Title: Advise of Rights
Location: Rodion Cells
Date: 15 February 2015
Summary: Ultra Magnus brings Swift Blade a proposal.
At the moment, Swift Blade is sitting quietly in her cell, optics powered down. While she's been arrested for being a Decepticon sympathizer, a group that is known for being violent and troubled, she's actually a very well behaved prisoner. On record there will be very little complaint about her decorum since her arrest, and perhaps it will be seen in her favor that she didn't resist that same arrest and even handed over her own weapons without being asked. She doesn't know what's going to happen to her, but that doesn't seem to reflect on her expression. Looking inwards, she's tranquil for the time being.
It is rarely wholly quiet in the cells, even in an orderly a jail facility as Rodion typically hosts. The murmur of inmate versus guard, the occasional roar of louder noise, the constant scrape of metal boots across decking-style floor and the rattle of a long slender baton against the faint shimmer of a force field; it crackles and whispers.
So it is that the first herald that something is unusual is a sudden hush: the ambient noise reduces to nothing but the fans of the ventilation systems, and finally, to the quiet thunk of a single pair of measured footsteps in the hall beyond the cell.
When Ultra Magnus hoves into view, he is only so imposing as one permits him to be: his size and mass are significant, and the weight of importance that he carries on his shoulders is more indelible than a cloak, but there are no outward signs of threat, no /apparent/ weapons upon his massive person. It might be strange, then, that he is weaponless as he passes through the shielding from the hall without and directly into the cell, and leaves it opaqued behind him; but then, this particular offender has shown signs of recognizing security cameras for their value.
Ultra Magnus says, by way of greeting: "Thank you for your cooperation with the authorities. It has been noted and will be taken into account."
Swift Blade rises to her feet and acknowledges the very large mech with a faint bow. "If I could have made a clean escape, I would have," she admits. "But it was not safe to do so, for myself or the others in the building, so I took the more prudent course." Prudence and Decepticons typically don't mix, but Swift Blade has already shown she's not like a lot of Decepticons, or those who side with them. She gives Ultra Magnus a long look. Her expression is expectant as she waits to see what he has come for.
"A rational decision," Ultra Magnus compliments her with an accolade that seems more like a factual statement, but then, for him, rationality is highly prized. The clasp of his hands behind his massive bulk is nearly prim, the steadiness of his gaze upon her thoughtful in cast and lit bright. He goes into a rigmarole of measured tone, voice low and not ungentle, for all that 'warmth' is not a concept with which he is closely acquainted: "You are held on suspicion of Decepticon sympathy. Charges may be assessed upon you under the Sedition Act. Under the disloyalty provisions of Senate Resolution 516-A, your rights under that act compared to most of the Cybertronian Criminal Code are comparatively few. You are, however, entitled to the advice of counsel, and should you continue to evince cooperation, you may be able to avoid further charges and to negotiate a less unpleasant resolution for your situation with the prosecuting authority. I am here, in part, to potentially facilitate those negotiations in exchange for information provided."
Little that Ultra Magnus does or says may ever be characterized as 'inviting', but there is something about his expression, in the ensuing pause, that suggests he is making an effort.
Swift Blade blinks. While she's not dumb, the extreme legalese of the words are a bit hard for her to follow. Her expression is one of someone who is really trying to process. "Pardon me, but I'm not exactly sure what you just said," she admits. His fancy words don't seem to be making her angry, only a little uncomfortable with the sensation that she SHOULD know what he's saying, but really doesn't. "I'm afraid I haven't had much opportunity to get into the technical side of the legal system."
"Ah." Ultra Magnus considers, and lifts his gaze to look off into the middle distance for a moment as he conducts the occasionally difficult task of internal translation from 'legalese' to 'Cybertronian'. "You have the right to talk to a lawyer," he says. "It is possible that, should you provide useful information, your lawyer may be able to secure your release, or at least, some reduction in charges."
Swift Blade nods her head. "Thank you," she says, still politely. She considers this information. "I can't say I've ever had to talk to a lawyer before," she states. "It simply hasn't come up before." Then she sighs. "So, as it stands, how do I proceede?" she wants to know. She's not ranting or raving about being falsely imprisoned, or shouting about tearing down the law. She's still calm, collected, and ever so polite.
Inhaling on a long breath of a pause, Ultra Magnus inclines his head to her in a slight nod. "As it happens," he says, "it is rare in the lives of most." Standing straight and correct still, he eases his hands from behind his back to create an open gesture of both, thumbs together, fingers outward, and says, "The Sedition Act is designed to protect society from chaotic elements. There are a number of charges under it that can be assessed, ranging from rabblerousery, to riot, to revolt in severity. At the moment, your charging document is pending. That is, the State has not yet decided the level of offense you have committed. You are being held on suspicion. If you can provide identities, locations, or any other information on Decepticon activities currently unknown to the police, you may be released, or convicted simply of a seditious misdemeanor, such as disorderly conduct."
The prisoner listens quietly, making no attempt to interrupt. When the pause is given for her to speak, Swift Blade does so. "Now, if I have this information, and I am willing to impart it, doesn't that say that my character is an untrustworthy one? And in such case, how can anyone believe anything I say?" she asks. Her tone isn't belligerant; she's seeking to understand the situation.
"Naturally any information you provide to the authorities will be tested for its validity before the bargain is complete," Ultra Magnus says. He tilts his head slightly to one side, watching her with a faint frown touching his brow. "Do you believe that sharing information with the law would countenance a breach of trust?"
Swift Blade presses her lips together in a line. "Do you not believe that anyone who joins a group of individuals, for whatever purpose or reason, does not invest some trust in that group?" she returns. "I'm not talking about how much the truth of the information would be, since I would assume such things would be investigated. But once trust is betrayed, any further trust placed in me, by anyone, would be shattered. I would not be a reliable person." She frowns. "I have no love for chaos, but neither do I have love for oppression." She sighs heavily. "You sound as though you are the kind to have a great attention to detail. So you must know that I have spent most of my life off of Cybertron."
"You are correct. I reviewed your complete dossier prior to initiating this meeting." Ultra Magnus watches her with largely impassive features. 'Blank' is a look that comes very naturally to him at this phase of his career. His tone, too, is largely neutral as he says: "I find it interesting that you profess to have joined a group that embraces chaos and violence, but do so with evident adherence to a cohesive internal moral structure."
Swift Blade smiles faintly. "Their methods are not good ones. However, I don't see that they are totally wrong in /why/ they are angry," she says. "Ultimately, though, it was a personal reason that brought me to contact with them, more than a firm belief that they are /completely/ right." She sighs and shakes her head. "There is always the chance that, given momentum, they will find success. If this does happen, and the only ones they have are violent and impulsive, then that will be a poor fate for everyone. My hope was to temper them towards a more balanced outlook." Which she certainly can't do from in here.
The bright gleam of Ultra Magnus's gaze widens very slightly in response to this. The noise that escapes him is a soft hiss as of escaping air. It is not possible for him to straighten, because he already stands so very straight. He says, "I assure you. These dissidents will not be successful. They will be rooted out and their violence quenched. There is no justification for wanton destruction, Swift Blade. The means become the ends. To do evil is to become evil. Just as it is your belief that to violate trust is to become untrustworthy."
He lowers his head slightly, frown turning down his mouth at the corners as the deep furrow works its way deeper into his plated brow, and he again clasps his hands behind his back, allowing the slightest droop to seep through his posture. "That there is rage in the community cannot be denied," he says, "but there is no truer way to force authority to tighter and harsher controls than to run riot. The Decepticons work no greater harm to those they claim to champion than by destroying order."
"It is my understanding that peaceful methods have already been attempted. If I had been made free earlier and returned here at an earlier time, things would have been different," Swift Blade says slowly. "I cannot see things in black and white, right and wrong. Evil has been done on all sides. Rigid order that suffocates those whom it is meant to protect is an evil, even if it is a passive evil. Removing the voice of people means they resort to methods that are beyond words." She stiffens slightly. "I lived like that for millions of years; I did not wish to do so again."
For a moment she is quiet, her face showing that she is processing her racing thoughts, trying to align them into some semblance of order. "I do not know your personal history," in fact she doesn't know anything about him really, "but have you ever been a slave?"
"I have not," Ultra Magnus replies. There were a few instants, just now, when the blaze of passion burned like a quiet, banked fire in his voice; it is mostly noticeable now for its lack. He is not offended; he is back to being wholly neutral. He sets forth this admission and then falls silent, watching her with steady focus.
"Your records will show that I have. What they will not show is what it is like," Swift Blade says. "To be not a person, to be a thing. The way your government and society is set up arbitrarily designates individuals as non-people. You do this to your own kind. When the Quintessons did this to us, it was an outside force, and reprehensible. When I returned home to find that Cybertronians were doing that very same thing to our own people, it was a shock." For the first time in this encounter, she becomes impassioned. "I HATE the Quintessons as I hate nothing else. It takes a lot to stir that emotion in me. They took me away when I was very young; I never even completed Primary Programming School. I was sold away to organics and spent millions of years, isolated from my own kind. Only the hope of returning home someday kept me going. When I returned..." She struggles for a moment. "When I returned, I found we had collapsed in on ourselves. And it hurt."
"Our society has not collapsed," Ultra Magnus says with a firmness to his belief that suggests it is very nearly unshakable and possibly extant wholly outside of any rational impetus. His adherence to black and white is very firm; his certainty is the kind that simply rejects all information that doesn't fit. What it will take to warp this structured belief from its struts is difficult to discern. Particularly in present circumstances. "Its constraints and directives require that people perform according to set roles, and set aside their own needs in favor of those of the community, or the State. But its rigidity is necessary. Particularly as chaotic elements grow in volume and violence."
Taking another breath, he glances away again. He states, again impassively: "You believe that you can condone the beliefs of murderers and traitors while distancing yourself from their actions."
"I believe that we are shaped by our experiences." Swift Blade sighs. "Now, my understanding of the system is that after creation a person is given their role, and expected to follow it. There is no choice. Those who rule were put in that position just as those who clean, or mine, or treat injuries? They did not have to prove themselves, they simply became. Is this correct?"
"Not entirely. Merit can, and does, determine exceptions." Ultra Magnus's expression shifts, brow angled upward. His voice rumbles from the depths of his solid frame. She would find more sympathy to a pragmatist's complaints in other ears. Here is straight up idealism, untempered by cynicism. He's not young. And yet. "As does crime, itself the lack of merit. The principles of order require that all are subject to the same restrictions as to the same benefits. The law defines those circumstances. Without it, there can be no order. That is why the law must be served; so that justice can be wrought."
"But it's not the same. If things were the same then everyone would have the same rights to be heard, and to not be treated as though they can be tossed away. Denying the sentience of a large percentage of the population is flat out wrong. It's slow murder by apathy, despair, and passive abuse." She sighs. "I'm not sure if the cadets I followed here filed a true report on what happened, but I came here because of what I saw." Suddenly feeling tired, and perhaps a little overwhelmed, she leans against the wall. "Most of us are a mix of good things and bad. What you see as criminals I see as people with their own struggles, some of which have prompted them to do things that are not good. I don't think most of them do these things for enjoyment; they feel they have no other option. Whether that is correct or not, they do not see the law as a force of protection or justice. Their methods may be wrong, but I have seen little evidence that your laws /are/ fair and just to those who are not in the top of the social and political strata."
"Assuming only for the sake of argument that what you say is true," Ultra Magnus answers her with the lift of his other brow, "there can still be no yielding to it, for in the absence of order, there is only chaos and violence. The Decepticons do not offer an alternative. They only vent rage. You may be correct that crime is a symptom of a greater illness, but as long as the purported solution is the death of order, it is itself a worse poison to the spark than anything done in the name of rightful authority."
Walking across the cell to its further corner, he sets down a datapad on the floor, and with it, a slender stylus, which rolls a fraction of an inch before he stops and stills it on the surface. Turning back to face her again, he says, "If your principles do not allow you to offer information, I will respect that. I believe that principle is always worthy of respect, even if misguided. But I caution you, as a legal advisor, that you may face significantly more serious charges for your adherence to that position."
Swift Blade nods her head. "I appreciate the advice," she states. "And I will consider it with serious intent, though I cannot promise to change my mind," she says. Then she smiles, just the barest softening of her expression. "Perhaps if the current order does prevail, and the Decepticons are, in fact, vanquished, it would be a good idea to re-examine your laws when a strangle-hold no longer feels necessary. Because it is entirely possible for both sides to be wrong in this conflict."
"It is already my intention to form an investigative committee when the current crisis is at an end," Ultra Magnus assures Swift Blade. (And he called HER naive.)
"Then that is all I can ask; you have to stick to your beliefs as well, and I thank you for allowing me to air mine." For all the good it did. But, surprisingly, Swift Blade is not bitter. She leans down and picks up the datapad.
"You will find the text of the Sedition Act there," Ultra Magnus says (as helpful as that probably won't be). "The stylus is, of course, in case you change your mind about providing information." He steps back again, watching her for a moment longer, and then turns, moving back toward the shielding through which he came. "Do you have any further questions?" he asks.
Swift Blade shakes her head. "Not at the present. I just require time to think." Betrayal is not something that is in her mind at all; she's not trying to gauge her best way out of here. But she still does have a lot to think about.
"Very well." Ultra Magnus gives her another nod, and then turns to leave without another word. It's possible that he was behind the door when common courtesy was being handed out; of course, it's also possible that he, too, has a lot to think about.