So many people try to ask me so many questions, and listen so earnestly even when all I tell them is that I have no answers for them. Far too many are conflating the disparate statuses that are ‘age’ and ‘wisdom.’ I’m not saying that this assumption is ALWAYS wrong, but those coming to me for answers only because I have lived a longer life than anyone else they can name is foolishness. Being very, very old has not made me very, very wise. Lately the one question asked me more than any other has been weighing more heavily on my mind than most, so I will attempt to answer it from my own experience as best I can.
‘What will happen if Posse Comitatus ends? What will happen when soldiers become our police? Will this be a good thing or a bad thing?’ All are essentially the same question, and all have essentially the same answer. I do not know.
I know this is not the answer people are looking for, expecting more wisdom from such an old man I suppose, but it is the truest I can offer. There are nations in this world where their soldiers already serve this function, and there are as many examples of success as there are of abject failure. Ultimately it is those in the government ABOVE the soldiers that will determine the effectiveness of such a choice.
What I do believe is that what is currently being attempted, to give complete freedom of deployment to the military before ensuring that all of their soldiers are fully trained to operate domestically, will not end well.
Jean Aaron, quoted in a New York Times editorial.
Dear Diary 5,
I still suck at remembering to write in you. Maybe I should start trying to write more about GOOD things that have happened instead of only pulling you out when I need to vent about bad stuff. When I look back, I can see that I used to write about both a lot more often. Mayb-…
“LIEUTENANT COLONEL LAWSON!” Jessica sighed and set the tablet down as the angry voice sounded over the intercom in her room. “Report to conference room G for debrief, IMMEDIATELY!”
What the hell does Burgess need ANOTHER debrief for? Jessica contemplated her small wardrobe for a moment before shrugging and heading out. Fuck it. I’m off duty. T-shirt and sweats are good enough.
If she’d hurried, Jessica could have made it to her destination in less than five minutes. She had to suppress her urge to smirk when she came through the door after a leisurely ten minute walk. She braced briefly to attention in response to the angry glare, then strode over to the table and seated herself.
“You are out of uniform, Colonel Lawson. You are als-…”
“I am ALSO off-duty. MANDATORY off-duty at that, colonel.” Jessica interrupted, her voice a little harsher than she’d intended. Christ, this constant bullshit really IS getting to me. “I have also been debriefed seventeen times in the past six days. Will there be anything NEW today, colonel?”
Burgess sputtered for a moment, then hauled himself out of his own chair to loom over the smaller woman. He stepped back quite quickly, however, when Jessica stood from her own seat without breaking eye contact.
“This is insubordination, and threatening a superior officer!” The rotund colonel’s voice sounded much less certain that it had moments ago. “Are you TRYING to get court-martialed, lieutenant colonel?”
“Sounds fun, colonel. It’s been a long time since I was last court-martialed.” Jessica’s deadpan response saw the colonel take another step back as his jaw dropped in disbelief. “And I’m sure all the media exposure will do GREAT THINGS for the army’s current PR plans. Would you like to escort me to a cell or can I just be confined to quarters again?”
“I’m pretty sure,” both Jessica and Burgess turned at the unexpected new voice coming from the doorway. “That if ANYONE in this room is going to thrown in a cell, it will NOT be Colonel Lawson.” General Mathis stepped calmly into the conference room, closed the door, and then turned an expression of such barely contained rage on Colonel Burgess that the fat man stumbled backwards into his chair.
“Burgess, you FUCKING IDIOT. You were explicitly ordered to drop this. Orders that were REINFORCED when you tried to circumvent me and go to MacAllistair. Give me one good reason why YOU shouldn’t be brought up on charges?”
“General, I, I’m only trying to do my job!” Burgess managed to get a better hold of himself as he heard his own stammer, and continued in a more confident tone. “We have to do SOMETHING or all the work we’ve done over the past several months is going to be meaningless! Is Colonel Lawson hadn’t murdered Senator Trott’s so-…”
“SHUT UP!” The general’s roar immediately silenced Burgess. “How’s this for a good starting point, Colonel Burgess? STOP REFERRING TO THE INCIDENT AS A MURDER! Colonel Lawson has been fully cleared for that incident. She followed procedure perfectly. Hell, she gave that kid more of a chance than any of our other soldiers COULD have.
“I know you’re upset, colonel.” Mathis finally made his way over to the table and dropped into a seat between his two officers. “Trott is going to kill any AAC friendly legislation that hits ANY of his committees for quite a while. There’s nothing we can do about that now. Move. On.”
Burgess sighed, a sound of mixed relief that the general was no longer shouting at him, and depression about the truth of his superior’s statement. “It’s just… We were so close. Everything was lined up, there wouldn’t have been all that bullshit attached to it this time that got the last bill vetoed. If only?”
“If only I’d let a Lunatic run free?” Jessica finally reentered the conversation, startling both men as they seemed almost to have forgotten her presence. “God dammit, colonel. You think I WANTED to kill that kid? But my only options were ‘kill the kid’ or ‘let a Paragon Lunatic run wild.'” Jessica stood as she finished speaking, bracing properly to attention this time as she faced both Mathis and Burgess. “And how would THAT have played out for all the dominoes you had carefully lined up? ‘Champion fails to contain Lunatic Altered, insert number of fatalities here.’ What a wonderful headline that could have been.
“Permission to return to my mandatory seven day leave, sir?” Jessica addressed the final statement fully at Mathis.
“Granted, Colonel Lawson. Dismissed.”
Jessica heard the discussion start up behind her again as she opened the door, but she made certain her pace AWAY from the room was much faster than it had been on the approach.
“Good afternoon, Jessica!” Heidi Carpenter opened the door to her office and ushered her patient/friend inside with a cheerful expression. “I was really hoping you’d make an appointment before you went back on duty.”
Jessica returned the smile, but Heidi was fully aware that there wasn’t nearly as much cheer behind the shorter woman’s expression. The two women found their usual seats and the room lapsed into silence for several long seconds.
“I think I’m going to resign my commission.”
Heidi almost fell out of her seat at the words, and the completely genuine emotion she felt behind them. She’s conflicted about it, but she’s also serious. “Well, that’s definitely one way to start a session. Maybe a little more warning before you hit me with the big stuff next time?”
Jessica smirked in response, and Heidi shook her head briefly. “Yes, I know you view it as a challenge to shock the Mentalists. Congratulations, you win. Now, what’s brought this on? Burgess?”
“A little bit.” Jessica’s expression soured as she considered the overweight colonel. “But not like he’s the primary problem or anything. More like a symbol of the problem I guess? But not really the problem.”
“I read emotions, Jessica, remember?” Heidi offered a mock-exasperated smile after waiting for further response for a few moments. “You have to answer the whole question before we can really talk about it. If Burgess isn’t the real problem, what is?”
“I think… Me.”
“God dammit. We are not having another pity session because you haven’t managed to keep your promises in an impossible timeframe again, are we?”
Jessica actually flinched at the unexpected harshness in the psychiatrist’s tone. “No, or at least I don’t think so this time. It’s more… I think what I’m doing in the military isn’t ever going to keep those promises. I need to try something DIFFERENT.”
“What else?” Heidi locked a stern gaze on the woman on her couch. “There’s definitely something else there. Whole story please.”
“It’s…” The brunette leaned back into the cushions, closed her eyes, and took a few breaths. “Everyone is pushing for the military to take over more and more. Ending Posse Comitatus is so important, getting the AAC the ability to deploy anywhere in the country without asking is so important… But I… I don’t think it’s right. I don’t think it will fix anything if we just try to throw the army at the problem.”
“That’s… I’ll be completely honest too, Jessica. That’s surprises the hell out of me.” Heidi leaned back in her own chair as she regarded her patient. “Deploying domestically… You’ve disobeyed orders, both specific and standing, how many times over the years? I would have thought you’d be thrilled about the proposal.”
“I went when there was an emergency that no one else could, or would, handle. I did what I did to save lives, and I fully expected to be punished for it when I came back! But the entire AAC, including the reserves? There’s a little over five hundred combat-rated soldiers, the Altered ones at least. Enough power to turn the entire country into a smoking crater, but nowhere near what would be needed to actually function as any kind of police force. It just feels wrong. Like we’re supposed to magically solve all the problems, when we can barely manage to handle the ones we already have.”
“How long have you been thinking about this?”
“The Posse Comitatus thing or the retiring thing?”
“I never really thought about Posse Comitatus, not as a thing that could go away at least. Not until recently when it all started to become such a huge deal all the sudden. The retiring thing…” Jessica trailed off and looked at the ceiling, as if hoping it would offer her advice. “I’ve been thinking about it since Deanne retired. I thought about it more and more ever since then. I guess all this recent stuff is just the push to get me to where I’m talking about it instead of just thinking about it.”
“What would you do?” Heidi worked very hard to keep her question completely neutral, not wanting to appear as if she were on one side or the other of the argument.
Jessica smiled, a deeply genuine expression. “I would be free. I’d finally get to go out and see the world again.” Her smile darkened slightly. “The country anyways, since the world has a few issues with people like me traveling. Maybe I’d finally get to stop killing people.”
“You think you could set aside all of your burdens?” Heidi found something akin to encouragement creeping into her tone, unable to quite keep it in the neutral range she strove for.
“I wouldn’t set aside the promises I made. Hell, I might finally be keeping them for the first time if I do this. And for the rest…” Jessica shrugged, but faint traces of a smile remained on her face. “I don’t think they’re only my burdens any more. The AAC can handle Lunatic Returns without me, and if somehow there’s something they CAN’T handle… It’s not like I won’t still be around.”
“Will this make you happy?” Heidi practically held her breath as she asked the question, hands squeezed tightly onto the armrests of her chair to keep herself seated as she could FEEL the answer in her friend’s head. But you have to admit it. Say it out loud!
“I think… I honestly don’t know if it will make me happy.” Jessica closed her eyes, and Heidi allowed herself a frustrated headshake at the response.
“But, I think it might. I think it’s worth finding out, anyways.”
Neither Heidi’s excited squeal nor the pulling her patient to her feet for an enthusiastic hug and impromptu celebratory dance were recognized as professional ways for a psychiatrist to interact with a patient. Fortunately, neither of the women in the room seemed to care much about professionalism at the moment.
“I’ve been waiting since the first time you talked to me for you to say those words!”
“What?” Jessica pulled back out of the embrace, surprise written on her features.
“Jessica, sweetie.” Heidi sat on the couch and pulled her friend down with her. “You’ve been serving in the military for almost eight decades. As you’re psychiatrist, and an Empath, let me be perfectly clear: You NEEDED to reach this conclusion. You needed to finally think about what would make YOU happy, and decide to pursue it. Otherwise… Well, I don’t think it would have been pretty.”
“You know I’m not talking about resigning TODAY, right? I mean, there’s still the current Paragon Window, and-…”
“Jessica.” The redhead interrupted her friend. “As soon as you SAID that it was worth finding out, you shed so much stress that I wanted to cry. Take all the time you need to wrap things up to your satisfaction, just don’t get stuck convincing yourself you need to spend another eighty years following orders.”