Aphelion Issue 254, Volume 24
September 2020
 
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The Trial of Arthur Travis

by Aniela Bielanski




Arthur Travis was, by all accounts, an upstanding citizen, which was why he was shocked to find himself waking up one Tuesday morning with a mass of well-dressed people around him and handcuffs on his wrists. The officer who had handcuffed him informed Travis of his right to remain silent, but that was no issue; he was mute, and had been since birth. He could only stand and walk as directed by the police to the small black car parked outside his apartment.

An assortment of press vehicles and reporters were gathered around the car, parting slowly as it pressed forward. The car’s radio was tuned to a local news station. The morning anchor spoke with the bland, authoritarive tone required of his field about the murder of Silicon Valley tech mogul Philip Azuvello by one Arthur B. Travis. The killer was easy to find, as security footage displayed the entire event. Azuvello hadn’t believed in cloning, and had avoided uploading his mind. He had acquired no digital backup and relied on a security detail for protection.

Travis, a Vancouver native, couldn’t understand how his life had gone from a simple nine-to-five job and a modest apartment to an international murder case. Nor could his lawyer.

“They caught you on video,” he explained, almost to himself, showing Travis the permitted stills from the footage. “You were honestly rather impressive; it’s not every day that someone bests the security of such a major figure.”

Travis simply looked at the man.

“I think the only thing we have going for our case is that you somehow managed to get from the valley to Vancouver overnight. And a lack of motive, I suppose, but nobody really liked Azuvello anyway.”

He laughed at his own joke. Travis continued to stare, not even offering a smile, and his lawyer rubbed the port on the back of his neck awkwardly before continuing on.

“Right... I guess that was a bit too soon. How did you get from the valley to Vancouver in a night anyway? There’s no record of plane tickets, and a car or train is much too slow.”

Travis reached for a piece of paper and wrote something down, then showed it to his lawyer. The man spoke no sign language, as much as Travis wished he did. Silence was a beautiful thing. The lawyer read Travis’s paper and chuckled once more.

“I’m afraid you must’ve Mr. Travis. They caught you on film. It wasn’t questionable either; you deliberately showed yourself to the camera. This isn’t so much a trial as a formality. You really should take the deal and do the time. It’ll only be twenty years before you’re eligible for parole.”

Travis shook his head. There would be a trial, and he would be found innocent. After all, he hadn’t committed a crime. Surely the footage must be mistaken.


*****



The first day of the trial went about as poorly for Travis as it could. The prosecution requested and was granted permission to play the damning security footage. Travis was shown fighting the security force before firing on Azuvello. He followed by turning to face the camera, his face easily identifiable, and giving a short laugh before destroying it.

Travis, as always, remained silent. His lawyer maintained that the individual in the footage couldn’t possibly be him, and finding that a futile path turned instead to argue the lack of a motive. The prosecutor countered that Azuvello was strongly disliked by many in the region, and it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to assume that Travis felt similarly. A back and forth was had over the motive, but did little to exonerate Travis.

The prosecution rested, thoroughly satisfied with their case, and his lawyer tried again. Called to the stand was Travis’s employer. “Where,” asked his lawyer, “has Mr. Travis been for the past week?”

“Work,” his employer responded. “Though he has been absent for the last few days. Sickness, if I recall correctly. And of course I don’t keep track of his weekends.”

A miss. Travis still had a chance, however, and his lawyer continued. “Has Mr. Travis ever expressed any ill will towards the late Azuvello or his company?” A no. “Has Mr. Travis been a consistently upstanding employee, displaying no... homicidal tendencies?” Objection, leading question. “My apologies, how would you describe my client’s performance at your company?” Decent, without any notable failures. It was something.


*****



The second day, the defense tried again. “He must be a co-opted clone; his eyes are the wrong color,” Travis’s physician asserted when called as a witness. This shot, while seeming at first promising, turned out to be a miss.

The manufacturer, called as rebuttal, was the one who shot it down. Presenting the manufacturer with the security footage, the prosecution asked about the validity of eye color as a means of determining whether a clone had been co-opted. The manufacturer asserted that yes, it was one of the most effective ways of finding a stolen clone. The prosecution then pointed out that the footage was in greyscale. This would not be an issue had the killer’s eyes been, say, a dark brown, but Travis’s green eyes could not be clearly determined to be different from the light color shown in the footage.

Despite this, the prosecution’s argument now had a dent, though not something that could be called a hole. What if the killer’s eyes were wrong? How could it be known? Why hadn’t Travis accepted a guilty plea given that he was so clearly at fault? Was there some evidence that everyone else had missed?

The prosecution pressed further when challenging the physician. Unclear eye color in the footage required a clone body to be much help to Travis, and none had been found, nor were there any records of one prepared for him. Not only that, but Travis was on record as not wanting a clone. Even if he had, why wouldn’t he have used it in order to enable himself to speak? Travis did not react to any of this, instead doodling or perhaps composing something on some paper allowed to him.


*****



On the third day of the proceedings, Travis’s lawyer played his last remaining card, Mrs. Dana Travis (née Collins). The woman, now in her sixties, took the oath and then the stand. He went through the usual questioning, asking about Travis’s habits, his personality, and his recent contact with her, and then asked a final determining question: “Did you ever secure a clone for your son?”

To Arthur Travis’s surprise, the answer was yes. Against his wishes, his mother had acquired and put into storage a clone for the potential event of her son’s untimely death. The defense now had much to work with.

His lawyer was triumphant. “Mr. Travis is a first time user: the original copy,” he told the court. “In order for this murder to have been committed by him, the killer seen in our footage must not have a port. I ask you to confirm it: do you see a port on the killer’s neck?”

The security footage was not forthcoming. While the killer very deliberately showed his face to the camera, his neck was almost entirely covered by a large fur coat. Travis, hoping it would have some effect on the results, pulled down his shirt to display his bare, unmodified neck.

“My client asserts that he never desired a clone, and thus it has been assumed until now that one does not exist. My client’s parents however, against his wishes, secured him a clone which is currently in holding. Should we not find this clone to ensure that it has not been tampered with? I would say that we should attempt to avoid putting away an innocent man for the theft of his own body!”

After some deliberation it was decided that the court could not proceed until this clone had been located or determined missing. It would need to be destroyed anyway, if he were guilty of such a high offense. Neither location or destruction would presently be an option however, as the clone was not in the storage facility listed in the documents acquired by Travis’s lawyer. According to management, it had been moved under unclear orders and was now lost. The prosecuting lawyer suggested that it could be located if still in good condition were Travis to be killed, as his death would trigger the activation of the clone’s brain. This was rejected by both the public and the court however, who were beginning to look towards Travis with a sympathetic eye.

Travis’s case had picked up new steam. How could he have travelled from the valley to Vancouver in roughly one night, with an entire investigation revealing no record? While his time the days before the murder was somewhat unclear, there was no evidence that he had travelled by plane in over a year, and his employer reported that he had been present in the week prior. His motive was sketchy, and his record outstanding. He himself had displayed no knowledge of the event unless previously revealed to him by someone else, and had no combat training or ability, much less that required to take down even an inexperienced security detail.

This was compounded by the discovery of a body just off of the grounds of Azuvello’s house. Initially a regional case, the media sensation around the assassination of Azuvello brought to its assigned officers the idea that it may be connected. The body was spirited to Vancouver, and sure enough it was identified as the corpse of Arthur B. Travis, who was at that time sitting in a courtroom at his own trial. There were two notable distinctions however. The corpse had a port at the base of its neck, and its eyes were found to be a striking electric blue.



THE END


© 2020 Aniela Bielanski

Bio: Aniela Bielanski has been writing sci-fi and fantasy since childhood, and is currently attending University of Northern Colorado.

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