And…back to court. If I wanted to be totally accurate, I’d have to say TO court I go, since I’d managed to avoid physically appearing on Earth up to this point.
I wasn’t trying to avoid Earth as such, but the fact was nothing particularly good could possibly come of visiting the planet. And for most of what we did in that damn courtroom, I could have been sitting at home, comfortable, rather than down-planet.
Adam’s got a new collection; isn’t the cover cool? He’s gathered the four volumes which contain the Artemis War, the prequel (telling how Cass and I got started on this crazy road), plus an exclusive novelette, The Martian Gambit, all in one place and then slapped a price of $9.99 on it all.
Personally I think he’s nuts, but hey, I just lived it.
If you want to order, click the cover image or the button below.
As usual, the audio for this installment is at the bottom, and you can also buy the book in any format by clicking the other button or any of the cover images.
Federal Court, Albuquerque, Sonoran Republic
“Ms. Cassidy, thank you for appearing for this afternoon’s session.”
Kendra, wearing her white Federation uniform, nodded as her lawyer stood and answered for her. “Your Honor, my client is always prepared to appear before the Court as long as her basic liberties are protected, as you have done.”
“This Court exists to protect the liberties of our citizens, Counselor.” Hodge looked at both sides. “Are we prepared to move forward today?”
“Plaintiffs are ready to proceed, Your Honor,” answered Sydney Forman, the lead counsel in the case against Kendra.
“Defense is ready, Your Honor.”
“Very well. Mr. Forman, I see that one of your clients is present.”
“Yes, Your Honor, in accordance with your ruling.”
The case had been initially filed with anonymous plaintiffs, which Dianna Chew had seized upon as a potentially disqualifying fact, arguing that not only did it deny Kendra’s right to face her accusers but also made it impossible for the Plaintiffs to prove standing. The judge had agreed and ordered at least one of the Plaintiffs drop their mask of anonymity. One had done so: Michael Williamson Junior.
Junior demonstrated that he had been forced out of his ownership position improperly by Kendra. This was inarguably true; she had called in favors, pointed police at his past wrongdoing, and then used a dummy corporation to purchase his share at a greatly reduced price.
Kendra had pointed out to Chew that digging all that up would have taken quite a bit of time and money, which had to come from someone else. Junior was serving a prison sentence and didn’t have the freedom or access to money needed to do that digging. “We’ll look into it,” Chew had replied.
Now, Junior was sitting next to Forman, glaring at Kendra. He was dressed in a suit, though it didn’t fit him like his custom-made clothes used to back in the day, and he had a pair of guards as putative minders standing silently behind him. He hadn’t changed much in prison; if anything it had toughened him and sharpened his features.
Kendra looked back and smiled sunnily. “Hi Junior! Good to see you out in the sunshine. Looks like you need a little sun.”
“You bitch! I should have killed you when I had the chance!”
“Nice to see you too,” Kendra replied sweetly as Forman placed a restraining hand on Junior’s shoulder.
“I agree. Counselor, instruct your client not to address the Plaintiff directly.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Chew raised a single eyebrow at Kendra, who shrugged and tried to look innocent. When that failed, she echoed, “Yes, Your Honor. I’m sorry.”
“I will find you in contempt, Ms. Cassidy, if you can’t control yourself.”
“I understand, Your Honor.”
“Very good. Counselor,” the judge continued, looking back to Forman. “You may begin.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. The Plaintiffs intend to prove that the person identified as Kendra Cassidy is, in fact, an Enhanced Human; that Kendra Cassidy knew that she was an Enhanced Human; that Kendra Cassidy concealed this fact; and, by concealing the fact of her origin, did thereby enter illegally into numerous contracts, causing irreparable harm to Mr. Williamson and the other Plaintiffs, harm which would have been impossible under the accepted statutes regarding Enhanced Humans. The Plaintiffs are asking the Court to strip Kendra Cassidy of any and all citizenships, in accordance to statute; to declare that all contracts entered into by Kendra Cassidy null and void, according to statute; and to seize all assets controlled by Kendra Cassidy for the purposes of distributing them as compensation to the Plaintiffs for the injuries suffered. In addition, when the Court rules for the Plaintiffs, we will be recommending that the Court take possession of Kendra Cassidy so that she may answer criminally for her actions. Thank you.” Forman sat down.
“Not asking for much,” Kendra whispered to Chew.
“Thank you. Counsel for the Defense?”
“Your Honor.” Chew stood. Now came the risky part, the step which had caused heated arguments over the past weeks between Chew, Kendra, and Cass.
“The Defense is prepared to stipulate that Kendra Cassidy is an Enhanced Human; specifically, Mendel Genetics Laboratory unit 29 dash 5.” The announcement caught everyone except Kendra by surprise, and a susurration, then outright exclamations, swept the room.
“Order!” Judge Hodge slammed the gavel down. “I will have order, or I will clear the court!”
After the noise died away, Judge Hodge said, “Counselor, it is not this Court’s place to suggest the Defense’s strategy, but have you considered the ramifications of this statement?”
“Yes, Your Honor. After thoroughly examining the evidence provided through the discovery process, and confirmation through our own means, my client and I have concluded that, on this singular point, the Plaintiffs are correct. We strenuously dispute all other aspects of the Plaintiffs’ case, however, and will be offering a strong defense.”
“Very well. You may continue.”
“Your Honor. As I said, the Defense is prepared to stipulate that Kendra Cassidy is an Enhanced Human. That is all the Defense will stipulate. As to the rest of the Plaintiffs’ claims, the Defense rejects them entirely, as they are built upon a single assumption which the Defense will prove absolutely unfounded: that Kendra knew that she was an Enhanced Human and acted to conceal that information.”
Chew moved to stand behind Kendra. “This woman had no possible way of knowing she was an Enhanced Human. Her birth records were sealed until the death of her host mother two years ago; only with that death did the picture become available, and even then it was only through a concerted effort by persons yet unknown that the pieces were all put together. How, then, could she act to conceal information she did not possess?”
Returning to her side of the table, Chew continued. “Until a few short months ago, there was no slightest hint anywhere that Admiral Kendra Cassidy was anything but a human like billions of others. She had a career, fell in love, married, and had children, just like countless women before her. She has devoted the past seven years of her life to pushing the boundaries of mankind’s reach, out into the stars. Are these the acts of a criminal, desperate to keep a background hidden?”
“Your Honor, the Plaintiffs’ case rests on a single, impossible notion. The Defense will prove the impossibility of that notion and thus will prevail. Thank you.”
As soon as she finished, Forman sprang from his seat. “Your Honor, I move for an immediate judgement in favor of the Plaintiffs. The Defense has stipulated the illegal creation of the Defendant. By statute, all of her possessions are forfeit.”
“Motion denied. Sit down, Mr. Forman. The act of being an Enhanced Human is not illegal, nor was the creation of such people at that time. You allege fraud against Ms. Cassidy; to prove fraud requires intent, and the admission of the potential ability to commit fraud is not the same thing.”
Forman bounded up again. “Your Honor, I request that the Defendant be taken into custody.”
“On what grounds, Mr. Forman?”
“Under Statute 4 dash 93 A of the United Earth Unified Code of Justice.”
“Enlighten me, Mr. Forman.”
“Yes, Your Honor. The statute states clearly that, and I quote, ‘any Enhanced Human who shall enter into a contract shall be found in violation of this law and subject to the penalties ascribed herein, to wit imprisonment of no less than –‘”
Judge Hodge cut him off. “I think we can dispense with the penalties. Mr. Forman, §4-93A does not apply in this case.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“In fact, you aren’t actually licensed to practice in the Sonoran Republic, are you?”
“No, Your Honor, that is why I am appearing as co-counsel with my learned colleague –”
“I understand all about the niceties of covering your legal standing, Mr. Forman, and I am not disapproving. However, as you do not regularly practice law in the Republic, you may be uninformed of certain aspects of our legal system.”
“That may well be, Your Honor, but the United Earth Unified Code of Justice –”
“Does not apply to countries which are not signatories to the United Earth Charter, Mr. Forman. And the Republic is not a signatory.”
Forman visibly deflated. “Oh. I apologize for my error, Your Honor, but the larger point still stands.”
“What point is that?”
“That the Defendant should be taken into custody for violation of the equivalent Sonoran law.”
“It is not this Court’s place to determine which law you believe the Defendant may have violated, Mr. Forman. If you wish to have the Court take Ms. Cassidy into custody, you will need to cite the appropriate statute.”
After a hurried conference with the co-counsel, Forman stood upright again. “I’m afraid I cannot do that at this time, Your Honor. I request a recess to research the applicable laws.”
Judge Hodge allowed a tiny smile to cross her face. “Much as it may amuse the Defense to see you try, I will have mercy on you. There are no laws specifically regarding Enhanced Humans in the Sonoran legal code. All humans, no matter their origins, are treated equally under Sonoran law.”
“Thank you, Your Honor. I wasn’t aware of that.” Forman shot his co-counsel a fulminating look; he raised his hands as if saying, ‘Don’t blame me!’
“You’re welcome, Counselor.”
“Your Honor,” Forman began.
“Counselor? I’m growing weary of your stunts.”
“No stunt, your honor. A point of order.”
“Your Honor, as the Defense has stipulated that the Defendant is an Enhanced Human, how shall the Plaintiffs refer to the Defendant? Surely not as ‘Admiral’, or ‘Ms. Cassidy’, as those both represent legal statuses to which an Enhanced Human is not entitled to claim.”
“Under what statute, Mr. Forman? I remind you that §4-93A does not apply in the courts of Sonora. She married in Sonora, legally, and thus is certainly entitled to take her wife’s name as her own. She could even do so if she hadn’t married, as there are no laws preventing a name change for innocent reasons.”
“And ‘Admiral’, Your Honor? Under the Artemis Accords, the space surrounding Earth is the jurisdiction of the United Nations and their successor organizations, including the United Earth Government and Solarian Union, neither of which have granted her any rank or position. At best it is fraudulent, at worst it is piracy.”
“My, my, Mr. Forman. Piracy? Ms. Chew, do you have a response before I rule?”
Chew stood to answer. “Yes, Your Honor. The applicable section of the Accords defines the jurisdiction of the UN and other organizations as, and I quote, ‘All space within geosynchronous or selenosynchronous orbit of the respective bodies, and equivalent orbital distances around such other bodies as may be settled in the future.’”
“Your Honor, geosynchronous orbit is roughly 36,000 kilometers; selenosynchronous orbits do not, strictly speaking, exist, but the Accords were later amended to include all space within 5,000 kilometers of the Moon and other similar celestial objects. As such, no political organization has a claim under the Accords to the space in which Admiral Cassidy’s primary residence, the habitat Njord, is located, and subsequently hold no authority to grant or withhold titles. She is the commander of a number of spacegoing vessels; the traditional title for such a post is ‘Admiral.’”
“Very enlightening, Ms. Chew. Yes, Mr. Forman?” she said wearily as the opposing counsel stood.
“Your Honor, with respect to my learned opponent, it is untrue that no political organization holds authority over the space where the habitat is located. In fact, the Solarian Union has a claim of territorial sovereignty over that space, dating back nearly a year.”
“Your Honor, four points. First, the original habitat, Diana, was in place before this pronouncement was entered, establishing a prior claim to the area since claimed. Second, Ms. Cassidy had taken residence on Diana before this claim was entered. Third, the fact that the Union has made a territorial claim is irrelevant to the matter at hand; I could claim to be the Princess of Bora-Bora, yet saying it does not make it true. While I don’t intend to argue territorial law, is it not a generally recognized principle that a polity cannot lay claim to an inhabited territory without the consent of the inhabitants?”
“I am not an expert, Counselor, but I believe you are correct.”
“Admiral Cassidy and her people did not consent to their annexation by the Union and were not informed of such until after they had suffered one attack and were in the brink of a second. Under the circumstances, any claim that the Union might want to make on either the Diana or Njord looks rather tenuous. And finally, Your Honor, the Solarian Union and the Terran Federation have a signed agreement which explicitly permits the habitat Njord to occupy its current space and grants a twenty-five thousand kilometer exclusion zone. That would seem to indicate that the Union has rejected any claims of sovereignty over the habitat and therefore the Terran Federation, as the headquarters of the Federation are located within the habitat.”
“I agree, Counselor. No, Mr. Forman, this Court does not at this time recognize the claim of the Solarian Union over Ms. Cassidy, her personnel, her home, or any of her Federation. If you had intended to get that introduced officially into the record through your oh-so-innocent inquiry into Ms. Cassidy’s name, you failed.”
“I had no such -!”
“Do not lie to me, Mr. Forman. This is your only warning. As for your question. You may refer to her by Ms. Cassidy, Mrs. Cassidy, or Admiral Cassidy.”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Very well.” She took in the two counsels and nodded firmly. “I think we’ve had enough excitement for one day. Mr. Forman, be prepared to present your case when we return to session.”
“Your Honor, Defense would like to request a recess until next Monday.”
“Why so long, Counselor?”
“Your Honor, Ms. Cassidy has responsibilities which cannot be adequately discharged from Earth. As a diligent steward of the Harriman Trust, she requires time to do her job, as it were.”
“Hmm. Mr. Forman, objection?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Then this Court is in recess until Monday at 9 a.m. Ms. Cassidy, please try to arrange matters so that this does not become a regular occurrence.”
Kendra rose. “Yes, Your Honor. Thank you.”
“Court is adjourned.”
The Road to the Stars – Book 3 – Chapter 3