art by Shothot Designs
by D.K. Latta
"Picture this: an astronaut arrives on another world, searching for mineral resources. There's an unanticipated snag. Specifically, the exhaust from his stabilizers destroys the crops of a local farm lord. The astronaut did not anticipate encountering inhabitants, and is improperly trained for the encounter. Words are exchanged (through translation devices, of course), tempers flare, and the earth astronaut utters what is construed as a challenge. The farm lord has him placed at the base of a volcano, knowing that molten rock will pour over him. The air is thick with sulphur and radiation levels are beyond human tolerance. What does he do?"
Edward shifts slightly in his chair. "The whole thing seems a bit farfetched, don't you think? After all, it was an accident. Hey, is that it? The correct answer? The whole scenario is invalid because it's based on a false premise?"
"No. Though that's a highly original argument. But remember, you're dealing with aliens here. Their ideas on culpability, even punishment, have their own unique cultural foundations." I wait as he considers this grudgingly.
"Why doesn't he just walk away?"
"He's spread-eagle, the back of his gloves are affixed to the ground."
"Doesn't matter. But if he pulls free, the gloves will tear and the sulphur and radiation will flood his environment suit."
Edward thinks for a moment, then says, "He pulls free."
"No can do, I said--"