by R. A. Bolden
Tom’s coffee-colored skin looked healthy in the stark light of the mahoganey-panelled courtroom. He sat reading The Time Machine while his twin brother Jamie did the talking.
“You don’t understand,” said Jamie shifting nervously in the dock. “You are offering us the choice between freedom and liberty.”
“How so?” the red-robed English Judge asked, scratching his wig with one hand and taking notes with the other.
“You’ve never sailed with sperm whales off Sri Lanka, traded with tribesman in New Guinea, danced with Tahitians on Moorea or walked with giant tortoises in the Galapagos. To us that’s freedom,” said Jamie wetting his lips. “Liberty is what the State offers its citizens provided they don’t break the rules. If we comply with your Confiscation Order and surrender our assets, we’ll lose our freedom to gain liberty. That’s unacceptable.”
The Judge peered over his pince-nez spectacles with azure-blue eyes and asked, “Do you refuse to sign the power-of-attorney Mr. Jamie Heart?”
“Yeah,” Jamie said in a broad Caribbean accent.
“I assume that like your brother you too refuse to co-operate Mr. Tom Heart?”
Tom put down The Time Machine and said, “That’s right.” He wore a white T-shirt, blue jeans and deck shoes with the muscular body of a weight lifter. His Afro-Caribbean hair was cut short to accent deep-set golden eyes. The fragrant smell of his vanilla after-shave wafted across the courtroom.
“I have no choice. I am going to make an Order allowing the Receivers to sign the documents on your behalf. You are in contempt of court with no respect for our laws,” said the Judge sneering, “and you’re going to find out this court has teeth. Take them down.”
Sitting below in the court’s cells, Jamie composed a letter to his wife: “Dearest Love of My Life, You looked absolutely splendid at court. The feel of your kiss in the hallway when we were being taken back to the cells will remain with me forever. Today in court, we didn’t understand the legal goings on and we weren’t allowed legal representation but the Prosecution was. Yet, the Judge said, we were going to find out this Court has teeth. I am perplexed. If a British Court has the power to sign over the assets of foreign nationals in extraterritorial jurisdictions why bully us into committing an offence like contempt? Call you on Saturday. I love you with all my heart, Jamie.” He reread the letter, placed it in an envelope, and fell asleep with his head against the window of the van taking them back to prison.
When Jamie and Tom returned to their cell they found a small crumpled man, wrapped in a green-prison blanket, hooded like a desert tribesman. He was sitting on the third bed in the already cramped conditions watching Sky TV. The cell was a cream-colored box four meters by two meters with a desk, three chairs and a window. A toilet and sink were in the corner. A single fluorescent light situated in the middle of the three-meter high ceiling provided illumination.
“Hi,” Tom said, trying to be a friendly as possible.
“Hello,” said the crumpled figure in a refined English voice, his gray eyes alert. “Sorry for the intrusion but I was put in here.”
Jamie held out his hand. “My name is Jamie Heart and this is my brother Tom.”
“My name is Vaughn Three.” He extended a blistered three-fingered hand from under the blanket.
Jamie shook it quickly then unconsciously wiped his hand on his jeans.
Tom asked, “Care for a cup of tea?” He sensed Vaughn’s stare. It followed their every movement with curious detachment like they were being studied.
Vaughn said, “I’m not supposed to be in here.”
“We all say that,” Jamie said, stirring his tea.
“Don’t mind him,” said Tom. “He’s always a bit sarcastic.”
Vaughn looked at each of them intently then asked, “What year is it?”
“It’s 2020,” Jamie said, staring at the hooded man, “why?”
In a clear voice Vaughn Three said, “I’d hoped it would be 2090.”
“No way, it’s 2020 all right,” interrupted Jamie. “Why are you in jail anyway?”
“The Police arrested me in Cambridge when I tried to change some gold bars into money. The shopkeeper said I was acting suspiciously.”
“They can do that now. Arrest anyone and confiscate their assets without a warrant if you can’t prove how you got them,” said Tom, his muscular-brown torso propped up against the cell’s wall. “We’re yachtsmen and hash smugglers so they know where we got ours. What about you?”
“I’m from the future. I brought the gold with me to support myself while I showed them my mathematical proof on the existence of God.”
“What kind of defense is that?” Tom asked.
Jamie almost rolled off the top bunk laughing. “Hey Vaughn, you didn’t really believe that would work did you?”
Vaughn Three shifted position on the bed, covered his drooping shoulder with the prison blanket and grasped his blue-plastic mug of tea with two three-fingered hands. He drank and said, “Today is June 13th. At six o’clock the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will announce they’ve tested a nuclear device. Go on, turn on the news.”
“OK Vaughn, we can take a joke,” Tom said, switching the channel.
They sat in silence waiting for the hourly news. The bells of Big Ben sounded and the announcer said, “The Association of Southeast Asian Nations have just tested a nuclear device.”
“Wow, that was impressive,” said Tom. “How did you know?”
“I have a photographic memory,” said Vaughn. “I’ve studied every detail of this century to find the exact moment in history to avert the nuclear holocaust. Only I landed in 2020 instead of 2090.”
“Wait a minute,” said Jamie skeptically. “This is jail, know what I mean. In here, you’re always assaulted with tissues of lies.”
“Here is a clipping from a newspaper of my time. You’ll notice the difference in the texture of the newsprint. It’s synthetic.”
Jamie grabbed the cutting and read it aloud, “It’s from Who’s Who. The Biography of Vaughn Three: Born at the end of the nuclear holocaust in 2099 and horribly disfigured by genetic mutation, Vaughn Three grew up in a sanctuary run by The Earth Corporation. He excelled in mathematics and proved the existence of God with a brilliant extrapolation of the Hawkins Theory of Cosmology. He was Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at MicrosoftTM University in Cambridge until he uncovered the secrets of temporal mechanics. His goal is to travel back in time before the holocaust to show them he’d proved: God is love.” Throwing the clipping on the bed next to Vaughn, Jamie said, “What a bunch of crap. If you’re from the future, why don’t you just teleport out of here?”
“The Police confiscated my watch,” said Vaughn Three, slumping over. “The device was hidden in my watch.”
“And you can’t get your watch back until you get out of here,” said Jamie looking at Tom.
“And you can’t get out of here,” said Tom, “until you pay the fine for the Confiscation Order.”
“That’s it,” Vaughn said.
“We’re in the same situation,” said Jamie. “Except we refuse to satisfy the Order because we think it’s wrong to get multiple punishments for the same crime.”
“Yeah,” said Tom. “We got one sentence for the hash. When that’s done we got another for the money and another on top of that for not paying the money. I hate this system.”
“Me too,” said Jamie. “It’s corrupt. One law for the wealthy and one for the common man.”
“I hated them for busting us,” said Tom. “What’s a little hash?”
“A man’s got to have a good smoke. Even if it was two tons,” said Jamie. “I mean it’s better than alcohol. Who ever heard of a bloke going home to beat up his wife after having a joint?” The Caribbean brothers nodded in agreement.
“One day you’ll be vindicated,” said Vaughn, smiling under the hood formed by his blanket. “But only after the world has been disseminated by nuclear war. Cannabanoids are the only thing that can alleviate the suffering of mutants like me.”
“Is that why you’re covered up like a Bedouin?” Tom asked.
Vaughn Three unwrapped the green blanket. Tom ran to the toilet and retched. Vaughn’s skin had enlarged white pores that looked like tiny scales. He had thin-pink lips and gray eyes. His eyebrows and scalp were bald. The boils on his neck seemed to slowly grow yellow pimples and burst with tiny larvae as they watched. “Don’t mind them. They eat the cancerous flesh,” he said. One lycra-covered leg was a good twenty centimeters shorter than the other. He looked like a twisted gnome out of a fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. Vaughn Three covered himself up again. “Nuclear war is the menace,” he said. “It must be stopped.”
Tom came back and sat on the lower bunk next to Jamie after flushing the toilet with bleach to kill the smell.
“How did the nuclear war start?” Jamie asked.
“In the middle of this century, Serbia became the dominant-economic power in central Europe and they acquired nuclear weapons,” Vaughn explained, sipping his tea. “They bombed Macedonia breaking the UN mandate. NATO satellites fired lasers on Belgrade, Serbia’s Slavic neighbors retaliated against the West and in six months time the atmosphere was rich in nuclear waste. People were forced to live underground in the old mines from Cornwall to Mansfield. Only the Earth Corporation colonies on the moon and Mars were unaffected.” Then Vaughn Three said, “I have a plan but I need your help.”
“What might that be?” Jamie asked, shaking his head. “I have a feeling I’m not going to like this.”
“Let’s hear him out,” said Tom. “It won’t hurt to listen.”
“I’m going to court next week,” said Vaughn Three, “to have my assets confiscated, get a fine and a jail sentence in lieu if I can’t pay the fine.
“We’ll all be up on the same day,” said Tom. “The Confiscation Court only sits on Wednesdays.”
“So what’s your plan?” Jamie asked.
Slowly Vaughn explained, “You sign over your assets and get out of jail because I imagine you’ve still got something hidden away.” There was a long pause. “I’ll feed you information about what stocks to buy when you come visit me.”
“Then what?” Jamie asked.
“When there’s enough money, you pay my fine and we’ll be partners,” explained Vaughn. “Remember, I have a photographic memory and know what has already happened in this century. With our wealth, we may be able to redirect history and avert the nuclear holocaust.”
“But if we do succeed and change history, will you cease to exist?” Jamie asked, having already read The Time Machine.
“Vaughn smiled knowingly and said, “If that’s the price I must pay to avert a nuclear war, it’s for the best.”
Tom looked at Jamie and said, “Why not? We may get rich.”
Jamie said, “We’ve taken bigger risks than this. If it works we’ll be able to get our revenge on the system.”
Vaughn extended his three-fingered hand in partnership. Jamie and Tom looked at each other, shrugged their shoulders and shook his hand.
The Corporate Three became the wealthiest firm in the world. It held over thirty percent of the planet’s wealth and fought for the end of nuclear proliferation, multiple punishments for the same crime, the marijuana laws, arrest without a warrant and also the end of The Nanny State. At a televised speech in front of the United Nations to celebrate the destruction of the last nuclear weapons, the hooded figure of Sir Vaughn Three shuffled about explaining his mathematical proof on the existence of God when he vanished from the screen.
“There will be no funeral,” said Jamie at the press conference afterwards. Tears flowed down his cheek as he spoke. “Tom and I knew Vaughn Three for over thirty years and we’d like to leave you with a quote from his favorite book written in the Age of Enlightenment by Voltaire: ‘All is for the best, in this best of all possible worlds’.”
RAUF BOLDEN is an American born in Colorado. He studied languages at University where he became a polyglot speaking German, French and Dutch. As a yacht master, he spent twenty years sailing more than 100,000 nautical miles while circumnavigating the planet with his wife Jeannette Dean, an internationally known sailor and writer. They plan to sail around the world again being very much in love while continuing to write fiction and feature articles. Their motto for life is, "Never Ever Give Up.”