an of the Jury," said the Judge succinctly, "will read the verdict."
The little native in the front of the jury-box popped up like a puppet on a string. "Defendant found guilty on all counts," he said.
"Defendant is guilty! The court will pronounce sentence--"
"Now wait a minute!" Zeckler was on his feet, wild-eyed. "What kind of railroad job--"
The judge blinked disappointedly at Paul Meyerhoff. "Not yet?" he asked, unhappily.
"No." Meyerhoff's hands twitched nervously. "Not yet, Your Honor. Later, Your Honor. The trial comes first."
The judge looked as if his candy had been stolen. "But you said I should call for the verdict."
"Later. You have to have the trial before you can have the verdict."
The Altairian shrugged indifferently. "Now--later--" he muttered.
"Have the prosecutor call his first witness," said Meyerhoff.
Zeckler leaned over, his face ashen. "These charges," he whispered. "They're insane!"
An interstellar con man is caught swindling the natives on Altair, and, rather than just killing him outright, the natives are convinced to put him on trial. The problem is that everyone on Altair lies. The con man has trouble presenting his defense because the charges are all invented, and all the witnesses perjure themselves.
This is one of those stories with a set-up more satisfying than the trick ending, but most of the story is amusing.
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2013 SFR GALAXY AWARD WINNER
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