Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure


The Earthmover
(Part Three: Conclusion)

By Richard K. Lyon
About the author

CARL MARGAT HELD A SMALL PARTY to celebrate their victory. The first toast was being drunk when the Marshall arrived bearing summonses for Margat, Banks, and General Chang. They were ordered to appear before Judge Wodd and show cause why they should not be enjoined from moving the Earth. The Friends of Nature were suing and had filed information alleging that the comet danger was a political fraud and that moving the Earth was totally unnecessary and dangerous. A hearing date was set for ninety days later. Pending the hearing, Banks, Margat and Chang were enjoined from taking any action. Of course by the time of the hearing it would be too late.

A week passed, then on Friday morning promptly at 10 AM Judge Wodd convened court in the case of the Friends of Nature versus NASA and the Army Engineers. The opposing attorneys were Rodger Baron for NASA and the Army Engineers and the noted Marvin Bilcurse for the Friends.

Bilcurse began by objecting, "Your Honor, these proceedings were convened in far too great haste to serve the ends of Justice. The plaintiffs have had no adequate opportunity to prepare their case. I therefore beg the Court to continue this case for at least sixty days."

"As His Honor knows," Baron replied, "any delay past two this afternoon is forever. At two the rocket impacts on the Moon. No court order can change that. The sole question is whether or not the NASA control group in Scotland detonate the bomb immediately before impact."

"Your Honor, may I point out that the Defense has made a highly damaging admission. The Court must either continue the case or rule in favor of either the plaintiffs or the defense. In the first two instances the defense loses, while in the third the plaintiffs have a sacred and inviolate right to appeal to a higher court. Pending said appeal the restraining order must be continued so again the defense loses."

"An interesting arguement which the Court will take under advisement," Judge Wodd replied.

"May I also point out," Bilcurse continued, "that in trying to rule by 2 PM the Court has set itself a nearly impossible task. It is 10:15 now and the normal lunch hour for Federal Courts is from 11 to 2."

"Extraordinary cases demand extraordinary procedures. The Court will work through lunch hour!" Wodd declared. "Now, Mr. Bilcurse, the Court is ready for your opening statement."

"Very well, Your Honor. It is the fundamental conviction of my clients, the Friends of Nature, that our present highly mechanized technological society is a tragic error. I share this conviction. Surely it is obvious that America's two hundred million people would be happier if they led a simpler life, closer to Nature, as for example the people of India do. Our present mechanized, sterilized, polyethylene wrapped culture is forced on the American people by a few technological aristocrats and the giant corporations they control. To fight them and to save what remained of Nature, the Friends of Nature were organized and the people rallied to their banner. Now suddenly we are told that the Earth is in dire danger and only that discredited false god TECHNOLOGY can save us. Any child can see through such a transparent fraud. The Earth has traveled safely in her orbit for billions of years so --"

"How much of this do you plan to prove?" Judge Wodd interrupted.

"None, your Honor. The plantiff merely seeks to maintain the status quo, so the burden of proof is entirely on the defendant."

"In that case the Court will now hear the opening statement for the defense."

"Your Honor, this is a simple case of deciding the relative safety of two courses of action. To prove the danger of continuing the status quo I shall call Professor Ernest Jenner to describe his observations and calculations on the comet Kerr-Shmidt. I shall also introduce depositions from Professor Cyril Drotman-Dickens of the British Royal Astronomical Society and Professor Ivor Nixitan of the Soviet Academy of Science stating that their independent observations and calculations confirm Professor Jenner's conclusions as to the danger from the Kerr-Shmidt comet. As to the safety of moving the Earth the defense has complete studies by both the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Academy of Science."

Wodd looked sour and said, "Does the plaintiff also plan to call expert witnesses?"

"Certainly, Your Honor," Bilcurse replied. "We have several eminent scientists who will swear that in their opinion further studies are needed."

"But that's trivial," Baron objected. "Finding scientists to say more studies are needed is like finding insurance salesmen to tell you that you need more life insurance."

Wodd pondered for a moment then said, "This is a case involving highly complex technical issues. The normal practice in hearing such cases is to listen to expert witnesses testify in exhausting detail. Such testimony is nearly always contradictory and the court does not have the technical knowledge needed to resolve these contradictions. Consequently the Court is obligated to decide these cases on the bases of their legal rather than technical merits. The hearing of technical evidence is thus a waste of time and in view of the extreme time pressure in the present case the court will omit all technical evidence and proceed directly to the legal arguments."

Baron rose. "Your Honor, the Defense submits that there is inferential precedent for the Earth's present danger. The plaintiff has argued that since Earth has existed for billions of years it cannot now be in danger. This is a logical nonsequitor since the destruction of the Earth is an event which can only happen once and if it had been destoyed previously we should not be here to discuss the fact. Earth, however, is one of several planets in the Solar System. Between Mars and Jupiter, where a planet would normally be expected, there is an asteroid belt. This, I submit, is fair presumptive evidence that planets such as our Earth can be destroyed."

"Your Honor," Bilcurse said, "the defendants have failed to file an environmental impact statement describing the effect of their proposed actions on the lunar environment. Such a statement is clearly required by law and accordingly the plantiff requests an immediate verdict in their favor."

"Your Honor I object," snapped Baron. "Such a statement is a nullity since it is well known that the Moon has no environment."

The legal arguments droned on for hours but at 1:30 Judge Wodd announced that he had heard enough. "The requirement of the law is that the defendants prove their proposed actions to be safe. That it may be dangerous to omit said actions is an issue the law does not recognize. The defense would have presented technical evidence to prove safety and the plaintiff would have presented contrary evidence. The technical evidence would thus have been ambiguous and the law requires that safety be unconditionally proven. Accordingly the Court must find for the plaintiff."

General Chang rose and stepped forward. "May I address the Court briefly?"

Wodd nodded. "Very briefly."

"I wish to say that although I do not agree with his Honor's decision, there is substantial precedent for it. In the past years the Courts of America have claimed the right to hear cases involving the safety of nuclear reactors, the ecological effects of damming the rivers, the acceptability of insecticides and other technical issues. In all these cases the only important question is what the scientific facts are and by their own admission the Courts lack the technical competence to decide such questions. Thus Your Honors decision is not more stupid than many previous decisions, it is merely more obviously stupid and potentially more disastrous. Accordingly Drs. Banks, Margat and I have sent instructions to the NASA crew in Scotland that they should proceed as planned and ignore all judicial orders."

Wodd stared in surprise. A few angry words he could have understood and even forgiven, but that responsible Federal officials should defy a court order boggled the mind. Slowly he said, "Gentlemen, I hope you understand the consequences of your actions. The Court has no choice but to find you in contempt and send you to prison until such time as you purge yourselves of contempt by obeying the Court's order. Under the circumstances you may never be able to do that."


Jordan Blanks sat in a cell with Carl Margat and General Chang. A proper Bostonian, Banks felt uncomfortable being in jail. He'd rather have been in Europe. The 6 PM news had shown the dark of the Moon suddenly blazing with atomic fire but he had missed the chance to see the spectacle with his own eyes. Still things were not too bad.

At 7 PM, exactly as expected, all the lights went out, all the lights in the jail, in Washington D.C., in the entire East Coast. At 9 PM the lights would go back on in the East Coast and go out in a strip of inland states. A blackout was being slowly rolled accross the United States. It was the only way the power companies could ration the available electricity. ERDA had failed to dispose of the backlog of nuclear waste, so the reprocessing plants which produced that waste had to shut down. Being shut down they could no longer accept spent fuel rods so the atomic reactors which produced the spent fuel rods must also shut down. As far as anyone could tell from the public record Judge Wodd was the one man to blame for knocking down the first domino and causing the power shortage. Dealing with this crisis was the job of the Army Corps of Engineers whose head the same Judge Wodd had imprisoned. Thus everything had happened as planned and they should soon be free.

Banks looked away from the window and toward the darkness where General Chang sat. "General, I've been wondering. Considering what we've done it would only have taken one misstep and we really would be spending the rest of our lives in prison. My question is, was it necessary? Could we have saved the Earth honorably, by going through proper channels?"

"You know the way our government makes decisions. Do you need to ask?"

The End.

Part Two

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The Earthmover is copyright by Richard K. Lyon and was originally published in the fanzine, Space and Time. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)