Author : Clint Wilson, Staff Writer

“Bring the accused forward.”

The robot sentries escorted Michael into the prisoner’s stand and closed the waist high gate behind him.

The magistrate read off his glowing pad. “Michael Maurice Frost, you have been charged with attempted corporate identification in the first degree. How do you plead?”

Michael cleared his dry throat. “Not guilty.”

Hushed voices erupted from the darkness all around. The magistrate manipulated a control and behind him a large screen lit up showing a CGI gavel that pounded audibly. The murmuring ceased.

“Well then, please tell me Mr. Frost, how many companies do you own?”

“Thirty-six your honor.”

“And what type of businesses are they sir?”

“Building supply stores your honor.”

“All thirty-six?”

“Uh, yes your honor.”

More murmuring from the darkness all around, again the gavel screen lit up and again the crowd was silenced.

“Well right there you are in strict violation of anti-corporate law number six.” Behind him the screen lit up again, showing the fourteen-paragraph law in its entirety.

The defendant leaned forward, “May I speak in my defense as to this violation?”

The magistrate made a sweeping motion with his hand, “But of course Mr. Frost. What say you to this charge?”

“My stores are quite different. No two sell exactly the same thing.”

Someone in the crowd yelled, “Shuffling!” Again the gavel banged.

The magistrate spoke. “As much as I deplore outbursts in my court, I have to agree with this rude and inappropriate audience member. Our investigators did find that you are guilty of the practice of shuffling. Just because each of your stores carries a minor item or two that the others don’t, doesn’t mean that they are engaged in different kinds of business.” He made a mark or two on his pad and then looking over his glasses said, “Argument invalid!”

There was a murmur of approval from the hidden crowd. The magistrate went on. “Now as to the charge of corporate logo infringement.”

Michael interrupted, “No two are the same!”

The magistrate leaned forward. “Do you think me an idiot Mr. Frost?” Behind him the screen lit up showing a cartoon handyman in blue overalls holding a handsaw. “Please identify this logo for the court.”

Michael responded, “That’s from the Mike’s Hardware sign in Sioux City.”

Beside it a very similar logo appeared. This time the handyman was in red overalls and was holding a hammer. “And this one?”

Michael cleared his throat again. “Crazy Mike’s Building Supplies in Topeka.”

A third appeared. This time the character was a cartoon beaver in yellow overalls holding another hammer but it was obvious that the same artist had drawn all three. “And this?”

Michael looked at his feet and muttered, “Big Mike’s Lumber in Calgary Alberta.”

The magistrate looked up from his the glow of his pad and said, “I could go on, but I don’t see any reason for it.” The gavel returned, replacing the characters on the screen. “Michael Maurice Frost, this court finds you guilty of attempted corporate identification, and sentences you to surrender all of your companies and their assets.” The gavel hammered once with finality.

“But, that’s not fair!”

“I’ll tell you what’s not fair sir!” He removed his glasses. “I can still remember a time when you couldn’t tell where you were anymore! It might be Chicago, it might be Vancouver, but there were those same damn yellow arches, those same four hotel chains, those same ugly movie theaters, and I will tell you good sir, I will never see us go back to those awful ways again. Court is adjourned!”

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