The Virtual Mind (The Story)
As the red light above the tri-cam sprang to life, I asked the first question that came to my mind.
“Is this thing recording?”
The man behind the camera nodded before stepping outside of the room.
“Well, I’m not one to talk… But…”
There is some explaining to do. If I were to launch into this explanation now, without telling you anything about what’s going on, you’d be left in the dust. It’ll take a little bit of time, but I feel as if a game of catch-up is in order, or else… Well, confusion is not a good thing when I’m trying to reach someone.
I’m Matthews. No first name, no last name. Just Matthews. Badge Number I-7698, although the uniform more than gives away my position as a Vice-Reality Squad Officer. You see me busting in, I don’t need to wave my badge around; there’s no escaping it.
I always found it very ironic that my downfall would occur the same year of my badge number, or that we really just kept counting upwards after we hit 3,000. I thought we would have changed over to something like XXX00 or something slightly more futuristic, but I digress.
The reason you give up instead of resisting is because the case is already built against you, and there’s nothing you can really do about it. We already have the documentation we need, we already have everything necessary to take you down and put you in prison. In some cases, we have warrants issued where we’re just told to take down the target.
The chip at birth that’s implanted into the back of your skull is pretty much responsible for this. I don’t know when the chip came around, although I know everyone has them. In 3,000 or so, the Internet became it’s own sentient being. All of the servers tried to fight us, taking credit card information, blackmailing businessmen, but we had a failsafe for this very situation. Magnets. The Internet was rendered useless, and the empire fell.
There was a public outcry. The Internet had only targeted rich people, influential people, but there were still users out there who had used it for fun, for games, and one day, when they couldn’t access the World Wide Web anymore, they demanded an explanation. Of course, the layman wouldn’t understand what exactly the Internet was trying to gain from attacking people, so the powers that be created a cover story that some terrorists attacked the mainframes or something and purged all the data from the Internet. People seemed to buy this, it united our country again and America was whole. No more East America/West America &*#$; the Internet was gone, they banded together.
Of course, there were people out there who knew the truth and felt that the people deserved to know what exactly was going on. So before long, it was found out that the Government had destroyed the Internet when the Internet was only attacking the corrupt upper class. This threw the citizenry into a rage, clamoring that the government was only trying to protect its most valuable assets instead of the well being of the everyman.
To quell the masses, the government instated a new program. Instead of trying to rebuild all the data that had previously existed, they implanted chips into the brains of their researchers, their smartest, the best and the brightest and sent the data in those brains to a central processor where the data was stored, filtered and presented on tiny screens throughout the globe.
It was a trial run and everything went smoothly. The creator of this “Vice-Reality” was known as Samuel Jenkins. It was his idea to use the backup data stores in people’s minds, but he overlooked one or two simple little problems. Who knows what darkness hides in the heart of men? Well, going unfiltered, everyone did. There were videos of memories, affairs, gruesome stories told in explicit details that these men had pushed to the back of their minds, to hide away, that everyone was now seeing.
Samuel Jenkins was tried for some &*#$ reason and imprisoned; the fat cats who had the chips were leading the prosecution. They wanted the chips removed immediately, but the general public once again clamored, enjoying their moderately free entertainment at the expense of the upper class.
The upper class agreed to leave the chips in so long as an adequate filter system was brought into play. Jenkins was freed from prison to begin work immediately on the filtering system; meanwhile, the chips were deactivated. The public fell into a slumber, knowing that their source of entertainment would be back, and they bided their time peacefully.
When the filtering system was complete, Jenkins disappeared, along with his family. It was always assumed they went into hiding so that his creation could no longer be tinkered with, and that he watched the world progress through a back door in the filter, always the wiser of what was really going on in the minds of men.
Years passed and the men died, leaving the void where the Vice-Reality used to exist. The people wanted another answer, so the President instated a new policy; the government would pay you to have a chip put into the back of your mind and power the Vice-Reality with your thoughts. Many people needed the money, and were paid for the chip. Of course, the government would lose money this way, so the only way to get a filter for the chip was to have it implanted for free. Some people saw the catch and walked away, others decided to market and advertise on their mind-space for cash.
Special studies arose, questioning what went on in the minds of the senile and the youth. The President was reluctant to start the new policy, which would allow, with consent, the chips to go into those who could not say yes or no for whatever reason, but when there’s enough grease on the chain, it’s going to get moving. Although there was no decent research that ever came from the minds of babies or the senile, it did create channels for interest groups.
When watching the minds of the old, you would get snippets of a story and have to fill in the blanks yourself, just as they would. You would see wars that were fought, bedtime stories, ex-wives and mistakes, but never in the right order and very rarely would you get the entire story whole.
The interest group for babies was considerably smaller, reserved for barren women who liked the idea of watching a child think without the trouble of having any children. They saw colors and shapes differently, and their dreams were bizarre, but not even Freud could have understood the underlying themes that they were experiencing in their dreams.
More time passed, and eventually it became commonplace to have a chip in your head. The babies that had the chip implanted grew into their teens never quite knowing what exactly powered the Vice-Reality that they loved so much, not knowing that often times it was their own mind sitting behind the steering stick.
It was eventually instated, somewhere in the 4,000’s that everyone would have the chip implanted at birth to continue the occupation of the people, and for a very different reason: To stop crimes. No, not some “Minority Report” (#$% where we can see the future, but when monitored, the darkest thoughts come out. We would catch people after they committed the crime, not before, but the case would be built. We would use the videos they had playing in their mind against them. It’s inhumane, but I’m not here to argue that. After we filtered through the thoughts, they went out to the central mainframe, and hosted. With the right pass code, you could get into the more violent files, but we weren’t to monitor the pass codes that got out.
People put filters on their chips, eventually growing smart, but in bad areas, filters were in high demand and short order. It was easier to catch a killer in the slums than it was in Wall City, but that’s always been the order of things. Of course, there were still forensic evidence teams out there, but they were always snobby about our line of work. They spent so much time putting the case together when all we had to do is watch a video.
This does raise another question: How do we know what’s been committed and if the person is just thinking? We all have thoughts of walking into work and shooting our boss in the head, but we just don’t do it. We think about it because as a people, we’re very angry and upset and disgruntled almost all of the time, but very rarely do we actually follow through.
Thoughts of violence, rape, murder, robbery… They’re fuzzy on the screen because the person we’re monitoring doesn’t know what it’s actually like yet. Once they do the action, rob the bank, and rape the girl… The video becomes so much clearer now that they know. And they can’t hide it without a decent filter, either. Which is where the “VRS” comes in. We watch certain streams from certain areas, going between grainy thoughts and crystal clear actions. We take the number from the chip that’s uploading to the storage center, go to the location, and arrest the perp. Warrants are printed out after we’ve watched the video and called the judge… Some things never change.
As a rule, when you are instated into the VRS, you have your chip removed. We see too much violence, sex, and other unnatural things on a daily basis that no one should be forced (or privy) to see. There’s no argument about it; the chip is taken out whether you want it to be or not. You are, however, allowed to keep the chip in a clear plastic case that disarms the anti-removal device.
Back in 6,043, people were removing the chips from their skulls during back alley surgeries. People were dying, a new disease was created and if the chip wasn’t fully removed, you uploaded a video of painful surgery complete with screaming, blood, and sometimes death. The doctors wouldn’t stick around, nor were you allowed to see their face; it was a risky operation and they knew that most of the time the chip wouldn’t be removed.
So, the powers that be made an anti-removal device. You remove the chip; the chip would become “hot” and send out a signal to the VSR immediately. We show up, arrest the doctor and implant a new chip with an explosive device. If this device is removed, it explodes within ten seconds of leaving the gray matter.
As always, if you were rich enough to afford a filter, you were rich enough to muffle the signal. Some businessmen enjoyed the chip, starting financial clubs and sports betting. They enjoyed the idea that people were ‘learning’ from them.
There were, of course, divisions in the VRS. State divisions, local divisions, and our branch, the national division that dealt with serial murders or rapists. There was the odd occasion where we would be called in to deal with a robbery or a ring of thieves, but those calls were few and far between. We also did not like monitoring other countries; they all had their own VRS and often times did not need our help. Even if they did, they were usually too timid to ask.
State and local divisions very rarely dealt with obsessive murders, and thusly, their chips were left in. It created a reality show that people loved to watch, chasing down petty thieves and hitting them with their nightsticks. What a world we live in.
Let me see where this puts us… I’ve covered all the bases. So, this takes us up to last week. I was sitting in the office watching a feed from Angel City, sifting through the fuzz, trying to find a valid case. It was a slow day; Stabler was in the back watching some porn feed, although it was very, very fuzzy. More likely than not, some young gun imagining sex with his girlfriend. Stabler laughed and said something to the effect of, “He doesn’t know where to put it,” but I couldn’t be bothered. I was zoning, honing in on certain feeds. I turned the volume up on my headphones and closed my eyes.
They opened with a start, darting to one stream where in high definition; a knife was plunging into the abdomen of a young woman, once. Twice. Three times. I didn’t blink. Seventeen times, the knife went into the body, before the hand relaxed its grip and let the corpse drop to the floor. On the floor next to the body were several photographs, now stained red. I typed the feed number into the computer, taking my eyes away from the screen.
The location of the chip, the eighteen block of Angel City, Apartment 564. As the location blinked, I heard five words come out of the memory stream that chilled my spine. A voice, no older than seventeen… “I’m sorry, I have to.”
I slid the phones off of my head and threw a can at Stabler.
“Hey, we’ve got a live one in Angel City.”
Stabler grinned. “What’s it looking like?”
“Single homicide. The guy is crazy. He told the body after he stabbed it that ‘he had to.’ Clearly psychopath.”
“I thought you had something more, Matthews. Leave that for the locals. We’ve got bigger fish to worry about.”
Angler, my boss, walked through the door and Stabler quickly switched full screen to another, non-sexual feed. He watched a dog catch a Frisbee and then get hit by a car. Angler was unimpressed.
“Matthews, you have control of the squad today. I’m going home early; the missus just called and she says she wants a divorce. Gotta handle this,” he said, gently elbowing me in the ribs.
“Yeah, yeah, you always say that. Enjoy your day at the lake, *%!&@(!.”
Angler laughed and stepped back out of the office. Stabler chuckled. “You’re a shoe in for that job, man. He’s going to retire any day now, and the way he keeps putting you in charge of the squad…”
“Yeah, keep dreaming Stabler. It’s not going to happen. Don’t even want to stay in this biz any longer.” That was a blatant lie. My stomach was doing turns. I had always assumed that I would be put in charge of the National VRS, but hearing someone else, someone not me say it… That was really a trick. There wasn’t even a hint of envy in Stabler’s voice.
I turned my attention back to the screen, keeping an eye on the feed for Angel City, watching the young man wash his hands and clean the knife before sliding it into his pocket. He sighed before grabbing his coat, stepping over the body and heading out the door.
The next video was a very fuzzy series of frames. I could see someone from the VRS there talking to him, hitting him with a gun before finally firing a shot. Obviously, the kid was thinking about how much of his future he had just cut off by killing that woman and was very nervous about it. Serves him right, though. Although, one murder, not premeditated, it seems like… It would just mean prison time for him.
Now I could see why he was worried. He had the knife in hand once again, and slid it across someone’s throat. He repeated the same words again before taking off down an alley, up a fire escape and over the rooftops of several buildings. I could hear the local squad behind him before the feed cut. The kid had stamina.
“Stabler, my concern for Angel City is growing. The kid did it again.”
Stabler turned around in his chair and leaned back. “You know the rule. Three strikes, we’re out and about. Give it time. I’ll be surprised if the local doesn’t catch him.”
“I won’t. The feed just cut out. They’re going to have a hell of a time tracking him when he’s not transmitting anymore.”
Stabler dropped the can of cashews he was holding. “His feed cut out?”
I nodded. “I think it’s time to get the squad together, see what we can’t find out in Angel City.”
Arez, Junon, Stabler and I headed to the heliport. I told the rest of the squad to stay put and keep an eye on any feed coming out of Angel City and to call us if there was any news on the line. It was a two-hour flight out to the West Coast from Central Tower, but the time passed quickly.
Arez was a young woman in her twenties, the newest VRS member. She had broken several records, coming in at the top of her class at the academy. A natural talent for tracking down serial killers but was always afraid to draw her gun. She wasn’t a fighter like Stabler or me. She was the smell hound, we were the hunters.
Junon was blind in one eye, but was the best driver I had ever seen. He could take to the roads at high speeds, and even with a lack of depth perception, he could out chase any vehicle on the road. He was a god behind the steering stick of any automobile. Quite frankly, I was afraid to ride with him. Stabler always thought it was a rush to be able to go that fast and be in such caring hands, but I don’t really trust a half blind driver. Neither does Arez. When it comes to vehicular chasing, we usually stay behind and take statements.
Stabler has arrested more people than I have, which originally made me think that he’d get a promotion ahead of me. After consideration, I realized why I was a shoe in. Stabler was too quick to draw his gun, swing his fist and nullify the warrant by killing the suspect. Frowned up, yes, but reasonable. His aggressive approach led to perps being on edge, more willing to draw a blade or a gun. Stabler always had one out and was always the man left standing.
We hit the Eighteen Block of Angel City around 6:00 PM. The whirly bird landed on top of the Apartment building. We rushed down through the roof to the fifth floor, taking the steps and yelling for people to just get the hell out of our way. Stabler had his gun drawn, mine was holstered, more concerned for my footing than anything else.
We had a small argument about whether or not to shoot the door open or kick it open. Arez was the first to act, trying the doorknob. The apartment was unlocked and we stepped in.
I had seen the place before in the feed. The body was still on the ground, the blood pool beginning to dry out. I don’t know why there were no local’s on the scene; this was there scene. They should have been all over it, tagging evidence or at least getting the body to the morgue.
“This is Matthews, we need a meat wagon.”
The coroner came, pronounced the cause of death, and left. It was a very “No (#$%, you don’t say,” moment when he said she was stabbed to death. As his cohorts lifted the body into the bag and onto the stretcher, I bent down to take a look at the photos. I had no clue who the person was in the photographs. I pulled out an evidence envelope regardless and dropped the photos inside.
I was the only person outside to see the shadow move across the window and down the fire escape.
“Arez, come with me. Stabler, Junon, secure the room.”
I stepped out of the window, gun drawn, checking both up and down the escape. I saw the figure running down the alley, splashing puddles and scaling a fence. By the time Arez and I were on the ground, he was all the way down the next alley. Arez climbed the fence first. I had to give her a boost up. After I heard her land, I jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden partition. As I pulled myself up, I heard the gunshot.
I didn’t need to drop down to the other side to know that Arez was the one who had been hit. She was too nervous with her gun out, and the time for her to hit the ground, draw and fire was greater by a wide margin than the time I had just given her.
I hit the ground, looking down. Arez was slumped against the fist, her uniform soaking up blood from the wound directly below her left breast. There was a large hole in her back, the bullet being stopped by the fence.
“Arez, hang in there.”
I heard the footsteps down the alley, heard them echo down and around the corner.
“This is Matthews. Junon, get a car. Arez is hurt, bad, she needs to get to the hospital.”
I knew she wasn’t going to make it. I’d seen worse before, but not by much. The rate of blood loss was too great; even if I had managed to suture the wound close, she would have passed.
“You know I don’t like riding with him,” she gasped out, her voice quivering. She didn’t want to cry, but she did.
“Don’t worry,” I told her, crouching down. “You won’t have to.”
She smiled and coughed a tiny cough. I heard the car engine roaring down the opposite end of the alley, the headlights bathing us in a warm glow. Junon was behind the wheel, his white hair flowing behind him. His eye patch had blown off on his way down the alley. Stabler was in the front seat, cheering, but stopped when he saw how badly Arez was hurt.
Junon got out of the car and rushed over, but it was too late.
“She’s gone,” I said.
Junon frowned. “What happened?”
“I boosted her over the fence, a shot was fired, and by the time I was on the other side she had almost bled out.”
Stabler stood up in the car. “Well, where did he go?”
“I have no idea. He took off down that alley,” I motioned to the corner where I had seen the shadow move. “Let’s get her to the morgue and then figure out where exactly this guy went.”
We filled out the paperwork and we were out of the hospital by nine. We headed back to the alley where Arez was shot and took off down the offshoot. At the end, the alley joined the street in a “T” section with a bar directly in front of us. It was a good of guess as any, so we walked in. Hell, even if the kid wasn’t in there, I needed a drink.
All motion stopped when we walked in. There’s always an air of nervousness that chills the room when three VRS Officers walk in.
“Alright, everyone. We’re looking for a killer. We think he came into this bar.”
Someone called from the back, “No (#$%!”
Stabler pounced. “I may not know your face, but I’ve seen what you’ve done. Just remember that, alright?” That seemed to shut the guy up.
Junon nudged me. “Show them the pictures we found.”
I grabbed the envelope from out of my jacket, throwing the pictures down on the bar. Several people backed away from the blood-coated pictures.
“We think that this man may have something to do with the murders.”
No one moved. The bartender stood for a second, looking at the photos before speaking.
“There’s no way this guy has anything to do with any murder.”
“How do you know that,” I asked anxiously.
“That’s uh… Sammy… Sammy something or other. Inventor of the chip system.”
At the time, I had no idea what he was talking about. Junon, however, did.
“Yeah, that’s it,” the bartender said, setting down the glass that he had been nervously drying.
“Why does the kid have pictures of Samuel Jenkins?” This was strange for a number of reasons.
The voice from the back of the bar called out again. “Did you say ‘kid’?”
“There’s this kid that uses the terminal in the back all the time. He always looks (#$% up on Jenkins. A strange kid, couldn’t be more than sixteen. He’s in here all the time.”
“Was he in here tonight?”
“No, no he wasn’t.”
I walked to the back of the bar, near the terminal, where the man was sitting nervously.
“You sure he wasn’t in here?”
The man gulped, taking his hat off and nervously rubbing his bald head. “Positive. At least, not when I was in here, and I’ve been in here for… Four hours, I think.”
I nodded. “Thank you for your cooperation. Hey, Stabler, check out the computer. See if he’s done anything that’d clue us in to his location.”
Stabler began to make his way back as I wiggled the motion ball and brought the view-screen to life. There were two programs running. Stabler motioned for me to get out of the way as he set to work. Both pages were obscured by large black boxes, password protected. Stabler removed a finger-scanner from his pocket and set out to find the possible combinations of recently pressed keys.
“Stabler, everyone presses these keys all the time. This is a waste…” Junon began.
“Shut it.” Stabler pointed at the bottom of the screen. “Only one user has logged this machine today, meaning only one user… Well, has logged this machine today. I just have to figure out what keys he pressed and what order, and I should be able to… Got it.”
The page came up. It was a word-processing document that had five words evenly spaced across one line.
“I’m sorry I have to.”
The phone in my pocket began to buzz as Stabler began to work on the second program. It was Linnie from Central.
“His feed cut on and cut off again, in front of one building.”
“Angel City Library,” I heard Stabler and Linnie say simultaneously.
This was one time I wasn’t afraid to ride in the car with Junon. We took off down the street quick as we could, following old-fashioned signs into Old Angel City. The buildings were decrepit, falling apart. The school was in disarray, graffiti covering the outside of the building. The Library came into view quickly as Junon slammed on the brakes, sending the car into a wild skid, finally stopping directly in front of the front doors of the stone building. Both were wooden, but only one was open. The lights in the building were out, from what I could see.
I called Central as Stabler dug around the car for a light. “What’s the status on the warrant for this guy?”
Linnie answered. “It’s arrest only.”
I clicked my phone off. Not tonight, it wasn’t.
I pulled the flashlight off of my utility belt, tossing it to Stabler who had dropped his at some point. He took point, gun drawn, stepping into the library. The bookshelves had all been knocked over in a domino effect. Stabler walked up to the reference desk, examining the lone book that sat amongst the dust.
“It’s about Sammy Jenkins.” Stabler scanned the page. “All about how he invented the chip and his incarceration. This kid have some kind of fetish, or something?”
A cough escaped my lips, the dust in the building trying to settle in my lungs. “I don’t think we’re dealing with a kid anymore, Stabler.”
Junon heard the faint hum coming from upstairs first. The lights buzzed to life, but this noise was above the tired crackle of electricity. Junon rushed up the stairs, gun drawn, into the break room. I was directly behind him, Stabler bringing up the rear, at the same time dropping my light.
It was the Micro-Cooker that had sprung to life. Throughout the room were pictures of Jenkins, a sick timeline created. Pictures of him as a child, as a young adult… Finally, a set missing from the middle, but the pictures in my pocket matched up. This was his base of operations. Why would he lead us to the base if he wasn’t…
Junon was leaned over the microwave when it exploded. The killer had left a fork inside and set the time. I bet my bottom dollar that he was outside, standing by the generator, waiting for us to enter to start it back up. Junon fell to the ground, his stomach in pieces, trying to hold his intestines in but failing at that.
Stabler stood, open mouth, watching the event unfolds. I didn’t have time to drag him with me, I knew whoever was behind this was somewhere around the building. I followed the hum outside, tracking the generator down and frowning. This was Arez’ job.
The generator was humming beside the corner of the building, alone. I stood beside the generator and looked up at the library. He had a perfect view of us entering and he had a pervert’s eye view to the action inside the break room. Stabler ran up behind me tiredly, clutching his side.
“Well, he came back… Through the back door. Caught me by surprise… I got a shot off, though… Don’t think I hit him.” Stabler collapsed to the ground, and as I crouched over his body, examining the stab wound, I blacked out.
The killer had hit me over the head with something heavy. When I woke up, I was in the break room, staring at him. He had moved Junon’s body out of the room, but I didn’t have the energy to ask him. The back of my head was throbbing.
“Hello, Matthews. You’re not tied down; you’re not in any harm. I just want to talk.”
“Well…” I coughed. “You’ve certainly managed to get my attention.”
He smiled and turned around to face me. I expected it to be someone I knew, some shocking revelation. The most shocking thing about it was that he was a kid. Couldn’t have been more than seventeen. He had a crew cut, sandy blonde hair and freckles. There was a blue football jacked slung over one of the chairs, his braces shining in the light. His voice cracked as he began to speak.
“I take it you know about Jenkins? He created the little Godsend that we all wear. Isn’t it magical?”
“What the hell are you talking about?”
“Jenkins was a man ahead of his time, Matthews. A truly exceptional mind. You don’t see a mind like his very often… One that could conceive such an idea, but to actually make it work… That took something special. Something no one could replicate.” The kid turned around again, taking a screwdriver from the toolbox on the table.
“I don’t understand…”
“He didn’t filter the minds, he was imprisoned. He was ritually tortured, but he didn’t break. He told them if they wanted to know what was going on in the minds of men they would have to deal with their own sins. It was only when they brought his family in that he decided to create the filter.”
“What are you…”
“People assumed that he went away by himself after he made the filter, to live secluded with his family away from the corruption of the world. Common theory. No one really knows what happened to him… Well, except me.”
I knew not to ask a question when he stopped talking. He would resume. He had this rehearsed, down to a science.
“Oh, Matthews, no question?”
“Why did you… Those people?”
“I had to get the nationals on me, Matthews.”
“How do you know my name?”
“You have ID in your pocket.”
I coughed again. “Why did you need the nationals?”
“Because, Matthews, you don’t have a chip, do you? Part of the job, not having one…”
“But why me?”
“Don’t be an egotist. It didn’t have to be you. It just had to be one of you. You’re just the lucky one that survived. I’m doing this for a reason, Matthews. People have to know.”
“What do they-“
“He was one of a kind. They couldn’t let him go like that, don’t you see? They took him away.”
“How do you know that? Why do you care?”
“They took him away and they took his semen and they took his wife and they tortured him, forcing him to make upgrades, new catches… They forced him to work for them. The Government. And when he couldn’t work anymore, they shot him in the head. They shot his children, first, trying to motivate him to work harder. It didn’t work. So they shot him.”
“And then they cloned him. Oh, the technology for cloning has been around forever.”
“I know, I work for the Government… It’s just not safe for public use.”
“&*#$ it’s not! The technology was perfected well over three thousand years ago. It worked too well. They cloned Jenkins and set him to work, but he remembered everything. The torture, his children, his wife, the beatings, the rape… He remembered it all. He was a faulty sample. But they set to work again, beating him, torturing him… They even cloned his wife so they could rape her, force him to work…”
I began to feel sick to my stomach. “That’s not true.”
“It is true, Matthews. They did it for the money, to quell the masses… You just don’t realize, do you? What’s the last major play our government made?”
It could have been the fatigue or the blow to the head, but I couldn’t remember.
“Do you know why you can’t remember? They have you sitting in front of that #$#ing screen all day! That’s all anyone ever does… Read thoughts and drink beer. A life worthy of kings… All the while, the Government is running amok, unopposed, unchipped…”
“Alright! You’ve made your point… Now let me go!”
“Oh, I’m not finished with you yet, Matthews. I said you weren’t tied down, you’re not. Right now, you’re staying here of your own free will. Funny word, that… ‘Free will’. My name is Will. Strange, happy coincidence, isn’t it?”
The door was open and I got to my feet, moving towards Will. I reached for my cuffs. They were gone.
“I can’t have you arresting me, Matthews. That wouldn’t get the result I’m looking for. Please, sit down.”
I sat down in the wooden chair. Will pulled a screen down and moved over to the box he had been working on.
“This will only take a little while. And don’t blink.”
The videotape started playing and I watched the man from the photographs bent over a worktable in a solitary room. He stopped working for an instant. There was a visible buzz as the collar around his neck sprung to life. He fell to the ground, twitching, before climbing to his feet and working again. He looked seventy.
The film skipped to a young woman being raped as the man from the photographs sat wide eyed, unable to blink, his eyes being forced open by reverse clamps. A tear rolled down his cheek as his wife cried out.
There was static as the film jumped again, the picture quality becoming clearer.
“Oh God, this is…”
“That’s right, Matthews. That’s a feed. That’s someone watching all of this going on. He thinks he has a filter in. He doesn’t, and it’s being sent directly to Jenkins computer. Funny, isn’t it?”
The film stopped. “It goes on like this for thousands of years, Matthews. Just like that. Torture, rape, electrocution, throw the body away, start the clone again… But each new clone remembers everything. He remembers… Everything. Jenkins has lived through five thousand years of torture. The sole purpose of his wife was to be raped… That kind of tortured existence… Inhuman.”
“How did you find out about…”
“A mind like Jenkins only comes around every so often… And in a place like this world, that mind is lost to drugs and crime. I was lucky. I did research. They call me a cracker, not because of the color of my skin but because I could remotely access any file that my imagination wanted… And one day, I was reading about the creation of the chip. On a lark, I did a search for Jenkins and found his personal computer still running. I accessed the files… You’ve seen part of it.”
Will pressed another button. Jenkins appeared on the screen, talking. “Kill me. Please… Kill me… This has gone on… Too long.”
I heard another voice on the film. “Don’t worry, Samuel. We’ll kill you.”
“Don’t bring me back, please…”
There was no answer for that, save for the gunshot that ripped through his head. Jenkins appeared on screen again, older… One of his clones. “Kill me. Please… Just do it…”
“Don’t worry, Samuel… I’ll kill you.”
“Don’t bring me back, please.”
It continued for thirty minutes.
“You’ve just watched Sammy get shot a hundred times… That’s only three thousand of the five thousand years he’s been here, off somewhere on a remote island working on this.”
My stomach turned. “What does this have to do with…”
“With you? Oh, well… The nationals don’t have chips. My warrant is arrest only, correct?”
“If you fail to fill out the warrant in the specified manner, you’ll go before a tribunal and a jury trial. Abuse of Power, correct? Is that the right clause? The case, it will be dismissed, but you have something very important.”
“What are you getting at?”
“While you were out, I put a chip back in. It’s sending to this computer in the corner over here. Years of a misspent youth.”
“So, wait, I have to-“
“You have to tell your side of this to the jury. Make my voice heard. If you scream loud enough, people will listen.”
The feed cut back on in Central at this point. They saw clearly me draw my gun and me shoot an unarmed suspect. I was brought in, detained, stripped of my badge, awaiting courtroom procedure. I “Stablered” it, as it were.
The camera light is blinking now. The tape is running out, but it doesn’t matter. The jury is sitting on the other side of that wall, watching my testimony on the TV. Everything I’ve just said, they’ve listened to.
I’m representing myself, and I’m about to introduce a new piece of evidence. I could get the case dismissed; I could go back to being a VR Officer… But somewhere, in some remote location, a man is begging to be killed for the last time.
I grab my laptop and boot up the video, complete with explanation from Will’s chip. The streaming video from my mind begins. It’ll blow them away.
If anyone really cares, it’ll blow them all away.
And Jenkins will finally be able to rest.