Picking lint from her rumpled blue cardigan, McConnery Ellis, the only human in the virtual courtroom, slumped at the defense table beside her cylindrical steel attorney. Like the other robotic sims surrounding her—gray judge, blue prosecutor, purple jurors—the spring-green defense bot was a cheap model, with an expressionless face and a body whose range of motion varied according to which attorney manipulated it in the control room. Its polished torso, buffed to a liquid sheen, reflected the courtroom like a funhouse mirror.
At a nod from the judge, the blue prosecution bot rose for the opening statement. It bowed to the judge and faced the video camera affixed to the right corner of the jury box.
“Members of the jury,” said the blue bot, “the woman sitting in front of you is a killer. On the night of September tenth, 2060, the defendant, McConnery Ellis, prepared dinner for her husband, George Alexander Ellis. They had been married thirty-two years, and they ate together most evenings. At approximately 7:00 p.m., Mrs. Ellis brought his meal to the table and joined him a minute later with hers. Just after she sat down, he took a few bites and collapsed. She called 911. The medics arrived eight minutes later to find him dead. You will learn from their testimony that scans of his body revealed traces of cyanide, which was later confirmed by police pathologists as the immediate cause of death. After the team failed to resuscitate Mr. Ellis, the head medic scanned his meal—trout almondine, served with almond garnished rice and green beans—and found cyanide. Mrs. Ellis’s food was poison-free.
“Mrs. Ellis had the resource, a generative kitchen, to create a meal infused with cyanide. Moreover, she had a motive. A year before his death, Mr. Ellis had retired from his position as Executive Vice President of Signature Ventures Corporation. But after he transitioned to a life of leisure, Mrs. Ellis had problems adjusting to his constant presence at home. She spent more and more time in the kitchen. On the afternoon of September tenth, the Ellises argued about her use of said kitchen. That evening, she went into the kitchen and prepared George Ellis’s final meal. Trout almondine, laced with cyanide.
“On the night of her husband’s death, no other person came near that kitchen while Mrs. Ellis made dinner. And the evidence will show that the presence of cyanide in Mr. Ellis’s food was no accident: the advanced nature of a generative kitchen leaves no possibility for error. Likewise, because a generative kitchen must be programmed to suit its owner’s needs, Mrs. Ellis must have carefully planned the means and method of her husband’s demise.
“The evidence is irrefutable. It leads to only one conclusion: McConnery Ellis should be found guilty of murder, in the first degree.”
Title: Murder in the Generative Kitchen
Author: Meg Pontecorvo
Genre: Science Fiction
With the Vacation Jury Duty system, jurors can lounge on a comfortable beach while watching the trial via virtual reality. Julio is loving the beach, as well as the views of a curvy fellow juror with a rainbow-lacquered skin modification who seems to be the exact opposite of his recent ex-girlfriend back in Chicago. Because of jury sequestration rules, they can’t talk to each other at all, or else they’ll have to pay full price for this Acapulco vacation. Still, Julio is desperate to catch her attention. But while he struts and tries to catch her eye, he also becomes fascinated by the trial at hand.
At first it seemed a foregone conclusion that the woman on trial used a high-tech generative kitchen to feed her husband a poisonous meal, but the more evidence mounts, the more Julio starts to suspect the kitchen may have made the decision on its own.
A writer and artist dedicated to multiple genres, Meg Pontecorvo earned an MFA in Poetry Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and is a 2010 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Meg has published a novelette, “Grounded,” in Asimov’s, and her artwork in collage and pen has been featured in experimental video performances in the Bay Area. A native of Philadelphia, she grew up in the Midwest and now shares a small apartment with her partner and cats in San Francisco, where she cooks in a tech-free kitchen.
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