7

I am trying to recall a book I read in the 1960s, probably published by Badger or Digit, about a group who travel into the future (accidentally?) and find that in the future age this is a capital offence.

The judge dismisses the extenuating circumstances and insists that the death penalty is mandatory. However, their defence counsel raises some questions

Counsel - What is the definition of death?

Judge - They must cease to exist

Counsel - Your definition of existence?

Judge - That which can be detected or perceived may be said to exist.

Counsel - But if they are returned to their own time they can no longer be detected or perceived here. So this would meet the definition of death.

Judge - Very well. Return them to 1962.

One of the team is a Londoner and on discovering that London no longer exists, demands to know what has happened because "I'm next of kin".

1
  • 1
    There is a novella called Highway J by Charles Eric Maine in which time travellers are sentenced to death, but the protagonist returns to his original time when someone destroys the time machine he departed from. There is no discourse with the defence lawyer. Jul 16, 2022 at 11:11

1 Answer 1

4

I believe this is likely Beyond Time (1962) by Patricia Fanthorpe and R.L. Fanthorpe (as by John E. Muller). It was indeed published by Badger.

Cover of "Beyond Time" showing 2 spaceships rising from a small town on the bank of a river, framing a frowning blue face surrounded by blue streaks

You have very accurately captured the end of the story:

The president struck his desk with the gavel in his gnarled right hand.

"I do not wish to hear further evidence," he barked.

"But my Lord, I object..." began the Law-Thinker.

"Over-ruled."

"The sentence of this court is death. They have interfered with an inferior culture in another time-probability track. The law cannot allow this whatever moral or ethical provocations there may have been. They have killed out of their own time. They have affected the future. They must pay the penalty. My sentence is death. There can be no appeal."

There were gasps and murmurs of sympathy.

"My Lord, may I ask for your definition of death?" asked the Law-Thinker.

"They must be put out of existence," ordered the President.

"Your definition of existence?" demanded the Law-Thinker.

"That which can be sense or perceived can be said to exist," replied the President.

"My Lord, if they can be un-perceived completely, can they be said to be out of existence?" persisted the Law-Thinker.

"Yes," ruled the President, grudgingly.

"Then permit me to have them sent back to their own time, my Lord. For all our judicial purposes they will then be out of existence."

There was a tumult of applause for the brilliant argument.

The President sat in a stupefied silence for long seconds. Finally the gavel banged down.

"Agreed," he barked. "Return them to 1962."

1
  • 1
    Thanks. That's it a right. Bth the title and the cover ring bells, as well as the ending. Cheers.
    – Mike Stone
    Jul 19, 2022 at 5:24

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.