By Ingvar: Having finally tied the nuptial knot with his beloved Coraline, Trigger Snowflake slowly walked through the front doors of the chapel, out onto Main Street, Coraline’s dainty hand cradled in his elbow. The general admiration and happiness from Fort Corallium’s inhabitants beamed at them in waves. Trigger and Coraline both waved, when all of a sudden, Trigger froze.
Coming up the street, begging-pan in hand, was Rick Ven Fleerbo. This was unconscionable, he had certainly been put in his place, but compounding that by illegally pan-handling on Main Street was definitely a few steps too far.
“Dearest Coraline, I know it is uncouth to leave the bride alone this soon after the wedding, but I see misdeeds in our community and I feel compelled to act.”
“Trigger, dear, I would not love you if it was not for your steadfast and slavish attention to rooting out wrong-doers and miscreants By all means tell this… this… this PAN-HANDLER what for.”
Trigger gently straightened his arm, adjusted his formal clothing, cleared his throat and walked towards Ven Fleerbo.
“Rick Ven Fleerbo, you have been found pan-handling on Main Street. This is not allowed. Please cease immediately, before I am forced to use stronger measures!”
Ven Fleerbo froze, his eyes darting to the dressed-up lawman. His prominent Adam’s Apple jostled up and down, as if he just swallowed some saliva. He rapidly grabbed the few coins and the single note from the pan, shoved his ill-gotten gains into his pocket, then nodded and ran away.
Trigger walked back to his wife, bowed his head in apology and extended a bent arm.
Mrs Snowflake placed her hand yet again into the crook of his elbow, as they walked back to the Sheriff’s Office.
Trigger woke up, for the first time beside his beloved Coraline. She was still fast asleep as he sidled out from under the covers, put on some clothes and headed for the kitchen. Then he remembered that his BrewMatic 3000 had not yet been repaired and in the plentifulness of yesterday’s schedule, he’d completely forgotten to stock up on breakfast cereal.
With a quiet sigh, he reached for the communicator. It was normally reserved for official business only, but this once it was a luxury he would allow himself.
Subject: Breakfast/brunch order
I know this is irregular, but this once I thought I would allow me the luxury of ordering food in, although using the communicator is quite expensive. Never mind, I shall just have to cover this cost out of my own pocket. Where was I? Oh, yes, brunch. I would like to order three grilled synthecheese, four of your delicious danishes, one black fresh-ground Colombian coffee for me, and you are probably better placed to choose the exact coffee that Mrs Snowflake would like, seeing as how you have been working next to her these last few weeks. It would be good if you can send a runner with the brunch.
When they had finished the delicious delivery brunch, Trigger finally got properly dressed and headed out for a somewhat later than normal customary morning stroll up and down Main Street.
On the second round, he heard something unusual, as well as unexpected.
“… for my taking Fort Corallium and that Snowflake to justice? Anything would be helpful, seeing has how it is not cheap, and the Sheriff has deprived me of my income, by destroying my chances to sell my work as Fort Corallium’s most prominent local poet.”
He lengthened his steps, this was clearly something for the firm arms of the law. He turned a corner and saw, not entirely unexpected, Rick Ven Fleerbo, holding a kettle, begging for money from people passing by.
“Ven Fleerbo?! What did I say about pan-handling?”
“Well, Sheriff,” smirked Ven Fleerbo, “I think the exact thing you said was that pan-handling on Main Street was out of the question. I did some quick checking, and it turns out you’re correct. Thus, I am kettle-handling, and I am doing so no less than five feet from Main Street.”
“I… I… You are correct, Ven Fleerbo. But you watch yourself, I am keeping an eye on you.”
Ven Fleerbo waved at the Sheriff. Unfortunately, this jostled the rather heavy cast-iron kettle in his off hand and he ended up taking two steps forward to recover his balance.
“Aha!” said Trigger. “You are now only three feet from Main Street and engaged in illegal begging. I shall again be lenient, just stop this obnoxious behaviour and be on your way.”
Rick Ven Fleerbo uttered a long string of crude and vile Venusian curses, then skulked off.
It was a month after the wedding, and Trigger still enjoyed every moment of being a married man. He and Mrs Coraline were currently enjoying a most excellent Sunday roast, in the upstairs dining room, a room that had been unused during Trigger’s time as a bachelor. But now it was used for their joint Sunday lunch, as well as for the occasional hosting of dinners, as the entertainment expected from recently-married couples.
Trigger was just about to put his fork to a bowl of delicious Neptune Mess, a dessert of sponge cake, ice cream, fruit jellies, jam, and several custards, swirled in a manner as to evoke the surface of the gas giant, when there was a loud knocking on the front door.
“Bear with me, beloved Coraline, as I check what is up?”
“You do that, dearest Trigger, the Neptune Mess will hold.”
Trigger went downstairs and opened the door. Outside was a courier, with a large box.
“Sheriff Trigger Snowflake? Of Fort Corallium?”, said the courier.
“Speaking,” said Trigger, “what is this?”
“Package for you. Sign on delivery, sir.”
Trigger accepted the package, quickly signed the counterslip and let the courier be on his way. As he placed the box on his desk, he heard Coraline’s voice from upstairs.
“What was it, Trigger?”
“A package of some sort. I have not opened it yet, I believe it can wait until after dinner.”
Having finally finished the Neptune Mess, as well as some cookies and coffee after dessert, Trigger headed back downstairs. It was a sturdy box, plywood and space tape. He drew his Stardust knife from the sheath on his right thigh, and slit the tape. He lifted the lid off the box and gasped loudly.
“What is it, dearest Trigger? You sound surprised?”
“Beloved Coraline, this is completely unexpected. I have received a law suit. I have not yet checked the inner pocket for the circumstances, but I have a sinking feeling I know exactly what this is about.”
Trigger unpacked the clothes, and felt in the left pocket of the vest, where by custom the reason for the law suit was stashed, so as to make it possible to construct a coherent defence. Looking at the paper slip, it seemed he could linger as much as three hours before he needed to start for Luna, where the Planetary Alliance System Court had its offices and court rooms.
Sheriff Snowflake went upstairs, heart heavy in his chest.
“Beloved Coraline, the knock at the door was a court courier, delivering a law suit, bought by that odious bore Ven Fleerbo. Unfortunately, I need to set off for Luna in a few hours, and I must ensure I am properly packed.”
“Dearest Trigger, it is true that I will miss you while you are gone, but you are true and just, and so will prevail.”
“I wish I had your faith, but I have been these things go unexpected ways before. Sure, it’s uncommon, but that does not mean one shall completely discount the possibility. Ah, well, the suit has been brought, and I shall simply have to Sheriff up and do the needful.”
“This is Luna Traffic Control. Inbound sheriff shuttle SGW-2249, please vector on landing beacon Zed Zed Alpha. Once landed, please proceed to bay 58.”
“This is SGW-2249, vector on Zed Zed Alpha, then bay 58, understood.”
Trigger relaxed, the shuttle was sufficiently clever to follow a landing beacon and doing collision avoidance. This was possibly the most relaxing bit of the whole journey, since the autopilot definitely wasn’t smart enough for computing transfer orbits. Thankfully, the common misconception that the asteroid belt was neck to jowl with rocks was false, but that did not mean that needing to traverse it was stress-free. But, for the next 20 minutes, Trigger could simply relax, before needing to find the bay where his shuttle would refuel and wait for him, should the legal case go well.
Half an hour later, Trigger finished getting dressed in the law suit, the only clothes he would wear until he was fully a free man again. With a snort and a shake of his head, he stepped put of the shuttle. As he locked the shuttle up, a young woman walked towards him.
“Sheriff Snowflake? I am Herm Kiselo Rockblaster, clerk to the honourable Judge Belfries. Thank you for sending a signal with your estimated arrival, this has allowed the System Court to schedule the first, preliminary, hearing in fifteen minutes. If you would follow me?”
Trigger blushed, how could he have missed the signs? Not a woman at all, but a hermaphrodite. His only excuse was out in the frontier, where he lived, herms were primarily seen in popular entertainment, and as such were a bit more obvious.
“Certainly, Herm Rockblaster. Lead away.”
A few minutes later, they entered an opulent court room, panelled in what looked like genuine wood, definitely an imported luxury on Luna. Seated on the left, Trigger could see Rick Ven Fleerbo, sitting next to what looked like another Venusian. If he’d had more of a chance to prepare, Trigger would have brought an advocate, too, but hiring one was no trivial matter, and he had hoped he’d be able to see to that before even the preliminary hearing. Thankfully, Luna being the centre of legal wrangling that it was, it would not be hard finding an advocate that he could trust and work with.
Ven Fleerbo turned his head, as Trigger was walking down the aisle, to take his place on the front right, where the defendant’s assigned seating was.
“Snowflake! At least you’re not enough of a lily-belly to coward out. Would’ve been quicker, but this is more fun.”
Ven Fleerbo’s advocate tapped him on the shoulder, making a hushing gesture.
Trigger simply tilted his hat, then sat down.
The court room basked in an uncomfortable silence, until the door behind the judge’s podium opened and Judge Belfries stepped out.
“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Belfries is in the court. The court will now start preliminary hearings for Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake, in a matter of racial discrimination.”
Trigger took a deep breath, glanced to the left and saw Ven Fleerbo sneer in an unpleasant manner.
“This law suit has been bought by Rick Ven Fleerbo, a Venusian and a professional Sulphur Poet, against Trigger Bolt Snowflake, a martian, and a professional sheriff.
“If counsel for Ven Fleerbo would like to start?”
Ven Fleerbo started to stand, but his advocate quickly put a hand on his shoulder and whispered something in his ear.
“I am Slem Ven Pocketry, a Venusian and advocate for Rick Ven Fleerbo. We are here, because the defendant, Snowflake, has maligned my client, conspired to deprive him of income, caused hm to be ejected from poetry slams, and in other ways harmed my client, my client’s pride, and worst of all, deprived my client of income that was rightfully his. We intend to prove that this is because Snowflake hates Venusians, hates Sulphur Poetry and specifically has done all of these things because he wishes to deprive my client of all these things specifically because Rick Ven Fleerbo is Venusian.”
“Thank you. Advocate for… Ah, would the defendant please speak? And before you start, are you intending to stand pro se, or are you intending to find an advocate, should this go to full proceedings?”
“I am Trigger Bolt Snowflake, a Martian and a Sheriff. My intention was to find an advocate before the preliminary hearing, but with only fifteen minutes from setting down, I deemed it more appropriate to appear in person and on time. I will search for a suitable advocate, once this preliminary hearing is over.
“It is true that I was one of three people who caused Ven Fleerbo to be disinvited from the Coffee Emporium Poetry Slam, about two months ago. The person who made the actual decision was the manager of the Coffee Emporium, then Miss Coraline Hoyter, now Mrs Trigger Snowflake. But the chief reason Mr Ven Fleerbo was disinvited was because despite multiple pointed letters, verbal warnings, gentle reminders, pointed remarks and the like, Mr Ven Fleerbo failed to understand that what is polite in Sulphur circles is not acceptable behaviour on the moons of Jupiter. Simply stated, Mr Ven Fleerbo’s behaviour is incommensurate with furnished spaces, and that and that alone is the reason he was disinvited.”
“I have heard both sides in this preliminary hearing. I find that neither side has convinced me beyond reasonable doubt that their side will prevail. In accordance with the Planetary Alliance System Court’s rules and procedures, I declare that this law suit will proceed to full session. The court will reconvene tomorrow, at 09:07, for the start of the proceedings. I, Honourable Judge Belfries, hereby declare this court adjourned.”
Trigger left the third prospective advocate, glumly starting to think that he might, after all, have to represent himself. He stopped at a street corner, contemplating the pros and cons of such a strategy, when a familiar face walked past.
“Lilyberg? I thought you were still in Fort Corallium?!”
The man stopped, turned his head and started at Trigger.
“Pardon me? Do we know each other?”
“Ah, I am terribly sorry. You look very much like a man I know, Joseph Lilyberg.”
“Joseph Lilyberg, jeweller in Fort Corllium?”
“That’s the man. Again, terribly sorry.”
“Ah, no, it is no problem. Joseph is my brother. I am Emmanuel Lilyberg. May I trouble you for your name?”
“Trigger Snowflake, at your service.”
“Ah, Sheriff Snowflake? Joe has spoken well of you. What brings you to Luna in general, and Practice Street in particular?”
“I have had a law suit bought for me, and the preliminary hearing is already over, and I would very much like to find an advocate I can work with before the main session starts tomorrow.”
“Hm. If you have a few minutes, you can follow me to my office and I can do some due diligence. If this is the Flerrbo v Snowflake case, I believe I have an opening in my calendar, if primary session starts in the next day or three.”
“Tomorrow, 09:07, Mr Lilyberg.”
“Ah, excellent. If you would follow me?”
The following morning, Trigger followed Emmanuel (‘Manny’) Lilyberg into the court room. They were the first to arrive. They’d only been seated for a few seconds, when the doors slammed open. Rick Ven Fleerbo entered the court room, with swaggering steps, his law suit adorned with a yellow cape.
Ven Fleerbo and advocate sat down in the Plaintiff’s Section, smugly waiting for the proceedings to start. Trigger fidgeted a bit. He was surprisingly nervous, seeing as how he’d faced down multiple armed assailants, more than once. But, then, a duel on High Street at noon was a battleground he understood, whereas a court was well outside his comfort room.
The door behind the judge’s podium opened, and Judge Belfries stepped out.
“Let it be known that Honourable Judge Belfries is in the court. This court is now in session for Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake in a matter of racial discrimination. Is the plaintiff present?”
“Aye!”, said Ven Fleerbo, as he quickly popped to standing, then sat down again.
“Plaintiff is present. Is the defendant present?”
“Aye!”, said Trigger, simply raising his right arm over his head, fist clenched.
“Defendant is present. I see both plaintiff and defendant have advocates present. Excellent. Yesterday, we conducted a preliminary hearing, which did not firmly establish one way or another where the truth in this matter lies. The purpose of this session is firstly to establish the truth. Secondly, based on the truth found, determine where guilt lies. And, thirdly, dispense justice, retribution and corrective measures as the court sees fit.”
The judge paused, to allow for any questions from the floor. A few seconds later, no questions raised, the judge continued.
“The court calls Rick Ven Fleerbo, Venusian and Sulphur Poet. Please take the witness stand, and place your hands on the truth sensors on the railing. Tell us what your perception of the events are. Remember that you will be under oath. Lying to the court is perjury and punished by fines in minor cases, all the way up to imprisonment and work camps for severe cases. Your pulse, skin conductivity and the like will be measured and analysed after the session.”
Ven Fleerbo walked to the witness stand, placed his hands on the metal pads on the stand’s railing, took a deep breath and started.
“Judge Belfries, the court, the audience. I am thankful that the court has decided there is merit in this suit. Mere words cannot express the depth of my gratitude.”
Ven Fleerbo turned to the judge and demonstrated an infallible aim, projectile-vomiting straight onto the centre of the judge’s chest.
“It all started when my publicist tried to censor…”
Judge Belfries stood up and roared.
“The Court finds Ven Fleerbo in contempt! Without taking the witness stand, as it is not usable at the moment, defendant Snowflake, is what we just witnessed symptomatic of why Ven Fleerbo was disinvited from the poetry slam?”
Trigger stood up. “Yes, your Honour. It has been my experience that the plaintiff is incommensurable with furnished rooms, especially when he feels a need to express gratitude.”
Judge Belfries ripped his robes off. Thankfully, he wore a full set of clothing beneath.
“This court now dismisses Ven Fleerbo v Snowflake. With prejudice! Furthermore, the court finds Ven Fleerbo in contempt, and issues a fine of 500 Solars, to be paid no later than the end of the week. Even furthermore, the court charges Ven Fleerbo with an induction to not demonstrate gratitude in public, anywhere within the Planetary Alliance, except within Venostationary orbit. This session is now concluded.”
Trigger shook Manny Lilyberg’s hand, then entered his shuttle. It would be a long trip back, but at least he would be able to change back into his own clothes. And at the end of the journey, his beloved Coraline would be waiting. And hopefully this would be the last anyone heard of the odious Rick Ven Fleerbo.