Lone Star Planet
I turned and stepped forward to confront the Bonneys, mentally thanking Gail. Up until she’d slapped me, I’d been weak-kneed and dry-mouthed with what I had to do. Now I was just plain angry, and I found that I was thinking a lot more clearly. Jack-High Bonney’s wounded left shoulder, I knew, wouldn’t keep him from using his gun hand, but his shoulder muscles would be stiff enough to slow his draw. I’d intended saving him until I’d dealt with his brothers. Now, I remembered how he’d gotten that wound in the first place: he’d been the one who’d used the auto-rifle, out at the Hickock ranch. So I changed my plans and moved him up to top priority.
“Hold it!” I yelled at them. “You’ve been cleared of killing a politician, but you still have killing a Solar League Ambassador to answer for. Now get your hands full of guns, if you don’t want to die with them empty!”
The crowd of sympathizers and felicitators simply exploded away from the Bonney brothers. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Sidney and a fat, blowsy woman with brass-colored hair as they both tried to dive under the friends-of-the-court table at the same place. The Bonney brothers simply stood and stared at me, for an instant, unbelievingly, as I got my thumbs on the release-studs of my belt. Judge Nelson’s gavel was hammering, and he was shouting:
“Court-of-Political-Justice-Confederate-Continent-of-New-Texas-is-herewith- adjourned-reconvene-0900-tomorrow. Hit the floor!“
“Damn! He means it!” Switchblade Joe Bonney exclaimed.
Then they all reached for their guns. They were still reaching when I pressed the studs and the Krupp-Tattas popped up into my hands, and I swung up my right-hand gun and shot Jack-High through the head. After that, I just let my subconscious take over. I saw gun flames jump out at me from the Bonneys’ weapons, and I felt my own pistols leap and writhe in my hands, but I don’t believe I was aware of hearing the shots, not even from my own weapons. The whole thing probably lasted five seconds, but it seemed like twenty minutes to me. Then there was nobody shooting at me, and nobody for me to shoot at; the big room was silent, and I was aware that Judge Nelson and his eight associates were rising cautiously from behind the bench.
I holstered my left-hand gun, removed and replaced the magazine of the right-hand gun, then holstered it and reloaded the other one. Hoddy Ringo and Francisco Parros and Commander Stonehenge were on their feet, their pistols drawn, covering the spectators’ seats. Colonel Hickock had also drawn a pistol and he was covering Sidney with it, occasionally moving the muzzle to the left to include the z’Srauff Ambassador and his two attachés.
By this time, Nelson and the other eight judges were in their seats, trying to look calm and judicial.
“Your Honor,” I said, “I fully realize that no judge likes to have his court turned into a shooting gallery. I can assure you, however, that my action here was not the result of any lack of respect for this court. It was pure necessity. Your Honor can see that: my government could not permit this crime against its Ambassador to pass unpunished.”
Judge Nelson nodded solemnly. “Court was adjourned when this little incident happened, Mr. Silk,” he said.
He leaned forward and looked to where the three Bonney brothers were making a mess of blood on the floor. “I trust that nobody will construe my unofficial and personal comments here as establishing any legal precedent, and I wouldn’t like to see this sort of thing become customary ... but ... you did that all by yourself, with those little beanshooters? ... Not bad, not bad at all, Mr. Silk.”
I thanked him, then turned to the z’Srauff Ambassador. I didn’t bother putting my remarks into Basic. He understood, as well as I did, what I was saying.
“Look, Fido,” I told him, “my government is quite well aware of the source from which the orders for the murder of my predecessor came. These men I just killed were only the tools.
“We’re going to get the brains behind them, if we have to send every warship we own into the z’Srauff star-cluster and devastate every planet in it. We don’t let dogs snap at us. And when they do, we don’t kick them, we shoot them!”
That, of course, was not exactly striped-pants diplomatic language. I wondered, for a moment, what Norman Gazarian, the protocol man, would think if he heard an Ambassador calling another Ambassador Fido.
But it seemed to be the kind of language that Mr. Vuvuvu understood. He skinned back his upper lip at me and began snarling and growling. Then he turned on his hind paws and padded angrily down the aisle away from the front of the courtroom.
The spectators around him and above him began barking, baying, yelping at him: “Tie a can to his tail!” “Git for home, Bruno!”
Then somebody yelled, “Hey, look! Even his wrist watch is blushing!”
That was perfectly true. Mr. Gglafrr Ddespttann Vuvuvu’s watch-face, normally white, was now glowing a bright ruby-red.