PHD #019: You Promised
You Promised
Summary: Captain Sabaudia meets with Crewman Swigert to discuss the charges brought against her.
Date: 2041.03.17
Related Logs: Painless, all other Swigert scenes.
Sabaudia Polaris 

Three weeks ago, the Naval Offices were one of the busiest collections of rooms aboard Battlestar Cerberus, packed to bursting with enough rear-echelon desk pilots to confuse even the most experienced bureaucrat. Knowledge of that past makes this present doubly disconcerting: the oppressive silence, the fake plants, the empty cubicles, the Colonial flags at half mast — all testifying to the fact that even in this place where bullets don't fly, casualties have been taken and losses have been felt. The people who have come into work this dreary afternoon do as little as possible to disturb the forbidding calm. Only the sharp rap-tap-tapping of their laptop keyboards gives any hint of their presence — a far cry from the jocularity that characterized life in these parts not twenty days before.
Maybe they don't want to break the mood — or maybe they're all just doing their damnedest to ignore the trio of newcomers standing watch in the southeastern corner of the room: two Marines standing guard a few meters away from a cube whose contents have yet to be emptied, and their handcuffed prisoner within. The young girl is resting her elbows on the cheap metal desk, dark eyes flicking over the photographs pinned to the wall while she waits.

Clip-clack. Clip-clack. Captain Sabaudia still carries a faint limp with her - the last physical evidence of her near death at the Cerberus's airlock - which shows itself in her slightly irregular gait. She carries a thick folder beneath one arm - the last of of her assembled notes for this meeting. "Apprentice Swigert?" she asks, upon entering the room. Her voice is crisp and upbeat, the sound of someone here to Get Good Things Done. "I'm Elisabeta Sabaudia, from the Office of the Judge Advocate General. I'm your counsel for these proceedings." The folio is slid onto the desk, out of arm's reach from the Apprentice, before she turns her attention to the young woman, moss-green gaze intent but light.

"Hey." The girl doesn't turn around when confronted by this bundle of rah-rah energy. Her time in the brig hasn't treated her particularly well: her formerly rosy countenance is now a few notches paler than the smiling photograph in Sabaudia's armful of notes, and her formerly upbeat voice has faded into a soft and blank alto. Steel handcuffs jangle loudly as she shifts position on the red cushions of her ergonomic chair, her bound wrists falling to her lap as she examines one photograph in particular — a smiling blonde wearing a collegiate Pyramid uniform, her bandaged hands raising a trophy into the air. 'We did it!' is scrawled at the top of the picture, red ink contrasting sharply with the brilliant blue sky; '<3 Emily,' at the bottom, its girly script ragged from the excitement of the moment.

"May I get you something, before we begin? Some water?" Jezza's tone shows no sign of faltering as she moves around the desk and pauses before sitting down, standing opposite the young woman, slim fingers tented on the table's edge. "Would you like me to ask for your restraints to be removed?" Slim brows lift slightly. Sympathetic. "There's little need in handcuffs for this conversation."

Mutely, Swigert shakes her head, a reflexive refusal belied by her words: "Don't matter. But that'd be nice." Behold her efficiency — answering two questions in one.
The Marines, for their part, take notice. "Pardon me, sir," says the lead corporal as he pushes his way into the room. The burly man hefts his assault rifle before retrieving a set of jangling keys from his waist, grabbing the girl's hands just long enough to send the cuffs clattering to the table. "Going to have to put these on when we go back, but." The look on his face is inscrutable as he returns to his post — just out of earshot.

"Thanks," the apprentice murmurs, and her momentary smile is enough to cause some amount of color to return to her face. "Not like I got anywhere to go."

Two glasses of water are retrieved from an insulated thermos, while the MPs do their thing. Never underestimate the power of a glass of properly cold water. One Jezza keeps, while the other is slid to the Apprentice. She reseats herself, and immediately takes a drink of the water, herself. "Here's how this works, Melissa." She steeples her fingers together in front of her, gaze held on the young woman opposite her, as she speaks. She sounds as if she's been tasked with explaining a complex game, but lucky for her - for them both - it's one she's very familiar with. It's tricky, and maybe not that fun of a game, but together they can do this. "As your counsel, it's my job to hear your story, and make sure you are fairly represented in the courtroom. What you tell me here, I am under oath to keep between us, and I take this oath very seriously." There's no need for any guile with that - these are matters over which Themis keeps a keen, keen eye. "It's also very important for you to tell me the truth. I know that's what those MPs out there have been harping on you to do, as well. The difference, here, is I'm here to protect you from being unduly punished. Do you understand?"

The girl's cracked lips greedily accept the water that's offered, and for a moment all that can be heard from the cubicle is the sound of her drinking. It'll be some time before she finishes, dropping the now-empty glass to the table in evident satisfaction. "I know what you lawyers do," she declares when she's done, fixing the older woman with an oddly weighing gaze. "I watched this show, once, where they tried to get one of you lawyers to, like, say stuff about the guy he worked for, and he couldn't, because everything was confidential." Her voice drops to a conspiratorial whisper. "And that guy, like, murdered somebody."

One thin brow lifts a little. For a moment, perhaps, there is the faintest of beleagured looks. It segues easily into a genuinely wry grin, however. "Was it the classic television ending, though?" she asks. Not so familiar that they could be mother-and-daughter jawing over soap operas, but. "Did the lawyer have a crisis of conscience and break their oath in The Name Of Justice?" Even though she was just seated, she rises again. Another glass of water will be retrieved for the young woman. She brings the thermos back to the table, along with the glass. "Are you ready to begin, Melissa?"

"Yeah, we can start — but you should probably know that the lawyer didn't, like, break. Or something." Swigert looks up from her newly refilled glass, her expression touched with something akin to — admiration? "He was hot, too. Mike Woodman?" The name should be familiar to anybody remotely tuned into cable news: a former pop singer trying to carve out a new career as a serious actor with serious roles, his last name notwithstanding. "Even someone old like you has got to have seen those pictures. You know? Surfer pants, beach?" A bit of the teenage girl inside her creeps out from beneath her wan shell as she takes another hungry gulp of water. "Anyway, I think he, like, quit his job or something." Beat. "That was seriously cool."

Jezza doesn't answer any of the Apprentice's 'LIEK OMG HE WUZ SO HAWT' chatter, but she does listen. Attentively, and with the slightly quirk to her smile that suggests, yes, she's familiar with these things. She's here to listen, and understand. Except when she's here to talk - which she does, a polite beat after the younger woman finishes. "What I need you to do is tell me what happened. I know. Again. Next, we'll go through what the MPs have said you told /them/, and I'll make sure that any lies you told them are cleared up between us." She takes another sip of water, and draws a leatherbound book out of her folio. A fountain-pen is uncapped. "Whenever you're ready, please. I'll try not to interrupt."

Melissa's wide eyes blink several times as she's steamrollered by the older woman's desire to Get a Move On. "You really can't tell anyone, right?" she asks after a second or two of hesitation. "It — it works like, you know, how the show works?"

"Yes." Rather than quibble the detail that the television occasionally, accidentally, has an accurate representation of things, Jezza gives a simple and genuinely earnest agreement. It's easier to make them believe you when you're actually telling the truth. "I would sit in the brig, no different than you, before I went back on my oath. I wasn't lying to you, how important this is to me." A little tit-for-tat of honesty. For the love of Themis Herself, may it coax the nineteen year-old's sound and fury to start signifying /something/.

Swigert holds the lawyer's earnest expression for a little longer than perhaps expected leaning back in the comfortable red chair: a chair so large that it almost swallows her slender frame. "Cool," she murmurs, dropping her gaze to the blonde on the wall before shaking a lock of curly brown hair from her eyes. "Okay." Another pause. "In that case — it was really Viv." The girl's face crinkles up at the confession. "We — argued. She got mad. Real mad." Her throat pulses once, twice, three times. "It was about a guy, how frakking stupid is that — a guy, and I told her to stop being such a — a — "

Melissa's hand reaches out for the cup of water, small fingers scrabbling for purchase against its frosted edge. The others rest loosely on her legs, splayed out against the plastic braces holding them together. "It was a pretty bad word," she whispers. "And then she pushed, and — you know the rest."

Jezza's a good listener, and a better observer. It's what she's trained to do. She barely glances away from the young woman to make tiny shorthand notations in her book. A few quick lines connecting one cluster of symbols to another, striking a tick through other lines. "I know the rest, according to what the MPs have reported you told them. Whether it's the truth is for you to tell me." She pauses for a sip of her own water, eyes on her page while she reads, then returns her attention to the Apprentice. "She pushed you. You hit your head-? You were pushed into the bottles-? What's the very last thing you remember, before waking up in Sick Bay?"

"Doesn't matter." There's a curious bit of defiance in the girl's tone. "You don't get to tell anyone what Viv did." Her grin is equal parts hope and fear. "You said you can't." As if that makes all the difference in the world. And now: more water.

Jezza's seen this sort of reaction before; typically, yes, in the younger people brought to face the court. I'll tell the truth. I'll pinky-shake on it. Now I dare you to break your promise. I double-dog-dare you. "Yes." Patient, but also more intent; the moss-green gaze has sharpened. "I said I can't. I promised you I won't. What did Viv do?"

"Viv died." Swigert rocks forward so her elbows rest on the exposed steel surrounding her braced legs. Her voice, so recently alive, becomes toneless. "Was going to talk to her, but I was in Sickbay and she was busy, with, like, I don't know, wedding stuff, or something like that, and — " Dark eyes glimmer as she sets her expression in the best approximation of prideful stolidity she can muster. "She left me her stuff. I think the Marines took it all." The cup's set down on the table, water sloshing over its sides. "So yeah. Doesn't matter."

"It's all filed as Evidence, yes. Her possessions, including her ring." Jezza steeples her fingers together in front of her again, watching the young woman across from her attempt to shutter herself away. "The ring is very valuable. For an outsider looking in at the situation, it could seem obvious that this was staged out of greed. For the sake of that ring. Is that what this is really about?" There's a different glimmer in Jezza's eyes, now. Almost frenetic, as she rejuggles facts in her mind.

"What? Greed — what?" Melissa looks askance as the rapping of her fingers on her brace grows ever faster. "No — no, no." That's about as definitive an answer as she can get. "You think I wanted — " Heat threads into her voice, lending it a curious edge. "I didn't even know she'd written a will," the girl murmurs. "Never thought she'd talk to me again. And I didn't — " She can't quite wrap her head around the word 'kill', preferring instead to swallow it with another gulp of water. "The Cylons did." Eyelids flash closed as she sinks back into her chair. "I was there."

Jezza is unfazed; she holds her hands up in an apologetic sort of 'whoa, whoa' gesture. Gentle gaze, but the words are firm; the sort that have an easier time cutting through hysteria than most. "No. That's what the evidence is pointing at. That's what I'm here for, Melissa - to get the truth from you, if the evidence is misleading. Like the television shows." A shared glance, and gentler tone, bringing up the previous boyband-turned-lawyer. "The evidence all pointing in one direction. Open and shut case. And then it turns out it's not that simple, after all." Beat. "Do you understand the punishment for the charges laid against you?"

A quick nod is Melissa's answer. "They want me to tell on Viv," she murmurs. "Say Viv pushed me and set the fire. Open and shut case. But that — it all — " Her little sneeze is quite audible indeed as the back of her palm brushes against her long eyelashes, coming away just a little damp. "She didn't do anything wrong, and now she's dead, and they want to drag her through the — through the mud, and — and I won't let them." Quickly, she turns away, returning her attention to the picture pinned to the wall. "Won't let them."

And there it is, nineteen year-old loyalty burning clear and pure. Jezza sits back in her chair as well, silent and watching for a very long while. At length, she clears her throat once, then again. "All right, Melissa," she says - acknowledgement of what was said, as opposed to agreement. Gently: "That's everything you want to tell me?"

Another quick nod, if not quicker; then, impulsively, Swigert is leaning forward and reaching out, her cool fingers attempting to grab the other woman's hands. She seems to be blinking a lot more now than she had been, and her grip manages to be both soft and urgent at once. "Don't forget," she says, not looking up. "You promised."

And it's with as much dignity as she can affect that she offers her wrists to the Marines that enter the office upon Sabaudia's signal. Click, click — and gone, leaving behind her only the tap-tapping of keyboards and the occasional quiet cough.

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