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Chapter 33:- The Lawyer

 


Bull met them at the spaceport.  He gave them his full name somewhere between the ship and his hover car, but Murray couldn’t remember any of it. Her mind focused entirely on the words, “death sentence.”


Zora stared out the vehicle’s window. “You’re sure no body’s ever done it before?”


The planetscape drifted past in a neat line--all of it a neat line. Sculpted trees grew in perfect rows on Damascus, and long colonnades lined either side of the streets. Even the river bisected the huge city straight down the middle, dividing Damas Prime into two equal halves.


Murray could see where Zora’s thinking headed, and she had to agree with her. A life sentence on Damascus, even if it were your home world, seemed almost as extreme as the penalty for leaving.


“No one has broken the Treaty since its inception,” Bull answered. He sounded excited, had landed an historic case. “Our people live by the treaty. You understand that our bodies are what allow us to live a truly free existence, one without the need to overtake and steal our livelihood from other beings.”


“I thought it was your conscience that did that.” Murray said. “I’m pretty sure it did in Rook’s case.”


“That’s good.” Bull pulled a small device from his pocket and spoke into it, “His conscience was enough. Note.”


“But, no one’s ever wanted to leave?” Zora still struggled to digest the fact. She looked back and forth between Bull and the window until Murray feared her neck would kink.


“It doesn’t matter.” Murray sighed. “What matters is how we get Rook off the hook.”


“Have you seen the river?” Bull asked. “I can have the driver circle around. You really should see it while you’re here.”


“We’ve seen it,” Zora snapped. “What’s to see? It’s a river.”


Murray watched the legal advocate through narrowed eyes. She could have sworn he twitched, saw something nervous in the posture of his silver, high-tech body. She imagined he’d be sweating if he had an organic host. 


Behind him, she watched the city pass. She eyed the perfect lines and ground her teeth together. Despite Zora’s complaints, the river appeared again. Bull may have promised she could see Rook, but he was stalling them. The car looped around the city, and Rook’s lawyer pointedly avoided her questions.


“About the trial,” she started.


“That’s the cybernetics facility.” Bull pointed to one of the many skyscrapers. “Where our interfaces are developed.”


“Seen it.” Zora said.


“Bull.” Murray leaned forward across the seat and grabbed a handful of the man’s pressed shirt. Rook might have mentioned at some point that his people wore clothing. She shook her head and adopted her best no-nonsense tone. It came out a touch more frantic than she intended. “What are you doing about his defense? The trial? Finding some miraculous loophole that gets my friend NOT KILLED?”


“Of course.” A big silver hand gently extracted her grip. The angular head nodded. Somehow, despite a nearly identical body, Bull managed to look nothing like Rook. “If you don’t mind. The trial, yes. Well you see, that’s something of a problem.”


Of course it was. Murray tried to smile, but feared it translated into a snarl on delivery. “Why is that?”


“Because he insists on pleading guilty.”


“I know.” Murray closed her eyes. “They found him off planet, Bull. What else can he do?”


“Exactly.”


“But can’t we put a spin on it? Extenuating circumstances? Temporary insanity? Maybe he had a really great reason for leaving?” 


“Yes!” Bull sat up straight. A tiny fire shimmered in his eyes for about half a second. Then he slumped back down and shrugged. “But he won’t have any of it.”


“What?”


“My client, your friend, insists on defying the treaty. He’s talking about reform, for heaven’s sake. And he’s talking to them.”


“Help me out here, Bull. Who’s them?”


 “I’d better show you.” He tapped at the wall to the driver’s compartment, a signal to end the charade, Murray guessed. “He is very anxious to see you,” Bull added. “Shouldn’t be long.”


“Hmmm.”


The car took a left turn and slowed. Murray guessed they’d been less than two blocks from detention for close to an hour. She scowled at Bull and tried to pull her nerves back together. The vehicle crawled forward between the buildings. Her pulse stuttered.


What would she say to him? I’m sorry I thought you were a machine. I think I’m in love with you. Please don’t die. It didn’t quite roll off the tongue. Maybe she should go for indignation. How dare you let me think you were an android? How dare you keep these sorts of secrets? How dare you leave me? Pathetic.


The car stopped suddenly, and Zora pressed herself against the window, blocking Murray’s view completely. Bull sat up straight. He lifted his square business case from his lap and smiled the worst fake smile ever at her.


“We may have to negotiate a little bit of a crowd,” he said.


“Holy crap you’re not kidding.” Zora turned back to them. “There’s a mob out there!”


“Zealots,” Bull hissed. “Talking revolution and, I might add, NOT helping our case any.”


“Revolution?” Murray frowned and pushed Zora to one side. She sucked in her breath and put a hand up to the glass. “Aw, crap.”


People filled the street. They surrounded the car, crowded their metal bodies between columns, and jostled for position. Murray caught site of a few signs, scrolling bright-lettered slogans. She looked away. She’d seen protesters before. Hell, she’d stood among them on several occasions. It was no coincidence she had the ISPCA on her speed dial. She heaved a sigh and dropped her head forward, rested her chin in her palms.


“So,” she said. What do they want?”


“Only the end of the treaty. They want to leave, to run around the galaxy willy-nilly regardless of the repercussions for our society.” Bull pulled himself into an indignant posture and shook his head. “They want to defy our entire way of life.”


“You mean they want their freedom,” Zora said.


“Yes.” Bull sagged again, deflated. “Isn’t it ghastly?”


“What about Rook?” Murray stared at the nearest sign and knew the answer without being told. “What does this mean for Rook?”


The sign holder turned, and she read the message loud and clear. Big neon letters spelled it out in a perfect line: Freedom or Death.


 


 


 


 

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