Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer

Life has always been hard at the bottom. My grandparents survived the collapse of 2013 and my parents made it onto the first exodus in 2055. It was considered simpler to test the tech and logistics on fifty thousand poor people. If it succeeded then Rockefeller had a head start on cheap labour.

It worked. My folks slaved their guts out along with the fifty thousand people delivered on each of the next three. The fifth Exodus used one of the new Jonah class vessels, bringing a quarter of a million people. The next eight did the same.

Every Exodus caused a rebalancing of social dynamics. We all thought that the overseers and such were planned stages on our way to a new economy. By the time we found out that there were no social architects or any sort of plan beyond whatever the new arrivals could convince the hicks already here of, it was too late. We were at the bottom again when we could have lied our way to the top. Then my family exceeded the population limits when my sister had triplets. So we dug a hidden bunker for them and found more than we expected.

Today I am in court, being tried by a jury of my peers who all look related to the prosecution. I am defending myself. Reporters are here in force and a representative of the Commission has arrived to observe as my crime is unprecedented. They have even let six people in from my commune. They are sat with clear space between them and the first unfortunate who couldn’t get further away. I straighten my smock and stand, raising my hand. The judge smiles indulgently and nods for me to continue.

“I swear by Almighty Tethra that the evidence I give today shall be the downfall, the utter ruination and nothing less than the annihilation of those who condemn me.”

The uproar lasts for ten minutes. The judge has to shout at me.

“That is unacceptable. Under planetary law you must use the oath native to the planet you are tried upon.”

“I am abiding by planetary law. Under the laws of the planet Tethra upon which I stand, set by those who lived overground before greedy men entrapped them, the oath is mete and fair as were my actions as a recognised executioner for the Tethren. With my presence here to answer for that, I call upon all those present to witness as I charge all those involved in populating Tethra or those who profited therefrom to pay edra in the ratio of nine returned to one gained, or face just annihilation by agents of Tethra who at this moment are rising from silos on the garrison planets known to you as Rockefeller Three, Four and Five. Finally, as executioner for the Tethren I am permitted recompense. This is calculated as one ninth of the worth of those I annihilate, to be distributed amongst my clath.”

Into the stunned silence I bow as my shortest companion sheds its human suit and leaps nimbly to land on the chair next to me. In pure Oxford English it speaks from six of the primary mouths hidden within the bushy growth at its top that indicates it is a progenitor of nine nines. Its tentacles shuffle rapidly to find a comfortable rest on the chair as it speaks.

“I am Pethdorline. I am an adjudicator-assassin and am here to notarise edra and clath. Please be prompt as terms must be rendered in exactitude before nightfall or annihilation is the only legal recourse.”


Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows