The Pirates of Ersatz-Three

The Pirates of Ersatz-ThreeCourt trial

There was a fleet of police trucks in the shaded street outdoors. They piled him in one, and four cops climbed after him, keeping stun-pistols trained on him during the maneuver. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Derec climbing into another truck. The entire fleet sped away together. The whole affair had been taken with enormous seriousness by the police. Traffic was detoured from their route. When they swung up on an elevated expressway, with raised-up trees on either side, there was no other vehicle in sight. They raced on downtown.

They rolled off the expressway. They rolled down a cleared avenue. Hoddan recognized the Detention Building. Its gate swung wide. The truck he rode in went inside. The gate closed. The other trucks went away–rapidly. Hoddan alighted and saw that the grim gray wall of the courtyard had a surprising number of guards mustered to sweep the open space with gunfire if anybody made a suspicious movement.


He shook his head. Nobody had mentioned Zan, so this simply didn’t make sense. His conscience was wholly clear except about his native planet. This was insanity! He went curiously into the building and into the hearing room. His guards, there, surrendered him to courtroom guards and went away with almost hysterical haste. Nobody wanted to be near him.Hoddan stared about. The courtroom was highly informal. The justice sat at an ordinary desk. There were comfortable chairs. The air was clean. The atmosphere was that of a conference room in which reasonable men could discuss differences of opinion in calm leisure. Only on a world like Walden would a prisoner brought in by police be dealt with in such surroundings.


Derec came in by another door, with a man Hoddan recognized as the attorney who’d represented Nedda’s father in certain past interviews. There’d been no mention of Nedda as toying with the thought of marrying Hoddan then, of course. It had been strictly business. Nedda’s father was Chairman of the Power Board, a director of the Planetary Association of Manufacturers, a committeeman of the Banker’s League, and other important things. Hoddan had been thrown out of his offices several times. He now scowled ungraciously at the lawyer who had ordered him thrown out. He saw Derec wringing his hands.

An agitated man in court uniform came to his side.

“I’m the Citizen’s Representative,” he said uneasily. “I’m to look after your interests. Do you want a personal lawyer?”

“Why?” asked Hoddan. He felt splendidly confident.

“The charges– Do you wish a psychiatric examination–claiming no responsibility?” asked the Representative anxiously. “It might … it might really be best–“

“I’m not crazy,” said Hoddan, “though this looks like it.”

The Citizen’s Representative spoke to the justice.

“Sir, the accused waives psychiatric examination, without prejudice to a later claim of no responsibility.”Nedda’s father’s attorney watched with bland eyes. Hoddan said impatiently:

The Citizen’s Representative said hurriedly:

“You have the right to deny any of them, of course.”

“Why should I?” asked Hoddan. “I did them! But what’s this about me killing somebody? Why’d they tear my place apart looking for something? Who’d I kill, anyhow?”

“Don’t bring that up!” pleaded the Citizen’s Representative. “Please don’t bring that up! You will be much, much better off if that is not mentioned!”

“But I didn’t kill anybody!” insisted Hoddan.

“Nobody’s said a word about it,” said the Citizen’s Representative, jittering. “Let’s not have it in the record! The record has to be published.” He turned to the justice. “Sir, the facts are conceded as stated.””Then,” said the justice to Hoddan, “do you choose to answer these charges at this time?”

“Why not?” asked Hoddan. “Of course!”

“Proceed,” said the justice.

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