Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Heist, Part Nine

And here's another chunk of Chapter Two, featuring the first oblique mention of the Doctor. Yes, he is in this, and here's the proof! (By the way, as an aside, note the chapter titles are both the titles of "caper" films. This would have been continued throughout the book, if I'd had the chance to continue.)

“Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, members of the court, esteemed nobility…” the prosecutor began, addressing each of the three pillars of the Imperial Judiciary in turn as he did so, “I come here today to speak to you of grave crimes, committed by a master criminal.” Amanda raised her eyebrow at that; shouldn’t she technically be a mistress criminal? Then again, that didn’t exactly sound right either. “The evidence we have uncovered should lead you to determine, within a matter of hours of deliberation, that Amanda Delacourt of the planet Shantar deserves her current status as a Class A criminal—one of only five such criminals within the past five centuries of Imperial history—and that she deserves, without question, a life of internment at the Nirvana Prison Facility where her anti-social and grossly disturbed tendencies can be kept away from law-abiding citizens of the Empire. Blah blah blah blah blah…”

Or, at least, that’s all Amanda heard. She hadn’t heard much of anything after the phrase “five such criminals”. She felt surprised, and oddly cheated by the sudden revelation that she wasn’t the only master—or, for that matter, mistress—criminal out there. Somehow, somewhere, three other people had been caught and deemed so dangerous that they couldn’t risk the slightest chance of escape. Worse, the Empire considered these three other criminals to be her equal, and that seemed more than a little arrogant to her. Had any of these criminals managed to steal the Seven Keys to Salvation from the very hands of the Bishop of Marahad while he was unlocking the Vault of Holy Relics—and done so, no less, after having already robbed the Vault bare? Were any of these thieves wanted in seventeen systems, under eighteen aliases, for two hundred and thirty seven crimes? Did even one of these so called “evil geniuses” know how to disassemble every kind of security system in existence, while blindfolded, underwater, and being tickled on the soles of their feet? She most profoundly doubted it.

She stood up and marched over to the door of her cell, totally ignoring the prosecutor as he spoke of “crimes so audacious in their intent, design, and execution as to stagger the imagination”, and waved a hand frantically at the guards she knew to be there. She almost knocked, but remembered the stun field emanating from the walls at the last moment.

A voice crackled through the cell intercom. “Yes?”

She wanted to respond sweetly, but surprised herself by sounding indignant. “I want to enter in an objection.”

The intercom crackled again. “All objections will be handled by your lawyer; as a certified barrister, only he is allowed to directly speak to the court.”

Amanda looked back at the holo-projection, this time focusing on the young, earnest, utterly out of his league barrister sitting at the bench reserved for the defense counsel. She could have afforded something much better, but as a Class A criminal, she forfeited her right to private representation. Anyone she hired, after all, might be a confederate helping her plan her escape. Instead, she got a barrister assigned to her by random selection from the court-selected pool. “I see,” she said. “Then I’d like to assist my lawyer by pointing out an objection. The prosecutor is in error in his assertion that five Class A criminals have been prosecuted since the formation of the Empire. I’m the second, not the fifth.”

This time the voice behind the speaker sounded a bit smug. “You’re a bit behind the times, Krau Delacourt. It’s been a busy week for the Service.”

Amanda crossed her arms and glared at the small grille, aware that she probably looked like an idiot to anyone watching. “You can’t tell me that you’ve captured three other Class A criminals in the span of a week! That’s absurd! I don’t know how you found out about me, but I can’t believe that your source—whoever they are—also knew about three other legends of the criminal underworld and how to dig them up and put them away in that span of time.”

“You’re absolutely correct, Krau Delacourt,” and this time Amanda realized that the smugness wasn’t directed at her. This was serious smugness. This wasn’t just the ordinary, everyday, ‘I know something the prisoner doesn’t know and I’m putting her in her place as part of my daily prison routine' smugness. This was the ‘encode this whole week’s experiences onto a memory crystal and spend my off-hours reliving it in all its glorious detail every night for a year’ smugness. “We haven’t captured three other Class A prisoners this week. We’ve captured four other Class A prisoners this week. The biggest law-enforcement coup in centuries, and you’re lucky enough to be a part of it.”

Somewhere in her mind, Amanda had already made the connection, but her conscious mind simply refused to accept it. “Then the prosecutor’s still made an error,” she said, her voice suddenly brittle. “He said ‘five Class A criminals’, and you said you’d captured five this week. That makes six, counting—”

“Counting everyone we captured, Krau Delacourt,” the guard responded, and Amanda understood exactly where that smugness came from now. “We captured him as well. In fact, he was the easiest of the lot.” There was a moment’s pause. “Yes, I thought that would get your attention. He’s something of a legend to you scofflaws, isn’t he? The One That Got Away. Well, he’s not getting away this time. There’s a cell on Nirvana that’s been waiting for him for four hundred years—and it looks like there’s one for you as well. That’s the jury delivering their verdicts now.”

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