Todayâ€™s Word: Vetted
Legist Spirrow placed the page down on his courtroom desk and turned slowly back to the defendant, allowing the Arbiter to view his profile for several seconds, a trick he'd discovered early in his career.
"So you admit to saying the words?" asked Spirrow once he was turned to fully face the defendant.
"No sir, I never said those words. They are fiction, from one of my novels," said Martin Endycyn, his voice even, patient.
Spirrow advanced on the ornate examination box where the author sat. He placed his hands on either corner and leaned close to Endycyn.
"They are your words, you wrote them."
"I wrote them, but they are not my words. They are the words of a character named Amerik Statson.
"And how did you produce the words for this 'character'?"
"With pen and ink."
"So YOU wrote the words -- you penned them on a sheaf of parchment."
"Yes," said Endycyn. After each answer he pursed his lips. He didn't want to talk. That was good. It told Spirrow he was moving the right direction.
"And I suppose you vetted the work after it was finished?"
"I always edit my writing closely before I let anyone read it."
"So you had a chance to make changes?"
"Why didn't you change the character Statson's words? Why didn't you cut out the portions you knew would be offensive to every member of this government from the lowliest farmer to the Empyrean Minister himself?"
Endycyn's body shook, and Spirrow saw that it was anger burning within him that caused the tremors. The author's hands clenched and released and clenched again in his lap.
Finally he said, "I wrote them because no one else in this world has the stomach to do it. No one is willing to say the system is flawed, the Minister is an Emperor, and not a very good one. No one stands up for basic human liberties."
The Arbiter slammed his gavel down with three heavy thuds, breaking the author's momentum.
"Heresy," he said, "You've spoken it in my court, just as you wrote it in your book. One hundred years hard labor, no chance for reprieve!" The old Arbiter slammed his gavel one last time and constables came to escort Endycyn from the courtroom.
"Liberty and freedom cannot be destroyed!" screamed the author as he was dragged through a rear door.
Spirrow, who stood at his desk organizing papers to fit in his attachÃ© case, looked up when the author screamed.
"I'm sorry, but your wrong," he said under his breath, "those two died long ago."