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.”