Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 166: Trial of Error

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Trial of Error

I take a seat at the large meeting table, and the mayor takes a roll call to make sure everyone is here. We don’t want to be missing anyone while we discuss the plan of what to do about Applejack being guilty every way to Sunday.

“Mr. Macintosh, representing the Apple Family in Applejack’s stead?” the Mayor asks, voice somewhere between politely disinterested and disappointed.

“Eeyup.” Big Mac stands at the table, a rather... upset-looking Applebloom on his back, clearly unsure of what to do with herself.

The mayor doesn’t draw attention to the filly, and just checks her list of attendees. “Mmhmm. Caramel, Head of the local Smiths?”

“Here.” Not sure exactly why he’s here, but I don’t see any real reason why he shouldn’t...

“Representative of Canterlot, Twilight Sparkle?”

“Present!” As usual, she has some papers and an inkwell with her. Oh well, at least the proceedings will be recorded in immaculate detail...

“Anthony, victim of the attack?”

“I have a few things to mention about that, but yeah, I’m here.”

The others are called out for their various titles, including each of the other element bearers and even Clark, because he was the actual target Applejack was going after.

Spike wasn’t really on the list, but he’s here anyway. It doesn’t seem to be a problem, so the mayor lets it slide.

“Alright, so now that everyp- everyone is here, shall we begin?” Twilight doesn’t say anything, but has quill to parchment already.

“Yeah.” I speak up. “I think the first thing to bring up is what actually happened with the fight between me and AJ.” Making sure all eyes are on me, I continue. “Applejack did not deal the first blow. She threatened Clark’s life and I told her that if she wanted to hurt Clark, she’d have to go through me first. She didn’t seem to have any problem with that notion, and so I struck her with a knee to the jaw, to little effect.”

“Well, erm, that is useful information, but we’re mostly here to discuss how to handle everything that’s happening. The trial will be one week after this meeting, regardless. Mostly, we’re here to discuss as much as possible to ensure everypony is on the same page. Thank you for sharing, but we’re supposed to do it in order.” the mayor says.

“I just figure that knowing the actual events is important.”

“Yes, but due process is the way to do it. You’ll still be going first, but please, allow us to observe the procedure.” The mayor stops for a moment. “You may begin.”

“Alright, well I haven’t really thought about what will come of this, I’ve mainly been thinking about how to get Applejack out of this mess. Once that happens, the sooner the problems arising from her... absence will become moot, right?”

“Uhm... well, considering that she’s been showing some rather disturbing psychological tics as of late, her only recourse might be either royal intervention or... a trip to the psychiatric ward for the foreseeable future.” Twilight explains.

“Disturbing? She’s just being neophobic. That’s not a psychological issue, it’s being stubborn and unaccepting. Going to a mental hospital isn’t going to change her opinion of anything.”

“Anthony, that’s not all she’s been doing. And... rejecting your friends because of something new? That’s a major problem.”

“When was she rejecting a friend? She only rejected Clark, and she made it pretty darn clear that she was not interested in being friends.”

“Actually, she’s been extremely isolationist the past few months. We’ve been trying to get her to do anything with us, but she’s refused.”

Big Mac nods. “Eeyup.” The big stallion looks around a little. “She ain’t been herself since Mr. Clark showed up. Been actin’ suspicious of everypony.”

“Huh... and I suppose nobody knows why that is? Never heard her say anything?”

“Been tighter lipped than a lemon-eatin’ snake.” Big Mac responds.

“Sure...” I shake the irrelevant mental image from my head. “I’m just trying to get AJ out of this. The reason I didn’t take her to the authorities myself is because I wanted to give her another chance, and that plan didn’t involve spending ten years in jail before getting that chance.”

“Well, that and a minor head-injury.” Spike reminds me.

“Regardless of the injury, I wasn’t going to turn her in anyway, for reasons previously stated.”

“Either way, though, how much of the fight can you remember?”

“Well, once she landed a blow to my knee, it gets kinda wobbly, metaphorically. I remember binding her and letting her go, but other than that it’s kinda... gone.”

“Do you remember what she said? Anything might help, if only to help lighten her sentence when it’s passed.”

“Well, she said something during the fight, but I didn’t really listen. Before the fight... it was mainly about Clark being a monster and it’d be best if she just sent him to Hell or whatever. Again, missing a bit there.”

“Alright... well, we might be able to get a protectiveness plea. It’s in the books from the cases in Canterlot. I’m glad I’ve read those front to back-”

“Protectiveness... wouldn’t that imply that it’s true that everyone would be better off if she just murdered Clark while in the hospital?”

“No no, earth ponies are naturally protective, so are pegasi.” Twilight elaborates, “It’s established legal precedent. It’s been used before, so we might be able to bend it this time. After all, if she honestly believes she was trying to protect her friends and family...”

“Well... That’s definitely true, but I don’t think that’s a good enough defense for her. I’m of the opinion that the ‘I can’t help myself, it’s in my genetics’ is just an excuse a child would come up with.”

“Anthony, it’s a proven fact.” Twilight say, condescendingly. “We’ll just have to-”

“Twilight, how many court cases have you been to? Have you ever been in a court-”

“Mr. Anthony! I would ask you stop interrupting! This is a formal meeting!” the mayor says, scolding me. “Now, Ms. Sparkle, please continue.”

“Ahem. As I was saying, we’d need to find a sympathetic judge to arbitrate the trial. Now, I’m not familiar with the local judges, nor the arbiter’s circuit. Does anypony have any ideas on who to try contacting?”

I fold my arms. “I don’t think it matters. What you are suggesting is getting a crooked judge who will be partial to the accused party.”

“No, we’re suggesting finding somepony who isn’t biased against this kind of case. A few of the judges in Canterlot, for example, take much harsher measures on petty theft than the other judges. It’s still a crime, but getting five years prison for theft of food is rather excessive.”

“Listen, I’ve been in courtrooms. I’ve been a member of the accused party before, and they will treat you like dirt, innocent or not, simply because you are the accused. It doesn’t matter how you try to paint the picture, you want a judge who will take sympathy on one party over another, a bias, and that is the opposite of a fair trial. The legal system once evicted my family under false pretenses with no apology! I didn’t turn AJ in because I didn’t want to deal with this. Our only option is to get a crooked judge, or Applejack spends ten years in jail! The ‘justice’ system will chew you up and spit you out just because you are in trouble with the law for any reason!”

“Uhm... Anthony?” Fluttershy squeaks out. “I- I don’t know what the law was like o- on Earth... but th- that’s not how it work here.” The room is silent, everyone but Clark looking at me with shock and horror.

“Propaganda.” It’s all I have to say. That’s the view of someone who hasn’t experienced it firsthand. I should know, because that’s what I thought before.

“Ant- Anthony. I think you’re making assumptions.” Clark says, his voice low. “But they’re right, even if your point of view is entirely correct, the way to go is to get a judge who won’t screw over Applejack just because of the nature of her crime. Whether it’s bias towards her, or just a lack of bias against her, we need someone.”

“Well, how about Judge Dreaddful? He’s usually really fair.” Caramel offers.

“No, he goes by the so-called ‘spirit’ of the law; won’t allow any loopholes.” the banker says.

“Arbiter Dolores? She might be a bit caustic, but she’s f-”

“No way, she’s got a thing about earth ponies. Won’t work out here. Also, those plates she carries around creep me out.”

“Arbiter Seeds?” the mayor suggests.

“Eenope. He’s a relative, too obvious.” Big Mac replies.

“Uhm... How ‘bout Princess Celestia?” a little voice suggests, and we all turn to see that Applebloom was the one who said it.

I sigh. I’m not gonna be a part of this. They don’t really get it. “The way I see things, it doesn’t matter who you choose. God himself could come down and declare you innocent and you’d still be suspect.”

“No, no, she’s got a point... I’m sure the Princess would be able to help! And we’d know it’s fair, because she’s done this before. And I can send her a letter... yes! This could work. Alright, let’s figure out what to say, everypony. C’mon, let’s get this figured out, so we can help Applejack get back to normal!” Twilight’s optimism is so misplaced. This won’t end well.

Pray all you want, it’s not going to make much difference. I know that, my mom knows that, my dad and sister know it. Standing in court as the accused may as well be the chopping block. For Applejack’s sake and this society’s, I hope that things are different around here.

It’s been a week, and the trial is ready to start in just about fifteen minutes or so. Rarity provided Clark and myself with nice, crisp suits for this, but I can’t help but be uncomfortable. The entirety of the little courtroom is packed with ponyville citizens, with all four humans in as well. Anne’s sitting on a rafter in a tasteful black dress, Myrna circling the entire courtroom with two layers of her coils, her human torso covered by a suit-top as she ‘sits’ in the back.

No matter how comfortable the cloth of my suit must be, I can’t help but feel itchy, apprehensive tremors scurry along my skin. Applejack, her forelegs shackled together with iron manacles, sits in the ‘defendants’ area, her usual hat missing but her hair carefully combed or brushed and tied into a serious bun behind her head.

The only reason AJ will get a fair deal is because of course Celestia will be partial to an Element Bearer. Stupid ponies, why did they have to go and get us wrapped up in all of this, why can’t they just figure shit out themselves and leave the legal system out of it?

Oh well. I’m gonna be telling the truth here. If Applejack says I hit first, they aren’t likely to believe her.

A royal guard, in resplendent golden armor, announces that Princess Celestia is, in fact, going to Arbitrate as Judge, and I can hear the capital letters on the words. The guard has quite the set of lungs, I’ll give him that, he projects all the way to the back of the room easily.

As Celestia settles into the judge’s podium, I shift in my seat. I’m sat in the ‘witnesses and victims’ row, or whatever it’s called.The seats are the normal wooden chairs used for virtually every function in the town hall, and aren’t too comfortable, even for ponies. Less so for me.

Celestia looks around the room, her face a mask of calmness, or maybe apathy. I can see the hints of concern peeking out, oozing just a little into her expression. “This court is in session.” She doesn’t even speak loudly, but it almost echoes in the quiet of the room.

Let the ‘games’ begin...

Celestia clears her throat, and begins to explain what the trial is about, from the perspective of the authorities. It sounds a little off on a few details, but I can correct those if they become a problem.

In typical courtroom fashion, things are quiet and slow, nothing truly interesting happening, all the ‘excitement’ dependant on what is said.

Well, the first problem comes sooner than I thought. Time seemed to kind of slow down as Applejack was asked if she thought she was guilty or not. If she says yes, then this entire thing will be a nightmare. Come on... don’t say you’re sorry... don’t say you’re sorry...

“Yer honor, Princess, Ah did assault Anthony.” Oh goddamnit “But Ah did it because Ah felt it was the right thing to do.”

Princess Celestia nods. “And did you threaten Clark, currently a probationary citizen of Ponyville, with violence?”

“Not directly, at least when I fought Anthony.”

“But you have in the past?” Oh boy, at least this one should be easy. She hasn’t done anything but throw insults around.

“When I saw him on mah land, yes. Ah felt it necessary.”

“I see.” Celestia asks a few more questions, and miss bearer-of-honesty keeps incriminating herself further. Applejack’s apparently also been ‘monitoring’ Clark whenever she was in town. This is stalking, and called out as such, and even the apple farmer blushes.

Soon enough, I’m given the chance to speak, as the ‘assaulted’ party. Here we go... “First of all, I started the fight. True, Applejack made her threats first, but I dealt the first physical blow, which escalated from there. I got the worst of it, but I like to think I still won. The actual events are a bit foggy to remember, but I distinctly remember leaving Applejack to think about what she was doing. Then some stupid anonymous rubberneckers decided to get the law involved and-”

“Actually, that was the hospital, after Applejack dragged you into the hospital and reported herself.” She did what? Oh Applejack... you have no idea what game you’re playing here...

“Well, I still think that this sentence is stupid. I think I gave her her punishment already, and jailing her wasn’t part-”

“That is not your decision to make Anthony.” Celestia interrupts, voice still level and cool.

I know I can’t just flip this around, but come on... think of something. “Okay... but exactly what happened after Applejack turned herself in?”

“That is not the topic of discussion at present.”

“Look, I just think that the jail sentence is too heavy in this specific case.”

“No sentence has been settled yet, Anthony. Do not presume to dictate the future.”

“Hmph, well, that’s what I was told would-”

“Anthony, what you were told in relation to this trial does not, in fact, impact the outcome of this trial. Please remain focused, you were explaining what had happened. Do you have anything to add?”

Hmmm... most of what I could say will just make things worse for Applejack so... “No.”

“Then we will move on. Macintosh Apple, you are next to the stand.”


“You are the brother of the defendant?”


“Would you consider yourself knowledgeable of her, then?”


“Had she been showing any violent or abnormal behaviors towards the victim previously?”


“And towards Clark?”


“Indeed.” Oh boy... things are not looking good. I sit back.

“What have you to say about the defendant?”

“Applejack is mah sister. I love ‘er, and I know she’s good at heart. But lately... she’s been drawin’ in. Avoidin’ her kin an’ friends alike.” A shocked gasp fills the air, and I take a short look back. Several ponies seem extremely horrified... a little alone time isn’t that bad is it? I see a little red ribbon make a break for the door. Big Mac continues, “Now, Ah don’ know what set ‘er off, yer honor. But Ah’m worried fer ‘er health, ‘specially in ‘er head.”

Well, I guess at this point AJ could try pleading insanity... I don’t think I can help anymore.

“I see. Are there any in the court who wish to speak for the defendant?” Huh... guess I have a chance after all.

“I have a few things...” I say, and rather than just repeat myself, find different ways to say that even though she’s guilty, she shouldn’t have to deal with any kind of punishment. I get a few mixed responses, but Celestia, of course, just waves it off with the reasoning that if things happened that way, it wouldn’t be fair.

Giving up I return to my seat yet again, and Twilight walks up, with a bunch of notecards and such of course. She looks more prepared to give an oral report on a book than defend a friend of hers who has been charged with aggravated assault.

“Ahem... I would like to address the court at large, your honor.” Twilight starts, and gets a nod from Celestia. Beginning to pace a bit, Twilight begins to speak of how strong a pillar of Ponyville AJ is, and how much she’s held the roots of the town firm. The orange pony in the defendant’s seat is looking ashamed, but Twilight continues to speak of the farmer’s usual attitude, getting lots of support and nods from around the room. Finally, Celestia’s student wraps up, stating that, “Without Applejack, our town would change, and not positively.”

Celestia nods, having paid attention to the entire speech, her gaze never wavering, nor her expression changing. “Very well. Is there anypony else who wishes to speak?” She waits for a moment, watching the crowd. Nobody raises a hoof. “Very well then. I shall take a recess to contemplate, and then I shall render my verdict. This court is in recess.” The white princess carefully stands from the likely small chair, and goes to the back of the court. Next Chapter: Chapter 167 Estimated time remaining: 8 Hours, 55 Minutes

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