There are a lot of Amentan countries. Vanda Nossëo representatives are dispatched to all of them. These Elves (two with black hair, one with silver) take a shuttle down from the lightleaper to a country called Calado, and radio ahead to request permission to land at a elegant modern spaceport.
"Apparently there was recently a crisis. We'd be happy to provide food and assist with distribution if Calado's citizens are suffering as a result of that crisis."
"If Calado's citizens are just going hungry more generally, for structural reasons rather than situational ones, we can help with that too but it requires more care to make sure we're not disrupting the local markets and so on."
"Ah huh. You've been here longer," he says to the Elves, "but what I'm inclined to do is file a strongly worded complaint with their government, demanding extradition -"
"This is their government. They haven't got a - more governing - government."
"Which is sort of admirable in a way but not if you use it to kidnap people. Demanding extradition of just these people in the room or was anyone else involved -"
"We didn't see anyone else."
He makes a face. "There are aliens. There are lots of aliens. Trillions and trillions of them, in fact. There's - you know I don't actually do this for a living, Mólië -"
"There is an intergalactic consortium called Vanda Nossëo, of which our nation is a member, which does humanitarian work and mutual aid and defense pacts and things like that, among the species of the universe. We have more than four hundred member planets. We are here to explain all of this and more to Calado, but not to the first person in Calado to kidnap us, that seems like it makes sure the information ends up in the worst possible hands. When you kidnapped us my colleague requested extraction. I - guess his grace was free and wanted to stop by personally -"
"I said not to bother with titles -"
"I can't just call you your name, my lord!"
"Sure you can."
"Tyelcormo decided to stop by personally to take us home. And it's very bad form to kidnap people so we need to make it clear to everyone in Calado that even if you don't have laws or whatever, you can't kidnap the citizens and subjects of Vanda Nossëo nations. It won't work and you'll always get in trouble for it. ...Tyelcormo is waiting around in case anyone wants to apologize for kidnapping us - or mention co-conspirators, I guess - or give us information that we'd need about how to handle the situation. Like, I don't know, if sending that letter would spark a civil war or get innocent people killed somehow it'd be appropriate to inform us of that. ...uh, we have lie detection, it's playing right now quieter than your hearing."
"Does Calado in fact not have laws."
"I think they might have, like, 'do what important people say' as a law, at least in practice?"
"We shouldn't be judgmental of other cultures."
"No, that's just terrible. Uh, the courts take into account what sentencing is considered appropriate for the species - I assume there are some countries here where kidnapping is against the law -"
"So, I seriously don't do diplomacy - I breed and fly giant winged firebreathing lizards, that is how much I don't do diplomacy - but there are like two hundred forty Vanda Nossëo member states that accept immigrants and if you'd want to leave you could just make friends in illegal orders class and then go home with them."
Nod. "Okay. Well. Our courts don't want to ruin anyone's life. People need to know that you will regret trying to kidnap and coerce our citizens, but they will take into account that you could not, actually, have known that, and you didn't hurt anyone, so you're almost certainly not going to go to jail. Not talking to you," he adds to the senator, offhandedly. "If you need to reach us for some reason you can write things on any of the pieces of paper on this notepad and we'll see them, okay?" He takes the notepad from one of the other Elves. It has a line of pretty Quenya at the top. He hands it to a grey.
"Hello! We're citizens of Ambaróna, which is a member nation of a galactic consortium called Vanda Nossëo. The universe has trillions of aliens, and we make contact with alien species based on who is the highest humanitarian priority and who has the best prospects of becoming a new member state. Membership in Vanda Nossëo confers economic and trade benefits, comes with guaranteed security against invasion or violent overthrow, and comes with limited access to some resources that are expensive even by the standards of advanced societies, like terraformed planets, immortality, resurrections, and teleportation.
We're going to present to your government the specific criteria for membership in Vanda Nossëo. But your government can't decide to make you a member state without a free, fair vote of the whole population, one vote per person old enough to write a ballot. So if they decide to go ahead, we'll be publishing information online about what this will mean for you and answering any questions you need answered in order to cast your vote with confidence.
We're also offering aid to help with short term food and health crises, and we will look into the most tenable prospects for longer-term aid.
We want you to have free and unfiltered communications with us while we learn about your world and open normal diplomatic relations. Towards that end, we are employing a special technology of ours that allows us to get copies of any written messages addressed to us. To write us a message, please write 'Yvalta open channel' at the top of a piece of paper, and then write your message. We'll have a team reviewing these messages and taking them into consideration in making our policy recommendations. Vanda Nossëo member states all have absolute freedom of speech - you can never get in trouble for something you say - and the messages will be fully confidential and not disclosed to anyone here on Amenta without your permission.
We're making this announcement in every country and in every language, and we were assured that this will reach everyone in Yvalta. If you know of a better way for us to reach anyone in Yvalta who might not get the whole unfiltered message this way, please write 'Yvalta open channel' at the top of a piece of paper and then write your note to us.
Messages start coming in.
- They don't mean reds, do they?
- Does membership involve freedom of movement?
- What are people without paper supposed to do?
- Reds can't vote, they know that, right?
- Food would be appreciated here and there and that other place.
- What are the preconditions for resurrections?
- What are their population controls like?
Every person old enough to fill out a ballot gets a vote in votes related to consortium membership.
Membership comes with freedom of movement for purposes of travel and work. Many member states take unlimited immigrants from any other member state, and some of the rest take immigrants with an annual cap. Member states that take immigrants get more limited resources like terraforming and immortality and resurrections.
You can type it, too.
Every person old enough to fill out a ballot gets a vote in votes related to consortium membership.
Food will be delivered to those locations.
Resurrections are available only to Vanda Nossëo member states. Within those, they're distributed based on a variety of factors and a typical member the size of Yvalta would get a thousand per Amentan year. Persons who are killed unlawfully by a citizen or subject of a Vanda Nossëo member state get resurrected at that citizen's expense, so if any Elf killed a Yvaltan the Yvaltan would get resurrected.
Most Vanda Nossëo member states do not practice population controls of any kind. In some it's illegal to have children without demonstrating possession of adequate means to care for the child and lots restrict forking.
- What's forking?
- No, seriously, reds can't vote. They're not people, do the aliens understand that part? They look like it but they're not.
- Thanks for the food!
- Reds can't have freedom of movement either.
- What if the citizen can't afford it? How expensive is it?
- Why don't they practice population control? That's irresponsible.
- Do they ever take immigrants from non member states?
Forking is getting a copy of yourself made. This Elf did it, four times, because there were lots of things she wanted to do with her life and she lives somewhere where that's allowed.
If the reds are unable to fill out their ballots because of not being intelligent enough then those ballots presumably won't get filled out. Only ballots that are filled out will be counted.
Everyone gets freedom of movement. They can offer reds a generous contract where the reds stay in their district in exchange for payments, that's legal. There's one place where the aliens don't want to touch people of a different gender than them and this was allowed after aliens of all relevant genders were bribed into voting in favor.
Resurrections run fairly outrageous prices right now because they're so rare. You can get a payment plan if you don't have that much, or purchase insurance in advance that'll cover accidents. The insurance doesn't cover murder but if you're worried about being bankrupted you should just not commit murder.
Some species don't need population control because their birth rates are right about replacement and Elves don't because their children take a hundred twenty local years to grow up so their growth rate is glacial even though birth rates are reasonably high and some species rarely prefer to have children at all once they invent birth control and some species just have tons of space on their planet or planets and centuries before they will need to worry about that, by which time terraforming will have gotten cheaper.
There are countries that take immigrants from non member states. They're rarer but there are still hundreds. The recommended method is to buy yourself fluency in the language - they have a means of making people fluent in all known languages, it's available for sale or as a membership perk - and then go there for tourism and get some people to vouch for you and convert your visa. Amentans might be a good culture fit with orcs, who also like babies a lot and who have dozens of planets, or Mïr and its protectorates, some of which take non-member immigrants and which have extremely powerful technology that makes everyone there immortal and resurrections there free of charge. Elves take non-member immigrants who are a good cultural fit for Elven societies. They're not sure yet if that describes Amentans.
- Reds are smart enough to mark ballots they're just not people.
- What if a red did not take the payments and went around befouling the entire universe, it doesn't bear thinking about, if they won't prevent that then they definitely won't be allowed to grant "everyone" in Yvalta freedom of movement and all the actual people will suffer for it.
- How will all this interact with service contracts to Houses?
- How expensive is the language thing?
- What's Mîr? Why don't they share their extremely powerful technology?
- What constitutes a good culture fit for Elves?
Anyone smart enough to mark a ballot gets a vote.
They will consult Yvaltan reds about their willingness to sign such a contract and if there's not universal support talk with them about proposed alternative solutions that do not distress everyone.
The aliens are unfamiliar with service contracts to Houses except insofar as they were explained online, which was not fully informative. Among the criteria for Vanda Nossëo membership is good labor rights, it's possible that some contracts will need to be renegotiated to be in compliance should Yvalta seek membership, in particular if they were signed while a party was underage, if there was coercion, if they are not readable to all parties, if they involve punishing terms for breaking the contract, or if their dispute resolution mechanisms don't meet galactic standards.
The language thing is often traded for political reforms short of membership in countries not willing to seek membership. If an agreement like that isn't reached it's expensive but you could get it in exchange for ten percent of a year's future earnings in the place you immigrate to.
Mîr is an empire closely allied with Vanda Nossëo and there are constraints on the reach of their powerful technology but they add new protectorates every month.
Elven societies are extraordinarily high-trust and the people best suited for them have good impulse control, are law-abiding and good neighbors, and make decisions with a lot of consideration for long-term consequences. Elves have a monarchy they're very fond of, which rules mostly through the free cooperation of its citizens. People who think that would suit them can apply by writing their open channel.
- Reds aren't "anyone" though.
- What counts as coercion? What counts as punishing terms? What are their standards for dispute resolution?
- What would happen if a House seceded from Yvalta, either to pursue membership on its own or to avoid it?
- Political reforms like what? Do they just drop it on everyone in cooperating countries?
- Elves are one of the ones with no population control, right?
Everything that walks and talks will get a ballot and if the ballot is filled out it will be counted.
Those sound like details to discuss in talks with Yvalta's government. There are lots of intergalactic corporations with detailed arbitration systems, some of which might be to the liking of Yvalta's workers and Houses.
A new Vanda Nossëo member state would be protected by Vanda Nossëo against retaliation for having seceded from the rest of the country, with as much force as necessary. ...Vanda Nossëo does not lose wars. Recently an enemy put out some stars with inhabited planets in a war and Vanda Nossëo destroyed the enemy, put those planets in orbit around a suitable new star, and resurrected everyone killed in the panic this caused. In the space of twenty minutes. Lots of people join for the defense agreement. Secession to avoid membership could be negotiated in upcoming talks.
Political reforms like improvements to House contracts, maybe, or to the criminal justice system, or to the child credits system. They'd then be able to give it to everyone, yes.
Elves have no population controls.
- But not reds. They have to have some way to make exceptions.
- How big does a would-be member state have to be?
- Did the people miss their old stars?
- Negotiated in upcoming talks against what background assumptions though.
- What are they thinking they'd approve about the contracts?
- Yvalta does permissions, not credits.
- What's wrong with their criminal justice system?
- The following several thousand people wonder if perhaps they would be good enough neighbors for Elves.
There is deliberately not a way to make exceptions because if there were, a planet this Elf recently visited would have wanted an exception so women couldn't vote and this one an exception so slaves couldn't vote and this one an exception so homosexuals couldn't vote and this one an exception so members of this hated religion couldn't vote and all of them would have been wrong so you can't have exceptions.
If there were less than a million people for a would-be member state they might encourage them to try becoming a protectorate of an existing one instead.
Some of them did! Some of them were pleased to have thereby jumped the line on alien prioritization. Some of them are suing Vanda Nossëo for not having executed that enemy much sooner when they suspected he might be a problem.
Background assumption is that a non-coerced contract is one made where both sides have a tolerable alternative available to them, are fully informed, and are of age and educated in how to read a contract. In addition it's usually not legal to make contracts that are enforceable by demanding specific performance for more than a year or two and it's typically not legal to make contracts with nonmonetary penalties.
The aliens are concerned their criminal justice system might be biased. Maybe against the reds, who they keep getting told are not people.
Uh, people who want to live with Elves should specify why specifically Elves and not one of the other societies that take immigrants, and Elf immigration authorities will read their petitions and get back to them shortly.
- But those exceptions are stupid, maybe except the religion one if it was a really dumb religion, and the red exception is not stupid.
- What is the meaning of "tolerable" here? House contracts mostly last much longer than that.
- Reds don't interact with the justice system.
- They've heard of them and have a way to apply now and not "shortly". Also pretty. And their society sounds soothing.
None of those people thought their exceptions were stupid. No one ever does. There are no exceptions.
Uh, there should be another way to not starve and have kids. That is a concerning but not disqualifying fact about House contracts.
...what happens if someone commits a crime against a red, or if a red commits a crime?
Elf immigration officials are reading their applications. Submitting a way for them to contact you with followup questions is a good idea.
"...that's horrifying," says an Elf at the reds answer.
"What do you even have a society for if it's not illegal to murder innocent people?"
"I think maybe Amentans aren't suited to live with Elves if they don't think torture and murder should be illegal."
"They probably don't all think that. We've said how we do the voting so probably the ones who want to live with us are ones who are all right with the fact Elves think that's horrifying."
Elves are very eager to find an arrangement that keeps everybody comfortable, but this will probably require some concessions on the part of non-red Amentans, like letting them vote and paying them adequate hazard pay for their contaminating work and treating them as people. They are after all asking red Amentans to make the extraordinary concession of not travelling freely or emigrating, ever, despite the existence of abundant societies that would treat them better.
They are sure something can be worked out that is better for everyone than having reds here where it is legal to torture and murder them. Maybe everyone except people who like to torture and murder them, those people are going to be shit out of luck because something is deeply wrong with this species.
"More cool stuff? Like, a lot of the cool stuff really goes out on a trust basis. The things for which there's consistent overwhelming demand, there are rules about how to distribute it. But, like, who gets to be the site of a trial of giving everyone some cool new magic, who gets to be the first portal hub once portals are stable and scalable, all of that is 'who is competent enough to use this well and cares about their people enough to use it for them?'."
"There are lots of Elf planets. They all sign up for Vanda Nossëo the minute they hear about it, and this is convenient for everyone because Elves are a very trustworthy reliable species and they don't have to be bribed to do what Vanda Nossëo does because it's by design exactly the thing they most want to be doing - Elves are lower psychological variance, too, when I say it's exactly what they want to be doing I mean way more of them than you could get humans agreed on any particular goal. Luster's an Elf planet. It has humans, too, but the Elves rule us.
It's in range of Mîr, and everyone in range of Mîr is a protectorate with more or less independence because Mîr's powers are just really really thorough that way, and an Elf princess of ours is married to the Empress of Mîr, and that was working okay for everyone, and then Luster made contact with Vanda Nossëo and said 'do you mind' and Mîr said 'that looks right up your alley, go have fun' and we got expedited membership 'cuz Elves."
"Some worlds are adjacent to one another in a way that doesn't have to do with physical distance, and some kinds of power are adjacency-constrained. This - region for adjacency purposes, some people use 'universe' for a region for adjacency purposes and 'multiverse' for the whole thing - is seven jumps from Luster and eight from Mîr. I'm not a, uh, I don't even know if physicists know more than that, but I definitely don't."
"I've got the standard Mîr suite - healing, minor transmutation, illusions and stuff, I can conjure my weapon, I can change my outfit and appearance around at will - and then I've got the specific thing I wished on, which is that when I'm in a dangerous situation I can suddenly speed up like a thousandfold compared to the rest of the world and I can turn anything I can see into modelling clay and I can move it around. - I was in a car accident. I was trapped and it was horrible. Mîr magic runs on really strong emotions - after I got out I was having nightmares about it and I went through the application for a wish."
"Do you want to prove that? Vanda Nossëo kind of runs on - well, they underplay their firepower a bit, right, and if people decide to try to betray them or take them hostage or manipulate them or whatever, the information is more than worth the inconvenience. We try to be not worth plotting against a lot harder than we try to catch plots."
"Scarcity," she says. "And mortality. People are way better to each other when they know that no matter what nothing really bad can actually happen. Like - you can't die now, you understand that? And your kids can't die, and your grandkids, and anyone else you care about - if something happens in the course of getting membership, when we have guaranteed you security, we will put them right back whether you can afford a resurrection or not. Everyone's gonna be safe. And once people get used to that, then they can go 'oh. okay, what else do I care about? And often enough they care about - passing it on, making more people safe. Or making their country prosperous and happy and thriving and a place that people are desperate to immigrate to, or learning things, or inventing them - all this thought and energy and effort that was getting spent on zero-sum games..."
"Luster humans hadn't even invented birth control yet when Mîr came to say hi. With it people average, like, two. Orcs are like you but they're not evolved, this asshole designed them that way so he'd have more slaves. Some species don't have high investment in their offspring and don't actually care whether they have any - Yeerks literally disintegrate to make their kids and I think are happy enough to not do that -"
"Anyone who was sufficient as security against all the other Houses would probably be pretty hard to take hostage. Plus, like, it's Fëanorians running Vanda Nossëo - I guess you wouldn't have known that.
I think we'd added you to a list like ten years ago, you're not high-priority because you wouldn't substantially benefit from any cheap resources and you haven't invented various low-tech ways to destroy yourselves and there'd have been substantial justified resistance to external governance and the reds thing is horrible and hard to fix. You haven't moved up the list much but one of the Elf princes decided to do it anyway, I think because Tapa had a girl he had determined with magic was the girl he wanted to marry. - uh, he can make contact on a whim but that doesn't mean things would get yanked out from under you if he got bored, once it's in motion we always follow through."
"...on my planet until recently homosexuality was considered disgusting, some places would kill people for it and some just made you - pretend... I've done security on a planet where disabled people were considered disgusting and if you were injured in an accident or in a war then the decent thing to do was to kill yourself and if you didn't do that everyone would just quietly loathe you - I've been to one where they murdered people in all kinds of horrifying ways for being heretics, by which they meant believing a slightly different variant of the local religion - look, everybody hates somebody. It's practically universal that if we land on a planet there'll be people who, to the outside eye, look no better and no worse than all the rest, but who the locals will tell us just need to die.
So when you say that about reds, we're just kind of like 'okay, listening to those other people would have been a terrible mistake, the correct thing to do was to tell them 'uh, no, you don't have to like them but the law will be enforced for them too' and wait two generations for minds and hearts to change'.
And maybe that's not true here. But so far you haven't said anything that sounds different than what literally everyone says about the people they hate."
"If you let them go everywhere you'll be - it's - a few planets from scratch is better than what we have now even if everything else is covered in - I'm not sure what you're planning to do about their jobs but you probably have some idea -
- but everybody who looks up at the stars will have to remind themselves that at least the stars themselves are on fire and probably not filthy even if we can't ever go anywhere else because they've been there first or might have been."
"...it probably won't help to point out that the other species do, like, use sewage for manure and have people who have handled the dead for thousands of years and stuff and that we won't force the entire universe into conformity with this thing of yours even if we agree to quarantine the reds in particular -"
"So are we supposed to go to literally hundreds of millions of worlds where literally hundreds of billions of people who handle the dead for a living and have for thousands of years are living happy joyous lives married to a - banker or a politician or a personal trainer or a engineer - and say 'look, unless we herd you off into hellish little camps or kill you the Amentans, who you have never met, will feel uneasy when they look at the sky' - those planets would rise up as one against us, they'd react the way Amentans would react if we showed up here and started herding all the gay people off to execute because the Valar think they're gross -"
Handwave. "Different species. They really hate gay people. It's just an example, the Andalites would want us to get rid of everyone who walks with a limp and the Asgardians think there's something stomach-turning about everyone male who does combat or sports or governance and the Ferengi think it's appalling if you let women own property - we might as well sterilize the multiverse, if we're going to hurt everyone who someone else wants gone -"
"There aren't that many reds. They're totally dwarfed by the number of families whose coroner business says 'In the Family Since 1870' in a wood sign out front. Allowing them to immigrate would barely actually change the background - amount the universe has been touched by things you don't like. But it'd make you think about it."
"Uh huh. You really don't think people will just, like, get over it, if raised in a society that doesn't treat it like the worst thing in the world? That usually happens. On Earth when they tried letting black and white kids go to the same school all the white kids quit so they wouldn't have to be in a room with the black ones and they could have waxed very eloquent about how much they were suffering but, like, twenty Amentan years later they're horribly embarrassed about the whole thing and no one cares."
"We don't want you to be miserable. But we - take it really seriously, about everyone having rights and being safe, and if anybody could just veto other people getting rights and being safe then the whole thing crumbles. People'll be so grateful if Amentans can propose a solution that doesn't make you miserable and would generalize acceptably to the next place we go that really hates rape victims or something."
"The place I'm thinking of that hates rape victims doesn't hate them at random either, they can't afford to have doubts about paternity of children and haven't invented paternity testing and handle it with ridiculous-strength taboos on extramarital sex or putting oneself in a position where someone could have extramarital sex with you. It's not random but it's not something that should keep existing in a good world."
"Now you sound like the people from that planet saying 'yeah, we kill rape victims by burying them up to their neck in the ground and having the whole community gather around to throw rocks at them because they shouldn't exist in a good world'. They shouldn't. But the fix isn't to murder the ones who do."
"Probably the way to do that would be to have someone wish for it - wishes give you what you want, if they go through at all, though how they do it varies a bit - and then we could check what exactly the wish was doing and maybe find a less expensive way to do it. - the Empress does all wishes personally, too risky to delegate it."
"We could actually check with magic if reds are people. There's a form of mental magic called subtle arts, gets used for therapy, it does mind-reading and affect-reading and memory-reading and it can notice things like how you experience emotions and how you encode memories and how your mental processes work. If there were anyone who looked and acted normal but there was no light on inside, they'd be able to tell.
If I asked you to bet something that mattered to you on what they'd find if they looked at reds..."
"It's not going to make people - most comfortable - if they - notice that if you had slightly fewer things you'd be insisting on the reds instead of helping us. It's good that you have enough things to do both, if you come up with another way to get their jobs done I don't care what you do with them, but if you didn't..."
"It would be nice if you were treating them - just the way that was necessary to satisfy your pollution thing. They can't go places, okay. It's legal to torture and murder them - that's not something you need. Where being decent to them actually involves putting this stress on you, okay, that's really hard. But - there's lots of decency to them just lying on the ground for free and no one thinks it's worth the effort to lean over to pick it up."
Sigh. "If we had less resources then I think we'd just take them to another planet, give you robots, and hope that after they'd been gone for a while you were - more palatable allies. If we didn't have resurrection then people might want to, you know, put the torturers and murderers on trial ourselves, so I guess it's a good thing we've got that."
"I should probably not get into this. We do have the resources we have, we're not going to hold anyone accountable for atrocities you committed under scarcity, these aren't the kind of conditions that make people their best selves.
But if for some reason we'd had to choose whether to be allies and friends with the reds or the clean Amentans, uh, they're a lot more sympathetic and indescribably less of a diplomatic liability. So. Yeah. If it'd come to that, we wouldn't be friends."
Uh, there's a country of people who would probably mostly choose to leave, but their government can't be negotiated with because it's, uh, really really bad at its job, and it would be great to give them the option of leaving. What share of people can get good enough to make them, and how long does it take?
Going and taking people feels a lot more provocative than just giving them the ability to, if they see fit, leave. Also people will shoot the teleporters, or knock them unconscious and try to figure out their secret, or try taking them hostage, or try taking other people hostage to get favors from them -
"It's possible that all of the people who'd be ordered to do those things would, ah, also rather leave?"
"Oh, I'm sure they would, but if they're not coordinated or if there are just a couple positioning for a spot among those who stay -"
The problem is that they cannot learn their way around if they will be kidnapped even flying near the country and there will be zero cooperation with investigating such kidnappings. You kind of need a minimum level of assurance that it's illegal to kidnap you before you can start learning your way around a country.
Locals look like Amentans with rubber foreheads; planet suffered an ecological disaster a hundred years back and since then they've mostly lived underground and on their moons, which doesn't bother them as much as it bothers Amentans (but they still asked for a massive planet cleanup for their Vanda Nossëo membership perk.) Now the planet's lovely and habitable and they're moving back above ground. There are like six billion of them. Dasaer Correctional Facility holds some people who blew up some buildings trying to prevent the membership vote and a couple people who used ambassadorial jobs as cover for smuggling some prohibited substance. The member planet gets 18,000 resurrections, which they distribute to the citizens who died the youngest, and 7,000 immortality necklaces a year, which they auction.
The judge explains her rights. It's a long list. She has the right to counsel, which will be appointed for her in this hearing; she has the right to refuse to participate in the judicial process, which may adversely affect the outcome of her kidnapping case but will not earn new charges; she has the right to prison conditions in line with intergalactic treaty and with expectations in her native society to the extent those are compatible with public safety; she has the right to refuse to testify under a truth effect, though this will of course affect the credibility of her testimony; she has the right to know the evidence against her and submit questions for her accusers; she has the right to an appeal; she has the right to a clear and straightforward explanation of the law and of the legal process,which the judge duly provides.
(Kidnapping is the crime of unlawful transportation and confinement of a person against their will; 'unlawful' is met if the kidnapper did not reasonably believe themselves to be acting in their capacity as an officer of the law to carry out an arrest for which they had a lawfully obtained warrant; the penalty for each charge, of which there are three, is between one and six local years' imprisonment. Local years are a quarter of Amentan years.)
The judge wants to know if she understands her rights and whether prison conditions are acceptable and whether she understands the crime she is charged with.
Her attorney accompanies her back to prison, explains attorney-client privilege, explains how she can file for new representation if she's dissatisfied with present representation. Presents her with all of the evidence in the case - testimony from the Elves under a truth effect, detailed and accurate to the word, with specific claims highlighted and noted as forensically verified.
"It would matter a lot if you had in this case issued a warrant. Or told them they were under arrest, or told their rescue when he showed up and asked if there was a misunderstanding that they had been arrested - or if the soldiers will be able to testify that you told them to arrest the occupants of the ship, specifically - or if you care to testify under a truth effect that you believed yourself to be issuing and executing a lawful arrest order and that they were going to get to see a judge soon."
"There are dispersal arrests, collecting people to get them quickly out of an area without the longer process of asking that would make them actually guilty of trespassing. There's security arrests, where someone is apprehended for their own safety or the security of others without a crime necessarily suspected."
"We can make a case, but ...well, firstly, you said in court today that it was a criminal arrest for possession of alien technology, though I can try to get that thrown out because you hadn't yet spoken with your counsel, and secondly the court is going to be asking itself 'if this case is straightforwardly treated as precedent, what implications does that have for any citizens or subjects of ours with the misfortune to find themselves in Calado' and they will consider 'there are lots of people in Calado empowered to deprive them of their liberties without due process or any process, indefinitely, without even communicating to them that they are under arrest' an undesirable outcome."
"Senators and to a lesser extent other political blues have flexible and extensive powers with which to pursue projects intended to help the flourishing of Calado. We can interpret the law pretty broadly and unless other blues decide it is worth a considerable amount of their time to retaliate this is within expected parameters. If what you ask for is an interpretation of the law and no one expects retaliation for giving you an answer, someone will try that answer; if the result is good they get the credit and if it isn't it gets lost in the noise."
"See, if some of our people got kidnapped in a country that was formally anarchic, 'there are no local laws against what I did' wouldn't be a defense. So it's going to be helpful to be able to describe to the court something that would still not be permitted even if we decided to permit - the usual operations of the Calador government, so that acknowledging the proceedings of the Calador government doesn't amount to 'anything's legal'."
"Okay. I can also put together a motion for the court to kick this back to Calado for evaluation there, if you expect that to go in your favor - it's not very likely to be approved but it doesn't hurt to try - or technically I could move to have Ambaróna try it but I don't think that looks any better odds-wise."
"Prison social workers tend to ask about plans for release, try to help people spend their time productively if they want to do that, get them mental health services if necessary, help complete court-ordered steps like restitution or classes on ethical conduct. Anyone who wanted to visit you would have to somehow reach the nearest dimensional transit facility. There are no facilities set up in Calado because it has been judged too hazardous to operate in Calado but there are some in progress in some neighboring countries."
"There'd be a transfer if you engaged in activity that justified an elevated security prison - getting into fights with other inmates, having guests smuggle in weapons or poison or something, breaking laws online while in prison, threatening witnesses or trying to bribe judges or something - and pregnant people get transferred to a prison that can accommodate them, as do people with unusual health conditions the clinic here can't handle."
"I'm going to send you an email with instructions about logging in to a confidential case file where I can keep you updated on what evidence has been entered and what motions have been filed. You'll have to create a password and have the options to add additional levels of security. Anyone asking you for permission to look at your case file, or trying to look over your shoulder at it, or insinuating that it'd be to your advantage to show it to them, will spend the next decade in jail, report them immediately, confidentiality is taken very seriously."
In an alien legal drama aliens fight to make their government pay reparations to the recently-resurrected people it massacred a hundred years earlier. Alien police procedural is still on; the alien cops agonize over whether to burn through one of their scarce forensics requests to nail down a murderer who seems to be murdering dying people knowing their insurance will pay their resurrections if they die by murder.
The greys similarly find themselves arrested and given a hearing.
" - uh, so, technically you get a trial. Though if you want to skip that, you or your attorney can tell the judge 'look, I'm from this place where if someone says 'kidnap those aliens!' you haven't got a whole lot of choice about it, can I do a course on illegal orders and move someplace where I won't be given illegal orders and call it even and keep this off my record?' and I can't imagine the judge would turn that down. Is that something you want?"
"Okay. So this afternoon in about an hour you get a hearing, and at that hearing you get a lawyer, and that lawyer's job is to figure out how to get you what you want out of this whole situation - so, make deals with the judge for you, make sure your family can access visitation and sue for easier access to visitation if they're having a hard time getting here, make sure you know what to tell the court. And your lawyer will be able to figure this out with you, okay?"
"Yes. So does, uh, the blue lady - sorry, I read the file but I can't pronounce the names - anyway, each of you get a lawyer. Sometimes it happens that, like, what's in your interest is to cut a deal where you testify against someone else in exchange for going home, and the lawyer would not be able to do his job right for both of you."
"Well, as far as weather goes, there are places that are all underwater and the locals are octopi. You could get morph and shapeshift into an octopus and go live there but you probably wouldn't want to. There's, like, Jotunheim, which is never much above the freezing point of carbon dioxide - did that translate, that one's fifty-fifty whether it translates -"
"...well, you've got internet, you can look up the places that are taking immigrants and sort by length of a year and see if any of the ones that are about right look good."
An inmate who is visibly pregnant comes out of her room, waves at the newcomers, and goes over to change the channel on the television.
Lawyer shows him how he can read the evidence. "This is pretty straightforward - you thought you were carrying out a lawful order, your boss should have thought things through a little more - or a lot more - but everything was resolved quickly and peacefully. I want to be careful about saying 'no harm done' because the Elf press will have a field day with that - but privately, you know, no harm done. If you want to go to trial I think we can beat the charges. Or we can ask for a deal that you're happy about and settle it faster with no risk of losing at trial."
" - oh, we distinguish holding people for trial from sentencing people at trial to serve some length of time in prison. You'd actually be allowed to go home pending trial if you lived somewhere with a justice system we had an agreement with, but, uh, current directive is not to send anybody to Calado."
"I don't think they're unwilling to navigate complicated but it has to be the kind of complicated where it's safe to be around while you're learning. Anyway, usually you'd just get picked up for the hearing and then sent home and picked up for the trial, but there's a concern Calado might try to interfere with the arrest officer. I'm sorry."
"Okay. So one option is to go to the court and say 'look, your issue is with the person who gave this stupid dangerous order, how about we settle this with my client agreeing to an illegal orders class' or, if you like, 'agreeing not to work for a Calador blue with these, uh, expansive privileges', or something in that vein - I'm not really sure what would impose a significant cost on you and what would be pretty acceptable -"
Nod. "So we don't propose that, we propose something you're all right with. Or, if you'd rather, we instead go to trial and you can testify - under the truth effect if you're comfortable with that - that this is how a legitimate action for public safety reasons would have been carried out and we collect evidence to that effect and you hopefully get acquitted."
"...not really. It's a character defense - it means you're probably not going to go around towing ships out of the sky and holding their crews prisoner under other circumstances - but the point of section 43 is that everyone know that if they run across one of our people, and they hurt them, there'll be a prosecution. If some tourist accidentally wanders across a border and gets tortured to death the court doesn't want to let the perp off because that country doesn't have a law against torturing aliens, and that's the principle the law is written around. It would matter if they'd been acting threatening, of course, but by the transcripts they were just requesting permission to leave."
"To the Elves it looks like - they've got no evidence this person is even a Senator, they've got no assurances on how any explanation they give will be disseminated or that it'll be represented reasonably accurately, as long as they're being held their captor is actually in a position to claim any number of things about what they've told her... 'I'll consult my superiors about that and get back to you' is a reasonable answer and 'no you won't' is very scary."
"Hi! I'm so glad you could make it. Mireo's lawyer's been grumbling about filing a hardship complaint, family's not supposed to have more than an hour's commute for visitation and with some species we're obliged to keep the commute under twenty minutes - could make the case Amentans ought to be one of those species..." She shows them the correct shuttle.
"Well, the prison conditions that are considered adequate vary a great deal by species - some need open water, say, or space to fly in. For some species regular contact with family dramatically reduces recidivism and the stress of an arrest, and for some, doesn't matter so much as long as they can email. Or some species, like Elves, just aren't structured so an hour's commute is inconvenient. The court's overarching job is to have a prison environment that is accessible, safe, and comfortable for anyone, but the details depend on circumstances. Mireo's lawyer would argue that we're not meeting our own standards for Amentan prisoners unless their families have a very short commute."
The shuttle ports are set up like train stations except without the rails; the shuttles just teleport in and out. Lots of the people going back and forth look like Amentans with the wrong hair color; some are Elves; some are more alien aliens, with four or six legs or tentacle eyes. The shuttle jumps again.
"Okay, last shuttle, Vanda Nossëo to the prison," she says cheerfully, as they arrive in a very very large astonishingly beautiful shuttle station.
"There are security teleporter jobs - transporting prisoners to and from hearings is a teleporter job, arresting officers can teleport so they can move someone to a cell without endangering anybody - if you wanted to teleport and wanted something more like what you'd do at home." The last shuttle jumps. They're on a pretty ringed planet, next to an ocean.
And she walks them to the prison, which is right by the shuttleport for the convenience of visitors. The prison has a scanner for them to walk through that checks for dangerous magic things. Visitors wear a visitor badge.
Pregnant lady and her husband are hanging out in the main room looking at onesies on their computer. He's wearing a visitor badge.
"Oh. There aren't treaties about population size here, just about standards of living and things. If someone's population were growing so fast they were all starving and couldn't survive without ongoing external aid then there'd be an intervention for that population in particular but most places are doing just fine without rules so there's not much need to add them."
"We've gotten forty new colony planets off the ground since we joined!" says someone else cheerily. "Every idiot with a grand idea about how to run society was like 'I will found a planet that is Run Perfectly' and then they petitioned and if their grand idea was actually a lawful, safe place, whether it was a good idea or not, the petition usually went through so now we've got a place where the workers own the means of production and a place that's all tiny islands with Dunbar's number of people and a planet for the anarcho-capitalists and a planet for the orthodox Aratothalians and a planet where the whole place is under that truth effect the courts use and a planet that's mostly people resurrected from the 2200s..."
"If there were some place so bad that lots of its citizens would leave if they could I don't think it'd make it as far as being a member planet. Member planets are nice, it's the law, they've got to have good schools and good healthcare and reliable internet and transportation and just, consistently-enforced laws and freedom of speech and so on - and lots of people would rather fix their home than find a new one... I can't think of anywhere where tons of people left as soon as they were allowed -"
"I think there were a couple? But they were things like 'these ethnic groups hated each other, one of them left', usually without all that much economic integration to start with."
"It's legal to have a six-month emigration process so you can fill in gaps in services. Fayytr has a yearlong process, that one's getting challenged in court."
Pop pop pop they're in an absurdly spacious sixteenth-floor studio apartment that looks out on a stunning streetful of Elves. This Elf looks very confused and distressed. "Uh. Here we are. I've got, um, a couple more hours of deliveries, are you going to be okay here until I'm done with work for the day - I'll land outside my apartment and knock, I won't teleport in on you -"
Oranges blink at hm.
Mr. Orange says, "She got out of medical school when she was seven and went on an eight year service track with our House to get a permission at fifteen and eligible to re-up and be set for another at nineteen, but shortly before spring four years ago we were audited to see if we'd be fit parents and I'd taken a patient's stash and hadn't turned it in yet and they found it and disqualified her and it took a year and a half to appeal and she was allowed to start over but it was too late for an eight year track to get anywhere, so she switched to an independent clinic with better hours and money but no permissions and we started trying to switch Houses, and we found one with accelerated double tracks for couples and were on one of those but the head of House died and the successor lost some important political mess with the other blues and didn't have as many permissions to hand out and voided our contracts and we've been trying to find anything else and people keep telling me to divorce her and find someone else because I'm younger but -"
He checks whether anyone has laid claim to the house in Afterlife that corresponds to the one in Tirion his family vacated in going off to war. No one has. He takes them there. It's in a little town on a bright clear mountain lake. Fifteen thousand people and a cobblestone street and a train station.
The house is spacious and exquisitely pretty and for some reason not dusty at all even though no one has been here in years.
"Will this do?"
"Thank you. I - I never lived here exactly but this house was built to replace the one I grew up in, which was destroyed in the war. It's all yours. Oh -" tap tap. "For the language. Afterlife doesn't have many laws, just - be a good neighbor, pretty much - but they censor violent or sexual or distressing content on the internet. It's obnoxious - you won't get in trouble for anything but they might delete, like, crime novels, if you try writing online crime novels. And Elves don't have a nudity taboo but we have a thing about loose hair, we usually braid it."
"I'd have to check the manual -" He frowns. "Uh, apparently it's not recommended to do to a child under, ah, Amentan two or so, but he or she will hear you in your native language by default and should learn it fine - you'd want to switch it off if you were teaching your child to read in Quenya or something like that."
The blue case goes to court. Her attorney has lined up a selection of Calador blues agreeing that this is totally part of the legitimate and reasonable operations of their legal system. The prosecution observes that, had the Elves been notified that they had been arrested, they would have had expectations about how they could be treated and how long they could legally be held, and that there were a lot of opportunities to suggest that was what was going on, none of which were taken. The prosecution observes that this would, if the Elves hadn't had writing materials around, be a negligent murder case, and that taking people into custody involves assuming a degree of responsibility for their wellbeing and maintenance which no one in Calado displayed.
The Elves testify very compellingly that they were concerned these terrifying strangers who were holding them prisoner without an explanation might, once it became clear they wouldn't cooperate, escalate from vague threats, and that any hint they'd been arrested as part of the operations of a functional legal system under which they had rights would have been very reassuring. They are asked if they think the Senator intended them to feel assured they had rights and would be released even if they declined to answer questions. They say very charitably that they do not really think so.
The prosecution further and very irritably observes that if the court accepts the legal theory proposed by the defense and finds this to have been a lawful arrest in the absence of any tangible evidence that anyone involved thought of it as an arrest or communicated as much or intended to release the defendants once the safety concern was mitigated, then the court will be finding that Calado's senators can never under any circumstances be guilty of kidnapping people.
Does Datna want to testify.
"Can you say under the truth effect that at the time you were thinking of it as an arrest for public safety reasons? Or that you intended to arrange their safe release even if they didn't answer questions? Or that any implication they might come to harm if they didn't cooperate was definitely unintended -"
"...look, if you don't want membership then you don't have to have any votes at all, but if you are having any votes, the procedure for votes is that ballots are made accessible online and in person everywhere and then every ballot that gets filled out counts except for duplicates filled out by the same person."
They discuss it later. "It's - possible that this isn't actually what the reds would prefer? Like, we don't want to be in the position of taking a stance for their sake that hurts them - we could ask them, if they overwhelmingly prefer membership without voting rights or something that I can imagine a court carving out an exception for -"
" - you're allowed to visit them, right, if you wear the plastic covers and do the shower afterwards -"
"Yeah, you are."
"So we could go ask."
Elves venture into a Rivikni red district.
"We're scaring them."
"If they wanted to talk they could have written into the channel."
"Not if they thought something bad would happen to them."
"If they thought something bad would happen if they wrote something we could read they're not going to just talk to us."
"Maybe not today or this week but - I don't want to just write this country off as a stupid backwater that hates reds more than they want kids until -"
"Yeah, sure, we can stay. They'll probably get less scared over time. I'll ask about regular food deliveries." She does that.
"Okay!" They stand up. "It's really important none of them get hurt - I'm sure you know that, but just in case - if there's violence against a population while we're here and which we could be said to be even tangentially involved in, it gets escalated like crazy and suddenly there are two thousand galactic observers and sixteen thousand journalists and felony murder charges for everyone and their relatives - I know you obviously wouldn't hurt people over not going to work, that doesn't even get them to work any faster, it just bears mentioning because it'd be such a catastrophe if it came up."