The Doomed Voyage: Part 8

Read previous installments here. From the logs of Hoplite Sutton Asher: Six hundred twenty-seven days after leaving our crash site in the Odyssey, we arrived at Ithacor. Six hundred fifty-seven days I could have confessed

Read previous installments here.

From the logs of Hoplite Sutton Asher:

Six hundred twenty-seven days after leaving our crash site in the Odyssey, we arrived at Ithacor. Six hundred fifty-seven days I could have confessed my crime and didn’t. But by the time we made landfall at a small spaceport—well off the beaten track of most incoming traffic—I knew one thing for certain.

I would do anything for General Calix Weston,the man I’d been hired to kill. When he officially dispersed us to return to our homes and families—a secret affair, since we’d all been declared dead already—I refused to leave his side. There was still something I had to do for him.

We traveled under cover of night back to the capitol city, where his wife lived. Their home was very modest-looking from the outside—especially for the house of a decorated general and Third-Speaker of the Assembly. But there were more than enough security patrols and espionage countermeasures to remind me of the importance of the building’s occupants.

Fortunately, General Weston knew the codes necessary to slip through the outer defenses and onto the grounds. Only one light gleamed through the windows. I expected it to be a bedroom—given the lateness of the hour—but the general said it was the home’s main office.

“Good that she’s still up.”

We slipped around to a rear entrance, where he keyed in a code that unlocked the door. As it swung open, we heard voices from within.

A woman, “General, the hour is late. I must insist you leave—for propriety’s sake if nothing else will convince you.”

“My dear, of what concern is propriety? You are a free woman of high-standing; I am a decorated officer in the defense fleet. Our business—and our pleasure—is only natural.”

We both stiffened as the man spoke. I couldn’t be sure if it was the words or the voice which bothered General Weston, but for me it was the recognition: General Anthony Cantrell, the man who bought my soul.

General Weston seemed ready to spring at once into the house—and perhaps even to do something regrettable—but I grabbed his arm to hold him back a moment longer.

“Sir,” I whispered, “there are things you do not yet know. Things I should have spoken of long before, but there is no time now. Only grant me this, allow me to go first and speak my piece with this villain. Then you will understand.”

And I will have truly lost everything.

He fixed me with a hard stare for just a moment, then nodded. “Go but be quick.”

I hurried through the house in search of the voices. The woman continued to protest, but Cantrell became more insistent. At last, I came to the archway beyond which lay the office with both Mrs. Weston and the corrupt general.

“General Anthony Cantrell.” I announced myself.

“What is the meaning of this?” He spun toward me, though he was still far too close to another man’s wife.

I swallowed hard to refresh my voice, which seemed suddenly to desert me. “Do you not recognize me? I am Hoplite Sutton Asher, and I’ve returned to collect what you promised.” The sound of General Weston sneaking up from behind me caused me to stumble in my words.

But he needs to know as surely as I need to say it.

His wife pushed herself away from the other man. “What is he talking about?”

“Penelope, I honestly haven’t a clue. He must be mad.”

“Is two years really so long a time? And it’s not even that long since you called me on my ship and offered me two million credits if General Calix Weston never returned home.”

She gasped.

General Cantrell marched across the room to loom over me. “This is nonsense. There is no proof of these outrageous accusations. Begone at once, and I may be merciful.”

“You’re right about one thing, Anthony. You shouldn’t pay the man.” General Weston stepped out from the shadows.


Man and wife rushed into each other’s arms.

General Cantrell stood stupidly for a moment before stuttering. “C-Calix! What a relief it is to see you returned safely. We’d all assumed you’d been lost.”

“So I’ve heard.” General Weston turned but didn’t release his wife. “I think your relief will be short lived. In fact, I’ll make sure of it.”

General Cantrell laughed and pressed a few buttons on a control band on his arm. Shimmering security fields blossomed between the two of us and the two of them. “What do you think you can accomplish? There is no evidence, at most it is my word—the word of a decorated general who has been serving his people faithfully for the past two years—against two dead men—one of whom is a confessed traitor.”

He was right, there could be no justice.

And General Weston knew it. He reached for his side-arm and—

[Error. Data Corrupted.]


From the Inquiry into the death of General Anthony Cantrell: Interview with Hoplite Sutton Asher:

Asher: “I killed General Cantrell.”

Interviewer: “You realize the penalty for murdering a superior officer is death?”

Asher: “You have my logs. I’ve already confessed to mass murder, including several superior officers. What’s one more?”

Interviewer: “Yes, about that. It seems that there was some data corruption in your log about the moments in question.”

Asher: “Too bad, my confession will have to stand on its own.”

Interviewer: “Before it cuts off, your log seems to suggest that General Calix Weston was responsible for the death of General Cantrell.”

Asher: “How could he be? I’ve heard the scene report, there was not one but seven security fields between the two men.”

Interviewer: “Security fields aren’t perfect—especially the kind of portable defense units at the scene. They flicker and sputter. Sometimes there are even holes.”

Asher: Laughter. “Even if you knew the exact flaws in one of those fields—in all of them—the precision and timing necessary to make it through all seven is impossible. No one could do it.”

Interviewer: “Perhaps with enough shots you could get lucky, one might slip through.”

Asher: “Maybe, but you saw the scene, there weren’t any scorch-marks anywhere except Cantrell’s chest. One shot. Which do you think is more likely: someone—even a decorated soldier like General Weston—managed to get a single shot cleanly through seven security fields, or that I, standing with Cantrell behind the fields, stepped forward and shot him?”

Interviewer: “Very well, you’ve made your point. Sutton Asher, you will be taken for a trial, where the populace can see justice done for your crimes.”

Asher: “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”


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