Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The Judge yawned as he seated himself at the bench. “What are we doing here, Mike?” he asked the bailiff.

“Your Honor, we are hearing the civil case of ‘Captain Taylor versus Solar System Transportation, Inc.’, a dispute over wages due for a cargo run from Earth Station Tango to Alpha Centauri base.”

“Fine,” replied the Judge as he turned to address the plaintiff. “What’s your claim, son?”

“Your Honor, I left Earth in 2248. It was SST’s first interstellar commercial payload, and because of the hardships, they agreed to pay me a bonus of 100,000 credits per year. I returned eleven years later, in 2259. Therefore, they owe me an extra 1,100,000 credits.”

“Sounds straightforward,” noted the Judge. “So,” he continued as he addressed the defendant, “why haven’t you paid the man?”

“Simple relativity, Your Honor. Due to time dilation during the 0.95c portion of the trip, Captain Taylor only aged three years. Therefore, we are only obligated to pay him an extra 300,000 credits.”

Damn, thought the Judge to himself, time dilation makes my head ache. Why can’t these lawyers foresee these types of issues and make provisions up front. All this ambiguity was begging for litigation. “Okay,” he lamented, “let me see the contract. Court is adjourned until this time tomorrow.”

The following day, the Judge resumed his position at the bench. Without preamble, he announced, “I find for the plaintiff. However, the award will not be 1.1 million credits. It seems that in section 102, paragraph 22, the contract stipulated the adherence to the Space Transportation Act of 2203. Apparently, it’s one of the older Acts written to protect non-union pilots from disreputable transportation companies. It states that pilots must be compensated 60 credits per shift hour, or 0.2 credits per Earth diameter traveled, whichever is higher. Therefore, at the hourly rate, the six month, or 1244 shift hours, round trip to Titan would pay 74,640 credits. On the other hand, based on the distance traveled rate, the 1.486 billion miles round trip would pay only 37,480 credits. For decades, the hourly rate was the only one that mattered, since the spaceships of the era traveled so slowly. However, when star ships were developed, no one at SST thought about updating the terms of their standard contract.” The Judge grinned as he looked the CEO of Solar System Transportation, Inc. and his panel of high paid attorneys. “You see where this is going, I suppose?”

The CEO became pale and his eyes rolled upward as he fainted, toppling over his chair.

“Ah, I see you do,” remarked the Judge with a smile. “At the rate of 0.2 credits per Earth diameter traveled, I rule for the plaintiff the sum of 1.32 billion credits for the 52.5 trillion mile round trip to Alpha Centauri. ”


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