Author: Alzo David-West

Tomi Mura, a specialist in inter-planetary law, sat aboard a six-person capsule en route to Planet Arazan. The magnetic-field modulator of the small hyperbolically propulsed vessel gave her the sensation of gliding gently through the depths of an immense sea.

She had departed from the Old Planet, the common name in the interstellar territories for that ancient remote body otherwise known in the archaic languages of her world as terra, eretz, dee cheeo, and ardh. She turned her head to the window at her right and beheld glowing nebulas of star clouds and nuclear luminescences on the dark horizon.

Human expansion into deep space had, in the course of two millennia, produced myriads of societies. And where the quadrillions of humanity had dispersed, they set in motion on their newly claimed worlds natural, competing variations of attitudes, behaviors, interests, and values, which rapidly grew into distinctive cultures with their own dominant characteristics, principles, and laws.

So, too, had it been on Planet Arazan, whose idiosyncrasy was its militant status as a self-declared non-treaty independent planet and the only planet on which the Radical Machine Rightsists (RMR) had established the Anthrobotic Republic, based on the full existential equality of human beings and machine beings.

Tomi Mura reviewed her virtual data notes about the case for which the Ministry of Planets had dispatched her: Jizu Mori, a curiosity seeker on a tour visit from the Old Planet, had committed a capital offense on Planet Arazan—violation upon a machine, resulting in its deactivation. By the absolute categorical law of the RMR, he had no option for on-planet or inter-planet legal defense, and he would be tried and executed on terms reciprocal to his crime—violation by a machine, resulting in his death. The law did, however, for diplomatic reasons, permit a nonparticipant observer from the homeworld of the accused to be present as a witness to the execution.

The capsule navigated through a proton storm, passed the solar flares of two white binary stars, and coursed toward a scintillating red-giant star in whose habitable zone orbited a nubilous green sphere, the Planet Arazan. The capsule autonomously triangulated its landing coordinates, entered the artificially oxygenated atmosphere, and made its way to the silicate rock surface below.

Tomi Mura was the only one authorized to deboard. The capsule door connected her to a disembarkation tube that led to a magnetic levitation shuttle. She wondered where the reception committee was, and she sat in an empty passenger car, which traveled noiselessly for ten minutes above the craggy, faded green, treeless landscape. An isolated crystalline edifice below came to her view. The shuttle stopped at an empty station. She made her way down an escalator and, outside, walked up a wide path to the structure.

She entered the edifice, and within its walls was a vast room where, to her surprise, she saw Jizu Mori, short, square-headed, denuded. He was neurally immobilized and positioned before a projected holographic recording showing him in an accommodation room, luring, attacking, and ravaging an android minder designed in the soft form of a girl who appeared no more than fourteen. Her name was Nazeera-3.

A conveyor strip suddenly carried him into an observation chamber. Two sliding metal-alloy doors sealed shut. The neural immobilizer switched off. He trembled in a fit of paroxysms. Sweat rushed down his face. He heard a noise, turned around, and saw advancing an ambulant machine that resembled the primitive corkscrew—and it pounced on him.

Tomi Mura was speechless before the punitive scene, and when all that was left was a mince of the man, she fainted.

A while later, she awoke to find herself on board the six-person capsule, deep in space, on its way home. She was feverish and haunted, staring at the silent sitting crew members, and she wondered if the Old Planet androids who accompanied her on the journey would have agreed with existential law had they witnessed the incident on Arazan.