I did a short story. So there.
‘God dammit, Robert! Will you just listen to what you’re saying? Just fucking think for a minute about what this would actually mean. Have you ever even read a book?’
Of course he hadn’t read a book, at least one that wasn’t in legalese. Nate knew that. You didn’t get to be a judge by reading a broad spectrum of literature. You had to be focused, like a laser beam or archaic Latin nonsense.
Robert’s chair creaked as he calmly placed his hands on the desk. ‘You need to relax, old friend. You’re overreacting. This is a tailored decision, unique to this case, there’s not going to be any grand and binding precedent.’
Nate looked over at the man to his left. His client. Or the man that had been his client. Or hadn’t been but now was. The language was all very confusing. It didn’t sit right with him, and when he tried to pinpoint exactly why, he didn’t like the answer either.
‘It’s… it’s unnatural,’ the weak retort of someone who was lacking in the necessary intellect to truly be worth listening to. That was what he had thought before this day. ‘Besides, he hasn’t served his sentence.’
‘Tell me, Nate. Tell me exactly what his sentence was.’ Robert was leading him by the hand now, the soft tones of a man so secure in his victory. He didn’t need to raise his voice or argue, the facts would be enough, and he knew that Nate knew this too.
And Nate was aware of this. He was just clawing for something, anything, to turn the tide. ‘The rest of his natural life.’
‘Indeed. A great deal of time and effort has been put into describing exactly what constitutes a natural end to a life.’
‘But getting stabbed in the showers –’
Robert raised his voice carefully, just enough to cut off Nate. ‘What is a more natural death for a criminal than to find himself on the wrong end of a shiv, old friend?’
It was all semantics. It had long been held that anything short of suicide was natural in these cases. The whole thing was rife with loop-holes and technicalities, but you needed some serious cash to exploit them, so who cared. It’s not like a rich man would commit any serious crime.
Except, of course, for Randall Tilsley, who killed thirteen girls over six months because their eyes were the wrong colour. He had inherited a fair bit of bank from his parents. Maybe the rich had always bought their way out of prison, but nowadays it was even easier.
‘He served three months.’
‘It was, as laid down by the law, a natural death. This entire hearing is a formality. If you keep fighting this, fighting your own client, they’ll disbar you. This hearing is a matter of public record, you know that. Don’t throw it all away for this.’
And Nate looked down at his client, quiet as he had been through his advocate’s tirade. Not even a smile. He had expected him to flash the chilling sneer Tilsley had wore as a matter of habit, as though his face fell into contempt by default. Maybe it was there, behind the face, the lips peeling back inside his head to let the fangs peek out.
Or maybe Tilsley still hadn’t grown accustomed to the new body yet. It was a new brain, new neural pathways for his diseased thoughts to work their way through. It would understandably take time for the filth to creep its way into every room in that new, youthful head of his. It had managed the eyes, at least. They were keen and observant, not as they had been before the transfer.
The eyes snapped up to look at Nate for a split second.
Then back to Robert.
Nate closed his eyes and sat down slowly. What was there to say?
Robert nodded and turned his attention to Tilsley. ‘In accordance with the law, this panel hereby declares that Randall Tilsley, deceased, has fulfilled his sentence to the letter of the law. He is therefore released from his obligation to the state, pursuant to Article 6 of the Transferral of Consciousness Act 2044.’
Tilsley turned to Nate once again. There it was. There was that damn smile.