Jay walking in space


They ask me who I am and I tell them, though my first instinct is to run -- though I know even in light gravity of this planet, I won’t get far

When Krala police ask questions, it usually means something bad.

I was warned coming here that the authorities tolerate not even the least infractions, believing that small crimes lead to larger crimes, so they work to impose the harshest penalties from the start to discourage repeat offenses.

The police patrol the streets as if they expect an attack, and warn me to keep my distance when I approach the car to hear their muffled translator better.

A similar car went up yesterday when a terrorist stuffed an ion devise in a vent.

I back off, smelling the ozone as their defense mechanisms go on, another step and I would fry.

This is no ordinary craft. The war with its neighboring planet has everyone on edge. Only tourists travel without heavy armor so that each barrier street has a sluggish sense and air cars that more resemble ambling dinosaurs than modern technology.

By Imperial standards, this is worse than “back woods” and the few tourists that come here are mostly spies or one sort or another, corporate entities seeking to find a way to capitalize on the war effort or make off with the vast wealth over which the two planets fight.

While the machine tells me it has stopped me for my own safety since “walking” is practically unheard of on a place where every block shows the ruin of recent explosions, I know those in the machine are doing every scan possible to determine who I am, and running my record through vast archives of information to calculate my motives.

It is no use to tell them that I felt cramped in the hotel and corridors of the city, and being from a world free of bomb shelters and other obstruction, all I want is some open space.

I did not want to come here. I avoided it until every last option was explored, but lost shipments of weapons from my company have become a huge issue that sometimes require a representative to make a spot inspection to see what might have happened -- though I know some rebel group made off with the delivery when the cargo ship landed.

The air car speaker grill tells me to prepare for transport.

Am I under arrest? What is the charge?

Karla prisons are as notorious for their torture as their streets are, and I am appalled that my company could let this happen -- if indeed, they even know.

The machine spits out some technical information, and I am suddenly inside a place that stinks of rotting meat, and stand face to face with real Karlians for the first time, tall, leathery creatures that would have made good Hollywood movie monsters several centuries ago, except that civilized life has dulled their double layer of teeth, and the use of machines has allowed their muscles to grow soft.

I am in a court room. The judge’s translating device has condemned me to death for jay walking.

But they know I know it is for something else, for something they believe I am will do or have done, some secret other than what is real.

I try to explain. I try to say people walk the streets on my world and I thought I could here as well.

But I am transported to a detention cell while my automatic appeal is heard and rejected, and my sentence is carried out.


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