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Fuzzy Nation Part 23

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"I flagged the rider," Bourne said, and took back the infopanel for a second to pop up the doc.u.ment history. "It was the rider that had the unusual bits in it. There was no need to flag the standard contract, because it was standard."

"Except for the fact you forgot to activate it again," Soltan said, taking the panel again.

"Yes, Your Honor," Bourne said.

"The sign-off on the rider is yours, Ms. Meyer," Soltan said.

"Yes," Meyer said.



Soltan set down the infopanel. "This isn't complicated," she said. "If there was no contract, b.u.t.ters b.u.t.ters applies." applies."

"Mr. Holloway believed he had a contract," Meyer said.

"Are you suggesting Mr. Holloway is now somehow legally obliged to honor a contract that doesn't exist, merely because he believed it did?" Soltan said. "No, Ms. Meyer. It's ZaraCorp who's been getting the free ride here. In any case, you wanted an immediate preliminary ruling. Here it is: I'll be issuing a ruling in favor of Mr. Holloway and putting the full court case on the docket. It's a civil case, and you have a few ahead of it, if I recall. So I'll hear it in about a year."

"I ask that you move it up on the schedule, Your Honor," Meyer said.

"I'll consider it," Soltan said. "But not today."

"This decision will bring operations on Zara Twenty-three to a standstill," Brad Landon said. "Tens of thousands of people will be out of work. Are already already out of work because of your preliminary ruling. They just don't know it yet." out of work because of your preliminary ruling. They just don't know it yet."

"That all depends on Mr. Holloway, doesn't it?" Soltan said. She looked at Holloway.

"I have to say I'm deeply moved by ZaraCorp's concern for its common worker," Holloway said. "So I'm more than happy to keep operations going at the seam. All I ask is for half the gross revenue."

Landon blanched. "Half," he said.

"Unless you think I should have more," Holloway said.

"Meanwhile, ZaraCorp carries the load for the cost of machines and the workers," Aubrey said.

"Ms. Meyer said it," Holloway said. "Only ZaraCorp employees and contractors are allowed on-planet. Anytime you want to change that, you let me know. Until then, that's your cost to sink."

"That's not exactly an equitable division of cost," Landon began.

"Half the gross or nothing," Holloway said, cutting him off. "That's the deal. Take it or don't."

Landon looked at Aubrey, who nodded imperceptibly. "Done," Landon said.

"Good, everyone's happy," Soltan said, and stood up. "Now please leave. I have some other issues to attend to." She opened the door to her small private lavatory and disappeared into it.

Aubrey looked over at Bourne, sitting in one of the clerks' chairs. "Little worm," he said. "You will never work again. I promise that."

Bourne returned the stare. "Yes, well," he said. "Your lawyer was already working on that out there, wasn't she? The only difference between now and then is that deciding to screw up my career and my life just cost you six hundred billion credits. Hope it was worth it, you arrogant p.r.i.c.k." He stood up and left the room.

"Name and occupation," Soltan said.

"Mark Sullivan," Sullivan said. "I'm a lawyer. Currently between jobs."

"Mr. Sullivan, on the day Mr. Holloway came to visit you, did you receive visitors?" Soltan asked.

"Aside from Mr. Holloway, you mean," Sullivan said.

"Yes," Soltan said.

"I had two," Sullivan said. "Three if you count Jack's dog. Besides Jack and the dog, there was Isabel w.a.n.gai, who is a mutual friend of ours. And then Jack briefly had a visit from Chad Bourne."

"Do you know what they spoke about?" Soltan asked.

"No," Sullivan said. "They were talking quietly, and Jack did not discuss it with me afterwards. Then Isabel arrived and we talked of other things."

Soltan looked at Meyer. "Any questions?"

"No, Your Honor," Meyer said. "We will still be supplying witnesses who will testify to Mr. DeLise's whereabouts on the day of question. All we've done here is clear Mr. Bourne of any involvement."

"I would guess he'd say that was enough," Soltan said. "Mr. Sullivan, you may step down. My clerk will take you back to the beanstalk terminal."

"If I may, I'd like to stay," Sullivan said. "My transport doesn't leave for twelve hours."

"Your choice," Soltan said. "Now, Mr. Holloway. Your second piece of evidence, please."

Chapter Twenty-three.

"Thank you, Your Honor," Holloway said. "Now, as Ms. Meyer has astutely noted, the last piece of evidence showed only that arson had occurred. It did not identify the man who landed at my compound, beat and killed those fuzzys, and in the process of doing so managed to set fire to my cabin. The man in question was careful to conceal his ident.i.ty, whether or not he knew the security camera was there. He wore a ski mask. He wore gloves. He wore common boots sold in the general store to thousands of ZaraCorp workers and contract surveyors. He quite intentionally intended to evade identification.

"But," Holloway said, "then something happened the man didn't intend."

Holloway queued up a shorter excerpt from the previous video. It was of the man suddenly getting a faceful of Pinto.

"The man clearly did not intend to get the c.r.a.p beat out of him by a fuzzy," Holloway said. "Look how he's taken by surprise, completely unprepared to deal with a small creature bent on tearing off his nose and popping out his eyes." Holloway looked directly at DeLise, who was grinding his teeth. "It must have been some surprise to get schooled so completely by something the size of a cat. Here, let's look at it again."

"Not unless you have a point to make, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"Quite right, Your Honor," Holloway said. "And indeed, I do have a point to make." Holloway played the video once more, this time in slow motion. "Color commentary aside, the fuzzy is doing some very real damage to the man's face: There are some serious scratches, bites, and cuts going on there. This happened a week ago."

Holloway paused the video mid-gouge and then went to his table and pulled a picture out of his folder and gave it to Soltan. "This is a picture I took of Mr. DeLise three days ago, using a secure camera. You can see how scratched up his face is. In fact"- He pointed to where DeLise was sitting.-"you can still see scratches on his face a week after the attack."

Soltan looked over to Meyer. "I a.s.sume you have an alternative theory of the scratches," Soltan said.

"We do, Your Honor," Meyer said. She glanced over to DeLise and nodded.

"I got drunk," DeLise said. "I had too many to drink at Warren's and on the way home I fell facedown into a bush."

"Congratulations," Soltan said.

DeLise shrugged. "I'm not proud of it. But that's the reason," he said.

"Mr. Holloway?" Soltan said.

"Well, since I know how much Joe likes his drink, normally I'd be perfectly willing to believe him," Holloway said. He walked back to his table and pulled out a sheet with graphs and text on it. "But there is the little case of the DNA evidence."

Soltan took the sheet, frowning. "The man who set fire to your cabin left DNA," she said.

"He surely did," Holloway said. He walked back to the table. "As you might imagine, there was a lot of blood when the man attacked the fuzzys, and the fuzzys attacked back. I had it tested. Most of it was fuzzy blood, of course, considering the gunshots and the vicious physical attack. But enough of it was human."

"Ms. Meyer?" Soltan said.

"The plaintiff is collecting and processing his own DNA evidence, Your Honor?" Meyer asked.

"I'm accusing a ZaraCorp security officer of arson and destruction of property," Holloway said. "And it's a small security detail here. I have good reason to doubt that any material collected and processed by them will be compromised. And in point of fact the DNA evidence was collected and processed by the same ZaraCorp biology lab that would process DNA evidence for the security office, not by me. I just eliminated the middleman."

"Was the blood taken from the floor of Mr. Holloway's compound?" Meyer asked.

Soltan looked at Holloway. "Yes," he said.

"The compound floor was flooded with fire suppressant," Meyer said. "The chemicals in the suppressant would dilute and degrade the blood. Any DNA report from that source would be suspect."

"My colleague is absolutely correct," Holloway said, and noted the slight flare Meyer had at the implication that he was her colleague. He reached under the table, where he had stored a st.u.r.dy cooler. He hauled it up on the table. "Fortunately, we also have DNA from tissue samples." Holloway started undoing the lid latches.

"Tissue samples from what?" Soltan asked.

"Not from what," Holloway said. He opened the lid. "From whom."

And with that Holloway reached into the cooler and gently removed Pinto. He placed the fuzzy's corpse on the table. Meyer gasped in spite of herself.

"Bringing a corpse into the courtroom was not not necessary, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said, sharply. necessary, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said, sharply.

"With all due respect, Your Honor, I disagree," Holloway said. "If I had not, I doubt Ms. Meyer would accept the authenticity of the evidence, of which there are two types." Holloway held up Pinto's small hand. "First, human skin and blood underneath the fuzzy's nails." Holloway set the hand back down, gently, and then reached into the cooler again, taking out a small jar. "Second, this bullet, taken out of this fuzzy." He reached into his folder and extracted a third paper, then walked the bullet and the paper over to the judge. "Here's my request to impound any and all handguns in Mr. DeLise's possession, to perform a forensic a.n.a.lysis of their ballistics." Soltan took both the bullet and the jar.

"That bullet could have come from anywhere," Meyer said. "A bullet hole in the creature does not mean that particular bullet caused it."

"The bullet was extracted by ZaraCorp's own biologist," Holloway said. "She also ran the DNA tests and compared the results against samples in the employment database. I'm certain she would have been happy to testify."

Soltan looked up. "Would have been happy?" she asked.

"She's been transferred Earthside," Holloway said. "She's on the same transport Mr. Sullivan was."

Soltan looked over to Meyer. "Ms. Meyer, is there any particular reason that the all the people who would be really useful to Mr. Holloway have suddenly been transferred off the planet?" she asked.

"I'm sure it's coincidental," Meyer said.

"Uh-huh," Soltan said. "I'll be having my clerks do another search and rescue so she can testify. In the meantime, Mr. Holloway, please put that body back into your container. I'm going to have to impound it for the time being."

"Yes, Your Honor," Holloway said. He walked back to Pinto and gently returned the fuzzy to the cooler, the condenser of which hummed quietly after he closed the lid again. He walked the cooler over and set it down next to the judge.

"We should note that the biologist in question is Dr. Isabel w.a.n.gai," Meyer said. "She has a past relations.h.i.+p with Mr. Holloway."

"Noted," Soltan said. "It's one reason I'm impounding the animal."

"Not an animal," Holloway said.

"The creature," Soltan corrected. "Happy, Mr. Holloway?"

"Yes, Your Honor," Holloway said.

"I will order an independent study of the DNA under the creature's nails, and of the ballistics of Mr. DeLise's weapons," Soltan said.

"The body of the... creature has been in Mr. Holloway's possession all this time," Meyer said. "The evidence is almost certainly tainted."

"How?" Holloway asked, incredulously. "I somehow arranged to have Mr. DeLise's flesh clawed off his body and then stuffed it under the fuzzy's nails? That's a little elaborate elaborate."

"The body is in my possession now and will be examined for any sign of tampering," Soltan said. "Unless you have an objection with my doing so."

"No, Your Honor," Meyer said.

"Now you see why I brought the body, Your Honor," Holloway said. "Imagine what Ms. Meyer's objections would have been without it."

"Stop grandstanding, Mr. Holloway," Soltan said.

"Apologies, Your Honor," Holloway said.

"We'll take another half hour break while my clerk retrieves Dr. w.a.n.gai from the beanstalk," Soltan said. She stood. "See you in thirty." She returned to her chambers. Holloway sat at his table and watched Meyer and DeLise confer furiously.

Sullivan came up to the audience area directly behind the plaintiff table. "He doesn't look very pleased," he said to Holloway, nodding over to DeLise.

"That's because he's realized that the fuzzy he thought got eaten by a zararaptor has come back to haunt him," Holloway said. "It's finally getting into his thick skull that he just might have to go to trial on this, and if he actually goes to trial, he's going to lose."

"And you're enjoying that fact," Sullivan said.

"s.h.i.+t, yes," Holloway said.

Sullivan smiled. "That's the Jack Holloway I've come to know," he said. "Always ready to revel in the cheap dig."

"It's not cheap," Holloway said. "It's cost ZaraCorp six hundred billion so far."

"Not bad for a morning's work," Sullivan said.

"The day's still young," Holloway said.

"Here comes Janice," Sullivan said. Holloway looked up. Meyer was standing over him.

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