BENCH TRIAL • by Abby “Merc” Rustad

Judge Adelon sighed and tweaked his nervous system to dim an oncoming headache. “Will the accused please pay attention and respect this court?”

The defendant’s lawyer  leaned over and adjusted the cardio regulators and neural monitors. “Apologies, your honor. As you can see, my client is not in full possession of his senses. It must be noted that this mental state is not recent. Mr. Brendon has long been neurologically unstable and the court should–”

“Objection,” the prosecutor said. “Mr. Brendon would have been identified as unstable in daily checkups and reports. No such discrepancies appeared on the archives.”

“It should also be noted that my client was not connected to the networks for at least three days before the incident.”

“That in and of itself is also a crime,” the prosecutor said. “As this court well knows.”

Judge Adelon held back a sigh and glanced around the courtroom once again, at the jurors and bailiffs and spectators. He wanted to rub his forehead but he had to keep professional and not indulge in mundane physical movements that suggested tiredness or tension. The trial streamed on all the major vid channels–it was a historic moment, after all.

In all his three hundred and seventy-two years in presiding over the Luna Criminal Justice Court, he’d never dealt with a case like this. And really, it was pointless to carry on the trial. He was just following protocol as he’d always done.

Mr. Brendon was clearly guilty: even his lawyer was having difficulty denying that. The only question was how to sentence him when there were no laws to dictate how to punish such an offense.

Judge Adelon silenced all the arguments with a sharp rap of his holo-gavel and regained the attention of the prosecutor and public defender. “I’ve heard enough. Does the accused have anything to say in his own defense?”

Mr. Brendon stared blankly ahead; the only movement was the artificial rise and fall of his chest. At least the surgeons had been tactful enough to patch up the back of his skull before he appeared in court.

The defendant leaned down to whisper in Mr. Brendon’s ear, but the accused still made no move to speak.

“Very well,” Judge Adelon said. “Mr. Brendon, for the crime of self-termination without permission of the State, you are found guilty.”

The accused still didn’t move. The neural monitors registered no brain activity.

Judge Adelon sighed. What the hell did he sentence a dead man to, anyway? The State-regulated life policy for all citizens had been undisputed for several hundred years. Everyone was content to live forever; it required no need for reproduction and citizens were more easily monitored and placed in niches. Perfect order and harmony.

Oh, petty crime occurred and was there the rare murder, but never suicide. He’d had to research far back into the archives to even find a word for the crime committed.

Judge Adelon cleared his throat, a tic left over from his younger days. “Mr. Brendon, your sentence is…” He forgot why he’d bothered speaking to the corpse, and turned to the bailiff. “Send him to the Luna Museum of Natural History and have him preserved with the case records. Case dismissed.”

Abby “Merc” Rustad believes everything is better with ninjas and zombies (or zombie ninjas), and enjoys writing speculative fiction in a variety of styles and varying levels of weirdness. She plans to take over the world someday so she’ll have time to write uninterrupted. Minions can handle the paperwork.

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