Friday, January 27, 2012


“There is no such thing as free will. It is a construct used to justify the creation of an environment that encourages so-called choices that benefit society. We punish wrong-doers, not because they made the wrong choices, but by doing so, others will be dissuaded from pursuing similar acts.” The woman who spoke looked down a very straight nose with very blue eyes at the new officers. Her eyes pierced through their hearts in a glance, as if she knew exactly what they were thinking.

No one dared to look away, even as she turned to the left to pace down an aisle between the desks. “No doubt you’ve been told otherwise, but scientifically, we are nothing but a group of programmed cells, reacting to an environment for self-preservation. There is only nature and nurture. Any aberration from ideal behavior is a unfit mutation set to be culled from the flock.” As she drew nearer, every heart beat quicker, hoping that lethal gaze would not linger too long on them.

She returned to the front. “We control the human species, officers. Under common consent, we control. We are not a dictatorship. We are not a eugenics program. We walk proudly in the street, and the people salute us, for they know we are responsible for improving the human species, and, by extension, the Earth.”

Clifford Short twitched his pen and suddenly found himself at the receiving end of that black glare.  His mind went fuzzy. His stomach dropped. Every molecule of water evaporated from his tongue in a second. That moment of silence in which she did not but stare lasted an eternity and a half. However, the second passed. She continued.

“When you put on your badges today for the first time, you will not leave this building as mere figure heads of safety. You will leave as beacons of right and honor. You are the reason people let their children play in the streets without fear. You possess the power to shape this city into a more perfect place. Let this show in your actions. You are no longer an individual, but part of the true protector of society. You are now part of the Service Corps. Congratulations.”

Clifford didn’t think anyone breathed until Director Graham had left the room. Then there were the jitters, as people tried to make light of the situation so full of utter depth and undeniable solemnity. One such person was Gertie Gwinn on Cliff’s right. “Not to put any pressure on us, of course,” she smiled, elbowing him lightly as they stood up to leave.

“Don’t worry, she always gives that spiel,” Craig Deering said as the two reached the door, more directing his comment at Clifford whose face was still startlingly pale. Craig’s deep, dulcet tones had the remarkable ability to calm, and Cliff found the strength to smile a bit as Craig gave both Gertie and him their new badges.  “Director Graham gave away her soul for the Service Corps. The recruits that she mentors always end up being the most lifeless, logical brutes to touch the force. Never the type of people you could have a beer with, but the people you are glad are working on your side. Luckily, you guys got me.”

“I’m not sure how much luck has to do with it when I wrote emails every single day for the last six months petitioning to serve under you, Officer Deering. When I heard about the raid in New South Valley all those years ago, you became my hero. It’s the reason I came to the force,” Gertie said, showing each one of her white teeth.

“Hey, call me Craig. We’re all officers now. That raid was the work of a team of many talented individuals. Those papers always blow everything out of proportion, Gertie,” Craig said modestly.

Gertie beamed magnificently. “So, are we going to start our shifts? We patrol the area around 20th east and 60th south, yes?” Gertie bounced on her heels as they made to their way to the squad car as she talked animatedly, involving both her hands and all her fingers.

“Excited much?” Craig grinned, pausing Gertie in some convoluted gesture.

“I’m sorry,” Gertie said, dropping her hands to her side and attempting to stay flatfooted. It seemed she was incapable of not smiling however.

“No, no. Excitement’s good. This is the first day of the rest of your lives, so might as well be excited for it. Cliff here could take a leaf or two out of your book,” Craig said, elbowing Clifford good-naturedly. Cliff smiled, but it was a gross imitation in comparison to Gertie’s ear-to-ear, full-bodied, cheek-aching grin.

“Did you know that the Service Corps was started a hundred years ago today during the Golden Revolution? That’s why I’ve been working day and night to graduate early. I wanted to be part of the centennial class. Before that, did you know they had people called police who weren’t so well-organized and ended up being a lot of power-hungry, bribe-taking hooligans?” Gertie asked in a fluster of words. She attempted to moderate her energetic quick-stepping by taking two step forwards and one step back, just keeping the pace of Cliff and Craig.

“Hey, my great-great grand father was part of those power-hungry, bribe-taking hooligans,” Craig said, smiling. It was hard to take offense when the speaker was bubbling with good will.

“Oh, no. I didn’t mean your relative. I just meant that a lot of them were back then, before we got society straight, you know? People were crazy back then. My grandmother told me that her family used to ask some god to make their food safe before they ate it, like the devil would poison it if they didn’t. Then, rich, dumb but eloquent people were always campaigning for years as politicians, making money off of poor people and being bribed by corporations. Did you know the taller presidential almost always won back then because people thought he looked more like an authority figure?” Gertie asked.

“I do now, Gertie. I swear, by the time this shift ends, I’ll know the whole history of the States,” Craig said.

They all got into the squad car as Gertie continued. “But, I guess politics is a difficult business, especially democracy, unless you have a very educated populace capable of critical thinking. Back then, they educated by a lecturer just saying the material to the students and expecting them to regurgitate it for a test, so very few got the critical thinking thing.

“One of the main precursors no one really talks about to the Golden Revolution is the online ThinkTank. Young adults got on there and would use the Socratic method, debate, and group problem solving to work through difficult problems of the day. All the Authors, like Stott and Sweeney and Alldredge were there on the boards,” Gertie said, listing the originators of the Golden Revolution out on her fingers. “Oh, and Graham. He was there too.”

“I don’t think I’ve heard of ThinkTank,” Craig said.

“I have,” Cliff said quietly. “I read this conspiracy theory about it once, how the people there were just trying to take over the world and have power. How they just thought they knew better than everyone, so they wanted to control them. It said that’s why there are so many Stotts, Sweeneys, Alldredges, and Grahams in power.”

“That’s ridiculous,” Gertie said sharply.

“I never said I believed it. You can find books about everything. I mean, there are books about fairies and magic,” Cliff whispered, shrinking into his seat.

“Well, the theory is completely illogical. The Authors restored democracy. The only reason so many of them stayed in positions of authority is because of genetics. If you have all the right mutations to make you a competent leader and you combine his or her DNA with someone’s whose is likewise mutated, then you are more likely than not going to get offspring that are competent leaders,” Gertie quickly countered.

“Code five on thirtieth and fiftieth. Squad Thirty-Seven, as closest unit, please respond,” the onboard computer chirped.

“Look likes some guttersnipe’s found a gun. Stay on your toes, keep calm, and follow my lead,” said Craig calmly as he took a sharp left, slamming Gertie and Cliff right into their restraints.

“Ooh, a code five: threatened use of a restricted weapon against a citizen or citizens. Those are rare now. They only account for one out of several thousand call-ins,” Gertie said excitedly. “Did you know that before the anti-homicide curriculum in schools, there used to be twenty murders for every hundred thousand people a year? Now, there hasn’t been a murder in seven years. There was a maiming last year, but that person was from one of those Preserve for Poor Genetics. They shut down the whole facility after that fiasco.”

Gertie was leaning out the windows, attempting to get an eager glimpse of the action. Cliff was much more reasonable in his hesitation. Weapons were very dangerous. He didn’t want to get killed. However, one look at the proud badge on his chest, and he found his courage. With a solemn face, he matched Gertie in peering out.

There was a man in the middle of the street. He was waving a silver object frantically. There was a woman hanging on his arm, sobbing inconsolably.

“This is the Service Corps. Put down your weapon. I repeat, put down your weapon, or we will request authorization to use lethal force,” Craig said calmly into a microphone that boomed into the street, reverberating off the close-packed buildings.

The man, who had very light hair and eyes, turned them towards the car. Those eyes rolled manically, looking this way and that. He yelled something incomprehensible and sent a barrage of bullets against the bullet-proof glass.

“Cliff, get the woman. Gertie  come with me.  We will attempt to subdue him,” Craig said. “Cliff, keep low and keep calm. He fired, which means he is volatile. However, it is unlikely that he will shoot at a human.”

Cliff and Gertie, for once solemn, nodded. Quickly, they fell out of opposite sides of the car, running in crouches towards benches and mailboxes for cover as a spray of bullets met them.

Cliff looked at Gertie’s and Craig’s focused faces peaking over a perforated mailbox. Craig said something to Gertie, then locked eyes with Cliff. Craig nodded once, and Cliff knew exactly what to do.

Craig stood up in the open as Cliff  ran towards the woman. Cliff addressed the man directly, without a trace of fear even as the gun was directed at his chest by a shaking arm. “Citizen of the Federal States. You are ordered to put down your weapon immediately.”

The man made a noise, his gun positively jumping in his grip now. Cliff reached the woman who was weakened in her continual display of emotion, and he easily pulled her off and into cover. Craig continued so smoothly in his speech, that the man’s eyes did not waver from Craig’s own.  “You are in direct violation of Code Eleven of the Lawful Citizen Conduct Code. If you surrender now, it is possible for you to enrolled in a PPG.”

The woman was regain energy and fought desperately with Cliff as he tried to restrain her in a bear hug. “Please, let me go. I have to help him. I have to go to him. Chris!” she yelled.

Craig ignored her, continuing. “If you do not-” An explosion drowned out Craig’s words as he stumbled back, blood pouring from his chest like warm ketchup out of a squeeze bottle.

It wasn’t real. It was just like in the old movies Cliff would sometimes watch. It had to be. People weren’t shot in real life.

The woman dissolved in fresh tears. “No, Chris. You stupid, stupid, boy.”

Gertie pulled the man to the safety of the mailbox, but there were no more shots. Instead, the man dropped to his knees. “Gladys?” he yelled, eerily calm, looking around. “Where are you Gladys?”

“Please, let go of me. He needs me,” The woman, Gladys, begged, pulling on Cliff’s shirt front.

“Cliff, second me,” Gertie said coolly from across the street, pulling out her weapon.

“What?” Cliff said, having difficulty processing the situation.

“Please, oh, please. He can be good. It’s just his parents. His family was real bad, but we’re working through it together. Please, let me go to him,” Gladys said, twisting her hands around Cliff’s arms.

“Under Article IX of the Service Corps Code, I am authorized to use lethal force if and only if I have the second of another attending officer. Second me, now. We need this over with,” Gertie said quickly, irritation edging into her voice.

“Please, for the love of God, let me help him. He’s been so good. See, he’s putting down his gun. Please, don’t kill him. It’s my fault, but I can change him. I can help him choose to be good,” Gladys cried.

There is no such thing as free will.

Gladys’s shirt was as soaked in tears as Craig’s was in blood. It seemed so incredibly red, as if someone had splashed paint on him. His twitching limbs betrayed the otherwise seemingly innocuous stain.

Gertie’s arms were straight out in front of her as they held her service piece, calmly pointed at Chris, who now sat in the street. The man, no, the boy (he couldn’t have been more than sixteen) without comprehension looked at the gun to the smear of red on the pavement from where Gertie had dragged Craig.

It is a construct used to justify the creation of an environment that encourages so-called choices that benefit society.

“Officer Short, I am demanding you give me permission under Article IX of the Service Corps Code or be reported as being unresponsive in the field of duty and endangering the life of a fellow officer,” Gertie yelled.

We punish wrong-doers, not because they made the wrong choices, but by doing so others will be dissuaded from pursuing similar acts.

“Please,” Gladys whispered. She touched Cliff’s face tenderly, looking at the broken boy in the street. “Please don’t kill my cousin.”

Chris’s brow was furrowed, as an inkling of comprehension began to show in the twitch of his shoulders.

We are nothing but a group of programmed cells, reacting to an environment for self-preservation.

“Officer Short, ” Gertie ordered. “Respond now.”

Any aberration from ideal behavior is a unfit mutation set to be culled from the flock.

In the reflective spheres of Gladys’s tear-ridden eyes, Cliff saw himself. He saw his own face, curiously emotionless. He saw the badge pinned on his chest where brass lettering spell out the six years of his life he had spent training for this day. He saw all of the Service Corps. He saw all of society. He saw Director Graham’s eyes digging into his own.


There was two clear, succinct gun shots and a heavy thud of a body hitting the ground. The silence that followed resounded in Cliff’s bones. Gladys did not make any noise, but fell limp in Cliff’s arms, tears paused in their tracts.

Gertie did not spare a look towards Cliff. She turned away from the body who she had shot and toward Craig’s, whose chest still gently hummed with life. She retrieved the small medkit each officer was required to wear from her person and set to applying its contents with strict efficiency.

Cliff stood up, dragging Gladys with him who was limp in his arms. “You will be required to present your testimony in the Federal States Court. I will momentarily escort you to the Service Corps Station so that your testimony may be recorded in the most efficient and detailed manner possible. You are allowed to petition for legal advice at any point after you have given your testimony.” The words came from Cliff’s mouth, but he didn’t think he said them. No, the person who said them was a very different person that Cliff.

It was a person built inside of Cliff by his teachers, his parents, and his friends. It was a person created by society to make the decisions it made him make. It was a person that had been replicated many times over.

You are no longer an individual, but part of the true protectors of society.

Cliff fell silent and mute, numb to his surroundings. However, a new officer stood straight and upright as Squad Four came from the Upper Side with an ambulance. This new officer calmly detailed the rights of a Miss Gladys, who heard nary a word as her glazed eyes focused solely on the dead body of her cousin.

This officer met Officer Gwinn, who gave him a smile. “Sorry, for yelling at you, but you were out of it for a second. Craig’s gonna be fine, it only grazed him. He says he’ll help us file all the paperwork for this as soon as they let him out of the hospital. Crazy first day though, right? A code five that actually escalated into a maiming.” Gertie whistled. “Something to talk about around the water cooler, that’s for sure.”

Cliff watched the medical examiners stuffing the body into the back of the van as the cleaners already began scrubbing blood off the street, as easily as if it had been ketchup or paint. Their brushes and high powered hoses were as abrasive as their personalities were light. They joked and laughed with ease as the blood gradually withdrew its claim.

Just as quietly, Cliff withdrew his claim on his soul. Instead, someone else took control. Someone who understood genetics and democracy and education much, much better than Cliff. Someone who was a much better officer, a much better person than Cliff.

You are now part of the Service Corps.

The officer turned his back on the blood and the body. He grinned to match Gertie. “Yep, I bet even Cecil won’t be able to top this.”


No comments:

Post a Comment