He had seen it much too often.
"We will do everything in our power to protect you," said the captain.
"Why," he demanded, "why will you protect us when others want us dead"?
"Because it is the right thing to do," replied the captain.
"That explains nothing"!
Capt. Darren thought a moment before replying, "I am reminded of an old lament that came out of one of our larger wars. Many people were taken from their homes to be killed because of hatred against certain groups that they belonged to. Many good people stood by and did nothing to stop it. One man wrote about his neighbors being taken away. He goes through a long list of his neighbors and each time he says ĎI didnít speak up for this neighbor because I wasnít a part of his group. At the end, he says ĎFinally they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for meí. If we fail to protect you or any group of people from persecution, ultimately, we fail to protect ourselves and those we hold dear".
Munkustrap sank back into his chair. "So you will not kill us, but others want to. What about them"?
"What we need to do is get you recognized as people. Then the law will protect you. That wonít be easy. Since I wonít follow orders another ship has been dispatched to kill you. They will reach us in nine days. We have that long to convince my superiors to change their minds".
"And if they do not"?
"We are a cargo ship. The ship that is coming is a warship. We will fight them if we have to but it is likely that they will win".
"Your people could be killed," he said, suddenly concerned.
"And yours too," she replied. "If it comes to a battle Iíll allow any crew member who wants to depart in the landing modules. Personally my conscience will not let me abandon you. There is one more consideration. Iím told that there were nearly a thousand more Jellicles born, more than twice as many as are on this ship. Sooner or later they will be discovered and they will need the protection of the law to survive. If we donít win that right for them now they will be killed as soon as they are discovered".
"What can we do?" asked Munkustrap feeling beaten.
"I donít know yet but something will come up. Just be ready to help when you are asked".
Munkustrap stepped out of the Captainís office feeling battered and tormented. He realized that he had allowed himself to hope that the Jellicles might be safe, that they might get their freedom. Now that hope had been torn away again leaving a hole that slowly oozed lava into his soul. The desolation he felt seemed a perfect match for the quiet of the corridor which was broken only by his footsteps. No, two sets of footsteps he realized. He swung around, knowing exactly where Jessel would be, and roughly grabbed her arm. "You lied to us," he hissed. "You said we would be safe".
Her eyes looked steadily into his as she replied through clenched teeth, "I didnít know anything about this".
He watched her face pale as he squeezed tighter. It surprised him that she didnít try to fight him off but she only stood silently gazing into his eyes. Finally he released her. Feeling totally disgusted with himself he asked, "Why did you let me do that"?
"I figured youíd better get it out of your system before you tell the others," she replied, shaking her arm. "Feel any better"?
He shook his head and looked at the floor. "No, now I feel like a fool. It doesnít help me to hurt you".
"Always a good thing to remember," she declared with a smile. Turning serious and staring into his eyes she said, "Anything I can do to help, anything, I will. You can count on the senior officers too. The minute they refused their orders they ended up with two choices: prove that theyíre right or spend the rest of their lives in jail. Ultimately, though, your survival will probably depend on you. Youíre the only ones who can prove that you really are people".
"If anyone will let us prove it".
"Youíll get your chance, Munkustrap. I firmly believe that somehow things are going to work out, youíll get your chance".
Chapter 8: Emotions of the Moment
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