In the short story, "The Cold Equations," the unforgiving circumstances of the frontier require that the law governing that society be just as equally unforgiving. Young, naive Marilyn Cross had never experienced the hard, difficult nature of space and the outer territories, where a single mistake could spell the doom of many, but aboard the EDS, the pilot Barton has to explain to her the cold reality of the consequences of her decision to stow away. Barton understands that "the laws of the space frontier must, of necessity, be as hard and relentless as the environment that gave them birth" (Godwin). On the domesticated planets where life is simpler, more predictable, and easy-going, the law can afford to be more forgiving toward citizens, because they are not operating under a life-and-death situation; out on the galactic frontier, the cruelty of the law, law without any appeal, derives from the brutal nature of the hard, cold environment.
Barton finds no pleasure in the outcome of "Paragraph L, Section 8;" rather, he wishes he might find a way to save Marilyn. Ultimately, the cold equations of the EDS dictate Marilyn's expulsion and death sentence; the fuel shortage demands that she be jettisoned, or the ship may never reach its destination.