Punch-card villains sees the light & help the good guys. Should they get a reward? (long)

Obviously another hypothetical poll, this one explicitly fantabulous. Those who find that irksome should find another thread. The frame story came out way longer than I intended; sorry about that.

Our tale is set in Pangaea, a world peopled by whatever legendary creatures you wish to postulate. There are no humans as such, unless you count the multiple varieties of shapechangers --were-tigers, vampires, etc–who are virtually identical to humans in their non-animal forms. Unlike, say, Narnia, Pangaea is not technologically stagnant. In particular, their medical technology is far beyond hat of 21st century Earth.

Pangaea and its people were created by the the a pantheon of gods led by Pallas. Now, while Pallas is immortal, wise, nigh-omnipotent, and hot, she is not interested in being worshipped; she prefers to exercise as little dominion over mortals as possible. Her representatives in the natural world are the Prophets, only one of whom exists at a time. Chosen from the mortal population, Prophets are charged with defending against natural disasters and supernatural threats but must otherwise respect mortals’ free will; they are forbidden to accept worship or encourage the worship of Pallas; nor are they supposed to set down moral laws. At most they should teach by example. Pallas checks in every other century or so but mostly expects the Prophets to make their own decisions.

The current Prophet is dealing with a magical threat, the Priest-King of the vampires. He wishes to draw all the other shapechanging peoples under his nation’s rule. Non-humanoid races he’d like either enslaved or exterminated, depending on their level of “impurity.” He’s been waging a long, ruinous war (Pangaea’s equivalent to World War II) for that purpose and has already exterminated all the naiads save the Prophet. Lately he’s been winning, as he’s found an ace–Homo sapiens. Humans make useful agents because, while they are in Pangaea, it is impossible to foretell by magic what they are going to do; crystal balls and other such mystic scrying devices are likewise blind to them.

Among the Priest-King’s human agents are Jim and Patricia. They have different reasons for agreeing to serve him. Jim has a daughter who was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of a car accident; Patricia is dying of metatastized lung cancer. The Priest-King has promised them both healing; he’s already restored Patricia to a semblance of health. Once they complete their missions, he’ll restoring Jim’s daughter’s mobility and complete Patricia’s cure.

Both Jim & Patricia do well at the beginning. But Jim begins to have doubts. Though at first he thinks the Pangaeans are monsters, he comes to see them as no less persons than he is; after killing two or three score good guys in sabotage missions, he finds he can’t bear to continue. Ultimately betrays the Priest-King, helps the Prophet, and contributes to the good guys’ victory. Patricia has similar doubts but does not switch sides. Her mission doesn’t involve directly killing people, so she never has to face matters as baldly as Jim does.

In the aftermath of victory, the Prophet makes plans to return the human henchmen to their proper world, simply to be rid of them. In the meantime she looks over the Priest-King’s lair to find out what has to be outright destroyed (any black magic); what is not black magic but still too dangerous to keep about (like the portal to Earth); and what is reasonably benign and can be salvaged. Doing so, she discovers that the “magical” cures are simply the result of better Pangaean medicine technology. The treatment for Jim’s daughter is simple enough for him to administer it himself. But Patricia has only received a stopgap; without the complete treatment, her cancer will quickly return and she’ll die.

Pallas’s next check-in isn’t for fifty years. Should the Prophet give Jim the cure for his daughter’s paralysis? What about Patricia’s cancer? Why do you choose as you do?

Jim gets the cure. He saw the Light and redeemed himself through action, and did so while believing he was sacrificing the cure for his daughter. Throw in some Vulcan “needs of the many” mojo as well.

Patricia gets an early grave. She knowingly and willfully aided Darkness.

I’m not entirely clear here: Jim and Patricia will be returned to Earth, regardless? Earth does not have either Pallas or the Prophets?

Certainly the Prophet should give Jim the cure for his daughter. I’d be inclined to say that Jim also gets the reward of keeping his loved wife alive, if treatment for her is possible quickly. As the Prophet, I’d then be inclined to do whatever magic was necessary to wipe/muddle their memories and pack them both back to Earth.

The important thing for the Prophet to avoid here, I’d think, would be contamination of Earth technology. That would appear to be against the will of Pallas, and I’d think the Prophet would have a serious interest in promoting the will of Pallas.

Do you see any superheroes around?

For obvious reasons I am unwilling to outright state there no no Pallas on Earth.

Anyway … the Prophet is returning humans to Earth just to be rid of them, as Pangaea just made it through WWII and she’s got a lot on her plate. I expect she won’t go to any great effort to round 'em up. Probably something like making an announcement like

“Attention! Today is Wednesday, October 27th! On Monday, November 1st, we’ll be dynamiting the portal back to Earth! If you want to go home, be at the Priest-King’s former lair before then! If we find you here after that date, we’ll assume you’re volunteering to empty bedpans in the children’s hospital out of guilt, or that you want to be shot. Your call, and thanks for listening!”

Not that I pretend to know the mind of even MY Athena, but I misdoubt Pallas would care about contamination from Earth tech. It’s not that she dislikes humans; it’s that it’s a big multiverse and she prefers to concentrate on the cosmos she inhabits.

Jim pretty obviously gets his reward, I think - he defected from the enemy, and I assume the Prophet wants to encourage that sort of behavior.

As for Patricia - I hate to say it, but I think it’s hard to argue against curing her cancer. She’s a POW, at least for the moment- there are serious legal and ethical problems with denying medical treatment to POWs. Sure, she’s due to be released soon - but right now, she’s sick (though in remission) and in custody. (I’d also point out, BTW, that the plan to release Patricia back in Earth is a bit dodgy - exiling one’s criminals so that they become someone else’s problem is bad form, and genocide-abetting Patricia is a heck of a problem).

For what it’s worth, though, we (humans) don’t normally execute people for genocide any more. Yes, we killed Saddam Hussein - but I know the Hague won’t (can’t) put anyone to death, and I’m not aware of any current international war crimes tribunals that employ the death penalty.

I’m not at all sure that Skald’s Pallas finds our laws binding.

Oh, I’m sure she doesn’t. Please don’t smite me, pretty all-powerful lady.

But I thought it worth pointing out that there’s a fairly strong moral consensus, at least on Earth, that even active participation in genocide doesn’t merit the death penalty. Which is relevant, because both Oak and I agree that Patricia shouldn’t be going free - which begs the question of what, exactly, we do with her. Oak says she dies, I say she lives - and I’m pointing out the current state of Earth practice to illustrate the reasonableness of my position.

Ooh, give Jim the choice of going home to Earth without Patricia, or staying on Pangaea with a healed Patricia, bearing in mind that they’ll be, at the very least, social pariahs.

Are Patricia and Jim married or related or something? The comments seem to suggest so, but I’m not seeing it in the OP.

I’d cure them both, just because I’m not much of one for vengeance, and neither seem like inherently evil people. They’d likely go back to their respective lives never harming another person, so let them live and prosper.

Looking over the OP, I can see how you got that impression, but I didn’t mean to imply that Patricia and Jim were married. They’re just both people the Priest-King decided he could bribe into committing atrocities.

He also killed 40-60 people on the Prophet’s side. As there is no indication he is a ninja, I’d assume he did so by committing acts of sabotage, which makes it probable that some of those people were not even combatants. Some of 'em might have been stewards delivering lunch to the crew at the artillery dump, or clerks in the centaur general’s headquarters, or whatnot.

Jim’s earned not being shot in the back of the head, certainly. He’s earned a trip home and the freedom to walk around free till it’s time to head back. But I’m not sure that he’s earned the bribe offered him to kill people.

A couple things here, in no particular order.

  1. I don’t think Patricia is a criminal by Earth standards. Let’s assume she’s a neighbor of mine; she hasn’t broken any Memphis, Tennessee, or American laws. that I can see. One might reasonably consider her punishment exile from Pangaea.

  2. The cure the Priest-King offered was not magical in origin. Think about that a second. (I just did; I didn’t have this in mind when I wrote the OP.) If the cure is just Pangaean tech, then by implication there are Pangaeans who suffer from the same sort of cancer Patricia has; otherwise they’ve have no reason to invent a therapy. Resources are scarce; it’s Europe right after WWII, after all, with no ally across the sea to offer a Marshall Plan. Is it right to give these scarce resources to Patricia, whose helped kill people here?

(Since she hasn’t killed anybody directly, but clearly has been of use, I imagine she’s done something like pilot troop transports.)

  1. While I agree with Oy! that Pallas isn’t going to give a good herself-damn about US law or Geneva conventions, I’d assume that she has some sort of morality we can recognize, and thaat the Pangaeans do as well. (They’d have to be psychologically similar to humans for Jim to make the extremely difficult decision to forego his kid’s healing on their behalf.) So, yes, I agree that it’s acceptable to use human ethical standards (though not legal ones) in discussinghtis.

4)The cure for Jim’s daughter is explicitly simple enough for him to take home and administer himself. By implication, Patricia’s is not. (Again, I didn’t have that in mind when I wrote the OP, so if someone disagrees with me here, I am NOT claiming to be necessarily right.) Again, resources are scarce and casualities surely high. Is it fair to put her in a Pangaean hospital, taking up a bed, taking up therapy time that might have gone to a dehydrated Kappa or whatnot?

Also, I think you’re misstating Oak’s position. He didn’t say to kill Patricia. He said not to save her.

Oh, I thought they were a couple. Well, that does make a difference.

Jim’s daughter is presumably a kid. You said her cure was simple enough that he could administer it himself. Can he make it on Earth? If so, send him home with a clear recipe. If he can’t, then I still think he should be given a cure for his daughter. He made a tough moral decision, and ended up on the right side at what could have been a terrible cost (the loss of his daughter).

Patricia just goes home to Earth, no cure. Pangaea’s scarce resources justify not curing her. She’s had time in remission; she should accept it and be grateful she didn’t get worse. I don’t think she needs to be imprisoned on Earth; it’s not likely she’ll be a repeat offender - for one thing, she’ll be dead fairly soon, and for another, it’s not like a Priest-King comes along every day and offers you a cure for terminal cancer in exchange for driving some support trucks on an alien world. I don’t agree with her choice, but it’s understandable. Swat her on the nose, say “bad girl” and send her home.

Dude, you have way too much time on your hands.


To the benefit and entertainment of us all.

See, that’s what you meant, right? :wink:

At the risk of disaster, there were numerous people involved in slave labour or the like during WW2, making weapons to kill the other side.

I dont see much difference between that and Patricia’s situation in practical terms, other than direct beatings etc - you do what they say or you die. Now that might be mitigated by exactly what she was doing, theres a lot of range in ‘didnt kill anyone directly’, but being on the wrong side does not = death sentence in my mind if some level of coercion is involved.

On the other hand if its a limited resource, you’d have to look at who else was in need as someone has to lose. You’re not expected to deny medical treatment to POW’s, but Im pretty sure you’re not expected to always give unlimited medical coverage at the expense of your own people either. Ie if you have a 70 year old POW and a 6 year old child each needing the only potion available, the 70 year old might lose.

Jim doesnt need to save anyones life to do what he did and killed as many as 60 people before he ‘saw the light’. Thats a pretty slow rate of ‘realisation’ in my book. His changing sides might mitigate his actions, but doesnt translate into ‘deserving’ anything in my view.

But at the end, the daughter did nothing, so the remaining issue is if anyone else is in need - there is no obligation to put Jim’s family need ahead of anyone elses but no strong reason to punish her either. A younger quadriplegic might come ahead for instance.


You’re just sucking up out of fear of those flying/flaming monkeys/bees/sheep.
I am NOT Carnivorousplant.

Split decision.

Jim should receive the cure for multiple reasons.

  1. His efforts were on behalf of another regardless of side at first, and after switching to the good side he acted in good faith.

  2. He was misled as to the nature of the cure, and thus deserves some recompense for acting as a pawn in the Priest-King’s game. While he knew what he was doing, he was acting under false pretenses. It can be presumed that if he knew about the cure he would not have aided the Priest-king and sought it among more peaceable folk if it was available.

Patricia should be given options.

  1. She can return to Earth with nothing. She continued to support the bad guys despite her eventual knowledge of the situation for personal gain. Her desperation is understood, but it doesn’t excuse her actions though it does mitigate them allowing for option two:

  2. She can accept the cure, and remain in Pangea to face justice. I’m assuming that the Pangeans are not going to execute her since like Jim, she was acting under false pretenses. However, as penalty for aiding the side of darkness despite her knowledge otherwise, the cure will be administered only if she will remain to atone for her actions that indirectly caused the deaths of many.

You have some good points – except that Patricia and Jim are the very opposite of slave labour. They weren’t forced into anything; they were bribed.

I honestly hadn’t thought of your option for Patricia, which is clever.

I do have a slight issue with the false pretenses allegation.Jim and Patricia were promised medical care of a quality no availabe to them on Earth. Why does it matter if it was simply tech – something humans could eventually invent, even if not in the characters’ lifetimes?

Also, they’re probably better off if the cure is technological rather than black magic. If the latter term has any meaning, it’s got to be that “magic that comes from a malevolent entity who is likely to screw you over for the hell of it.” A paralysis cure that comes from Mephistopheles is going to, I dunno, force the patient to become a serial killer or something; necromantic chemotherapy is going to end up causing the patient to become demon-possessed. That’s what happened to Nancy Grace as I understand it.

Rhymer rules require me to say something vicious about that… person…once a day.

“You have some good points – except that Patricia and Jim are the very opposite of slave labour. They weren’t forced into anything; they were bribed.”

I guess we disagree on what counts on bribery vs coercion, from a moral perspective at least.

Edit: I do like the choice option for Patricia.