"And on the charges of the rape and murder of Eloia Maran, the jury finds the defendant guilty as charged."
As the words echoed in the silent courtroom, one man stood stiffly, head bowed down in shame. If one had cared to looked, they would have noticed the tears sliding down his face, his bloodshot eyes filled with pain and sorrow.
"Commander Charles Tucker the Third, you are hereby discharged from the service of Starfleet, and sentenced to sixty years of imprisonment at the penal colony in Auckland, New Zealand."
Whispers and murmurs were heard around the room as the panel of five judges adjourned the hearing. The former Starfleet officer, now criminal, was escorted from the courtroom, hands bound behind him. His face was hidden from view, from the mocking and stares of the bystanders around him. They spoke quietly, in hushed tones, but he could still hear small snippets of their conversations.
"...-heard that he snapped her neck, and laughed while he was doing it too... "
"... they say that the Expanse drove him mad, and what with his sister's death and all..."
"... serves him right, he deserves to be locked up, the cold-blooded murderer..."
At the last comment, he willed himself to stop listening, to just concentrate on moving one foot in front of the other, to keep moving towards the temporary sanctuary of the police cruiser...
And then he saw them. Out of the corner of his left eye, he could see their clothes, the flash of blue that suggested the uniforms of Starfleet officers... He could feel their eyes on him, watching him, judging him, pitying him. The anger rose up inside once more, but he fought to keep it down.
Too late for it now, Charlie, ol' boy. Everyone thinks you're a criminal, so you might as well keep it that way. There's no use in fighting now...
He ducked down as he entered the cruiser, and sighed with relief as one of the officers closed the door behind him. He fought not to look out the window, but he could feel all the eyes upon him, all of them, just staring, wondering, watching.
And as the police hover-cruiser pulled away, none of them realized that they were staring at an innocent man, at a man that had been framed by people he had once called friends. They couldn't possibly imagine how he had been betrayed, beaten and terrorized, deep in the Expanse. They didn't know that he was tired, too tired to fight against the injustice done against him. And they couldn't grasp that everything he had ever known and believed in had been torn down, crushed and buried. They couldn't fathom that he had nothing to live for anymore, and the prison was as best a place as any to spend eternity, or the rest of his life anyways.
Charles Tucker the Third was no criminal, but there was nothing anyone could do about it.
Because they didn't know.