The next case on the docket read: Cumulative petty theft. There was no name given for the accused.
He raised his head. "Case 32456 will now be heard. Will the defendant please approach the bench?"
He looked up at the motley collection sitting in the front row of the courtroom, criminals of all different kinds ranging from a twelve-foot-tall Morglich to a small, furry, tabby-striped thing of a species he didn't recognize.
No one moved.
Justice Hommel suppressed a sigh. "A case will now be heard on cumulative theft."
The little furry thing stood up, switching a long, whiplike tail with a fluffy tuft on the end. "Uh, I think that might be..." Its voice started off strong and then got small and muttering and trailed off altogether at the end, apparently losing confidence. Perhaps the speaker had realized it was volunteering to be tried in Mirentian criminal court.
"Name?" Hommel demanded.
The alien swallowed and leaned forward, its large, pointed ears swiveling, its glittering black eyes wide. "Er, sorry?"
"Your name?" asked Hommel.
The small alien fidgeted with its handcuffs. "I don't, er... I don't have one, Your Honor."
"Does your species have any alternate methods of designating individuals?"
"Oh, we have names, usually. I think." Hommel raised an eyebrow. "I just... don't have one myself. I'm an orphan, sir." The alien looked at the floor and wrapped its tail around its legs.
If it thought it would gain sympathy with a sob story, it was mistaken. "Then what am I supposed to address you as?"
"Well, they call me the Bandit," the alien said with a flippant shrug, closing its eyes and tipping his head back. It quickly realized the judge was unlikely to be impressed with this little nickname, and it wilted slightly.
"I see. You're on trial for five hundred and seventy-one seperate counts of petty theft." The alien blinked a few times, and then inflated slightly, its ears pricking up in a rather jaunty fashion. "This qualifies you for trial as a felon. How do you plead?"
"Uh..." The Bandit looked around the courtroom, its large ears flicking back and forth. "Guilty." It shuffled its feet a little. "Yes. Guilty, Your Honor."
Good choice. Hommel had a file here of the evidence. There was absolutely no way this creature would have walked out of court.
"I sentence you to ten years of community service on Angere," Hommel said. He tapped the mallet. "The Bandit" squeaked its displeasure in a tiny voice that could be cheerfully ignored.
Fira checked to be sure she had plenty of ammunition. She did, of course. She always was prepared. She didn't know why she thought she might not be.
She checked her ammunition again. Okay, she'd just done that. She was being silly now.
She heard light, hesitant footsteps approaching. She picked her head up.
The prisoner was being hauled by the arm down the hallway. "Ow," it said, trying to pull back. The security droid didn't appear to notice. Security droids weren't that bright.
She glanced at the prisoner's file. He was a male. She'd never seen a member of his species before, and the sheet wasn't helpful there- it just said 'unknown'. It said 'unknown' under name, too. Weird.
The security droid dumped the prisoner at Fira's feet and then turned to leave. The prisoner hissed at its retreating back, revealing square-ish buck teeth. She thought he looked sort of rodentine in general, he had the rounded, hunkered-down shape of the mice she'd seen on Earth, but with stripes like a cat.
"My name is Fira Vitaja," Fira told him, noting the thick metal collar around his neck- a psychic-suppression device. "You will call me Officer Vitaja. I'll be escorting you to Angere." She glanced at the file. Low-level suggestive powers, eh? It wouldn't be her problem, he couldn't use them with the collar on, but she'd warn whoever she handed him off to.
"Fine," the alien said. His fur was sticking up. Either he was ticked off or he was scared of her or he'd just been a bit manhandled by the droid. Not being a member of a fur-bearing species and not having any friends or pets that were, she didn't know a whole lot about how to read fur. "What's Angere?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "Oh, you'll find out." She glanced at the file again. This little runt had been hauled in from the deserts of Shana. He must be used to sun and dryness. "You'll love Angere," she said with a smirk.
His ear twitched.
"What's your name, scumbag?" she asked.
"I don't have one," he said. "Call me the Bandit."
She didn't particularly want to call him that. She shrugged. She probably didn't really have to call him anything. "C'mon."
He followed her down the hall. She turned and punched the down button on the elevator. "How long is the trip?" he asked.
"Oh, about five hours." All the driving was the worst part of her job. Well, the driving and a few of her co-workers back at the base.
"Hm, okay," he said under his breath. His tail swished back and forth.
The elevator opened and they got inside. She folded her hands behind her back, looking up at the ceiling. Bleh, technically that was sloppy, she was supposed to be watching the prisoner, but he was in cuffs and a psychic suppressor. He wouldn't do anything to her if she took her eyes off him for a second.
He cleared his throat. "So... you're not from Angere, are you?"
Fira glanced over at him. "No. You've never seen a human, huh?"
"A what?" Gosh, those ears of his sure were twitchy.
"The Earth people. Don't call them Earthers or anything like that." She'd heard too many stupid variants on that to count. "They're humans. You can say Earthling, too, but people don't do that much. Just a word of advice." She didn't need to be advising the prisoner, it wasn't part of her job, but it was annoying when they used the wrong names for things the whole time she was transporting them.
"Human," he repeated, though his Shanian accent turned it into 'hummen'. "Got it."
He didn't seem like a bad sort, as prisoners went. A wimpy little kleptomaniac. This should be an easy enough run.
He cleared his throat. "Ma'am, uh, I think there's been a mistake."
She raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"
"Yeah, see... I don't have any psi."
The suppression collar was notoriously unpleasant. Not having psi herself Fira probably would never really understand the feeling, but every prisoner who had it, bar none, tried to get out of wearing the collar. "Well, then, if you don't have it you won't mind wearing that."
He fiddled with his handcuffs, biting his lip. He had bony little rodent hands. "Uh, I'm allergic to it or something."
"Gee," she said. "Sucks." It wasn't like he had, say, a layer of fur between his neck and the collar. Oh wait he totally did.
He sighed. A serial offender like him had probably worn the collar before.
The elevator stopped and opened onto the ship bay. She led him down between the rows of ships to her little transport buggy.
"Get in the back," she said. He complied.
She started up the engine.
"I was sentenced to ten years," he said.
"Yep, I heard," she replied.
He nodded, his eyebrows furrowing. "Community service for ten years. I never heard of that before."
She felt a smile split across her face, exposing lots of sharp teeth. She drummed needle-shaped claws on the dashboard.
"Angere is special."
The Bandit hunkered down in his seat, his black oildrop eyes as round as saucers.
A/N: A little short for a prologue, maybe, but... I get nervous about posting my writing and I thought I should hurry up and post something before my nerves got to me, if that makes sense. The chapters will be longer.