A/N: Okay, I realize that the timeline for this is kind of wonky. I want a couple of days to have passed so that Everen could heal a bit, but I think Kerra found Hirschel just a little bit after their last conversation? Honestly I can't remember, but hopefully I'll fix that in edits. Getting a solid timeline (like, mapping out events down to the day) is something I definitely want to do in revisions so that I can confidently say things like, "two weeks ago." I think time is definitely an important aspect in murder mysteries and it bugs me when timelines in books that I read aren't clear. So that said, let's just pretend the current timeline works! :D also idk how long injuries take to heal so!
The medicine on the ship was incredible. Everen had only been down a few days and she could already speak again. It was painful if she spoke too loudly, but she could whisper and move her head and sit up. She'd be released soon, after she was able to walk and eat solid food. Unfortunately, her bedroom was a crime scene currently being investigated so she'd have nowhere to go. She'd probably just stay in the infirmary under the care of Janna. There were worse places to be in the universe. Everen smiled.
As if she could tell Everen was looking at her, Janna glanced up from her work.
"What are you looking so happy for?" Janna said, smiling in return.
"You," Everen signed. Even though she could whisper now, she appreciated the convenience of sign language and how she knew she wouldn't have to speak up to be heard.
Janna blushed and shook her head, eyes focusing back on her work. But a moment later she asked, "Are you ready for the trial? They should be along at any moment to collect us."
"Yes," Everen signed. Then whispered, "I typed up my statement. Will you read it for me?"
"Aliens?" Janna grimaced. "I worry that might not help our case."
"We've gotta tell them sometime. And I can prove it."
Janna nodded. "Okay, I'll read for you."
"Thanks," Everen signed. She pulled up her holographic laptop with a gesture and sent Janna the file she'd been working on ever since she could sit up.
Janna's communicator made a small popping noise, a confirmation notification that the speech had been received. She gestured and the file opened in front of her. She scanned it for a moment, then nodded and stood. "Let's get you into a wheelchair."
The trial took place in the mess hall, the only room on the ship with enough seating for everyone. Everen didn't know how the judge, jury, prosecution, and defense were decided on, but she was glad that she didn't have to organize anything. Because she was healing from a pretty serious injury, very little was expected from her at all, really, which was great because it was hard for her to pay close attention to the court proceedings. Her mind kept wandering to other topics. At some point, Janna got up and told everyone what had happened.
At another point, the prosecutor, a man named Serge, lifted up the bag that contained the pen Everen had been stabbed in the neck with. "The attack against Everen followed the pattern of the other murders," he said. "In all cases the attacker used an improvised weapon taken from the room that the crime took place."
It seemed to Everen that the case should be open and shut, but clearly there was still some kind of doubt because Janna was called back to the stand, not to testify of her own account, but rather to read Everen's. Serge had told Everen that her "alien story" (as he'd called it) would only be presented if there was nothing left to present but there was still doubt as to whether Clarisse was guilty or not. Serge had been rather dubious when Everen had claimed she could prove the aliens were real, but he'd relented after she'd demonstrated the proof on him.
After explaining that she would be reading Everen's account, Janna began. "Hello. My apologies for not being on the stand myself, but considering my injuries, I figured this would be the best way to share what I know. This will come as a major surprise to all of you as it came as a major suprise for me. I apologize for not revealing this sooner. I believed that it would be best to keep it secret until the identity of the killer was known, although now, with ample time to reconsider my actions, I wonder if that was wise. Regardless, I am sharing it now."
Janna took a deep breath.
Everen could feel everyone in the room lean forward in their seats. This was clearly some huge revelation and no one had any idea what would come next.
"We are indeed not alone in this universe," Janna read. "In fact, the planet we are headed to is inhabited by an intelligent species that I have taken to calling 'the motes.' They communicate in a similar way to how I communicate with my sisters, which is how they first made contact with me."
Shocked, increculous faces plastered the crowd, but no one made a sound. Everen especially loved the look on Clarisse's face: flabbergasted, almost offended that something could be introduced into the case that she wasn't aware of, and something this bonkers too!
Janna continued, "This information is obviously crucial to our mission and with greatly impact our future actions, but this trial is not the place to get into those details quite yet. Suffice it to say, the Motes have great telepathic powers and shared with me the identity of the killer before we set up our ambush. They were able to deduce her identity based on the massive amounts of guilt she was feeling at the time. In a similar fashion, I can ask them to tell me what any one of you are feeling at a given moment to help prove this claim. I can be in another room so no one will suspect me of reading the emotions from expressions or body language. However, it would be best for the test volunteer to be feeling a strong, identifyable emotion." Janna looked up from the document. "Well?" she asked the judge.
"Well, it's unorthodox, but I don't see why we shouldn't put Everen's claim to the test," she said. "Someone take Everen into the bathroom over there. Someone from the defence team, ideally. Just in case."
A few minutes later, Serge appeared at the entrance to the bathroom. "They want you to test DeShaquis, Fontaigne, and Bonny."
"Three people?" Everen asked in a whisper.
"Yes, they want to make sure it isn't a fluke."
"Alright," Everen signed, then said, "Give me a moment. This isn't an immediate thing." She closed her eyes. Motes? she sent to the void. Are you there?
Affirmative, they responded. We have observed your weakened mental state of late and have held off on contacting you until you had healed.
Thank you, said Everen. I will update you on everything very soon. As of now, we are having a trial. The time has come for me to prove to my shipmates that you are real. Could you tell me what emotions match with the following names? DeShaquis Morton, Fontaigne Regis, and Bonny Lavender.
Understood. One moment please.
Everen opened her eyes. "They're working on it," she whispered.
Serge nodded and Trudy, the member of the defense team, watched her closely.
Everen, not sure what else to do, closed her eyes again and waited.
Soon enough the motes said, We have felt their hearts. The one called DeShaquis Morton is feeling great sadness. The motes sent a heavy, dark feeling. Fontaigne Regis is feeling shock and excitement. They sent a matching feeling. Bonny Lavender is feeling doubt and betrayal. Once again, they sent the matching feeling. We hope this helps prove our existence. Please contact us again soon. Our diplomacy department would like to speak to whoever replaces Clarisse Bevington.
Thank you, Everen said. Will do. She closed the connection.
She relayed the information to Serge and after a minute or two, she was brought back out, into the midst of a crew that had accepted the real and actual existence of telepathic aliens.
The trial continued, but Everen rested easy knowing that her part was over, and she had finally spilled the secret that had been so crucial but so potentially deadly.