Amistad City, Texas
Optimal States Territory
Amistad was protected by an outer security wall, but what made the City unique was how it hugged the massive Great Border Wall. The nearby hydroelectric dam provided an endless power supply, prospering this madness. The distant but strong crash of water from the spillway was refreshing after long days of confinement.
The sunlit Courtyard reminded her of the Market she was abducted from. There was plenty of food, music, dancing, and an endless supply of booze. The crowd and festivities had been pouring in through the gates of Amistad since the day she got here. All of this attention, just for her. She wasn’t flattered.
Locked in a steel cage, Lily had been paraded about the vast Courtyard as a war trophy, carried on the shoulders of six hulking laborers. The peasantry had flocked about the cage, she had been pelted with every foul word and bit of trash imaginable.
“...The Vulcans come from HELL! Who are you to bring them here!...”
The cage lowered and Lily was yanked out, her hands bound at the wrist.
The crowd heckled and growled as four armored Optimal soldiers escorted Lily into the spacious Courtroom through tall double doors.
The high walls were draped in deep red, featuring the Optimum’s black eagle. Spotlights spilled radiant pools around the center of the Court. Rows of crude bleachers opposed the platform where Lily stood. Cool air circulated the room.
The spectators were then allowed to spill in, scrambling for the best seats. Dozens more continued to squeeze in after the stands were full.
Laughter and catcalls died down to whispers, then silence.
An ornately dressed Bailiff stepped forward, followed by the court functionary toting a bronzed gong.
The Bailiff shouted, “All will rise in the presence of the Caretaker, Judicial ruler of Amistad!”
Another tall gate opened directly opposite from the one Lily entered. From the darkness inside she heard the hissing and hum of hydraulic pumps. A throne emerged, mounted to a boom extending from the unseen, floating the occupant into and about the Court at a whim. The man was dressed in the official red and black robes of the Optimal Judiciary.
The one known as the Caretaker was elderly, perhaps as old as seventy. His eyes moved about and saw everyone, the spectators quickly lowering their heads. Only Lily would meet his gaze. The throne centered high in the air; the Caretaker looked down on her as he picked up a pad and looked over its contents. A bit of mirth smeared his lip as he spoke.
“You are Lillian Sloane, of San Francisco, California.” It wasn’t a question. His voice was remarkably strong. Lily squared her shoulders.
“Yes. I am Doctor Lily Sloane, of the City’s Warp Physics Institute.”
“Of course you are.” He motioned a gloved hand downward.
“All but the accused may sit.”
The Court was jammed with onlookers. Dozens had no choice but to stand.
The court functionary sounded the gong twice as the Bailiff stepped forward.
“The prisoner stands before this gracious court to answer for her multiple crimes
against the Optimal States of America. His high Honor, the Caretaker of Amistad, will read the list of charges.”
Lily braced herself. The Caretaker consulted his pad and spoke the charges aloud, the court functionary sounded off as they were read.
“Treasonous relations with malevolent off-worlders...”
“Aiding a known terrorist state within Optimal borders...”
“And endorsing a secessionist ruling party.”
Far in the back of the room, standing among the last arrivals to squeeze in, Kroh and Steel studied the scene in relative obscurity. With the spreading word of the trial, traffic coming in through the gates of Amistad was thick and allowed the two of them to infiltrate the fortress as spectators. Kroh leaned slightly and whispered to his diplomat.
“Are you getting this, Mr. Steel?”
The young Vulcan standing next to him patted the recorder slung at his side and nodded.
The Caretaker lowered his throne to look Lily in the eye. “How plead you, criminal?”
Lily felt the accusations to be amazingly fictional. She relaxed. “None of those charges apply to me, Your Honor. Not guilty. ”
The spectators howled in disapproval, shrieks of guilt added to the sour chorus. The gong sounded several times as the crowd settled down. The Caretaker levitated his throne and splayed his hands theatrically, addressing Lily again.
“But you are, and they do, beginning in the year two thousand sixty three!”
Lily tilted her head thoughtfully. “First Contact with Vulcan. So what?”
“You and your mentor, Zephram Cochrane, were the first recorded humans to surrender to the influence and conditions of the extraterrestrials. How do you plead?”
“What? We didn’t surrender to the Vulcans! That’s nothing but propaganda! Our First Contact was...”
“...And under their mind control, their influence, arranged the so-called United Nations of Terra. That puppet-string organization, my dear, is not recognized by this Court or its Sponsor.”
Lily snapped back. “Oh, knock it off! The Vulcans advise the UNT, they don’t control it! You might consider the truth, that they don’t want to help us much at all! Most of their help has been formulaic, mathematical! Restricted!”
“...SILENCE, CRIMINAL!!...” A soldier fired an automatic volley of rounds at the ceiling, his fistgun aimed high. “You will NOT speak over the Caretaker!”
Lily bit her tongue, seething.
The Caretaker motioned the soldier away. “The guilty party has the right to explain her crimes.” He feigned a stifled yawn. “This is a perfectly equitable Court.”
The soldier lowered his weapon and backed away. The Caretaker eased his throne down to Lily’s eye level once again. He offered a look of sincerity as he spoke.
“The Optimal citizens, their President, and Colonel Green only wish to restore America to its former glory, Doctor; protecting all of these people from this United Earth nonsense of yours. Is that so wrong? So evil?”
His throne crept slowly upward. “Your people are bringing the fight to them, Doctor. Your GTA battle fleet is pillaging the livelihoods of simple Optimal citizens, in the name of Manifest Destiny; happily expanding the UNT for your glorious alien masters.”
Lily had enough. She roared her case.
“I don’t give a damn about your cowardly accusations! You hear me? You’re putting me on trial because you and your people are afraid of the future, afraid of changes! Afraid of losing control over your precious, post-war empires!”
The crowd began to boo and hiss. Lily actually laughed in frustration.
Every citizen in the UNT has remarkable freedom! We can work, hold residence, and build Credit in any nation we choose! I promise you, Caretaker, the dictatorships will crumble in less than thirty years, and your fate is sealed if you ignore the united world reaching out to help you!”
“YOU are out of ORDER!” The Bailiff shouted.
The soldier strode up to Lily and leveled his fistgun at her temple. The crowd hushed. Lily shot the soldier a mean look.
“Dude, get that gun out of my face before I make you eat it.”
The soldier glanced at the Caretaker and inhaled a quick dose from the stimulant dispenser on his breastplate, his arm wavering.
She ignored the drugged sentry and addressed the crowd. “It breaks my heart to see you folks so willingly controlled! There’s a better world coming for your children, please don’t let them die for this regime!”
Lily sat on the pedestal to let the adrenaline dissipate. She gathered up one knee and leaned on it.
“I’ve done my job. My staff will build the Academy without me. Kill me two or three times if you want to, Your Honor, it won’t make a damn bit of difference.”
She turned her head away from the throne and brushed her knee. “That’s it.”
“Very well.” His throne rose in a high circle about the Courtroom. “The accused provided no evidence to sway the Court in the gravity of these charges.”
The Courtroom was silent. He clasped his hands together.
“On all counts, she is Guilty.”
The crowd’s reaction was immediate, the applause sounded like a rainy day in Hell. Feet thunderously stomped the bleachers, the very smell inside the room changed with the exertions of so many. The Caretaker’s voice boomed over the Courtroom.
“The day after this day, when the sun sets, all citizens are invited to gather in the Courtyard to cast their stones. She will face the ultimate penalty.”
The deafening applause continued. The Caretaker’s throne recessed slowly into the darkness.
“This Court stands adjourned.”
“It is fascinating,” remarked Mr. Steel, “how fear and ignorance can so easily transmogrify into law.”
He and Kroh were outside the Courtroom, observing the satisfied crowd spilling into the Market all around them, going about their festivities with a wholehearted zeal. Kroh nodded to a rabble of drunken peasants taking gallery shots at a Vulcan effigy.
“I apologize for them, my friend.”
“No need, Commander.” The Vulcan diplomat tipped his hat to a smiling young woman passing by, and cracked a thin smile in return. “I found it to be an excellent case study. To witness and record such behavior helps my people to better understand the sociological complexity of the Human species.”
The two watched as Dr. Sloane was escorted out in her steel cage, carried by her six hulking laborers. The crowd jeered and threw whatever was at hand. Four Optimal soldiers fired into the air, clearing the crowd back.
Kroh and Steel separated and followed the throng down the bank of an irrigation channel cut from the great Reservoir. The channel flowed under a man-made tunnel, with the exiting water flowing from the unseen far end. The cage disappeared inside.
The human and the Vulcan came together as they turned back toward the distant gates.
“It’s an open run across the Yard,” Kroh said, looking back over his shoulder. “But a long one, over 1000 meters. Mister Steel, I’ll need you with the Captain for the retrieval.”
They made their way across the vast Courtyard toward the open gates of Amistad. The crowd was faster and thinner out here.
“Steel, I can’t remember the last time you piloted a CAT.”
“Eleven months, nine days, Commander.”
Kroh and Steel boarded their Jeep. Kroh was gratified to finally sit down, he wasn’t as young as he used to be.
The Jeep quietly made its way through the tall gates of wood and steel.
A few kilometers down the road, Kroh slid his hand under his duster and tapped his PTT.
“Lone Ranger to Silver, Lone Ranger to Silver, come in.”
End of Book 3