The Dissenting Judge, frail, old, overwhelmed, bored with data, welcomed the coming of Plantman.
“You are fortunate, Plantman. Your life is lived tending fruits of the earth. I am beset with human cares. . . “
“You look tired,” Plantman said.
“Yes, tired. There comes a time when The Judge must judge himself. This is never good. Cases come and go. Input. Output. Prosecution is a fast machine. Since the Viral Deviant statutes became Law, there have been few occasions in which a judgment of innocence has been warranted, not to say legally justified. This murder, for instance. The Accused ate the fish himself. He happened to survive. If he is to be tried for murder, should he not be tried for attempted suicide as well? Under the previous statutes, attempted suicide was a ticket to the House of the Disturbed. Insanity. Hands down. The fool actually swallowed the flesh that killed his parents. But under the new Law, a VD is a VD. Extenuating circumstances, such as mental infirmity, do not apply.
“Then there is the peculiar form of masochism exhibited by The Accused. ‘Standing up for his beliefs,’ some might call it. ‘Only the fittest survive,’ according to The Accused. If he had not been meant to survive, he would have died with his parents. What would possess a man to examine this tired old theory, via live experiment, rather than relegating it to the realm of the academic, is not admissible. A VD is a VD. It is our duty only to determine whether the accused is a VD. Pyramid and the before-your-eyes facts prove undeniably that The Accused most certainly fits the legal definition of a Viral Deviant.
“Where he developed his twisted notions, what his relationship with his parents might have been — could they have long ago implanted this seed of their own destruction in his unstable mind?— is not relevant. Nor is the unfortunate fact that The Accused will leave behind a wife and children. Or that he, according to data supplied by Pyramid, has never before, in his adult life, manifested violent or deviant behavior, except for the inevitable words spoken to friends, colleagues, encounters with rivals, so on and so forth that, when taken out of context, plucked from the cold, hard-drives of Pyramid, lend proof to the contention that he is a Viral Deviant.
“We must ask ourselves: So what? Data flowing through Pyramid can mark even the most esteemed of Citizens a Viral Deviant, if presented and translated in malicious fashion — and the intent of The Prosecution is indeed malicious toward Viral Deviants — as prescribed by The Law.
“What might have been a case of a suicidal man destroying his parents, while also attempting, by all reasonable accounts, to destroy himself, is not a case we can pursue. It is now the case of a Viral Deviant who must be destroyed. Though The Accused is steadfast in his assertion that he did what he did to test the ‘fitness of his bloodline,’ the survivability of his children in a world grown increasingly toxic, one obvious possibility, I would even go so far as to say probability, has not been stated: This is a man of no conviction who, in accordance with the monstrous nature of his deed, has convinced himself that he acted with conviction. It is entirely possible that he poisoned himself and his parents by accident, and that, upon waking, days later, in the prison hospital, he preferred death to the horrible truth of circumstance, and convinced himself, or had himself convinced, in his confused and agonized state, that this all had some sort of, for lack of a better word, ‘purpose,’ that he had not accidentally poisoned his parents by feeding them the fish he caught in a local pond, a pond he and his father had fished when The Accused was a boy, but deliberately poisoned them to see if they, and he, for he did eat a large quantity of the contaminated meat, would survive the ordeal and therefore ensure the ‘fitness’ of his progeny. This most complicated of cases is permitted only the simplest of solutions. . . ”
“I haven’t studied the case, not in depth,” said Plantman. “All I know, I know from The News.”
“I had to dissent. I am too old not to dissent. In this way, perhaps, I am following the example of The Accused. For a judge, under the new Law, is permitted only a certain number of dissents before subjecting himself to review and possible impeachment. I too am testing the laws of survival. Attempting to determine if I myself, after a lifetime as a jurist, am indeed a ‘survivor.’”
“I am sorry you are burdened,” Plantman said.
“I am old, a man of the old statutes, which gave both judge and jury room to breathe. I did not mature under the new Law, which makes us all puppets acting according to a script while deluding ourselves that we have ‘free will.’ I am entering my last days as a Judge.”
“You will retire?” asked Plantman.
“I will pound my gavel loud and clear,” The Judge nodded.
“Make a bit of noise before I go.”