Author: David Henson

Captain Stanton’s attorney calls him to the stand. I know the blurry figure is indeed the captain, but it’s my job to prove he’s a murdering imposter, a Triklorian.

Earth opened its arms to Triklorian refugees after we over-mined their planet and nearly destroyed their environment. We brought millions here. They proved to be fast-learners, which, along with their elongated heads, was threatening to many people. The Enough Is Enough movement was born and convinced the governing council to ban further Triklorians and deport those already here.

Captain Stanton is a victim of the anti-Triklorian sentiment. He’s also a victim of extreme transporter degradation. While negligible degradation occurs with every beam-up and beam-down, a transporter malfunction turned the captain into something resembling an out-of-focus photograph.

Trying to avoid a lawsuit, my employer, Highly Advanced Technological Enterprises, denies the malfunction. They assert that the being claiming to be Captain Stanton is a Triklorian. They say he killed the captain and tried to shape-shift to take his place and lead the good life on earth. It’s a lie, but plausible. The Triklorians are known to be trying to reverse-engineer earth’s shape-shifter technology. The company maintains that the defendant is a Triklorian blurred out from a failed shape-shift.

When the captain takes the stand, his lawyer asks him to state his name and rank.

“Michael Stanton, captain, Interplanetary Safety Force.” His degraded voice sounds as if he’s talking under water.

I object. “It’s unproven this is Captain Stanton.”

“Sustained,” the head of the tribunal says.

As the fingerprints, dental work, and DNA of the captain are degraded, the lawyer asks him to verify his identity by indicating his age, marital status, career highlights, and so on.

“Meaningless,” I say, beginning cross-examination. “Information just provided is available to any Triklorian.” I lean close to the defendant. “If you’re Captain Stanton, you’ll know personal details not available on Trikloria, won’t you?”

“Yes,” he glubs.

“You and your wife had a young son, correct?”

“… That’s … correct.” The words are slushy, his voice sounding more deeply submerged.

“Please describe in detail the accident that claimed the boy’s life. The tragedy the real Captain Stanton blames himself for.”

The captain’s shoulders rise and fall. He tries to speak but can only gurgle. As I suspected, his grief, guilt, and degraded state render him unable to talk about his son’s death.

“You can’t tell us about this horror from Captain Stanton’s life because you don’t know, do you?” I turn toward the tribunal. “Because he’s not the captain.” I whirl back toward the captain and sneer. “You’re a Triklorian imposter, aren’t you?” I go at the captain hard. By the time I finish, he’s an emotional puddle.

The tribunal finds Captain Stanton guilty of murder and being a Triklorian. They sentence him to life imprisonment on his home world. As he’s being led out, he breaks free and approaches his wife. She shrinks away at first then collapses into his fuzzy hug.

A representative from Highly Advanced Technological Enterprises comes over and tries to shake my hand.

“I hate this job,” I say. “You need to find someone else.”

“We’re happy with you.” She takes out a blinking disc and hovers a finger over the keypad. “You know I can reverse it.” As she speaks, the bailiff separates the Stantons. The wife sinks to her knees.

It’s more than I can bear. I approach the tribunal and ask to see them alone in chambers. I pray they’ll believe me even as I feel my head elongating.