The cold dead space
mirrored the heart of the man who stood staring out into the starry black
abyss. Michael Cordly had been on Space Detention Center Alpha for almost
ninety days. His trial was over, he had been found guilty of rape and murder.
Not that he cared; he had done it, and would do it again. It was the stupid
bitch and her husband’s fault anyway. No, what he cared about was his pending
punishment. He played the day of his sentence over and over again in his mind.
It had started out just like all of his days at the SDCA, he was thinking about
She shouldn’t have laughed at him, and he shouldn’t have interfered when Michael was teaching her a lesson. Michael sneered at the thought, as his loins stirred to life once more. Yes, he would definitely do it again.
He had been standing in front of his window when the lights suddenly came on in his cell, and his musings were interrupted. Michael was forty-five and a man of average height, and weight. He was exceptionally ordinary with brown eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion, although some had said that his eyes often reflected an emptiness that they didn’t understand.
Those types of comments made his eyes his favorite feature, his one distinguishing characteristic was the lack of soul reflected in them. A slight smile split his thin lips, as he stared into his own eyes; it was as if he were still staring off into space. After a few moments he turned away from the small barred window to his ten foot by ten foot cell.
The room was completely white and sterile. The cold hard metal floor was highly polished and smooth to the touch. Michael hated it, it hurt his feet. The toilet was nothing more than a hole built into the white metal wall, with only a slight extension of its rim to serve as a seat. He hated it even more than the floor, because it hurt his legs to squat there and take care of business without any real support.
On the opposite wall was his bed, it, too, was built directly into the wall, and it had a thin two inch pad for a mattress. This he hated most of all; the bed was too short, and too narrow. If he rolled over in the middle of the night he would fall off, and his feet hung over the edge, left to constantly dangle in the cold.
With the lights coming on Michael knew it was now O’ seven-hundred, time to get ready. His pure white jumpsuit was folded neatly on the floor at the foot of his wall cot. Next to the suit sat two white soft rubber shoes. He sat down on the edge of his bed picked up the jumpsuit and shook it out.
It had Velcro up the front, and was slightly too big for him. On the center of the back in large capital letters were the facility initials of S.D.C.A., and underneath that the word INMATE all printed in a shiny black ink.
He pulled the suit on over his white Government Issue boxers and undershirt, securing the Velcro up his chest. He slipped on the rubber shoes just as the door to his cell silently slid open. Michael was surprised to see Sergeant Williams standing there, hand casually resting on his neural stunner.
He was a tall man, with a chiseled jaw, and tan skin. His black guard’s uniform fit him well, but unlike the other guards on the station he had two silver chevrons on his collar to indicate his rank. Even though the uniforms were not form fitting, anyone could tell that Sergeant Williams was a powerfully built man, not someone any of the inmates would want to tangle with one on one.
“M. Cordley, Inmate number 985970. Time for your sentence hearing,” the tall man said.
“You don’t normally come down personally Sarge. Oh…sorry, I know you don’t like that, I mean Sergeant Williams.” Michael said, eyeing the larger man. “Something special going on that you couldn’t give me orders over the intercom like usual?” He asked.
Williams nodded, “Your hearing Mr. Cordley. I personally escort all inmates to their sentencings.” He said in his deep husky voice.
“Great, let’s go I guess.” Michael said with a sigh.
The Sergeant stepped aside, and waived Michael out. He stepped into the well-lit hallway; just like his cell it was completely white and sterile. The bright artificial florescent lighting reflecting off of everything hurt his eyes, and he knew by the end of the day he would have a headache.
It won’t matter soon however, he thought to himself. Once his sentence was received he would be leaving on a shuttle to wherever his punishment was to be carried out. He would most likely be sent to a more secure facility in the far reaches of the solar system to rot in quiet contemplation for the next couple of decades. Or if he was lucky he’d be on his way to the penal water mining colony on Ceres.
Whittling away his sentence on the dwarf planet that danced through the asteroid belt wouldn’t be so bad, he thought. After all if there was one thing he could do well it was physical work.
He may not be the strongest person around, but he had incredible stamina, for as long as he could remember Michael could work all day long without getting tired. He never needed a break, and he followed instructions well. Being sentenced to mining duty wouldn’t be so bad at all. The idea made him smile slightly.
“Where am I headed?” Michael asked over his shoulder.
“To the lift on the other side of the dining pod,” Williams said.
The chow hall was circular in shape, metal tables and chairs were bolted to the floor and the serving area was nothing more than a slit cut into the white metal. Opposite this was a large window that looked out over the rusty colored planet they were in orbit of.
Set on opposite ends of the large circular room between the main walls, were the only two entryways leading to or from the chow hall. Both were flanked by well-armed guards in black uniforms. The door they came through led back to the housing block and the door they approached was sealed with a lethal glowing orange energy field, with a sophisticated security system.
The Sergeant moved in front of Michael and pulled off one of his black gloves and placed his palm on the panel next to the door. A thin red line moved down the face of the panel before the whole thing turned green. Once the palm print was verified a small opening appeared above the panel and the Sergeant leaned forward and placed his open right eye in front of it. Another beam of red light moved across his eye, and a green light flashed.
The man stood up again, and the palm print screen changed to reveal a number pad. Still careful to use his ungloved hand, the Sergeant typed in the number’s 0732566464. Michael couldn’t help but wonder how long it would be before the code was changed again.
Once when he had been caught trying to memorize it he was told, that it was changed at random intervals. The new code was then relayed to the personnel through sub-dermal cochlear transmitters. This ensured that no inmates could accidentally hear the new code, and that memorizing it was pointless.
The glowing energy field blinked out, and a soft hum went silent that Michael hadn’t even noticed before it stopped. The Sergeant stepped to the side, and waved him through.
He stepped over the threshold rather quickly, even though he knew it wouldn't come back on yet he couldn't help himself. The Sergeant stepped through behind him and touched a panel identical to the one on the other side of the wall with his bare finger. Once the energy field was up again, the Sergeant put his black leather glove back on, and turned to Michael, a haughty look on his face.
“I presume you know how to send for the lift, Mr. Cordley?” The man asked with more than a hint of sarcasm.
“Yes of course sir,” Michael said reaching to push the triangle shaped button. “I just wasn’t sure if I was allowed to sir.” Michael added with a look of feigned innocence.
The guardsman grunted in response, and rested his right hand casually on the neural stunner attached to his belt. Michael sighed, and clasped his hands behind his back. The lift doors slid open, and Michael stepped into the cramped space, the Sergeant close on his heels.
“Courtrooms,” the Sergeant said as he turned to face Michael, his hand still on his stunner.
“So….” Michael said as the doors slid shut and the lift began to rise. “Got any kids Sarge?” Michael asked.
The taller man eyed him for a moment, and Michael thought he would probably just be ignored. After a moment or two however the man surprised him.
"I’ve told you to call me Sergeant Williams, not Sarge.”
“Sorry. It’s a bad habit from my days with the Martian Recon Squad.”
Sergeant Williams nodded before he continued, “The answer to your question is irrelevant to the present situation. In the future you will refrain from asking me any questions of a personal nature. Is that understood?”
Michael put his hands up defensively, “Sorry sir, just trying to fill the awkward silence.” Michael slowly put his hands behind his back again when he saw the man tense at his sudden movement.
“Besides,” Michael said. “There won’t be a next time; I’m hoping to be out of here after my sentencing. So with any luck you won’t be seeing me again.”
The Sergeant merely grunted his response, he was a man a few words, and Michael didn’t really care anyway. A moment later the lift came to a stop and the doors silently slid open. The taller man threw his head to the side, indicating to Michael that he should exit.
“Courtroom one.” Williams said.
The different courtrooms were set in the middle of the station, and one had to walk around the perimeter to access them. Running opposite from the white inner wall with its evenly spaced doors leading to the courtrooms was one large window that ran continuously around the whole station.
Michael only had to go a few meters before coming to the entrance for Courtroom One. Sergeant Williams removed his black leather glove and placed his hand on the small panel next to the door. Satisfied with the scan the door slid open and both men went inside.
The large room was still empty besides themselves. The walls, just like the rest of the station were made of a highly polished white metal. The room was shaped like a teardrop coming to a point behind the judge’s raised dais. On the front of the judges dais was a large brass oval with the interplanetary judicial symbol stamped on it.
The symbol consisted of a stylized depiction of the Earth, its moon, which was now called Lunar Prime, and Mars. The tail of a comet surrounded all three celestial bodies, and there was a depiction of the traditional scales of justice behind everything.
Positioned before the judge’s bench were three equally spaced tables; each with two low backed chairs behind them. Michael went and sat in the furthest left chair, which was shaped differently from the others. Rather than having open space between its legs this chair was completely solid, and was equipped with armrests.
Once Michael was seated thin metal bands slowly extended out from the chair, and fastened themselves around his wrists, ankles, and chest. Sergeant Williams made sure that the bands were secured properly but were not so tight as to cut off Michael’s circulation, and then went and stood at the back of the room.
A few moments later Michael’s lawyer entered, followed closely by the prosecutor, and the victim’s representative.
Michael’s lawyer a man named Pershal Brown was a short, stout, and extraordinarily dark man with short curly hair, and a clean-shaven face. He was wearing a well-cut blue pinstripe suit.
The prosecutor took a seat at the center table. He was an olive skinned man with dark almond shaped eyes. He had short spiked hair, and a gray suit. Finally the victim’s representative sat at the far right table. She was a tall and rather round white woman, with long curly red hair. She was wearing a tan pantsuit, and had on far too much makeup.
“How ya doing? Everything going alright for you, Mike?” Pershal asked as he sat down next to him and placed a touchpad on the table.
“Yeah, great… Ready to get this over with and get outta here.” Michael responded.
The Sergeant cleared his throat in the back of the room, before ordering everyone to rise for the Honorable Judge Masters.
Michael took a deep breath, knowing what would happen next, and not looking forward to it. The chair he was in began to mechanically change shape, forcibly making him stand. About halfway up the band across his chest bit painfully into his ribs, the pressure only subsiding after he came fully erect.
The Judge rose from the floor directly behind her dais. She was a rich mocha colored woman in a black robe. She had springy orange tinted hair and thick beautiful lips. “You may be seated.” She said her voice calm and melodious.
Michael’s chair slowly lowered him back to a sitting position as the rest of the people took their seats. Just before the judge was about to speak again the door in the back of the room slid open once more.
In walked, the bitch, she was a woman in about her mid thirties, in a simple light purple dress. She had shoulder length auburn hair, and green eyes that were moist as if she had just finished, or was about to start crying. She held her head high with a look of stoic courage, only briefly glancing at Michael locked in his restraint chair. She took her seat on the far right side of the room next to the victim’s representative.
The judge nodded slightly, “I’m glad you could join us this morning Mrs. Morehouse. Are you doing alright?” She asked.
The woman bit her lower lip with apprehension as she glanced over at Michael and slowly nodded. Her counsel woman squeezed her hand encouragingly before she answered the Judge’s question. “Yes your Honor, I’m fine….thank you.” Her voice cracked at the end, but she cleared her throat and looked back at the Judge.
The Judge smiled at Mrs. Morehouse before she began. “Very well, the Court is now in session. Let the record show that the sentence hearing in case number MJD 1109-2 Tabitha Morehouse, and the City of New Denver, Vs. Michael Cordly started at seven fifteen on the morning of the twenty-fifth of June in the year twenty-one seventeen.
Now before I begin I must remind everyone that the IPH Bill 94C allows for the individual counselors to add their statements in an effort to influence my decision on the sentence. So, Mr. Brown let’s start with you. Is there anything that the Defense would like to say?”
Pershal quickly stood and said, “Yes your Honor. If at all possible my client requests that he be allowed to serve his sentence doing some sort of labor. This would allow him to give back to the community while completing his sentence.” He then sat back down and winked at Michael.
The Judge bobbed her head once before turning her expectant gaze to the prosecutor. “Now how about you, Mr. Yin. Anything the people of New Denver would like to add?”
“The people have nothing more to add to this case your Honor,” said Mr. Yin.
“Very well,” said Judge Masters. Finally she turned to look at the victim and her attorney. “Anything you’d like to add on behalf of your client Ms. Sussmen?”
Ms. Sussmen bent close to her client and the two whispered for a moment, she then sat up and asked aloud. “You’re sure?” Michael’s victim then closed her eyes, and nodded. Her attorney cocked her head and looked back up to the Judge.
“My client is the victim of both of the crimes Mr. Cordley has been convicted of in this very courtroom. She is the direct victim of his rape, and she is the surviving victim of her husband, Eric Morehouse. The man he murdered.
Furthermore my client feels that there is only one punishment suitable for these crimes, unfortunately the death penalty was outlawed in twenty-one ten. However, in accordance with the Enhanced Victim’s Right’s law passed by the interplanetary congress of twenty-one oh-one my client requests a Reckoning.”
“The people support Mrs. Morehouse’s petition, your Honor.” The prosecutor hastily added.
“Objection your Honor!” Michael’s attorney almost shouted as he stood fists planted on the table in front of him.
Judge Masters slowly looked at Mr. Brown and pursed her lips before asking, “On what grounds?”
“Reckoning’s are barbaric and outdated, there hasn’t been one done in the Martian Judiciary District in nearly five years,” he said.
The Judge cocked one slender eyebrow. “Well thank you for the lesson, Mr. Brown. You’re right, Reckonings have fallen out of favor in this area; however they are still routinely done in the far more populated areas of Lunar Prime, and Earth.
Additionally the law is still valid, and Mrs. Morehouse is well within her rights as the victim to request such a punishment for your client. Your objection is overruled, you may be seated Mr. Brown.”
Michael’s attorney ground his teeth and sat back down, his cheeks flushing slightly. Michael leaned in closely and whispered. “What the hell’s a Reckoning?”
Pershal shook his head slightly, “I’ll tell you in a minute,” he whispered back.
The Judge sat briefly in contemplation, her chin resting on her interlaced fingers. When she finally spoke it was with such a solemn and serious tone, everyone knew that there would be no further objections or requests heard.
“Mr. Brown’s brief argument is correct. The Martian Judiciary District has in recent years begun to favor more humane sentences over the Reckoning, believing that with temperance people can grow and change on their own. On the other hand however, it is rare that such a pernicious crime is heard in our relatively low populated area. As such, it is the opinion of this court that a Reckoning is appropriate.”
Michael’s attorney slumped in his chair, expelling a long sigh.
Seeing his attorney’s reaction, and hearing the way the Judge spoke, Michael’s heart sunk into the pit of his stomach. He had never heard of a Reckoning before, but it didn’t sound good. Michael’s victim smiled, and put one hand over her mouth as tears began to stream down her face. Her attorney put her arm reassuringly around her.
The Judge continued unabated by the reactions of the people in the room. “A licensed Reckoning Writer will carry out the sentence in due course. Court adjourned.” With that the judge began to slowly lower back to the chamber from whence she came.
Michael’s victim and her attorney hastily left the room. The prosecutor shook hands with Michael’s attorney before he too left. Finally Pershal turned to Michael, a look of disappointment on his face.
“Well, Mike all I can tell you is this. The good news is you’ll be going home in a few days. You’ll be able to start your life fresh, back in New Denver. The bad news is you will no longer be who you are. Reckonings change people. Most say for the better, but others think differently. It’s not for me to argue one way or another. I just wish you luck.” Pershal started to stand, before Michael asked him to explain further.
The attorney shook his head. “I can’t tell you what is actually going to happen, Mike. You’ll just have to wait and see.” Then he turned and left, nodding briefly at Sergeant Williams who was still standing silently by the door.
Once everyone was clear of the room, the Sergeant pushed a button on the wall, and Michael was released from his restraint chair. Michael rubbed his wrists, ankles, and chest where the bands had held him before standing. “So, what’s a Reckoning?” He asked the Sergeant, hoping his answer would not be as cryptic as his lawyers.Williams smiled slightly, “ancient justice made more palatable through modern technology. If I’m not mistaken, it used to be called an eye for an eye.” Michael was then returned to his cursed white cell.