CENTAURI CALLING • by Jenny Schwartz

“Thief! Entertainment pirate!”

Emma blinked, bewildered not only by the accusation, but by its maker. She had come out to the roof of the law firm’s tall office building for a breath of fresh-ish city air since she intended to work late. She hadn’t intended to run into a six-foot-two-inches purple humanoid wearing an aqua blue bathing suit.

It, or he, waved a silver-tipped finger dramatically. “There are laws against this sort of thing.”

“I’m sure there are,” said Emma. There were laws against most things, except exploitation of junior lawyers. A purple alien was the least of her troubles. “Still, it would be helpful if you gave me a hint what it is you think I’ve stolen.”

The alien hitched his baggy aqua bathing suit. “As if you didn’t know.” He sneered.

The sneer gave him away. Hadn’t she been practising one in the mirror for weeks?

“You’re a lawyer,” cried Emma. She recognised the species.

“A copyright lawyer,” said the purple pursuer.

“Copyright.” Emma’s brain moved at warp speed. “Do you mean your clients are responsible for the voices I’ve been hearing? Do you mean that drivel is actually copyrighted?”

“If by ‘drivel’ you refer to ‘Centauri Calling’—”

Emma interrupted, quoting melodramatically. “But you can’t love me, Xyle. You are my own brother’s pod-sibling. It is forbidden.”

The alien blushed blue. “Well, it may be drivel, but you listened to it, and without paying.”

“Only because I had no choice. Ever since I bumped my head on a filing cabinet moving into my new office, ‘Centauri Calling’ has made my life miserable. I can’t even mention it to anyone, or they’ll think me crazy. If anything,” continued Emma, carried away by memory of her suffering. “I should sue your clients for mental cruelty. ‘Centauri Calling’ every 4 pm.” She shuddered.

“Don’t even think about it,” snarled the alien. “I, Parlo Novan, would make Bental Burgers of you at the Alpha Court.”

“Big talk from an alien wearing a bathing suit,” taunted Emma.

Parlo glanced down. “My briefing on Earth norms indicated a suit was appropriate dress for a lawyer.”

“A suit suit,” said Emma, and plucked at her jacket in explanation. “Not a bathing suit. Bathers are only for the beach and pool.”

“Ah.” Parlo pushed buttons on a device that shimmered into view. A silver grey suit soon covered him.

“As I was saying.” Appropriately covered, Parlo recovered his aplomb. “You are in breach of galaxical copyright laws.”

“Never heard of them,” muttered Emma.

Parlo raised his voice. “For receiving ‘Centauri Calling’ without a licence, you owe—”

“How come I could receive it, intelligibly, I mean? Shouldn’t it have been in some alien language?”

“Automatic galaxic translator. The same way we’re talking now. They recently installed one on Jupiter.”

“Oh. Continue.”

“Where was I?”

“That bit about me owing you, or rather, your clients. Once we’ve dealt with that, I want to talk about compensation for mental cruelty.”

“I told you.” Parlo loosened the unfamiliar green silk tie that was slowly strangling him. “You don’t have a hope in Andromeda of beating me at Court. You don’t even know the Galaxia Code.”

“I could learn.”

“Seven hundred and seventy four battercubes?” Parlo raised a blonde eyebrow. “Good luck.”

“You’re making that up,” charged Emma.

“I’m not. In fact, I wrote the 773,748,559,121 battercubette.”

“All right, all right. What do I owe?”

“Two dabt.”

“And what’s two dabt when it’s at home?”

“About five dollars in your currency.”

Emma’s blue eyes narrowed. “Do you mean you travelled umpteen light years to call in a debt of five dollars? Do your clients know what you’re doing?”

“My clients trust me. I’m the best travelling lawyer in the galaxy.”

“More like a bailiff.” Emma dug in her pocket and came up with the coins she had been going to use to buy a chocolate bar and soda from the vending machine. “Here.”

Quick as a flash, Parlo’s briefcase appeared. All lawyers, whatever their species, have briefcases. He cracked it open. “I’ll write you a receipt, and while I write, if you just sign here.”

He unrolled a sheet of paper five metres long.

“Whoa,” said Emma.

“It’s nothing to worry about,” said the alien lawyer, radiating trustworthiness, and sweating. “It simply says you agree to never disclose the existence and ongoing plot of ‘Centauri Calling’.”

“What plot?” interjected Emma. “The program is rubbish.”

“See, no problems. You sign, and the producers of ‘Centauri Calling’ will sort out why it is you’re receiving the broadcasts.”

“Sort out?”

“Yes, the producers will have the right to arrange examination of your body for… abnormalities.”

“While I’m living or dead?” she asked snarkily.


Emma jabbed a finger at the lengthy contract. “Add a clause. Examination can only occur after my natural death, and said death can be in no way contributed to by the producers or any other interested parties.”

“Very well.” Parlo licked his finger and started writing.

While he wrote, Emma thought. “I’m not signing.”

“What? You can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“I’ve already spent your signing bonus.”

Damn, thought Emma. When a lawyer tells the truth, we’re all in trouble.

“I’ll sign if you give me a spaceship.” She’d be the fastest lawyer on Earth, and when bored, she could taunt the military.


Too easy. Emma signed.

Contract and Parlo vanished, but a toy spaceship sat at her feet.

Jenny Schwartz is an armchair socialist, an idealist when it’s not too much trouble. Her hobbies include worrying about the world and swearing at political idiocy.

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