People come trickling slowly into the courtroom. Today is a very big case indeed, and the Hrothgarians intend to crack it. Everyone takes their places. Jericho McLaine prepares her stenotype, making sure it’s as loud as stenotype-ly possible. Karl Bickerstaff stands up and hammers his gavel, thus silencing everyone as we begin.
“We are here today to address the case of the murder of Luthien Glorfindel. Tobias Hrothgar, please state your case.”
Hrothgar stands up and faces the judge. “I have reason to believe Janessa Southwark murdered Luthien Glorfindel.”
Murmuring and exclamations resound throughout the room. They quickly stop when Bickerstaff glares at them.
“Are you certain, Hrothgar? I was sure that it was the Macedonians who murdered her.”
Southwark sighs. “I’ve already told you countless times: Luthien Glorfindel was one of my aliases.”
“Silence!” Bickerstaff says. “Please continue, Hrothgar.”
“What better explanation is there for Ms. Southwark to claim Glorfindel is a past alias than in order for her to cover up for her crime?
“There are other explanations,” Karl disagrees. “We are all well aware of Macedonian mind-warping technology.”
Tobias nods slowly as his face is filled with realization. “Janessa, think. Do you remember the Macedonians?”
“There were no Macedonians,” Janessa says with exasperation. “I used the name Luthien Glorfindel as a cover while I was working for Ronin Shadowwalker.”
Bickerstaff looks thoughtful. “‘ Shadowwalker’ has a distinctly Macedonian sound to it.”
“Maybe they’ve merged Luthien’s memories with Janessa’s,” Tobias suggests. Then he adds in a whisper, “Or maybe Janessa was the one they killed and it was her memories that they forced into Luthien’s mind.”
“Which would make Jericho a witness,” Karl declares. “Jericho, did you witness such a thing?”
Jericho continues typing away unaware.
“Jericho, please pay attention.”
Ms. McLaine mouths Karl’s words as she continues to type them out.
“JERICHO MCLAINE!” Janessa yells at the top of her voice.
Jericho jumps so hard that the stenotype falls off the table and her glasses end up across the room.
“Now that we have your attention,” Karl clears his throat. “I need you to tell me: Jericho, are you a witness of the Macedonian murder of Luthien Glorfindel?”
“Or Janessa Southwark,” Hrothgar adds.
“Um, let me think… Yes, I do remember that, but it’s a confusing jumble of memories.”
“Interesting. Next question: Am I Clint Eastwood in an alternate universe?”
“Maybe in one of them.”
“Would you care to elaborate on that answer, Ms. McLaine?”
“Well, ya see, there’s a lot of alternate universes, and I haven’t visited all of ’em.”
“Indeed, and why not?”
“Well, ya see, my alternator blew out.”
Karl looks down at her menacingly. “So, you mean to tell me that you failed to properly examine your equipment before starting on a potentially dangerous journey to the utmost regions of the Paracosmos?” He shakes his head in disappointment. “And yet you claim to be an expert, Ms. McLaine. I’m terribly ashamed of you.”
“Well, technically it might not have exactly been mine,” Jericho says timidly. “And due to unusual circumstances, I was in quite a rush, so you must excuse my errors.”
Karl strokes his moustache. “What sort of unusual circumstances are you referring to? Could you be insinuating that you stole someone else’s alternator?”
Jericho clears her throat. She does this a second time. She tops it all off with a third and final throat clearing (enunciated perfectly, complete with an accent at the end) before she explains importantly and much aloofly: “I do believe, Mr. Bickerstaff sir, that I filed a report which one with the necessary clearance level might have access to, but it is otherwise confidential. Or did I forget?”
Bickerstaff smiles knowingly. “Ah, but fortunately we have someone with the clearance.” He looks out into the crowd. “Mr. Torfleman, would you please step forward?”
Absolute silence responds back emphatically.
“Mr. Tyson Torfleman? You are being called to witness.”
The audience begins to look around at each other, in search of the missing witness.
“Could you have meant Borfle Beffisman?” Jericho inquires.
“No, I believe it was Tyson Teffis Torfleman,” Tobias counters.
“Or could it have been Teffis Tyfle Torsonman?”
“Or Boris Biffleman, perhaps.”
“Where is that boy?” Karl mutters. “He’s ruining my prosecution.”
“You summoned?” Torfis is seen standing directly behind Jericho, making her jump once again.
“Oh, there he is,” Karl says, which most people would call ‘stating the obvious’.
“I haven’t been paying attention at all,” Torfis admits, “What’s going on here?”
“Oh, just practicing your name,” Jericho explains, as ignorant as ever, “And also other things.”
Bickerstaff proves more knowledgeable of the situation by asking, “Mr. Torfleman, you are an expert on trans-dimensional alternators, is that correct?”
“I’m prosecuting the Macedonians—or maybe I’m defending them, I don’t know— but I need you as a witness.”
“Well, I’m not sure I’m qualified to—”
“Anyway, we need your expert witness about trans-dimensional alternators.”
Torfis leans in closely and whispers, “I don’t know that is.”
Karl looks confused. “You have the clearance to Ms. McLaine’s permit logs, isn’t that correct?”
“Uh, maybe?” Torfis shrugs. “I am unaware of Jericho’s activities outside of our meetings. If I were to watch her all the time, I’d be considered a creep, wouldn’t I?”
Janessa stands up. “I can attest that she did file her logs. After all, I happened to be there.”
“No one asked you, Janessa,” Karl says, brushing her aside. “I think you’re on trial, actually.”
“Or are you really Janessa at all,” Hrothgar asks, narrowing his eyes.
“Yes, Ms. Southwark was technically there seeing as we merged minds. Or memories, more accurately.
“You and Southwark merged minds? Interesting.
“Young Borfis, I did not say you had to watch Jericho all the time. She said she filed a report, and you have clearance to view these reports.”
Jericho nods matter-of-fact-ly even though she wasn’t paying any attention to that last bit.
“Did she or did she not file a report, Mr. Tiffleman?”
Torfis scratches his head. “Maybe. Yes, I believe she did.”
“Thank you, Boris, that will be all. Both of you may return to your seats.”
Jericho sits down obediently.
Karl Bickerstaff clears his throat so loudly and ominously that it could be mistaken for the rumble of thunder. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury…”
He is interrupted by an unsteady squeaking sound. Turning around, he finds McLaine to be spinning around in her swivel chair. He glares at her very noisily. So noisily, in fact, that Hrothgar calls out, “Objection!”
“Overruled,” Karl sniffs.
Jericho’s squeaking grows much louder as the swivel chair comes to a slow halt.
“I’m the jury,” says Tobias, countering Justice Bickerstaff.
“Objection!” the judge cries out.
“Overruled,” Jericho responds, now that she’s figured out the game.
“Dratnabbit,” Karl snaps his fingers. “Anyway…
“Ladies and Hrothgar of the jury: Ms. Southwark earlier claimed that she had merged minds with the one and only Luthien Glorfindel whom the Macedonians supposedly murdered.” He paces back and forth, gesturing dramatically with every word. The whole audience is watching him, their heads turning left and right.
“However,” he continues, twirling his finger in the air, “according to Ms. McLaine’s testimony, she and Ms. Southwark had already merged memories. How could this be? It’s simple: Someone is lying, and I will prove it.”
People are whispering even more than ever before, shocked that such a thing could happen.
Jericho is typing with a fierceness that has only been seen in her eyes when someone else has reached the last doughnut before her. She is eager to get everything down. Karl glares at her noisily again.
Meanwhile, Teffleman is somehow tied to a chair by accident. He bumps into Bickerstaff in an attempt to get free, and Karl redirects his noisy glaring to the poor boy.
“What actually happened was as follows—” Karl tried to begin before he was interrupted by Torfis.
“Um, might I request some aid, your honor?”
“Present thine evidence already, ye weary snail!” Jericho yells impatiently.
This earns her several very exasperated sounding glares which she fails to realize are directed at her, so she shushes Torfis in annoyance.
“If I might maintain order in the court, I can continue,” Karl pounds his gavel on the ceiling.
“But—” Torfis tries, but then Ms. McLaine shushes him with great force and volume so he has no choice but to be quiet.
When all was still, Karl continued and Jericho started typing again. “The Macedonians never murdered Luthien Glorfindel.”
Jericho McLaine gasps in shock.
“This may make them appear to be innocent,” Karl goes on, “However, they are not.”
A collective gasp is heard throughout the room from all those who only just caught up with Karl’s previous statement.
The stenotype breaks in surprise. Nearby attendants try, without success, to fix it. One of them loses a finger in the process. When they give up, Jericho pulls out a pen and begins to scribble on a piece of paper.
“While they did not murder Luthien Glorfindel—hereafter to be referred to as Glorfindel—they DID use some technology they developed. They used a highly advanced Dryer-Flux Lint Memory Alternator to modify young Ms. Southwark’s memory, thereby forcing her to sabotage the alternator that Ms. McLaine was about to use. Ms. McLaine would never suspect her close ally.
Jericho stopped writing and nervously patted her head.
Bickerstaff goes on, pacing as purposefully as before. Tobias paces with him, stroking his chin all the while (his own, not Karl’s). “Now why would they do this? What were they hoping to accomplish by keeping Jericho from traveling the Paracosmos?”
Janessa sits in the corner strumming out a mystery-solving tune on her ukulele.
“Well, it’s because Ms. Southwark’s only friend, Ronin Tethson “Shadowwalker”, is, in fact, the only surviving descendant of the lost princess, Anastasia, who, as we all know, is still alive today and who is currently operating a pink dryer lint shop in London.”
“Excuse me,” Jericho says, “is it the dryers, the lint, or the shop that’s pink?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” Karl answers absently.
Jericho jots down a quick reminder to dispose of her dryer as soon as she gets home.
“The Macedonians wanted to steal Anastasia’s revolutionary lint technology for their Dryer-Flux Lint Memory Alternator, so they changed Ms. Southwark’s memory in order to cause…” He pauses for effect.
Jericho leans in closely to listen, accidentally pressing several keys on her stenotype. Janessa is plucking out a suspenseful melody. Torfis scoots nearer and Tobias finds himself enraptured by a butterfly. Everyone in the audience is on the edges of their seats.
Everyone sits back down as they were before. The butterfly flies into a ceiling fan and it flaps away dizzily as Tobias loses interest.
“But the real plot goes much deeper.”
Tobias is now pacing in the opposite direction that Karl is, and Janessa is strumming more intensely. Torfis is still sitting patiently in his chair, quite—ah— tied up, if you will. Jericho raises her hand and Karl pushes it down before he continues speaking. “They did not want the lint technology at all. In fact, the Dryer-Flux Lint Alternator was not even significant technology to them. The distraction was actually a distraction in itself. That is to say, they created a distraction so that they could create another distraction.”
Jericho raises her hand again and Karl sighs with exasperation (Janessa strums with exasperation). “What is it this time, Jericho? I’m busy.”
“So they’re distracting themselves?” she inquires inquiringly.
“No, they are distracting us. Unfortunately for them, I’ve caught on to it.”
“What if that’s just what they want you to think and it’s part of the plan?” Tobias asks.
Karl ignores him and Jericho asks another question. “Also, how do you spell Annastayjia?”
Sitting down, Bickerstaff puts his head in his hands and sighs again. “Not now, Ms. McLaine.”
“Remember,” she says importantly, “I’m writing this all down.”
“Spell it phonetically.”
“And preferably in morse.”
Karl gets back to pacing about the same time Tobias faints for reasons no one even bothers looking into. “What they’re really doing is working for the dairy companies of the world!”
Another collective gasp through the room as everyone just now realizes what Karl said about Anastasia still being alive. The only string on Janessa’s ukulele breaks.
“This is all because the dairy companies faked the moon landings.”
“Oh dear, not this again,” Torfis complains. He attempts to scootch his chair towards the door, but then he gives up after realizing his feet somehow got tied down.
Jericho sets down her pen. “Does this mean the Dryer-Flux Lint Memory Alternator has moon-cheese components?”
“I’m getting there, Jericho.”
She goes back to scribbling violently on the page.
“The dairy companies faked the moon landings because they didn’t want people to know that the moon is actually made of cheese, the reason being that we would then have moon-cheese startups—which, I might add, could sell the vastly superior moon-cheese for less since moon-cheese farming is more economically efficient. It also tastes better, which is a nice bonus.”
Ms. McLaine is now putting her shoulder into her scribbling, making huge loops with her arm that go far beyond the paper itself.
Ms. Southwark is now eating freshly fried donuts, served atop her broken ukulele.
No one’s done anything about Hrothgar.
Teffleman is attempting to play the piano with his nose, but he’s having trouble doing so in a dignified manner.
Karl is now pacing sideways, like a crab, and he’s speaking faster all the while. “By keeping it a secret, dairy companies can now sell moon-cheese for the same price they used to sell earth-cheese.”
“Scandalous,” Jericho comments.
“Which means they make huge profits.”
“‘Oh, but how does this concern the Macedonians?’ you may ask. I’m getting there.”
McLaine sits with a tub of popcorn, her feet resting on the desk. “This is my favorite part,” she says with her mouth full.
Justice Bickerstaff shoots her exuberant glaring noises that could wilt pharaoh’s heart before continuing on. “The Macedonians also wanted to keep the truth about the moon a secret, because if people knew, they would put observatories on the moon—which, I might add, is quite habitable.
“The Macedonians didn’t want this. Why? Because those observatories would be able to look down on earth. Specifically, the ocean. More specifically, a certain part of the ocean; a part which is known as the Bermuda Triangle, where the Macedonians are hiding the NAUTILUS, a theory on which Ms. Southwark can provide additional evidence.”
Janessa looked up at the mention of her name, her face covered in powdered sugar.
“Janessa, please state your evidence on the matter of the NAUTILUS being hidden in the Bermuda Triangle.”
She stands up about the moment Torfis bangs his face on the piano and it comes out with a very pleasant chord. She pulls a paper out of her pocket and recites what is written there out loud.
* * *
“For centuries, scientists and conspiracy theorists alike have attempted to explain the mysterious ship disappearances within the Bermuda triangle. Everything from bad weather to paranormal and supernatural forces has been blamed for the tragedies that have occurred in said location. However, I have come up with a different theory.
“Jules Verne – a French author – became more widely known for his literary work 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA. However, his life before he became a published author is rather vague. We know Verne’s date and country of birth, the school he went to, and a few other irrelevant details, yet his late teen and early adult life are somewhat unknown. My theory is that the events in 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, or most of them, at least, are true. The individual adventures may not be, but the existence of the notorious Captain Nemo and his machine are not the myth we have been led to believe. According to my theory, Verne was one of the three captives of the NAUTILUS written about in the aforementioned novel and he wrote the alleged “fiction” to ensure that no one would ever suspect the existence of such a vessel. If you recall from the end of the book, the destruction of the NAUTILUS is not confirmed, it is rather sucked into the “Maelstrom.” According to my theory, the NAUTILUS has been passed down from captain to captain and is now – as we speak – prowling the depths of the Bermuda triangle, waiting to destroy any vessel that travels her waters. However, the NAUTILUS must now remain within the triangle so as to avoid detection from other submarines in the rest of the oceans.
“Now as for the plane crashes? That’s a theory for a whole other time.”
* * *
When she’s finished, she neatly folds the paper and puts it back in her pocket. “I have spoken,” then she sweeps her way out the door, her cloak swooshing dramatically behind her.
Karl glares philosophically after her, hoping she hears it. Jericho attempts to make glaring noises too, but without any success. Instead, she makes grimacing noises that emit from her ears. After a moment of attempting, she turns to Mr. Bickerstaff. “And what is your final verdict, Your Honor?”
“Ah, I’m not the Honor, Ms. McLaine.”
“You have no honor,” Jericho says back politely, putting in earplugs so she can listen to her music.
Karl whips his head around. “Now, hang on a second…”
Southwark swoops back into the room and watches, eyes wide.
“That’s not what I said,” Karl disagrees. “In this case, Your Honor would be Mr. Hrothgar.”
Tobias suddenly sits up, wide awake. He’s now wearing a large wig and his clothes have switched with the clothes Karl was wearing only moments before. He grips a large wooden gavel in his hand.
“Oh dear,” Janessa sits down and shakes her head.
Jericho pulls her earplugs so she can see better. “He’s what?”
“I’m what?” Tobias echoes, yanking off the wig and taking his hat back from Karl. He stares and the clothes he’s wearing now.
Karl nods slowly. “Unfortunate, but true, especially given that I have reason to believe he is in league with the Italian-Sicilian-Rebellion organizers.”
Jericho raises her hand. “Um, I agree with Mr. B’s suspicion.”
Tobias stands up and begins to speak. “It was actually the divine Mongolians that caused the Italian-Sicilian-Rebellion I believe. They are the cause of most of our problems. No, I’m the cause of most of our problems. Well, it doesn’t matter.”
“Yes, but what is your verdict, Jury?”
“My verdict is…”
Hrothgar sits for a long time, thinking. Everyone leans in, waiting to hear the answer. “…that the cheese is innocent; free of all charges.”
“I do hope my notes are legible,” McLaine says.
Karl rubs his eyes under his glasses. “Yes, I think ‘hope’ is the proper term there.”
Janessa raises one eyebrow. “The—Tobias, that’s not what we’re asking.”
“But what of the Macedonians?” Karl asks pleadingly.
“Also, I need a new inter-dimensional alternator,” Jericho adds. “Preferably lint and cheese free.”
“I’m afraid I don’t have enough information to decide upon my verdict,” says Tobias.
“Were you not listening to my speech?” Karl flaps indubitably.
Tobias looks at the floor where he’d been lying then he looks back up again. “Jericho, can I read through your notes?”
Jericho hands them over and Hrothgar looks over them, wearing Bickerstaff’s glasses. Not a sound can be heard aside from Teffleman’s snoring since he’s fallen asleep on the piano, his face smushed against the keys.
“They’re typed up until the typewriter broke, then they’re handwritten,” McLaine explains.
“It’s a stenotype,” Karl corrects.
Tobias furrows his brow. “All I see are numerous scribbles and the drawing of a dog.”
“Wait, no,” Jericho takes them back and looks over them. “Yeah, that actually a moon-cheese inhabitant, not a dog.”
Janessa chuckles. “Tobias, you wouldn’t know moon-cheese inhabitant art if it hit you in the face.”
“Screaming ‘PIGEON,'” Karl adds.
“Well, it didn’t hit me in the face,” Hrothgar points out defensively, “so there’s that.”
Jericho looks proudly at her art then gets back to drawing more.
“Ah, I see,” Tobias says, looking at the typewriter notes. “They seem to be typed in Gallifreyan.”
Karl looks over Hrothgar’s shoulder—without even trying—and says, “No, that’s not Gallifreyan; it’s Klingon written in the Gallifreyan script. Get it right.”
“I wish I could see a Gallifreyan typewriter,” Jericho says dreamily.
Torfis lets out a loud snort in his sleep, interrupting Karl’s know-it-all routine.
“What are we going to do next?” Janessa asks impatiently.
“Well, isn’t it obvious?” Karl says.
Everyone looks around at each other and shakes their heads.
“Next comes the commercial break, then we bring in Mr. Tethson.”
He looks at his watch and smiles widely. “Ronin Tethson “Shadowwalker”, the last descendant of Anastasia and rightful heir to the throne of Russia.”
To be continued… I think.