On the Run: Episode 5

Reba is pacing in a waiting area in the precinct headquarters closest to the park where the kidnapper was apprehended. She has been waiting far too long for the fellow's lawyer to show up so she can get some answers.

Rotnbair enters the waiting area carrying a briefcase. He spots Reba at once by her body language and nager.

Rotnbair: Tuib?

Reba: There you are.

Rotnbair: Yes. I'm Rotnbair of Spork and Rotnbair. I apologize for the delay -- we were only just hired by telegraph from out-T.

Reba: Reba ambrov Pritchik, from the District Controller's office. Your client is waiting for you. More importantly, I'm waiting for your client. The Tecton wants answers. I trust you can persuade your client to cooperate.

Reba gestures down the hall.

Reba: Room three, I believe.

Rotnbair: Only to the extent that in my judgment it would be in his best interests to do so, of course.

Rotnbair doesn't wait for a rejoinder to this, but proceeds to interrogation room three. He opens the door and sees a huge Gen who can only be his client, and someone else in a police uniform.

Moose has been fidgeting in his chair, wishing he could at least get up and pace.

Rotnbair: [English] Good day, Mr. Moose. I'm your lawyer and I'm here to help you.

Moose: Oh. Good.

Moose offers a handshake.

Rotnbair shakes hands, not without some internal qualms.

Rotnbair: I trust you haven't said anything yet?

Moose: Do I look stupid?

Moose assumes his question is rhetorical.

Moose: And I still ain't talking, not with a cop in the room.

Rotnbair: You leave that to me. Now, Peacekeeper, would you mind identifying yourself properly? For the record.

Legorrn: Officer Legorrn.

Rotnbair: Thank you. And as I understand it, the charge is kidnapping?

Rotnbair is going through the motions here.

Legorrn: Attempted kidnapping, and assault.

Rotnbair: Very well, we can easily dispose of that. Show the cop your bounty-hunter's license, Moose.

Moose: License?

Rotnbair: You know. To seize wanted criminals and return them to the place where they're wanted.

Moose scratches his head, wincing slightly as he raises his arm.

Moose: Never needed no license before.

Rotnbair: Ah. It seems, then, that the practice of my client's home Territory is not to require a license when bounty-hunting, Officer. But since his intent was to return a criminal to face justice -- well, it's the same thing.

Legorrn: I'm sure that will make the channel whose Companion this fellow was trying to abduct feel much better.

Legorrn's tone is more than a little sarcastic.

Legorrn: The Farris channel. Who happens to be the Heir to Householding Sat'htine.

Rotnbair: No doubt. But the law's the law for one and all.

Legorrn: Yes. And the penalty for trying to interfere in a legal transfer assignment between a Tecton channel and her Donor is rather severe.

Moose listens with increasing ~~ puzzlement ~~ .

Rotnbair: Come, come. If you had arrested the alleged victim -- for littering in the park, say -- you wouldn't be subject to any such penalty.

Legorrn: Only if he was promptly released so that he could perform his duties. Mr. Moose here intended to drug his victim and transport him across the border. And I gather he failed to get permission from the Controller beforehand.

Moose frankly stares. Who ever heard of getting permission to capture a target?

Rotnbair: Probably not. But from what I understand, Mr. Moose was not aware of any special status the perp might have by our law. He can't be held responsible for what he didn't know.

Rotnbair extends his tentacles in a gesture of "What can you do?"

Legorrn: Ignorance of the law, to quote a principle known even to the Ancients, is no excuse. As any lawyer should know.

Rotnbair: Ah, but this is ignorance of fact, namely the fact that Sosu Nick was a Donor. Honest and reasonable mistake of fact is a good excuse for what otherwise would be misconduct. What, did you never arrest the wrong person?

Legorrn: Is Mr. Moose now claiming that he never intended to abduct Sosu Nick in the first place?

Moose purses his lips. He's not going to let this cop trick him into saying anything.

Rotnbair: No, of course not. Merely that he didn't know the fugitive from justice he was intending to capture was Sosu Nick. He has his name as "Nick Debree". And since that is a name that Sosu Nick used out-T in the past....

Legorrn: Irrelevant. If Mr. Moose couldn't be bothered to learn who he was abducting, the law will not protect him from the consequences of his actions.

Rotnbair: Well, we'll tell it to the judge -- I think you'll find I have the law on my side. In any case, there's a Tecton representative outside who wants Mr. Moose for herself -- I'm sure you can guess why. It's up to you how you feel about that.

Legorrn considers.

Legorrn: The facts of the case seem pretty straightforward. While I don't share your optimism about the judge, I don't see any harm in allowing it. Do you want a moment with your client first?

Rotnbair: Surely.

Legorrn: Very well. Tap on the door when you and your client are ready.

Legorrn leaves to handle the paperwork.

Rotnbair: Okay, Mr. Moose. Nobody here but you and me, so spill it. And as you probably know, lying to your mouthpiece is a really bad idea -- not to mention impossible in my case.

Moose: What do you want to know?

Rotnbair: Everything. Who sent you. What happened. Why it all went wrong. But keep it short.

Moose: I'll tell you all the rest. But if I rat out my employer, I'll never work again. Maybe never breathe again.

Rotnbair: Fair enough. Just call him Mr. X. I suppose I was actually telling the truth back there, and Nick Debree actually is wanted?

Moose: Yeah. Wanted bad. Mr. X offered me double my usual cross-border fee, without even haggling. At the time, I thought he just didn't know the going rate. Now, I wonder.

Rotnbair: Yeah. He must have known there were special risks. But by "wanted" I mean "wanted by a court", not "wanted by Mr. X. for his private purposes." You do see the difference, eh?

Moose: Um. I'm tryin' to think everything he told me. Nicholas Debree, a.k.a. Nick Reckage, a.k.a. Nick Ambron Sath-heen. Wanted for... something I didn't quite get about business law. Stronger than he looks, smart, a real scrapper. Oh, and they said to watch out for his girlfriend, 'cause she's a channel.

Moose thinks really hard.

Moose: The guy said somethin' about trespass, and incitin' a riot. But there was somethin' in the law that made it worse than that... I couldn't quite follow.

Rotnbair: Inciting sounds adequate. We're no fan of riots here in Simeland either. Well, I think the best bet is to plead you guilty with an explanation, and hope they'll just deport you. But after that, Mr. Moose, I'd find another line of work if I were you, or at least stick to your own Territory.

Moose: Been thinking that way myself. Thirty's old for this game, and I'm already thirty-two. I don't get one thing, though. Why's this guy so special here? Sounded to me like he's not special at anything but trouble.

Rotnbair: Hmm. You heard of Senator Tsibola, maybe?

Moose: Yeah. I can read, y'know. ~~ pride ~~

Rotnbair: Great. Well, suppose you were sent to put the snatch on Tsibola's favorite nephew's girlfriend. How do you think They would react, eh?

Moose puzzles this through.

Moose: You're saying that cute little girl I locked in the can is a senator's niece?

Rotnbair: Well, sort of about equal in power and position.

Moose: Boy, Debree sure knows how to pick 'em.

Rotnbair: From what I understand, she picked him. But that's neither here nor there. The point is, Mr. X sent you with a knife to a gun fight.

Moose: Sounds like.

Rotnbair: And if he paid you twice over, I think you were still ripped off.

Moose shrugs.

Moose: Too late now. I agreed to the price. Besides, I didn't get the guy. ~~ resignation ~~

Rotnbair: An honest man. Good. Now, you ever been tried by a Simeland judge?

Moose: Nope.

Rotnbair: Well, it's not like out-Territory where there's witnesses and a jury and they swear to this and you swear to that. The judge is a First -- a high-powered channel -- and he asks you questions and you answer 'em. And if they aren't the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth -- he knows. Count on it.

Moose: But he can't pick things out of my head, can he? Like Mr. X's name?

Rotnbair: Nope. And you do have the right to remain silent. But since you want mercy, not justice, I'd tell him right off you're afraid of being murdered -- say "murdered", not "killed" -- if you spill that. Also, don't tell him you're sorry unless you really are. That counts as lying.

Moose: Murdered. Not killed. Okay. ~~ puzzlement ~~

Moose nods. The only thing he's really sorry about is getting caught.

Rotnbair: So your story is this: You were hired, and you can't say who hired you, to capture a fugitive from justice named Nick Debree. You found him, tried to put him under arrest, and things got out of hand. You didn't know he was a Companion -- make sure you use that word -- you only knew he was wanted for inciting a riot in -- well, whatever place it was.

Rotnbair: You're willing to promise to abandon the job here and now and not return to Nivet Territory for any such purpose in future unless you have proper cross-border paperwork. And you throw yourself on the mercy of the court. Is all that the truth?

Moose: Companion. Is that kinda like a gigolo?

Moose never knew before that the weird ideas on this side of the border ran to sex, too. Too bad he didn't know sooner.

Rotnbair: No, no, no. Never even think that. A very respected job. Part private doctor, part executive secretary, part bodyguard.

Moose: Okay. Um, Companion. Paperwork. Mercy. Right?

Rotnbair: Right.

Moose: And murdered. Not killed.

Rotnbair: Right.

Moose: Okay. Got it.

Rotnbair: And don't forget abandoning the Debree job. Better call him "Sosu Nick" just to be polite.

Moose: So-Sue? Isn't that like asking for trouble?

Rotnbair: No, it's a title. Respectful. And the judge is "Hajene", not "Your Honor".

Moose: Had-jean?

Rotnbair hopes his client can retain all this.

Rotnbair: Good enough.

Moose repeats So-Sue and Had-jean several times under his breath.

Rotnbair: Okay. Any questions for me? Ask now, while we're still private.

Moose looks the wiry little lawyer right in the eye.

Moose: What're my chances? Really?

Rotnbair: Fair to middling. Hit that business about the inciting to riot hard -- it's the only legal justification you've got. Otherwise you'd be put away for sure.

Moose, with a ~~ sinking ~~ feeling, nods.

Rotnbair hopes the judge will hear that as something like -- or even part of -- the Second Audnes Rebellion rather than a jumped-up labor dispute.

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