8 Redemption

When he awoke the next morning, Zeke had decided the decision was the right one.

He sent a message to Yipt saying he had come to a decision, but still had a few questions.

Yipt came to his room within the hour. Zeke was up and dressed in his uniform. Elenne had cleared him to return to the flight and to resume full physical activity by the start of the following week.

Yipt waited without speaking until Zeke asked his questions.

"You explained the maximum sentence that could be imposed on Rilt. That is the only limitation? The decision is mine? Can it be overruled by anyone?" he asked.

"Yes," Yipt confirmed, "the maximum sentence is your only limitation. Your decision will stand unless you request some alternative sentence; in that case, it must be approved by the judges who decided the case."

"Then I need to speak with Rilt again. I have a question for him, then I'll decide."

Puzzlement, something Zeke had not imagined he would see, was clear on Yipt's face, but Yipt simply opened the door and indicated for Zeke to follow.

As they walked, Yipt asked, "Is this going to be another unexpected choice on your part?"

"I suspect you and most will see it as that," Zeke answered, "though it seems completely logical and appropriate to me."

They were soon outside the room Rilt occupied. This time, Yipt's knock was perfunctory, and they entered without waiting for a response.

Rilt turned from the console. Despite his statements of acceptance, Zeke could see a trace of fear that he couldn't hide.

"I have decided what should be done," Zeke said simply. "Before I confirm it, I have one question for you."

Rilt nodded, waiting.

"If the determination should, someday, allow you to resume training in the military, whether it be at the center or some other facility, would you do your best for the success of your training group, putting that before your own?"

A long silence hung over the room as Rilt composed himself. "Yes. I can say honestly, confidently that I would do my utmost to do what I could to make my comrades successful."

"That is what I expected, and I believe you. Not only your sincerity, but that you are determined to do as you have promised."

With that, Zeke announced, "There will be no punishment. Rilt will return to Zeta flight as if, to the extent possible, nothing had happened. To the extent that regulations allow, records of this incident will be purged from his records. I know that it has become common knowledge and is public record. He...or I guess I should say we, will deal with that as we can."

Surprise lit up Yipt's face. "You realize that this is considered a serious offense. Passing on a punishment will fuel rumors that Rilt got off because of his family's prominence." He looked at Rilt.

Rilt just nodded. Surprise, shock muted his reaction.

"I'm supposed to be some kind of hero, or more. I don't do this to trade on my reputation, but since I appear to have one, I guess I'll use it when it is constructive. Is there anything else I need to do?"

"Record your decision formally. It will be reviewed by the judicial panel. I don't know if they can, or will, overrule you. 'Nothing' is not one of the prescribed punishments. You might be called on to explain to them."

He was, in fact, called before the judicial panel.

"This is very irregular. Irregularity is not something we find helpful," the head of the panel told him.

"Rilt will have shame to live down. Facing his flight mates, indeed, everyone else in his career will be a challenge. I think he is up to it, but this is the only way to find out."

The panel met in private, but rendered their decision within a few minutes.

"Our custom," they said, "is to give the injured party wide latitude. In this case, that is what we have decided to do. This decision is final. We will hold you to your statement of treating him as if 'nothing had happened.' There could be consequences for you if, at some point, you regret your decision."