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"Your Honor, I must object!"
Alexander Warren was on his feet as swiftly as if he'd been fired from a photon torpedo tube, practically leaping from behind the prosecutor's table to give emphasis to the objection he had just made.
Samuel T. Cogley looked over his shoulder at the imposingly brawny Warren and noted the prosecutor's face was as crimson as a Big Sky sunset. The older, decidedly not brawny defense attorney chuckled to himself. Even in the far reaches of space, images of Earth were never far from his thoughts. You can take the boy out of Montana...
Cogley could see the defense table from the corner of his eye. His executive assistant, Jacqueline LaSalle, had moved Cogley's pen off his pad of paper and put it on the desk, something Cogley would never do. He was obsessive about there being a place for everything and everything being in its place. Pens were not meant to lie on polished tabletops, when there was a perfectly serviceable pad of paper available.
He smiled and looked for a moment at Jackie. Her bright green eyes and wide smile practically jumped out at him from under her red-brown hair. Jackie was telling him their preparations were complete. Cogley tugged once at the bottom of his plain brown suit coat. It was time for the main event.
Cogley walked over to his opponent's table until he almost stood next to Warren. Side by side, prosecutor and defense attorney appeared to be a mismatch. Warren towered over Cogley's thin, five-foot, five-inch frame. Cogley didn't let the mismatch deter him. He fixed his pale blue eyes on Warren and spread his arms wide -- his hands open and his palms up to show they were empty. Then he turned back to Judge Faure and gave her a smile that seemed to ask, "Who, me?"
"'Must'? I'm sorry, Your Honor, I didn't realize that I was pointing my death ray at Mr. Warren."
"I beg your pardon?" Warren asked.
"You said you 'must object,' implying you were being forced into objecting. As I can assure the court, I have no mind-control powers. I can only assume I must have been pointing a death ray or some equally fearsome weapon at you."
The resulting outburst of laughter was even louder than Cogley had dared hope. Even as the judge struck her gavel repeatedly on the bench and demanded that order be restored to her court at once, Cogley knew his comment had had its desired effect: everyone in the courtroom was off his or her guard, unsure of what might come next.
Especially the witness.
As the laughter dwindled, Cogley looked back over his shoulder at the defense table and at his client, Aaron Cole, regretting what he saw. Cole squirmed in his seat, then leaned over to Jackie, his discomfort obvious in the way he moved.
"Ms. LaSalle, is it wise for Mr. Cogley to upset the court this way?" Cole asked her.
Jackie smiled, a look designed to give reassurance to the client. A look she'd had manifold opportunities to perfect.
"Don't worry, Aaron. When Sam gets this way, he has them right where he wants them. Just watch."
Once the laughter had ended, which was obviously taking longer than Judge Faure wanted, Cogley turned to her and spoke before she could.
"I'm sorry, Your Honor. It's just that Mr. Warren was being somewhat imprecise in his speech. Words are still, after all, our tools, our most important means of communication...when they are used properly. I guess I just forgot myself."
"If Mr. Cogley wants precision, I'll be more than happy to accommodate him," Warren said, his voice as edged as a Klingon bat'leth. Then he continued, putting a slight pause between each of his words, to demonstrate how precise he could be.
"He is asking leading questions of his own witness."
"A most hostile witness, Your Honor, if I may be permitted to demonstrate..."
Before the judge could respond, Cogley turned back to the witness stand and looked directly at the Kradian seated there. Sahirn P'Thall stared back at Cogley with a withering glare that the defense attorney would have called cold-blooded, if Kradians had circulatory systems. P'Thall was wearing his family clan's most formal attire, complete with the ceremonial tunic that proudly displayed the family stone in its sash. Cogley also noticed that P'Thall's twin eyestalks did not point at him, but away from him, a gesture by which the Kradian signified that he regarded Cogley as unworthy at best, contemptuous at worst.
"Mr. P'Thall," Cogley started to ask and noticed that both eyestalks turned toward him, even as the Kradian's glare widened so much that his eyes seemed to explode from his eyestalks. "Mister" was not a Kradian form of address; it was, in fact, an honorific that some Kradians found to be not an honor but an insult. If Cogley had harbored any doubts about his assessment of P'Thall's feelings toward humans, they were dispelled.
"Exactly what are your feelings toward Aaron Cole?"
P'Thall leaned back in the witness stand and sat up straight, stretching his more than six foot height to its utmost so that he could look down at Cogley. He did not even look at Aaron Cole, but waved his left hand in Cole's general direction in a gesture almost of dismissal.
"That human murdered my daughter Daleel P'Thall. How do you think I feel about the grelth?"
Cogley didn't miss the pointed emphasis P'Thall had put on the word "human."
"And are your feelings toward me, the human" -- Cogley put the same inflection on the word that P'Thall had used -- "representing Mr. Cole, equally enlightened?"
"You defend the grelth. Were it within my power, I would arrange for you to suffer the same richly deserved punishment that your client will endure."
Cogley turned to Judge Faure and smiled.
"As I said, Your Honor, hostile."
"You may proceed, Mr. Cogley," Judge Faure said, and Cogley noticed she seemed to be leaning forward ever so slightly. During his long career as a defense attorney, Samuel Cogley had earned a reputation for three things. The first was for being an eccentric, a reputation enhanced by his borderline obsessive compulsiveness, manifested most noticeably in his love of books and equally strong dislike of computers.
The second was his reputation for indulging in courtroom theatrics. This reputation was widespread, and Cogley was sure it had reached even here, to the vacation moon of Versailles in an out-of-the-way sector of United Federation of Planets space. Especially when his most recent courtroom theatrical, produced while he was representing Captain James T. Kirk in a court-martial, almost resulted in the destruction of Kirk's starship, the U.S.S. Enterprise. You don't nearly destroy a Constitution-class starship and expect the story won't spread.
However, it was the third thing Cogley was famous for -- doggedly getting to the truth of the matters he litigated -- that usually prompted judges to allow him to engage in those theatrics designed to ferret out the truth. Those judges who were concerned about justice, anyway.
Cogley had studied Judge Faure during the trial and was fairly sure he knew which type of magistrate she was. The next few minutes would either confirm or deny his assessment.
"Oh dear," Cogley said, "I appear to have lost my train of thought. No matter, I'll start at the beginning.
"Why here, Mr. P'Thall?"
"I beg your pardon?" P'Thall said.
"Versailles. A vacation moon for humans that simulates eighteenth-century France on Earth. It's primitive, doesn't allow spaceships or transporters or anything more advanced than horse-drawn carriages and oil lamps. Perfect for me, perhaps, but on Krador your family clan sells its engineering skills and technological expertise. Why would your family clan come to Versailles of all places?"
"We have started doing business with humans and felt we should learn more about them."
"Then why not go to Earth? Why here?"
"We have found we can learn much more about a species from the recreations it chooses than its usual routines. People tend to be more at ease, more natural when they're on vacation."
"How much could you learn about humans, when you rented an isolated castle on an island in the middle of a lake miles from any of the cities?"
"My family clan is quite large. Not only my wives and fellow husband, but the wives and husbands of our children accompanied us. The castle we rented had to be large enough to accommodate all of us together."
"Did your daughter recommend coming here?"
"She may have. She had been here before."
"In fact, Aaron Cole works here on Versailles and she met him here, correct?"
"Mr. P'Thall, isn't that the real reason you came to Versailles, to meet the human Daleel had fallen in love with?"
"It...was a consideration, yes."
"How did you feel about that?"
"I'm afraid I don't understand the question."
"Did you approve of Daleel's romance with Aaron?"
"It wasn't my place to approve. Who my daughter loved was her own choice."
Cogley walked back to the defense table and picked up a thick book. He thumbed through its pages for a moment, as if consulting it for some elusive fact. This was part habit and part theater on the attorney's part.
"Correct me if I'm wrong: the Kradians as a race prize both honor and family?"
"That is correct."
"And you didn't care that Daleel loved a human?"
"No. As I said, who she loved was her concern."
"A commendable attitude, Mr. P'Thall, considering her love for Aaron Cole cost your family both honor and stature among the other clans, as well as a good deal of business."
"It did neither."
"Oh? I thought you had arranged for your daughter to marry into the D'Quas, the family clan of your biggest customer, and when she refused, the D'Quas stopped doing business with you."
P'Thall didn't answer at first, staring pensively at Cogley, who had turned his back on the Kradian and put the book back on the defense table. Jackie then handed him several sheets of paper. Cogley took the papers, then turned back to P'Thall, who looked at him with fury seething behind his eyes. Then, very slowly and very deliberately, P'Thall said, "You were misinformed."
"You do that very well, Mr. P'Thall."
Warren jumped to his feet and screamed, "Objection!" reaching a volume that startled the courtroom into silence. Cogley turned to the prosecutor and calmly said, "I apologize and withdraw the comment. For now."
He handed P'Thall the top sheet of paper.
"Mr. P'Thall, what is this?"
P'Thall took the paper and read it. At first all expression leeched from his pale blue face. Then the fury that had burned in his eyes consumed his entire face.
"Where did you get this? This was a private correspondence. I will have you arrested for stealing it from my office."
"Correspondence, Mr. P'Thall, has a recipient and a sender. In this case, you were the recipient. But after I explained to the D'Quas -- the senders of this correspondence -- what I needed and why, they were only too happy to supply me with a copy. They seemed delighted at the prospect of spreading word of the end of their dealings with you far and wide. To whoever would listen.
"The letter you're holding is from the head of the D'Quas family, your customer -- excuse me, former customer -- stating that after your daughter disgraced them by spurning the D'Quas marriage, they were canceling all their contracts with you, isn't it?"
"Come now, Mr. P'Thall, do you really think the jury could hear you when you're talking so softly? No matter, the record can reflect that you said, 'yes.'
"Now these other letters, which other senders were also only too happy to supply, all basically say that because of the manner in which your family disgraced the D'Quas, they were also canceling their contracts with you. Is that correct? Remember, answer loudly."
"Yes." P'Thall spat out the answer.
"So, when you testified earlier that Daleel's romance with Aaron Cole didn't cost your family clan either honor or stature or business with the other clans, that wasn't true, was it?"
P'Thall said nothing.
"Never mind, I think your silence speaks for itself. So you didn't come here just to learn more about humans, did you? You came here because Daleel was already here with Aaron. You came here to break them up, yes?"
"I -- we came here to remind Daleel of her duty to her family, yes. And we were successful. Daleel did break off her relationship with him. That's why he killed her."
"Yes, I've wondered just exactly how you got your daughter to break off her romance with Aaron. But no matter, you said she did and so she must have. After all, you're an honorable man. But what I really wonder is, how do you know Aaron killed your daughter? You didn't see Aaron kill Daleel, did you?"
"You know perfectly well that when my daughter died, my family and I were attending an opera here in New Paris."
"Yes, so you were. And how long did it take you to get to New Paris from your island?"
0 "As you yourself have pointed out, transportation on this moon is antiquated, intentionally so. I believe the word you humans use is 'quaint.' The trip took the better part of a day."
"So...you were nowhere near the island when your daughter was killed?"
"That is correct."
"Then, if you didn't see what happened, how can you be so sure Aaron killed your daughter?"
"No one else could have. Daleel was alone on the island. She didn't wish to accompany us to the opera and stayed behind. Flight isn't possible on Versailles, so the only means of getting to the island is by boat. The records of the harbormaster show that the only boat that went to our island was the one your client hired and that he was alone when he made the trip. As he was the only person who could have been on the island, he must have murdered Daleel, then fled afterwards.
"If you have any doubts about his guilt, ask him why he went into hiding even before we returned to the castle the next day and found Daleel's body."
"Aaron admits he went to the island. He says Daleel called him on his comm, asking him to come to the island so they could talk it out. But when he got there, he saw she had been strangled and was already dead. He panicked. He figured he'd be blamed and went into hiding.
"That wasn't the smartest thing he could have done. Made him look guilty. But you know what? I believe him."
Before the prosecutor could rise from his chair to object, the disdainful P'Thall made a sound half snort and half laugh, and began to respond to what had not been an actual question. Cogley had read his witness well.
"Your gullibility gets the better of you, human. How can you believe your client, when he was the only other person who could have been on the island and, by simple logic, the only person who could have killed Daleel?"
"Normally, I get to ask the questions, Mr. P'Thall, but since you're grieving over the loss of your daughter, I'll answer yours. Obviously, someone else was on the island."
"How? There was no possible way for someone else to get to the island."
"Someone could have used a transporter," Cogley said.
P'Thall's reaction was immediate. This time, his laugh was full and not combined with a snort.
"Human, your handling of this case notwithstanding, you may be a competent lawyer, but you are clearly not an engineer. Before you suggest the impossible, I would suggest you familiarize yourself with transporter operation."
"The impossible? Why impossible?"
"There is only one transporter station on all of Versailles, the one here in New Paris. As no spaceship is allowed to land on the moon and ruin its sentimental ambience, a transporter is used to ferry visitors from orbiting ships down to this little vacation paradise.
"Our island is on the other side of the moon. An entire moon separates it from New Paris. Transporter beams travel in straight lines and, doing so, cannot bend around the curvature of a moon's surface. While transporters can beam people and materials through a few miles of solid rock, they couldn't beam someone through the entire moon. There's simply no way the transporter in this city could send anyone to our island."
Cogley ran his right hand through his hair, then massaged the back of his neck.
"You've got me there," he said, smiling and nodding demurely. "Well, then, no transporter. Let's talk about the opera you saw. Did you like it?"
"I didn't think so. You left your seat about twenty minutes before intermission."
"I...had a certain biological necessity to which I needed to attend."
Cogley nodded again. "Well, when you've got to go, you've got to go. So...you couldn't hold it for the twenty minutes until the next intermission?"
"I saw no need to. As I said, I wasn't enjoying myself."
"But you thought enough of it to wear your most formal tunic with your family stone, just like you're wearing now."
"Objection, Your Honor. Relevance."
"I'm trying to establish the witness's attitude toward humans, Your Honor. It goes to bias, which I'm allowed to explore."
"Briefly, Mr. Cogley. Don't go too far afield."
"That is the farthest thing from my mind."
Cogley went back to his table and took some photographs from Jackie. Her eyes flashed the only amusement courtroom decorum would permit.
"I'm showing you Defense Exhibit E, Mr. P'Thall. Can you tell me what this is?"
"It's nothing more than an image, a photograph, of me at the reception before the opera."
"And you're wearing your formal tunic with the family stone in it, just as you are now, correct?"
"Only it's not quite the same. I noticed that your tunic has a very delicate filigree pattern woven into it. It's really quite beautiful."
"My tailor will be delighted you approve."
"But here's the thing, the tunic you're wearing now has a blue filigree pattern. But, showing you Exhibit F, a blowup of Defense Exhibit E, the filigree weave is more violet."
"I have several such tunics, Mr. Cogley."
"I figured you had. A well-dressed Kradian such as yourself, with as much family honor as you have, would naturally bring more than one tunic on a trip. But let me show you Defense Exhibit G. Do you recognize it?"
"Of course I do. It's an image of me and my wives and fellow husband taken after the opera, as we were being introduced to the lead singers."
"And can you see my problem?"
"You have a great many problems, human. I scarcely know where to begin."
"Then let me clarify things for you. This is Defense Exhibit H. Do you recognize it?"
"Yes, it's a blowup of the previous pic -- "
"You stopped in midword, sir. I guess you do see the problem after all. The filigree in the tunic in Defense Exhibit H is the precise same blue as in the tunic you wear now. In fact, it's the same tunic as the one you're wearing now, isn't it?
"So here's my problem. How did you come to change tunics from the one in Defense Exhibit E to the one in Defense Exhibit H during the opera?"
P'Thall was silent. And Cogley waited. Waited several seconds before he said, "No quick answers? No glib remarks? And you seemed so chatty just a few moments ago."
This time the prosecutor didn't hesitate.
"I object, Your Honor. Mr. Cogley is badgering the witness. Sahirn P'Thall is not on trial here."
Cogley answered without turning away from his witness, keeping P'Thall squarely in his sights.
"That was your mistake, Mr. Warren. You charged the wrong man for the murder of a beautiful and innocent young woman."
P'Thall remained silent.
"No answer? Then maybe you can answer this question: Where is the tunic you were wearing in Defense Exhibit E?"
P'Thall stared at Cogley. There was no haughty contempt, no defiance, in his gaze. If Kradians could sweat, the man would have drenched his fine tunic.
"Again, no answer? Well, it doesn't really matter. I think I can answer this question myself.
"Your Honor, Versailles may duplicate old-world France, but even vacationers don't want to be out of contact with the universe. You have quite a modern communications system. The court even has a viewscreen for taking the testimony of witnesses who can't travel to New Paris. With your permission?"
The judge nodded her consent, and the bailiff pushed a button at his desk. Immediately a portion of the wall directly opposite the jury box slid back to reveal a large screen. Cogley gestured to Jacqueline, who spoke into a personal comm box.
The viewscreen came to life, showing a man in his midfifties, balding, with gray hair that was interrupted only occasionally by a spot of its former black. The middle-age lines on his face were just starting to change over to the deeper cracks caused by a greater maturity. The man was standing confidently in an opulent bedroom whose furniture and style would have fit perfectly in the palace from which the vacation moon Versailles took its name.
"Mr. P'Thall...you recognize my investigative assistant, Peter Lawrence. Can you tell us where he is?"
P'Thall looked at the screen. He stood up suddenly and, with a savage thrust of his arm, pointed at the image.
"How dare you!" he shouted. "You trespass in my bedchamber? Is nothing beneath you?"
"I might ask you the same question. But first let me correct your natural mistake. It isn't your bedchamber. At least not alone. It's a vacation home. You rent it. We got the permission of the landlord to be there.
"Peter," Cogley said, addressing the viewscreen, "did you find our surprise exhibit?"
"That I most certainly did."
The grinning investigator held up a formal family clan tunic, similar to the one P'Thall was wearing. Identical to the one shown in Defense Exhibit E.
"Where was it?"
"Hidden in the closet. On a hanger underneath another suit of clothes."
"Can you hold it closer to the camera?"
Peter held the tunic up against his own muscular frame so that its violet filigree weave was clearly visible for all to see. Not even Alexander Warren bothered to object.
"Peter, is that a rip I see on the tunic front?"
Lawrence moved his hand to the rip and pulled back the flap it created so the court could see how big it was.
"That's the tunic you were wearing when you went to the opera, isn't it, Mr. P'Thall?" Cogley asked.
P'Thall denied it, but his weak "No" was a stammer that caught in his throat as it came out.
"Your daughter cost you business, reputation, status, honor. The only way you could restore that honor was to remove Daleel from your family."
"But it wasn't enough to kill her. You also wanted revenge on Aaron Cole for his part in your disgrace."
"So you came to Versailles and forced your daughter to break it off with Aaron."
"Then you used a voice chip to fake a communication from your daughter to lure Aaron to the island on a night you knew Daleel would be alone."
"That night you left your seat at the opera twenty minutes before the intermission so you could be sure you were alone when you transported yourself back to the island and your rented castle. You killed Daleel. You planned her murder so Aaron Cole would be the only suspect, and you killed your own daughter!"
"Daleel struggled, fighting for her life even as you stole it from her, and in that struggle, she ripped your tunic. You had to replace it and hope no one would notice."
"Unfortunately for you, I do notice things."
"No. It's not true. None of it. That grelth murdered Daleel. Not me. I couldn't have done it. I was miles away."
"Miles away, Mr. P'Thall? How many miles? A transporter has a range of over fifteen thousand miles."
In the witness stand, P'Thall stretched to his full height and glared down at Cogley. The sneer was back on the Kradian's face, the contempt back in his tone.
"Your memory fails you, human. That is still quite impossible. Any transporter technician will confirm that I couldn't have beamed from New Paris to the island. Not around the planet and not through it. It can't be done.
"So, then, how did I get from New Paris to the island and then back to New Paris in a matter of minutes? How, Mr. Cogley, did I manage that?"
"How, Mr. P'Thall? I imagine like this."
Samuel Cogley snapped his fingers.
In the next instant, Peter Lawrence, still holding P'Thall's tunic, appeared in the middle of the courtroom.
Copyright © 2004 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved.