BCH #014: EVENT - A Sea Without a Shore
A Sea Without a Shore
Summary: The ship's new Master-at-Arms receives a message.
Date: 11 Feb 2041 AE
Related Logs: A Tangled Web
Polaris Barclay 
Brig — Security Hub — Deck 6
The crime dramas so popular in most Aerilonian households aren't right about many things, but one thing they do get right is the nature of solitary confinement. Niree Tuata has been sitting for eleven straight hours with only the bars of her cell to keep her company — the bars and two meals, slotted through the base of her door by a Marine she only hears, not sees. None of the food has been touched; not even the water has been disturbed. Lying sideways on her cot, her fragile frame covered by a standard Fleet-issue blanket, the girl is in that beautiful state between reality and dreams, her dark eyes unfocused, burning holes through the wall.

With a folder tucked under his arm, his uniform in perfect neatness - still having that shiny newness to it as he's been issued new clothes with his transfer - Master-At-Arms James A. Barclay waits for the MP to open the cell door, staring straight ahead with a neutral but not cold expression. He nods to the MP and steps inside, followed by the other marine - he's not going to be in here alone. He scans the room quickly, then watches the figure on the cot. "Miss Tuata," he says with his raspy Aerilon accent. He looks at the untouched food and draws a few conclusions right off the bat. "I am Master Sergeant James A. Barclay, Master-at-Arms. Which means I am Military Police. I'm here to ask you some questions." He waits then. He doesn't say 'interrogation', though it is certainly implied.

The sound of a key clicking in the lock doesn't break her reverie; neither does the clip-clop of boots against ground. It's not until Barclay's large body gets between her eyes and whatever picture she's seeing on the wall that she moves, flopping onto her back so her bushy hair can crumple onto the thin pillow behind her neck. "Mister Barclay," Tuata whispers, her low voice hoarse. "I am here to answer."

A chair is brought over and Barclay sits down near the bed, at arms length or so. The marine remains near the door. "Water?" Barclay asks and picks up the plastic mug from the tray, holding it out. "Makes it easier to talk, ey," he notes, even smiling charmingly at her. "Why don't you begin telling me about the time you were detained for…" he glances into his notes. "… some sort of religious protest, at KIST?"

No water for her, though there's a flash of something like longing as her eyes glance at the mug. "Kheiron was a school for Men," says Niree, folding her hands atop her belly as she forces her eyes closed. "Men of science and numbers, who could not bear to see what they could not explain with such crude things. My bracelet." Barclay would likely have seen it in evidence processing: a thin metal band, studded here and there with simple iron rivets. "It is of the Gods, not of Men."

"You felt they ignored faith in favor of science?" Barclay asks, leaning back on his chair, sitting rather relaxed. There's none of that harsh military behaviour from him right now. "Why don't you drink some, Miss Tuata. Unless you're punishin' yourself for something. A failure, perhaps. Have you failed something? Let someone down? Don't see why the refusal to eat is there, ey. But then, I'm simple folk. Aerilon people, we eat when we get food." He smiles disarmingly again, studying her with intent brown eyes.

"It shall be seen whether I have failed or not, Mister Barclay." Dark eyes flash open to meet his without quailing, her bloodshot sclera yellowed and reddened beneath the dim light above. "So you are of Aerilon." The girl's smile is serene as her fingers twist into the fabric of her blanket. "I am of Gemenon, but this you know." Smart cookie. "And there, on Gemenon, we eat only what is of our hands." There's a slight shrug, visible underneath the bulge of cloth. "As for my faith: they did not believe that I can believe, Mister Barclay. This, you understand?"

Barclay now leans closer, putting his folder down on the side of the chair - he doesn't really need it, and everything said in here is being recorded for later analysing. "I can see it, Miss Tuata. Some marines face the same problem. Science versus faith - don't have to be a versus thing. Can be workin' together," he notes thoughtfully. "But you, miss - you are here now cause you been acting suspicious, aight? So… tell me what you did. We going to find out anyway. We always do. Right now, there's a full team of marines and engineers looking through every corner, every dust mote, every plan and every piece of code. We're lookin' into your family, your friends, your acquaintances, your every step. And we're not going to let you out until we know." He glances at the untouched food. "Refusing to eat won't help in the long run. You won't be able to starve yourself to death, miss."

"It is very likely your men shall discover whatever it is they are looking to discover," Niree agrees pleasantly, closing her eyes once more. "And then, Mister Barclay, what is it that will be done to me by you?" It's another piece of twisted syntax, matching the twisting of olive-green cloth by work-roughened fingers. "Shall Niree of Gemenon be executed by your hand, or shall she be delivered by your hand to another for that task? No, Mister Barclay, I will not eat, for I prefer to meet the embrace of the Lords unsullied and pure." Her speech is slow, informed by a quiet sort of conviction that lends strength to her otherwise fragile body. "Do you wish to know about my bracelet?" she wonders after a short period of silence. "The Men of Kheiron did not."

"I already know what you did," Barclay notes solemnly. "You had the chance to come clean here. You been treated like anyone else - this ain't about religion, for us. It's about safety for the people on board." He leans closer again, voice lowering - though it will still be picked up on recordings. "There's lots of procedures. I'm not a judge nor a jury. I am not the reaper either." He looks at her bracelet, then nods. "Tell me about it, Niree. I want to know."

"Do you already." Lips widen to reveal perfect, even teeth. "I hardly think so, Mister Barclay, else you would not deign to speak with one such as me. But this is no matter now." Niree's wrist flexes, her veins bulging as her fingers caress unyielding steel. "Ask yourself this question, Mister Barclay. Do you know what it is to serve?"

Barclay grins at her. "I know enough." He leans back again, sitting straight-backed and more militaristic, but his expression remains congenial. He doesn't, in fact, have anything personally against her - he's drawing on his experiences here, and his ability to remain neutral. "I have served the marines for twenty years. But I don't think that's what you're talking about," he says with wry humor. "You tell me, Niree. And what that bracelet means to you."

"Twenty years." Fine lashes drift down to dusky skin, dusted with crumbs from her futile attempts at sleep. "That, Mister Barclay, is many years." Restless fingers continue stroking the rivets on her bracelet, turning them like knobs on a machine. "I wonder. Surely in those twenty years you have taken a life?"

Barclay didn't quite expect to be the one being questioned, but he indulges. His expression turns grim. "I have." He doesn't give her details. "And I have saved countless of lives." His gaze hardens a tad as he looks at her. "Have you? You're on board here, we trust you to do your job, to keep everyone here safe. That includes fathers, daughters, sons, mothers. Some of them from Gemenon, just like you. Some religious, some not."

"Countless of lives." Tuata's eyes blink open, their dilated pupils lit with something like — comradeship? Understanding? "And how do you know, Mister Barclay, that you have done this? That by — " Her bracelet hand rises, thumb and index finger pointed skywards like the barrel of a gun. "That by killing the one, you have saved the many?"

"It's not often been a philosophical matter," Barclay says with a mild tone. "If I shoot someone who's got a bomb in a bag, with the intention of setting it off in the most crowded area of a city - I killed one but saved countless, aight?" he says. It's quite, quite simple to him. And yet he's well aware that matters are /rarely/ that simple. "You're having second thoughts," he tells her, leaning closer again. "Understanding does not come over night, not often. But there are better ways to gain it than by murdering hundreds of innocents to prove a point. Don't become what you despise in order to be right."

"Murder." The girl makes a face. "Such a distasteful word for such a distasteful deed." For a moment, her composure breaks, her gaze flickering towards the mug of water before she forces it away. When she speaks next, it's in a rasping whisper, one that might not even be audible on the recording. "There is a better word I have learned to describe what you have just described," says Niree, clearing her throat. "This word is called faith, for truly? You do not snuff out a life unless you have faith — let us say, faith in this evidence that tells you his bag is a bomb." Her fingers snap loudly in the ensuing silence. "And it is because of this word that we of Gemenon wear such bracelets as we do: for we are servants of the Lords, bound to them by iron, and in Them we place faith absolute."

A slow nod is Barclay's initial response as he mulls over what to say next. It's not the first time he's faced similar, and he's threading carefully. "I have faith in many things. I got to be able to do my job, which is to keep others safe. If I didn't have faith in those I work with, or my own abilities - I couldn't do it, aight?" He doesn't intend to get drawn into the philosophical debate, and he doesn't really disagree with her anyway. "To me, your faith is not the problem. To me, what you are doing is the problem. You can wear that bracelet far as I'm concerned. You can have faith in the Gods and be a good scientist at the same time. Be a servant of the Gods and be a good scientist; obviously, you /are/ already. What is it you want to prove to us, or to anyone else?"

"I want you to hear me, Mister Barclay." And just like that, the girl sits up, her blanket falling from her body as an edge of command seeps into her voice. "The Lords have chosen me to speak to you, but I know the hearts of Men, and never have Men heard the word of the Lords when deafened by pride. If you do nothing else in your life, Mister Barclay, hear me now." Fingers toy more desperately with the rivets on her bracelet, metal rubbing soundlessly against metal. "There is no bomb. Look all you wish: I tell you now, all you will find is a message the Lords have written, graven into these walls with the blood of your ship. And if you desire, I shall even tell you what that message says, so you know my words are no lie."

Barclay would be one bad MP if he just trusted her word on that, but he nevertheless nods. "I see," he notes, faintly fascinated by her change of demeanor - to this day, people can still surprise him. Which is part of why he loves his job so much. She talking of 'the blood of the ship' has him squinting too, in thought. "What does the message say, Niree? And with what did you write it - the blood of the ship can mean anything."

"With oil and paint, with grime and dust." Dark eyes flash with passion and fury; bare arms stretch upwards in an ancient sign of warding, their skin glistening with sweat. "And deep in the veins and arteries and capillaries of this precious vessel you shall find one word: 'Fly.'" Her shoulders stiffen; her lips tighten; her hair streams out behind her like an endless black river.

"Fly, and fly now, for Poseidon with his trident shall smite the ground, which trembling with unwonted throes shall heave up the sources of her waters bare, and through her open plains the rapid rivers shall rush resistless, bearing onwards the waving grain, the budding groves, the houses, the men — and what things dare resist their vast and total ruin shall deepening waves conceal, until humanity itself is lost in the flood and whirling gulf."

And with that, the girl falls back onto the bed, her spirit and body spent. "Fly with this mighty machine I have built for you, Mister Barclay," she murmurs, brown eyes closing, "and like Deucalion survive — for soon the land and ocean shall be mingled in the waste of endless waves: a sea without a shore."

Not being prone to a superstitious mind-set - Barclay nevertheless feels the hairs on the back of his neck stand up in reaction to her words. It is the sort of dooms-day speech that unnerves him, because religious fanaticism like that tends to carry with it a seed of truth. A big thing planned, perhaps. He now stands up, picking up the folder. "Thank you," he says with his raspy voice. "You should eat," he adds as he turns around, moving for the door that is opened up for him. "I can try to make sure that Gemenon-produced food is provided, to the best of our abilities." And with that, he steps outside. And minutes later he's in action to work further on this issue, with her words echoing in his mind, ominous and insistent.

"Wait." Slowly, Tuata fumbles with the clasp of her bracelet, hidden cunningly beneath one of several rivets. "This is no longer for me, Mister Barclay." It's set down with surpassing reverence on the ground. "Wear it when you are gone, and remember what some have done so that you and yours may live."

Whether he takes it or leaves it, there it shall remain, and as he leaves he might hear the beginnings of a prayer —

O Thanatos the healer, reject me not, but come! For thou alone art the mediciner of ills incurable, and no pain layeth hold on the dead.

Barclay pauses at the door-way, then turns slowly and looks at the bracelet. His skin has that prickly tingly feeling of distrust. But, he bends down to pick it up between thumb and fore-finger, like he'd prefer not touching it too much. Then he leaves, and once at his desk - he puts the bracelet down and stares at it like he's afraid it'll bite him. In the end, he puts it in a bag for proof and then locks it up in the safe for now.

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