The two days before the trial went slowly for Smith. He had gone from the extreme of working long hours providing medical services to long hours of having absolutely nothing to occupy his time. He spent time working on the problem of the forcefield. He spent time pacing. He spent time sleeping. He spent time worrying. The only thing that lifted his spirits was spending time with the Robinsons, Major West, or other prisoners who came to visit.
When guards finally came to take him to the trial, he stood and worked the kinks out of his delicate back.
“Do you think I could at least get a proper bed in here? Maybe a blanket?” Smith asked as the forcefield was lowered.
The guards just shook their heads, grabbed his arms, and escorted him to the courtroom. A few guards chained the Robinsons together and escorted them as well. Mal J'hat knew they had been working with the doctor and wanted them to know what may be in store for them, should they continue what Smith had started.
The Robinsons and Major West were directed to sit behind the defendant. Their chains were secured to the seats and they were flanked on either side by guards. An Asmani guard, who must've been the equivalent of a bailiff, announced the arrival of the high council and directed everyone to stand. The high council took their seats and at the direction of the bailiff, everyone else in the courtroom took theirs. The Grand Master gaveled court into session.
“The high council will hear the case against Doctor Smith, accused of attempted murder of our great leader, Mal J'hat,” the Grand Master of the high council announced. “How does the defendant plead?”
“Guilty… with extenuating circumstances, your honor,” the defense counsel said.
“Excuse me,” Smith stood and addressed the council. “I wish to plead ‘not guilty'.”
A murmur rose up in the court room and the Grand Master quickly gaveled for order. The Grand Master addressed the defense counsel. “Did you not explain to the defendant that, under the circumstances, such a plea would be an insult to the court, counsel?”
“I did, your honor,” the defense counsel glared at Smith.
The Grand Master addressed the doctor. “You dare to insult the high council? You do realize attempted murder against our leader carries the maximum penalty of death in our society and the high council is to issue the ruling in this matter, do you not?”
“Yes, your honor. I mean, no, your honor. I mean, your honor, I do not mean to insult the high council. I did not attempt to murder Mal J'hat. I simply attempted to defend myself and young Will Robinson from attack. Therefore, I wish to plead ‘not guilty' to the charge of attempted murder,” Smith explained.
“Are you accusing Mal J'hat of a crime?” the Grand Master asked.
“Yes, your honor. Uh… I mean, no, your honor. I mean… what was the question?” Smith groveled.
“Enough of this nonsense,” the Grand Master commanded. “Clerk, enter the plea as ‘guilty with extenuating circumstances' as directed by the defense counsel.” The Grand Master pointed the gavel at Smith, “You, sir, would do well to listen to your counsel for the remainder of this trial.”
Smith cringed at the rebuke and shrank back into his chair.
“Not the most auspicious of starts,” West whispered.
“Shut up, Major,” Smith whispered back.
The prosecutor, smug smile plastered in place, began his opening statement at the request of the high council.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the high council, the defendant, Dr. Zachary Smith, attempted to murder our leader, Mal J'hat.”
Smith nudged the defense counsel. “Aren't you going to object?”
The defense counsel just shook his head.
“Then I will,” Smith said. “I object, your honor!” he cried.
“What do you object to?” one of the high council members asked.
“Your entire stinkin' species,” came West's whispered reply behind him.
Smith tried desperately to suppress a laugh, which resulted in a soft snort. He turned slightly and whispered, “Major, please.”
“I object to the prosecution stating as fact that I am guilty of the charges when no evidence or testimony has yet been presented,” Smith argued.
“You may do things differently where you come from, doctor, but here, we do not allow objections during opening statements,” the Grand Master declared.
“But what if…”
“We do not allow objections during opening statements,” the Grand Master repeated.
“Not even when…”
“Shut up and sit down,” the Grand Master commanded.
Smith's brow furrowed as he sat down and crossed his arms. He clenched his jaw to keep from saying something else he'd regret.
The prosecutor continued, “The evidence will clearly demonstrate the doctor's guilt and the witnesses will testify to the fact that they saw him squeezing the life out of Mal J'hat.” The prosecutor punctuated his point by slowly squeezing his hand closed in mid air.
“Now, the defendant will try to convince you that he was in mortal danger, but what motive would Mal J'hat have to harm a human he did not even know?” the prosecutor swept his arm towards Smith.
Smith shifted uncomfortably in his seat as all eyes in the courtroom turned toward him.
“It was only the timely arrival of four of the witnesses that saved Mal J'hat from certain death. Otherwise, Doctor Smith would be on trial for murder,” the prosecutor stated.
The prosecutor spent the next several minutes concluding his opening statement. The Robinsons, West, and especially Smith had been worked up by the blatant lies that had been spewed before the court. It took every ounce of will they possessed to keep from raucously taking exception to the prosecutor's statements.
The Grand Master signaled it was the defense's turn to provide their opening statement. Smith hoped his counsel would masterfully refute what the prosecutor had just alleged, but he sincerely doubted that would happen. He began to wonder how long the life expectancy was of any defense counsel that argued against Mal J'hat. He came to the conclusion that it would probably be only slightly longer than his own.
The defense counsel stood, cleared his throat, and began his opening statement. “Distinguished high council, Grand Master, ladies and gentlemen, you will hear testimony in this case from 5 witnesses, all but one of whom arrived after the altercation had started. That one witness will be able to corroborate Doctor Smith's contention that he felt his life was in danger.” The defense counsel quickly glanced over at Mal J'hat and his voice began to quaver as he backpedaled. “That is not to say that his life was in danger. We are not suggesting at all that Mal J'hat had any malice or criminal intent toward the doctor at all. We all know that our great leader, Mal J'hat, is an imposing figure and would strike fear in anyone.”
Smith rolled his eyes and turned to face his companions behind him. “I'm doomed…” he lamented softly.
Mrs. Robinson set a reassuring hand on his arm. Will whispered to him, “Don't think like that, Doctor Smith.”
Smith turned back to watch the defense counsel finish up his opening statement, none of which impressed him, the Robinsons, or Major West. Smith glared at the man as he came back to his seat. The counsel smiled weakly and shrugged his shoulders in a timid apology.
The opening statements over, the prosecution began its case by calling each of the four guards as witnesses. Every guard told the same story, implicating Doctor Smith as the cold and calculating would-be murderer of their leader. To anyone who knew the doctor, it was obvious the testimony was rehearsed and well coordinated. To everyone else, it was, unfortunately, compelling.
The defense counsel's attempt at cross examination was weak at best. He barely scrutinized their statements and they each stuck to their story. The man looked frequently toward Mal J'hat and several times seemed to visibly tremble. Smith thought to himself that the ineptness and timidity of his counsel would almost be comical if his life wasn't on the line. Then he trembled himself when he thought of the sentence that would most likely be handed down.
Next, at Mal J'hat's direction, the prosecution called Will Robinson to the stand. The alien leader figured to devastate the doctor's defense by using young Will's testimony against him. The boy had been in the room at the same time and Mal J'hat figured he could be intimidated by the prosecution into making a mistake to the doctor's detriment.
The Professor tried to voice an objection to his son being forced to participate in this travesty, but a guard suppressed it with a quick punch to his gut. Another guard released Will from his manacles and escorted him to the witness stand. The prosecutor spent a few moments staring down the young human. Will looked uncomfortable, but determined.
“You were in Mal J'hat's quarters on the night in question, were you not?” the prosecutor began.
“Yes, sir,” Will answered.
“Then, surely you saw what happened then,” the prosecutor concluded with a grin. “Tell us what you saw.”
The prosecutor's grin quickly turned to a frown. “What do you mean ‘nothing'? Didn't you see Doctor Smith strangling Mal J'hat?”
“No, sir. You see, Mal J'hat had told me to close my eyes because he was going to kill me,” Will said with a small shiver, as he relived the moment. “I guess he didn't want to look me in the eye when he did it.”
A murmur rose in the courtroom at the revelation and the Grand Master called for order for the second time that session.
“Boy, lying is not tolerated in this court. You do realize the seriousness of the accusation you just made, don't you?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes, sir,” Will responded.
“Do you wish to amend your statement then?” the prosecutor prodded.
“William!” Smith cried. He slowly nodded, hoping the boy would realize the trouble he was in if he didn't change his story.
The Grand Master warned Smith about his outburst and then prompted Will to answer the prosecutor.
“Umm, yes,” Will said. “I, uhh, had my eyes closed because I… was afraid.”
“What were you afraid of?”
Will looked to Smith and his family, his mind racing to find an answer that wouldn't get him deeper into trouble.
“I'm just a kid,” he answered. “There were all sorts of scary weapons hanging on the wall. And… umm, these big guards brought me in there to see your leader. That was pretty… intimidating.” Will stopped, hoping that was sufficient.
“I see,” the prosecutor said, stroking his chin. He appeared as if he was going to say something else, but suddenly thought better of it. He simply stated that he had no further questions.
The defense counsel stated that he had no questions for the boy. Will eagerly hopped off the stand and rushed back to his family.
“I'm sorry, Doctor Smith,” he apologized. “I didn't help you up there.”
“It's ok, my boy,” Smith reassured him. “There was nothing you could do. I appreciate your effort.”
Somehow, Smith's words didn't make Will feel any better. He was visibly upset, especially because he knew the doctor wasn't receiving a fair trial.
Next, the prosecution called M'jek to the stand and had Mal J'hat approach the stand as well. He asked the doctor to examine the marks around Mal J'hat's throat. The doctor concluded, as much as he hated to, that the marks were indeed caused by a prisoner's manacles, but he stopped short of saying the prisoner was Smith. The prosecutor didn't seem to care, as he had the testimony he wanted.
The defense counsel again declined to question the witness. M'jek was released from the stand. As he passed Smith on his way back to the gallery, he cast a worried glance at the doctor. He already knew the deck was stacked against the human and the outcome was almost a foregone conclusion. The look Smith gave him revealed he knew the same.
After making a few more statements regarding the testimony just given, the prosecution rested. The defense counsel stood, announced he had no more evidence or witnesses to present, and stated that the defense rested as well.
Smith knew there was nothing more his counsel would do for him, though he could think of plenty other arguments to be made. None of them would be powerful enough to refute what had already been presented and he doubted at this point that anyone would believe them. He honestly never thought the trial would be this short, but it somehow didn't surprise him. Railroading didn't take much time if you had all your ducks in a row, including threatening the defense counsel. With the trial all but over, his thoughts turned to his fate and he began to tremble.
The Robinsons and Major West made their opinions known to the defense counsel as he sat down in front of them. Having kept quiet through the trial thus far, they could stay silent no longer and vehemently protested the defense counsel's tactics, or lack thereof. The defense counsel didn't dare look at them. He looked, instead, at Mal J'hat, who nodded slightly. He slowly exhaled in relief, secure in the thought that his performance was satisfying to the temperamental tyrant. Smith turned and looked at his companions and their anger began to fuel his own.
The Grand Master signaled that the defense counsel could proceed with his closing statement. As the defense counsel stood, Smith reached up to put a hand on his shoulder and angrily pushed him back down into his seat. Assuming all was lost, Smith pushed an index finger firmly into the man's chest. “Since my life is most likely already forfeit, thanks in part to you, and things couldn't possibly be any worse, I might as well speak my mind while I have the chance.”
The defense counsel tried to stop Smith, but the doctor shrugged the man's hands off of him and strode purposefully toward the bench with a full head of steam. He was certain he had nothing left to lose. He was also certain it wouldn't make a difference what he said. He could either speak now in a last ditch effort or he could accept the inevitable without a fight. Smith chose not to go silently.
“What are you doing?” the Grand Master demanded.
“I will be giving the closing statement for the defense,” Smith stated. “As well as a piece of my mind.”
“This is highly unorthodox,” the Grand Master complained.
“It's no more unorthodox than this travesty you call a trial, your honor,” Smith replied.
“I'm warning you, doctor, you are bordering on contempt,” the Grand Master admonished.
“Oh, I have nothing but contempt for this court,” Smith stated. Before the members of the high council could voice their protests, Smith continued. “I thought that with the high council presiding, I might have the chance at a fair trial. It's become painfully clear, however, that you are all just puppets for Mal J'hat. He has driven this whole farce simply for the sole purpose of… eliminating me.”
West nudged the Professor with his elbow and whispered, “Smith does righteous indignation rather well.”
“Yes, especially when he actually has something to be righteously indignant about,” came the reply.
Mal J'hat stood and angrily ordered guards to take Smith away. Smith looked around desperately for the best escape route. The Grand Master gaveled loudly, countermanded Mal J'hat's instructions, and demanded order in the court. He then pointed the gavel at Mal J'hat and told him to sit down and stay quiet.
The Grand Master addressed Smith, “Doctor, are you accusing Mal J'hat of a crime?”
“Yes, your honor, I am,” Smith put a hand up to forestall the question he saw coming. “And yes, I am fully aware of the seriousness of the charges. They are no more serious than the charges Mal J'hat wishes you to believe I am guilty of.”
The Grand Master studied Smith for a moment and then stated, “I don't appreciate your tone, doctor, but please continue. We will hear what you have to say.”
With the Grand Master's pronouncement, Smith's stance softened a little and he continued. “Your honor, I somehow attracted the ire of Mal J'hat by providing medical services to the prisoners, including Will Robinson,” Smith motioned towards his young friend. “When he discovered what I had done, he had guards bring me to his quarters to discuss the matter, or so I thought. His true intent, however, was to goad me into a physical confrontation, since he could not touch me legally and he knew if any harm came to me it would likely result in an investigation. He threatened to kill William and myself…”
“Objection!” the prosecutor cried. “He's engaging in speculation.”
“Overruled,” the Grand Master replied. “I will allow the doctor to continue.”
“Is it mere speculation to expect Mal J'hat had intent to kill William with the blade he held over the boy's head?” Smith bellowed. “Or that he'd follow through with his threat to kill me next? You've personally seen my defense counsel quaking in his boots and shriveling under the watchful eye of his ‘great' leader. I could speculate he's been threatened, but I'm damn sure he has been.”
West leaned over to the Professor and whispered, “I wish Smith had these kind of guts more often.”
The Professor replied, “If he did, you'd be in big trouble, Don.”
The Major's eyebrows rose in surprise. He thought for a second and answered, “Forget I said anything.”
“I was put in an impossible situation. I chose to stop Mal J'hat and save my friend,” Smith turned and regarded Will. Will smiled at the doctor, who returned the smile.
The prosecutor jumped on the doctor's statement, “Then you admit you attacked Mal J'hat.”
Smith sighed. “Yes, I had no choice.”
The courtroom buzzed with excited whispers.
“You tried to kill him,” the prosecutor asserted.
“No!” Smith denied.
“The guards had to pull you off of his unconscious body,” the prosecutor stated.
Smith turned to the Grand Master. “Is this allowed during the defense's closing statement?”
The Grand Master shrugged, “I'm not sure any of this is allowed, doctor. As I told you, it's all unorthodox. Do you have anything further to say?”
“Will it do me any good?” Smith questioned.
The high council murmured their answers to the Grand Master and he relayed them to the courtroom. “Not really.”
“Then I am done,” Smith replied. He turned and walked back to his seat. “And hopefully not done for,” he muttered to himself.
The Robinsons and Major West patted Smith on the back and offered encouraging words as he took his seat. Smith smiled weakly and tried to keep from hyperventilating.
The prosecutor immediately began his closing statement without waiting for acknowledgment from the Grand Master. He summarized the witness testimony and evidence presented. He also reminded the court that Smith had admitted he had attacked Mal J'hat and the guards had to pull him off the unconscious body of their leader. The prosecutor's last statements seemed to have the impact he wanted and he took his seat with a broad smile on his face.
As soon as the prosecutor was done, the Grand Master announced that the high council would deliberate. Guards secured Smith's hands behind his back, took him by the arms, and escorted him out of the courtroom. Other guards unlocked the Robinsons and Major West from their seats, chained them together, and escorted them back to the stockade.
When the Robinsons and Major West arrived back at their camp, they instinctively looked to Smith's cell, only to notice he was not in it. Since he had left the courtroom first, it was cause for alarm. Immediately, the Major and the Professor started asking around the stockade to see if anyone knew what had happened to the doctor. Nobody seemed to know, which only bothered them more.
It didn't take long for Smith to realize the guards weren't taking him back to the stockade.
“Where are you taking me?” he demanded.
“To see Mal J'hat. He wishes to speak with you,” one of the guards grinned.
Panic seized Smith. He struggled to free himself from the grasp of his captors and they fought to keep ahold of him. Just when the doctor had thrown one of the guards off, the other rammed a fist into his gut, sending him to his knees. While Smith was still trying to catch his breath, the two guards hauled him up and marched him on to their intended destination.
They requested permission to enter Mal J'hat's quarters and were quickly granted access. The guards shoved Smith ahead of themselves toward their waiting leader. Smith tried to back up as Mal J'hat strode towards him, but was blocked by the guards behind him.
Mal J'hat's hand shot out to grasp Smith's neck. The doctor fought the fear welling up inside him and managed to gasp out, “If anything happens to me, they will know you did it! They will know I told the truth in court! You will have two crimes to answer for.”
“Oh, you're safe, doctor… for now,” Mal J'hat growled. “I just wanted to let you know how displeased I was with what you said today in court.” He squeezed tighter, enjoying the look of fear on the doctor's face. “Nobody contradicts me without consequence.”
Just as the edges of Smith's vision began to dim and his legs began to fail him, Mal J'hat released his grasp. Smith fell to the floor, gasping for air. The alien leader kicked him for good measure.
Mal J'hat kneeled over the doctor. “You will be convicted, Smith. I have already seen to it. Asmani law gives the victim the right to name punishment for the convicted. I assure you, your end will be most painful.”
The doctor swallowed hard, his worst fears confirmed. Fear mingled with red, hot hatred as he knew he would only be the first to go. He was sure the Major and the Professor would soon follow due to the physical threat they imposed. Mrs. Robinson and Judy would likely be next. The children, Will and Penny, would be last. How cruel for them to have to endure the loss of all the others.
“But, I am a sporting man,” Mal J'hat continued. “I will give you the chance to have your life spared. That is, if you have the courage to fight for it. I will let you think about it, Smith. When the time is right, you will be summoned to the arena and we will see what you are made of.”
Mal J'hat kicked the doctor again and Smith responded by shoving his booted foot into the knee of the chief. Mal J'hat howled in pain and collapsed to the ground. Smith tried to kick again, but was interrupted by a sharp blow to the head, delivered by one of the guards. Smith lay on his side, dazed and bleeding, while the guards attended to their leader.
The Robinsons and West were relieved to see guards finally bringing Smith back to his cell, until they saw what shape he was in. It was obvious he had been roughed up, most likely by those loyal to Mal J'hat. It irritated Major West the most. To beat on a defenseless man was cowardly in his book. To beat on a defenseless coward was even worse.
The guards replaced the cuffs binding Smith's hands behind his back with the usual manacles, securing his hands in front. Each guard took a parting shot before they shoved the doctor into his cell. Smith landed heavily on the cell floor. The Professor and the Major rushed the guards, but we're stopped by a drawn laser pistol. After calling in to have the force field activated, the guards left cautiously, keeping an eye and a pistol trained on the angry humans as they walked away.
“Doctor Smith!” Will ran over to the cell. He was greeted with a small groan of pain.
Mrs. Robinson and the others stood behind Will, anxiously awaiting a sign from the doctor that he was alright.
“Doctor Smith?” Will tried again.
The doctor groaned again as he propped himself up on one elbow. He brought a hand to his head in a vain attempt to make the pounding stop. As if he had just become aware of their presence, he looked up at the concerned faces of his companions.
“You look like hell, Smith. What did they do to you?” West asked.
“It's pretty obvious, Major, that they used me as a punching bag,” Smith grumbled.
“They can't get away with that!” Will cried.
“They can and they just did, my boy,” Smith replied. With some difficulty, he pushed himself up into a sitting position and winced in renewed pain. He pressed an arm tightly against his ribs as he debated whether or not to tell them what was discussed in Mal J'hat's quarters. He ultimately decided it would do no good. Besides, he really didn't want to discuss it anyway.
Mrs. Robinson turned to her husband. “John, I'm going to see if I can get M'jek here to treat him, perhaps give him something for the pain.”
“It would do no good, madame,” Smith replied. “He cannot treat prisoners.”
“Well, he could at least have the forcefield lowered so I could treat you, couldn't he?” she countered.
“It's worth a shot,” West added.
Smith gave his consent with a nod.
M'jek came quickly with T'pat in tow. Both were more than irritated to see what shape Smith was in. T'pat requested the forcefield be lowered and they wasted no time once it was down. Mrs. Robinson brought Smith some painkillers, which he quickly downed with a glass of water. She cleaned and bandaged the wound on his temple and assessed his ribs, which were painful, but only bruised. Smith thanked her for her kind attention before she left.
Major West, meanwhile, had taken the mattress from one of the beds and placed it in the cell. Will and Penny followed behind with pillows and blankets.
“Bless you,” Smith thanked. He had spent every night in that cell sleeping on the cold, hard ground, curled up as close to the forcefield as he dared since it was the only source of heat. The small comforts they had just provided him were sorely appreciated.
Major West and Judy helped Smith get situated comfortably on the bed where he waited patiently for the narcotics to relieve the pain and hopefully allow him some much needed sleep.
T'pat reluctantly called to have the forcefield reactivated. He and M'jek left quickly after the humans offered them heartfelt thanks.
As West watched Smith lying there, he worked his frustration up into full blown anger. “I just wish I could get my hands on Mal J'hat,” he steamed. “I'd ring his neck myself.”
“That makes two of us,” the Professor added.
The others chimed in.
“Six. It's unanimous.”
Smith had heard the conversation and managed a small smile before he closed his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Continue to Chapter 12: A Verdict Is Reached