This will be the first inauguration of Dead Story Day here on Foil and Phaser. What is dead story day? A day to post a story in any condition. Got an outline you want to write the story for, but have somehow shelved for over a year? A half finished short story you may or may not come back to? or a completed first draft of a story you dread revising so much you’ve avoided it for months? This is the place for those!
I suspect these posts will end up coming in two flavors (but only time will tell if I’m right): The “I had this idea, but I’m not sure how to proceed, but I plan to come back to it eventually” post and the “I had this idea and it’s a pretty good idea, but I have NO intention of coming back to it” post. My story today will be of the second variety, I have no intention of coming back to this story. If it deeply inspires you, take the idea and run with it, you won’t have any competition from me.
This post will have three parts 1. I’ll explain a little about what inspired the story 2. I’ll post the story in its current condition (in this case half finished and unedited. Expect run-ons you’ve been warned.) 3. A few words about why I abandoned the story and don’t plan to continue it.
1. About this story (4,200 words):
I got the idea for this story when I had jury duty about a month ago. Me and some of the other jurors were talking about the Jodi Arias’ trial and how much it must have sucked to be on that jury because it was like six months long and they got sequestered, etc. I happened to be reading an action adventure type Sci-fi story at the time where the characters break several laws (knowingly) and I got to thinking what it would be like to be a juror on their trial…
2. The Story as is:
Jeromy had been excited to receive his jury summons. Technically a freelance writer, in reality he spent most of his time playing mister mom to his three young children. He roughly calculated that a whole day of jury duty would be the longest he’d spent away from all his loveable, screaming, snot-rags in over a year. A little return to the adult world and the clean, cold sanity of the court system would do him some good. Knowing himself to be out of practice using the stations tube system, he kissed his wife and children good-bye a full hour before he was due to report. It ended up being a good notion, as he missed his second changeover and was forced to backtrack in order to catch the floor to floor lift like he intended.
He arrived at the courthouse near the center of the station at the heart of Triton 2’s government, only five minutes early. A little surge of pride prickled Jeromy’s veins as he strutted through the halls of democracy and justice. Triton 2 was a self orbiting solar station held in the sun’s gravity halfway between Earth and Venus. Jeromy had been born and raised there, as had his parents.
After passing security, he followed the large signs to the jury waiting area and lined up to check in with the clerk. A middle aged man with a bored look on his face and engraved in his posture. He scanned a young woman’s jury summons with a handheld computer Beep! “Please take a seat, Miss Ernest.” He said with a glance at the screen to verify her name.
Beep, “Please take a seat, Mr. Yen.”
Beep, “Please take a seat…”
The line snaked down towards the man docily noting their presence and Jeromy began watching the other jurors in the room. Unlike himself, everybody else seemed thoroughly depressed to be there. A girl, Jeromy could not believe she was eighteen, although she must be or she wouldn’t have been summoned, had curled her entire body up into the seat of a little plastic chair and fallen asleep. An elderly woman dozed on the other side of the room, her head tipped back and mouth open. Another man, dressed in an impressive suit, sat tapping his right middle finger on a leather briefcase as he menacingly stared down the line of potential juror’s yet to sign in.
Beep, “Please take a seat, Mr. Williams.”
Jeromy barely glanced at the civil servant as he handed back the summons. He chose a seat as far away from both the businessman, and his line of sight. He waited for the process to finish and continued his survey of the room’s inhabitants.
Akio Kimura counted ninety-nine jurors as the last, a middle aged man who should have known better, wander in ten minutes late. Akio was not pleased to receive his summons. He had officially emigrated to Triton 2 a month ago and never expected to be called in. His birth station was Jupiter’s moon Europa, and he had no desire to emigrate. However, it made certain business transactions process faster if one held a citizenship inside the asteroid belt, and between Triton 2’s historic leniency towards immigration and his undisputed business interests on the station, the transition had been smooth. No matter, this inconvenience of his new citizenship could be cured in a few hours. Akio fully intended to make it to the office by 1pm station time.
“Everybody’s here now.” The overweight, incompetent man in charge of them announced over the speaker system.
Akio’s lips pressed flat. Of course they were all here! Ninety-nine was the maximum number of jurors the station could call in for any one jury selection session. He remembered reading that in one of the government books he had memorized for his citizenship test.
“Right then,” the man continued, as he maddeningly checked the time on his watch even though his tablet surely told him. “In about thirty minutes I’m going to give you all further instructions.”
The corners of Akio’s mouth turned down and the tempo of the rhythm he beat against his briefcase speed up. After the agitation worked out of his fingertips, Akio pulled out his own tablet and began reading through business reports. His firm, Takahashi Associated was in the middle of several major acquisitions. After the disaster at Cooper’s Station the market was suddenly flooded with assets in every area. From manufacturing, to research, to existing infrastructure a glut of resources became available at bargain basement prices to anyone with the pockets to shell out for them. As the senior official in the acquisitions department of TA, Akio’s always stressful job had become almost unbearable in the past two months. Almost.
“Okay.” The man returned looking out at the mixed assortment of humanity, “You all need to report to department one. It’s on the outer ring, you can catch the red express direct to there from the tube platform outside. You need to be there at noon, that’s…” he flipped his wrist again to check the watch and Akio’s brows knitted together, “an hour and a half from now, you should have time to grab lunch on the way out. Good luck.”
Akio stood and headed to the station without glancing at anyone else. So much for being done before lunch. The courts on Triton 2 were so inefficient. As he hustled out, a man with bright eyes and a smile bumped his shoulder in the press.
“Sorry,” Jeromy said with a wave.
“I wonder what kind of trial it is.” Jeromy’s black eyes lit up and he barely even noticed his audience was the belligerent looking businessman, “Sure is a lot of us to call at once. Last time I was here for a civil case and they only took twenty of us. I wasn’t even called for selection, they pretty much just took the first twelve.”
Akio grunted again and hurried past.
“Must be something big.” A middle aged woman Jeromy had noted earlier agreed. “Sure hope I don’t get picked.”
“Oh, I don’t know. It might be exciting.” Jeromy answered.
“I doubt it.”
“That murder trial last year on Mars was the talk of the galaxy. Couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about it, imagine having a front row seat to that.” Jeromy tried again.
“Imagine being sequestered for six months,” the woman countered.
Jeromy shrugged and found himself out of obvious topics. The woman moved off when they reached the tube station, and Jeromy flipped out his handheld to read a book while on the express. District one had its own stop right at the edge of the station, but Jeromy exited a stop early to find some food. After lunch he walked the rest of the way to pass the time and sat in the lobby reading for twenty minutes.
At noon a bailiff in tan pants, a green button up shirt, and with an impressive black utility belt stuffed with the tools of his trade stepped into the lobby. “If you are reporting for jury selection for district one, please follow me.” he announced and Jeromy trotted off after him.
“What’s the case?” Jeromy asked the bailiff as they snaked through the corridors.
“The judge will tell you when you get inside,” the bailiff answered and stopped in front of the courthouse door. Raising his voice he addressed the room at large, “I’m going to read role. When I say your name, please step into line, starting directly in front of me with Ahmed. Ahmed, Akira.”
A small woman stepped in front of the bailiff and Jeromy slunk back into the crowd to wait. Once they all lined up, the bailiff passed out little plastic necklaces with a big plastic number, Jeromy was number ninety-seven. Alphabetical order is stupid, he thought as he slide into place.
After handing the last man his number the bailiff called over the strangely quiet gathering, “Everybody ready? Follow me!” Obediently they trooped after him.
The first ten people had passed through the second set of fine, wooden double doors when a collective groan issued from the lifelong lucky few with beginning-of-the-alphabet surnames names. Jeromy craned his neck to see, but only noticed the doors. Real wood, he bet. They must be here for something big if the selection was being held in the best room on the station. Jeromy thought he recognized the doors from way back in his journalism days. He had attended a visit from an assortment of Earth dignitaries as part of the press core a month or so before the birth of his first child had cut his career short. The event might have been in this very room.
When Jeromy crossed the threshold he took in a sizable room with twenty rows of chairs arranged in three groups with two aisles between them. On the far wall behind the judge’s bench, an expanse of space dominated by the sun splayed across the entire room. Jeromy knew it was a view from the stations outside camera’s, but this close to the outside of the station, he could not help but believe it an expanse of transparent material. Yep, same room, he thought.
A barricade separated the rows of chairs from two long tables. To the right of the tables, the jury box was set up with a double row of seats. His eyes swung across the six prosecutors, six defence attorneys, and six defendants.
“Sweet baby Jesus!” Jeromy muttered as his eyes widened in shock.
“All potential Jurors please take your seats.” The judge, an older woman with a face made to wrinkle and a voice made to croak, called, “The sooner we get started… well the sooner we get started.”
A half-hearted chuckle fluttered out of the crowd as the prosecution and defense sat after the last of the jurors.
“Unless you have been living in deep freeze, I’m sure you recognize our defendants.” She continued, “As you may have guessed, this is to be the trial of Captain Octavio Vazquez and his crew lately of Cooper Station.”
“Judge we previously asked any mention of Cooper Station be strictly forbidden during jury selection.” Captain Vazquez’s defense attorney mused off with a greasy smile.
The judge barely flicked her eyes onto the man, but everything about her face said shut-up. “The government of Triton 2 has agreed to hold the trial here. As no part of the incident in question directly affected Triton 2, it is the hope of all involved that we will be able to select an impartial jury and hold a fairer trial here than elsewhere in the solar system.”
A few snorts of derision echoed from the group of ninety-nine citizens. Jeromy, along with everybody else wondered how long this would take. His initial reaction was to fervently hope he would not be selected. After a few moments of think, he changed his mind. If Jeromy ever wanted to write an inter-planetary best seller, his experience as a juror on an infamous trial was sure to be the golden ticket.
“Normally, I would read you the charges now, but as there are over a thousand currently levied, I hope to read a shorter list to those who are selected to serve. For now it’s important to know this, I hope to have this trial completed within a year. If you believe you will be unable to serve for a year, please let us know. You are all to be sequestered, starting now. You will be released from sequester only after the trial if you are selected as a juror or an alternate juror. If you are not selected, you will be released from sequester only after the final jury is selected or by special exemption. Understand.”
“Yes,” they chimed.
“Good. The court reporter, Miss Yin will now call twenty numbers, would those twenty people please take a seat in the jury box, or in the front row on the right as directed.” The judge finished and leaned back in her tall chair to watch.
“Juror number thirty-nine, please take seat one. Juror number five, please take seat two. Juror number ninety-seven, please take seat three…” Jeromy started when his number was called, but composed himself and squeezed out between the others. Sitting in his new seat in the jury box, he glanced across at the defendants.
Octavio Vazquez met Jeromy’s eyes across the room, and a little electric jolt ran down Jeromy’s spin. Octavio looked away from tall, dark-skinned juror number three and studied the rest of the procession. He still could not believe he was here. His crew had saved humanity. They should be receiving medals of honor, hordes of adoring fans, and wealth beyond imagination. Not this insipid trumped up trial.
Questioning the first twenty jurors took all day. Each of the six prosecutors represented one of the many companies, governments, or interplanetary groups Octavio had managed to piss off. The military prosecutor form the Martian Air Force was particularly tedious. Mars had petitioned to hold its own secret military hearing, but been shut down by the other entities involved.
The attorneys held a side bar at the end of the day and dismissed sixteen of the first twenty candidates. Although juror number three stuck around, which heartened Octavio. Number three seemed like a good natured guy. The judge gave some monotone instructions and dismissed the potential jurors.
A troop of court officers filed in and lead Octavio and his crew back to their holding cells. Octavio shared one with his medical officer, Uri Toknato, but he wished it was with Lana Riker, the pilot. Too bad the outdated gender segregation notion still held in prison. Uri was smart, but couldn’t hold a candle to Lana’s curves when it came to company.
“Whew,” Uri exhaled after the door slide shut, “That Martian sure is a bulldog, huh?”
“Yeah. If it wasn’t for the Martian’s we never would have been charged with anything!” Octavio responded, throwing his arms in the air, his voice dripping with disgust.
Uri raised an eyebrow and cocked his head to one side, “How do you figure?”
“If they hadn’t followed through with their laundry list of excessive charges none of the others would have.”
“I doubt that. The Helios Environmental Defenders would have pressed charges regardless…”
“Bunch of environmental nut jobs. Who cares about space debris, I mean really?”
“And the government of the Calisto Colony has a pretty strong case about the illegal docking…”
“Such a minor infraction. You’d think they could cut a band of bona fide heroes a little slack.”
“The manslaughter and wrongful death charges from the company themselves weren’t just going to disappear, not to mention the civil suit.”
“Who’s side are you on anyway?” Octavio demanded, leaving off his pacing to get in the other man’s face.
“Yours of course. It’s not like I have a choice. I would like to emphasis the gravity of the situation, however. Your flippant attitude might not impress the jury…”
“Pft,” Octavio waved away the comment and flopped on the bottom bunk.
The next day was much the same. The courtroom and surrounding area remained surprisingly devoid of journalists, a fact which irked Octavio. He expected more of a media frenzy, but evidently Triton 2’s efforts to keep the proceedings under wraps were working. Jury selection dragged on again. Another twenty potentials up and only three selected.
By the third day, word of the Cooper Station trial had leaked out. Local media from every inch of Triton 2 descended on district one. Octavio waved and smiled as the bailiffs led him inside for the day. After the thrill of the crowd, the day of cut and dry jury selection seemed even more arduous. The fourth day saw a bigger crowd as gawkers mixed in with the legitimate journalists. The fifth, and final day of jury selection, the masses were tamed by an organized security force.
The twelve regular juror spots and first alternate spot had been filled, but give the predicted length of the trial, the court called for five other alternates. Octavio watched as the last nineteen potentials were interviewed. His eyes fell on a businessman, whose anemix skin tone and bizarre body type marked him as someone born on an outer planet moon before artificial gravity became standard technology. Extremely vexed, was the mildest description of the man’s reaction to potentially becoming a juror. Octavio found himself annoyed that his defense was even considering keeping the man. Here sat the poster child for what he and his crew had been fighting against when they blew-up Cooper’s Station. A corporation gone mad with power and overblown self importance.
“So you’re business has suffered no ill effects from the losses sustained by The Theta Corporation as a result of the lose of their Cooper’s Station outpost? In fact you benefited from it?” Octavio’s lawyer asked.
“Correct.” Akio answered.
“Mr. Kimura, do you think my client is guilty? Or can you hear all the evidence in this case with an open mind?”
Akio paused and considered the distasteful man before him. What could he say to get excused? After days of watching others go through this same ritual, he thought he would have found a pattern. “Like everybody else, I’ve seen the news. I’ve watched videos and seen footage of Cooper’s Station being blown up by a ship commanded by your client.”
“That doesn’t answer the questions Mr Kimura. Could you keep an open mind about my clients guilt or innocence on the specific charges being considered in this trial?”
“Yes.” Akio was forced to admit. “I would try to give them a fair trial.”
Why?! A voice in the back of Akio’s head screamed as the questioning moved on. Why couldn’t you just lie? Say no. It’s not like these guys care about your honor. It’s not like they deserve it.
By the end of the day, the jury was set, with Akio as the third alternate. He returned with the other jurors to the posh visitors quarters they’d received. Logging in to his tablet, Akio began tapping out instructions to his company, staying within the judge’s orders and not discussing the case. They had all been informed on the first day of service that their electronic devices were being monitored and any discussion of the case could result in contempt of court charges.
Laying back in the too soft bed, Akio wondered if he should send a message to his children. He had not spoken with either of them in some time, but give the media frenzy surrounding the trial, he thought they might like some warning. If he should be identified as a juror, ever small time journalist on Europa would surely try to speak with them. Instead he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Several days of trial passed. The first step was to agree on the final set of charges being pursued by the prosecution, and none of the jurors were actually present for it. Being in sequester, the group could only speak with each other, although they seemed to have little to say. Akio did not avoid the others, but did not seek to engage them either. A tactic many of the others adopted as well. Juror three was a notable exception, and often attempted to strike up conversations with variable success.
After three days of waiting, the jurors were called back into the courtroom. Transformed by the bustle of media and beset by protesters for and against the accused. Returning was like walking into a different world. The final formal charges were read, which took all day. Akio watched the monitors behind the judge. He considered his promotion to full juror unlikely, and therefore his attention unnecessary.
Outside of Triton 2, the sun spun slowly across a backdrop of glittering stars. Growing up on Europa in one of the floating domed cities, Akio had seen a variation of the view many times before. On his home world, the sun was more distant, and Jupiter occluded a quarter of the sky like an adult standing over a naughty child. Europa’s day was three and a half Earth days, while Triton 2’s day was only eight hours. The relatively rapid rotation of the station was designed to produce its own gravity in the days before artificial gravity machines were invented. A little too much gravity for Akio’s taste.
“Objection your honor!” One of the defense attorneys yelled. Akio payed him passing interest due simply to volume.
“Sustained. Counsel Brightmen, I ask you to please raise your objections like an adult or will overrule them out of spite.” The judge croaked.
“But your honor…”
Even in the short interval the trial had been progressing for, Akio had developed a respect for the judge. He suspected the trial finishing in under a year would be accomplished through sheer force of her will alone.
Jeromy began the first day of the trial paying rapt attention and taking copious notes. By the end he wondered how long he could keep it all up for. The enormity of the trial struck him as he walked back to his hotel room. This was his life now. It would be for at least a year. It made him want to run home, to kiss his wife and children. He missed the battle of wills involved in feeding their two year old. He even missed the resulting vomit his victory normally brought. Part of him felt he had made a mistake, but he could not avoid jury duty and being selected to serve was utterly outside his control.
A message from his wife informed him that his parents had transferred their residence a few doors down from his own house and were helping to pick up the child care duties. She still sounded stressed and he looked forward to the date when he would be allowed back home to visit. The jurors would be allowed out of sequester at least one weekend a month, the first date was set for three weeks in the future. Part of Jeromy was surprised at how fervently he looked forward to then.
Eleven days into the trial, the controlling coalition government of Isidis Planitia fell apart. Jeromy learned this along with the other jurors when they walked into the courtroom. Several reports from the jackal pit called out to them with the oddest questions.
“How does the no confidence vote on Mars affect your view of the prosecution?”
“Does this change your opinion of the theft charges?”
“Do you agree with the citizens of Isidis Planitia? Was the prosecutor from the Martian Air Force performing sub-par?”
The jurors cast a few confused looks at each other as they walked in. Several glanced at Jeromy, and Atheana, juror number nine, mouthed something he didn’t catch. Jeromy only shrugged, he had no idea why the jackal pit had changed its tune so drastically overnight. It did feel good to know several of the other jurors turned first to Jeromy for comfort. His plan of being friendly, optimistic, and talkative was paying dividends with information to include in his book. He could already picture how the cover would look when displayed on a tablet in the virtual bookstore.
“We’ve received word this morning,” The judge drooned once the jurors had taken their seats, “That ruling coalition in Isidis Planitia disbanded yesterday. It’s expected that the new government will pursue their own case against the defendants and we’ve received word that a new prosecution team is already on their way. The charges won’t formally be filled until they arrive, however as the government of Isidis Planitia are the actual owners of the warship Jaguar, the portion of this trial pertaining to its alleged theft will henceforth be postponed until this mess is sorted out.”
Jeromy groaned and his annoyance was accompanied by several other jurors emitting sounds of derision. So far, the trial had been all about the theft of Jaguar. The judge surely couldn’t strike all the testimony. What if the new counsel wanted to call back all the witnesses? Could they do that?
“We ask the jurors to bear in mind that coalition governments fall apart all the time.” The judge continued speaking in a bored tone. Her expression and body language a well-honed wall of apathy. “The change in Isidis Planitia does not reflect anything on the state of this trial. Please consider only the evidence presented in the trail when making your final decision.”
Fat chance, Jeromy thought. The settlement in Isidis Planitia was the richest, most populous, and most powerful on Mars. They had been debating withdrawal of support from the planet wide defense force and several other planet wide initiatives for decades now. The decision final coming now was undoubtedly a direct reaction to the trial. The logical conclusion was the question the report from the jackal pit had yelled this morning. The people of Isidis Planitia felt the Martian prosecutor was doing a poor job, and the only way to rectify the situation was to declare independence. Political implications of the action chased each other around Jeromy’s head.
3. Why I stopped
Right about here was when I realized I wasn’t writing a short story so much as a novel. This is only the introduction for the idea I had in my head and it’s already over 4,000 words! A speculative fiction and law fiction crossover novel should be a thing, I would read it, but I have absolutely no business writing it. Jury duty is literally the total of my experience with the American Court system, much less international law or military law, which this story would undoubtedly stray into. Frankly, I don’t have time to do the research or write this story the way it appears in my head, so I gave up on it. There might still be a short story in this concept somewhere and I’m just not seeing it because larger story won’t give it space to breath, but there you have it. Thanks for reading and I appreciate comments. I’m curious if other people think sci-fi/law crossover is actually a good idea or if I’m totally crazy on this one.