THE BIRTH OF MOUNTAINS

by

Michael Edwards

Tuesday morning, June 19, 2091, at ten A.M., the trial began.  Upon the heels of a deathly silence the judge banged his gavel; outside the speakers amplified the sound into an explosion that startled those gathered to hear the trial.  This was followed by the invocation.  Henry was then led into the courtroom, in shackles, by five armed guards.  He stood at a small desk assigned to the defense until motioned to be seated.

"Bailiff will read the charges," the judge ordered.

"The citizens of Henryville and the people of the Ohio Valley charge the defendant, known only as Henry, with the crime of high treason against the state," the bailiff read.

"Have you entered a plea?" the judge asked Henry's attorney - the same defense lawyer who successfully defended Cade at his court martial.  Henry had not requested an attorney but when one was offered to him he accepted the offer.

"I know the seriousness of the charge," Henry acknowledged to those who had arranged for the attorney.  "I know I stand a better chance of winning if I'm represented.  But please understand: I am here to serve the people.  I don't seek this for myself but I accept their right to charge me.  I will win only if the people allow me to win."

"We plead not guilty, your honor," Henry's attorney responded to the judge's question.

"I now call upon the prosecution to present its case," the judge said.

Stone Creek arose and began the slow, deliberate process of weaving, strand by careful strand, a web of treason drawn from the sins of a pompous leader, during the course of the trial accusing the defendant of dereliction of duty; abuse of power; corruption; greed; and, ultimately, as if all that went before it had merely prepared the way, of collusion with the enemy - the tacit collusion of turning a blind eye to the enemy's designs, coupled with the willful act of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.

"We will show that the defendant not only dismissed the theoretical threat his people faced but deliberately ignored warnings of actual threats delivered to him over a period of time," Stone Creek advised the court.  "The people contend that no leader would willingly ignore the interests of his people unless working in the interest of someone other than his people - in this case, someone poised to invade his territory.  We will present evidence and testimony pointing to just such a secret agenda.  A conspiracy to supplant the leadership of the Ohio Valley with an outside power.  In a word, treason."

Interspersed with innuendo and hearsay was just enough hard evidence to lend credibility to even the most outrageous testimony.  Objection after objection by the defense was sustained, but nothing stricken from the record was ever disproved.  Halfway through the trial, Joey asked the defense attorney if it was wise to have so much thrown out.

"You strengthen your client's case every time your objection is sustained," the attorney explained.  "Cases are won one point at a time."

"But you never get to dispute anything," Joey retorted.  "This is not a normal case before a normal court, where refinements of the law dictate the outcome.  This is a case charged with emotion, presented at the moment of the defendant's greatest vulnerability.  A year ago the charges would have been dismissed.  A year from now people will come to understand the grotesque absurdity of the accusations.  But right here, right now, they're looking for a scapegoat.  They aren't seeking justice, they're looking for someone to blame for the war, and the enemy's continued presence among us.  Everything that's said is taken to heart, no matter if it's thrown out or not."

"I would accept - and perhaps accede to - your argument," the attorney acknowledged, "except for one overriding facet of this trial: it'll be decided by judges, not by a jury of laymen; and one glaring omission: the word 'appeal.'  Even if we lose the case, there's more than enough on record to warrant an appeal.  I'm confident the verdict would be overturned."

"By whom?" Joey asked.  "There's no appeals court."

"Then they'll have to establish one," the attorney concluded.  "There must be an appeals process in a free society.  It's the very basis of freedom."