I hate courts.
Part of that is I hate waiting, and all you seem to do in a courtroom is wait. Wait for the judge. Wait for motions. Wait for objections. Wait while they present an argument, then wait some more.
And you have to at least appear interested, especially if you’re the defendant. Doesn’t look good if you appear bored or distracted.
Not that I know anything about it.
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“You’ll understand my reluctance to appear in person, Your Honor,” said Kendra. She was sitting behind her office desk, in full uniform, trying hard not to appear as nervous as she really was.
“The court recognizes your hesitation to put yourself in jeopardy, Ms. Cassidy. This is a preliminary hearing only, designed solely to establish whether or not the plaintiffs have grounds to pursue their case. No charges have at this time been brought against you, and until such time as they might be you are welcome to appear in whatever format you choose.” The judge looked at the lifelike hologram before her and allowed a slight smile to cross her face. “Though we are unused to electronic representations appearing quite so animate.”
The hologram smiled back. “When one has the tools, it seems silly not to use them.”
“Your Honor!” The lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, a sleek piece of work named Sydney Forman, leapt to his feet. “I object to this, this, familiarity!”
“Overruled, Mr. Forman. Sit down.” The judge, Senior Justice Bethany Hodge, glared from her raised perch until Forman sat. “As I just explained to Ms. Cassidy, this is a preliminary hearing only. The court could just as easily proceed without any of the interested parties present and decide on the merits already admitted. Would you prefer that?”
“No, Your Honor,” said Forman. “Plaintiffs appreciate the opportunity to appear and present our evidence.”
Hodge sighed. “This is not an evidentiary hearing, Mr. Forman. No direct evidence will be presented by either side. Perhaps you need to take a refresher course?”
Forman sputtered but nothing coherent emerged, so Hodge moved on.
“If this should move to a more formal proceeding, it may be necessary for you to appear in person, Ms. Cassidy.”
Her hologram looked to her right as her lawyer, Dianna Chew, stood. “If it please the court, my client’s position regarding any official appearances remains unchanged: a presumption of innocence, as well as qualified immunity for her passage to and from the court location, are the minimum requirements for her to consider returning to Earth.”
“Thank you, Ms. Chew,” the judge said, and the lawyer sat. “The court has noted her position and will take it into consideration, should the need arise. If there are no more questions?” She looked to the two sides before continuing. “Very well. Mr. Forman. You may begin.”
Forman stood again and seemed to inflate. “Thank you, Your Honor. The Plaintiff’s case against the Enhanced Human identified as Kendra –”
“Objection, Your Honor!” Chew’s voice cut through Forman’s speech. “It has not been established that my client is an Enhanced Human.”
“Sustained. Mr. Forman, you will not refer to the Defendant as an Enhanced Human.”
“Your Honor! That is the core of the Plaintiff’s case!”
“Which you will have an opportunity to prove. Until then, she will be granted the assumption that she is human. Continue.”
“The case against Kendra, Mendel Genetic Laboratory Identification 29-5 –”
“Objection, Your Honor! This is speculation only! My client has a name; she is Kendra Cassidy by right of her marriage to Aiyana Cassidy.”
“Or he can refer to me as ‘Admiral’,” added Kendra.
“Quiet!” hissed Chew.
“Sustained. Counselor, these allegations are not facts, nor have they yet been proven. You will refrain from referring to the Defendant in any manner but either her accepted name or title. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Good. One more time, then, Counselor.”
“Your Honor. The Plaintiffs intend to prove that the person known as Admiral Kendra Cassidy is, in fact, Mendel Genetic Laboratories product 29-5, an Enhanced Human. The Plaintiffs will introduce evidence which will establish this beyond a reasonable doubt. Once this fact is proven to the Court’s satisfaction, the Plaintiffs will ask for the appropriate legal action be taken to adequately compensate the Plaintiffs for their suffering.”
“And what do the Plaintiffs intend to ask for as compensation?”
“Your Honor, the position of the Plaintiffs is that all contracts and agreements entered into by the Defendant be rendered null and void, including but not limited to business arrangements, deeds, marriages, and inheritances.”
“And what part of that will be yours?” asked Chew.
“Your Honor, that is an inappropriate question!”
“This is my Court, Mr. Forman, and I will decide if a question is germane or not. While the manner in which Counselor Chew entered her question is irregular, I will allow it. Answer the question.”
“Your Honor, I have been retained by the Plaintiffs for my standard fee for such cases.”
“While Mr. Forman has answered the question, he hasn’t actually provided any information. I request clarification.”
“Yes. Mr. Forman. Numbers, please.”
“That information is –”
“Commonly available, Mr. Forman, if it is your ‘standard fee’.”
“A flat fee of five million credits, Your Honor. In addition, when we win I will be paid an additional thirty percent of all compensation recovered, minus the original fee.”
Chew scribbled a note to herself but only said, “Thank you, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Forman. Anything else?”
“No, Your Honor.”
“Ms. Chew? Questions?”
“For the record, Counselor. Who are the Plaintiffs?”
“My clients have chosen to remain anonymous at this time, in fear of retribution from supporters of Ms. Cassidy.”
“Your Honor, I move for immediate dismissal.”
“On what grounds, Ms. Chew?”
“The Defense contends that the Plaintiffs lack standing to bring this case. A civil case, as this currently is, requires the Plaintiff to have been directly harmed by the actions of the Defendant.”
“I do not need to be lectured on the law, Counselor.”
“I apologize if I seem to be lecturing you, Your Honor. I am merely making the point that, if the Plaintiffs insist on remaining anonymous then they cannot possibly prove that they have been harmed by my client. In addition, they are violating my client’s rights under the United Earth Charter which guarantees an accused the right to face her accusers.”
“Your first point is well taken, Counselor. However, as I have noted, your client has not been charged with anything at this time and thus her right to face her accusers is not in play.”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Mr. Forman. The Defense makes an excellent point. If your clients insist on anonymity, you will not be able to prove that they were harmed by the actions of the Defendant.”
“Your Honor, it is the Plaintiff’s contention that, by her very existence, the Defendant has caused harm to numerous innocent people, of which the Plaintiffs are but a representative sample.”
“Your Honor?” Chew said, but the judge merely held up a hand.
“Mr. Forman, the Plaintiffs can hardly be said to be representative of anything if they refuse to divulge their identities. I’m afraid that, unless your clients change their minds, I will be forced to grant Ms. Chew’s motion.”
“I will need to consult with my clients, Your Honor.”
“You may do so after this session. I want to get as much of these preliminaries on the books as possible. Ms. Chew, did you have more to add?”
“Yes, Your Honor. Even if the Plaintiffs manage to prove their assertion that my client is an Enhanced Human, an assertion which we wholeheartedly deny, my client can no more be held liable for the circumstances of her birth than can anyone else in this system. She is no more responsible for her genetic makeup than you or I or even the Plaintiffs’ esteemed Counselor. To rule that she is somehow liable for her genes and to thereby strip her of all she has worked for is inhumane and violates the UE Charter of Rights.”
“Very well. Mr. Forman.”
“This Court finds that your clients must prove their standing to pursue their suit against the Defendant. I leave the method of proving their standing to your skills, but I will say that self-identification will almost certainly be required. Theoretical or hypothetical harm will not suffice; it will need to be specific and demonstrable. Am I clear?”
“Yes, Your Honor.”
“Good. You have two days, Mr. Forman. Court is adjourned.” She banged her gavel and left the chambers as the few people present stood.
“I’ll contact you shortly,” Chew said to Kendra. The hologram nodded and blinked out of existence.
A few minutes later, secure in her transport, Chew tapped a code into a communicator. In seconds, Kendra’s avatar reappeared.
Chew didn’t waste any time. “When you’re in court, unless you’re directly addressed by the judge, you need to keep your mouth closed!”
Kendra opened her mouth, closed it, and waited. Finally, she said, “I’ll remember that.”
“Good.” Chew relaxed then. “If you need to say something, send a message to me. Judge Hodge is very flexible and is a staunch defender of personal rights, especially those in the Charter.”
“I noticed you brought that up a couple times.”
“That was intentional. From what we’ve gotten in discovery so far, the other side will actually be able to prove their assertion. We’re not going to fight that too hard; facts are tough to dispute. What I think we can win on is the second half of the argument, that you have no more control over your genetics when you were born than any child.”
“Arguing against facts always seems to be a waste of time,” agreed Kendra.
“They’re going to want to examine you; I’ve already received the request. They also want the genetic records of your daughters.”
“My girls? Why?”
“I think they believe that they will be able to prove your enhancement through abnormalities in their genetic code.”
“They won’t find anything; both girls were tested in utero and again when they were born. We weren’t taking any chances with reparable genetic damage. Lucky for us there wasn’t any.”
“That is lucky,” said Chew. “If you had made any changes, that could have been seen as an acknowledgement of your own origins. As it is, it’s simply a reasonable precaution that any parent would take.”
Kendra nodded. “And what about those anonymous plaintiffs?”
“He’ll drag someone out,” Chew said. “I’ve opposed Sydney before, and he’ll try every trick in the book, but he won’t break the rules. Not quite. So I’m sure that there’s someone who is willing to be the face of their case.”
“And once we have a face we can trace it back to a source.”
Chew shook her head. “That’s your problem, Ms. Cassidy, not mine. You brought me on to defend you in this suit, not conduct espionage.”
“Sorry. Of course that’s not your job. I was just getting ahead of myself. Lots of moving parts, you know?”
“Certainly. Now then, what I suggest…”