©Neville Goedhals 2007. Visit my site at: www.NevilleGoedhals.com




by Neville C Goedhals


The dark wood paneling gave the courtroom a solemn but dignified air, in keeping with the weighty matters that it decided. A crest above the bench proclaimed ‘Planetary Court’ in gold embossing on a royal blue background, surrounded by fancy scrollwork. Barristers and trial lawyers bustled about in the open area in front of the bench, while a general hubbub of noise issued from the public gallery.

“Hear ye, hear ye!” shouted the Bailiff in a squeaky tone, attempting to project his voice above the uproar. “This court is now in session … Judge Rutcliff presiding.”

The Judge, imperious in his dark robes and styled wig, strode to his seat, grasping the gavel as he sat. He slammed it down with a “Wham!”, as if to warn all those present that he meant business.

“You may sit,” said the Bailiff—a few seconds too late, as everyone had already sat.

“What is the next case?” boomed the Honorable Judge Rutcliff.

“If it pleases your Honor,” simpered the Bailiff, “The next case is ‘the United Planets Organization’, hereafter referred to as the UPO, versus … I’m afraid that the name of the alien race defies translation or pronunciation your Honor—for the purposes of this trial they will be referred to as Alien-Race-47. They are represented by their Ambassador Extraordinary, the Honorable … Um, for the purposes of this trial he will be referred to as the Honorable He-Who-Barks.”

The Honorable He-Who-Barks read the translated transcript as it scrolled across the surface of the small desk at which he was sitting, situated almost dead center in front of the judge’s bench. As he read his alien bug-like eyes bugged even further.

“What is the charge?” rumbled Judge Rutcliff.

“Charges,” squeaked the Bailiff, before coughing and continuing in a somewhat deeper voice. “There are multiple charges your Honor. Alien-Race-47 is charged with permitting sub-standard education, starvation—” a disbelieving groan came from the public gallery, “…inviting criminal acts of every nature, and unplanned propagation!”

The public gallery rose as one, gesturing towards the defendant and muttering amongst themselves in disbelief. The Honorable He-Who-Barks glared right back, his spiked head-crest jutting in defiance, his colorful and glittering attire making him look like an angry bird of prey.

“Wham … Wham … Wham!” slammed the gavel.

“Order in the court … Order I say!” shrilled the Bailiff.

The spectators slowly sat, and the noise died down.

“I will have no such ruckus in my court!” roared Judge Rutcliff. “Now, I will hear from the Prosecution.”

A tall handsome looking man, impeccably dressed in a fashionable suit, stalked to a position just short of the bench. He smiled confidently at the judge and clasped his hands behind his back.

“Your Honor, I will first relate the background to this case,” began the Prosecution in rich, carefully modulated tones. “A UPO scout ship, under the command of a Captain Taylor, was surveying a relatively little known area of our galaxy, when his sensors registered a ship exiting Hyperspace. As per standing orders, he investigated, and came across a ship belonging to Alien-Race-47. They were extremely pleased to meet Captain Taylor, and once a translation program had been compiled, requested membership in the UPO. Captain Taylor explained that a survey of their world was required, and that an ambassador could then personally request admittance at UPO headquarters.

“This was agreed to, and Captain Taylor returned with them to their world to conduct a survey, and to later transport their ambassador to the UPO.” The Prosecution looked across at the public gallery, his face grim. “It seemed simple enough, but little did the Captain realize what horrors awaited him. Suffice to say, when he returned … he required extensive psychotherapy.

“At this point your Honor, with your permission, I wish to call on Captain Taylor to testify.”

Captain Taylor was an athletic looking man of middle years, whose face spoke of a lifetime of gazing into infinity. He was dressed in inspection whites, and a peaked cap was tucked under his arm in deference to the court, as he stood behind a podium alongside the Honorable He-Who-Barks.

Captain Taylor, how many worlds have you surveyed?” asked the Prosecution, walking back and forth in front of the witness stand.

“Over three hundred, Sir,” whispered the Captain.

“Louder if you please Captain.”

“It’s my throat Sir—damaged during an incident in the Clanderin Cluster. I—”

“Well, try to be louder then,” conceded the Prosecution, still pacing.

“More than three hundred Sir,” croaked the Captain.

“And what was it about this planet that first attracted your attention Captain?”

“It looked diseased from orbit Sir. The seas were green and the clouds gray. Upon landing I had to don a rebreather kit as the atmosphere contained high levels of toxins.”

“Indeed Captain, and what was the next thing you noticed?” asked the Prosecution, as his pace quickened.

“The children, Sir. They were everywhere. You felt like you’d trip over them. Hundreds, no, thousands of them … all ages, everywhere.”

A muttering began to swell from the public gallery, but fizzled out as the Honorable Judge Rutcliff gave them an angry glare.

“Just how many aliens were there on the planet?” asked the Prosecution straightening his necktie.

“According to their figures, over ninety-billion, Sir.”

Those seated in the public gallery sat in stunned silence, not believing what their minds kept insisting they had just heard. Even the Judge turned a disbelieving eye on Captain Taylor. The skeptical hush stretched, like a taunt string about to snap.

“Ahem!” coughed the Prosecution, making everyone jump. “And could that figure be corroborated, Captain?”

“Yes Sir. Their figures matched my own estimation.”

“One of the charges leveled at Alien-Race-47 is permitting sub-standard education.” The Prosecution hooked a finger behind his necktie, loosening its constricting grip. “Please explain what prompted this charge?”

“Sir, our survey found that a tiny minority of children received excellent tuition, while a further ten percent received, what we would term, basic schooling,” rasped the Captain as loudly as he could. “A further fifty percent received a minimum of useful education.”

“And what about the other fifty percent Captain?” queried the Prosecution, as he retied his necktie—it had come undone during his earlier ministrations.

“Forty percent!” bellowed the Honorable Judge Rutcliff. “Damn it man, can’t you add?”

“Um, yes … forty percent. Ah, thank you your Honor,” mumbled the embarrassed Prosecutor, as he lost track of which fold in his necktie he was meant to do next. “Uh, Captain?”

“No education whatsoever Sir.”

The public gallery erupted in mumbling, gesturing towards the Honorable He-Who-Barks—some of the gestures being downright rude. The defendant shrugged in disdain, his scintillating finery reflecting spots of light like an overgrown mirror-ball.

“Wham … Wham … Crack!” went the gavel, and the crowd settled down.

“Get me another gavel Bailiff,” ordered Judge Rutcliff angrily.

“Your Honor,” said the Prosecutor, attempting to regain his dignity, “… documentation and visuals proving these facts are included in the report labeled Evidence – Exhibit A.” The Bailiff carried a thick volume over to the bench where he placed it before the Judge, positioning a new gavel on top of the evidence.

“Captain, and what about Alien-Race-47 permitting starvation?” continued the Prosecutor, deciding that retying his necktie from scratch was the only logical move left.

The Captain tried to talk, but found he couldn’t. The memory of his survey—all the pain and suffering he had witnessed—brought a lump to his damaged vocal cords. With tears in his eyes, he keyed a pocket remote.

A holo-screen appeared in the air alongside him, and slowly he scrolled through the visual evidence, one picture at a time.

If Alien-Race-47 had looked different before, their starving children looked even stranger, as each heart-wrenching scene showed a horror more terrible than the previous. There wasn’t a dry eye in the court. Even the Honorable He-Who-Barks was affected, as he unconsciously rubbed an appendage across his strange head, flattening his orange spiked crest.

“And … and what … what about them inviting criminal acts?” asked the Prosecutor trying to get his emotions under control—forgetting a crucial step in tying his necktie.

“It was terrible Sir,” grated the Captain. “Robberies, murder, rape, chemical abuse—”

“But how did they invite these acts Captain?”

“Well Sir, they consider the acts as criminal, but—”

“Aha! So they are aware that these acts shouldn’t be permitted,” declared the Prosecution, ensuring that everyone had taken note of that very important fact, and getting a finger caught in his necktie.

“Confound it man! Leave that damn necktie alone!” snarled the Honorable Judge Rutcliff. “Bailiff, take his tie away from him!”

While the Bailiff was loosening his tie, the Prosecution continued, trying to peer over the top of the Bailiff’s head. “So Captain, you were explaining how they invited the acts?”

“Sir. Instead of terminating those who repeatedly perpetuate criminal acts, they simply place them in a small cell for a while. If they run out of cells for other offenders, then they let them loose … to continue committing criminal acts.”

“It almost sounds like us, back in the stone-age,” growled Judge Rutcliff as he glowered at the Captain in disbelief.

“Yes Sir,” continued Captain Taylor, “and there’s almost as much crime in these institutions, where they keep the offenders, as outside. In fact, many offenders use their time in such places to learn more criminal skills, or make contacts who can assist in future criminal acts.”

“Unbelievable,” remarked the Prosecution, fidgeting with his belt-buckle. “And what would make Alien-Race-47 do such a remarkably stupid thing?”

“It’s all related to the final charge Sir. The fact that they have no planned propagation.” The Captain looked at the ground in mortification. “It is … it’s … very hard to recount this Sir, but … well, what they do is … the male and female copulate, and the male fertilizes the female. If a child comes from the union, then they raise it.”

“I fail to see anything amazing about that Captain,” remarked the Prosecution. “After all, this is the same for all races within the UPO.” He adjusted his belt-buckle a further notch.

“But Sir, they can make as many offspring as they desire, and there are absolutely no tests to ensure that the offspring are viable.” A muttering began to rapidly build in volume from the public gallery. “Why, even when it is visibly apparent that a child is not viable, it is still raised along with other children.”

The public was on their feet again, their voices raised in dismay.

“Wham … Wham … Wham,” smacked the gavel onto the bench, the Judge putting all his effort into destroying either the bench or the gavel.

“Calm down! Silence!” shrieked the Bailiff.

As the volume slowly muted, a loud yapping sound became evident—it was the Honorable He-Who-Barks.

“Silence!” hollered the Judge. But the Ambassador Extraordinary, the Honorable He-Who-Barks, was not to be silenced. “Ambassador, if you don’t keep quiet, I will have you removed from my court!”

The Bailiff made his way to the Judge and spoke softly to him.

“Very well,” thundered the Judge irritably, “it’s possible Ambassador, that you are new to such proceedings, and I will take this into account. What is he saying Bailiff?”

The Bailiff stood alongside the defendant’s desk and read the column showing the translation.

“Your Honor, he wishes to know what Alien-Race-47 is meant to do with their non-viable children.”

“WHAT?” bellowed the Honorable Judge Rutcliff, the volume of his voice drowning out the noise from the public gallery. Neck veins standing out, his wig shaking with suppressed rage, the Judge pointed his gavel accusingly at the Honorable He-Who-Barks, and gave him a piece of his mind.

“All races go through a stage of broadminded stupidity,” shouted Judge Rutcliff, “but then they become civilized, and begin to follow kinder, more benevolent practices! We, the members of the UPO, were once well-meaning idiots, raising funds for third world countries, sending relief missions … we even had well administered organizations dedicated to providing food, shelter, and medical attention. But, by the time we discovered Hyperdrive, we had found our compassion!” He gave the defendant a condescending look. “You terminate all non-viable offspring of course—it’s the only logical and practical thing to do!”

Yap, yappity, yap, yap!” responded the Honorable He-Who-Barks.

“Um, he says ‘You mean you kill them? How barbaric!’” translated the Bailiff.

“You call me barbaric!” thundered Judge Rutcliff. “Did you see the pictures of your starving children? Why do you think you can’t feed everyone … or give them an education … why do you think you have so much crime. Damn it man, nature can’t select your strongest, or best—the most viable—to continue your line. You’ve reached a point where you’ve taken over from nature. There are no natural limits to your propagation anymore. It’s up to you now, Alien-Race-47, to perpetuate your species in a logical and controlled manner. How the hell did you ever manage to invent Hyperdrive, let alone fund it? How many millions could you have fed and educated with the money?” The Judge shook his head in resignation, almost causing his wig to fall off. “What is your defense?”

“Yaps, yap, yappity!” responded the Honorable He-Who-Barks with an added gesture.

“Um, I believe he doesn’t wish to present a defense,” remarked the Prosecution, adjusting his belt.

“I got that!” growled the Honorable Judge Rutcliff. “And leave that belt alone or I’ll have the Bailiff remove it also.” He turned to face the Honorable He-Who-Barks, and slammed the gavel down with a “Whack!”

“This court hereby finds Alien-Race-47 guilty of all charges,” stated the Judge gruffly. “Following the recommendation given in the survey report …” The Judge paged to the end of Exhibit A, “…Alien-Race-47 is given two of its solar rotations to clean up its act. This includes terminating nine out of every ten of its offspring, based on an approved viability test—a kit containing examples will be provided to you. Also, three-time criminal offenders must also be terminated. We believe that once these steps are taken, that everything else will fall into place. Should Alien-Race-47 not comply with the sentence in the given time-frame, the UPO will send a squadron to do it for you.”

“Wham!” went the gavel.

“Next case Bailiff!” boomed the Honorable Judge Rutcliff, as nictitating membranes slid across his multi-faceted eyes.

The Prosecution, his tail twitching in suppressed glee at his success, went to collect his necktie from the Bailiff.


As the Honorable He-Who-Barks, or Ambassador, Sir Elvin Snodgrass, walked out of the courtroom, trying to prop up his sagging spiked-and-dyed Mohawk, he wondered just how in creation he was ever going to explain it all to the Secretary General of the United Nations, back on Earth.


----- o -----