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The Trial of Catrina: Opening Statements

by on March 18, 2013

Last time in the Catrina Chronicles, our heroine’s trial for the murder of an alien blob still hadn’t got started yet. Jury selection had begun, but unfortunately Catrina found herself facing a more pressing problem: juror number four, an undead Egyptian mummy who’d confronted her in the restroom….

Catrina had never read the Riddles in the Dark chapter of the Hobbit where Gollum had asked Bilbo what had he got in his pocketses, but if she had, she would have thought it a very appropriate question. Frantically she tore through her pockets, desperate to find something in there besides an apple that she could use against the mummy howling at her from atop the paper towel dispenser. Of course she didn’t have her Sporksaber, but maybe she still had one of the random objects that had materialized with her back on Kilkenny Speed’s ship? They’d taken the hacksaw away along with the Sporksaber for obvious reasons, and the baby tomatoes had gotten blown up by a laser rifle, but maybe….yes! The most recent edition of Reader’s Digest!

Catrina flipped through the pages. She didn’t have time to enjoy the various humor sections, funny as they no doubt were. There was a dramatic recounting of a Swedish ballet dancer who’d gotten stuck on a mountain in Alaska and required a daring rescue, but she didn’t think that applied to her situation.  And she didn’t have much time left. The mummy looked awfully like it was about to lunge for her and rip her head clean off her shoulders, or whatever mummies did to their victims. She didn’t even know what that might be, and-what was this? 13 Things Your Mummy Won’t Tell You? Perfect!

She skimmed through most of it, until she reached number 5. It was an ancient Egyptian magic spell that transformed mummies into tiny blue scarab beetles! Better yet, although the spell was written in hieroglyphics, there was a handy sidebar that translated the symbols into English! Catrina promised herself that she would get a subscription to this very useful magazine immediately upon her return home. Meantime, she quickly read the words of the spell. A flash of light rocketed through the women’s restroom, and the mummy vanished, replaced by an extremely vexed scarab beetle. Catrina squished it with her boot on the way out.

Back in the courtroom, it looked as if things were finally ready to begin. The jury had all been selected, and the last few housekeeping matters had been disposed of. At long last, the attorneys were ready to give their opening statements. Catrina expected real stemwinders, especially from her overly theatrical villainous brother. What she had forgotten was that a fair proportion of the jury members were telepaths. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come read Edward’s opening statement right from his mind. The judge put a rather quick stop to this, once he realized what had happened; the Galactic Rule of Criminal Procedure was pretty clear about forbidding the use of telepathy by jurors in trials. The Ghost promised not to do it again (at least the judge thought it did; the Ghost was so mysterious that one could never be sure what it was implying), and Edmund was allowed to give his opening statement in the usual way.

He rose, his co-counsel Sludgepipe gurgling on his shoulder, and began. “This case is about one simple thing: Catrina shot first. That is why she’s here today. She may be a heroine in other contexts, she may have saved the world once or twice, but in this one instance, she didn’t act like a heroine, she acted like a villain. Without any provocation, she walked into the Q’rno Fl’arg’sporky space bar and blasted the victim into bits with her exploding towel. Worse, this was no ordinary random alien; this was the cherished deity of the Zarminna Community, worshipped by them for a thousand years. Yes, the alien was armed, yes, he could possibly have fired at Catrina, but the fact is, ladies, gentlemen, and beings of indeterminate gender, he didn’t. Catrina shot first. And because she shot first, members of the jury, it is your duty to find her guilty of murder in the first degree. Thank you.”

Catrina pulled a face at her brother as he sat back down. They’d never quite gotten along during their childhood. He’d broken a violin over her head once, in one of their more memorable quarrels. Worse yet, it hadn’t even been his own violin; he’d snatched it from a traveling bard. Quite unforgivable. At any rate, it was her defense attorney’s turn now. Tyr, the Norse god of justice, rose and faced the juror. He spoke calmly, without melodramatic inflection or table-pounding, almost as if he were having a pleasant conversation. “Members of the jury, the prosecutor is correct about one fact. Catrina did shoot first. But he leaves out a good many other facts. We intend to show you those facts he left out, facts that will demonstrate unquestionably that my client acted in her own self-defense. We will show today that the alien in question wasn’t just armed, but was armed with an extremely powerful energy weapon, the Marion Face-Melter Mark Three. This weapon has no stun setting. It is instantly lethal. And it was about to be fired at my client. We will further show that, moments before the incident occured, the alien blob identified Catrina by name. We will show that the bar’s occupants had been warned of Catrina’s arrival, and offered a sizable reward to dispose of her. My client was therefore surrounded by hostile beings armed with lethal weaponry, each one with a motive to kill her. She was faced with imminent unlawful deadly force. She acted according, defending herself, saving her own life and that of her hamster colleagues. Members of the jury, if you find that the prosecutor has not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that my client committed murder, or if you find that it is more likely than not that my client properly defended herself, it is your duty to find Princess Catrina not guilty. Thank you.”

Catrina almost stood up and cheered, but she thoughtfully restrained herself. It was just that she was so very relieved the trial was finally underway. She needed to get this over with so she could get back on her quest to find Mlrning (the Shovel of Thor!) and rescue her love interest Perry from the clutches of Utgarda-Loki (not that one, the other one). She assumed that the whole thing would be over in a short time, maybe a couple of hours. Had she known that trials often last for several days, or more, she would’ve been horrified.

Meanwhile, outside the courtroom, Krystelle the rogue juror elf sat glaring in the pilot seat of her ramshackle shuttle. Smoke billowed angrily round her ears, partly for dramatic effect and partly because one of the ship’s circuits had yet again burnt out. Not that Krystelle noticed, as she was too busy fuming over the trial. She didn’t much like that prosecutor at all, specially since he’d kicked her off the jury solely on grounds that she was a elf. Worse, he’d corrected her grammar, and she just couldn’t stand that. “An elf, my foot,” she snarled. “I gotta do somethin’ about him.”

She could think of only one thing. She was gonna have to break Catrina loose. But she couldn’t do it alone, with her rickety shuttlecraft that didn’t even have a decent laser blaster to its name. Krystelle fired up her engines and tore away into the atmosphere, swearing she’d come back. And she’d come back with friends. Well-armed friends. Then they’d see. They’d see just what exactly a really mad elf could do.

What will happen next? Will Catrina be found guilty, or will she get off on a legal technicality? Who knows? I don’t even know yet. But I’ll probably work it out by next Monday, so be sure to return then as the thrilling saga of Catrina’s quest for Mlrning (the Shovel of Thor!) continues.  For previous episodes, go here. For a copy of Catrina in Space in paperback or e-book form, go here. Thanks for reading!

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One Comment
  1. You have a gift for sci-fi crime dramas, Michael!

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