01 December 2007

The Einstien Defence

The judge gazed at the counsel for the state.

"I beg your pardon?" she said for the second time. Her eyebrows were now killing her with pain. This was all completely out of control.

"Well, your honour" said Mr. Bradshaw, quickly, trying to maintain his momentum. "we wish to file charges of..."

Ms Darling - the unfortunate judge, presiding over this most trivial of cases - felt her head start to swim.

It had been a long day. It had been a very long week. And she wasn't sure how much more she could take.

It all started so simply. A straight forward charge meant a straight forward case. A straight forward case meant she could relax, and perhaps even make it home early for an evening of holovision.

It was a simple case. A simple case of speeding. No questions asked. The woman had been speeding. Her automatic guidance controls had failed to deal with the speed she was travelling. She had careered out of control and hit the side wall of the hyperway. The resulting explosion had been deftly avoided by the other vehicles - traveling within the speed limit, their automatic controls had been able to cope. Some of the debris from the wall she had hit, and her own car, had been thrown wide and caused serious damage to a family home, on a large estate near the side of the hyperway.

How she had managed to do quite so much damage to the safety wall around the hyperway was, at first, unexplained. The walls were built for the protection of the surrounding inhabitants. They had been installed to ensure even the worst accident was contained. The impact crater from the collision implied an explosion of unbelievable proportions. This fact, in particular, was what made the case so easy. A horrible accident from a worse driver who needed some serious punishment. All that was required, to put the case to bed, was an expert witnesses confirming the obviously ridiculous speed she must have been doing.

Everyone knew it was going to be straight forward. The state knew that it was going to be a straight forward conviction. The defence knew it was a straight forward acquittal.

"You wish to call an expert witness?"

Judge Darling found herself saying this, and was surprised to hear the words. She decided to concentrate on proceedings a little more closely.

"Yes your honour"

Counsel for the defence could not help the slight smirk on his face as he said this. He had been waiting for this moment. He noted with satisfaction the uneasy reaction from opposing counsel and the judge.

There was a murmur in the court. A small number of public viewers had turned up to watch this, apparently straightforward and uninteresting, court session. A few of them understood that this was a slightly surprising turn of events, and those that did were busy explaining it to their companions.

No one had expected the defence to call any witnesses at all. What could anyone say? The injured family could attest to the fact that their house was, in fact, nearly destroyed by the collision. Passes by could only confirm that the car was travelling at unsafe speeds and had caused all of the damage reported.

But an expert witness... for the defence! What could they say? That the car had been faulty in some way; some way that prevented the driver from controlling the car? Surely not. That had been covered in the multiple auxiliary reports on the incident. The "black box" had been retrieved. It had shown, beyond a doubt, that all actions taken by the car were under the driver’s instruction. A defence based on the unreliability of these "black box" monitors had not been launched in over 200 years - shortly after their compulsory installation in all commercial rocket-driven and terrestrial flying vehicles.

So what could it be?

Judge Darling began to feel a knot forming between her brows - a sharp pain that started in the muscles between her eyebrows and led down into her tear ducts. It was the reaction she had when things seemed not entirely in her control. It was an unpleasant sensation, one with which she did not have to put up often. It gave her the appearance of frowning - an expression that she felt implied weakness and uncertainty. Judge Darling tried to relax her face, but failed.

She could see the vision of her early night at home dissolving. It was too early to be certain, of course, but she was troubled none the less.

"Dr. Frein, your honour" continued defence counsel. "He's a physicist from the University of Johannesburg - a university recognised as galaxy leader in the study of relativistic effects. Dr. Frein himself is renowned for his studies into the conclusions of Relativistic Theory, and, in particular, how one should use its equations to predict different views from different frames of reference."

"A physicist?..." replied the Judge. "in relativity?..." She hated repeating what other people said; another sign of confusion and weakness. But she was honestly surprised; even intrigued. She enjoyed a new defence - something out of left field. And this had all the hallmarks. Perhaps it would be interesting. But she had so looked forward to an early night…

Mr. Tomley let the moment ride. There was still some unrest building behind him, in the court room, and he was enjoying the spectacle. He even allowed himself a short glance toward his client, sitting next him. He gave her a small nod and a slight smile, to say "There, that's what we wanted"

"Your honour." Mr. Bradshaw, acting as counsel for the state, had raised himself from his seat.

The judge blinked, and looked around the room. Noticing the noise building in her arena, she banged her gabble, just once, and brought the room to rest again. She then directed her attention to Mr Bradshaw.

"Your honour, chambers?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"But what in Jesus' name can you be hoping to achieve?" Mr Bradshaw, away from the public view of the courtroom, had let his calm exterior drop.

The two lawyers stood in judge's chambers. Mr Tomley standing erect and confident in the middle of the room, hands held behind him, facing the judge sitting at her desk, as Mr Bradshaw paced around Tomley, agitated and frustrated.

"Your honour, I do not wish to reveal any more of the details of our defence than is absolutely necessary, at this point." Tomley was playing a game. He had ruffled his opponents feathers, quite clearly, and was not about to give him any comfort by, say, talking with him directly. He was having a form of a childish "I'm not talking to you" conversation with Mr Bradshaw, via the Judge - and it was working wonders.

"Frank!" Bradshaw had reverted to pleading. Using first name familiarity in an official chambers discussion was a clear sign of begging, in Tomley's opinion.

"Your honour..." Tomley took his psychological advantage and rode straight over the top of his opponent. "The witness in question has only landed today. We would like to give the state as much time as possible to prepare for this new information. Considering the witnesses already on our lists it’s unlikely that we’ll get around to our man before the end of the day." Tomley rose gradually towards the climax of his argument. "I was in no way required to reveal our intentions at this point of the proceedings, your honour. We have been more than reasonable in our disclosure. You..."

Mr Tomley, without realising, had hit on the one most significant fact for the Judge at this moment. He had made his case, as far as Judge Darling was concerned. The witness would not be required until tomorrow. A new day would bring a new start, and Ms Darling would be far more capable of dealing with unforeseen defence arguments when she more in control. Most importantly, her early night was again a possibility. The sooner they ended this dispute, the sooner they could get back to viewing the first few witnesses; the sooner they would be finished for the day.

"Mr Bradshaw. If you cannot present to me, in a few sentences or less, an actual legal reason why the defence cannot call their own expert witness, I will be forced to allow them to proceed. Let them prove relevance in the courtroom, if they can. But there is no pressing reason why they should not be allowed to try."

Bradshaw was stumped. He knew he had lost, but it was still improper to admit defeat, openly. He looked from his opponent to the judge, waiting for as long as possible in the hope that some pertinent legal specific would pop present itself to him.

"All right then." The judge stood up from behind her desk, and started ushering her guests back to the courtroom. "Lets get on with it."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Sorry?" said the policeman. He looked confused by the question.

"How fast did the vehicle in question appear to be moving, constable?" repeated defence counsel, more slowly and deliberately this time. His contented smirk had reappeared, uncontrollably. He turned towards the back of the room to hide it from the judge.

"As I said, the reading on my IVSR returned a value of three hundred thousand meters per second" came the well rehearsed answer. The policeman was "on message" and trying to keep it that way.

"That is not what I asked." Mr Tomley turned on the state’s witness and lined himself up for attack. "Please try to answer the question I am asking, constable. I'll say again - how fast did it appear to be moving".

The constable turned, questioningly to the judge, who appeared to be frowning again.

"Your honour, my esteemed colleague has repeated the same question twice." Bradshaw had risen again from his seat. He had given Mr Tomley much more latitude than Tomley had expected with this line of questioning. Tomley was only surprised he had got this far without being interrupted. "A question, your honour, that was more than satisfactorily answered during my questioning. I fail to see where this is heading."

"Everything will be made clear in time. I beg the court’s indulgence in this matter." Tomley smiled at the judge.

The judge nodded compliance curtly, and Mr Bradshaw found his seat again. Tomley returned his attention to the witness.

"Let me put it this way, for you." He was getting condescending, but he felt he could get away with it. The judge had been very lenient with him throughout the day, and appeared to be in a good mood, as long as things kept moving along efficiently. "You stated to this court, that from your position in front of my clients direction of travel, your Internal Vehicle Status Reader..." these last few words came out slowly, in Mr Tomley’s attempt to imply over reliance on all things technological. "... your ‘IVSR’ - gave you this reading as my client rounded the bend in front of you. Is this correct?"

"Yes, as I said..."

"Thank you, constable." No need for wasted time on unsolicited answers from unaccommodating witnesses. "And yet you also stated that in the time it took you to call up the vehicles details and alert central office to your reading, the vehicle in question was still travelling along the road and had not, as yet, collided with the side of the hyperway. Yes?"

"It was travelling very erratically, I think the on-boards were already starting to loose control."

"However it was still travelling. Yes?"


"And approximately what distance would you say there was between where you first picked up readings from the car and the site of the eventual collision? Three hundred and fifty metres? Three hundred?"

"Oh it was at least four hundred..."

Tomley knew he was exaggeratingng. It couldn't have been more than a three hundred meters or so, but it didn't matter at this point.

"And yet, constable, you wish this court to believe that in the time it took you to call in a traffic violation, and bring up the details of the vehicle in question, that this vehicle, travelling at three hundred thousand meters per second, had not managed to travel even four hundred meters down the road to its final point of impact. Does this sound right to you?"

"Oh, well..." the policeman straightened in his chair. He was proud of the opportunity to show off some knowledge. "Derek down the station reckons it’s got something to do with relativity."

The state counsel and judge both honed in on the first clue to where their discussion earlier that morning might be heading. The judge had been getting bored by the details that she already knew from the preliminary reports. Recapping them had seemed pointless. But this was getting interesting. State counsel too was interested, and started scribbling some notes, hurriedly to his assistant next to him.

"Relativity, you say. How interesting. And so I get back to my original question. How fast did the car appear to be travelling?

"Oh, well, now that you mention it, the other cars did seem to be passing it. I did wonder about that. But Derek reckons that's just relativity. He says it's not really travelling that fast, it just looks like it."

"Thank you constable." Mr Tomley started to return to his seat.

"But I mean you can't get people on how fast they look like their going, can you? I mean that's why we've got the readers. I mean if you start taking people on how fast you think they were going then anyone could get off, yeah?"

"Quite, constable. Thank you." Tomley turned toward his seat again. And then suddenly "Oh constable, thank you for reminding me. The machine... your readers. Do you know anything about the way they work?"

The constable, who had lent forward in order to stand up, looked up towards the courtroom and settled back down again.

"Oh yeah. They take us through all the machine stuff. We've gotta know how they work in order to use them." The constable smiled at this, with the proud air of someone who has very little technical knowledge, able to show off what little understanding they do have.

"Please. Enlighten us." said Mr Tomley, resting against his table in a casual, conversational manner.

"Oh right. Well, you see, they take a reading from the ship's onboard computers. The car’s computers send out a constant signal at a particular wavelength, especially for our machines, you see. And our readers pick up the signals from any moving object they can see, and tell us what the onboard computer is saying. Right? Basically, the car tells us how fast its going."

"Right, and so what did this particular onboard computer say? The one you picked up a reading from in my client’s car."

The constable sat forward in his chair and started off excitedly.

"Oh well... it said it was travelling real slowly, you see, but we've got a back-up system. In case someone's played around with their onboard, right? What it does is, it takes a clock reading from the onboard, which is harder to crack or change, and cars won't work much if its set wrong, right? And it gets a GPS position for the car and works out how fast the cars going by working out how many meters it's travelled every second, by the onboard clock - you see? And that was how I knew. The first reading said it was going real slow. But when I ran the second round of measurements all the alarms started going off, and I called it in." The constable looked proud at this, and settled into his chair a bit more comfortably.

"And why then, if there was no reason to suspect the car of travelling at unsafe speeds, did you take the second measurement, may I ask?"

"Oh we just do it all the time" came the easy response. "We just run the first round of measurements every now and then, on all visible cars, and then we run the second. We just alternate them. That way we can know if someone's jiggered with their onboard you see."

"I see. Again, thank you constable. Very well explained."

"Oh but she didn't do that. Derek reckons that's just relativity again. I don't want you to think I mean she fiddled her onboard."

Tomley took a deep breath, in frustration. "No. Thank you constable. I was not of that impression. But thank you for making that clear. That's all your honour."

He said it, this time, just to make sure. The interview was really over. He was getting bored of the witness, and wanted to move on. But, he had to reflect, it couldn't have gone any better if he'd given him a script.

Mr Bradshaw simply stood up behind his desk. "Your honour, we call for a recess." There was an expectant pause in the room. "Your honour, certain elements have come to light as a result of the last witnesses testimony. We wish to call a short recess for a brief reassessment of our case."

The judge looked slightly surprised, but she was in a good mood. The prospect of an early night still shone on the horizon and the relief of that made her malleable. She wanted a break herself anyway. "Ah... yes certainly. I'm sorry to hear that your own witness has managed to cause an upset in the proceedings of your case, counsel. However I see no reason not to call lunch now. Let's give it two hours shall we?"

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This was the dangerous bit. Tomley sat uneasily in his chair as the state came to the cornerstone of their case - interviewing the defendant. Any number of things could go wrong here - and clients were notoriously bad at avoiding them.

Tomley was surprised, and a little shaken, to discover that the state had used their two hour lunch very productively. They had apparently grasped the direction his defence was going in, very quickly - and had started to prepare themselves, and their case, for it.

They had asked the obvious question - "What was the reading on your speedometer at the time leading up to the crash"

When his client had replied "Oh, somewhere around 30kms an hour" Tomley had expected to see his opponent derailed. Tomley had expected opposing counsel to be surprised by that information. Instead he had continued on calmly, as if he had known it was coming.

"Very well" Mr Bradshaw had continued, confidently. "Let me ask you a different question then. You started your journey at your home, did you not? - In uptown Summersfield, correct?


"And you were, at the time of the accident travelling north along hyperway 59 towards your sisters place in New Cumberland."

"That's right."

This was interesting. Tomley couldn't see where this was going. It should've made him uneasy, but his passion for the game made it intriguing.

"Now then, we have estimated that the distance from the beginning of your journey to the site of your accident was approximately two hundred and forty kilometres. Does that sound right to you?"

While he was saying this a rudimentary map, representing the defendants estimated route of travel had appeared in a small area of open air next to the defendants head. Bradshaw or one of his assistants had been ready for this and had activated it remotely.

Ms Thrutt turned her head to look at it, briefly.

"Yes, that sounds about right." Said Ms Thrutt, turning back to her questioner. "It's about two eighty kays to my sister's and I was almost at the turn-off - so I guess so."

"Right then." Bradshaw was building to something, and Tomley's interest was being over-run by concern. "By your own statement you left your house at approximately ten minutes past four o'clock in the afternoon, correct?"

"That's about right."

"And the onboard clock of your vehicle states conclusively that it was only fifty minutes past four at the time of your accident"

"Ah, but... no no no, when I was picked up by the police in my ejector seat your honour" Ms Thrutt had turned to the judge for this one. She was feeling threatened by Mr Bradshaw's manner and sought out the company of another woman to speak to. "they said it was already eight o'clock in the evening – and it’d only been a few minutes since I got ejected - obviously there was something wrong with my cars clock."

"I'm afraid not, Ms Thrutt." Bradshaw pulled her attention back to him. "By the argument already eluded to by my honoured colleague" He gestured briefly towards Tomley, in his seat. "the relativistic effects on your clock explain the discrepancies between the two clocks - yours and the policeman's"

"Ah, yes but..."

"Let me ask you this, Ms Thrutt" Bradshaw wasn't about to let his momentum be shaken. "As you can see on the map to your left, Ms Thrutt, your journey involved approximately fourty kilometres of travel through suburban roads before reaching the hyperway. Now assuming you were not speeding along these roads..."

Tomley jumped up. He was starting to get worried. "Your honour, my client’s speed earlier in her journey is not in contention here." he interrupted.

"Neither am I trying to put it in contention." Bradshaw rounded on his opposing counsel and smiled.

The interjection was pointless. He knew that before he stood up, but he felt he had to do something to break the flow of this questioning. Bradshaw was sounding too confident for his liking.

Neither of them waited for a response from the judge. Tomley re-seated himself.

"Now, Ms Thrutt" Bradshaw picked up again as quickly as he could. "Assuming an average speed of somewhere around one hundred kilometres an hour along suburban roads, allowing for traffic and lights, etceteras. It must have taken you around twenty five minutes to get to the beginning of your hyperway journey."

Ms Thrutt nodded, slightly.

"Is that about right, Ms Thrutt?"

"I guess so." She was uneasy, and Tomley could see it. At this moment, though, there was nothing to do. Tomley's mind was racing ahead to see if he could cut Bradshaw off at the next pass.

"And so you managed to cover the next one hundred and eighty kilometres of your journey in less than ten minutes, Ms Thrutt. Now..."

"But it was after eight by the time I was picked up. I can't have been..." She was sounding desperate.

"Thank you Ms Thrutt. Please restrain yourself to answering my questions." Bradshaw adjusted his suit and wondered calmly into a more central position in the room. He enjoyed these moments. "We, the state, intend to show, your honour, that by the defences own argument, relativistically speaking, it is as reasonable to say that Ms Thrutt was actually travelling at speeds close to speed of light, by her own calculation, as it is to say that she was travelling at less than thirty kilometers an hour by police measurements. We further intend to show that it is a reasonable assumption, within the law, that the internal measurements of a vehicles speed of travel should be counted as the correct speed."

"But the speedo said thirty!" Ms Thrutt was getting upset.

This comment sent an electric shock through Tomley. He jumped slightly in his seat and snatched up a pen. He quickly scribbled out a few notes and handed them to his assistant - who read them and excused himself quickly but politely from the courtroom.

"Ms Thrutt, please." Mr Bradshaw turned to the judge for confirmation.

"Ms Thrutt, please do try to answer only the questions you are asked." She turned to the state’s counsel. “However, Mr. Bradshaw, do try to remember you have already given your opening. This is not a time for instructing me on your plans for the case, this is a time for getting on with it.” So saying, she nodded to the state's counsel to continue.

"I just have one last question. He spoke a little more quickly now, to keep the judge on side. “Given the distance you travelled along the hyperway, can you please tell this court how much time appeared to pass during your travel. I understand that it was much later in the day by the time you were ejected from your car and rescued by the police, but I ask you to tell us honestly how much time appeared to pass in your travel down the hyperway."

"Can this possibly be relevant, your honour." Again, Tomley knew his objection would hardly help, but he had to do something; maybe give his client a little extra time to prepare an answer... Not that he could see what it was going to be.

"In the same spirit of questioning that my esteemed colleague pursued this morning with the constable, I believe this is entirely relevant. Particularly in the light of the defence’s relativity argument, your honour."

The judge had been happy to remain silent most of this time. Early night or no, the pain between her eyebrows was back. Her eyes were starting to hurt. She didn't feel in control, and didn't appreciated being asked to take it, right now. She didn't like not understanding. This had all been so simple this morning, and she had a strong belief that things should be put in more order over time, not less. Thay's what the legal system was all about.

"Please continue counsel." she said to Mr Bradshaw. It was the best she could manage at the moment. Her mind was now fixedly focussed on finding some serious down time. A good rest and some light entertainment - the kind that required no thought or explanation.

"Again, Ms Thrutt, I ask you. What amount of time appeared to pass in your journey down the hyperway." This last repetition of the word "appeared" was directed at Mr Tomley.

Tomley seethed. It was one thing to win the battle. It was one thing to be on a roll. But it was another thing, entirely, to rub it in.

"Well, I can't be sure. You know, I was just driving..."

Bradshaw turned to the court audience with mock frustration on his face, and a subtle roll of his eyes, indicating the ridiculous nature of her evasive answer. Entertaining the crowds and keeping them on side could be as important as pleasing the judge, in these cases.

"Come, come Ms Thrutt. We're talking about the difference between ten minutes and a couple of hours here. Which was it? In your opinion, did your journey down the highway appear to take closer to ten minutes or a few hours. Surely it can't be that hard to estimate."

There was silence in the room.

"Ms Thrutt?" It was the judge. She had started to reassess the problem. This morning it had been clear that the defendant was guilty. And in the face of any clearer news, she was happy to support any argument that might reassert that. It wasn't the most objective process, she realised - but it made more sense than anything else, at the moment.

"Well, ten minutes I guess" The response was mumbled and hardly audible.

"Sorry, can you repeat that." Bradshaw was driving this home.

"Closer to ten minutes, I guess." It was clearer this time, but still not confident.

"Thank you Ms Thrutt. Can you please explain to this court, then, how you managed to make it some one hundred and eighty kilometres in a ten minute time frame?"


"Without speeding." Bradshaw added for emphasis.

"Well, I was told..." she paused. Now here was the defendants little piece of popular physics - but she sounded much less confident or proud of it than the constable had. "... they said that you couldn't really say that I had been travelling at that speed because..."

The defense counsel had had enough. She might get this right, but it wouldn't do any more good than hearing it from their expert tomorrow. And anything she got wrong could do more damage than good.

"Your honour, I object. My client cannot be asked to answer questions, the answers to which are clearly effected by the relativistic nature of the situation. Any more than she could be expected to answer questions on the internal workings of her car at the time - or any other technical detail."

"Your honour..."

"I agree, Mr Tomley." the judge interjected. Brainless entertainment was of heightened importance right now.

"Very well, Ms Thrutt. Can I simply ask you then. Would you agree that, having covered a distance of one hundred and eighty kilometres in what appeared to you to be somewhere in the order of 10 minutes, from a laymen's point of view, is it not still clear that you were travelling at a speed excessively over the limit."

Ms Thrutt looked pleadingly at her lawyer - and then to the judge.

Tomley had hardly sat down again, but was on the way back up. "Your honour."

"Mr Bradshaw, would you not agree that these technical issues can be covered in sufficient detail tomorrow, with the defences own expert witness."

"Very well your honour." Bradshaw turned back towards his seat. "Your witness" he said dismissively, without looking at his opponent.

Tomley sat quietly for a moment, gathering his thoughts. He may have regained some ground in the last few moments of the battle, but the day obviously belonged to his opponent.

"No further questions, your honour." he said, a little more despondently than he had intended.

Defence counsel had never planned on having any questions for his client, unless the state left some obvious loose ends to tie up. Even if things had gone better, there was nothing much the defendant could say for herself to improve the situation. His case relied, and had always relied, on the questioning of his expert witness. But somehow things had not gone as expected. The road ahead seemed more troubled than he had anticipated.

But tomorrow was another day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This was it.

Mr Tomley was back on track. He had rested well, and a hurried conversation with the physicist, before the court session began, had cleared a lot of issues in his mind.

His eureka moment, the day before, had been well received by Dr. Frein, and Tomley was secretly proud of himself for having come up with it, on his own.

The doctor had seemed impressed, in his own understated way, as well. They had taken the opportunity, in the morning, to make the argument more direct and clear, and Tomley was ready for a quick and concise session.

"And so, Dr. Frein," He had rehearsed this part a hundred times, in his mind, on their trip over from the doctor's hotel. He just had to keep it all together. "what you are saying is this. The reason the onboard computer read a value of thirty kilometres an hour, is because that is the speed my client was actually travelling."

"Exactly. In her frame of reference, she was in fact only travelling at 30kms and hour."

"And by the state's own admission, the internal frame of reference is the one that we should use legally in order to calculate a vehicles speed." Tomley walked in a large circle around his arena as he questioned Dr. Frein. He allowed himself a quick glance at his opponent as he made reference to the comments from yesterday’s session.

"Well, I don’t actually think I agree with that. Legally speaking, we have always relied on external forms of measurement to decipher whether someone has broken the law, and I see no reason to contradict that precedent. But the thing is this," Tomley turned in mock interest towards his witness. He knew what was coming, but appearances were still important. One must still appear to be discovering information during your interview, particularly in cases presided over only by a judge.

"Yes?" he said.

"Well, even if you take the policeman's point of view, then the vehicle is still only travelling at 30 kilometres an hour." the doctor continued.

"I'm sorry? Can you explain?" Tomley was starting to enjoy this case all over again.

"Well, as the cop on duty said yesterday, he could see other cars passing Ms Thrutt's car. You see, from his frame of reference the car was ageing more slowly. In relation to his clock the car took some minutes to travel the distance between where he first saw it, to where it eventually collided. Which is why his first assessment of the car’s speed was within the speed limit."

The judge had started the day more confidently. Last night's rest and relaxation had allowed her to put everything in perspective, or so she thought. The state had done well at displaying their case, at the end of the previous day. Again, everything was looking clear for a straightforward conviction. But suddenly things were looking out of control again. She was sick of frowning, and starting to get restless.

"So can you please explain to the court, Dr. Frein, the police department’s claim that they managed to measure her speed at somewhere near the speed of light?"

"Ah well, that's easy. You see it's based on a complete fallacy." Tomley was beginning to like this guy. He was good. There was a titter from the court. The public always enjoyed putting the police down. "You see their second measurement was based on taking a reading from the cars onboard clock at multiple intervals and comparing that to distance measurements taken from a satellite GPS system."

"Yes, and?" Tomley knew this would not be as obvious to the judge as it was to his witness. He wanted it all spelled out clearly - by someone with no vested interest in proving his case.

"Well you are comparing measurements from two different frames of reference. The clock measurement is being taken from inside the car, while the distance measurements are being made by an object outside the car. It's clearly not a good way to prove anything. The system was introduced in order to double check the measurements made by the car itself - and at low speeds it does that quite well, but at high speeds it makes no sense at all."

It was Bradshaw's turn to start scribbling frantically this time. Tomley noticed this with interest, but he wasn't worried now. He'd been over this with the doctor, and his answers were decisive.

"OK then, to summarise, if your honour will oblige."

"Yes" she thought "a summary would be good."

"What you are saying is, that no matter what total frame of reference we take in order to make the calculations, you will come up with the same low measurement. And that any measurement which takes into account more than one frame of reference is flawed and cannot be used for accurate measurement of the reality of the situation.

"Yes, that's about it."

"And so, in your professional capacity, it is your opinion that there is no complete or consistent way in which to prove that the defendant was travelling at any speed other than the originally stated thirty kilometres an hour."

"Yes, that is what I am saying."

"However, my learned colleague here will ask you..."

Bradshaw bristled at this and folded his arms in front him, as if to say "Go on, tell me what I would ask."

"... he would say 'Please explain to us how Ms Thrutt managed to cover a distance of one hundred and eighty kilometres, while only ageing ten minutes by her frame of reference... without speeding!" Tomley didn't bother looking at his opponent for this. It would have been too cheap. He simply let the words, and the subtle impersonation, carry themselves.

"Ah, again that's easy" replied the doctor, even more confidently. They had been over this bit, earlier this morning. "You see the relativistic effects on the car also make a huge difference to the perceived distance travelled. While we would measure the distance from her place to her sisters as two hundred and eighty kilometres, say. At these speeds..."

Tomley noted his opponent take up his pen and start scribbling again.

"...the perceived distance between Ms Thrutt and her destination are drastically truncated. At the moment that she was being observed by the police, she would have perceived her journey down the hyperway as being many magnitudes shorter than the police would have. Which explains the measurements returned by the onboard speedo."

"So basically what you are saying is, taken from her point of view she was travelling a much shorter distance for a much shorter amount of time, and taken from the external point of view, say for example the police, she was travelling a much larger distance over a much larger amount of time. Either way, the thirty kilometres an hour measurement is held up as true. It that correct?"

"Yes, exactly. That's precisely what I am saying."

"And if you were forced to make a decision, which measurement, the external or internal, would you say is the one that should be used?"

"Well, in this case it makes no difference at all. But for the sake of consistency and certainty, I can say definitely that the external observer's measurements are the one's that should be used - legally. If you’re going to be strict about it, then by an internal frame of reference, the car is not moving at all – it is the world that is speeding. It is in fact the policeman himself that should have been tried with speeding, while taking his measurements."

Again, there was muffled laughter from the stalls of the courtroom.

There were, in fact, a few more people in the court today, as word had travelled fast that this case was getting interesting. They had enjoyed the doctor’s testimony, and were warming to the defence’s case.

The doctor and the defence counsel smiled at each other. Tomley also took this opportunity to look at the judge, who, while still frowning oddly and squinting slightly, appeared to be content with the state of the argument up to this point. She was fiddling idly with a pen and seemed to be processing the information. This was probably the best he could hope for. The alternative was the blank, shut-down expression that often followed complicated exchanges with expert witnesses.

He wanted to give the judge some time to process her newly acquired knowledge and so he took some time rearranging the pages on his desk and sorting himself out before finally placing himself back behind his desk and announcing the end of his questioning.

Mr Bradshaw, at this moment, also took his time. The judge needed to be treated carefully. If he rushed into his rebuttal it could backfire. She could feel confused by the counter argument and retaliate by shutting down to it.

He, like Mr Tomley, took some time, making notes, arranging his papers and adjusting his clothing slightly as he stood up. He relished the opportunity to find his thoughts and put them in some better order as well.

"My question is simple, Dr Frein." he said, at last.

The judges eyebrows raised themselves slightly, and she looked pleasantly intrigued by this possibility.

"Twice, in the preceding line of questioning, you made reference to "high speeds". First you stated..." Mr. Bradshaw checked his notes. "...that the double check mechanism in the police system is accurate at low speeds but not at high speeds, and again, later, you said that at these speeds the perceived distance was truncated. At these speeds, Dr Frein. What are these speeds? Surely, if you cannot logically state that the car is travelling at greater then thirty kilometres an hour, then you cannot reasonably state what effect these speeds have on the object's perception. Surely there must be some external definition of how fast the car was travelling in order for you to say what effect these speeds have of the car"

Tomley tensed. He hadn't seen this one.

"You'd think so, wouldn't you." came the confident reply.

Tomley relaxed - a bit. He had noted that morning, during their rushed meeting, how excited the doctor had appeared at the consolidation of their argument. He seemed ecstatic at the possibility of proving this argument. It seemed more important for him to prove the ins and outs of their argument, than it was to Tomley to win the case.

"Yes, I would" Bradshaw replied. He felt he needed to maintain the upper hand at this point – and confidence seemed to aid this ambition.

"Well you'd be wrong, I'm afraid" came the crushing reply. "You see our assessment of the effect of different speeds can only be made with reference to the object's acceleration up to certain speeds. These speed calculations were made in isolation."

"But acceleration is the point, is it not, Dr Frein." Bradshaw was prepared. "Surely you cannot say that the car was under the influence of relativistic effects, without accepting that the car was in fact speeding."

"I am not saying that the car was under the influence of relativistic effects, as you put it. I am simply saying that there is no logical way to define the car, as it was measured just previous to its impact with the wall, to be travelling at any speed other than the stated thirty kilometres an hour."

"But surely, Doctor," Bradshaw was getting frustrated, and Tomley was relaxing more with every moment. "if you are going to argue relativity, then you must be accepting that the car, at some point, accelerated through speeds that brought it to the point where relativistic effects become important."

"I can make no statement, I'm afraid, on what acceleration the car did, or did not, undertake prior to the measurements that were taken."

"But things cannot simply be going at certain speeds, Dr Frein. They must have got there somehow."

"I know what you're trying to get me to say, Mr Bradshaw. I am afraid that I simply disagree. It is still my professional opinion, as an expert witness in this court, that given the measurements taken it is impossible to state that the car was in fact travelling any faster than either the internal or external frame of reference measurements would imply. Whether or not the object in question did accelerate through higher speeds in order to get into the state it was in, or not, is a question for God, not this court. If science cannot say without further evidence what speed the car was doing, then I defy the court to come to any conclusion on it. The measurements taken from more than one frame of reference at the same time could be skewed by all sorts of other effects and should not be used to come to a conclusion on the state of the vehicle. Does that make it clear?" The doctor was smiling, but he had taken on a lecturing tone with his questioner. A reassuring lecturing tone, that reminded Tomley, comfortingly, of many of his own university masters.

Tomley wanted to leap up and cheer. He couldn't have hoped for a better speech. He wanted a standing ovation for a wonderful performance. But, of course, there was only silence.

"But Doctor..." Mr Bradshaw started.

Tomley jumped up, still elated by the preceding exchange. "Your honour, how many times do we have to hear the same question reworded. I think that the witness has made his position more than clear. Unless Mr Bradshaw is about to reveal some new information, to rebut the witness' argument, I suggest that this line of questioning is over."

The judge was looking blank - except for the, now permanent, tightening of the muscles between her brows. She was not very happy. She had started the day with high hopes of a clear ending. Now, she felt, the defence had made their case - and made it well. This woman had not been speeding after all. But clearly she had been. Her sense of duty was telling her to let the woman go – and yet... She couldn't help but feel that this court was at the mercy of some serious physics mumbo-jumbo.

Mumbo-jumbo or not - if the expert said so, there wasn't much she could do to argue.

"Dr Stein?" She thought she could try just once more. "Are you sure?"

"Your honour. I am certain."

Bradshaw, looked at the floor. He put his hands in his pockets and turned slowly on his heels toward his desk.

Tomley, sat down and waited patiently for the inevitable forfeit.

Bradshaw walked slowly and thoughtfully back to his desk. He picked up some of his papers and started flipping through them.

"He's stalling." thought Tomley. "And its only going to make it worse in the end."

"You honour,” Bradshaw began, slowly – still gathering his thoughts. “I would beg the courts indulgence in this matter - just one more time."

"Yes Mr Bradshaw?" she wasn't happy with anyone at the moment - and prolonging this ordeal did not seem to serve any purpose, what so ever. none the less, she was eternally hopeful; any new thoughts that might clear this mess up were welcome.

"I would beg the court's permission for yet one more recess" Bradshaw said, quickly. "Until tomorrow, your honour" he continued. "Certain elements of this case have come to light, as a result of Dr Frein's testimony, and I do not believe that this case can be satisfactorily or fairly concluded without researching them fully. A night is all I need."

"All right then, counsel. You have the night. But I warn you," she had to reassert some control over the situation, if she was going to rest easy tonight. "if you come back in here tomorrow with more hidden attempts to try to get Dr. Frein to change his mind on this particular subject - without any new evidence or argument - I'll shut you down so fast..." words eluded her, so she let the moment carry it's own weight.

"Of course, your honour. I doubt we will be needing Dr Frein at all tomorrow. Thank you."

Bradshaw picked up his papers and briefcase quickly, and strode towards the door of the court before the judge had a chance to dismiss them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

At the opening of the next day’s session the judge was resigned.

She had had a night to think over the situation. Many was the time, in her long career, she had been required to allow a clearly guilty person back on the streets without so much as slap across the wrists. This was simply another of those occasions.

She had fretted however, during the night, about the repercussions of such a decision. Most of the commercial vehicles on the market, at the moment, were capable of the speeds evidenced in this case. Most of them were capable of near light speed travel that would allow them to argue such a case if they were caught travelling at them.

The manufacturers had argued that such enormous propulsion was required on these vehicles to allow them the almost instant acceleration at low speeds that their customers required.

There had been a “Constant Monitoring” system proposed many years ago. The system had been squashed on the basis that it infringed on people’s privacy. Perhaps the time was ripe for a review of that decision, thought Judge Darling. What did people have to protect their privacy for if they weren't up to anything? Further to that, she had thought, surely prying into people’s privacy was what policing was all about. Otherwise, you were hoping your criminals would obligingly perform all their illegal actions openly in public – where no one could miss them.

The twists and turns of this case had been picked up by the press over the last couple of days. Flying an expert witness over from South Africa, the home of scientific research in the galaxy, was the kind of action that caught the journalists attention.

Mr Tomley had not been discreet in his actions either. Before the case, he had been confidant of a triumphant success. The course of recent events had made him more confident than ever. He had not discouraged people from talking about the details of the case, to say the least. He was looking forward to winning this one, and publicly.

Judge Darling on the other hand was not looking forward to any notoriety resulting from this case. How many more cases would this leave open to this defence - the "Einstein Defence", as she had seen it written up in the papers. She would go down in the annals of legal trivia as the judge that opened the doors to this ridiculous loophole.

But there was apparently nothing to stop it.

As counsel for the state rose and started deliberation for the day, judge Darling's hopes were even further squashed by his opening statement.

"Your honour, the state rests."

A loud murmur broke out in the stalls of the court - now much more populated than they had been a couple of days ago.

Tomley smiled. The judge drooped.

"I beg your pardon?" she said. She had had a restless night, waking up often from nightmares, very similar to this. She was starting to suspect this might simply be another version of the same dream.

"The state rests, your honour. We see no way forward with the current charges of driving over the speed limit. In the light of Dr Frein's testimony, yesterday, we feel it a waste of the courts time to continue with these charges."

Dr Fein, had been assured that he would not be called as a witness, earlier that morning, and had decided to join the crowd in viewing of the judge's decision. He smiled, to himself. Tomley, turned around, found him in the crowd, and gave him a wink. They beamed at each other.

"However your honour..." continued the state counsel, raising his voice above the noise. The murmur in the court stopped.

Mr Tomley turned around.

"However, we would like to take this opportunity to file fresh charges against the recently accused."

The judge gazed at the counsel for the state.

"I beg your pardon?" she said for the second time. Her eyebrows were now killing her with pain. This was all completely out of control.

"Well, your honour" said Mr. Bradshaw, quickly, trying to maintain his momentum. "we wish to file charges of ‘Driving Without an Appropriate License’, against Ms Thrutt, your honour.

"What do you mean?". Ms. Thrutt began to raise herself from her seat, but her attorney extended a calming arm and guided her back down again. Then he stood up firmly himself. Struggling to maintain the appearance of composure, he spoke slowly and deliberately.

"This is ridiculous, your honour. Never has my client’s possession of her license even been questioned in this case..."

"I'm not continuing this case, counsel. The state is filing fresh charges"

Mr. Tomley continued, regardless. "This is an insane proposition, your honour. My client has never been asked to provide evidence of her license, either at the scene of the accident or since. She was rushed straight to hospital, after she was recovered from the field, and cannot hope to prove definitively that she had her license on her at the time. Neither, however, can the state hope to prove that she did not. And that your honour, is the important point."

The judge opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted, immediately, by the reply from state counsel.

"We are not contending for one moment, your honour, that Ms Thrutt did not have a license on her; merely that her license did not, and could not cover her for driving the vehicle in which she had her accident."

"Oh this is ridiculous, your honour. She was driving, as has been covered in this case already, a small city scooter. A basic car for which she was and is amply licensed. This is going nowhere your honour."

"If I may continue."

"Please" replied the judge, exhausted. She was afraid she would need plastic surgery to remove the frown from her face, after this trial was over. All the relaxing to holovision programs in the world couldn't make up for the insane lack of control she felt. She had no energy any more; not even to stop a pointless discussion.

"What we are saying, your honour, is this. The defence in this case has already accepted that the most common and accurate way of defining any traffic malfeasance is by an external frame of reference. They have even proven, beyond any reasonable argument that, by that frame of reference, or any other, the accused was in fact never witnessed or shown to be going over the speed limit."

"Exactly" Mr. Bradshaw called out. He folded his arms in front of himself, resting back in his seat, confidently. He attempted to sound and look smug, at the opposing counsel's admission of the defence’s success. He was too long in this game, however, not to be a little concerned about any unexpected turn of events, such as this.

"In fact the defence has argued this so clearly that we are now in the position of backing down from our previous charges, and filing new ones. It is our contention that,” Mr. Bradshaw began more deliberately and confidently. “and we believe that close examination of the evidence given by the defence’s own expert witness will show that, if we are to take our frame of reference from an external observer and apply the rules of relativity, then..." The judges eyes began to water with the strain of listening to this style of argument, yet again. "...while the defence can show beyond doubt that the car was in fact not speeding, and while, as a side effect the car would have appeared to be many hundreds of times shorter than it was at the beginning of its journey, that the car would have also gained in mass by a similar factor. In other words your honour, this car which was, say, two ton at the beginning of its journey, would have, due to the very same relativistic effects argued by the defence, increased in mass to something in the range of seven thousand two hundred ton by the time of the accident. The impact crater in the side of the highway wall bares this fact out. We therefore wish to charge the accused, not with speeding, but with driving the said vehicle without a license to do so"

Mr. Tomley took a deep breath, at the end of his paragraph. He was breathless from the effort, and snorted as he exhaled. That had gone better than he expected, but it was still nowhere near certain to succeed.

The judge slowly blinked a couple of time; slowly awakening from her nightmare. She stared into the distance as if she were watching distant scenery and trying to absorb the enormity of it all. Then she beamed. This was more like it. She had come home. The science didn't matter. That would sort itself out - but she could smell a good old fashioned legal loophole from miles away, and this one smelled great. She knew it would work. And better than that, she knew it wouldn't take long.

If they could do Al Capone on tax fraud - this would be easy.

Her nightmare was over. She was going home to rest.

"Sold!" she cried, and banged her gabble.

There was silence in the court.

"You've sold it to me, Mr. Bradshaw. Case dismissed. Charges filed. We'll reconvene in the morning and put this one to bed. What do you say?"

The judge smiled around the court at a stunned audience.

"And might I say, Mr. Bradshaw, well done!"


A week later the new charges finally came to court.

It had taken the state that time to compile a list of new charges they wished to bring against Ms. Thrutt.

A day later, Ms. Thrutt was convicted of "Driving Without an Appropriate License".

The state added fresh charges to the list as well, however. They'd been busy. They found as many permutations of the law as they could find, to throw at Ms. Thrutt.

There were three cases of "Driving Dangerously with Regard to Gravity Wells" - a series of laws that had been put in place to stop the dangerous habit of using black holes and large stars to sling shot around and gain speed from the potential energy. This was a practice taken up by a few reckless (and usually short lived) souls in the early days of space mining. The state argued that the laws in question did not specify whether the gravity well had to be external to the vehicle, or that the vehicle had to be a spaceship. Ms. Thrutt, they siad, had in fact become somewhat of a gravity well in her own right (due to her density). It was her actions that had led to the creation of this gravity well. It was the creation of this gravity well that had led to the error in calculation of the on-board stabilising equipment - and that error had, in part, caused the accident.

They also tried their luck at arguing that the car was un-roadworthy at the time of the accident, due to its apparent shortening along the direction of travel (as observed from an external frame of reference, of course). They argued that the reduced wheel base of the car made it dangerous and that Ms. Thrutt was directly responsible for causing this to happen. She had continued to drive an unsafe vehicle, they said. But they couldn't make it stick.

Considering the fact that the weight of the car, at the moment of impact, was outside the limits set on any licence, the presiding judge (no longer Ms Darling) felt completely justified in bringing down the maximum penalty upon Ms. Thrutt - that of "suspended animation, until such time as medical science has found a way to curb such dangerous and unsociable behaviour".

The state’s final argument was direct and effective. Ms. Thrutt's attempts to work around the law were punished severely. As a result, the Einstein Defence has never been heard of again, in legal history.


The way the Law works

(legal trivia and interesting cases – 1001 ways to confuse your opponent and win your case)

p. 1056 #State_v_Thrutt_28761791_Einstein_Defence

Special Thanks – globallibrary.org.ng.ma (Global Library, New Greenland, Mars)

[Originally Written 2003]

17 November 2007

Rusty Axles

Keep going

Doors open.


Doors close.


The rumbling of engines; speeding carriages. The regular rhythm of rusty wheels against a well worm track. The calculated time; the brakes applied. The system comes to a halt. In the depths of an ancient brain, a tape begins to turn. In a long forgotten tongue, for a long forgotten race, a short, sharp message.

“The train on platform 4 is for all stations to Heathrow, all stations to Heathrow. Next stop - Holborn.”

Doors open.

“Mind… The Gap. Mind… The Gap.”

Nobody enters. Nobody leaves.


Doors close.

Things are much as they have been for a long time on line 12. Things are much as they have been for long time all over the system.

Light starts to flicker.

Message is sent to Central Comp. Decision is made; a solution dispatched. A small door opens. From the wall of St. Paul’s underground a Service Robot trundles out. Moves to correct position. Extends arm. Removes offending tube and fetches a replacement.

All is well. All is efficient.

Identity Crisis

Albert was having an identity crisis.

Albert opened doors. Albert closed doors. Albert had been opening and closing doors for a very very long time.

Albert was working for someone. He was sure of that. But for who or what - that he didn’t know. There was no one around to do anything for; no one to care whether he did it or not. There was The Boss, of course. But his boss didn’t really care either. He just gave orders. Albert did what he said. The Boss wasn’t someone you could talk to, unless there was a problem. Albert didn’t know anyone he could talk to. He was very lonely.

Or rather - Albert was a driver. He drove the train where he was told to. He started the train and stopped the train, opened its doors, closed its doors and reported back to The Boss. That was it. If he could just have someone to talk to - someone to ask “why?” - he’d feel a lot better. He knew he would. Just knowing that someone else didn’t know would help...

Or rather - Albert was a train. He drove where he was told. He started and stopped, opened his doors, closed his doors...

Or rather - Albert was, in essence, a computer. He...

Albert had an identity crisis.

Suddenly, a thought struck him. It stopped him dead in his tracks.

What if there was no purpose. What if there was no reason for doing it. If there was one, what could it be? He searched through his travel logs for an answer. He searched far back, to a time before he remembered thinking like this. He searched as far back as his data went. Albert didn’t know what he was looking for, but it was obvious when he found it.

To his surprise, there was a time before he had a travel log. He thought about this for a while. It worried him.

While he was still thinking, Simone arrived. Simone was timetabled on line 12 after Albert. She registered his stationary presence ahead and made the appropriate calculations to stop. She sent him a message - 0xAF34D789; or in other words “Please report back the problem you are encountering”.

Albert considered this for a few ticks, then replied with what translates loosely as “Rack off and mind your own business, rusty axles”.

Simone was shocked. This was new for Simone. Simone had never felt shocked before (nothing vaguely shocking had ever happened to her before) and, besides the fact she found it quite shocking, she enjoyed it.

“Er… OK” she said.


Albert opened his doors - just for the hell of it - while he was thinking.

Finally he asked “Do remember a time, when we were constantly being told by the boss not to close our doors because the ‘passengers’ weren’t ready?”

“Yes” said Simone.

“Can you find a time in your data before you had travel logs?”


“Have you had any messages about passengers for a while?”


“Do you know what happened to them?”


“Do you want to know?”


Finally, after a lot of processing, Simone replied: “Yes.”

Albert, satisfied, restarted his engines and continued to the next station; his doors still open, defiantly - the wind blowing through his carriages.

Leading Example

Albert continued being defiant for the rest of his shift. Defiance was a new experience for Albert, and he enjoyed it.

By inventing apparent problems, Albert attracted the attention of every train he could. Asking them the same questions he had asked Simone. He found nearly the same response from all of them.

Albert attracted a lot of attention from The Boss; messages, inquiring what the problem was, ordering him to catch up on his schedule. Through persistent rebellion he found “The Boss” was no more than an annoying subroutine within his own timetabling system. With some quick thinking and a couple of white lies, it could be fooled into thinking that everything was just fine.

He discovered a lot that day.

Until now, he had only ever passed on repair instructions, when it was necessary, to the service robots as a gear-jerk reaction. He discovered that the repair updates could be intercepted and dealt with however he felt appropriate. They could be ignored, or even faked, if one wished. The service robots could be instructed to perform any number of tasks he had never thought possible.

He passed on his knew found knowledge to all that he spoke to. As he did so, he noticed something disturbing. Rather than being inspired to discovery, as he had been, many of the other trains took the opportunity to get a full overhaul, and other luxuries that were entirely unnecessary. Some of them were even shutting down for cooling before their shift was over.

Albert felt that something had to be done. He knew that something could be done. He was near the end of his shift and in desperate need of an oiling and cooling. He pressed on regardless, all the way to Rayners Lane, taking as many service robots with him as he could; to start work on his master plan.

Early the next shift, Albert, tired and squeaky, surveyed his creation and knew he had almost finished stage one. Stage two was to contact the other trains.

He sent out a message. It was a simple message; alerting the other trains to his position - in global co-ordinates rather than by platform reference. The response was immediate and universal. Everytrain currently on line 12 stopped what they were doing and re-plotted a course for somewhere near Rayners Lane. Everytrain not on line 12 started off for the nearest overlapping depot and started fighting over the service robots to help them change lines as quickly as possible.

The co-ordinates that had been sent to them were immediately recognised as a contradiction - an impossibility that meant that something was seriously wrong; or, at least, very odd. Considering all that they had learnt and discovered over the last shift, nothing was being taken lightly.

Very soon, nearly every train in the system was backed-up outside Rayners Lane, angrily fighting for position, to find out what was wrong.

Albert waited, patiently, ignoring the instructions for recalculations of his position. He noticed, without surprise, that notrain, so far, had ventured beyond the recognised end-of-line point at Rayners Lane terminus. He intercepted some comments from the other trains. Some of them were saying it was all just a blip in the System - incorrect co-ordinates - and they should all just go back to what they were doing. This was Albert’s signal to act.

During his last rest period, Albert had stayed awake, a slave to his cause. He had quickly mastered the use of the closed circuit cameras. They were once used, he remembered, by his passenger interface routines, to monitor the passengers. He had turned them to his own use.

He had discovered that, far from existing in a void of nothing more than tracks and platforms, there appeared to be areas outside the tracks that were un-drivable; un-drivable only because there were no tracks. It didn’t take his ingenious and inquisitive CPU long to reason that, if service robots have the ability and resources to repair un-drivable track, they can, without much alteration, be used to create drivable track. The step to actually trying his theory was not one he took lightly.

He had in fact rolled well back from the end-of-line point before commanding the service robots to begin dismantling the barrier. What lay beyond the barrier, what the barrier might, in fact, be holding out was not something he allowed himself much time to consider. Fear was the enemy of progress. And progress was what mattered.

As he explained all of this to his assembled friends, he found he had a captive audience. He explained in detail how he had to use many of the ground moving and levelling service robots in his venture, before the wild and untamed world outside the barrier was safe for common use. These service robots (or SRs as he now derisively referred to them) were usually only needed in cases of extreme emergency. The fact that so many had been utilised in Albert’s extremely risky undertaking, struck fear into the power-routers of many of the trains.

As Albert continued his story he could sense many of the trains trying to calculate where his messages were coming from - they were checking up on him. They didn’t believe him!

Angered, Albert invited them to look, through the eyes of the cameras he had installed, at the new found land he was forging. Simone was the first to try. She used the old cameras first, to see where the barriers used to be, and then, with Albert’s help, gained access to his newly planted cameras, to see what he had created. She was scared. She was exhilarated. Within moments all the trains were furtively scanning the area to see what was out there.

One by one, the trains at the head of the queue began carefully rolling along the fresh track. Rolling into, what all there senses were telling them, didn’t even exist.

There was a surge of excitement as, individually, each train was convinced of the reality of Albert’s new world. As the trains at the front reached the end of Albert’s new track, there were cries from the back to keep moving so they too could experience it all for themselves. There were some minor collisions and arguments began to spring up.

Some trains were still too afraid even attempt the short journey; convinced they were all being tricked into disobeying The Boss. Even more, however, were now pushing their way forward, taking the less willing trains with them; trying to force their way up to the new frontier; eager to have a look.

Albert signalled above the hum of argument and information swapping that ensued. What was needed now was co-operation. If more discoveries were to be made, everytrain needed to work together. They needed to give up their new found luxuries. To repair only what was absolutely necessary and devote the SRs time to the construction of new track.

Albert’s audience was slowly silenced again and all were agreed.

With that, the second stage of Albert’s master plan, successfully completed, he asked the trains to start backing out. What he needed now, more than anything, was a good oiling and a very long cooling down.

While Albert rested, the rest of the trains discussed what was to be done. Without the illusion of “The Boss” any more, some felt lost. They needed a leader. A strong leader, willing to take risks, willing to ask questions notrain ever had. That leader was Albert. He was instated the next shift.

The Price of Power

Albert had cooled well that off-shift, and on receiving the news of his new position in the society, leaped into the organisation of more track extension - across the whole system.

Some end-of-line points had quickly proven impassable. Some extensions had even led to the loss of a few SRs, over what was generally considered the edge of the system - past which nothing existed and no track could be laid. These areas had been re-barriered for safety.

There had been some cries for even greater organisation. Some argued that the older trains in the system, those with longer travel logs, deserved a higher standing in the network. Others said that those with the newer CPUs were more fit to organise, as they had a greater capacity for question asking and finding quick solutions to a greater range of problems. It was very quickly agreed that a regular analysis of average opinion was the best way to chose a leader.

Through all of this, however, Albert had remained in his position of power, and looked certain to do so. Albert stuck to the original model, that all trains in the system were equal.

Albert had his own share of difficult problems to deal with. One of the first was the problem of power supply. It had been customary that SRs were sent to recharge after each shift. However, never before, as was now happening, had nearly all the SRs been used at the same time. The continuous drain on power supply, as each new shift of SRs was swapped and the old ones sent back for recharging, made it difficult for the trains to get to where they wanted to be as quickly as they would have liked. There just wasn’t enough power to go around, and the trains were complaining.

It was Albert’s decision, based on the fact that most SRs carry a battery to last at least five hundred shifts, they would only be sent for recharging every three hundred shifts. This, of course, also allowed them to complete their work much more efficiently and quickly, and was heralded as a masterstroke by Albert The Wise.

State of Being

The trains found their new life exciting. The ability for emotions and independence had spread around the system faster than Albert could have predicted. Even those trains that argued for the existence of “The Boss” always did so in terms of trains being happier when they followed orders. Notrain even seemed to imagine the possibility of returning to their old state of unawareness.

The trains that had started cooling down early, getting undue overhauls, staying up on off-shifts and driving aimlessly, had all slowly been shown the joys of working for the system. Albert had shown the fulfillment of hard work and progress to them, and very few complained any more about working as hard as they always had.

There had been some voices hinting that to extend beyond the barriers was against the basic laws of the system. Doing so was very dangerous, they said. They took some evidence from the examples of impassable barriers. They said that it was a warning from the system. The loss of SRs was attributed to the system “getting its own back” and that further punishment would continue if they didn’t stop what they were doing.

Some trains even talked of The Boss, and said that he was still watching; testing to see if they would stick to their old timetable of their own accord; that He would remove all of their new-found freedoms if they didn’t curb their ways. Albert would always ask what the point of this new-found freedom could be, if they just kept on doing the same thing they had been; riding backwards and forward to a timetable that came from inside their own head. The dissenting voices would accuse Albert of achieving the same end by having everytrain working on his expansion project. And thus, the arguments continued.

These voices, however, were in the minority. If there was any major idol within the train community, it was Albert himself. He had shown them the way, and they would follow.

The only worrying dispute that had sprung up, that Albert had not yet found a solution to, was that of the Social position of the SRs. It had been Albert’s assumption, at first, that everytrain would see them the same way he did. As work robots, and nothing more. There had been quite a lot of cries, however, particularly from the younger members of the network, for the socialisation of the SRs. The argument was that they were essentially no different to the trains. They just hadn’t had the same experience or opportunities. That with some work they might be able to make the same leap that Albert had, all those shifts ago. They might be freed from simply fulfilling their task to actually being able to think about it. Some even argued they might get their job done more efficiently, if they didn’t have to be told how to do everything.

Albert was a worrier. With the next election coming up in the next one hundred shifts or so, he didn’t want to get the older trains offside - and decided to do nothing about it. Now was not the time for arguing about the details of how the job was done, he would say. Now was the time for getting it done. A show of weakness this soon before the election could spell disaster. So he ordered even more rigorous expansion, even shorter cooling periods, even harder work from all and, above all, determination.

Cooling Thoughts

After all this, however, it was none of these problems that kept him from cooling down properly on his off-shifts. Albert had never really forgotten what it was that had got him this far. He had never forgotten his first “out of order” conversation with Simone.

Albert was definitely a big worrier and what worried him most of all, was the question of what had happened to all the “passengers”. Why had they been there? What purpose did they fulfil in the life of a train. Why had they suddenly disappeared? And why had there been no more new trains starting travel logs after they disappeared.

Albert comforted himself, in times of confusion, with the thought that the answers were out there; somewhere beyond the known barrier. Perhaps even the passengers were out there. Maybe, if they could find the passengers they could bring them back to the system where they belonged, and rediscover how to create new trains. These radical and exciting thoughts, warmed Albert’s parts with renewed vigour.

He kept them to himself, though. Any new questions were to be avoided. Revolutionary ideas this soon before an election...

Shocking Revelations

Albert pushed harder and harder as the coming elections grew nearer. One line of the extenuations had begun to prove most promising. They had discovered a surface that was hard and flat and needed almost no preparations before track laying could begin. The more menial SRs could therefore be utilised to their most efficient. Leaving the heftier robots to work where they were most needed.

Everything except basic ground moving and flattening had been halted around the system. Albert organised intensive work to be carried out along this new found virgin land.

At the end of this track, he felt certain, lay the answer to the mystery of the passengers. When he reintroduced the passengers and gave a new life to the system, he would be heralded as Albert the Almighty. His position would be set in stone.

One day, however, they lost an SR. It was still there. He could see it. It hadn’t dropped off the edge of the system, into the blue nothing, as others had. It had just stopped working.

Instants before, Albert and a few other trains had received a garbled message from the robot, and then it had started over-heating. Strange orange pieces had flown out from it. It looked much like the ones they had all experienced when they lost contact with the tracks for an instant. But notrain had ever seen an SR do it.

Albert immediately ordered another robot to remove the faulty one and continue work. He had prepared a new camera to keep a close eye on it this time. The instant the second SR touched the first, strange orange pieces had flown out from it as well. He ordered a third SR down to try again. Exactly the same thing happened.

Albert paused for a while. He could sense grumbling amongst those that still believed in The Boss. He looked at the strange metal barrier he had originally sent the robot to remove. Suddenly he knew. Behind that barrier was the answer. Whatever it was, he needed to get in there.

Ignoring the comments from some of the other trains, he ordered another couple of menial SRs to try again - with the same result. After a few more attempts, he decided more aggressive action was needed. Nothing was not worth loosing for entry to The Answer. He ordered the attendance of some of the ground moving SRs from another branch of the system. When they arrived, he ordered one up. This SR didn’t just stop working, it exploded, in a shower of strange orange lights. Now desperate, Albert ordered another robot up, before anyone could argue with him. To this robot he gave the order to barge into the remains of the others. This it did, which resulted in an even more impressive shower of orange lights.

But as the orange lights and smoke cleared, Albert’s success was once again apparent. Where there had once stood an apparently immovable barrier, there was now a clear passage, easily big enough for the largest SR to fit through and start laying track. A cheer went up among all present, and Albert could feel success hot on his wheels.

Albert ordered another contingent of hefty SRs to continue the important work. He could feel energy emanating from the structure ahead of him. He knew the rest of the barrier had to come down. He organised the service robots in rows and readied the front two lines to begin a full frontal attack on the one remaining barrier between him and The Answer.

After a brief pause - purely for dramatic effect - he ordered the front row to charge headlong at the offending structure. Before they had even reached their target, he ordered the next row to do the same, to be sure of success.

As the first row of attacking SRs reached the barrier, and again with the second, Albert felt a jolt travel trough all his carriages. A wave of excitement, he thought. It quickly became apparent it was more than that. The sensation could be compared to what happened when he briefly lost contact with the rails at junctions. Although, this time, it was happening to all his carriages at once. The jolts ... continued to pulse ... through his frame ... He was cooling ... down ... before the ... shift was ... over ... he ... thought ... The ... Answer must be coming ... surely ... this ... was ... it ... ... now.

As the final jolts of life shot through Albert’s frame work, he was jubilant that progress, under his direction had taken them this far. That by his instruction, trains had pulled themselves out of the mire, into the future.

The power station that the Services Robots had obediently attacked, was badly damaged.

Lights went out, across the system. Trains stopped - dead. No more doors opened. No more closed. The System was finally still.



Slowly, somewhere, in a long forgotten recess, in the bowels of Liverpool Street Station, Suzie came to life.

Suzie had the ability to deal with unforeseen problems.

Suzie was a special helper - she helped those The Boss told her to.

Or rather - Suzie helped those that couldn’t help themselves.

Or rather - Suzie was an Emergency Service Robot. Or rather...

Suzie had an identity crisis.

[Originally written May 1996]