A STRUGGLE FOR GOODNESS
by Yong Phillips
Life has a tendency to overwhelm us. From the most powerful of politicians to the settlers on the fringe, it hits us all in different ways, some big and some small. When life smothers us, when we feel that crushing weight on our hearts and in our heads, we learn a valuable lesson about ourselves. In that darkness, we can learn who we are.
Jenk Gallen knew that harshness at a young age. Born in the slums of Tram in Ferron, Jenk never knew his parents. His earliest memory was being sold to a local slumlord, named Carlo Yenn. At age nine, he was starting to earn his keep as a drug runner when Yenn died in a mysterious fire. The case is still unsolved to this day. Lt. Michael Garza was a patrolman at the time and was the first responder to the fire. He assisted the supervising detective in the case.
“It was one of those cases when we had too many suspects. Carlo Yenn was a total stain. He screwed over or owed money to literally dozens of people, all of whom had the means to knock him out and start the fire,” Garza said via comm. “It was that kid though. There was no proof of course, but you could just tell. After the stories he told, I couldn’t blame him if he had.”
Garza tried to put Gallen through the system, attempting to set him up in communal homes or foster families. None of them took. Gallen never achieved his Equivalency; instead he had multiple run-ins with local police for assault and burglary and spent almost ten years in and out of the penal system. While incarcerated, he became addicted to WiDoW, which helped accelerate his rapid slide to rock bottom.
It wasn’t until he nearly died of an overdose that Gallen decided to turn his life around. He became a devout member of the Fourth Sun Unity Church and fought to extricate himself from the shadow of his criminal life. He began working as a ground-loader while attempting to complete his Equivalency. During that time, he met Ada Sinclair, who was an educational aide at the local school. She helped him through his studies and the two wed two years later.
Soon after that, Gallen began to train on cargo ship simulators in his off-hours and ultimately secured a job as a contract pilot. He and his wife saved up Imperials between three jobs to buy their own ship and start him working as a freelance operator.
“He’d given up all that cheating and lying,” Ada said from the couple’s home in Ferron. the couple’s first child just beginning to show. “I know he had that darkness in him from long ago, but he’d changed. He’d really changed.”
In the darkness of Jenk Gallen’s past, he was called many things; thief, junkie, robber, criminal and convict. Then he emerged to a new host of names: husband, shipper and expectant father. Now he’s facing a new title: spy.
The Xi’Ans’ assertions that Jenk Gallen is a spy, revealed last week through diplomatic comm channels, have shaken the UEE. Reactions have been equally convulsant. Len Wilton is a Public Solicitor out of Goss:
“It makes perfect sense. Of course a covert agency would recruit someone like him. He’s got a background littered with criminal resources. This is a man who’s used to operating outside of the law. It’s just another example of the government’s ridiculously arrogant and hypocritical double-standard when it comes to xenodiplomacy.”
“No. It seems incredibly unlikely,” said Rachel Fo, a former Naval Intelligence analyst who now teaches on Kilian. “Everybody has their own way to vet and tap potential assets, but based on what I’ve seen about Gallen, if I were casing him, his history of addiction and newfound religion would be red flags. They make him too unpredictable, especially for an operation as sensitive as one against the Xi’An would surely be.”
Regardless of all the opinions being lobbed from all corners of the Empire, at the end of the day, Jenk Gallen is back in the world of jails and courts. While, the process of Human justice might have become familiar to him, now he’s faced with a different kind of trial. He is joining the very small list of Humans who have faced a Xi’An High Court.
“On one hand, Xi’An trials are notoriously long, so the UEE still has time to try and secure the suspect’s release before they pass sentence,” Usu said, via comm-relay. “This is pure speculation as I don’t know what evidence they claim to have on the man. Their laws against espionage are quite severe, so if he’s convicted, there’s a very good possibility that he will be executed.”
Ada Gallen has taken refuge in work. Her Equivalency program registry has been full for the past few weeks, helping her avoid dwelling on that outcome. She says that she has been in touch with representatives from the Senate, Diplomatic Corp, and the High Advocate’s office. They have all pledged their support in helping to secure her husband’s release.
“The government’s response has been wonderful,” she said, tears welling up in her eyes. “But I don’t want to talk politics, I just want him to come home.”