Training grounds.
kitten   November 25, 2002

A continuation of this bit of nonsense, in a different format.

. . . .

INT. CELL

Night, or at least a facsimile thereof. The interior of a sort of makeshift cell aboard the ship, dusty blue light.

CLOSE-UP on ANGELA, sleeping lightly, on the temperfoam mattress in the corner, clad in a dark blue coverall.

PULL BACK, the resonating thud of a solenoid lock as before. The door is barely open when ANGELA is on her feet, tensed and ready. Even through the coverall, her svelte menace is apparent.

In the doorway, backlit by the corridor light, stands the APPRENTICE. He's no longer wearing his off-the-shelf blazer, but now looks crisp and professional in a military-style uniform.

APPRENTICE
Good evening.
The APPRENTICE steps inside the cell and closes the distance between him and ANGELA. Her surprise is evident, though she's trying to conceal it.
ANGELA
You. You're the one that brought me here, aren't you?

APPRENTICE
That's right. I'm Lieutenant Phipps. If you'll come with me, there's someone who wishes to speak with you.

He starts towards the door.

ANGELA hesitates, but it doesn't look as though she has any choice. She follows him out the door Enters the corridor, two guards taking flanking positions alongside her and PHIPPS. Their guns aren't exactly pointed at her, but they aren't exactly pointed away, either.

PHIPPS
This way.

INT. CORRIDOR - NIGHT

PHIPPS leads ANGELA down the corridor, which is lined with the same basic duraluminum plating that was in her cell, dimly lit for the night-cycle. It's an industrial look, with rivets along the panels, and ANGELA is paying close attention to the badging on the walls, particularly near intersections, trying to get a feel for the layout. The cramped and low corridor confirms to her she is on a spacecraft - little space appears to be wasted.

ANGELA (vaguely conversationally)
I've never seen a uniform like yours. You military?

PHIPPS
In a manner of speaking.

ANGELA
You were with my target before. You were his apprentice.

PHIPPS
Do you always assume things are as they appear?

ANGELA
Unless there's reason to believe otherwise.

PHIPPS
There's always a reason to believe otherwise.

He stops at a doorway, presses his thumb to a panel next to it, and the door sighs open. PHIPPS and ANGELA enter the room; the guards remain outside.


INT. STATEROOM

It's a conference room of sorts, small but not unreasonably so. As far as it goes, it's actually somewhat luxurious, in a sterile sort of way. There's even potted plants in the corners.
Along the circumference of the conference table are computer terminals. A few portable tablets are stacked against the far wall on top of low, metallic cabinet. A man is seated at one of the terminals, his profile lit by the CRT glow.

PHIPPS
Sir?
The man at the computer terminal swivells in his seat and faces us - it is the ASP who greeted ANGELA upon her initial arrival. He, too, is dressed in a military uniform, though vaguely more relaxed than PHIPPS, the same casual confidence inspired by the knowledge that he is in charge. The Asp ring still adorns his right hand.
He stands and approaches ANGELA.
ASP
Ah, I see you're feeling better. Excellent.
(to PHIPPS) Thank you, Lieutenant. You are dismissed.

PHIPPS (hasty)
Sir, may I remind you that she is --

ASP
You are dismissed, Lieutenant.

His voice is severe; PHIPPS backs off.
PHIPPS
Sir.

PHIPPS nods and leaves the room, the door clicking shut behind him.

ANGELA is standing, not giving away anything, waiting.

ASP
I doubt, Angela, given what we know about you thus far, that you're one to waste time with social niceties. However, permit me to play host.
ANGELA remains silent. The ASP wends his way to a small console at the far end of the room, where he extracts two white cups.
ASP
May I offer you some coffee? Or some tea? I prefer tea, myself.
Without waiting for her response - not that she had planned to give one - he fills the cups with steaming liquid from an urn atop the console. It is indeed tea, and he places one cup on the table in front of ANGELA.
ASP
Please. Have a seat.
The ASP sits, a few seats away. So does ANGELA. She ignores her tea.
ASP (sipping his tea)
Black. I ask for Darjeeling, but never seem to get it.

ANGELA
Who are you?

The ASP sets aside his cup for the moment.
ASP
Who do you think I am?

ANGELA
You're an Asp.

ASP (zero sarcasm)
That's well observed.

ANGELA
This your spaceship?

ASP
Space station, actually. We're almost two hundred miles above the Earth. And yes, it is mine - or rather, I am in command of it. Captain Logan Winter, and welcome aboard the Ring.

ANGELA
Feel like telling me why I'm here? Or how I was brought here?

WINTER
The two questions are part of the same answer, Angela. It wasn't easy to track you down, and it was more difficult still to capture you. Alive, anyway.

WINTER taps his computer terminal significantly.
WINTER
We've been watching you for quite a while.

ANGELA
We?

WINTER
Perhaps you've wondered, at some point, exactly where Asps such as myself are brought into the light? The ability is genetic, but latent until nurtured.

ANGELA
I never gave it much thought. What's this got to do with me?

WINTER
Patience, Angela. When I say we've been watching you, I mean myself, and others like me, of which there are many aboard the Ring.

ANGELA
You mean other Asps.

WINTER
Just so.

ANGELA
How many?

WINTER
The Ring compliments a crew of a little over four hundred. Most of them are Asps.

ANGELA is taking this in, and it's starting to wear down her carefully emotionless mask.
ANGELA
What about that guy? The lieutenant. Phipps.

WINTER
Yes.

ANGELA
But I saw him. He was an apprentice, to a molecular architect.

WINTER
The details are not for you to know, yet. But Lieutenant Phipps served his mission well. We needed the architect out of the way, and we wanted you.

ANGELA
You contracted me?

WINTER
That's correct. You took out the architect, and Phipps was able to take you.

ANGELA (a little more quiet than usual)
Because he's an Asp.

A beat.
You're telling me that this place, Ring, is where Asps are trained? Developed, whatever?

WINTER
You catch up quickly.

ANGELA
You still haven't answered my question. Why am I here?

WINTER
Really, Angela, I'm surprised you haven't put this together yet. I said the ability was latent before it was lit, not nonexistent.

ANGELA reacts, slightly, a mixture of denial and intrigue. Then it's gone.
WINTER
That's right.

ANGELA
No. I don't know what you think I am, but I can't be. I've never had --

WINTER
Had what? The advanced sensory perception is there, Angela, whether it's been brought out in you or not. In such a raw and unlit state as within you, I've heard it described as a sort of disconnection to reality, like watching a play. Forgive me for being vague, but I was selected early. I can't remember what it's like to not sense beyond.

ANGELA (distant)
Disconnected from reality.

WINTER
Sound familiar at all?

ANGELA gathers her thoughts a moment.
ANGELA
When I'm on my contracts.. that's when it happens. It's like I'm watching, not doing, and I'm not in control. But it's what makes me good at what I do.

WINTER
No doubt it is.

ANGELA
You're saying I'm.. one of you?

WINTER brushes a hand vaguely through his white hair.
WINTER
I'm saying we suspect you could be. That's what we're here to find out.

ANGELA
How?

WINTER stands, an unhurried motion, and walks to regard the small viewport. Stars drift slowly by.
WINTER
I understand you've had some navigation experience?

ANGELA
Class III rated on anything from light to bulk cruisers or frigates. My last job, before I started contracting.

WINTER
Let's start with that, then.

He walks back to the table, retrieves his tea, and sips at it before continuing.
WINTER
You're the navigator on a light cruiser out of Proxima. Your ship has fallen under attack, and the damage is heavy. You've managed to evade further detection for the moment, behind the penumbra of Proxima itself, but this won't last long. Your options are limited - try to leave the penumbra and your plasma signature shows up on the enemy sensor sweeps. What do you do?
ANGELA considers a moment.
ANGELA
I'd try to keep the star between us and him, obviously.

WINTER
Of course. And as fate would have it, this means your only destination port can be Bravo sector's Tanaka Station. Try to leave any other way, or chart a different destination, and you come out from behind the star.

ANGELA
So? We go to Tanaka Station.

WINTER
To further complicate matters, in our situation, the route from Proxima to Bravo sector means travelling through a multiple gravity-well cluster, about three parsecs square.

ANGELA
I've dealt with worse. I can chart through that.

A brief smile crosses WINTER's face.
WINTER
Good. Then that's what I want you to do.
ANGELA almost scoffs.
ANGELA
That's it?

WINTER
That's it. Proxima to Tanaka, through the cluster.

WINTER pulls a tablet from the top of the stack, and - still sipping his tea - uses his thumbs to enter something into it. He hands the tablet to ANGELA, who gives it a cursory glance.
WINTER
The relative coordinates are here. You may begin whenever you wish.

ANGELA
Fine by me.

She swivels round in her chair to face the nearest terminal, and keys it up.

Or tries to. The screen remains dark. She taps a few keys, pokes uncertainly at the screen.

WINTER
Something wrong?

ANGELA
Think this terminal is down.

WINTER crosses the room to the cabinet, speaking as he does so.
WINTER
Ah. I did forget to mention one other aspect.
He removes a small stack of blank paper from the cabinet and locks it again. The paper he puts on the table in front of ANGELA, and removes a genuine antique ballpoint from his pocket, which he puts next to the paper.
ANGELA
What the hell's this?

WINTER
In this scenario, your navigational computers are too heavily damaged to use.

ANGELA is incredulous.
ANGELA
You can't be serious.

WINTER
I'll be back in four hours.

WINTER walks to the door, pausing as it opens, and speaks over his shoulder.
WINTER
Good luck.
He leaves, the door snapping shut behind him.

ANGELA's gaze is empty as she regards the blank paper, the smooth ballpoint, the stubbornly dark computer screen. Her mouth is slightly open as though she wants to say something, but nobody is present to hear.

CLOSE-UP on the ballpoint, ANGELA's slender fingers reaching for it.

SLOW PULL-BACK, as ANGELA nudges the pen around on the table a moment, clicks it a few times, and finally picks it up. Considering for a moment, then beginning to write - equations, graphs, her now-cold tea forgotten.

INT. CORRIDOR

WINTER is standing outside the stateroom, pressing his thumb to the panel to lock it. His first officer, COMMANDER RIGGS, walks by. He's slightly younger than WINTER, his hair neatly combed, smooth features, uniform crisp. He stops.

RIGGS
Captain.
WINTER looks up.
WINTER
Hello, Commander.

RIGGS
Go well?

WINTER allows another slight smile.
WINTER
We'll see. She's careful.

RIGGS
Gave her that new one of yours?

WINTER (mildly)
You're better at this than you like to admit, Kyle.

RIGGS
That's the whole idea, sir.

WINTER
So it is. But of course, you're right. The Tanaka test.

He seems a bit distant, thoughtful maybe.
RIGGS
Seems unfair, you ask me.
They begin walking down the corridor. The day-cycle is beginning to emerge.
RIGGS
You think she'll be able to do it?
WINTER pauses in his walk, and gives a glance back at the stateroom's door.
WINTER
No.
He and RIGGS begin walking again.
WINTER
But I want to see how hard she'll try.

FADE OUT.

Once more, unto the breach.
kitten   November 4, 2002

This is a story that needs to be told.

It is a story I have told many times over, to dozens upon dozens of people, both online and off. To friends, to family, to lawyers - this story has been told to all of them.

This is the story of a silver attache case. This is the story of terrorism, before terrorism was fashionable. I archive it here for posterity.

This is my story.

* * *

Cycle back with me to July of 2000, on the outskirts of Atlanta, the sweltering humidity sticking to you even at night.

It was another evening at a local coffee shop where I spent far more time than could possibly be considered healthy. In those days, hardly an evening went by when I would not appear at this establishment, get a free cup of coffee or five from the people who worked there, sit outside and glower at the teenyboppers who infested the place every summer and distracted me from reading.

For the better part of a year, I sported a Zero Haliburton aluminium attache case: sleek, stylish, and eminately useful for carrying such items as books, keys, cigarettes, papers, and various other items. It would have been a marvelous means of transporting large, unmarked bills.

Recall that during the summer, swaths and legions of teenyboppers would invade this coffee shop. Cobb county - a municipality of the metro Atlanta area - does not have much in the way of entertainment or diversions for these hellions, and as most of them have no job and therefore no money, lounging around at coffee shops and generally trashing the place becomes their primary source of entertainment. The problem became so severe that on Friday and Saturday nights, the management would pay for a uniformed police officer to stand around and remove people if they were not actually purchasing drinks.

In general, I stay out of people's way. I will talk to anybody who approaches me, as they often did, but rarely will I approach someone I do not know, or otherwise hassle them. In short, I mind my own.

Such was not the case for these young whippersnappers. There were many of them who stayed out of my face, but there were as many who did not. Attempting to get a rise out of me was a particularly favorite pasttime of theirs. (I say "me", but I was by no means singled out. This is a problem which plagued many others as well.) The attache case I favored, all shiny and obviously important to me, was a favorite target of theirs. What better way to irritate me than by attempting to steal it?

This did not happen often, but it happened enough to be annoying. "You know," I found myself lamenting to a friend one evening, "I really wish they'd stop that. I don't want to leave it at home, because it's convenient, but I also don't want to have such an easy way for these twits to harrass me."

"So," he replied, "why not get an alarm for it?"

"An alarm?" I inquired. "For a briefcase?"

"Yeah," he said. "You know, vibration detectors, or sometimes they're just wired to the lock."

"Never heard of them. Anyway, I bet they cost a pretty penny."

Still, it wasn't a bad idea. After a bit of thought, we decided we could create the illusion of an alarm, in the same way false video cameras are used to create the impression of survellience. We went to a nearby Radio Shack and purchased a small black project box (a plastic box which is used to house, well, electronic projects), a red blinking LED, and a battery. In the parking lot, we cut a small hole for the LED into the box, placed the batteries inside, and turned it on. A small black box with a blinky red light on top. Neat.

Using some spare audio wire in my car, I made it appear as though this contraption were wired into the lock somehow. The finished effect was quite nice, and really did look like an alarm. Perhaps once the little snots saw this, they'd lay off.

The next night - it was a Thursday - I found myself once again at the coffee shop. The attache case was in the trunk of my car, and I was sitting on the trunk, coffee in hand, talking to a friend and waiting for another to arrive, that we three may journey to the Masquerade, a club that hosts 80s Night on Thursdays. (Shut up.)

I noticed a small cluster of particularly obnoxious teenagers on the patio, about thirty feet from my car where I was, but gave this no attention. No attention, that is, until one of them detached from the group and casually made his way over to me, trying not to be obvious.

"Hey," the kid said. "That briefcase you always carry - you have that with you right now?"

"Yes," I said, wondering what his deal was. "What do you care?"

"Those kids over there," he said, pointing, "are like, daring each other to uh, call the cops."

"Call the cops about what?"

"They think it'd be funny if they said you had a bomb in there."

"What?" I asked. "What's their fucking problem?"

"I don't know. They just thought it was funny. One of them's calling, so maybe you should get out of here," he suggested, and left.

I turned to Tom, with whom I had been conversing. "What do you think?" I asked.

"Fuck 'em," said Tom. "I'm going to laugh if the cops actually show up and get pissed off that they made a fake call like that." Indeed, I did see one girl who was in that group, now at the payphone.

"Well, I don't want trouble with cops," I returned. "Maybe I should go, and come back when they've left."

"Don't bother," said Tom. "What the fuck? 'A bomb'? Yeah, and when they see you don't have a bomb, they're going to get in trouble, not you."

It made sense. I didn't have a bomb, and certainly I have no idea who these kids were. I wasn't about to play their dumb little game. Let them get in trouble. Besides, if I left, then it would look like I had something to hide, which I didn't.

I did, however, have the good sense to take the precaution of removing my knife from my boot and hiding it in the absolute mess of my trunk. Better safe than sorry. I know how cops work.

I had not moved from the trunk of my car, when suddenly - and by 'sudden' I mean that I didn't even see them arrive - there were five officers surrounding me.

One of them sallied up to the car and asked, "You kitten?"

"That's me," I said.

"Where's the briefcase?" he said.

I hate when cops do this. They don't tell you what's going on, they just demand things.

"What's this about," I queried, though I already knew.

"We got a call says you got a bomb in a briefcase. Now where is it?" He was getting rather angry by now.

"It's in the trunk," said I.

"Open the trunk," he ordered.

"Sure," I said, and did. There amongst the rubble in the trunk was the attache case. Five Maglight beams held by five officers trained upon it.

"What's in there?" said one of the cops.

"My stuff," I said.

"Listen, smartass," a female cop said, "You better cooperate."

"I am cooperating. My stuff is in there. Books and cigarettes and papers. Stuff. What's this nonsense about a bomb?"

"We only know what the caller said," the first cop shot at me. I then listened to them bicker amongst themselves for about thirty seconds, hearing one of them say "I don't want to touch that until I know what it is."

"Look," I said, breaking up their little discussion, "I don't know what this is about, but there's not a bomb. Jesus. You want me to just open it and show you?"

"Yeah," said the first cop. "Open it."

I opened the case. Click.

They all looked inside, and it was just as I said. Some books, a lighter, cigarettes, a few assorted papers, some pens.

And a small black box with a blinking red light, wired into the lock.

Damn.

This really is not as bad as it sounds. I have a low opinion of cops and their intelligence, but even a cop knows that bombs do not look like Hollywood props. Still, they were not pleased.

"What the hell is that?" one of them bellowed at me.

"It's just a box with a blinking LED," I explained. "It's supposed to look like an alarm, see?"

"You telling people this is a bomb?" he shot back.

"What? No!" I said, now getting worried. I didn't like the way this was going at all.

"Then why did that caller say you had a bomb?"

"Who? I don't know anything about it," I said. "Maybe they've seen too many movies."

"Alright. Put your hands behind your back," one of them said.

"Er," I muttered, "am I being arrested?"

My arms were yanked behind me rather roughly, as the first cop repeated, "I said put your hands behind your back!"

"Jesus Christ!" I said, even as the cuffs were being slapped over my wrists. "I didn't do anything. What the hell is this?"

"You think it's funny that you're telling people you're gonna blow this place up?" the female cop sneered. "The caller said that you told her not to touch your briefcase or it might blow up."

"That's fucking ridiculous," I said. "I've been sitting here minding my own business all night," I added, as one cop began searching me for weapons or contraband.

"Is that so?" she said. "Got anyone who will say that?"

"Yeah," I replied, pointing at Tom, who the cops had told to go away when they arrived. "He was with me the whole time."

"Friend of yours?" she asked mildly. "That's not convincing."

I was led to a squad car, in front of 50 or 60 people who were now standing on the patio to gawk at this spectacle. I was in a shitload of trouble, or so it seemed, but that wasn't going to prevent me from annoying the cops a bit.

"You'll never take me alive!" I screamed, snickering at the irony that I was already in handcuffs. Really, I've always wanted to say that.

"Shut up and get in the car," the first cop said as he shoved me into the back seat. There I sat for twenty minutes, watching through the window as the remaining cops rifled through my car, searching for who-knows-what.

Eventually, the arresting officer - the first cop - came back to his car, where I was imprisoned, and told me I was in "big trouble". He informed me that he was charging me with "Threats of terrorist activity", and that the penalty for conviction was five years in the slammer.

I spent the next eighteen hours in jail. As this document is long enough, I will spare you the details of this experience; it could easily be another three or four pages (though I may, if anyone shows interest, write a seperate rant for it ). My bond was posted at $16,500. So, eventually, I got out of jail, courtesy of my father.

Straight away, I went to the police station to pick up a copy of my arrest report, so I could begin preparing my defense. I spoke to the bored woman behind a glass partition: "I need an arrest report."

"Who was arrested?" she asked in a nasal monotone.

"I was."

"When were you arrested?"

"Thursday evening."

"What was the location of the arrest?"

"The intersection of x and y. The Starbucks."

I want to be clear on this point: Cobb county is virtually crime-free. The biggest thing cops have to worry about here is idiot teenagers driving around like jackasses on the weekends. I was the biggest thing to happen since 1993 when a mildly well-known murder took place in this county. So it was no surprise to me when I said "Starbucks", that every cop milling about in the background filing papers or whatever suddenly stopped what they were doing, and turned to stare at me. One of them pointed excitedly and said "Hey! You're the guy with the briefcase! The Briefcase Bomber!"

Thus was my legacy forged.

Flash forward to January 2001. I'm in the State Superior Court for my arraignment. The district attorney tells me, he's going to recommend three years prison and a year of boot camp. He tells me, I need to learn respect. He tells me, I'll come out knowing right from wrong.

I tell him, he doesn't even know me. I tell him, he knows nothing about me, and for him to say I'm not respectful or know right from wrong is ludicrous. I tell him, my respect isn't even the issue here.

He snorts at me and walks off. I was outraged.

My mother had gotten her friend, a criminal defense lawyer, to be present at this arraignment. (My mother is also a lawyer, but does not practice criminal cases.) I explained to him that the DA didn't seem to know what was going on, and that I would like to speak to him, one on one. No lawyers, no judges, no courts. Just him, me, and twenty minutes.

A most unusual request. I think it piqued the DA's curiousity, and wonder of wonders, he accepted.

I found myself in a small room with the DA. He invited me to speak my piece, and so I did. I first addressed what the black box actually was, and why it was there. I explained that the girl who called the cops was doing so on a dare and I had witness testimony to that. I told him that the girl was also a high-school dropout who has been in and out of jail numerous times on drug-related charges, and not a credible witness. I blasted the cops' gross mishandling of the situation:

  • They did not inform the management of the property, as per standard operating procedure when dealing with bomb threats. (If they had, the management would have told them exactly who I was and how I minded my own every night and was no threat.)
  • They did not evacuate the area (according to the police report, there were "50 to 60 people in the parking lot).
  • They did not wear protective gear.
  • They did not have a bomb squad.
  • They let me, the suspect, open the alleged "bomb", in front of all those bystanders and five officers.

    These oddities, I pointed out to the DA, suggested to me that the cops knew I was not a threat. And if I was not a threat, I asked, then why did they arrest me?

    The DA nodded thoughtfully, and conceded every point I'd made thus far. He invited me to continue.

    I quoted the statute I was charged with from memory. The statute included a clause that no conviction shall ensue based on uncorroborated testimony - in other words, the word of one person is not good enough. There must be two or more pople who claim to have heard me say or suggest I had a bomb, and the only person he had was the girl who actually called the cops who, I reminded him, did so knowing that it was a lie.

    "Are you absolutely certain she knew it was a lie?" the DA questioned.

    "Yes," I told him. "For one thing, as I said, I have a witness who will testify that she was doing this literally on a dare, immature as that is. And her actions speak a lot louder than her words anyway."

    "What do you mean?" he asked me.

    "If she truly thought I had a bomb," I said, "wouldn't it make sense for her to leave the area? If she was really that scared, she wouldn't have stayed around. But she did. She sat there and watched the entire incident. Does that sound like the behavior of someone in fear of being blown up by a bomb? I say it's the behavior of someone who wanted to watch me get in trouble."

    The DA acknowledged these points, and said I would make a terrific lawyer. I was somehow flattered with this, though he may have merely been making an attempt to be conversational with me. I had done my homework, though, which impressed him.

    "One last thing," he said. "If that little box wasn't supposed to be threatening, then what was it there for?"

    How to explain the situation of idiot teenagers at a coffee shop to a yuppie DA? I decided the best approach would be to explain to him that the attache case was, to put it bluntly, pretty damned slick looking, and was often the target of theft in jest. To ensure that he knew this, I asked, "Have you seen the briefcase?"

    "No," he said.

    I took a deep breath while I let that word resonate in the air, and gathered momentum for my upcoming outburst. "Wait a minute," I said, my voice edged with audible anger and frustration, "wait a minute. You mean to tell me that you're trying to put me in prison for three years, and you haven't even seen the one piece of evidence in this entire case?"

    The DA blinked. It was a moment to rememeber. He blinked as though on cue, and considered my words.

    "Tell you what I'll do," he said slowly. "I'm going to drop these charges, based on insufficient evidence to prove you guilty beyond reasonable doubt. What do you think?"

    "All charges dropped?" I said. "No criminal record? No jail, no boot camp?"

    "That's right."

    "That," I said without hestitation, "would be fine."

    And so it was done.


    The aftermath.

    Bail money is an incentive to actually show up in court. Let us say you are arrested for a minor traffic violation. It is understood that there is no reason to keep you in jail for weeks awaiting trial for something so trivial, so bail is set low - a few hundred dollars, generally. The idea is that the bail money is an incentive to return: When you show up for your court date, you get your money back.

    However, when bail is set at figures that no mortal human has lying around and available, like mine was, one must go through what is known as a bondsman. This is a company that charges you a certain percentage of your total bail - usually 15% to 20% - and they post the full amount in your name. When you go back to court, the full amount is reimbursed to the entity that paid, in this case, the bondsman, not you. And the catch is, you don't get your percentage back - that's their fee for providing the service.

    What this boils down to is that I spent $2500 getting out of jail that night/day/whatever the fuck it was, and that's a rather significant figure for someone like me.

    My options are limited. I could attempt to sue the girl in a civil case, but litigation requires lawyers. For what it's worth, there are four requirements for a successful slander suit:

  • The information X gave has to be false.
  • You must demonstrate that X knew the information was false (or showed 'reckless disregard' for whether the information was true or false.)
  • You must demonstrate that X gave that false information with malicious intent (that is, with the intent to harrass or harm you), and
  • You must demonstrate that you suffered actual damages as a result of X's false information.

    So for example, let us suppose I observe a bulge in your jacket that resembles a gun, and you're acting strangely. I get scared and call the cops. I would not be liable for a slander suit, because my intent was not to harm you, and I did not know that the bulge was merely your wallet and a tin of mints.

    Or, let us suppose I say in jest that you are a child molester. Assuming that everyone present knew I was just joking, you could not sue me for slander, as you suffered no actual damages (nobody took my statement seriously) and my intent was not malicious.

    Certainly the girl (who, I should note, I had never met or even heard of before this incident) falls into all four categories, however. Her accusation was false, and she knew it to be false. Her accusation was specifically designed to get me into trouble, and obviously I suffered damages, both monetary and the legal hassle.

    Unfortunately, I have since learned that she has virtually no assets, very little income if any, and it wouldn't gain me much to sue her. And litigation requires a lawyer, which requires money - even if I used another lawyer friend of my mother's, I would still be charged, probably almost as much as I stood to gain from the lawsuit anyway. So, two years later, I still have not pursued this, though as I write this I'm wondering if I should.

    And now, let us see the attache case itself, fresh from being stored in evidence lockup for two years. I have not removed or added any contents - the books you see in these images are the books I was actually reading at the time.

    The attache case itself, with official-looking stickers on it.
    A close view of the evidence stickers.
    Opening the case. Note the combination, which elicted quite a few snickers from the cops.
    The opened case. Books on one side, black box on the other. Blinky light's batteries long since dead.
    A close shot of the device.
    The contents removed, save for the black box.
    Another view of the same.
    This is not a bomb.

    This, then, is my story, and I thank you for your attention.