We materialized in a gigantic shopping mall. I immediately recognized it as the largest mall in the solar system, thanks to the large signs that stated that it was the largest mall in the solar system, which then told me I was in my present time and on the asteroid Shopitus Spendus III. Having never been here before, I gazed in awe at the twelve floors of tire stores, shoe stores, food stores, adult entertainment stores, and other incredible things which I had absolutely no use for but had every intention to buy.
Linda pointed to a store labeled Pillow Talk and walked into that store. It was kinky having pillows talk to you. After that , I decided to find the closest fast-food joint - with my brain informing me I hadn't eaten in 30,000 years, meaning that something high calorie, high taste, and low budget needed to be done.
"What'll it be?" asked the female clerk, who seemed to be rather bored in her red striped uniform.
"I'll have..." I scanned to menu floating in front of me. "A swordfish burger, curly fries, and a Diet Coke."
The clerk shouted the order to the cook. "It comes to 3 pesomarks, sir." I paid her. "It'll be a few minutes, so you can go sit down if you want."
"Thanks," I looked around and then started for a booth where a pretty lady sat.
"I almost forgot," shouted the clerk, throwing me a couple of tiny packages. "Salt, complements of Antonio's Exotic and Extremely Unpolitically Correct Foods."
"Thanks again." I made a quick getaway before she could get me anything else and went over to the previously mentioned woman. "Mind if a sit..." De ja vu hit. "Suzy? Suzy, is that you?"
"Martin, who is Suzy?" asked the woman, turning around.
I gasped in utter shock. "Ma!" I stammered out.
"Yes, its your mother. Now tell me, who is Suzy?"
I sank into the booth across from her. "Nobody really. You wouldn't want to meet her. How'd you get so young?"
"That's not important. Why not?"
"For 'cause," I replied. "It's complicated. And yes, it is important."
"I went into cryo-freeze - you happy? You say it's complicated, eh? You just don't want your dear young mother to meet your ladyfriends, is that it?"
"Swordfish, fries, Diet Coke! Comeangetit!" yelled the server.
"That's my order, Ma. I'll be right back."
When I returned, however, my ma happened to have disappeared. A certain woman named Linda Jones had taken her place. "It's about time I found you. I wondered where you had disappeared."
I sat down. "Do you ever leave men alone?" I asked her.
"Let me see..." she seemed to ponder it, tapping a solitary finger on her chin. "No."
"Come on, Linda. You're a married woman, even though you're husband is dead, fourth dimensionally speaking. I think."
"So, Martin? This is the 2300's again - not the 28,000 B.C.'s. A woman can do whatever she wants these days."
"I don't care what the date is. A married woman should stick to her husband like molasses."
"Yeah, right," retorted Linda. "A married woman should never have gotten married in the first place."
With a blue flash, a little police car appeared by our table, its lights flashing. Two dark skinned officers got out, clearly natives, because Shopitus Spendus was the only planet with colored natives. Some would say evolution was a bigot in this galaxy. My opinion differs, considering the population exceeds twenty billion.
Anyway, they looked at me. "I'ms afraids yous twos ares goings tos haves tos comes withs mes," the man informed me, his ID tag betraying his name as "Valentines".
"And who might you be?" I asked.
"We'res thes Puns Corpss, servings thes planets ofs Shopituss Spenduss againsts thes heinouss crimes ofs bads punmenships. Yous ares boths under arrest."
"What?! He said it!" Linda protested.
"Is saids gets ins thes cars, ladys!" ordered the female. Her tag told me she was called "Freedoms." Valentine (I shall drop the s's that are common with native names) opened the door for us.
I simply laughed. "And how are you going to make us?"
"And why do you end your words with s's?" asked Linda.
"Is don'ts knows," replied Freedom, "asks thes authors ofs ours languages - hes wrotes whats wes speaks."
"Ands tos answers yours questions, scumbags," Valentine started, "wes wills dos its likes thiss." He pulled a stick from his belt that looked like it had three red buttons on it, marked 1, 2, and 3. He pressed button number 1. A red beam encompassed Linda and me, and then I felt this incredible desire to just get into the rent-a-pig's car.
"Ass Is saids, gets intos thes cars," Valentine repeated quite smugly.
"What is the charge?" asked the judge, who was sitting behind an enormous podium, peering down at us through glasses -- and just happened to be a Neptunian.
Neptune is like the Switzerland of the solar system, probably because when Earth colonized the planets and joined in with the native populations of others, the entire country of Switzerland migrated to Neptune. They remain neutral all the time, no matter what. The reason? The entire race has one occupation - The Law. Some are lawyers, some are judges, but they always have a dry sense of humor, and like to crack blonde jokes.
The District Attorney stood. "Martin Fleckner is charged with the first degree misuse of a pun. Linda Jones is charged with being accessory to the crime and is also charged with second degree failure to stop such a crime."
The judge turned to us. His nameplate informed the universe that he was called Judge Popner III. "How do you plead?"
Since we had no lawyer, I decided to answer. "Insanity."
"So noted," Popner recorded. "Begin your case, Mr. Prosecutor."
"I don't get it," whispered Linda.
I hushed her with a hand. "The prosecution calls Mrs. Elinore Scharnzenshazer to the stand," declared the DA.
"Ma!" I gasped.
Ma walked from the holding room on the left in her familiar flower-print Sunday dress. The holo-bailiff appeared with a holo-Bible. "Place your left hand on the Book and raise your right hand." Ma did so. "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?"
"You may be seated," instructed Popner. Ma sat in the witness chair. "Have you heard the one about the blonde and the ham?"
The DA started before Ma could say anything. "Mrs. Scharnzenshazer, were you in hearing range when you heard this..." he turned toward me, "heinous crime was committed?"
"Who said it?"
Ma pointed to me. "He did, sir."
"May the record show that Mrs. Scharnzenshazer indicated the co-defenant Martin Delinore Fleckner. That is all, ma'am."
"Do you wish to cross-examine?" asked Popner.
"Yes, I would." I stood up, and swaggered over to Ma, thinking of the most famous lawyer in the universe, Perry Mason. "Ma, how did you like my not revealing the identity of my dates when I was in high school?"
The DA shot up. "Objection your Honor! This question has no basis!"
"Your Honor," I started nervously, wiping my sweaty palms on my jeans, "I will be coming to my point shortly."
"You'd better be, Mr. Flecker. Overruled -- for now."
I continued. "Please answer the question. Remember you are under oath, Ma."
"I--I--I didn't like it."
"Did you hate it enough that you would want to get back at me for it?"
"Do I need to repeat it, Ma? Did you hate me enough that you would want to get back at me for it?"
She paused, then started to cry.
"Answer the question!" I thundered, spitting spittle into her eyes.
She took out a hanky and wiped off her eyes, and then blew her nose, nodding her head... Yes.
The crowd gasped in utter astonishment, but the look on the prosecutor face took the cake. "Your honor, I ask that all charges be dropped against me and Ms. Jones."
Popner looked at the prosecutor. "Do you concur?"
"Yeah," he replied, still in shock.
"Well then, Mr. Fleckner. I'm going to drop charges against you. But," Popner continued, "Ms. Jones over here clearly disobeyed the law."
"What??" Linda shouted, standing up, knocking her chair over.
"It has been established the Mr. Fleckner here has been set up, but you were clearly in disobedience when you did nothing to stop this horrid behavior."
"Oh, come on, Judge," Linda screamed. What am I, psychic?"
"For that, young lady, you are found in contempt. Now, Mr. Prosecutor, present your case against Ms. Jones."
"Yessir." He paused and looked down at his list. "The prosecution calls Mr. Martin Fleckner to the stand."
"What?" I must admit to my befuddlement.
"Go up to the stand Mr. Fleckner," ordered Popner.
I walked up in front of the stand. The holo-bailiff appeared again. "Mr. Fleckner, raise your right hand and place your left hand on the Book. Do you swear to tell the truth, and all the other stuff I said before?"
"I guess," I replied.
"Good enough." The bailiff disappeared.
"You may sit down," informed Popner, so I sat.
"Mr. Fleckner," started the prosecutor, swaggering up to me, copying the Mason Maneuver, and placing a furry elbow on the podium, "for a little background, where were you arrested?"
"I was on the prairie lands of Mercury with a beautiful woman named Xena--" The crowed interrupted with laughter at the thought of me with the Emperor of the Solar System's daughter.
"Order!" ordered Popner, banging his gavel gravely. A crack appeared in the podium.
"Seriously," asked the prosecutor.
"I was on the main restaurant on the main walkway of the main shopping center in the main district on the main platform of Shopitus Spendus Three."
"And I believe in that district the penalty for this particular crime is death by fire."
"That would be your department," I told him.
"I know," he said, quite smugly. He started to pace. "Who were you talking to in the moments just before you were arrested?"
"Captain Squash, you see, the two of us are quite good friends..."
The crowd exploded with laughter. They were obviously for once enjoying a day in court. "Order," ordered Popner again. He turned to me. "Mr. Fleckner, you are about to be charged with contempt. Would you care to join Ms. Jones in jail tonight? Hmmmm?"
That thought scared me.
Meanwhile, the crowd cheered at this announcement. Hats, coats, keys, cats, dogs, and the occasional piece of cheese was thrown in the air in utter jubilation.
"No Sir," I answered dejectedly. The crowd quieted and slowly began sorting through the foot-high floor covering to get back what was theirs.
"I shall ask you again, Mr. Fleckner. Who were you talking to?"
I looked at Linda, at the judge, and then at the prosecutor.
"Answer the question, Mr. Fleckner," ordered the judge.
I sighed. "Linda Jones."
The crowd roared, momentarily pausing their searching for more cheese to throw. "I rest my case, Your Honor," informed the prosecutor.
"Do you wish to cross-examine yourself?" asked His Honor.
"Yes, sir, I would."
"Then you may continue."
I thought a moment, then asked, "How did you come to meet Ms. Jones?"
"Through an accident," I replied.
"Could you be more specific?"
I thought, then said, "No."
"All right, did you tell Ms. Jones that you were going to annunciate a punnage?"
"Not that I can recall," I replied to myself.
"Then that is all," I stated.
"Then you may return to your seat." I sat back down beside Linda.
"Is there anything else? No surprise witnesses, cover-ups, scandles? Then I guess I can rule on this now, eh? Let's see..." Flopner twiddled his thumbs, tapped his fingers against the podium, caressed his gavel, and rearranged his glasses. Then he did it again. "All right, I've made my decision. Ms. Jones, please rise."
She stood up. "Ms. Jones, because of the circumstances, I do not believe you should be sentenced to death." A groan erupted from the crowd. "However, you clearly disobeyed the law and must be punished for it. I hearby sentence you to 45 years in the Minos IV Rehabilitation and Bacon Center on the asteroid Minos IV, where you shall feed the pigs. Take her away." Two holo-bailiffs appeared and led Linda out of the courtroom.
"Goodbye, Martin," she called as she disappeared out the door. "I'll see you when you're old and wrinkled."
"Mr. Fleckner," continued Flopner, "you, of course, are free to leave. I am sorry to put you through this inconvienience." He disappeared into his chambers.
I got up, glad to be free of Linda, and strolled out the courtroom, with reporters and crowd alike hounding me with questions.
"What was it like, Mr. Fleckner?"
"How did you know your mom had set you up?"
"Did you have an affair with Ms. Jones, Mr. Fleckner?"
"Did your dogs have puppies together?"
You get the picture.
I stopped outside on the top of the steps that led to the court building. A slight breeze ruffled my hair. A huge throng of people stood there to greet me. A mike stand was set up, with tri-vid cameras set up and ready. The crowd started chanting "Speech! Speech! Speech!"
I stood behind the makeshift podium. The crowd instantly became quiet. I thought about what I should say, but nothing came to mind. My mind drifted back to my school days, and I thought about a famous ball player that made a great speech a couple score of thousand years ago. His name was Babe Gehrig, Jr.
I addressed the crowd. "You guys have been great. I just want to let you know that I feel like I am the luckiest man in the world right now."
They cheered. "Brilliant," I heard one man say.
"How did he come up with such a great speech?" I heard a lady ask.
A hand shot up from the back of the crowd. "Mr. Fleckner, what do you plan to do with the rest of your life?"
A murmur of approval washed through the crowd. "I don't know," I replied. "I guess I'll do what I normally do."
"And what would that be?" someone called.
"Why, I'm a detective. Currently retired, but always looking for the right job."
Another hand shot up, this time from the middle. "Mr. Fleckner, sir. I represent Clarno-Freemont Private Investigations and we have a contract offer for you..."
"So do we!" shouted a rather large man in front. "J.C. Fletcher and Company. We will offer you..."
A woman started to say something, but she knocked off her glasses raising her hand and ducked down to find them.
That's when I saw him. He was in his late forties, and he had just stepped out of a black robosuine that had just pulled up. His suit was well cut, and his pants were obviously tailored for him, nothing a normal being would wear. He had slicked back his dark hair, and wore aviator sunglasses. The crowd parted to let him through.
He eventually made it to me and shook my hand. "Mr. Fleckner, I presume. Let me introduce myself. I am Mark Banning from Banning Detective Agency, and I am here to offer you our most recent opening."
"And what would it be?"
"Lead Detective. You will be paid two thousand pesomarks a week, plus travelling expenses, plus bonuses. You will even have your own corner office. That is, if you make Agent."
"Gee, I don't know, sir." I scratched my chin, and noticed I needed a shave.
"We'll throw in a new suit."
"A ten thousand pesomark signing bonus?" His voice rose a tad.
"I don't know..."
Banning became desperate. "A new WMB robocraft?
"A black one?" I asked.
"Any color you want," he replied.
"Whatever!" he replied, exasperated.
"Deal," I shook Banning's hand again.
"You'll start next Tuesday. I'll see you then -- and your robocraft will be waiting." He got back into his robosuine and sped away.