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Chapter Fourteen

``The people of Krikkit,'' said His High Judgmental Supremacy, Judiciary Pag, LIVR (the Learned, Impartial and Very Relaxed) Chairman of the Board of Judges at the Krikkit War Crimes Trial, ``are, well, you know, they're just a bunch of real sweet guys, you know, who just happen to want to kill everybody. Hell, I feel the same way some mornings. Shit.

``OK,'' he continued, swinging his feet up on to the bench in front of him and pausing a moment to pick a thread off his Ceremonial Beach Loafers, ``so you wouldn't necessarily want to share a Galaxy with these guys.''

This was true.

The Krikkit attack on the Galaxy had been stunning. Thousands and thousands of huge Krikkit warships had leapt suddenly out of hyperspace and simultaneously attacked thousands and thousands of major worlds, first seizing vital material supplies for building the next wave, and then calmly zapping those worlds out of existence.

The Galaxy, which had been enjoying a period of unusual peace and prosperity at the time, reeled like a man getting mugged in a meadow.

``I mean,'' continued Judiciary Pag, gazing round the ultra-modern (this was ten billion years ago, when ``ultra-modern'' meant lots of stainless steel and brushed concrete) and huge courtroom, ``these guys are just obsessed.''

This too was true, and is the only explanation anyone has yet managed to come up with for the unimaginable speed with which the people of Krikkit had pursued their new and absolute purpose --- the destruction of everything that wasn't Krikkit.

It is also the only explanation for their bewildering sudden grasp of all the hypertechnology involved in building their thousands of spaceships, and their millions of lethal white robots.

These had really struck terror into the hearts of everyone who had encountered them --- in most cases, however, the terror was extremely short-lived, as was the person experiencing the terror. They were savage, single-minded flying battle machines. They wielded formidable multifunctional battleclubs which, brandished one way, would knock down buildings and, brandished another way, fired blistering Omni-Destructo Zap Rays and, brandished a third way, launched a hideous arsenal of grenades, ranging from minor incendiary devices to Maxi-Slorta Hypernuclear Devices which could take out a major sun. Simply striking the grenades with the battleclubs simultaneously primed them, and launched them with phenomenal accuracy over distances ranging from mere yards to hundreds of thousands of miles.

``OK,'' said Judiciary Pag again, ``so we won.'' He paused and chewed a little gum. ``We won,'' he repeated, ``but that's no big deal. I mean a medium-sized galaxy against one little world, and how long did it take us? Clerk of the Court?''

``M'lud?'' said the severe little man in black, rising.

``How long, kiddo?''

``It is a trifle difficult, m'lud, to be precise in this matter. Time and distance ...''

``Relax, guy, be vague.''

``I hardly like to be vague, m'lud, over such a ...''

``Bite the bullet and be it.''

The Clerk of the Court blinked at him. It was clear that like most of the Galactic legal profession he found Judiciary Pag (or Zipo Bibrok 510^8, as his private name was known, inexplicably, to be) a rather distressing figure. He was clearly a bounder and a cad. He seemed to think that the fact that he was the possessor of the finest legal mind ever discovered gave him the right to behave exactly as he liked, and unfortunately he appeared to be right.

``Er, well, m'lud, very approximately, two thousand years,'' the Clerk murmured unhappily.

``And how many guys zilched out?''

``Two grillion, m'lud.'' The Clerk sat down. A hydrospectic photo of him at this point would have revealed that he was steaming slightly.

Judiciary Pag gazed once more around the courtroom, wherein were assembled hundreds of the very highest officials of the entire Galactic administration, all in their ceremonial uniforms or bodies, depending on metabolism and custom. Behind a wall of Zap-Proof Crystal stood a representative group of the people of Krikkit, looking with calm, polite loathing at all the aliens gathered to pass judgment on them. This was the most momentous occasion in legal history, and Judiciary Pag knew it.

He took out his chewing gum and stuck it under his chair.

``That's a whole lotta stiffs,'' he said quietly.

The grim silence in the courtroom seemed in accord with this view.

``So, like I said, these are a bunch of really sweet guys, but you wouldn't want to share a Galaxy with them, not if they're just gonna keep at it, not if they're not gonna learn to relax a little. I mean it's just gonna be continual nervous time, isn't it, right? Pow, pow, pow, when are they next coming at us? Peaceful coexistence is just right out, right? Get me some water somebody, thank you.''

He sat back and sipped reflectively.

``OK,'' he said, ``hear me, hear me. It's, like, these guys, you know, are entitled to their own view of the Universe. And according to their view, which the Universe forced on them, right, they did right. Sounds crazy, but I think you'll agree. They believe in ...''

He consulted a piece of paper which he found in the back pocket of his Judicial jeans.

``They believe in `peace, justice, morality, culture, sport, family life, and the obliteration of all other life forms'.''

He shrugged.

``I've heard a lot worse,'' he said.

He scratched his crotch reflectively.

``Freeeow,'' he said. He took another sip of water, then held it up to the light and frowned at it. He twisted it round.

``Hey, is there something in this water?'' he said.

``Er, no, m'lud,'' said the Court Usher who had brought it to him, rather nervously.

``Then take it away,'' snapped Judiciary Pag, ``and put something in it. I got an idea.''

He pushed away the glass and leaned forward.

``Hear me, hear me,'' he said.

The solution was brilliant, and went like this:

The planet of Krikkit was to be enclosed for perpetuity in an envelope of Slo-Time, inside which life would continue almost infinitely slowly. All light would be deflected round the envelope so that it would remain invisible and impenetrable. Escape from the envelope would be utterly impossible unless it were locked from the outside.

When the rest of the Universe came to its final end, when the whole of creation reached its dying fall (this was all, of course, in the days before it was known that the end of the Universe would be a spectacular catering venture) and life and matter ceased to exist, then the planet of Krikkit and its sun would emerge from its Slo-Time envelope and continue a solitary existence, such as it craved, in the twilight of the Universal void.

The Lock would be on an asteroid which would slowly orbit the envelope.

The key would be the symbol of the Galaxy --- the Wikkit Gate.

By the time the applause in the court had died down, Judiciary Pag was already in the Sens-O-Shower with a rather nice member of the jury that he'd slipped a note to half an hour earlier.


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