SLOW TRAIN TO ARCTURUS – snippet 36:
The painted Jezebel stood up from the front row. The judge had plainly known that she was there. "Ma'am Judge."
"Captain, take your nightstick and show us how the prisoner attacked you."
She looked distinctly sulky. "He stole my nightstick, ma'am."
"So you said," said the Judge, dryly. There was plainly no love lost between the two of them. "Borrow one from one of your fellow officers, and come and show us." So she did, amid the buzz from the crowded room.
"You'll have to come out of the dock, Howard," said the Judge.
Blushing furiously, Howard realized that he'd set himself up to leave the comforting shield of wood and walk naked in front of all these women. Well, there was no help for it. Nervously he walked out. "I think you'll have to un-cuff him sergeant," said the Judge, looking him up and down. "It seems a bit unreasonable to expect him to assault anyone with his hands behind his back. Or even to defend himself."
So one of the women freed his hands. Instinct took over and he immediately put them in front of his privates, and then had to duck to avoid a vicious blow from the Jezebel. She swung again, and this time he caught the black stick, using his superior height to grab it before it had time to begin its acceleration. The stick still smacked audibly against his flesh. And—just as he had the last time, Howard lifted her off her feet. He felt his muscles stand out with the effort.
"Nice body," said the Judge. "Stop trying to kick him, Captain. He's only doing what I told him to do."
"Put me down!" yelled the Captain.
So once again Howard did—just a little more gently than last time. She wasn't a quick learner—this Jezebel—or maybe the idea was just too alien for her to grasp. She landed on her derriere again on the courtroom floor. Howard didn't know if it was the landing or the laughter that hurt her most. She was gritting her teeth and looked ready to kill him. "That's what I did, Ma'am. Can I let go of this stick now?"
"I think you've made your point," said the Judge. "You can go back to the stand now."
Howard did, gratefully. Yes, it wasn't the same as being naked before the brethren. He was almost able to switch it out, pretend that they weren't real women. Almost. But being sheltered behind the wood made it easier.
"Not you, Captain," said the judge, as the painted Jezebel stood up, rubbing one cheek unselfconsciously. "Now. You've claimed in your statement you were assaulted. Will you show me the injuries you sustained?
"There aren't any," said the young woman, looking as surly as a Jersey bull-calf.
"Oh?" said the Judge. "In the violent assault on an officer, known for her combat skills, the male who has just proved he is capable of lifting your considerable bulk, inflicted not one bruise? The idea behind pre-trails is to stop the court wasting its time on the mendacious and malicious rubbish. I think that it has just proved its worth as a process, don't you?"
You don't tease Jersey bulls, thought Howard.
The Captain stood her ground, chin lifted. "There is still the matter of the indecent public appearance. Being out without a woman. And the theft of a weapon."
"Which was conspicuous by absence when Howie here was taken into custody. Like the assault, more petty malice, eh, Howard," The Judge said, archly.
Howard flushed. Even coming from the sheltered environment of New Eden there was no mistaking that look. "No… uh Ma'am. I did take it away from her. I dropped it in some bushes a little distance away."
Howard shrugged. "I didn't want Kretz and I to be attacked again, I suppose." "That does seem a fair probability. I must tell you, Captain LaGarda, that I have listened to the recording of your Mayday call." She gave a little snort. "It was apparent even then that these two came from outside the Matriarchal Republic of Diana. Of course we expect them to comply with our rules here, but you hardly helped to explain the law to them by assaulting them. I consider to be un-worthwhile to pursue these charges in a formal court, as extenuating circumstances, mostly caused by you, would have any penalties set at such a level to be not worthwhile. The alien comes from a Matriarchy too, and is deserving of better treatment."
She stood up. "These charges are dismissed. Out of here all of you." She pointed to Howard. "Except you. We have to sort out your future."
So a few minutes later, Howard found himself alone with a woman. He tried not to look at her nakedness. Maybe jail would have been a better option. She looked hungrily at him. "You're very big and muscular, aren't you," said the Judge.
"We do a lot of physical work, farming," said Howard. "I don't understand why your men are all so small?"
"A little genetic engineering after the oh-33 revolt," said the Judge. "History. Some crazy men decided to start a revolution, claiming that they were stronger. So we made sure that future generations would not have the problem again. I suspect that I'll get several petitions to sterilize you."
Desperate to move the conversation elsewhere—preferably toward getting the two of out of this Gomorrah. "And clothes? I don't wish to offend, but we… I am very uncomfortable without clothes."
"They're a source of vanity," said the judge, stretching and displaying a complex pattern of flames and leaves painted on her body. They were banned by our original charter. Besides they're a place to conceal weapons. And, for you men in particular, to hide your intentions."