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»Is the autopilot defective? The security service is now stopping us…«, Nevon asked the two young women who were travelling with him in the vehicle.

   Two cars with blue lights lined up on the motorway before and after the vehicle, which has now slowed down by itself. After the first exit into a glade there was a roadhouse. So far they have already driven through hundreds of kilometers of forest, only that they have seen for a long time right and left of the motorway. In regular intervals there was such a fully automatic resting place, which was usually empty and was built in the same way down to the last detail. This rest stop was situated a little higher on a hill far above the forest. You could now see on the horizon that there were only trees in all directions. Nevon, his girlfriends Dowagen and Nuna got out of the car and a little intimidated they lined up with their backs to the standing vehicle.

   »Passengers, do you know why you were stopped?«, one of the four officers asked the frightened passengers.

   »No, we don't know. The car has been driving autonomously at the same speed for three days now, and we haven't changed the vehicle's default settings«, Nevon replied on behalf of all of them.

   »That's not the reason. Where are you travelling to?«, asked another of the officers seriously. The uniforms were dark blue like those of the policemen, but they all wore no hat and they were not armed either. But that didn't make the atmosphere any less threatening.

   Dowagen tried to explain in a weak voice:

   »My friend Nevon was in hospital for a long time and now we want to visit his relatives in the north. He lay in bed for months and now a little distraction would do him good.«

   »That's right, Steel Nevon was in hospital for three months«, a security guard read on a tablet-like device. It also says here that he suffers from amnesia. Our next instruction now is to explain to you your rights and obligations so please just tell us the truth or keep quiet. The trial can begin now«, and he dictated the date and time into the device from his hands, after which all four officers were silent for a few seconds. Then the officer continued with the same pitch:

   »As I can read here, because Nevon is ill, you get an eighty percent penalty reduction. The cameras we wear on our bodies record everything and what you say is automatically analyzed. The verdict will be given at the end of the hearing. Do you have any more questions?«, asked the slightly too small man.

   »Verdict? What did we even do?«, Nevon asks confused.

   »Please Nevon, just answer questions«, said Dowagen and took him by the hand.

   »You are driving a vehicle that has been reported as stolen. You are also four thousand kilometers far away from the last place where the owner parked his car.«

   »Why stolen? This is a car from my garage«, Nevon replies outraged.

   »Hence the eighty percent reduction in sentence, because you obviously don't remember your former life. But why was the car in your garage? The car belongs to a homeless guy named Bratan. He's been living in the car for a long time because he has an identity penalty. And it doesn't make sense to drive by car to the North Pole, and moreover, into a stolen vehicle. That's a hundred thousand kilometers away. You said that a small change would do him good, you mean driving in a small car for a month? Why not use public transport like everyone else? Please answer truthfully, otherwise the penalty will be automatically extended.«

»The car was in my garage, I didn't remember that it belonged to my friend Bratan, you know, I suffer from amnesia«, Nevon said cautiously.

   »Mr. Bratan, what was his family name again? He doesn't remember you either, and you call him a friend. He just wants the car back and compensation from you.«

   Nevon wanted to say something about it, but Nuna who has also come closer in the meantime, gave him a push nothing more to say.

   »Would you like to add something to your own defense?«, one of the security guards asked somehow in conclusion.

   »It seems that we are in a serious situation, and no matter what we say now from your point of view we are guilty«, Nevon tried to defuse the situation.

   »Our point of view is completely irrelevant, and the decision is not ours to make. The fact is that you are four thousand kilometers away from your own home in a stolen car. And you can't say anything in your own defense. There are six months of identity loss for that, and because you suffer from amnesia, the sentence has been reduced to one month for everyone.«

   »What, we are already being convicted?«

   »You just got convicted. I recommend you not to say anything else unless it contributes to your own discharge. We are confiscating the car now and you have no identification for a month.«

   »Are you still driving us home? Please.«

   »Your friends will explain this to you. From now on you all have no identity anymore, for one month. This means among other things, that you can no longer use a network or a bank. Since there are hundreds of kilometers of forest here, you are entitled to survival equipment. If you do not appeal, the sentence will be enforced immediately. If you file a complaint but do not add anything new, we will reject the application immediately. Otherwise we'll give you the survival kit right away, that would be the more pragmatic solution for you«, the officer said.

   »Can we call someone in order to be picked up? Or would you kindly take us to the nearest village?«, Dowagen asked.

»You can do whatever you want. But the system can only work if the penalties are severe, we can't take you anywhere. We'll drop you off here.«

   Nevon wanted to say something, but Nuna told him to stay calm again.

   The officers took three larger backpacks from a patrol car.

   »Inside you'll find sleeping bags, clothes, tools and dehydrated food for a week.«

   The officers, they were something like the police who knew Nevon from Earth, they were friendly, but as humans out of reach. Everyone was quiet and calm, but Nevon had to be reminded again and again not to ask any more questions and to remain calm. Dowagen and Nuna were always next to him and as soon as his eyes were impatient, they gave him a sign to do what was expected of him. And that was without any defense to endure. And Nevon thought that only a person with a broken will could bear it without saying a word:

   »I understand the seriousness of the situation now, but you can't just leave us here in no man's land. I don't remember my former life and the women are innocent because of the car. They only accompany me…«, Nevon said, he could not hold back any longer.

   »All this has already been taken into account. Grand theft auto requires a penalty. The penalty is a loss of identity. And there is also that you are here four thousand kilometers from home. Where are you going? At the North Pole, so that the sick Nevon can recover and relax? Driving a car for weeks is anything but relaxing. If you can explain something more to us, we will pass it on and it will be taken into account«, one of the officers said seriously.

   »Where will you pass and who will decide«, Nevon asked again impatiently.

   »I told you from the beginning that we wear cameras on our bodies. They record everything and what is said, facial expressions and the thermo sensors for example, check if we have been told the truth, and in the end the verdict is passed. Not we, but a software decides that. We humans are only the interface between machine and you, so that the law is implemented humanely. Before we go, would you like to ask us a last question?«

   »I once read that artificial intelligence will eventually replace judges, are we experiencing this right now?«

»What kind of intelligence should a computer have, the software only evaluates the voice, the lie detector is also considered and the law determines the sentence. This is something like a calculation: 6-5=1. The facts, 6 months penalty for theft we have determined here. Minus generous 5 months reduction of sentence because of the illness Nevons, he cannot be made responsible today for his earlier actions. Nevertheless he is not ill in bed, he travels with two healthy female friends to the North Pole, in a stolen car. Accordingly, the result was 1 month identity deprivation calculated by the software. Now I can read on my computer: Steel Nevon didn't know that the car didn't belong to him, but everyone seems to be hiding something, the software assumes that it's about the car. If there is something you want to clarify, please do it now. But be careful, Nuna's brother and two other people are reported missing. The last time they were seen they were with you, but we assume you didn't kill those three persons. The sensors and the software recognize the killers, so we didn't ask you any more, you'll already have a hard enough time finding your way out of this hole«, he continued after a short pause for reflection:

   »And Nuna is now together with you and she is also going in the nowhere. Young and unreasonable we assume, but the car is stolen. That's why we're here now. The car owner, your friend Bratan as you say, is serving a lengthy identity penalty, but he owns the car and the expenses for the car are covered. He may have a connection to Nevon… Hm, everything is inscrutable… Make a clarifying statement or leave it as it is, then the verdict is final. One month of identity deprivation from now. You are not here against your will, it is not necessary or even allowed to take you anywhere. Nobody is entitled to a telephone call, so that panic is released and remains well in memory. Only in this way can our security system work, so that we the honest citizens can live in safety. Now, please remove your belongings from the stolen car.«

Preview end, the book series 'Red Giant Star' can be read on here:


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