"Guilty?!" Cooper said as he stood up, "This is a complete farce and you know it. This is wrong and…" Cooper was immediately silenced by a large man with a stunner. Cooper was unconscious immediately.
He awoke in a dark room. He was staring up at a ceiling that was at least ten meters high. The room in its entirety seemed to have been carved directly out of a mountain, with various sharp jagged edges towards the top with the walls gradually smoothing into stones that did not appear to be natural to this environment. The jagged pieces of rock were brown and tan in color; while the stones lining the walls bottom were red. The room had a dirt floor and what appeared to be a table and a bunk, carved directly out of the walls. Cooper recognized the room instantly as a prison cell. He had been unfortunate enough to occupy several different cells, both on Earth as a POW and on Farpoint just after his medication dilemma, and they all brought out very strong feelings, mostly of agony and despair. Cooper gathered as much Intel as he could about the cell he was in. He sniffed around and could smell the dampness in the air, which he found came from a small opening near the table which was obviously meant to be the toilet and the sink. The only light in the room was from a dim panel about a meter from the ceiling which was then reflected back towards Cooper and the ground. Cooper could not tell if it was night or day and he was sure that no matter what, this cell would never get any brighter than it was now.
After exploring the cell very closely Cooper realized that he could not find the door. The only thing he had on in the cell was his sour demeanor and he half expected the guards to have left him clothing. He began to play with the walls of the cell, most notably; he found out that he wasn't the first occupant of the cell as several of the stones on the wall could be wiggled loose, exposing areas behind them that could be used to hide objects. Cooper found fifteen or so of these hiding places before he noticed a strange taste in the air. He looked around trying to find where it was coming from and managed to move about two feet when his vision blurred and he went unconscious again, collapsing onto the floor in a heap. His last thought before he was completely out was of his wife and for some reason he feared that they would never be together again.
This time when Cooper awoke, he was still on the floor, but he noticed that he was no longer the only occupant of the room. He went to check on the crumpled mass on the bed and saw that it was a human, male. Cooper saw that he had been left with prison basics neatly folded in a pile near the table. He saw two sets of clothing, one each for him and his new cell mate. There was also bedding, basic hygiene items and some food. Cooper saw that although everything had been divided into two sets, the food was simply on one plate. Cooper dressed himself and approached the man on the bed. Who awoke with a start as Cooper touched his arm, he jumped up shouting "No, you can't do that…" and then he looked around and realized that they already had.
The man looked around the room and looked at Cooper and then said, "Is this it? Is this all?"
Cooper looked the man in the eyes, he could see fear and dread in them and he knew his answer would not lighten the man's eyes. "I really don't know, I have only been here…" then he trailed off, realizing that he had no clue how long he had been there. "For a short while." he finished his statement.
Cooper then said, "Hello my name's Cooper Brain, you can just call me Coop." as he extended his hand in the direction of the man.
The man took Cooper's hand into his own and shook it, although weakly, "My name is Sulley Materon but you can call me Sulley,"
Cooper replied, "Hello Sulley, now that we know each other let's eat." They both sat at the table, "The cuisine in this hotel is horrible, I'll have to let the concierge know." Cooper looked up at the man who smiled a little bit.
Between the two of them they split the food in half and both men compared the taste to some type of waste products made by animals indigenous to their home world. Cooper chose a pig and Sulley chose something that Cooper couldn't even begin to pronounce.
Even as all this was happening Admiral Fel was arriving on the planet that had chosen to incarcerate Cooper. He was not alone. Andy had forced his way onto the Hunter as soon as he had heard the news, and so did many other of Cooper's friends and supporters. Fel, Andy and a detachment from the Second squad landed in the capital city. Admiral Fel had demanded a meeting to negotiate for his crewman and he wasn't planning on leaving without him.
After he had been escorted to the chambers of the Chief of Police and a member of the planets ruling body, he was seated and the two men took up positions on the other side of the table. Their chairs were obviously several inches higher than his, in an attempt to give them home office advantage and to get intimidation on their side. Nick scanned the office, and noticed nothing but bare essentials. A plant, a desk, a chair, a filing cabinet and he noticed in particular, there were no photos or anything personal in the room. The air was cold and the office was painted plain white and trimmed in wood paneling. The desk which he sat near was a large but not elegant design made of some type of local wood with a granite-like top, very functional in design.
"Well," The Police Chief spoke first, " Welcome, I am Chief Firton, What gives us the honor of having a full fledged Admiral on our little backwater planet?"
The Admiral looked at the man, he was broad shouldered and bald, probably somewhere in his mid 40's with several scars on his face that had lightened a great deal in the years since the man had been patrolling a desk. "You know why I am here, I want my man back."
The Chief looked at him, almost surprised, "What do you mean?"
Nick looked like he could jump over the desk and add a few more scars to the man's face. He withdrew a data crystal from his pocket and placed it into his computer, the report came up and Admiral Fel read it aloud. "Flight Officer Cooper Brain, an offworlder, has been sentenced to ten years in a prison facility for a major violation of the criminal code." He stopped, "I want him back."
The other man in the room then entered the conversation, "I am Minister Chafga and I regret to inform that we cannot do that, he has already been tried and convicted and is currently serving his term."
"What do you mean? He was only arrested yesterday." Nick replied
"On our planet we believe in swift justice, it has been that way for several years now and had brought crime rates down drastically." Replied the Minister
"And what was Officer Brain's crime?" Nick asked "Can I see the File?"
"Well Sir," The Chief looked disdainfully at The Admiral, "Ordinarily our files are sealed but for you on this one occasion I will grant you access to it." He stood up and revealed a frame over two meters tall wearing a dark Green uniform and shined black boots. He walked to his file cabinet and pulled out a date crystal and tossed it to the Admiral, "There ya go; now you can see plainly that he got what he deserved."
"We shall see," Said a defiant Admiral as he stood and left the room. "We shall see."
Back in the cell, Cooper and Sulley were exchanging stories about their lives, "You mean to tell me that no one even noticed that it was on his face?" Cooper said.
"No one had the guts to tell him, he was a very large man you know." Sulley replied with a grin on his face. "Your turn Coop." he said
"Well gees, what should I say first?" Cooper said, half to himself and half to Sulley. Then he took deep breath and started, "I had an instructor back in school when I was about twelve or thirteen whose favorite thing to do was to throw objects at students in class whom he felt weren't paying him enough attention. His name was Mr. Willow. Since I had already completed most of the work after the first two weeks of class I was bored and always looking for ways to kill time. These of course did not involve paying the instructor any attention. So I was a victim of several flying objects sent my way by Mr. Willow. Well one day I decided that I had had enough. Me and a few accomplices snuck into the room an hour before school started and with us we had our secret weapon…" Cooper's voice became more mysterious and he could tell that Sulley was interested because he was leaning in, trying to get as close to Cooper as possible to insure that he didn't miss anything. Cooper than began a mock yawn, much to the chagrin of Sulley.
"C'mon out with it, what was it?" Sulley nearly shouted in excited tension, "It's almost cruel to make me wait." He finished
"Well," Cooper continued smiling, "On my planet we have a very strong adhesive known as duct tape. We brought about twenty or so rolls with us and subsequently spent the next forty five minutes taping all of his loose objects to the ceiling."
Sulley had a smile on his face, "And what happened when he came into the room?" he asked.
"Well it turns out that the day we chose to do this, was the only day that I remember Mr. Willow called in sick." Cooper answered
Sulley laughed heartily, "You mean, you guys went through all that trouble and he never even knew."
Cooper continued, "Yeah, about ten minutes before class was supposed to start the principal came down to tell us all to report to study hall, because they were unable to find a substitute, and let me tell you was he surprised when he walked in the room."
"So, how much trouble did you get in?" Sulley asked.
"Well it seems that we got lucky in that the principal thought it was so funny that he didn't punish us, all he did was make us stay in the room and take it all down." Cooper answered.
Back aboard the ship, Admiral Fel sat in his office, present in the room were General Moore, Captain David Sinclair, Colonel Vrecken, Thorn and a few representatives of the Fighter Corps, Major Piquo Starr, and Andy. Major Fortis had also entered the room.
"Just wanted to see what mess we are going to have to bail another pilot out of this time," he said
Nick began, "Most of you know the situation going on with one of our Pilots, Flight Officer Cooper Brain has been imprisoned and this is creating a political nightmare, seeing as how he is a Tau'ri, apparently they can accept combat losses, but the idea of imprisonment just doesn't sit too well with them. Also, this planet has a history of questionable relations with The New Republic and I, for one, deem it necessary to get Officer Brain back, whatever the cost."
Nick looked around the room at the nodding heads
"Well." Nick began, "let's see what information the Chief gave us." Nick bent over a computer terminal and plugged in the data crystal. The group watched as a holographic image sprung forth from the emitters.
"That's Cooper," said Andy as he stood and approached the screen and pointed to a figure towards the bottom of the image.
"Can we see it any closer?" asked Colonel Vrecken and Nick typed in the appropriate commands and the image zoomed in on Cooper.
Cooper was walking through what appeared to be an open market, he had stopped at several booths already and examined the merchandise; digging through his pockets for the appropriate coinage for the item he was purchasing, which, upon further examination appeared to be a beautifully ornate bracelet.
As Cooper walked away from the booth, two men, wearing hoods, walked past Cooper towards the booth that he had purchased the jewelry. Both men pulled what appeared to be weapons and grabbed the lady behind the counter. While the larger of the two men grabbed the woman's money for the day, the other threatened her, eventually he hit her with the end of his weapon and while she was on the ground holding her jaw, the small man fired a single shot at her. Her body slumped over as both men took off on foot. As the image progressed one could see the image of Cooper walking back into frame, he checked on the woman, and immediately took off on foot after the two criminals.
The image winked out a few moments and then reappeared this time showing an open courtyard with the two criminals, followed closely by Cooper who caught up with one of them and tackled him down. As Cooper had the large man on the ground, the smaller man returned and tried to pull Cooper off of his buddy, Cooper hit the man with a fist square in the jaw, breaking it and the other man withdrew his pistol and aimed it at Cooper. Cooper put his hands up. The man with the gun got distracted by a sound out of visual recording range and Cooper took the opportunity to jump on him and relieve him of his consciousness. As the two murderers lay on the floor, Cooper went to a nearby Comms station and then waited.
About a minute later the Police showed up and arrested the two men who had shot the woman, and Cooper was slapped into restraints as well. The image then cut off.
"Okay," Andy asked, "Did anyone see what law he broke?" but before anyone could answer, the emitter stirred to life again, this time, the scene was the interior of a Court room. The room was wide and curved into the audience seating. At the center of the room, behind a raised platform sat what must have been the judge. Cooper sat at the left of the courtroom; he appeared to have been mistreated due to the black eye and puffy lip that he was wearing. He was bound with his hands at his waist and legs shackled together. He was wearing the same clothes he had been arrested in, and there appeared to be a large blood stain on the front of the shirt.
The Judge began to speak, "How does this," he paused briefly as if searching for the appropriate words, "Offworlder plea?" He said with smugness in his voice.
Cooper's Advocate stood, as if scared and said meekly, "He has not said anything and respectfully wishes to speak with his command…" he was cut off and the screen image fizzled out.
"What happened?" Piquo asked
The screen then reappeared and Cooper seemed slightly more bruised up then before. Now there was a new swelling in his other eye and there was a fresh cut on his lip.
"Look at that," Nick said, "They have switched his advocate."
"I wonder why they would do that?" Viper asked
Then Corry spoke, "To get the answers they want." As the clip played on, it was obvious that she had been right, Now Coopers advocate claimed that Cooper had confessed to his crime.
"I didn't do anything wrong, I was just trying to help, they attacked that poor woman!" Cooper called out as he stood, and was immediately tackled by the security staff in the room. The image fizzled out again and then reappeared, it seemed, several minutes had passed.
The Judge called for Cooper to stand, which he could not and he was assisted in his standing be the same security personnel that had just tackled him.
"I find you guilty of the crime of civil disobedience and sentence you to 10 years." he said and smiled as he did it.
"Guilty!" Cooper said as he stood up, "This is a complete farce and you know it. This is wrong and…" Cooper was immediately silenced by a large man with a Stunner. Cooper was unconscious immediately
The image fizzled out again and everyone could tell they had seen the last of the recording. "Wow! That was the biggest piece of..." Andy had had started but was quickly cut off. "What do we do?" asked Piquo, trying to prevent Andy from swearing in front of the Admiral.
"The first step is to negotiate," Said Nick, "and while I am doing that we will try to gather as much Intel as possible in case diplomacy fails."
"Diplomacy always fails." muttered Viper
"It does quite often. However it can buy us some time to plan." Nick replied
"Meanwhile one of our officers is in prison somewhere going through…. I don't even want to imagine what he's going through. We should try to get something done as soon as possible." Miles said.
"He'll be okay for a while, he's strong. But if they are torturing him he won't last forever." Andy said.
"Agreed." Nick said, "Two days. We have two days to find out where he is and to break him out. Viper and Miles, as soon as we find him begin planning. Corry, find out exactly where he is. And Andy, " He looked to the Lieutenant, "Calm down, we will get him out of there and before you ask, meet up with Miles, you can go down with the rescue team. Dismissed."
With that the group left the room and went about getting their newly assigned tasks done.
* * * * *
"Are you sure we don't have any left?" Sulley looked at Cooper as if he was expecting a different answer even though they had been over it several times in the last few days.
"I have already told you Sul, we ate the last of our store of food last week sometime. We don't have any left." Cooper had realized after a while that the hell they were in only decided to feed them every few weeks at random intervals. So Cooper and Sulley had learned to hide food behind the removable rocks and to eat it very slowly. This had worked for them for several years but they had not been fed for what felt like months.
"This is the longest we have gone isn't it?" Sulley asked.
"I believe it has been several months, I don't know what they are playing at but I am starting to get a might angry, I think I'll go talk to the staff and see if we can't come to some kind of agreement." Cooper said trying to lighten the mood.
"I wish you could Coop." Sul said as he laughed, "I couldn't go through this without you."
"Same here," Cooper said.
Cooper moved to sit on the bed; he was ravenous and was weak. He fumbled around with his full beard and his unkempt hair, both of which had grown to at least a foot long in the last few years, and asked, "Sulley, why haven't we ever seen a guard?"
"My best guess would be that they don't really care. Think about it, it is safer for them if they gas us every time they come in here rather than take the chance we'll jump them and try to escape."
"It would be nice to get my hands on one of them." Cooper said, "Sulley, why are you here?" he asked. He realized that although he had told his story of wrongful imprisonment, he had no clue why the man he had shared the last few years with was here.
"I killed a man." he said with such sadness in his voice that it made Cooper want to try to find out more. Sulley continued, "My planet is currently undergoing a depression of sorts, I had lost my job and was having a great deal of trouble finding another one. One day my little girl, Aryiona got sick. She had Ruiles disease, which can be deadly if not treated. We tried to take her to the hospital but they refused to treat her, they said it would be very expensive and vagrants like us couldn't afford it. I begged, I pleaded but they threw us out on the street. My wife, my sick daughter and I had nowhere else to go; we knew what the answer would be."
He began to sob and Cooper sat closer to him and wrapped an arm around the grieving, heaving sobbing mess and said, "You don't have to continue if you don't want to."
"No," Sulley muttered, "I want to tell you what happened, My wife and I decided we needed to get the money, so we decided to break into a local shop, right before it closed and take the money. We weren't going to hurt anyone we were just going to scare them and take it. We walked in and the owner pulled a gun on my wife, I tried to tell him that it would be okay, that we would just leave and never come back, but all he could say was that he was sick of us damn people trying to take rather than get a job and that he had the solution to our problem and before I could stop him, he fired and hit my wife. At that point I just lost it and fired at him till the gun clicked."
Cooper looked at his friend, "Did she die?"
"I don't know, as soon as emergency services got there I was arrested and knocked out, when I woke up, I was here." Sulley broke down crying, "I think I need to go to sleep now." and he moved towards the bed and plopped into it. Cooper could hear him sobbing for a few minutes, and then after a while he was asleep.
After he was sure that Sulley was asleep, Cooper went over to his last hiding spot, he slowly worked the brick away from the wall and withdrew two sacks that contained the last bit of food they had on them, Cooper had tried to make it last as long as possible but he thought, with the information he had just heard that Sulley deserved to eat.
Cooper heard a shuffling sound behind him and when he stopped to look he saw Sulley had removed one of the stones from the wall and was holding it over his head, "I thought we didn't have any more food!" he shouted as he flung the rock at Cooper's head. Cooper rolled out of the way but was grabbed from behind by Sulley while he was screaming, "Thought you'd let me fall asleep in misery and then enjoy a nice quiet dinner by yourself? I don't think so!" His point was amplified by the punches raining down on Cooper from above. Cooper moved his hips and threw Sulley off of him, "Calm down, I was going to share."
"Sure you were, you bastard!" Sulley called out.
"Look Sulley, there are two bags there, not one. One is yours and one is mine. Please calm down." Cooper was pleading with him
Sulley then threw Cooper into the wall and tried to jump on the food, "They're both mine now, you changalka!" He swore in what must have been his native language.
"No!" Cooper called out, "Sul you can't have them both, we haven't eaten in a week and god only knows when they'll feed us again. We need to make this last." Cooper begged.
"Screw you!" Sulley called out, Cooper knew that he was hunger crazed and jumped on his back and as he tried to reach around Sulley's neck he heard an awful crack and felt Sulley's body go limp.
"No." Cooper cried out and he stood up and turned the body over, and instantly he stared into the dead eyes of Sulley, his only friend for the last several years. Cooper held the body close, and then he thought he could smell the gas flooding the air and knew that he would soon be unconscious, he grabbed at Sulley again and a tear streamed down his face and then all he saw was blackness.
* * * * *
Admiral Fel arrived on the planet with his entourage in tow; he headed straight toward the Governmental complex and straight to the Office of the Prime Minister, "I want my man back. I saw that video and that trial." Nick said with a disgusted voice, "I want him back now! Or so help me I will rain down death and destruction on you."
"Well," the Prime Minister said, "We wouldn't want that. Let me call my Chief of Police and we will see what we can arrange."
Nick looked flustered, "What?"
* * * * *
On the transport Nick and Andy were heading to their preset rendezvous point with the Chief of Police. The transport landed and Nick and Andy walked down the ramp and into the building. They were rapidly approached by the Chief of Police. "Where is he?" asked Andy
"I have something I need to explain to you first, but I can guarantee that he is in this building." He beckoned Nick and Andy to follow him and they did.
* * * * *
When Cooper awoke, the body of Sulley had been removed and there was fresh food on the table. Cooper crawled to it and immediately split it into several smaller piles so that he could begin storing it for later.
He realized after awhile that he was still storing food for two people and the thought of what he had just done welled up inside of him. He reorganized his piles for one person and started stowing them away.
As more and more time had passed time passed, the loneliness was starting to get to him. Cooper was talking to himself and telling stories to himself and singing songs, anything to keep from going crazy.
As even more time passed, he had begun to contemplate ending it, he had no idea how long he had been in this misery filled den, but he wanted out and after he realized the only escape was the final one, into darkness he considered how to do it.
Cooper was ready to try anything when he heard something that he had never heard before. It sounded like a door opening. There was a flood of light that blinded him and from that darkness he saw two figures enter the room. Cooper recoiled and tried to fight them off but the men were stronger than he, and they grabbed him and dragged him from the room. He was escorted through a long, white hallway with lights all over. He was lifted up onto a table and shackled at the wrist and feet.
"What's going on, what are you doing to me?" Cooper called out but all he received back was silence.
One of the technicians, wearing a white coat that covered his body and a hood with a respirator on it approached Cooper and said, "This won't hurt a bit." and placed a needle in Coopers arm. Cooper tried to struggle but watched hopelessly as the fluid entered his arm.
* * * * *
Admiral Fel and Andy sat in a waiting room, Andy pacing back and forth with such an intense fervor that Nick feared he might walk a hole into the floor. Nick just stared at the door that, they had been told, would reunite them with Cooper. They had been waiting for at least half an hour and after hearing what they had been told. They knew that once they got to Cooper, he would be scared and need their help.
* * * * *
Cooper woke up in the same white room and was unshackled; his head felt like an old sun had gone critical and exploded inside his skull. A man approached him and stated in a very stern voice, "Your sentence is complete, you may leave."
Cooper stood to leave, "Ten years, ten years of my life wasted," Cooper was ablaze with fury. "Why didn't Rogue Squadron come get me out, did they think I was dead?" he said aloud to the man, who just looked at Cooper and shrugged. Cooper grabbed his belongings and left the room as he exited through the doors he saw someone familiar walking a hole into the carpet.
"Andy?" he called out, despite being ten years older he still looked like the young bratty friend that he remembered, "Andy is that you?"
At hearing his name Andy turned to face Cooper, "Coop!"
"Admiral Fel… is that you?" Cooper was confused; Andy and Nick both looked exactly as they had ten years ago.
Nick could see the look of puzzlement on Coopers face and said, "We'll explain on the way back to the ship."
* * * * *
Once onboard the ship Nick began, "Cooper, how long do you believe you have been in that place?" he looked at Cooper questioningly
"I really don't know, but I was sentenced to ten years, and it felt like a hundred." Cooper said, smiling with renewed vigor as he had come to grasp his new found freedom.
Nick nodded negatively, "This is going to take some time to explain. As soon as you were knocked unconscious in that travesty of a court room you were placed into a medical incarceration facility where they implanted that memory into your brain."
"What do you mean by that?" Cooper looked to Andy to try to make some sense of it.
"Cooper, you have been away from us for little more than two weeks," Andy said
"You're joking, I can't believe it." Cooper said in a state of shock, "But it felt so real."
Nick said, "I don't understand exactly how it works, but their culture is designed around these implanted memories. Their belief is that it is better to do it that way so you get the punishment, but are then reformed and can be a member of society again. Apparently it has been very successful."
"Wow." was all Cooper could manage to mutter. "This is just too hard to believe, it just felt so real." Cooper was mad.
"Is this what they think stops crime?" Cooper said, obviously angry, "That was pointless."
Andy replied, "They swear up and down by this system. They say it has dropped crime rates significantly."
"Well I don't care what they say, I don't see how." Cooper said, still with agitation in his voice
Nick then said, "I think it is a flawed system, it only looks good on paper because they punish everyone. Obviously politicians make themselves look better."
"What kind of memory did they implant into you?" Andy asked, as a friend who could see his friend's obvious pain.
"Well it all started…" Cooper began to tell the story of the last ten years of his life, as he remembered them.
* * * * *
Now settled back into his quarters, his mind still trying to come to terms to what had happened. Cooper suddenly felt very uncomfortable in his small quarters, he walked over to his storage cabinet and removed a pencil and a piece of paper and began to draw.
* * * * *
"Come on in." Cooper called out when there was a chime at his door and Andy walked in,
"How you holding up?" Andy asked
"As well as can be expected, I guess." Cooper replied
"Who's that?" Andy asked as he pointed to a pencil drawing hanging on the wall in a crude frame.
"That is the man I killed in prison, I wanted to draw him before I forgot his face." Cooper said and both men were silent for a minute.
"Andy, can I ask you a favor?" Cooper said
"Sure buddy, what do you need?" Andy asked
"Please don't leave me by myself; I can't stand the idea of being alone right now."
"Okay, but what do you want to do?" Andy asked
"Well, apparently I have just received a new shipment of movies in from Earth, hopefully they're good ones and I can help you keep up with your 'Earth cultures studies'.
"Sounds fun to me, let me go get some food and I'll come back with snacks for us both, sound good?" Andy said
"Yeah," Cooper replied, "and feel free to invite others. Right now the more the merrier."
"Well, I am sure I can find some other people who like you enough to stay with you." Andy said with a smile, "Maybe even Zoebel."
"Great, bring anyone." Cooper said as he followed Andy out of the door and headed for the snacks.