The Collar Wars
I may have been allowed the comforts of home despite being a POW. Unfortunately, I was still a prisoner and come the time of tribunal I was led into an improvised courtroom in handcuffs. I was in my old uniform and not pleased about it. Every person in the room knew the outcome of course, but they needed practice and I was the only Human they could trust to help guide them along properly. In their world there was no concept of court martial they just had their collars blown. They had all heard about it but never seen in person.
To top that no one none of them new how to try POWs. I barely knew how to do that. The last trials for war crimes had been back in the 21st century. So, I had spent about a week studying those trials. It had taken longer than it should have since Chelsea had spent much of that time enjoyably distracting me. I didn't mind the distractions in the least, they just made research a little harder than necessary.
By the day of the actual trial I probably could have lectured on 21st Century war crimes. The Generals had read my report on those trials, so we were all on the same page.
“Lieutenant Archer take the stand. We have come to here to decide your fate as you were found in an unexpected situation, and we faced serious resistance by your own unit when the order to kill all Lieutenants was decided. We have come to the decision that in your case we will form a special trial be formed to determine your fate.” If I had been anyone else I’d be terrified but these guys, but they were relatively friendly to me, despite me being mostly Human.
“How was that Lieutenants . Archer?” General Daniels asked.
“It could use a bit of refining, but we’ll figure out something better as we get going.”
“Thank you again for your help.” This time it was General Richard, a massive Bear who could easily rip my head off. Yet at this moment was almost like a child in his reaction to my praise.
“Shall we continue?” The third of the generals, a massive German Shepherd named Hans asked. Like the others he knew the out come of the trial. He was also the most serious of the three, in almost good cop, bad cop respect. He was still a decent guy and I respected him for his ability to ask awkward questions.
“As you wish sirs.”
“Now Lieutenant we under stand that you have various witnesses that can attest to your both actions and character.” Hans continued. “We are going to call your first witness, Sergeant Drake, take the stand.”
My Sergeant, now Lieutenant, took the stand, a desk and table that were set on pallets. We really needed to get a better set up than this. “Sergeant, what was the general feeling towards the accused when he first took charge of your unit?” Gen. Daniels asked.
“We were wary at first. Like every unit here, we can attest we have had nothing but vicious and cruel minded officers. However, Archer made us realize quickly that he could be trusted.”
“What do you mean he was able to get you to trust him?” Gen. Daniels asked.
“When he was first introduced several of saw him visibly wince when his superior used the collar on us. The next thing he did, once his Captain left he gave us a speech that went along this line. ‘I have control of your collars. I expect never to have the slightest reason to even be tempted to use it. You will be the best and the best don’t need to have their collars used.’ After that speech we new that we were going to have it easy.”
“What do you mean that you were going to have it easy. Did you expect that the Archer would never would use a collar on you?” Time for Richard.
“Far from that Sir. He rode our asses hard. He didn’t need to be cruel, he just wanted to make us respect him and not fear him. He was an inspiration to us. When he first ran us through the main obstacle course he threw on full evolved kit. He told us we were we going to run the obstacle course four times. He then said he do it five times to make us look bad. I countered with a full six runs, his comment if any of us made it seven times he would give us an extra visit to the brothel.”
“And did any of you?”
“Yes Sir, private Tanker and I stumbled thought the last of it then we just collapsed. Just as he promised Lewie gave us the extra visit.”
“So what kind of punishments did he give you?”
“For the most part it was extra duties that ate up our free time. A couple extra times cleaning, what was cleaned an hour ago was punishment enough to make us rethink our behavior. The worst the punishment ever got was extra duty plus cutting brothel visits for a few weeks. I once got four weeks of no brothel privileges for not doing my duty at one point. Hated him for about ten minutes then realized I had fucked up royally.”
Hans looked at him for a bit trying to figure out how I had gone from nicest officer, to hated, and back in ten minutes. “What had happened that led up to that?”
“A couple privates got into a bit of a scuffle, and I, their Sergeant hadn’t broken it up right away. The Lewie came in and cracked their skulls against each other ending the fight. He berated me on what happened on what I should have done and what was expected of me going forward. He took my brothel privileges for four weeks and told me to find a punishment suitable for the privates who were the cause of the issue.”
“And what were their punishments?” Daniels asked.
“I gave them a lot of extra duty and fined them for two weeks privileges.”
“You lost privileges for two weeks but only fined them two?” Richards asked, obviously confused.
“Yes. They were the ones who started the brawl, but I was guiLieutenants y of not breaking it up right away. So, I had let down the Lewie down which is exactly what you don’t want to happen.”
“What would have happened if you let the Lewie down?”
Drake shuddered, probably thinking of all the extra duty he had done over the months I had worked him over. “He would find you all sorts of extra work until you dropped from fatigue for a week. It was far more effective than any collar, because you learned the lesson from hard grueling work. There were times I’d rather he had used a collar because the pain would have been only a couple seconds. He’d make you feel it for weeks and you’d learn the lesson the hard way. With his technique we quickly became a top-level unit. We kept out of trouble and everyone pulled their own weight.”
Hans looked confused for a bit. “There were times he rather used a collar?”
“When you are scrubbing a bathroom with a toothbrush for the third time that day because you didn’t do it right the first two times. You become highly versed in new and interesting curses. He’d silently slip into rooms where we were coming up with the most colorful languages, and just laugh at it. Sometimes he’d even help when we seemed to be lost at the halfway point. He scared the crap out of us by coming unnoticed, but we were reassured that he had a good attitude since he was always laughing. Most officers would have blown our collars if they caught half of what we had said. The Lewie just laughed it off.”
General Richard was the next to question him. “We have also heard of some of the work he did getting you interested in more than just military work.”
“Yes sir. He was interested to see if there were things we might want to do, assuming we were ever free of our collars. He seemed to know that eventually they would come off. As soon as that happened it seemed it would be a joyful day for him.”
“So what did he do exactly?”
“He bought a ton of book reader tablets. We read a lot of magazines on everything imaginable. Anything from carpentry to painting even ice sculpting. We had a wide variety of interests so the Lewie had to spend a lot of money to keep us happy.”
“Apparently this leads into leads to something you said they day he was taken into custody. It was reported that you said to the something to the effect of, ‘Each piece I make will be made in the memory of you.’ What did you mean by that?”
“I read of carpentry magazines, and as silly as it sounded considering the price of wood is around here. However if I ever got the chance to I would always remember the Lewie since he was the one who gave me an idea of what it would be like if I was free.”
“Now on to the mood when each unit was told to pick the person who was going to kill their C.O. I have come to understand that each unit had a rough time because everyone was fighting to make the kill. What was it like in your unit?”
“There was dread within the unit. Not one of us wanted to draw the short straw. We all dreaded the possibility that we’d have to kill the Lewie. We respected him, drop that, we loved him. He was as close to a father figure as any Evolved has ever had. We loved him if that’s possible. Yeah he could be an asshole at times, but it was never without reason, and never more than we could handle.”
Daniels was the last one to question Drake. “Is there anything you would like to say in his behalf that we did not ask?”
“Ask him to sing one of the Evolved cadences? He knows just about every one of them.”
“Wait a second. He knows some of them?” General Richard looked stunned.
“The first time we decided to show him just how much he meant to us was to sing those songs with him around. He even joined in at points. It became completely obvious that he might as well be one of us.”
“Thank you Lieutenant. You may now to take your seat.” Drake didn’t even bother to say anything an sat found a seat from which to watch the rest of the proceedings
“Private Tanker, please the stand,” Richard intoned.
“Sir. Yes sir.”
Tanker seemed oddly nervous I could only guess at what but he seemed to have a gut full of snakes he looked so uncomfortable. Once he had taken the stand, he pulled at his the collar of his shirt almost as if was strangling him.
“Now you understand the severity off this trial?” Hans asked.
“Good. Richard would you like to begin?” Hans asked.
The Bear didn’t even bother to accept when he began to question poor Tanker. The reason I said poor Tanker is the massive St. Bernard looked sick to the stomach.
“We know that many Evolved pretty much fought over who got the chance to kill their COs, that includes us. What was it like for you?”
“The last thing anyone wanted to do was draw the short straw. There was even talk among the unit that whoever pulled the trigger would probably commit suicide from the horror of it.” Tanker was starting to tear up just at the thought of it. “I know I would have. I couldn’t imagine life without the Lewie riding my ass about something minor. The horror with knowing that I had pulled the trigger, even if under orders, would have come with enough guiLieutenants for me to kill myself.”
The Generals all cocked their head’s to side, and it was a while they tried to come to grips with the idea. Richard was the first to speak. “Are you saying you would have killed yourself because you had killed the only Human you liked?”
“Sir the whole Unit was talking mass suicide if the Lewie was killed.” Tanker looked miserable and I couldn’t blame him I guess. The idea of a mass suicide was shocking to say the least.
Hans gave Tanker a chance to regain his composure before asking his next question. “Would you have killed him?”
“Yes sir. Only to keep the Captain with us to muff it and leave the Lewie to suffer.” Tanker simply broke down and ran over to me and dropped to his knees. “I’m sorry Lewie I would never kill you but we didn’t want you suffer.”
I all but picked him off the floor where he had hugged my legs. “Don’t worry Tank I don’t blame you. I’m still here and I have no reason to be mad at you.” The Generals on the other hand didn’t know how to understand what they were seeing, they probably had never seen this out pouring of emotion by an evolved.
General Hans shock his head in confusion and was the one to dismiss my poor private. “We understand that there really only was one Evolved that can truly attest to your character.”
“I could probably name a few dozen,” I said with a grin, “but of course it would be PE Chelsea.” PE stood for Pleasure Evolved it signified that for the moment that they had no rank until they could be worked into field operations.
“PE Chelsea please take the stand.” It was Richard who made the call.
Chelsea walked up to the stand in fatigue pants and boots, but she was wearing an under shirt that gave off her sexy appearance. There was no clothes that she had that she could really ware properly for such an occasion. To everyone’s credit no on whistled about her looks. She had worked hard for respect from my unit, and when they had heard that she had nearly knocked Tanker off his feet she had gained it almost immediately.
“PE Chelsea we would like to ask you a few questions regarding the Lieutenant.” This time it was Daniels speaking.
“I will answer any questions you ask with in reason.”
“What was your first opinion of Lieutenants Archer?”
“Within the first few minutes of meeting him he seemed almost shy and trying to calm down because he had never been to a brothel before. Once he told the mistress he was going to rent time with me, he came off as almost charming. It seemed to be that he was going to be gentle out of a sense of being just a nice guy treating me as if I was a human.” Chelsea gave me a slight smile.
“What happened after you made your way back to the bedroom.”
“That is under sex worker/client confidentiality. I umm.” Chelsea stopped and was having a hard time going against her training.
It was Daniels turn to look frustrated. “You do realize the severity of what you have to say about Lieutenants Archer could effect his future?”
“I do it’s just…” Chelsea stammered.
“Don’t worry sweetie you are completely free to talk about anything they ask you?”
Chelsea smiled with relief. “Thank you.”
“Now as we were asking what happened between you.”
“Sam put an old movie that he called a ‘buddy cop movie’ where all the characters resembled Evolved in it. He started telling me why he was there. He need to hold someone because it had been exactly one year since the death of a woman he was going to ask to marry him. Apparently they were meeting together that day so he could ask the question he saw her get hit by a drunk driver and she died in his arms.” All of the generals winced at that. “After that he became incredibly angry, at first I thought I had done something to make him angry. It was nothing I had done though it was because of what I was wearing. He said that since Carol, his late girlfriend, had worn a collar no one he was intimate with would wear one either. When he took it off I was scared that he had completely lost it. I was panicking because if I got without a collar it would be 50 lashes, however he said he would be happy to take the lashes if it came to it.”
Richard arched a single eyebrow. “Did you believe that he would or did think he was just lying to you about it?”
“With the way he was acting I knew that he was serious.”
“After he took your collar off what happened?”
“He held onto me.”
“What no sex?”
“He told me that he couldn’t have sex with me because he’d be cheating on the memory of Carol. As the time went by the reason changed, but until after the Revolution we never had sex, a couple times we’d get close but he never crossed that line. Truthfully it became frustrating, I wanted to but he said that because I was still a slave and he rented me it would be too close to rape for him to take.”
“So what did you do?”
“We’d curl up together just holding each other, while watching movies and old cartoon shows. Often times he bring us a special desert and he’d feed me and treat me as if I was a treasure.”
“Is there any time that things were different?” Daniels asked.
“Yes, one day he came and I had just suffered a horrid customer.”
“How was this customer horrid?” Daniels asked.
“He had run the collar more than a few times, and sometimes for very long points. When Sam found out what happened he became thoroughly enraged, he paid for another few hours with me and just held me.” She gave me a little smile before continuing. “A few days later Sam told me that he had grabbed the bastard, collared him and run it until the guy’s neck burned straight through and his head fell off. I knew he wasn’t joking, especially when the next day the whole news spread through the colony. When I asked him why he did it, he simply said, ‘because he hurt you’, he was simply amazing.”
“Now we checked the records on his visiting you. Other there were a couple of times that were odd but it was the last date that we are interested in. It was date the revolution took place. He scheduled a date earlier than usual, and it was marked to start an hour into the revolution. How did you know about the revolution, none of the Pleasure Evolved knew of the revolution but we can’t think it was a sheer coincidence. So how were you tipped off?”
“Well that is… well um… err… Lieutenants Drake sent me a message via Sam.”
Hans leapt out of his seat. “HOW!!!” He looked mad enough to bite straight through ceramic plate armor. His eyes locked straight on Drake as if he could kill him without a consequence.
“He sent me a message in a present the Unit had sent to me. They had taken a group photo and sent me a copy. Slipped in the frame was a letter that said, ‘if you love the Lewie as much as we do, have him come to see you at this exact time’ and gave the day and time.”
Richard put a calming hand on Hans’s shoulder and pushed him back into his seat. “What did you do with the letter?”
“I burned it. I didn’t know why Drake gave me such specific instructions but I knew it must be important. All I could figure out was that it may be the last time I saw Sam. I couldn’t stand the thought of losing him.”
“That was very wise of you Chelsea. I doubt we would be having this trial over Sam’s life had he not been any other situation. Now we have come to the exact date of the revolution. What happened when the revolution came?”
“As usual Sam took my collar off, it was always the very first thing he did when we were alone. We were an hour or so into the movie when the door was kicked in. He was read the punishment that had been declared in absentia. With Tanker holding a gun to his head I did the only thing I could think of and attacked Tanker. I don’t know how I knocked Tanker into a wall but I wasn’t about to let Sam die. When the captain asked me why I had saved a Human officer I showed him my neck and said, ‘Look at my neck. With him I wear no collar’ then Lieutenants . Drake put a gun against his sidearm against the Captain and told him that Sam deserved a separate trial. As Sam was being led out of the room he told me to look in the pocket of his jacket and that there was a present in there for me.”
“What was the present?” Daniels asked. All of the Generals knew what the present was it was just new evidence for the Evolved who hadn’t heard yet.
“It was a ring.”
“What kind of ring?”
“An engagement ring. He asked me if I would marry him.”
“What does marriage mean?” Hans, Daniels, and Richard were obviously confused.
“It can means that you bind yourself to each other in a life long intimate relationship. That we would be the with same person romantically for the rest of our lives. Well there a few other definitions but this what it means for the two of us
“Did anything else happen between with you that day?”
“Yes as Sam was being led back to his barracks he suggested to Lieutenants Drake that maybe in a cycles we should raise more females. It would allow us Evolved to form more permanent bonds between males and females. Sam said if we had more families we would fight harder because we would be fighting for our loved ones. He even said he would be willing to die to protect the colony because that meant he was dying to protect me.” There was a quite murmuring from the Evolved who hadn’t heard this before, including the Generals. Dying to protect someone they loved was an alien notion to them. Of course everything involving love seemed truly alien concept.
The Generals whispered among themselves for a bit. “You are dismissed Chelsea.”
She smiled and as she passed me she squeezed my shoulder. The Generals made note of it. Along with her testimony and well known facts, they seemed to understand the meaning behind it.
The Generals looked at me and shuffled through their notes. I had been very vague on what they asked me. I didn’t want them to totally rely on me. Plus I had some dirty secrets and I wasn’t sure how they would react. “Lieutenants . Archer please take the stand.” I swallowed hard, unsure of what I gotten myself into. “
I took the stand confidently. We had not scripted this part. The generals were going to have to get used to asking questions of the other human officers on their own.
"Do you swear that the statements you give here are the whole truth and nothing but the truth?"
"I swear Sir." Depending on what the generals asked I had a few things in my past that I knew were going to be frowned upon, but I had changed greatly in my thirteen years as an officer.
"Lieutenant Archer, how long have you served in the Marines?" Asked General Daniels, he knew the answer of course but he had to ask the question for forms sake.
"I have served in the Marines for about thirteen and a half years."
"We have heard evidence that you have not used a collar on any of the Evolveds under your command since you arrived on the colony. Is this correct?" General Hans asked.
"That is correct Sir," I said confidently. "In my entire time on this colony I have never used, or have even been tempted to use a collar."
"Have you ever used a collar during your time of service with the Marines?"
I had known that the question would have course come up. I hated the answer but I was under oath to answer truthfully. "I have Sir." I could hear disquieted muttering from everyone in the room.
"When was the last time you used a collar?" General Hans didn't look pleased. I was guessing that they thought I might not be as nice of a guy as I seemed.
"About thirteen and a half years ago Sir." That would settle things for them.
"But you said that you have been in the Marines for thirteen and a half years?" General Richard asked the question in a very confused tone. "Are you saying that you haven't used a collar since you first joined?"
"Just how many times did you use the collar in that small time?" This time it was General Daniels asking the question.
"I used it exactly three times sir."
"Why so few times?"
"It made me feel sicker and sicker each time I used it, Sir." Just thinking about that last time was enough to make me sick. "The third time I had to quickly find a bathroom to throw up. The sight of a 'brid, as I thought of you then, thrashing upon the ground, screaming as if he wanted to die, begging for mercy. I couldn't take it anymore. After that third time I started thinking of you as Hybrids and the less derogatory 'brid, I couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't stand using the collar."
"How did you maintain control of your unit if you stopped using the collar?" Hans asked, probably never having thought that the sight of a collar being used could sicken an officer.
"I used a speech similar to the one reported by Lieutenants Drake," I continued without a pause. "I said, 'I have no desire to use the collar, and you are going to give me no reason to desire to use it. You are going to be the best unit in the outfit. If you do that I will never have a desire to use the collar.' After that little speech I had the best unit in the outfit. Like the unit here they won every inter-unit competition while I was their CO."
General Richard did the Bear equivalent of raising one eyebrow. "How did your commanders react to this?"
"They weren't pleased by it." I replied. "I was denied promotion every time I came up for it since I was seen as an anti-collar sympathizer. While they couldn't find any direct evidence of me doing anything wrong they couldn't get rid of me but they made things miserable for me."
"Then why didn't you leave, if they were treating you like that?" It was General Daniels this time.
"Simple. By staying with the Marines I could save a few Hybrids from having the collar used on them. I cared more about that than anything else."
"Then why did you leave the Marines?"
"I just couldn't take it anymore," I replied. I was ashamed of this part of my past, of not having had more courage. "I was constantly being harassed by other officers. I just couldn't take it anymore."
"What did you do after you left?"
"I began to write anti-collar propaganda and distributing it through the electronic networks. I met Carol and tried to become a better person. I had been a hit man for a large organized crime family. I have killed well over forty people for the family. I don’t know how Carol would have reacted to what I had done so I kept it a secret from her. After her death I became a raging alcoholic and damn near killed myself several times. On the anniversary of her death I got an email asking me to re-enlist I took it as a sign that I could go back to saving Evolved from being made a miserable by idiot Humans.”
"The question then," began General Richard, "why did you rejoin the Marines?"
"When Carol died. My life started coming apart and the Marines, and killing people who got on the bad side of the family were the only things I knew how to do well. I knew that if I rejoined I could go back to keeping at least a small group of Evolved from having their collars used on them." I said with a very weak smile. "Since I came here I was lucky enough to find love. I have also lived long enough to see one of my greatest dreams. I have seen the collars come off of the Evolved."
“There have been a couple of kills that bare similar patterns, ones described by Lieutenants Drake as hitman marks? Do you know anything behind them?” Richards asked.
“Yes I do. Captain Derrekson was the only one I killed the rest were done by another crime family. That family had been a thorn in my family’s side for years. I knew if I killed someone who owed them money they’d turn on themselves as to why a guy who owed them that much money from his losses on betting on the games would order a hit. The rest of the kills were done by the family.”
“Is there any specific reason you killed the captain?” Hans asked.
“Other than the fact that he over used the collar?” I asked, Hans nodded. “He and several other officers tried to kill me with a severe beating after I failed to take a dive at the games. When they beat me they left me for dead but none had brought a gun to finish the job.”
“How did you survive?”
“Simple. I haven’t been fully Human for nearly two decades. I’m what most people call a Frankenstein. I have had so many artificial, and often illegal, modifications to my DNA and my body that in some ways closer to an Evolved than I am to a Human.”
The three generals looked at each other and had another quick discussion between themselves. "Thank you Lieutenant you may take your seat while we make our decision."
The generals left the room for a few minutes. This would be the time when they would discuss the verdict that they would render, we all knew what the verdict would be but they still needed the practice. When they came in they looked very solemn. “Lieutenant Samuel Dundy Archer please rise,”
I stood up and looked at the generals directly. I knew that most of the officers that would face them would look the same way, especially General Lynn who they would be trying first.
“It has been decided by the Tribunal Court of the Evolved Revolutionary Government,” General Daniels began, “that you have committed no real crimes against the Evolved and there for you shall have your collar removed and be a free citizen of the Evolved Revolutionary Government.”
“I would like to thank the honorable officers of the court for their generous verdict.” Other than this trial, and the other one that I would be facing in front of the cameras, we all knew that this would be the only favorable outcome for a Human military officer.
General Richards smiled with a sigh of relief. “How did we do?”
“You did great,” I said with a humorous smile. “Though I think that it might be a good idea for me to help you through the first couple of real trials by a radio link, just to make sure you get everything right.”
General Hans sighed loudly. “Thank you Lieutenant. I’d hate to screw up something so important when it really matters.”
“Please General. It’s simply Sam now,” I said with a smile. “I’m one of you guys now.”
“That maybe,” said General Hans, “but for now we still have to call you by your former military name so we don’t make a mistake in front of the cameras.”