In which Goodson Grimmer levies his own breed of justice upon Mr. Masterson–and is duly rewarded for his efforts.
Or perhaps Masterson did see, for on the Teleflex™ screens the distorted image of him grew larger as I closed in. He watched mutely. Bigger and bigger he grew as I approached. He lifted his hand, waved. The image did likewise. Then he froze. Perhaps he realized in those last moments that this was well and truly the end of the line. Or perhaps he was pleased by what he saw: himself, larger than life, handsome with rime and wisdom. Perhaps he simply couldn’t reconcile the fact that he was now the target of wrathful humanity.
Regardless, he made no move as I hit him on the head. He fell to the ground and lay there at my feet, stunned. On the screen, he had ceased to exist.
This type of truncheon was designed years ago by the firm State Solutions to address the difficulty of peace-keeping. A microprocessor in the hilt registers the brain impulses of the target. When synaptic flashes have slowed down to mostly Beta Waves—indicating unconsciousness—the truncheon will no longer operate. By using the same technology that allows ClingForm™ uniforms to adapt to an individual’s musculature, the truncheon literally “dances” away from a Criminal who has been rendered unconscious, thereby precluding excess of force.
I understood and respected this stopgap measure: Riot Police should not be allowed to engage in indiscriminate killing of Civilians in the culling of Criminals. Yet at that moment it provided an obstacle to my own ends. I would have to finish the job the old fashioned way.
I reached down and grabbed Masterson by the throat. My smooth, engineer’s hands seemed pallid against the well-tanned face of the mad man.
I pressed my thumbs into the soft flesh abuts his Adam’s apple.
He awoke. Gasped.
“Why? We were going to give you everything…”
I squeezed. The truncheon had disabled his nervous system, paralyzing him. Though conscious and staring wildly, his body was limp, limp as a fish on the deck of a ship stunned by a club. Limp as a potted plant bereft of water, drooping ineffectually beneath the gargantuan artificial light of the State’s Solar Proxy.
“I. Earned. This.” I squeezed. And I squeezed to throttle him `til his head was fit to pop off. At the end, his eye, his perfectly affixed right eye, rolled to the side like a ship listing in a storm. When I lay his dead head back, I tilted it to one side. No one need know of his lazy eye: this intransigent organ, this disgusting imperfection. In this day and age, such a deformity is either a fault of indigence or a vanity of wealth.
I stood and walked to the hatch. The pounding had subsided. Now I could hear the low creaking of the wheel. They would soon; these other Prospective Jurors would learn that I was the one who had won the Competition, as fierce as it had been. And my father and his fellow Adjudicators? They would never tell a soul what had happened to Judge Seagram, the founder of this brilliant, diabolical, and ludicrous system. Why should they? They had never told a soul before.
The hatch opened. The first Prospective—but I really should stop calling them that. After all the competition is over. It’s more appropriate to refer to them as Failed Prospective Jurors, a mouthful, I concede, yet eminently more appropriate—the first of these poor, piteous creatures crawled through the hatchway into the room. Strangely he did not seem to be bothered by inundation of light. He raised his head and though he looked directly at me it was as if he couldn’t see me. Behind and below was the genius of desperation: to climb the chimney these pitiful Failed Prospective Jurors had clambered atop one another, forming a pillar, not of salt, but of writhing bodies. And there was something strangely, marvelously insect like about the way the first of these Failed Jurors (though he has reached this sanctum, he has lost, I really should tell him, should I not?) crawled on his hands and knees towards me.
Why don’t you stand up? Why don’t you remove your goggles? Isn’t the light blinding you?
I coughed and for the second time that day my nerves almost failed me.
“I’ve won,” but my words lacked gravitas, even I must admit that, and sounded as much question as statement. To this man, and the other Failed Jurors who now boiled through the hatch (not one removing their goggles, not one coming to their feet but preferring instead to crawl on all fours—perhaps they no longer remembered how to walk upright, as men once did.) To this man and his fellows, my words might as well have been the sighing of wind through trees, an empty testament to a human condition, felled, like a forest, to those who had shredded themselves of their humanity.
And then they fell upon me.