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Boykin touched down gently at the GalPat compound at White Beach just before thirteen. Fargo got up as she said, “Ramp going down. You have people meeting you.” He picked up his bag and rifle case and walked to the ramp. When it touched the ground, he was surprised to see Colonel Keads, Major Santos, and Senior Sergeant Grayson standing there.
He stepped off the ramp and nodded to the colonel. “Sir, I…need to turn myself in to—”
Keads interrupted him, “Fargo, Ethan, we can accept you here. We can also accept your weapon and hold it for the courts. Grayson can give you an entrance physical, and we have a small brig here. It’s not plush, but it’s probably better than the pit downtown, which is where they would probably throw you.”
Fargo nodded. “Thank you. Is this…going to cause you trouble?”
The colonel grinned. “Probably. But we are also certified law enforcement on this planet, regardless of what Klynton et al want to happen.” Turning to the major he said, “Major, please notify White Beach security that Mr. Fargo has turned himself and his weapon in to us as of,” he checked his wrist comp, “Thirteen eleven this day, and we will maintain custody, per GalPat regulations.”
Santos smiled. “Aye, aye, sir!” He turned and walked back into the GalPat offices.
Grayson said, “If you’ll come with me, Captain?”
Fargo followed Grayson to the small office he had and sat down. Grayson scanned him then pulled out an extractor. “Need some blood. Gotta make sure you’re clean.” He offered his left arm and Grayson set the extractor in the crook of his elbow. “Won’t take but a second.” There was a ding and he added, “All done.” Why don’t you go to the mess and grab something to eat while I get all this crap entered.”
“I…don’t I need an escort?”
“For what, Captain? Ain’t like you’re going anywhere. You turned yourself in, remember?”
Shaking his head, Fargo got up and went down to the mess, grabbed a sandwich and a bulb of coffee, ate quickly, and returned to Grayson’s office. “Now what?”
Looking at his wrist comp, he said, “Well, I figure we’ve got twenty segs before the local yokels show up to try to claim your body.” He got up. “Follow me, and we’ll go down to the brig. I’ll have to log you in and lock the door for now. You’ll have to stay there for a while.”
A couple of turns and Fargo was confused, having never been in this part of the building. Grayson stopped in front of a secure door and entered a code, the lock released, and he said, “And here we are. Your not quite palatial quarters, Captain.”
Fargo stepped in and noted a sparsely furnished room with two chairs and a desk, and two more doors at the back of the room. “Door on the left, Captain.” Pulling it open, Fargo saw a room with no windows, a single bed with a blanket and shipsuit lying on it, a desk and chair, and a fresher taking up the back wall. Walking in, he noted a small e-tainment screen on the wall by the door. Grayson tapped the e-tainment screen and said, “Grayson, Kelly, eight nine three Romeo Charlie six four eight. Activate system. Voice activation authorized, Fargo, Ethan. Captain, please state your name.”
There was a ting and the AI said, “Voice ID capture. Fargo, Ethan.”
“Okay, Captain, you’ve got all the standard e-tainment features, but comms is restricted. You can send and receive messages, but no vidcoms or calls off planet.” Glancing at his wrist comp again he said, “I’d better get back up front. One of us will be back later.”
Fargo sat down on the bed. “What about my wrist comp and datacomp?”
“Disabled. This area is a Faraday cage.” Grayson left and he heard the door click when it shut. He went to move the shipsuit and realized there was underwear and socks underneath it. Curious, he looked at the size and chuckled. All in my size. Did they know I…they had to know I was coming. Thank you, Nicole!
Two divs later, he heard the outer door click, then his door. Major Santos pulled the door open. “Mr. Fargo, there is someone here to see you. If you would step out here, please?”
He got up, came out into the bigger room, and saw a sweating roly-poly figure with a bad combover staring at him. That face…I’ve…
“I am Assistant Justicer Sayed Zubin. This…is most unusual, but at least you are captured. We…will be moving you to our facility. Have you arranged for a law giver?”
“No, I have not. I’ve never needed—”
Zubin grinned nastily. “You need one now. Oh, by the way, all your accounts are frozen. So, unless you can make some kind of deal or have family pay for a lawyer, we will provide one for you. Your trial will be next week.”
Fargo bowed his head. Sushma said take their law giver. “I will take the law giver provided.”
He sent out a probe and felt the satisfaction in Zubin’s mind at his response. Should I probe more? Probably not. At least Santos isn’t happy with him either.
“One will be sent to you as soon as you are in our custody.”
He decided to poke at Zubin. “What happens if I don’t get transferred? Don’t you still have to provide a law giver? Isn’t that my right by law?”
Zubin’s mouth fell open but nothing came out as he glared at Fargo. “One will be provided,” he finally said. Turning, he stomped out as Santos shook his head and followed. Fargo heard the outer lock click, but not the one to his room. Curious he went to the other door, but it was locked. Oh, well, it was worth a try. He walked back into his room and activated the e-tainment system. He found a newsie who was talking about how he was in custody and awaiting transfer to the planetary authorities. Well, that was quick. I wonder who leaked it?
A div later, Grayson was back with a cadaverous, bald man, with thick glasses. After he was duly logged in, Grayson stepped out of the main door, and they heard it lock behind him. The man pushed his glasses back up on his nose and dropped his data comp on the table. In a high voice, with perfect English enunciation, he said, “I am Viamal Nand. I have been appointed as your law giver to defend you against your charges. Please sit and tell me what this is about.”
Fargo cocked his head as he sat. “You are…not what I expected.” He probed lightly and felt nervousness and a strange calmness. Interesting conflict there. I’m going to let this run and not try to go any deeper. Don’t want to scare him away.
Nand smiled, showing brilliant white teeth. “That may be. I am a graduate of the New Bombay law school. I am fully accredited as a defender. Now about your…case.” He opened his data comp and Fargo saw a holo screen pop up between them. “Please start at…the beginning, if you would. May I record?”
Fargo nodded. “Why not. It’s not like this isn’t already documented.” He recapped the entire evolution from first sighting the liteflyer to himself, Jiri, and Adhit dropping into the canyon and finding the remains of the two people still in the liteflyer. He snapped his fingers, “And there was a civilian, Allen, who took all the data from our comps and my holo scope. He was some kind of…investigator, maybe air safety.”
“Was there anyone else there?”
“Um…a Major Palette, a couple of GalPat troops, and a female named Gann. Apparently her daughter was the pilot. And Mikhail Radovich. He’s head of TBT in this sector. He is also married to my sister in Rushing River.”
Nand took off his glasses and scratched his head. “This…does not make sense. If there is…data and…flight violation, there is no case. I must research and find the data analysis. Is there any other data that might support your defense?”
“They were supposed to take data from the security van on the mountain where we were installing the feeder.”
“Very good! I will go find these data files.” Nand put his glasses back on, shut off his data comp, and stood up. “How do I get out of here?”
Fargo chuckled and walked to the door. Knocking on it, he said, “Open up, Grayson, we’re done.” He heard the latch click and Grayson pulled the door open.
“Mr. Nand, if you’ll come with me, I’ll escort you out.”
“Thank you, sir. Mr. Fargo, I will be in contact. We do not have a lot of time.”
Nodding, Fargo said, “Thank you. I…just want this over with.” Nand walked out and he heard the door close and lock, then slumped back into the chair. That is one strange individual. And that accent! I don’t think he’s young, so maybe I have a chance. But how do I let Sushma know about him?
After another div, Colonel Keads opened the door. “Food?”
Fargo got up. “Yes, sir.”
“I’m afraid you’re limited to the mess, but it’s vat beef night. It’s usually edible,” he said with a smile.
They walked quietly down the hallway, each lost in their own thoughts. When they got to the mess, he was stunned to see Nicole sitting at a table. She shook her head slightly, and he and the colonel continued through the mess line. Once they had their meals, Fargo noticed the mess was almost empty. The colonel nodded toward Nicole and said softly, “Go ahead. Just no PDA.” He smiled as he sat at a table where he could see them and the entry.
Fargo went over and sat down across the table from her as she pulled a small box out and set it on the table. “Privacy shield. What has happened,” she asked.
“Got an appointed law giver, name is Viamal Nand. He’s not…young. I gave him as much as I could remember, and he seemed to know what he was doing. Can you…check him out?”
Nicole smiled brightly. “Of course. Sushma will be here tomorrow. I have arranged space for us to work. She is ostensibly in town to file paperwork for the Enclave, and I’m here shopping for the winery.”
She reached across the table, touched his hand, and looked hard at him. He finally picked up that she wanted him in her mind, and he projected, “Sorry, I’m…a little slow today. But I love you.”
“Love you too, you idiot. I will be the go between for you with Sushma, she doesn’t want to appear here until you actually go to court. Now eat, we don’t have long. The colonel told me they will move you to confinement in the courthouse at least a day ahead of the trial. There is nothing he can do about that. He also said that the only recorded visits will be those in your cell.”
“I’m thankful for that. It’s not…a bad cell. But there is a leak somewhere, because I was on the e-tainment within a half div of giving myself up to the Colonel. Maybe Sayed Zubin, he’s the assistant justicer that is going to try me. He’s…sleazy.”
“We’ll check him out too.” She took her hand back and said, “I better go now. The less contact anyone sees, the better. I will try to be here every day for at least one meal.”
Fargo smiled. “Only one meal?”
“I’m doing research with Sushma. I’m…using all my contacts.”
“Oh. Thank you.”
She squeezed his hand and he projected, “I love you. Thank you for supporting me!” She smiled sadly as she got up and walked out of the mess. He quickly finished his tray, not really tasting anything as he turned over what was going on in his head.
He was startled when the colonel said, “Are you finished?”
“Yes, sir. Ready to go back?”
“Afraid so. I just want you to know the folks here that know you all support you.”
Fargo got up, took the tray to the sonic and shoved it in. He walked back to the colonel and said, “I truly appreciate that, Colonel. I…didn’t get treated this way the last time I went through something like this.”
Keads growled, “That was because of politics. This…smells like the same thing to me.” Fargo shrugged as they walked back to the brig. Once he was ensconced in his room, he decided to hit the fresher and go to bed. Surprising himself, he dropped off to sleep almost immediately.
It was early afternoon when the major unlocked the door and admitted Nand. Fargo took one look and said, “Not good news?”
Nand shook his head sorrowfully. “Not good. Mr. Allen is…off planet and will be for three more weeks. His…files are locked, so I was only able to get the stills from the vids from Zubin. And the report…is missing things. Also, the investigation from Major…” He pushed his glasses up and slumped in the chair, starting his data comp. He fiddled with it for a second or two and the holo flipped where Fargo could read it. “It is not…in your favor. Please tell me when you want to advance the page.”
By the time Fargo had finished, he was seeing red, and Nand had physically backed away from the table. He finally said, “That…is bullshit. That is not what happened. The…both of them were dead before we ever got there. It’s all on Adhit’s data comp recording! And…Argghhhh! I can’t believe Colonel Cameron signed off on that piece of…” Fargo jumped up and started pacing back and forth as Nand cowered behind the table. Picking up on the fear radiating from Nand, he sat back down and looked calmly Nand in the face. “I’m not mad at you. I’m…angry about Palette’s BS investigation. This was nothing more than his attempting to curry favor with…Gann and Klynton. But Allen not being available is not…good. Without those vids, can you ask for…what is the word?”
Nand moved back up to the table. “A continuance? You want to wait?”
“Yes! Without Allen’s data…and that BS,” pointing to the holo screen, “I’m dead meat. I…what can we do?”
Nand touched the holo keyboard and flipped the screen. “I will file for a continuance until Mr. Allen returns. I…will talk to the colonel here about the report.”
Fargo shook his head. “Cameron is gone. Keads is the new colonel. I don’t know if he will be any help. What about getting the raw footage from my gun?”
“The prosecution has it, I will request that data.” Nand packed up his data comp, walked to the door, and knocked. As it opened, he said, “I…will let you know if we are successful tomorrow.”
Fargo merely nodded as he walked out and the door locked behind him. Two divs later, he heard the doors unlock and Grayson stepped into the room. “Dinner, if you want to call it that, is served. I swear it’s something with tentacles.” He made a face adding, “I think tonight’s gonna be sandwich night.”
Swinging his feet off the bed, Fargo slipped on his boots. “Food is fuel. One eats to maintain the ability to function.”
He stood up and followed Grayson out of the rooms as Grayson mumbled, “That shit ain’t food. I don’t want to have to fight it to eat it.”
“Is the colonel here?”
“Nah, he and the major are conducting some training with…I think the militia company down south. The warrant flew them out early this morning.”
When he got to the mess, he was disappointed that Nicole wasn’t there. Dammit, I really need to let her know what is going on. He went through the serving line behind Grayson and took one look at the entrée, then followed him to the sandwich bar. “Didn’t look appetizing, did it, Captain?”
Fargo grinned. “Well, I was all set to try it, til I saw it move…” Grayson’s head snapped around as he looked back at the serving line. He saw Nicole walk in and look around and waved to her.
She bypassed the serving line quickly and joined them at the bar, mumbling, “Not doing octopus. They can’t get it right.”
Grayson smiled at her. “See, I told you it had tentacles, Captain!” His sandwich popped out and he went, “I’ll be over by the door.” He took the tray and walked over to the last table by the door as Fargo’s sandwich tray came out.
Nicole said sotto voce, “Sit where he can see both you and the door.”
He picked up his tray and walked over to a table, cocking his head at it, and Nicole nodded. He sat down facing Grayson and sipped the bulb that came with the sandwich. They…this is…the most pathetic attempt at coffee I’ve ever tasted! He took a bite of the sandwich as Nicole sat down with her back to Grayson reaching across the table. He touched her hand and projected, “There is a problem—”
Her thought overrode him, “Captain Jace is not…happy. He said he will get involved. I don’t know what he means by that, but…I’m worried.”
“Tell him I need evidence. Allen is off planet and his data account is locked, so there is no vid from Adhit’s data comp or my holoscope. And that fuck, Palette, lied on his investigative report. I can’t believe Cameron signed off on it…wait a second! Cameron’s signature wasn’t on it! Nand is going to ask for a…continuance until Allen is back on planet.” He squeezed her hand. “I love you. And I hate this…mess.”
She smiled. “I love you, too. We will get through this. Now eat!”
“Yes, dear.” He smiled and said, “I have got to get something else to drink. This…coffee is undrinkable.”
“Would you get me a nearapple cobbler if they have it, please?”
“Certainly.” Getting up, he went over and punched up a fizzy drink then went back to the serving line. Seeing one cobbler, he picked it up, collected his drink, and carried them back to the table. Nicole had finished her sandwich and smiled as he set the cobbler in front of her.
Picking up her fork, she dug in with relish. “It’s good!” More softly she said, “Nand is a fairly new law giver. He grew up on New Bombay and…he can’t take life extension or regen treatments. He’s almost forty. He left because he had no future there and this was about as far away as he could get. Apparently, his life expectancy is only another twenty or thirty years. I…feel sorry for him.”
She touched his hand again, and he was surprised to receive a thought from her, “Sushma said to tell you that Ton’Skel is doing well and no problem at home.”
“No problem? That doesn’t make sense. He’s…unless most of the Enclave don’t know he’s there.”
“I don’t know, that’s just what she said. Tomorrow, see if you can be here around thirteen.”
Fargo glanced up as Grayson walked over, “Evening Chief Sergeant, bout that time, Captain.”
“I’m done.” He got up touching her on the shoulder. “Love you, I’ll be here tomorrow.”
“Love you.” She smiled up at him. Taking his tray to the sonics, he followed Grayson back to the cell and heard the locks click home. Hitting the fresher, he crawled into bed, his mind a whirl. What is Jace going to do? What can he do? And what is going on with Ton? He flipped and flopped for a div, then finally fell into a restless sleep, punctuated by nightmares of his first trial.
Nand came in just after nine, escorted by the major. “Mr. Fargo, I have not good news. The…court will not countenance a continuation. You will be tried in five days and they will not give me access to your weapon. I…do not know what to do,” he said plaintively.
Fargo sucked his lip as he stood there. “Well, we go with what we have. Have you spoken to the colonel?”
Nand ducked his head, almost losing his glasses. “Not yet, I have…requested, but have not heard back.”
“See if you can dig up anything on Gann and Patterson. There has to be a tie in somewhere there, otherwise they wouldn’t both be suing me.”
“This I will do.” He backed out of the room and Fargo heard the doors lock.
He paced restlessly, then had a thought. Going to the e-tainment center, he called up the internal comms list. Sure enough, the colonel was listed. He asked for an audio connect and was rewarded with a connecting icon. Moments later, a feminine voice answered, “Colonel Keads’ office, may I help you?”
Fargo remembered him saying that Santos’ wife was the new executive secretary. “Mrs. Santos, this is…Mr. Fargo, I need to speak to the colonel if he is available.”
“I’m sorry, sir. He’s not due back until twelve. He is in a meeting at the president’s office.”
“Thank you, would you please let him know I need to speak with him?”
“I certainly will,” she said brightly.
He lay down on the bed and dropped off to sleep. The sound of the locks releasing woke him up and he groaned as he sat up. Colone Keads pulled the door open. “Are you alright?” he asked, concern in his voice.
Fargo threw up his hands. “Not really. I’m getting…rocketed here, just like the Corps did me. Did you see the investigative report Palette submitted to the administration?”
Keads looked down at him, then replied, “Not that I remember. Cameron would have signed off on it.”
Fargo’s head jerked up. “But…what the law giver showed me yesterday only had Palette’s signature on it, not Cameron’s.”
Keads said decisively, “Come with me. We can pull up the one he filed with us, I know Cameron chopped that one, because I remember them discussing it at a staff meeting.”
Fifteen segs later, Fargo was reading a hard copy of Palette’s report that Cameron had signed and filed with GalPat. “This…is significantly different than what I was shown yesterday. This one is nearweasel worded all to hell and gone, but it doesn’t say we were responsible.”
Keads looked up from his holo screen. “What? That’s…shit…let me check something.” A few moments later, the colonel pushed back from the desk and rubbed his face with both hands. “This report was never forwarded. I knew Palette was sucking up to the administration, but I can’t…” He stopped and sighed. “Who is your law giver? I…need to see a copy of what he has.”
“Viamal Nand, but I don’t know how to get in touch with him.”
The colonel touched his comm unit. “Mrs. Santos, please contact Mr. Viamal Nand and request his presence as soon as possible. I spell—”
For those wanting the western, it’s out to the beta readers now. 🙂