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"I might be," Holloway said. "You might get back to your cubicle and then go out to the garage to get your skimmer and find it there waiting for you. In which case, I suggest you give it a thorough was.h.i.+ng. On the other hand, you might get back to find I was right-and that you've been called to testify in front of the preliminary hearing. In which case, you're going to find the circ.u.mstantial evidence combined with your lack of an alibi is going to get someone off the hook and you on it."
"You're telling me all this is going to happen but you're not telling me how to clear myself," Bourne said.
"I can't tell you that," Holloway said. "I'm already telling you more than I should, and the only reason I can do that is because as far as either of us knows, they haven't haven't impounded your skimmer or called you to testify. You're not on the docket yet. But you will be. And between now and then, you need to figure out some things for yourself." impounded your skimmer or called you to testify. You're not on the docket yet. But you will be. And between now and then, you need to figure out some things for yourself."
"Like what?" Bourne asked.
"Like who it is that's decided keeping DeLise out of trouble is worth throwing you to wolves," Holloway said. "Because whoever it is has decided that there's nothing you can do to them that could possibly hurt them. So when you do do figure out who it is, that's your next step. Finding out what's going to hurt them the most." figure out who it is, that's your next step. Finding out what's going to hurt them the most."
"There's no point in that if it's not going to help me," Bourne said.
"Chad, this is what I mean about you being a fundamentally decent guy," Holloway said. "Let me put it to you this way: Sometimes in life you're going to win and sometimes you're going to lose. But just because you lose doesn't mean the other guy needs to win. Do you understand me?"
"Not really," Bourne said.
"Well, think about it anyway," Holloway said. "Maybe it will come to you." The three of them turned a corner and stood in front of the ZaraCorp administration building.
"Your stop," Holloway said.
"I still don't like you very much," Bourne said, to Holloway.
"I haven't ever given you any reason to like me, Chad," Holloway said. "And I'm not going to pretend I like you all that much either. Just know that I think you're a good guy. You're a good guy and you don't deserve to get screwed. And as much as I can, I'm going to try to keep that from happening. All right?"
"All right," Bourne said. Impulsively he stuck out his hand to Holloway. He took it.
"Thanks," Holloway said.
Bourne nodded and entered the building. Holloway watched him fade into the murk of the lobby and then maneuvered Carl across the street, where Isabel and Sullivan were waiting for him. Carl made a beeline for Isabel, who patted him happily.
"How is he?" Sullivan asked, of Bourne.
"He's now completely scared s.h.i.+tless," Holloway said. "Which was the plan."
"Any idea what he'll do when he gets called to testify?" Sullivan asked.
"Not a clue," Holloway said.
"Should be interesting," Sullivan said.
"That's a word for it," Holloway said.
"Stop it, both of you," Isabel said. "Poor Chad. He is an actual human being, you know. Not just a chess piece for the two of you to play with."
"He's definitely a p.a.w.n," Holloway said. "The question is whether he's ours or someone else's. And at the very least, we're trying to keep him from getting framed for arson. Or attempted murder, come to think of it."
"He's a good guy, Jack," Isabel said.
"I know it, Isabel," Holloway said. "I really do." Isabel did not look terribly convinced.
"While the two of you were off having your little chat, both Isabel and I got some interesting news," Sullivan said.
"What is it?" Holloway asked.
"We're being transferred," Isabel said. "Both of us. Mark's been given a general counsel position on Zara Eleven and I'm being sent back to Earth to head up a lab there."
"Effective when?" Holloway asked.
"Effective immediately," Sullivan said. "We've both been relieved of our duties and have been given three days to pack. Our beanstalk transport is scheduled to leave while you're having your preliminary hearing."
"How unsurprisingly coincidental," Holloway said.
"It's not just us," Isabel said. "Arnold Chen's paperwork snafu has magically cleared itself up. He's headed for Uraill on the same beanstalk transport we are."
"He must be excited," Holloway said.
"He's miserable," Isabel said. "He called me about it and was wailing. He's waited his whole life to decipher the language of a new sentient being, and they won't let him. They've locked him out of his files entirely. They locked me out of mine, too."
"I still have copies of yours," Holloway said.
"Which is the only reason I'm I'm not wailing," Isabel said. not wailing," Isabel said.
"They're clearing us out before the CEPA xenosentience team can get here," Sullivan said. "Anyone who knows anything about the fuzzys. Except for you, Jack."
"You figure that's ominous," Holloway said.
"Don't you?" Sullivan asked.
"I've been in ominous mode since my skimmer fell out of the sky," Holloway said.
"We're worried about you, Jack," Isabel said. "Both of us are."
"You can't fool me," Holloway said. "You're more worried about Carl."
"I'm serious, Jack," Isabel said.
"I'm more worried about the dog, myself," Sullivan said.
"There we go," Holloway said.
"Mark," Isabel said.
"Isabel, Mark," Holloway said. "Your new a.s.signments don't change anything. None of this changes anything. When we woke up this morning we had three days to prepare. We still have three days to prepare. If we pull it off, three days is all the time we're going to need. If we don't, then it's not going to matter one way or another. For now, let the future take care of itself. We've got three days. Let's get to work."
Judge Nedra Soltan took her seat and peered out into her courtroom. "This looks familiar," she said to Holloway and Janice Meyer, who were standing at their respective tables. "We talking fuzzy creatures again, Counselors?"
"No, Your Honor," said Meyer, who was representing DeLise, who was standing with her at the defense table.
"I think the defendant is bit of an ape, Your Honor," said Holloway.
"Watch it, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said. She held up a sheet with her notes on it. "It says you are acting as your own counsel."
"There's someone else I might have asked, but he's being deported off-planet today," Holloway said. "So I'm stuck with myself."
"You know what they say about the man who represents himself in court, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.
"Yes. I do know it," Holloway said. "But I also know the law. I even used to be a lawyer."
"Disbarred," Meyer said.
"Not for not knowing the law," Holloway said.
"Yes, I know," Soltan said. "After your performance the last time you were here, I looked up your file. You punched your own client."
"He deserved it," Holloway said.
"Maybe so," Soltan said. "But do anything like that here, and being disbarred will seem like a cakewalk in comparison. Do you understand me, Mr. Holloway?"
"I give you my word I will not punch my client," Holloway said.
"Very droll, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said. "Sit."
"This is a preliminary hearing before a judge," Soltan said in a tone of voice that suggested she had said the same bit of verbiage innumerable times before, in front of people who knew exactly what she was going to say. "In cases where the nature of a colony makes it difficult or impossible to convene a grand jury, the plaintiff and defense may jointly agree to have evidence for a potential suit examined by a judge, and to have witnesses examined by the same, who will then determine if there is sufficient cause to bring the matter forward into a full court trial, either civil or criminal. Do the plaintiff and the defense so request?"
"Yes, Your Honor," said Meyer.
"Yes, Your Honor," said Holloway.
"Does counsel understand that this hearing is for the benefit of the judge alone for determining the adequacy of the evidence to move forward to a trial, and not the trial itself, and that as such customary trial rules concerning discovery do not apply?" Soltan said. "That is to say, one or the other of you, or both, may not be aware of the evidence or witnesses called by the other."
"Understood," said Meyer.
"Yes," said Holloway.
"Does counsel understand that the determinations and rulings of the judge in this preliminary hearing are binding pending full trial, provided there is one?" Soltan said.
Meyer and Holloway both gave their a.s.sent.
"Fine," Soltan said. "Then let's get on with this. Mr. Holloway, what are you accusing Mr. DeLise of?"
"He burned down my house," Holloway said.
"So, arson," Soltan said.
"Arson, yes," Holloway said. "Also attempted arson for attempting to burn down my outbuildings and failing, destruction of personal property, and attempted murder."
"You weren't home when your house burned down," Soltan said.
"He didn't know that before he got there," Holloway said.
"Let's not stretch ourselves too far, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said. "I'm going to proceed for the moment with arson and destruction of personal property. If attempted arson and attempted murder become evident in the evidence you present, I'll reinsert them."
"Fine, Your Honor," Holloway said.
"Ms. Meyer, by any chance would your client like to cop to these allegations?" Soltan asked.
"No, Your Honor," Meyer said. "My client has a roster of witnesses who will account for his whereabouts for the entire day in question."
"Of course," Soltan said. She made a note and then looked up. "All right, Mr. Holloway, plaintiff first."
"Thank you, Your Honor," Holloway said, and picked up his infopanel, to connect it to the larger monitor in the courtroom. "The first piece of evidence I'd like to show you is a security camera video from my house. I have a camera on my desk that is constantly running, and the video caches onto my infopanel storage s.p.a.ce, which is convenient in this particular case, since the actual camera was destroyed in the fire."
"Is this video from a secure camera?" Meyer asked.
"No," Holloway said.
"So it's possible you could have tampered with it," Meyer said.
"I'm perfectly willing to file an affidavit with the court that the video is unaltered and unedited, and to testify so on the matter in open court," Holloway said.
"Later," Soltan said. "For now, show me the video."
"Yes, Your Honor," Holloway said. He started the video. It unspooled in the monitor: The skimmer landing at Holloway's compound, the man stepping out of the skimmer, him trying the door and window, and him meeting the fuzzys, stomping Baby, and fighting with Pinto. Holloway glanced over at Meyer, who looked horrified at what the man had done to Baby, and then at DeLise, who sat there motionless.
"Pause this," Soltan said, suddenly. Holloway paused the video. The judge turned to him. "Is this a joke, Mr. Holloway?"
"In what sense, Your Honor?" Holloway asked.
"This video has yet to show anything related to arson," Soltan said. "Instead I'm watching some man fight and kill small animals. It's sickening, but it doesn't have anything to do with your claim."
"First, I would note to Your Honor that we're in the process of determining whether the fuzzys which you see being killed here are animals or if they're people," Holloway said. "And if they do turn out to be people, then whoever it is setting fire to my house-I am claiming Mr. DeLise-will also have at least one count of murder to contend with."
"Mr. Holloway," Soltan began.
"However, that is neither here nor there to my claim, and I am not alleging murder," Holloway said, quickly. "Nevertheless the man's actions with the fuzzys are relevant, as you are about to see."
"I had better," Soltan said.
"Yes, Your Honor. In fact, it's just about to happen." Holloway resumed the playback. The man threw Pinto to the ground and shot the fuzzy. "There's the gun. Now, you see the fuzzy runs away, in the direction of my cabin. The man keeps firing. And there, a bullet enters my cabin. This I suspect is what initially started the fire. If you wait a minute, you'll start to see smoke." The courtroom waited for the smoke to arrive, and as it did so watched the man kick and shoot Baby, and throw the corpse into the burning cabin. Meyer looked like she was about to be sick. Good, Good, thought Holloway. thought Holloway.