The metal shackles jingled softly as the guard firmly chained Jason to the dock. The small loops of chain dangling from his knees were blue, but almost invisible in front of his bright orange jumper. In the courtroom were at least a hundred people, all eagerly waiting. The lives of many depended on this decision. Jason’s life depended on it. Next to Jason stood his lawyer, a robot.
“Hello Jason,” said the robot.
“Hello Mr. Bar,” Jason said, coldly. He hated robots. They were not people, they were things. Intelligent things, perhaps, but things without life. Jason had a life, and it hung in the balance.
A murmur went through the courtroom as an old woman pushed her way through the main doors. She had changed quite a bit since Jason last saw her, five years ago. Her hair was completely gray now, and her wrinkles had deepened into a criss-crossing roadmap on her face. She stumbled slightly as she approached, and Jason was sure she had, as usual, taken her breakfast out of the silver flask in the cupboard.
The robot nudged Jason gently in the ribs. “Do it!”
Jason cleared his throat and stood up, rattling his chains like Marley’s ghost. “Mother, I...please... I never meant to...” The old woman shot him a disgusted look and proceeded directly to the witness stand.
She ignored him, staring gloomily at the empty seat of the judge.
“There’s no use,” Jason said to his robot defender.
Heavy boots clanked into the room, which became so quiet it was as if time had stopped altogether. Jason turned and saw the court executioner. In his late seventies, he had the physique of a former bodybuilder, and his long white hair ran down the sides of his bald pate to his shoulders. He was wearing dark sunglasses and had various scars on the sagging, leathery-tan skin of his face. On his back hung a gigantic scythe with a glowing blue blade. He trudged up to the wall behind the judge’s bench and stood with legs apart, staring off into space.
Looking at the man made Jason’s blood grow cold. Jason was thirty-five, too young to think about death. But children were children, no matter how old they were. If they didn’t honor their parents, they were all viewed the same in the eyes of the law. His mother had taken her complaint to the local courts in Pittsburgh, and a judge there assigned the case to the Moral Court in Boston, which had issued a warrant for Jason’s arrest. The possibility of execution was now a real one.
The automatic sliding door on the right opened with a dull screech and the prosecution robot entered and moved to its customary position. For over fifty years these cost-saving inventions had been the sole advocates for humanity. Jason looked at the inert, box-like machines. They were cheap models; they could have been old Coke machines, they only lacked the garish logos. A bulletproof screen slid across the front of the judge’s bench and a recorded voice crackled: “Please rise! The honorable judge of US Moral Court, Dr. Herbert Roben.”
A bent little old man emerged from behind the bench in a black robe. He looked like an ancient rock star who had ascended from some dark and primeval catacomb.
A man suddenly jumped up from among the spectators and ran toward the front of the room. He opened his coat to reveal a belt of a dozen pipe bombs and screamed: “Abortion is murder!” Instantly, a large glass bell descended from the ceiling and covered the man as he triggered the fuse. The explosion was little more than a dull thud, meat scraps streamed down the smooth glass. “Well, is the show over? Shall we begin now?” Roben asked, with vocal cords made of barbed wire. “We’ll begin with you, Mr. Prosecutor. What do you have to say?”
“We bring forth a request on behalf of Mrs. Miller, a request for retroactive abortion re Section 8, Paragraphs 17 to 21 of revised US Moral Code B7. Mr. Jason Miller, her son, was determined to be in violation of absolute devotion, with clear dissatisfaction evidenced by the progenitor. We request that, in the interest of this poor woman, you provide justice.” The Coke machine rattled twice and fell silent.
Roben massaged his sharp chin with his thumb and forefinger, looked pityingly at Mrs. Miller, and then, with hate-filled eyes, at Jason. “So, you think you’re allowed to disrespect your elders? Is that it? Or have you made an honest mistake? What do you have to say?” Before the robot lawyer could hold him back, Jason blurted: “This woman is responsible for the death of my father! She drove him to death!”
“The prosecution does accept this as a fact,” the prosecution robot added. “But this is not the issue here. We respectfully urge the judge keep this hearing on the topic of the request initially introduced.” The robot beeped once, then became a piece of inert metal again.
Roben turned to the defense robot. “Mr. Bar, what do you say?” The robot rolled a few inches forward. “Your Honor, we believe you should reject this request on principle and dismiss this case outright.” There were gasps from the audience. This was a radical approach, and Mr. Bar left a dramatic pause before continuing. “According to some scientists, children are not meant to be dependents forever, and therefore after a certain age their parents should no longer be able to determine their destiny. At least, not after the children have become parents themselves. Further, the law as it stands is problematic. What do you say of the case where, a 70 year old woman requests the retroactive abortion of her 40 year old daughter, but the 100 year old grandmother objects? Is there any rational solution to this problem? With all due respect, your Honor, the current law ultimately leads to absurdity. Where will it all end, I ask the court. Where will it all end?”
Jason was surprised that a machine could make such persuasive arguments in defense of life. But he remembered that the personality of this model had been derived from a mixture of features from Abraham Lincoln and Billy Graham (or so the informational placard on the back said). Mr. Bar rolled back to his original position and confidently clicked one of the shutters of his lens-eyes, giving Jason a wink. Mrs. Miller glowered at the prosecution robot, whose internal cooling fan had switched on. The audience remained in a silent awe; the strong arguments seemed to throw a wrench in the gears of the case. All awaited the high judge’s reaction.
“Your rejection on principle is rejected,” uttered the judge, with a tone of contempt in his voice. Gasps again spread throughout the hall. “You never dismiss anything!” the robot blurted. “You’re a paid agent of the AARP!” The judge beat his gavel and snarled, “Another word out of you, and you’ll be held in contempt, Mr. Bar.” He regained his composure and continued: “Now, on with the evidence and we shall determine its merits, from the perspective that the current law is valid.”
“I present to you the witness,” the prosecution robot promptly said, dangling a springy arm toward Mrs. Miller in the witness stand. The old woman’s pale and watery eyes were filled with hate.
“My son has not visited me for five years,” she muttered. “And he and his slut wife refused to give me grandchildren. She was pregnant once, and they actually had the child, a little boy, but they retroactively aborted him a few minutes after his birth, because the DNA tests indicated that he would only be good as a fisherman, and his wife can’t tolerate the smell of fish.” Her voice broke, she was getting a little too worked up. The judge had been listening with sympathy and said, “Take your time, ma’am.” She emitted a cavernous cough and continued: “Two years ago I had a stroke, and my nephew came to take care of me because my son wouldn’t. He said he was busy, but he is an unemployed ‘graphic designer’ and I don’t think he’s ever had a real job. When I bring up the issue, he always blames our generation for his problems. Therefore, I have no choice but to request a retroactive abortion.”
“You made me insane!” Jason yelled. “You made dad insane! You drove him to drink himself to death! Selfish bitch!” The judged rounded on him with a severe look: “Once more, and you’ll be held in contempt along with your attorney!”
“Selfish? Me?” the old woman continued, to the judge. “I gave birth to him and raised him, sacrificed my career, and he can’t even call me on my birthday. His father died through overwork, trying to give him a better life. And now, the one who is more concerned with his own narrow desires than having a happy family calls me selfish. I claim for myself the same right he has used on the grandchild he took from me! Begone, monster!” The old woman’s head became so red and incandescent, the gray hair at the top looked like the ash on a lit cigarette.
“Your Honor,” Mr. Bar suddenly interjected. “I object. The witness is showing clear bias. I detect base motives in her actions, which should be investigated before proceeding further. I call for an inquiry into whether any outside organizations are paying her court costs.” “Overruled!” snapped the judge. “But your Honor!”
“What did I tell you before, Mr. Bar? So help me, once more, and you’ll be sent for reprogramming.” The hearing was obviously drawing to an end. The courtroom and the judge fell silent for a few moments.
“I issue the following judgment,” the judge finally declared. “The defendant is found guilty in accordance with Section 8 of MC B7 and is hereby sentenced to the required and only penalty of immediate and instantaneous execution, which will commence now in the form specified. These proceedings are now closed.”
Half-suppressed cries of protest came from the audience. The executioner stirred from behind the bench, scythe slipped from his shoulder, blade glowing blue. Before Jason could fully understand what was happening, the blade touched his flesh and his body transformed into condensed water, which splashed onto the floor and mingled with the sound of the clanging chains. Jason Miller, son, husband, unemployed graphic designer, and one-time father, was no more. Roben descended back into the pit from which had ascended, and Mr. Bar hastily shuttled out a side door. The audience, in a stunned state, filed out silently.
The prosecutor remained, and acted as a crutch for the old woman as she slowly descended from the stand. “I’m sorry about your son, ma’am,” it said. “If I had been programmed with the ability to cry, I guarantee you I would do so now.” He continued to help her toward the door. “Yes, it’s a shame,” she said. “He was such a good boy!”
Copyright 2012 Michael Masomi - All Rights Reserved
Translate by Phil Klein USA, LQQK Magazine lqqkzine . com
Title of the german original : „Rückwirkend“ published 2007
All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of Michael Masomi.
Published on e-Stories.org on 11/05/2012.