This is a free, serialized episodic story of the case of Earth v. Nibbitz World Theme Parks over patent infringment on oxygen-breathing life forms.
New episodes will be released from time to time as the manuscript progresses. Eventually it may become a book you can download on your eReader.
Wayne Smith's alarm buzzed incessantly, and although battered by numerous attempts to the contrary, it wailed through the morning gloom like a rooster. Wayne lurched upright in bed, yanked the thing close, examined it through a groggy haze, and after comprehending its purpose, jabbed the switch to shut it off. He was not looking forward to the humdrum monotony of another day of depositions. He was, as it turns out, a lawyer.
Graduating last in his class gave him an air of distinction only bested by the woman who graduated first in their class, which is that they were both distinguishable from their peers as anything other than simply graduating. After all, they all held juris doctorates. But that Lisa Gonsalvez, wow was she something else? First in class, summa cum laude, beautiful, charming, kind, brilliant, driven, and probably partner at some big firm today.
Very much the antithesis of Wayne, who had attended Columbia only due to his father's connections. He probably graduated the same way. He hadn't even passed the bar exam the first time. Wayne passed it on his second try, telling friends and family in an offhand kind of way that the first one was for practice. Oddly enough, he found himself specializing in appeals cases where he used the same line with his clients.
An hour later at the station, he crossed to the platform just before the train arrived, irritated that he wouldn't have enough time to run to the Dunkin Donut shop to get a coffee for the ride into the city. He climbed aboard the train and started looking for a place to sit. It was pretty full today, so he had to sit with his briefcase between his legs, next to a woman wearing a long black dress and white sneakers. Her nose was in a romance novel. Sensing him, she scowled in his direction. Funny, he thought. How are you going to find romance with that kind of attitude? Wayne looked from her to the man sitting across from him.
The man wore a large, stupid smile. "John Doe," the man said, holding out his hand. He had a strange accent but he looked normal. He must have been European.
"Really?" Wayne asked, surprised not only by the name but the fact that the man had said it with such enthusiasm. He didn't shake John's hand.
Completely unoffended, John opened his coat and pulled out a card from his inside pocket. He handed it across to Wayne, again repeating his name.
Wayne looked at the card what felt like bleary eyes. It didn’t seem to be altogether in focus, but clearly read: ZOLOFT.
"Really?" Wayne asked again with a skeptical raise of his brow.
Do I look that depressed, Wayne thought? He turned the card over. All the letters looked Arabic, except the product. Zoloft was the prescription drug used to treat depression. With a quirky smile, Wayne waved the card and showed John how he tucked it into his pocket and patted on it for later. The last thing Wayne wanted was prescription medications, or this strange John Doe fellow talking to him. John must have been one of those new marketing gimmicks where they try to insert advertisements into normal conversation. John wasn’t very good at it.
"John Doe," the man reiterated. "Your world is troubled," he added gravely, his goofy smile fading. "Call me."
"If I need you, I will," Wayne said, again patting the card in his pocket. "Don't you worry."
The conductor came through and Wayne handed him his pass, got his ticket, and promptly moved to another car. The nut cases that rode the train were out of this world.
Dolores Cramer was at her desk typing away at the computer when Wayne walked in. He shifted his coffee from one hand to the other as he wiggled from his overcoat. Dolores appeared both bright and cheery. She looked up and smiled warmly, her eyes big, which was a bad sign. She was a nervous happy, which meant she put on the biggest show of cheer when she was most terrified. Her husband may have died last night, or there was a masked gunman behind the door. Or, worse, the D.A. was in his office.
"What's the matter?" Wayne asked quietly while putting his coat on the hook behind the door, checking carefully to make sure no ex-client hid behind it with a gun. He had his hot coffee ready just in case.
"Scarlett Johansson is in your office," Dolores said.
"Who?" Wayne asked, unsure if he had heard her right.
"Scarlett Johansson! The actress."
"Why?" was his next question, but it came out only as a furrowed brow. Dolores must certainly be mistaken. "Does the Stevens case have anything to do with her?" Wayne asked, thinking that the deposition work he'd been doing may relate to the movie star in some way. But that was as absurd a notion as Scarlett Johansson simply walking into his office off the street. "You must be mistaken," Wayne finally told Dolores.
Dolores raised an eyebrow at that. She didn't like her integrity being questioned. She held up a magazine, on the cover of which was Scarlett Johansson.
"Alright," Wayne said, holding up his hands. "Did she say why she's here?"
"All she said was that it was an urgent matter."
Scarlett sat in one of the guest chairs as Wayne quietly opened the door to peek in, her back to him. Her black hair fell loose to one side, showing her the soft skin of her neck on one side. She wore a skirt, her long, exquisite legs crossed. Her hand strummed the armrest. It stopped.
"You can come in now, Mr. Smith," she said without looking back. It was definitely her sultry voice. He could see her smile from the side of her face as he stepped in. She turned slightly to regard him, not getting up though.
"You'll have to forgive me," Wayne said, smiling nervously as he crossed the room to meet her. She looked up at him as he held out a hand, but she didn’t take it. "It's just that, well," he said, taking his hand back. He was looking at her face now and there was no denying the uncanny likeness. "Well, I'm going to have to see your identification, Ms. Johansson."
"Of course," she said, leaning over and opening a briefcase beside her chair. Wayne went to his side of the desk to put his briefcase down and to get a better angle with which to look down her blouse. He almost spilled his coffee on his desk from the lack of attention he was now giving it. Those were certainly Scarlett Johansson, too. Wow, he thought, sitting down. Scarlett Johansson in my office.
She passed a California driver's license across the table to him. It said, unquestionably, Scarlett Johansson on it. She presented her US passport too, again confirming her identity. He was handing her both back when she held out one more card. It glowed, which was odd, and when he took it and looked at it a hologram appeared.
"Eh," he said with a start, dropping the card onto his desk, sliding his chair back and looking at his hand to make sure he hadn't just been burned by fire or something.
"Good," Scarlett said, taking the card back. "At least we can confirm you have had no contact with anyone involved in the case."
"What case? What is that?"
"This," she said, holding up the card in her palm, "is another form of ID." The hologram appeared again, showing a gaseous and colorful cloud. Hovering around the cloud were odd symbols and arrows pointing out different bubbles here and there. He recognized the symbols as some kind of Arabic or something, like that John Doe character’s card.
"And this," she continued, closing her hand on the hologram while dropping a manila envelope onto his desk with the other, "is the case."
"Wait, hold on," Wayne said. "Is this some kind of joke? What TV show is this for?"
"What do you mean?"
"You're Scarlett Johansson," Wayne said, throwing his hands out in front of him as if presenting her. The gravity of his statement didn't seem to register with her.
"Yes, we've established that much," she said flatly. "Can we proceed to the case?
Wayne crossed his arms while leaning back in his chair to scrutinize her, lifting a hand to his chin. He didn't know what to make of this. He realized he had begun scratching his head like some frustrated baboon as she opened the folder and began to explain the case.
"The Zothorian Twenty-Second Incorporated Circuit Court has scheduled an initial hearing on the matter of Nibbitz v. Earth in order to settle the matter on whether or not a preliminary injunction shall be ordered," Scarlett said while pulling the first piece of paper from the envelope.
"Gimmie that one more time?" Wayne turned his head skeptically to look at her sidelong. She really is a good actress, he thought. She didn't crack a smile or even twitch as she said it.
"Mr. Smith," Scarlett sighed with frustration. "I represent Nibbitz Worlds Theme Parks. I am Senior Aid to the Chief Counsel. We have filed suit against your planet for patent infringement and we're seeking an injunction..."
"Alright," he interrupted. "You're still talking all nonsense and stuff," Wayne told her, looking around his office. "Where are the cameras? You're a great impersonator, by the way. You had me going until you started spouting this DeLorean Zoloft mumbo jumbo."
"ZOLOFT?" Scarlett asked gravely, an intent scowl burning in his direction. "Have you been in contact with ZOLOFT?"
"Look, I don't take the stuff," Wayne told her irritably. Why was everyone trying to get him on drugs? "Do I look depressed?"
"You mentioned ZOLOFT."
"Yeah, that's what you called it, right? What was that court thingy you said?"
"Zothorian," Scarlett replied. She glared at him sidelong, as if gauging his capacity for quick thinking.
Wayne snapped his fingers. "Yeah," he said. "Them."
She scowled. "You don't appear to be taking this seriously."
"Well, maybe people from your planet do this sort of thing all the time," he told her patronizingly, "but here on Earth you don't come to Wayne Smith, Esquire over intergalactic pro-bono work." He laughed, thinking his statement funny given the situation. He hoped it would be repeated on television over and over again. Maybe it would help out with business. Get some new customers off the free advertising.
"Trust me," Scarlett said apathetically. "I would like nothing more than to work with a qualified legal counsel." At this Wayne scowled. He didn't need some crazy woman who thought she was Scarlett Johansson telling him he was a hack lawyer.
"Did my father send you?"
"No," she told him through a heavy sigh of indifference. "You were chosen by lottery."
"That's a convenient explanation," he said with raised eyebrows. "Look, even if you're the real Scarlett Johansson, this is a bit far-fetched even for the SiFi channel. Maybe you should take your meds and head back to the institution."
"I'm not the real Scarlett Johansson."
"Newsflash," Wayne replied while opening and closing his hands above his head like flashing light bulbs.
"You cannot pronounce my real name, and if you did it would sound something like your body passing gas." As Wayne laughed at her statement, she placed her holographic identity card back on the desk and held her finger over it. The hologram grew in size until it was enough to obscure their vision of each other. "That is me, the multi-colored gaseous cloud." She withheld the fact that the large proportion of green hue in her gaseous form was clearly the pigmentation of a mostly Mantorian descent. She had achieved great things in her life despite its cultural handicap, so she was not about to explain Zothorian history to an irritating Earthling.
"This," she continued, thrusting the piece of paper toward him, which disrupted the hologram, "is what I've been trying to explain to you." He had to admit that the hologram special effect lent some credence to her claim, so he humored her and looked at the paper.
"What is this, Arabic?"
"Touch this," she said, putting a blank metallic disc on his table. It looked like an electric box slug, the kind he used to find as a kid and try to stuff into video game machines. He reached out and picked up the little disc, then looked at the paper. Suddenly the symbols all made sense.
"Eh," he said with another start, dropping the disc and rolling his chair back again. He still clutched the paper so he looked at it again, unsure whether he could trust his eyes. There were foreign symbols again. When he looked up at Scarlett, she was staring at him with a beleaguered expression. "Sorry," he said awkwardly, some of his doubts about her claims beginning to retreat. With disc in hand he started to read.
He turned the paper over, looking for the exhibit. There it was—a small paragraph that expanded like an ancient scroll unraveling as he scanned it up and down.
"What the hell is this, some kind of joke?" Wayne asked, flipping back to the first page to continue reading.
"Wait, what is this date, here?" Wayne asked, pointing at the letter's date.
"The date of the initial cease and desist," Scarlett replied blandly.
"No, I mean when was it? In Earth years?"
"Well, do you mean your calendar you use today?"
"Yes. Was this last year? Two years ago?"
"Ah, this is the first letter that was sent, therefore it would be," she said, tapping her chin as she thought. "This was delivered in your year nineteen hundred and eighty eight."
"B what? B...BC?"
"Yes, 1988 BC."
"You sent this letter to a bunch of primates?" Wayne asked with a raised eyebrow, completely flabbergasted. "We were still living in caves."
Again she sighed, wondering how this human had earned a degree in law knowing nothing about human history. Still, she mused, this case would be easier to win than she ever anticipated.
"We filed it with your court appointed attorney. Seeing as how you didn't have the intellectual capacity at the time to act as your own defense, you were remanded to the state for further action."
"The DeLorian government?"
"Zothorian," Scarlett corrected him. "And contrary to your view of history, there is very little intellectual difference between your ancestors and you."
"Was that a joke?" he asked, offended by what he thought to be another condescending statement about his professional acumen.
"No," she said, a confused look on her face.
"Never mind. So you're saying the Zothorian government has custody over Earth?"
"Yes," she said, satisfied that he was beginning to come around.
Maybe I should take some drugs after all, Wayne thought.
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