Jer shifted his weight and looked at the two data chips. “Sorry, ma’am, but I don’t follow. Why only one?”
The judge huffed. “Mr. Lindemann provided one piece of evidence. You provide one piece of evidence. Equal time. It’s only fair.”
“Begging Your Honor’s pardon, but Mr. Lindemann gave you two eyewitness testimonies on that data chip. If it’s to be equal time, shouldn’t I also get to provide two witnesses? I just have mine on two different chips is all.”
The judge’s face scrunched up like someone had handed her a warm glass of soured milk. “I suppose I see your point.”
She pointed to the bailiff who collected both chips. Once she had all three, she selected one and inserted it into the data port. The images played right there on the judge’s desk, but the distance rendered the low volume into murmurs that meant nothing.
Kane’s chip showed Vashti and Nahum in turn, talking for minutes at a time, undoubtedly portraying their boss as innocent of all wrong-doing. The judge drummed her fingers on the desk while she listened. Sheriff Weisser’s report came next, and Jer mentally replayed the description of the brawl in the street over Jezebel. That testified to the bad blood between the two. Finally, the old miner’s report and sensor log showing Kane setting up mining too close to where Dave had already established himself. That just begged for trouble as any seasoned miner would know.
The moment the second video ended, the judge jabbed her finger at Kane. “I find that you were negligent, and your lack of diligence resulted in the death of another.” She swiveled and pointed at Jer. “An argument over a girl is not sufficient to establish premeditation. Tempers may have run high, but people often say what they don’t mean.” She picked up her gavel. “Kane Lindemann, you are guilty of manslaughter. You will be implanted with a location chip. Any attempt to leave Shechem, alter or damage the chip, or remove it will result in forfeiture of the court’s protection. David Baruch’s next of kin will be notified and authorized to hunt you down.” She banged the gavel on the desk and hustled out the back door hidden by the curtain.
The court official took Kane by the arm and turned to Jer. “If you want a taxi, they’re usually waiting at the end of the cul-de-sac. If you’d rather save a few shekels and walk it, there’s a map in the hall showing several routes.” He herded Kane out the back door.
Jer stood in the empty room. That was it? A few video clips, a quick lecture, and done?
He pivoted in place, using his cane like the third leg of a tripod and grimaced against the ache that started below his knee and ended just above his hip. The wide corridor outside the courtroom was empty now, but voices carried from some of the rooms. Apparently some judges were into stern lectures but others were hosting a comedy. Jer found the map at the end of the corridor. Different-colored lines traced paths from the court house to the hangar. Some paths were less direct than others, but he didn’t feel up to sightseeing. A slot in the wall offered a portable version of the map in exchange for more money than Jer had spent on supplies last month. Taxis were probably worse, given the local anything-for-a-shekel mentality. Walking would hurt and run the risk of finding some unsavory elements of society. Taxis had their risks, too. Dishonest drivers or criminals looking for an easy mark were just two possibilities. Jer memorized the most direct route and started for the end of the cul-de-sac. He’d decide when he got there.
Kane stepped out of the taxi and paid the driver almost a month’s income for the ride. He tried to slam the door but a fit of coughing took over, rendering the act useless. The hydraulics pulled the door down as Kane stumbled into the hangar where the air wasn’t entirely toxic. As he approached the ship, he ramp lowered, and Kane jogged up. Vashti stood at the top, waiting to button it up.
“How’d it go?” Vashti asked.
Kane rubbed the back of his neck where the chip had been inserted. “Manslaughter.”
Nahum leaned out of the cargo bay door. “That’s good, ain’t it?”
“It means I’m not dead yet, but I am stuck on this planet until the high priest dies. Can’t say that prospect thrills me. He’s an old guy, but he ain’t that old.”
“High Priest might need to have an accident.” Nahum smirked.
Vashti rolled her eyes. “Bodyguards?’
“Enh, there are ways.”
She shook her head. “We could distract Jer long enough for you to hightail it out of here. The universe is a big place to get lost in.”
Kane considered both ideas.
You have two choices to help with this time.
- Is Jer walking to the hangar or taking a taxi?
- Should Kane have his pals arrange for an accident for the High Priest or find some way to distract Jer so Kane can get lost?