The Trial of Adam part 8

Adam came out of the lab building and was heading for the mess hall when he noticed Eve talking to an older man in a military uniform.  Actually, Eve was the only one talking.  The man was yelling his part of the conversation, and Adam could tell Eve was not happy to be on the receiving end.  Adam decided food could wait and headed over to see if he could help bail Eve out.

Eve was definitely at a physical disadvantage.  Not only was the man loud, he was tall, wide, and looked hard.  That impressed Adam.  Too often military lifers let themselves go.  Admittedly not as much as Adam had let himself before coming here, but still for a military man a potbelly would slowly crawl out of its muscular cocoon and those arm muscles would begin to droop a bit to for the wings.  This guy could still military press a platoon or two at once.  As Adam got closer it was easier to make out what the man was yelling.

“You need to just follow orders and not think!  No matter what your designation is, at the end this is a penal colony under my jurisdiction,” the man said trying to beat Eve back with the force of their delivery.

While Eve did cringe a bit, she did not give too much ground.  “Your jurisdiction is on that side of the wall,” she said pointing at the offending wall.  “Over here is FBC territory and I call the shots.”

That sounded like a perfect introduction for Adam.  As he covered the remaining ground quickly and stuck out his hand in the direction of the man and put on his billion credit smile.  “Adam Durst at your service, and you are?” Adam asked.  Eve rolled her eyes so far back Adam was worried she was about to pass out.  Mr. Military though never skipped a beat.  As a matter of fact he even kicked his voice up a notch, which Adam didn’t think was humanly possible.

“Did I talk to you?” Mr. Military asked.

“Well, not exactly, but I thought” Adam began, but the man cut him off.

“Then shut the hell up and let me finish!” the man practically screamed at Adam.  Mr. Military turned back to Eve.  “You may think you have authority over here, but I still call the shots.”

Eve stood up a little straighter.  “You can go visit your space on the other side of the wall, or you can go back through the portal, but I think this meeting is done.”

Mr. Military was obviously not done.  “Did I say this meeting was done?  You will sit your ass right here until I say this meeting is done.  You FBC idiots need to realize this isn’t Federation space.”

Eve was about to speak, when Mr. Military cut her off.  “Complain all you want, but this world is a penal colony in the end.  That makes you being here a favor, and I can work to remove that problem sooner rather than later if you keep pushing me.”

Eve seemed to take this last threat as an almost physical blow.  She started to slouch and divert her eyes.  The man could sense her about to cave in.  A smirk spread on his rugged face, and it was light of a sun coming over the horizon on some hellish asteroid spinning in the cold of space.

Adam didn’t like what he saw.  “Or she can push how much this planet is a resource.  As a matter of fact this place is one in a billion with respect to almost everything, including possible expansion in this galaxy.  You know what that means?  They’ll have to remove this piece of crap penal colony,” Adam said.

The man never too his eyes off of Eve.  “Keep this idiot under control,” he said.  “I won’t ask again.”

Adam shook his head in disbelief.  “Did you just call me an idiot?” he asked.

“Adam,” Eve said with an edge to her tone.

“I most certainly did,” the man said as he turned to Adam.    The sunlight in the man’s expression was gone and the darkest, coldest expression pummeled Adam.  Mr. Military continued.  “I almost had the men scatter your worthless atoms anyhow when you crossed over, but I was told I would pretty much lose the coordinates on the jump gate”.

Adam realized he was in big trouble now, but that never stopped him from going all the way.  “That would have been the stupidest thing you ever had done.  Good thing you have someone with some smarts around you, or else…”

Adam hadn’t even seen the man move, but Adam found himself on his behind in the grass, his jaw felt dislocated.  The man towered over him, blocking out the sun.  He looked like he was about to explode again when Eve placed a hand on the guy’s arm.  That seemed to calm him down some.  “If you ever disrespect me again I will kill you with my bare hands.  You have rights lower than a piece of shit here, do you understand me?” Mr. Military said.  He didn’t wait for an answer that wouldn’t have come anyway due to Adam’s dazed state.  The man just turned and walked back towards the portal.

Eve bent down and gently touched the rising swelling in the shape of the man’s fist.  “You fool!  That’s General Haden Marks.  You are technically his.  He really could kill you, and there isn’t a thing I can do about it.”

Adam mumbled something along the line of thanks, or maybe I couldn’t let him treat you like that, or maybe the rain was purple with puppies last night.  It was hard to tell from the fog of a concussion and the rapidly swelling shut right side of his face.  Still Eve took it as a sign of some sort of encouragement.  At least that’s how Adam took it as he laid back down on the grass.

Eve spoke into her comm link.  “I need a medic in the common square by the gate.  We have an idiot down.”   Adam thought her words had such a nice ring to them.

The Trial of Adam part 7

Liam inspected the dent in the wall while Adam finished the calibration of the new confocal microscope.  Liam pointed to the dent.  “That must have been some user error,” Liam said.

“It was.  Trust me.  I’m still paying for it,” Adam said.

“Eve’s still pissed at you?” Liam asked.

Adam typed a couple of commands and the instrument came to life.  “I was talking about this microscope.  It’s at least a millennia out of date.”

“I wasn’t the one who chucked the last one at the wall,” Liam said.  “No one wants to fund us out here in the middle of nowhere.”

“No one wants to fund me out here in the middle of nowhere since I am a convicted mass murderer,” Adam corrected.  Adam looked at Liam.  “It’s okay to tell me I screwed up.  I knew that as soon as I said that stupid comment to Eve.”

“So have you extended an olive branch to her?” asked Liam.

Adam closed his eyes and massaged his temples.  “I extended her the whole foolish tree.  That woman is impossible.”

“You did question her life’s work,” Liam said.  “How would you have felt about it?”

“I would have ripped your head off from the inside by reaching up your anus,” Adam said.  Liam recoiled from that picture.  Adam waved to clear the air and then continued.  “But I am an egotistical jerk.  She is supposed to be better than me.”

“Yes, she is.  She is here by choice, not because she is serving a life sentence,” Liam said.  “Sorry, but it’s the truth.  You did just give me permission to let you know when you screw up”

“That doesn’t help me Liam,” Adam said.  He gestured at the microscope.  “Much like this artifact from another time.”

Liam drifted over to the instrument.  “Well, yeah.  Like most things in life you should look a bit deeper to see what is there.  If you look close you will discover I was able to get you a bit more bang for your scientific buck.  All the guts of that thing were retrofitted to only last year’s technology.  I left the outsides intact to help get it past the asset people.”

Adam peered into the scope and played with some of the controls.  He turned suddenly and planted a big kiss on Liam.  “Did I ever tell you I love with you?” Adam said.

Liam took a couple steps back and blushed slightly.  “You just want me for my scientific instruments,” Liam said.

Adam looked at the microscope again.  “Okay, maybe you’re right.  Still you’ve held up your side of the bargain extremely well.  How are the findings being received?”

Liam shifted a bit uncomfortably.  “The Federation is making it difficult to get your work out there.”

“Of course they are,” Adam said.  “They know now they made a mistake.  This world is remarkable.  There is so much here that has the opportunity to be beneficial.  I have identified at least a thousand microorganisms alone that have positive health impacts on our species.  This place is a cornucopia of possibilities.  If the Federation let people know about it, it would mean a public relations disaster.”

“Because they placed a penal colony on such a rich resource?” asked Liam.

“No, because a convicted mass murderer, me, would be the person to discover all of this.  They would be forced to admit I am needed in many more parts of the universe besides this backwater,” Adam said.

“So you’re going to take credit for the discovery even though you didn’t find the planet nor had to work hard to find this biological treasure?” Liam asked.

“I told you before, delusion is my bread and butter,” Adam said.  “That and the ability to understand how the bureaucracy thinks and reacts.  The Federation is a biological system after all, so it is well within my scientific venue.  How do you think I thrived all those years?”

“You had me believing it was your amazing work and devilish good looks,” Liam said.

“Well, there is that,” Adam admitted.  “Well done there, you might be developing a bit of sarcastic wit.  Good to see that.”  Liam smiled proudly.  Adam continued.  “No, any organism’s two goals are survival and reproduction.  That is the epitome of the Federation.  That’s why I am here.  Don’t you see that?”

“I do,” Liam said, “or at least I see why you would think so.”  Liam looked at the door, and by reference, the transportation gate beyond.  “Look, I would like to stay…”

“But you are worried about the gate collapsing,” Adam said.  “Then you would have the same sentence that I serve, but without the privilege of taking multiple lives.”

Liam looked hurt.  “I didn’t say that.”

Adam sighed.  “No, you didn’t.  I am sorry.  I’m trying to get over this foot in mouth disease.  I’ve had it for so long now, but I don’t have the power I once had to force people to deal with my condition.”

Liam looked mollified.  “You are getting better apologizing for it,” he said.

“I need to, or else I will find myself more isolated and alone than I am now,” Adam said.  He turned back to the microscope.  “Do me one favor when you get to the other side?”

“If I can I will.  What is it?” asked Liam.

“Get me the background on a certain Hannoush Liszt.  He is another lifer here.  I met him the other day, and he left quite the impression on me,” Adam said.

“Okay, I can try.  I’ll be back in a couple of weeks,” Liam said.

Adam didn’t look up from the microscope.  “Standard weeks or Ruckblau’s weeks?”

“Standard weeks,” Liam replied.

Adam sagged visibly with relief.  “Good, and thank you again for the instrument,” Adam said.

Liam nodded and left.

Adam looked up from the microscope and stared at the closed door.  He reached under the table to a small sample he had taped underneath.  He pulled it away and put under the optics.  This might be the deal changer.  Adam fired up the instrument and began his analysis anew.

The Trial of Adam part 6

Adam quickly threw a towel and water bottle into a waterproof bag and slung it over his shoulder.   He walked out of his little apartment and down to the small stream that ran out back of the west wall.  The wall was arched on the bottom to allow for excess water to pass through when the stream was swollen with extra rain water during the rainy season.  It was not a secure location, and that’s what Adam loved about it.

Adam quickly stripped down to nothing, putting his clothes in a bag with the towel, closing it up tight.  He then slipped into the cold water and floated on the small amount of water under the wall and out into the forest beyond.  There he climbed out of the stream and dried himself before getting dressed again.

He could have just walked through the gate and into the forest, but there was something about not following the rules that made Adam smile.  He knew they watched his every step while in the compound.  They knew he had just slipped under the west wall.  Out here, though, he had a small bit of freedom.  At least he could fool himself into thinking it.  Who knew what satellites they had in place watching, but Adam didn’t care at that moment.  All that was important was the illusion of freedom, that and some solitude.  He began to hike into an area he hadn’t traveled to before.  He kept track of his progress with his wristcomp, dropping virtual breadcrumbs along the way that showed up on his retina display on the back of his eye.  No need to get lost in reality.

After about an hour, Adam stopped to drink from a tributary to the stream he had used to make his escape.  He bent down and retrieved some water with his water bottle and began the purifying process.

“Hey, who are you?” asked a male voice.

Adam closed his eyes and counted to ten, hoping whomever it was would just move on, but he was not so lucky.

“You new here?” asked the male voice again.

Adam opened his eyes and turned to face the voice.  The voice belonged to a man in his late middle age that was built like a man barely out of his prime.  Black curly hair ran down his back and the man’s ebony skin glistened with a fresh coat of sweat.  The man held a long tree branch with both hands.  He began swinging it through a series of very practiced motions, at times spinning it so fast that Adam could hear the branch whistle through the air.  Abruptly the branch stopped moving.

The man smiled at his audience.  “Do you ever speak?  Me, I speak all the time.”  He held out his branch in his left hand then chucked to his right.  “Sometimes in actions instead of words.”  The man waited for Adam, but when Adam didn’t respond the man continued.  “I thought you might like my joke.  I guess not.  Did they remove your vocal box, your humor, or both?”

“They definitely left my vocal box,” Adam said.  “Now if what you did there was humor, well, I better go complain about cruel and inhuman punishment.”

“Got you worried about what they did to you?” asked the man with a smile on his face.

“No, for you.  They must have ripped out your funny bone before dropping you off here,” Adam replied.  He noticed the man frown for a moment and that made Adam worry.  Adam knew he would provide less trouble than that tree branch.  He felt relieved when the frown flipped upside down and the man began to laugh.

“You’re funny there guy,” said the man.  He walked through the underbrush and thrust out his hand.  “The name is Hannoush Liszt.”

Adam took the offered hand.  “I’m Adam Durst.  I’m the resident xenobiologist.”  Hannoush didn’t crush his hand, but Adam knew Hannoush could have yanked Adam’s arm right out of its socket.  While he couldn’t match for strength, Adam never lost eye contact.

“I’m the resident head lifer,” said Hannoush.  “And last I checked you are one of us, but you live on the other side of the fence.  I’m not sure how I think about that” Hannoush let go of Adam’s hand and folded his arms.

“Like I said, I am the resident xenobiologist.  And I am a lifer.  They let me do my work for my supper,” Adam said unapologetically.

Hannoush nodded.  “That’s good.  You work for your supper.”  Hannoush walked back to his branch and picked it up.  Adam waited, not knowing how to respond to that.  Hannoush turned back to Adam.  “I work for my supper too.  Oh, and also my lunch and my breakfast,” Hannoush broke the branch across his knee.  He pointed one of the splintered ends at Adam.   “We are making everything from scratch and the scraps from your side of the wall, so don’t tell me about working for your supper.”  Hannoush dropped the two pieces of wood and began to walk away.

Adam felt extremely guilty, and it was equally extremely unusual.  “Yeah, you’re right.  I overstepped there.  I seem to have a habit of that.”

Hannoush stopped mid step and laughed.  Hannoush turned and looked at Adam again, as if for the first time.  “I honestly think you mean it,” Hannoush said.  Adam was about to speak up, but Hannoush held up his hand to stop him.  “Reading people is my gift and my curse.  That and having a perfect memory.”  A loud whistle sounded in the distance.  “That is my warning.  I get to play by myself for a bit every now and then, but most of my time is devoted to our side’s survival.  Remember that if you run into anymore of our kind.  They won’t take kindly to anyone who is not with us.”  With that Hannoush took off at a full run in the direction of the whistle.  Soon Hannoush was out of Adam’s sight.

Adam suddenly had a case of not wanting to be alone.  He brought up his digital bread crumbs and began picking his way back to the fence.  After a bit of hiking, a large boom, sounded from the direction of the whistle, reverberated in the forest.  Adam broke into a run of his own.  Those walls never looked so good when they came into sight.

The Trial of Adam part 5

Adam looked up from the microscope and blinked his eyes.  He could have done a holographic projection, but he enjoyed doing things the old fashioned way.  The microbial life on Rukblau was amazingly diverse.  It was going to take him years to catalogue it all.  The thought terrified him and thrilled him at the same time.  At least he won’t be done and twiddling his thumbs in six months.  Adam stood and stretched his back, arching a bit like a cat.  He looked over at Eve dusting off another sample.

“I could never understand why people find the fossil record so fascinating,” Adam said.  “I mean, I understand the appeal of knowing where the life around you has come from, but well, it’s like trying to figure out a great painting by analyzing the dead organisms that make the paint colorful.  It’s missing the bigger picture.”

Eve looked up at Adam and grimaced.  “I think you’re missing the big picture.  The fossil record tells us how this planet arrived at this moment in time.  From there we can infer patterns and cycles that might help in the future to keep our life viable.  That and I look at it as more of a mystery to be solved,” Eve said.

Eve went back to dusting her sample and Adam walked to the window to see better outside.  “Oh, and while art is nice and all, it is ultimately useless.  It is one of the fallacies in our species,” Eve continued.

Adam gave a short laugh and turned around.  He gestured a few times to wake up the computer.  “Bring up Marniat’s Skyfall,” he said.  The holoprojector produced a large multicolored three dimensional image of a comet shower over a ringed world, the rings showing large holes from the passing storm of cosmic debris.  “Are you saying you don’t find beauty in Marniat’s creation here?  I heard it took him thirty years of tinkering to create this exact holo, except he did it with real materials in a zero g chamber to get the realism of how the rings would rip and shatter.”

Eve glanced up before returning to her work.  “I didn’t say it wasn’t beautiful,” she said.  “I said it was a waste of time.  With thirty years applied to something, anything else, who knows what Marniat could have created that would have had a real world practical use.  He could have found a way to stabilize the teleport gates.  Instead he figured out a way to make a very pretty picture.”

“So all work has to be practical?” asked Adam with a bemused smile on his face.  “What about your garden out there?  You spend an awful lot of your precious time arranging it.”

Eve sat up straight and gave Adam her ‘Are you really questioning me?’ stare.  “That garden is arranged according to your data with respect to classification and species.  I have made sure that the species that use the same pollination carriers are clustered in similar locations.  Plants that show some resistance to certain fungi and pests are clustered around those that are most vulnerable.  I am basically trying to prove out what I believe are your educated guesses.”

Adam smiled at her and didn’t say a thing, the twinkle in his eyes showing he was laughing on the inside.  Finally Eve let out a large harrumph.  “Fine, they also look pretty that way,” she said.  Adam burst out laughing.  She continued, “Laugh all you want.  That is still done in my spare time.  No one will pay me large amounts of money for that.  It is just for my satisfaction.”  Eve gestured to the hologram.  “Unlike Marnait.  That was his life’s work.  He lost his wife, his house, almost his very existence in pursuit of that creation.”

Adam’s laughter faded abruptly into choking.  “Wait,” he said, “you know about Marnait?”

“Every art major knows Marnait,” Eve said.  “Otherwise you don’t become an art major.”

Adam’s eyes almost bulged out of his face.  “You were an art major?”

This time Eve’s eyes sparkled with inner laughter.  “Two years, before I finally realized how much of a waste of time it was.  Then I reapplied myself to a more noble pursuit. “

“Looking at rocks?” Adam asked.  “I might question your decision on what was more noble.”

The lights stopped dancing in Eve’s eyes.  She stood up and stepped into her professional governing role.  “Questioning nobility?  Same could be said of you Dr. Durst when you left those colonists to die because of your ego.   I expect your weekly report on my desk tomorrow, and I mean the week here, not the standard one.  You need to get used to the fact that this is your home for eternity, should you live that long.”  With that she stormed out of the room.

Adam gestured rudely at Marniat’s Skyfall and the holo ceased to exist.  That didn’t help with the  way he felt, so he picked up his microscope and threw that at the wall where it smashed to bits very nicely.  Adam was definitely getting better at handling the gravity difference after these six months.  Centering himself with some deep breathing, he gestured again.

“Command?” toned the computer in a very silken female voice.  It sounded a lot like Alice.  Normally Adam loved the fact he now had a small piece of Alice here under his control, but now it just made him feel angry at himself.  How many more times could he screw up something that was going well just because he was too smart for his own good?  At least that’s how he justified it to himself when he allowed his guard to come down just a little.

Shaking his head to clear it, Adam looked at the pieces of his research and the dent in the wall it had caused.  “Generate communications to Liam Harvadash, Off World Coordinator, FBC.  Message: Liam, there was an accident in the lab.  I need a new confocal microscope.  The old one is now inoperable due to operator error.”

The Trial of Adam part 4

The feeling walking through a teleportation gate never quite left you, but luckily it was so foreign to the human mind that you quickly forgot most of the particulars.  At least that’s how Adam justified it to himself as he set foot on his new home.  The disorientation of traveling one meter and yet in reality millions of light years with that same step made you appreciate the awesomeness of the technology, but Adam always preferred to be in a spaceship going through a wormhole.  Something about the vessel doing the same thing while you stayed still spoke to Adam’s sensibilities.

Ruckblau’s gravity hit him a bit harder than he had expected.  Weighing one fifth more would take some getting used to.  Adam had lived on some higher gravity planets, but it was always a struggle in that first week.  Adam looked over at Liam just in time to catch Liam tripping over his own feet.  Adam caught Liam and managed to not fall over himself.  “Watch that first step.  It’s always a doozy,” Adam said.

Liam stood on his own and gave Adam a quick nod.  Adam let him go and breathed in deep.  The air smelled of peat and an organic wetness that promised agricultural gold.  Adam loved that new planet smell.  There was so much you could tell just from a quick sniff.  The gravity might suck here, but the air was wonderfully not sterile unlike his cell for the past five months.

The gate was situated in the center of a small compound.  There were a number of small buildings that immediately surrounding the teleportation gate’s landing zone.  They were the type of portable building that was easily disassembled, moved through a gate, and then reassembled.  As a matter of fact Adam would be willing to bet these buildings had been moved to numerous worlds so far in their lifetime.  He wondered if he looked close enough he would find his name on one or more of them.  Adam liked to leave his autograph on each world he worked on.  It was always a thrill for the lesser xenobiologists who followed to find.  At least the ones he had had to interact with while they were doing follow up verification of his work, or so they had told him.  Lucky fools.

Low walls could be seen in distance on three sides.   The fourth wall to their left was much taller.  Adam pointed at it.  “The prison?” he asked.

Liam shrugged his shoulders.  “Probably?  They usually don’t put up big walls on penal worlds,” Liam said.  He pointed his thumb back where they had walked through.  “That gate is the only wall that really matters.  If someone tried to go back without permission they would be shot on sight.  Not many people try to escape.”

A female voice came from one of the small buildings that had an open door.  “Yeah, but that threat of death doesn’t stop those murders marooned here.”  A blond woman dressed in the uniform of the FBC walked out of the building and toward the two of them.

Adam noticed that she walked like she owned the place, so she must be some sort of higher ranking official.  He also noticed her green eyes and how they glittered in the sunlight.  They reminded him of this species of lizard he had found on Maximi-4.  That lizard was a high level predator who used its ability to change color quickly to this emerald green color to mesmerize its prey before quickly making the killing strike.

“That is the wall that keeps the general population out of our hair,” she said.  “Otherwise rape and pillage would be a full time endeavor.  Those idiots haven’t figured out that they need to start working on building something here, since they are not going back there.”  She pointed at the gate.

“How many of them are lifers?” asked Adam.

“All of you,” she said.  Adam flinched at the remark.  The woman smiled at that flinch.  “But you get to live on this side of the wall.  At least until you screw it up.  Then I’ll be there when they throw you over the wall.  For now I’ll let you play in my little garden here.  Now what brings you planetside Liam?  This isn’t your normal operating procedure.”

Liam smiled and held out his hand, which the woman took and shook professionally.  “I needed to get out and stretch my legs.  I’ve been behind a desk too long.  A real xenobiologist gets out in the field,” Liam said.  He looked at Adam.  “Or at least that’s what I’ve been told.  I figured why not.”

“So you’re staying?” asked Adam.

Liam laughed.  “Oh hell no.  I’m just getting a taste of it.  Beside, this far away, the gate can’t be too stable.”

“Thanks for reminding me of that,” Adam said.

“Well you don’t have to worry about that Dr. Durst since you are now a permanent resident,” she said.

Adam held out his hand.  “Please call me Adam.  And your name is?” Adam asked.

The woman ignored his hand and began walking away from the gate.  Liam and Adam had to hurry to catch up.  “I am Dr. Eve Kaztner, the head of the scientific detail and defacto governor of this little pocket of hell,” Eve said.  “I am your boss and your jailer.  As long as you remember your place we will be okay.”

Adam hurried to get in front of her and stopped, forcing Eve to momentarily slow before she ran into him.  “And where exactly is my place?” he asked.

“Currently on my shit list for getting in my way,” Eve said.  She then pointed at the small building they were closest to.  “That is your lab.  Do your job, don’t get in my way, and keep your nose clean and you might get to like this dump.  Cross any line and you will find yourself so quickly on the other side of that wall that you will think walking through the teleport gate took forever.”  She turned to Liam.  “Enjoy your visit, but I will assume you are going back tonight.”

Liam nodded.  “That’s the plan.  I will be visiting every standard week instead of waiting for data transmissions.  This is an awesome opportunity and I plan to learn from the best.”

“Yeah, we’ll see about that.  Enjoy the rest of your day, gentlemen.  I have too much work to do to waste anymore time today,” Eve said as she turned on her heel and walked away without waiting for a response.

“She is a force of nature,” Liam said, “but she has a reputation of being fair.”

“Then why is she out here then?” asked Adam.  “It doesn’t sound like she begged for the assignment.”

“Don’t know.  Maybe you should ask her that,” Liam said.

Adam opened the door to the lab and looked inside.  “Yeah, I’m sure that will be a pleasant conversation.  I’m sure it will end with me on the other side of the wall,” he said.

“If you want I suppose I could ask.  She can’t do that to me,” Liam said.

Adam walked into the lab and shook his head.  “You won’t have time.  You need to go back right now.  There is no time to lose,” he said.

“Why do you say that?” Liam asked.  “Are you worried about the gate collapsing?”

“No, I’m worried about this equipment,” Adam said.  “You promised to try and get me something I can work with.  This,” he said as he gestured around at the packed lab, “is not that.  Go to work young man.  Show me you are an equal partner in this endeavor.”

The Trial of Adam part 3

Adam was pretty sore the next day.  He really needed to stop tripping into the bars and stopping the fall with his face.  It was a bad habit to get into.  At least he had made sure that bastard Wendell had a good chance of never procreating.  Wendell had been even more pissed when Henry told him no tattling.  Henry sure was old school.

The hearing went by in a blur.  Adam had signed numerous forms and been inoculated with fifty different antibodies for a planet they had no clue what would kill you.  Soon he was in another waiting room.  He had no clue what was coming next, but he realized that Alice had been right.  The judge had told Adam he would be planetside in less than ten hours.

Justice never moved quickly unless the Federation needed to make the problem disappear.  There had been another riot on one of the homeworlds one of the idiot colonists had come from.  The guy had been a minor noble in a merchant house.  Adam could barely remember the guy’s face.  He did remember the guy had broken into a sobbing fool and had to be restrained when Adam had called from the ship with his plans.  Adam was sure that guy was the first out the door when they had run out of food, and probably not because he wanted to take the chance.

A young man dressed in the formal blue uniform of the Federation Biogenesis Corps entered the room carrying all the world’s problems on his back.  Adam would have laughed if he hadn’t been so worried about what this meant.  Adam had worked with most of the upper management of the FBC, but he had never seen this guy before.  The man didn’t make eye contact and immediately sat down at the sole table in the room and opened his tablet computer.  The holographic display awoke and a blue orb popped into existence.

“Dr. Durst, my name is Liam Harvadash.  I am your off world coordinator.  All your research will go through me for validation and conformation before being added to the master databases,” Liam said.  “The planet here is designated Penal AS-379 and colloquially named Ruckblau.  You will stationed there with three other scientists and a group of roughly one hundred thirty two inmates.”

Adam couldn’t believe his ears.  “Wait, there must be some mistake.  Where is Dr. Guy?  Dr. Antonowitz?”

Liam finally met Adam’s gaze.  “They don’t deal with isolated penal colonies,” Liam said.  Adam’s eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped.  Liam continued.  “You will still get the best equipment I can locate.  This research means a lot to me.”

Adam laughed bitterly.  “Of course it does.  A peon like you would never get work with a scientist of my caliber.  This will make your career.”

“Dr. Durst, I am a scientist in my own right.  Everyone must start someplace,” Liam said.

Adam got up and stormed to the other side of the room.  He then turned back towards Liam and jabbed his finger at him.  “You have to start somewhere?” asked Adam.  “I catalogued my first life world when I was an undergraduate.  My advisor died on the trip, but I had already surpassed the woman.  How many times have you been off world, Liam?”

“Twice,” Liam said, almost drawing his shoulders into himself.

Adam quickly crossed back to the table, but he didn’t sit down.  Instead he bent over Liam, his shadow seemingly making Liam shrink back even more.  “Let me guess,” Adam said.  “once only to orbit as a grade school student and the second when you went to university.”

Liam developed a bit of a backbone and straightened back up a bit.  “We went to Fios in grade school,” he said.

Adam did a flourish with his arms and turned back around.  He began to pace back and forth feeling his new mental cage grow smaller with each step.  “Well you have so much experience.  You will be a director in no time.  Of course I turned that position down at least twelve times because it is a desk job and a xenobiologist should be in the field.”  Suddenly Adam stopped his pacing.  “And that is where I will be stuck from now to eternity.  Okay Liam, earn your keep.  What am I in for?”  With that Adam walked back to the desk, spun the chair backwards and he sat down, staring at the blue orb hanging in space in front of him.

Liam looked ta Adam, dumbstruck.  Adam motioned with his hands to have Liam continue.  “Come on Liam.  I’m done pouting for now.  If you wait too long I will move on to pissed, and you never want to see that.  You are in the calm before the storm.  Please don’t waste your opportunity.”

Liam woke from his stupor and dropped his gaze from Adam and back to the blue dot hanging between the two of them.  With a gesture of Liam’s hand the blue dot expanded and green brown continents came into view.  Liam began to narrate as the virtual planet began to rotate.  “Ruckblau has a gravity that is one point two times normal with a solar year of eleven point three three standard years.”

Adam interrupted.  “Wait, it takes a little over eleven standard years to make one solar rotation?  And yet it supports our type of life?”

Liam looked up from the hologram.  “It is a bit colder than what we would find comfortable, except in its more tolerable regions, especially near the equator.  Do not worry though, it is habitable for most of its regions.”

“When was it discovered?  I hadn’t heard of a planet like this.  And why a penal colony?  This sounds like a likely colonization site,” Adam said.

Liam zoomed out showing the planetary system with its white star anchoring the planets in its gravity well.  Laim then zoomed out even more.  The sun hung in the outer spiral arm of a nondescript galaxy.  “It was detected just a few weeks ago.  As you can see it is in the middle of nowhere, at least for now.  We managed to dial in its coordinates and set up a transport gate that seems to be stable for now.  If that gate collapses, well you know how hard it would be to get people offworld Dr. Durst,” Liam said.

Adam waved off the partial slight.  “Still, this might unlock a whole new part of the universe to explore,” Adam said.  Adam took control of the image and zoomed back in, bringing the planet back into focus.  He zoomed in to see the landmasses and selected an area off a large see where a major river dumped its water into a larger body of water.  “Oh and call me Adam.  I hate my last name.  I almost changed it to White a long time ago.”

“Why didn’t you?” asked Liam.

“Too long a story.  We can discuss it once I’m planetside,” said Adam.  “So when do I go through the gate?”

“We go through in two more hours,” said Liam.  This caused Adam to raise an eyebrow.  “Like you sarcastically pointed out, I need more experience.  And besides, I’m intrigued as well.”

Adam put his hand through the display.  “The let’s shake to commemorate a wonderful adventure,” Adam said.

Liam took Adam’s hand and shook.  “You have an amazing way of redefining exile,” Liam said.

“I know how to be delusional,” Adam said.  “It’s the only way I could live with myself.”

The Trial of Adam part 2

Alice Abernathy had graduated top of her class from law school, and that was the low point of her career.  That was why Adam had hired her.  That and they had dated a while back,  She had dumped him for a multitrillionaire playboy who thought he could get a prenup worth a damn past her.  She now was so rich she owned a few small planetoids.  Still, when Adam had called she had come running.  The publicity from defending a murderer who happened to be the federation’s foremost xenobiologist and an A list celebrity of his own right was too good to pass up.  She was even doing it pro bono.  Well, kind of.  She had first publishing rights, but Adam didn’t care about it.  He still held holograph rights.

Alice was still beautiful enough to take his breath away, but right now Adam needed that awesome brain than that rock hard body located under that dark blue suit.   “So what is the betting line?” asked Adam.

“You are dead by morning is two to one,” Alice said, no hint of a smile in her eyes at all.

“Now that would be swift miscarry of justice,” Adam said.  “We still have to go through all the appeals.”

Alice pointed at the table.  “You might not want to do that,” she said.  “They are offering you a deal.”

“Okay, Adam said.  “Lay it on me.”

“Exile to the newest penal world.  There you will work on identification and classification.  You will have some autonomy, but you would still be a prisoner,” Alice said.

Adam picked up one of the sheets of paper.  It was written in the arcane legalese that only those who had pledged their being to the system were allowed to learn.  He didn’t like that thought since that would mean the system got one step further than he did with Alice, and his ego wouldn’t accept that.  “So that should take like ten years, fifteen tops.” Adam said.  “What happens after that?”

“After that?  There is no after that,” Alice said.  “You settle in till that long dark goodnight.”

Alice would have been a poet if she didn’t love putting people in their place.  “That’s bullshit,” Adam said.  “A life sentence?”

Alice actually stomped her foot.  He had gotten under her skin.  She still had a flame for him.  “Bullshit?” she asked.  “You murdered fifty people on that colony.”

“Allegedly,” said Adam.

“No, not allegedly anymore.  You were found guilty by a sitting jury.  You are a murderer,” Alice said.

“They committed suicide,” countered Adam.  “If they had listened to me they would all be alive and I would have won yet another Confederation Star of Science.”

“You told them to starve slowly while you took the only emergency spacecraft out of the system,” Alice said.

“And they stupidly decided to go hunting on a world I had already declared uncolonizable.  The creatures were so poisonous and borderline sentient that unless you flattened most of the forests from orbit the settlers would be overrun.  Staying in the settlement pod was their only chance.  Yes, it would have been uncomfortable, but most people can stand a two month fast and recover with little or no lasting effects,” Adam said.

Alice looked at him that told him he was crossing a line, but he had been silent about this for so long.  She never let him get on the stand to testify for himself.  He could have shown that idiotic jury and judge that he had done what was needed.  “The Federation needed to know before the next settlement ship put out.  The teleport gate had collapsed so there was no other way than to get far enough to engage a wormhole.”

Alice crossed her arms and looked him in the eye.  “You did it because you wanted to have the credit of your fiftieth world identified and classified.  You knew that Pederson was about to file and you wanted to beat him to the punch.”

“Is that what you’re writing in your version of the story?” asked Adam.

Alice didn’t even blink.  “The worst thing about it is you had room to take ten of them with you.  Ten less people to share what little food was left.”

“Ten more idiots to live with,” Adam said.  Alice looked down her nose at him in disgust.  ”You know exactly what I mean Alice.  Don’t lie to yourself, much less me.  You would have pushed the bastards out the airlock as soon as you were in vacuum.”

“But I wasn’t there to do it,” Alice said.  “I didn’t leave those people to die since help took over four months to get there.”

“It wasn’t my fault I had technical difficulties with the wormhole generator,” Adam said.  “I’m not a dumb engineer.  I’m a scientist.”

Alice poked her finger into his chest.  “It was your fault.  The jury has said so.  Now I was able to get this deal for you and I suggest you take it.”

Adam turned away from Alice and walked towards the door he had come in.  Once again he wanted to scream.  Didn’t they see what a mistake they were making.  He was worth not fifty of those settlers, but fifty thousand at least.  If he wasn’t there when they arrived they would have died in mere days.  He at least had given them a chance.  Still, here he was.  He needed more information.  “What are the alternatives?” Adam asked.

“You will be sentenced to death by scattering teleportation,” Alice said matter of factly.  “I have been told in no uncertain terms that this will be the end game for the state.  No other offers, no other possibilities.”

Adam didn’t turn around.  His thoughts scattering in the hurricane force winds whirling through his mind.  “After everything I have done for the Federation?” he asked.

“Because of those things, and the strings I pulled you are getting one last chance to work,” Alice said.  She walked up behind Adam, but didn’t not reach out to console him.  For some reason that suited him for the moment.

“Look, I can get you your own accommodations, separate from the general population.  You will still have a lab and a chance to do your magic one last time.  Who knows what might happen,” Alice said.

Adam didn’t move a muscle, the winds finally settling in his head.  He didn’t want to do anything to disturb their natural flow.  He looked for patterns, just like he did in the biomes he studied.

“Look, the populace wants you gone.  This deal was tough to get. I promise I’ll work on getting you back sometime,” Alice said.

Finally Adam saw the pattern and he shook his head in disbelief.  He turned and looked Alice in the eye.  “Tell them I’ll take it, but they are making a huge mistake,” Adam said.  Alice looked relieved.  “Oh, and just because I’m exiled doesn’t mean you get the holograph rights.”

Alice shook her head and moved to the door and pounded on it.  She called out, “Henry, the bastard’s all yours.”

The Trial of Adam part 1

Adam Durst looked at the bars of his cell and contemplated if this whole thing was real.  His lack of freedom told him it was, but still Adam was in disbelief.  He should be outside these walls, flying through space on his own exploration mission.  To boldly go where… well wherever he wanted.  Didn’t they get it?  He was an explorer, plain and simple, but now he circled the cell like the caged animal he was.  “This can’t be happening,” he said to no one.

That’s why he startled when a voice replied.  “Mr. Durst, it is most certainly happening.”  The owner of the voice materialized around the corner of the hallway.  Henry was an old school guard who was secretly counting the days till he could get out of jail and into retirement.  Following Henry was his lap dog and trainee, Wendell.  “Time to meet your lawyer,” Henry said.

“Should we shackle him?” asked Wendell with a grin on his face.

Henry shook his head.  “I don’t think Mr. Durst will give us any troubles.  Wouldn’t you agree?” Henry asked Adam.

Adam didn’t like Henry, but could respect the man.  Wendell, well he was going to either be a tyrant when Henry retired or out of the system as a statistic.  “I’m a model prisoner,” Adam said.  “I walk a mean walkway.”

Henry didn’t even acknowledge the joke.  He just unlocked the door and waived Adam threw.  Adam walked through and pretended to check the nonexistent pockets of his orange jumpsuit.  “Sorry Henry, I must have left my tipping money in my other suit,” Adam said.

Wendell got into Adam’s face.  “You think you’re funny?” Wendell asked.

Henry put a hand on Wendell’s arm, moving him out of Adam’s space.  “Mr. Durst, are we about to have an issue?” Henry asked.

Adam rubbed his shoulder in remembrance of the last issue he had with Henry.  Sucks when you trip and fall hard into cell bars.  Especially when an old guard who is still built like a linebacker falls on top of you.  At least that’s what the accident report had said.  Yep, old school.  “Nope Henry.  No issues,” Adam said.

Henry nodded and closed the empty cell door.  He then gestured down the wide hallway and the three of them began to walk in a line, with Adam in the middle.  They walked in silence till they came to the private meeting rooms.  Henry unlocked the third one, opened it up, and waived for Adam to walk in.  “Miss Abernathy is waiting for you,” Henry said.

Adam nodded to Henry and entered the room.  Alice Abernathy sat at the table, her briefcase exploded over the entire flat space.  This was not going to be fun.  Henry began to close the door, but Adam stopped him.  “Henry, when you retire you should look into being a doorman.  You would be so good at it, and you would still get to wear a uniform,” Adam said.

Henry smiled a very flat smile through pursed lips.  Adam knew he would pay for that one later, but maybe Henry wouldn’t do anything because Alice had heard the exchange.  Henry’s eyes seem to say the same thing, but then Adam caught a glance of Wendell.  There was a promise of a whole lot of hurt there.  Yep, definitely a statistic.

“Miss Abernathy, he is all yours, unless you wish us to take him back right now,” Henry said.

Alice sighed and shook her head.  “That is tempting, but no, I need to prep him for sentencing tomorrow,” she said.

“As you wish,” Henry said to Alice, but he kept his eyes on Adam.  Yeah, maybe old school would allow for some extracurricular activities tonight.  Adam shuddered as the door closed.