Time Enough To Die, by Francesca Quarto

Published on by Francesca Quarto

His lawyer, Gracie McFarland, stepped away from the bench with a graceful pivot.  Her client heaved a deep sigh, knowing she had been successful in getting a key piece of evidence thrown out. 

The state's attorney, a woman with impeccable grooming and style and as much personality as a manikin,returned to the Prosecution's table, averting her eyes from his face.

The trial had lingered on now for over a month.  The jury was beginning to show the wear and tear as they squirmed and shifted in the tightly packed rows confining them.

He studied each one from behind his dark wrap-around glasses.  The Prosecutor loudly objected to these at the beginning of the trial; saying they would be used to intimidate the jury.  She quickly relented when he removed them, showing her a mutilated eye socket where his eye should have been.  That was a much more disturbing sight he figured, than a pair of sun glasses.  

Also, she didn't want him getting sympathy.  She wanted him getting a needle.

"Getting you off from a murder charge, won't be the slam dunk you're used to Carter!"

Gracie McFarland was in her scolding mode.

"Your money won't impress the jury one bit.   Getting the Court to throw out the necktie, only raised more speculation among the jurors about your relationship to Pati. And I'm not satisfied with your answer regarding that either, I might add."

Carter Noble was one of the country's magnate-playboys.  He inherited a small fortune and grew it into mega billions through his Interstellar Investments Corporation.  IIC employed thousands throughout the colonized Galaxy.  They had huge holdings in mining and resource reclamation, on a dozen or so planets and held rights to explore on a dozen more.  Carter liked to brag that he ruled the universe, but that was before Pati.

He was in his Terra Verde offices when her antiquated space craft landed at the equally ancient, Canaveral site.  The world went wild with excitement as the story unfolded.  

"Female astronaut steps out of history, lands at space port after centuries in cryogenic state!"  screamed the digital papers.

The news feeds were blazing hot, with descriptions of her and her condition.  The fact that Interstellar owned the old space station, meant the visitor had become part of Carter's space interests.  He jetted down the coast the next day to meet his newest find.

Pati was lying in a pale green hospital room at IIC's Medical Arts and Enhancements building, on what was one of the old Keys in Florida.  After the oceans rose, the Keys were inundated and eventually replaced with what amounted to floating cities.  The huge complex of pontoon-like structures were old technology by the time of Pati's arrival, but like everything else around her, this was a new world.

When he walked into the Passive Environment suite she occupied, Carter was struck by the unique opportunity he had to speak with a space traveler from a distant past. She would be very impressed no doubt, in fact, awed, by the progress in space flight.  

Her back was to him when he stepped into the hushed environment of the softly lit room.  The figure on the special, non-intrusive restraint bed, was slight, almost child-like.

He was greeted by a six person team of doctor's and nurses sitting at a long row of consoles, monitoring the patient's every breath and change in pulse rate.

The lead doctor shot to his feet when he saw the visitor was non-other than "Mr. Universe" as he was jokingly called by his staff.

"Sir!  Welcome, sir.  We had no idea you would be here so soon.  Allow me to brief you on the astronaut's medical condition."

Carter listened intently to the information thus gleaned by the medical team and specialists in Space Medicine.  Summed up, Pati (her name was carefully stamped on the coveralls she had been wearing), had been stabilized, and she would be ready to be interrogated any minute.

When her eyes finally fluttered open, Carter was fully expecting her to be disoriented and very frightened in the strange surroundings.  Instead, he saw her slowly rotate her lovely head of golden hair, taking in all of the room and its occupants without a flicker of fear.

Her face was beautiful and stopped his breath when her deep green eyes finally came to rest on him.  She sat up and began to stretch like a pampered kitten.  Her body was remarkably lush and full for having been in hibernation for at least four Terra centuries.

It was only a matter of days before Pati had brought the rambunctious Carter Noble to heel.  He never left her side and granted every wish and whim as if she was his Mistress.  And then, she was!

He moved her from the medical complex, to a condo on the seventy-fifth floor of his magnificent Noble Needle; a slender structure of steel and glass.  He was a daily visitor to her glassy aerie, leaving the media to rave about the "romance from the stars!"

Except it was nothing like that.

After her first three months with Carter, Pati began to show signs of restlessness and displayed a rising level of anger at her situation and with him.

"I am not your plaything, Carter!  Keep your hands away from me if you want to keep them attached!" 

One morning after a particularly violent attack on him when he asked for a morning kiss, Pati came at him armed with the curved knife she's been using on her favorite Iowa grapefruit.  He had bent down to offer his lips to her and instead had his eye scooped out like so much pulp.

He fell backward just as she was reaching for his silk necktie to take the other eye, ripping it off his neck in the process.  She lurched backward losing her balance, falling into a heavy chrome and steel kitchen chair.  The momentum of her actions catapulted her toward the vast wall of glass and its fantastic view of the Noble's world surrounding them.

This view was much improved as she smashed like a wrecking ball through the glass and without the benefit of a space ship, landed once again on Terra Firma.

Carter, sans one eyeball, was taken into custody and charged with murdering his famous protege, after an obviously vicious fight for her life.

The courtroom was packed with media and those who followed such events with prurient enthusiasm.  It seemed likely, Carter Noble would be found guilty after so much damning evidence of his obsession with the late space traveler. 

But that was before someone among the courtroom visitors sprang to his feet shouting.

"He's innocent!  I have proof that that woman was not what we thought she was."

The judge allowed this introduction of new evidence, since it was Noble's head that was at stake.

"I have been researching the archives from the time of her flight in that old junk of a space craft.  It was actually on its way to the old Penal Colony, New Australia, when it was taken over by some of the prisoners. The deceased was the ring leader.

Her name stamp read "Pati", but I found out that was an acronym.  It stood for "Political Assassin Team 1".  She was on her way to the gallows," he concluded and sat down.

Following his release, Carter Noble's own existence seemed frozen in time: his great love, his remarkable piece of history, were no more than so much space dust in the light of the truth.   But then, so much of this universe is found in the dust bins of history.



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