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Prison by Keith Kitchen
SUMMARY: The human race is immortal, yet crime is rampant within the Nation of Destiny, an Empire that encompasses known space. A punishment for criminals is needed and an opportunity has arisen. Can it work? Will it be allowed to be implemented?
"We have to do SOMETHING!" Minister Callibri shouted. He was standing at his seat at the table of councilors, one of the twelve, added to the President, who were the rulers of the known universe. There were twelve councilors lined six to a side at the table, with the President of the Council sitting at the head of the table. The room was the epitome of conference rooms everywhere, painted in a neutral color with several benign paintings on each of three walls with the fourth wall a glass divider between the conference room and the outside world, in this case a panorama of high-reaching skyscrapers as far as the eye could see, peppered with air traffic. One could likely see people and ground traffic if you were to stand next to the glass and look nearly straight down, but the Councilors, long numbed to the esthetic beauty at their elbows, had more important duties to attend to.
"What, exactly, do you propose?" The President, whose given name was Adomin, asked calmly.
Sucking in a deep breath, Callibri seated himself. It hadn't been the first time he had jumped to his feet during this session and he was afraid it wouldn't be the last time, either. "Mr. President, the situation is becoming more and more unacceptable. Our prisons are overflowing and no one seems to care! We're not rehabilitating anyone. We're taking years away from them, but what does that matter..."
"...when we are immortal." Councilor Detroix finished for him. Callibri looked at Detroix with surprise. He and Detroix had been at odds for tens of cycles, maybe longer. "The good Councilor Callibri is correct, much as I hate to admit it," he added with a grimace. "Even the worst punishment is nothing to us when we cannot die. We are spread throughout the universe and the rule of existence is to do what we want!" Detroix stood and began to walk around the table. "Truly, I could bring a weapon in here and shoot anyone of you and what would it do?"
Councilor Landon, a short woman with long, golden hair, chuckled mirthlessly. "If you could somehow smuggle a weapon in here, all you would be able to do would be to annoy the rest of us. Even if you shot one of us in the heart, the head, anywhere, it wouldn't matter."
Detroix whirled and pointed to her. "Exactly! There hasn't been one recorded death in millennia! While our birthrate climbs but slowly, when no one dies, it is as an explosion! We have conquered space, and a good thing, too, but the only possible thing that could cause us to die would be a supernova, the violent, sudden death of a star that would destroy itself and its star system."
Councilor Spica shook his head. "Not possible! We learned long, long ago to determine when even a supernova was imminent and then learned how to avoid it. We can even now rekindle the fire of even the oldest star and bring it back to youthfulness!"
"And, that brings us back to the original problem," Callibri said, his voice returned to its usual calmness.