Preordained

Copyright © Mark Langenhoven 

Chapter 1

I'm sure glad I don't have to tell this poor sucker that his buddy murdered him last week. Sergeant MacGruder couldn't help wondering to himself how these crimes still occurred in this day and age.

Carefully placing a rubber band around the folders to protect the contents, he quickly distributed the folders according to the names printed on each one.

At the office with the door marked "Detective Matthew Jenkins", MacGruder dropped three folders into the blue plastic in-tray perched precariously on the corner of the desk. The stocky man behind the desk smiled and reached for the folders eagerly and managed to grab the first one before it settled properly in the tray. Looking at the case name typed on the cover below his name he grunted and cast the folder aside and grabbed the next one. His eyes lit up when he saw the title and he ripped the rubber band off and started reading the report inside.

Case type: Primary: Murder - 1st degree
Secondary: Breaking and Entering

Motive: Greed

Victim:
Name - Samuel Rogers
Age - 32
Marital status - Married (Wife's Name: Joanne)
Children - One (Name(s): Janet)
Address - 16 Kilbart Ave, Jonesville

Perpetrator:
Name - Anthony Wood
Age - 27
Marital status - Single
Children - None
Address - 132 Panorama St., Jonesville

Crime description:

The perpetrator entered the house of the victim at approximately 19:20 on the evening of 16 June. The perpetrator was surprised by the victim while removing electronic equipment from the victim's house. The perpetrator then beat the victim repeatedly over the head with a blunt object. After rendering the victim unconscious, the perpetrator removed the rest of the electronic equipment (See Appendix A for a complete list.) from the victim's house and left at approximately 19:45. The victim died of head wounds sustained during the struggle at 19:52.

Jenkins closed the folder and leaned back in his chair with a satisfied smile on his face. This was the biggest case that the Jonesville police had handled in three years. During that time the only violent crime that had taken place had been a bar room fight where one of the participants got stabbed. Jenkins was sure that he would make it to Chief if he concluded this case well. He did not need to look through the rest of the file as he knew all the facts off by heart already. The psychology reports and the computer analyses were verified and properly documented. The court would not be able to drop this case on a technical error. Not one committed by him at any rate. Glancing at his watch, he decided that it was time to visit the crime scene. Grabbing his windbreaker from the back of his chair, he walked out to the back and booked out a pool car. Driving out of the parking lot he had to consciously restrain himself from rushing. The adrenaline was pumping through him so much that his hands were visibly shaking. Forcing his excitement under control, he managed to keep below the speed limit all the way to the listed address.

The house looked much like the rest of them in the neighbourhood - neat, medium-sized and set back to display a nice piece of lawn in the front. No outward indications of the vicious activities that had taken place here were visible to the outside world. Parked across the street he was immediately able to see when a white Toyota pulled into the driveway and park in the garage. He gave the occupants a couple of minutes to get inside and settle down before levering himself out of the car.

A woman in a dark corporate suit opened the door after the doorbell had finished echoing down the passage. 'Mrs. Rogers?'
'Yes.'
'I am Detective Matthew Jenkins. May I come in please?'
Mrs. Rogers stepped aside and pointed to the lounge visible through an arch off to the right in the passage. Her husband came through and introduced himself as well. After they were seated, Jenkins produced the file.
'What can we do for you, Detective?'
Jenkins dropped the file on the floor in his surprise and quickly picked it up again without losing eye contact with Mrs. Rogers. Sitting back he carefully scanned her eyes to see if she was trying to con him into something. Not being able to detect anything from her or her husband, he opened the file for some moral support. 'Actually Mrs. Rogers I came around to tell you that we found your husband's murderer.'
She looked visibly distressed at this, and Rogers even more so. 'My husband's murderer! I wasn't aware that he had been murdered. When did it happen?'
'What! Who killed me? Why?'
Jenkins, who was totally flustered at this stage, looked around the room and saw the TV and hi-fi standing in one corner on a smart stand. 'You mean that nobody has come around to tell you about the crime yet?'
Both of them shook their heads mutely. Jenkins stood up and dropped two pages from his file again. Picking them up he backed away to the door. 'I am terribly sorry. I will sort this out and get back to you tomorrow. Please forgive me.'
Getting back into the car, he saw that the onboard computer had printed out a speeding fine for him. Cursing to himself, he swiped his bank card through the slot to pay it and squealed away from the kerb exceeding the speed limit before he reached the first corner.

Chapter 2

Dumping the file on his Chief's desk he slumped into the available chair. 'Please explain to me how the biggest case that we have seen here in three years has just been botched up.'

Chief Lawless gave Jenkins a questioning look, so Jenkins related the sequence of events that had taken place at the Rogers' home. After he had finished, Lawless picked up the phone and dialled a number. 'Good morning. This is Chief Lawless from Jonesville. May I speak to Val Philips in "Crime and Evidence" please?'

While the background muzak was playing Lawless cupped his hand over the mouthpiece and nodded to Jenkins. 'We'll be able to sort this out right away.'
'Philips, Crime and Evidence, how can I help you?'
'Hi Val, it's Tim here how are you?'
After some small talk Lawless got right down to it. 'Val, I hope you can help me here. We had a serious crime committed out here. Our detective just went out to the scene and found that none of the items on the crime scene had been removed for evidence yet and the victims had not been properly informed. Thus it would appear that your guys have not been around to the house yet.'
'Hold on a second Tim. Give me the case number then I will look it up on my computer.'
'Cee-twelve-slash-nineteen-stroke-dee'
In the background Lawless could hear Philips typing away at her computer. 'Sorry Tim, but that instruction only came through this morning. I have a team scheduled to go out there tomorrow morning.'
'How can that be? We have been investigating this case for three weeks already.'
'Sorry Tim, but if it is not in the computer then I wouldn't know about it. It seems like there was a bit of a glitch in the computer communications.'
'OK Val, thanks for your effort. I will send my guy out with your team tomorrow morning.'
Putting the phone back on the cradle Lawless rested his elbows on the desk. 'Have we had problems like this before?'
Jenkins shook his head.
'Have they upgraded or modified the computer system lately?'
Another shake of the head. 'Not as far as I am aware.'
Lawless continued looking puzzled. 'We better get the computer guys to check it out to make sure that it doesn't happen again. In the meantime, however, you can continue and go out with the C and E team tomorrow morning.'
'I hope this doesn't damage my case in court.'
'No as long as you first let the C and E guys do their bit tomorrow morning, then the prior sequence of events won't be too serious.'
'I hope you are right.'

Chapter 3

The next morning Jenkins was waiting at the same spot on the road when he spotted the yellow Crime and Evidence van coming down the road. They turned into the driveway and stopped in front of the garage. Jenkins chatted to them for a few minutes before leading them to the door which was opened before he could ring the bell. Jenkins introduced Mrs. Rogers to the team leader. They went through to the lounge again and found Mr. Rogers sitting on a couch. 'Mr. Rogers, this is Cathy Wilson the team leader for the Crime and Evidence team. She will need to sort out a few details with you and remove any evidence pertaining to the crime.'
Rogers barely glanced at her.
'I must apologise for the way things happened yesterday but we had a bit of a computer malfunction.'
Rogers nodded again in understanding. Jenkins nervously cleared his throat before continuing. 'Normally the crime and evidence team would handle this but as I am present they have authorised me to continue.' Jenkins cleared his throat and proceeded in the most formal tone of voice that he could muster. 'I am sorry to inform you that you were murdered three days ago.'
For the first time Rogers spoke. 'Was it that punk Pitman? He has been trying to get my job for months now.'
Jenkins unnecessarily referred to his notes and shook his head. 'No, I'm afraid that it was a chap by the name of Anthony Wood.'
Rogers looked at Jenkins in surprise. 'But that is impossible. He is my best friend.'
'We have found that friends are often the worst perpetrators. You may look through the relevant sections of my file if you want. The evidence is quite conclusive.'
Looking over his shoulder he noticed the C & E team still standing around awkwardly. 'Would you mind if these guys removed all the stolen items for evidence so that they can be on their way?'
Mrs. Rogers looked around the room frantically. 'Tony stole our stuff as well. Why? He has much better things than we do.'
Jenkins shrugged his shoulders and pointed Cathy towards the TV. She produced a clipboard and ticked off items as they were removed. Once the last of the electronic items had been removed, the corner of the lounge looked positively bare.
'The court date has been set for Monday, so it shouldn't take too long to get your things back again. I hope that it is not too much of an inconvenience.'
Cathy Wilson stepped up to Rogers with a form on a clipboard. 'Could you please sign this for me?'
Rogers looked at the paper in bewilderment. 'What is this?'
'It is a temporary death certificate. You will complete a similar form reinstating your living status once the trial is completed. In the meantime this ensures that you cannot leave the country. On the upside, however, you don't pay any tax while you are dead either.' Wilson's effort at lightening the situation failed miserably.
Rogers still looked dazed but signed the form and handed it back Wilson. He turned to Jenkins. 'Have you arrested Tony yet?'
'No. I am going to arrest him right now.'
'Can I come with please?'
'I'm afraid that is out of the question sir. You will not be allowed to speak to him until after the court hearing.'
'In that case please ask him why he did it.'
'I'm afraid that I am not allowed to ask him that as it could interfere with his legal rights, but it will all come out in court.'
Leaving the house, Jenkins couldn't shake an uneasy feeling that was slowly building up inside him. Unfortunately he couldn't decide what was causing the feeling and therefore put it to the back of his mind.

Chapter 4

The head office of the Santinisti Corporation was located on a lush piece of real estate near the centre of town. Evidence of the corporation's massive assets could be seen in the fact that the building was placed in the middle of park-like surroundings despite the prohibitive cost of land in this area. Jenkins parked in the underground visitors parking area after signing in with a guard. On the way to the elevators he stopped to admire a brand new sky-blue Bronco. This one was kitted out with the full "sport pack". Hopefully, once he got promoted he would be able to afford one as well. It had been a dream car for a long time. After a last longing look, he walked over and pressed the elevator button.
The elevator doors opened to reveal a triple volume entrance hall resplendent in wood panelling and huge windows. A pretty receptionist sat behind an empty desk and smiled as he approached.
'I would like to see Mr Wood please. My name is Matthew Jenkins. I am a detective with the Jonesville police.'
The secretary nodded and carried on looking at him as she spoke. 'Mr Wood. There is a detective Jenkins here to see you.'
It took Jenkins a couple of seconds to notice the muted touch-sensitive screen built in flush with the surface of the desk. The tiny microphone at the side of her head was almost not noticeable either. Smiling at her self-consciously he silently breathed a sigh of relief that he had not looked over his shoulder to see if Wood was standing behind him.
Flashing him another smile she directed him to Wood's office on the eight floor.

'Mr Anthony Wood?'
A skinny, bearded, man behind the desk nodded at Jenkins and stretched out his hand. 'Yes detective. What can I do for you?'
Jenkins decided to get right to the point. 'I am here to arrest you for the murder of Samuel Rogers.'
Wood was visibly startled, but Jenkins was getting used to people being startled by him. 'Why would I want to kill Sam? He is my best friend.'
'Mr. Wood, the evidence is quite conclusive. You will have a chance to peruse it on Monday in court.'
For a few moments Wood simply sat and stared at Jenkins with a funny grin on his face. 'I see. So there is nothing I can do about it until Monday?'
'No, I'm afraid not. In fact I will have to take you into custody until then.'
'Could I finish off a couple of things in the office before we left?'
'Of course. I have all day at my disposal. You can take an hour or two to wrap things up quickly.'
Jenkins sat and sipped some tea while Wood phoned and made arrangements with various people for his absence. He was a bit surprised by Wood's reaction, as he seemed to be very sure that he had not done anything wrong. Normally the perpetrators appeared to expect the police when they arrived. Afterwards they walked down and Jenkins drove them down to the police station.
Jenkins personally booked Wood in, administering the polygraph tests and computer scans before settling Jenkins into the single jail cell available at the police station.
Over the weekend Jenkins popped in on Wood a number of times like a nervous mother. He didn't want anything to happen before the trial started.

Chapter 5

Monday morning saw them all gathered at the court buildings before nine am to register the case. After the registration was completed and a lawyer had been assigned to defend Wood, they walked into the courtroom. At this stage Jenkins' involvement would be restricted solely to giving evidence. He would, however, stay for the duration of the case as he wanted to follow everything.

The prosecutor, Janet Trim, stood up to present evidence first. Trim was well known for her courtroom victories and Jenkins was glad that she had been assigned to the case. He was not aware of it, but Trim had asked for the case herself. This case was being used to push many careers in Jonesville upwards. 'The state has conclusive proof that the defendant, Mr. Anthony Wood, broke into and entered the home of Mr Samuel Rogers on 16 June.

Afterwards he removed various items from the Rogers' house. During this process he was surprised by Mr. Rogers. A fight ensued and Mr. Wood murdered Mr. Rogers by hitting him repeatedly over the head with a blunt object.'

So far it was a simple summary of the case. Nothing new, but it was essential to get the groundwork laid down properly. Trim continued to give times of each activity and listed the items that had been stolen. These would be produced in court later by the crime and evidence department. After she had finished, it was the turn of the defence. This had been left to Frank T. Tolby. Tolby was quite new on the scene and had not defended such a large case yet, so nobody was too sure how he would do.

Tolby surprised everybody by being, seemingly, very well prepared on such short notice. 'The defence contends that the evidence is not as conclusive as the prosecution maintains. We have in our possession dispatch dates for the Jonesville police and the crime and evidence teams. It would appear that the police were on the scene before the evidence had been removed. Thus they acted before the proof had arrived. The defence suggests that the Jonesville police are trying to push this case through now to cover up any embarrassment on their part.'

Trim rose from her chair and continued smoothly as if she had been expecting just this to happen. In all probability she had prepared for this happening, as the prosecution was able to access information on the investigation from day one, whereas the defence was only appointed once a charge was laid.
'The prosecution agrees that the sequence of events in this case did deviate somewhat from the usual procedures. This was caused by a computer communications error. However, this does not detract from the fact that an order did reach the crime and evidence department to remove the evidence. The detective went back with the crime and evidence team the next day and only then informed Mr. Rogers of the crime as is required by the law. This shows that the proof was conclusive enough to warrant an order and the evidence is in fact in the C and E warehouse right now.'

Judge Mills nodded and motioned for Trim to take her seat again. 'We will continue tomorrow at nine with the evidence. Court adjourned!'

Chapter 6

The next morning the prosecution produced all the items removed from the Rogers' house. Trim was in full swing. 'The prosecution states that the defendant removed these items from the Rogers' house after seeing them during visits to the house. It was his lust and greed for these items which drove the defendant to commit these crimes.'

Tolby rose with a faint smirk on his face. 'We would like to introduce as evidence similar items to those removed from the Rogers' house. These items belong to Mr Wood and were removed from his house yesterday by the C & E team.'

Judge Mills nodded and Tolby motioned for the evidence to be brought in. He supervised the placement of each item placing Wood's TV next to the Rogers' TV and so forth. Standing back, he pretended to stare at the collection for a while and then addressed the judge again. 'Your honour, it is clear to everybody in this courtroom that the items removed from Mr Wood's home are at least four times as expensive as any item removed from the house of Mr Rogers. If this is not immediately evident to anybody, then I have valuations of all the items available.'

Tolby reached over to his desk and picked up a pile of papers and held them aloft for all to see. 'Why would anybody who owns a 74cm TV with full surround sound want to steal a 37cm TV with only mono sound ability?'

Tolby raised his shoulders and arms dramatically to indicate that he could not think of any reason why somebody would want to steal something to downgrade their living standard.

Trim, as unflappable as ever, rose. 'We agree it looks a bit preposterous, your honour, if you simply take into account the monetary value of the items. Mr. Wood obviously took more than that into account. He was a collector of electronic items. Would the court like a list of all the electronic items found in Mr Wood's house?'

Holding up a fistful of closely typed pages she waved them at the judge and the defence. Nobody seemed willing to accept the list which was just as well as they only contained her notes for the case. Smiling to nobody in particular Trim continued. 'Obviously Mr Wood did not steal these items out of need which makes the crime even more despicable.'

As Tolby did not respond to this, the judge motioned for Trim to call her first witness. After Jenkins was sworn in Trim approached him and started her questioning. 'Detective Jenkins could you please take us through the case step-by-step and explain the detective work that went into it.'
Jenkins nodded and opened his file resting on his knee in case he needed to refer to some notes. He doubted it though, as he had almost memorised the case at this stage.
'We were first alerted to Mr. Wood in his monthly emotional scan which is submitted to ...'
Trim put up her hand to stop Jenkins in mid-sentence. 'Please explain the emotional scan to me please.'
Judge Mills leaned over towards Trim. 'Really Ms. Trim is it required for us to go through these procedures? They are quite standard by now.'
'I realise that your honour, but I need to have them clearly laid out for this case. It is quite critical to the prosecution.'
Mills sighed audibly, but as there was nothing he could do about it he waved his hand to show that Jenkins must continue.
Jenkins nodded agreeably. This was one of his pet topics. 'To understand the emotional scan I would really need to go back and provide a bit of history on how detective work had progressed over the last decade or two.'
Trim nodded to show that she was happy with this. Jenkins explained how detective work in the past consisted of checking evidence at the crime scene after it had been committed and then using these clues to convict the criminal. Once Murabo, the world famous criminal psychologist, had developed the emotional scanner which was simply a device which recorded various emotional parameters, as well as certain brain activities in a person, it was possible to change this approach. The parameters checked could be correlated by a computer and used, for example, to give indications of a person's anger levels. Over the years averages for each of these parameters had been developed.

Studying convicted felons in high stress situations Murabo had also been able to pinpoint levels for each of these parameters indicating when a crime had been committed. Later refinements in computer modelling had led to such advances that they could predict a crime and the level of the crime before it had even taken place.

This was field tested with such amazing accuracy that, twelve years later, it became mandatory for every person to be fitted with a microchip which would record these parameters. Each chip also had a small transmitter built into it which was used to transmit the stored information to various down loading points scattered everywhere, most commonly in cars and public transport vehicles. This information was all collated in a huge centralised database which had access to all the individual's personal information. Using all this, the computer was able to make a highly accurate prediction of when a crime would take place and even why. It was also able to determine which other people were present at the time of the high readings and thereby pinpoint a victim. The modern day detective used this information to apprehend criminals before the crime was physically committed. Jenkins wound up his summary and looked back at Trim.
'So Detective Jenkins, what led you to the conclusion that Mr Wood would commit the crime stipulated here?'
'An average person would normally peak at about fifteen to twenty MSI's on any particular scale.'
Seeing the look on Trim's face, Jenkins continued to forestall the inevitable question. 'An MSI is a Murabo Standard Index which was developed as a level indicator to be used on each of the previously mentioned parameters.'
Trim nodded happily and Jenkins resumed. 'Thus fifteen to twenty on any particular scale would not be cause for alarm and would not even be transmitted to the down loaders.'
'What is considered cause for alarm?'
'Well if any two of the indices reach a value of about thirty then a minor crime such as speeding will take place in the near future. If two or more of the indices reach a value of forty then the person will get physically violent in the near future. In situations where at least three of the indices reach a value of fifty-five then the person will commit a serious crime such as rape or murder in the near future.'
'So what did you find in the case of Mr Wood?'
'On two separate occasions four of his indices peaked at over sixty-three MSI's.'
'So what made you so sure that the crime that would be committed would be the murder of Mr Rogers?'
Jenkins launched into a technical explanation of how the central computer used the levels of the various parameters, based on historical data, to extrapolate a crime. Once a high reading has been received all other readings were downloaded from the suspect to cross-reference victims and the level of the crime. This information led to the prediction of the actual crime.
'And this method is accurate, is it?'
'Oh yes during the three years of limited field tests only a single wrong case turned up. This was later proved to be due to a mental imbalance caused by the subject taking drugs. The new software used can correct for this situation. In the actual usage for the first two years it ran in conjunction with conventional outdated detective methods and not a single error cropped up.'
'Not a single error in two years of use by the public? That seems almost too good to be true.'
Jenkins smiled briefly. 'Yes, it does appear that way, but the proof is very conclusive. The system is amazingly accurate and was lab tested extensively before being field tested.'
Trim decided that she had made her point and returned to her desk. As Tolby decided not to question Jenkins, he stepped down and returned to his seat in the back of the courtroom.
Tolby called his only witness, Wood himself. After Wood had been sworn in, Tolby picked up the copy of the police file on his desk and flipped to the page that he was looking for.
'Mr. Wood, I see in the police report here that the first incident of a high MSI reading took place on 12 February at three in the afternoon. The location is listed as the Havana Health and Racquet club and the only other person near you at the time was Mr. Rogers. Could you explain to us why you would have such a high reading?'
Wood nodded as the memory came back to him. 'Yes. We were playing squash together at the time. That particular day I was obviously having an off-day as far as my squash was concerned and I was losing due to stupid errors. Naturally I got angry with myself for my poor performance.'
'So at no stage did you feel a compelling urge to kill Mr. Rogers for beating you at squash?'
Wood laughed until he realised that Tolby was serious about the question. 'No, of course not. We were very evenly matched squash players and he used to beat me about half the time. On that particular day I got angry as I was losing points due to my own errors.'
Tolby nodded and flipped to the next page in the report. 'The next incident took place the very next day at Mr. Rogers' house. Once again he was the only other person present at the time. Could you explain that date to us?'
'Yes. Sam invited me over for lunch that day. It had been quite some time since I had been to his house. When I walked in the door I realised again that I was missing out on a lot in life because I was not married and had progressed to such a point in my life that I doubt if I ever would get married. Financially, my lifestyle was obviously much better than his, but he seemed to have something which I didn't.'
'So you decided to steal his TV and hi-fi to get that "something" in his life into your life?'
This time Wood remembered not to laugh. 'No. It was not the stuff in his house, but the fact that his lifestyle was different. I could hardly steal his lifestyle could I?'
'So once again you did not feel an urge to kill Mr. Rogers or steal his TV?'
'No, definitely not..'
Tolby nodded and returned to his desk. Trim rose and walked over to Wood. 'Mr. Wood, in your testimony just now, you stated that your lifestyle was much better than that of Mr. Rogers. Despite this, however, you felt that you were missing something.'
'That is correct.'
'So would it be correct to say that if you had been living Mr. Rogers' lifestyle then you would have felt happier?'
'Hmm, that is probably correct.'
'Yes or no?'
'Yes!'
'So, as you just said that you could not steal Mr. Rogers' lifestyle from him, the next best thing would be to steal the contents of his house as this would remind you of the lifestyle that you wanted to achieve.'
'No! That is not true!'
'You would also kill him as this would remove any reminders of the things that you had lost out on.'
'No, I would never do that!'
Trim turned away from the witness. 'Your honour, the prosecution has nothing more to add.'
Judge Mills turned towards Tolby who shook his head somewhat shamefully. 'Very well then I will deliver my verdict first thing tomorrow morning.'

Immediately after the judge left, nervous chatter broke out in little groups all over the room. Jenkins slowly walked back to the police station. It was pretty clear that the defence had been unable to come up with anything which could detract from the computer prediction. Jenkins shook his head in wonder. June 16 was a mere four days away. In four days time a man would have been tragically murdered in his own home if it had not been for their modern detective methods. A true tragedy had been averted through some fine police work. However, he still could not shake the nagging feeling from the back of his head.

Chapter 7

Wednesday morning found all the participants gathered in the courtroom again. Once the judge was settled, he briefly summarised the evidence that he had taken into consideration. Everybody waited with bated breath while he concluded all the formalities before getting to his verdict and sentencing. Finally he looked at Wood. 'I am therefore obliged to hand down a verdict of guilty as charged.'

Jenkins gasped quietly with pleasure. Tolby and Wood were both visibly distressed by this outcome. Trim did not flinch a muscle anywhere on her body or face. Jenkins thought to himself that she must be almost impossible to beat at poker with that kind of self-control. Folding his hands before him, Judge Mills continued. 'With the charges presented to me I have to impose the maximum penalty allowed by the law. Mr. Wood, you will be taken from here to the Sanford correctional facility where you will be mind-dumped for a period of three years. During that time you will be issued with a low grade mind-set while your personality and mind undergoes a 3A level cleanup. Your body will be transferred to the Pellworth mining facility.'

As expected, this sentence brought forth a flurry of objections from Tolby. Mills, however, stuck to his verdict and banged his gavel to indicate that the sentence had been passed. Wood visibly slumped in his seat at the sound of the gavel banging.

Chapter 8

'Wood is never going to be a problem to us again.' Ray Simola, the senior vice-president of Santinisti smiled as he said this.
Jeff Irwin, president and founder of Santinisti, paused in the act of pouring his brandy. 'I hope you are sure of your facts this time.'
'Nothing can go wrong. I promise.'
Irwin sat opposite Simola in on of the leather chairs in his office. Swirling the brandy to warm it, he pointed an accusing finger at Simola. 'That is what you keep telling me. I'm concerned that we are going at this too fast. Something is going to go wrong somewhere.'
'Look, we had some teething problems which have been ironed out now. With that rich load of ore that we struck at Pellworth we can afford to get in more expertise so that this kind of thing doesn't happen again.'
'I'm glad to see that you are so chipper, but what do we do if he told anybody else about this?'
'First of all, Wood probably didn't even realise what it was that he saw. We decided to put him away just to make sure. Secondly, we will be able to go through his mind once it is mind-dumped. That way we can make sure of who he spoke to.' Simola smiled and downed his drink. Rattling his ice cubes he walked over to the drinks cabinet and poured himself another drink.
'If they catch us with this, then we will go down big time.'
Simola whirled around angrily, spilling some of the scotch on the plush carpet. 'If you think that I will allow you to spoil this for us just at the moment when everything is finally coming together, then you better think again buddy.'
Breathing heavily Simola returned to his chair and stared out the window without looking in Irwin's direction. Irwin sighed and recrossed his legs before speaking again.
'Obviously I won't cop out at this stage. I'm just as involved as you. Its just when we started this whole thing it all seemed so good and logical. Now it is just a mess.'
Simola downed the last of the drink and got up. He stared at Irwin's face for a long while without saying anything as if trying to gauge Irwin's real feelings. Without another word he left the office.

Chapter 9

The Sanford correctional facility is a large four storey brick building set well back from the road on its own little estate. It houses some of the most criminal minds in the country. The mind-dumps are constantly being used to check the emotional scanners for their accuracy and to update the statistics available.
The police van pulled up at the door which opened after their ID's and log entry had been verified. Once inside, the doors closed automatically behind them again. The driver of the van got out and chatted easily with the guards at the door. After a minute or two of small talk they moved to the back of the van and unlocked the doors. One of the guards placed a small hand-held scanner against Wood. Holding the little screen closer he turned to the other guard. 'OK, you can put away your piece. We won't have any hassles from this one. All his levels are way below average.' The rest of the guards crowded around the first one and looked over his shoulder to confirm the MSI readings for themselves. Everybody expressed their amazement that somebody that could commit a violent crime one day could be so calm and docile the next day. Satisfied, however, they proceeded to unchain Wood from the van and led him inside the building.

Once inside, Wood felt more like a visitor to some corporate headquarters than a prisoner at a correctional facility. On the other side of the safety glass separating his corridor from the rest of the building, he could see people in offices talking on phones or tapping away on their computers. It seemed difficult to believe that these people dealt with violent criminals every day. With that thought a sudden shock ran through his body like a slight tremor. He realised that he was now considered to be one of those violent criminals. With his mind wandering he did not notice that the guards had stopped at a door which they unlocked and led him inside.

The room looked like a cross between a dentist's rooms and a computer lab. A large, well-padded chair, which could recline completely, stood in the centre of the room. This was surrounded by banks of computer monitors and other pieces of equipment that Wood couldn't identify. A single technician was standing in front of one of the monitors. Without turning around she spoke to the guards. 'Please put the prisoner in the chair. You guys know the drill by now.'

They obviously knew the drill quite well because in a matter of minutes Wood was securely bound to the chair. One of the guards handed the technician an electronic clipboard which she initialled and returned.
Calling up Wood's sentencing requirements on the screen, the technician whistled to herself. 'Grade 3 huh? My, my, but we have been a naughty boy then haven't we?'
For the first time the technician turned towards Wood. 'Mr Wood, my name is Sanders. I will be the last person to address you by the name Wood for the next three years. More than likely when you come back here, then I will be the first person that you meet as Mr Wood again. Do you know what we are going to do today?'
Wood tried to shake his head and found that it had also been completely restrained. 'No.'
'I didn't think so. We don't really get any comebacks around here these days. Not like the old days where you used to get habitual offenders. Now everybody is a once-off.'
Sanders explained that Wood's memory would be transferred to the mainframe computer in the basement of the Sanford facility over the next eight hours. After that they would load a new memory set into his mind. This would be a severely limited mental set which would only allow him to perform the work required of him. The only other information available to him would be his prison serial number as well as his release date. During the time that he was away, technicians at the Sanford facility would analyse his memory in the computer and carefully strip away all the elements of his mind that led to these criminal tendencies. On a grade 3 rating, they would clear a lot of memory away.
'You mean my entire memory is being erased from my brain right now?'
'No, it is merely being suppressed. Originally we used to wipe out the memory after the dump was complete, but new regulations stipulated that it was too dangerous trusting everything to the computer. So now we leave your memory behind, but we suppress it so that you cannot access it. After your sentence is up, your original memory is automatically really destoyed and replaced by our corrected mindset. In an emergency it is even possible for the guards to reactivate your memory with a code word , but I wouldn't count on that happening if I was you.'
Seeing the panicky expression on Wood's face, Sanders walked over to the computer and pressed the enter key.
'Well, goodbye Mr Wood. Hello prisoner 97124.'
Wood did not hear anything more after the anaesthetic took hold.

Chapter 10

'Prisoner 97124 you have been assigned to room 104. My name is Cantrell. You, however, can call me by my first name which is Guard.' Cantrell smirked at his own humour, but, as always, it was wasted because 97124 simply nodded to show that he understood the instruction. Cantrell pointed out his badge identifying him as a guard at Pellworth. Prisoners always had to obey the guards. This was securely locked into each mind-dump that every prisoner received. This meant that guards could walk around unarmed and none of the prisoners tried to escape because the first instruction they received was not to escape. This tended to simplify matters quite considerably.

The Pellworth mining facility was in the harsh environment of Ouna, one of the Gambian moons. They produced clombian in large quantities which was absolutely essential to interstellar space drives. During their initial start-up the owners discovered that the machinery did not last too long in these conditions, due to high corrosion levels, and their overheads started rising dramatically.

At about the same time the mind-dumping process was just being perfected and the mine owners hit upon the scheme of employing mind-dumped prisoners at no cost. In fact the governments of the various countries gave the mine an allowance for each prisoner for his upkeep. This benefitted the governments as well as they would have had to provide facilities to care for the bodies of the prisoners while they were mind-dumped. Through some ingenious corner-cutting, the mine found that they could even make a profit on some of the prisoners. It was a win-win situation all round!

Cantrell led 97124 to a room filled with other prisoners sitting in chairs. Pointing 97124 to a seat, Cantrell moved to a small podium in the front of the room. 'Ok. Listen to me. All of you gathered in this room will work as stopers.'
Pointing at a VCR and TV standing to the side of the podium Cantrell continued. 'You will all watch this instructional video. This evening, when you start your first shift, you will be expected to be able to perform all these actions. If anybody doesn't understand what he must do after watching the video then ring this buzzer and I will come and explain.'
Cantrell started the video and left the room. All the prisoners watched the TV screen with intense concentration.

Chapter 11

Jenkins leaned back in his chair and continued staring at the computer monitor. It was now six months since his most famous case had been wrapped up. Exactly as he had predicted to himself, when the Chief came up for retirement, Jenkins was nominated to fill his position. At the moment he was busy reviewing his biggest cases to prepare for his acceptance speech at the end of the month. Obviously the Wood case would feature significantly in his talk and he wanted to make sure that he not only had all the facts handy, but also any interesting little titbits in case any reporters questioned him afterwards.
Picking up the phone he dialled a number from memory. 'Sanford correctional. Good morning!' The last was issued more as an instruction than a greeting. This, however, was not the first time that Jenkins had spoken to the people at Sanford so he was used to it.
'Morning. Can I speak to Tracy Rickman please?'
Jenkins continued tapping some keys on his computer with one hand while pressing the phone making "dingggg-dongggg" noises to his ear with the other hand.
'Morning. Tracy Rickman.'
'Hi Tracy. Matt here. How are you?'
'Well, and I don't even have to ask if all is well with you Chief Jenkins.'
Jenkins laughed. 'Only from next month I'm afraid, but it does sound rather good hey?'
Jenkins' tone got serious. 'In fact that is why I'm calling. I was doing some research for my speech and I wondered how my perpetrator was holding up with you guys.'
Jenkins gave Tracy the relevant case details and waited while she typed away on her keyboard. 'Ok Matt. I see that Greg Blight has been assigned to that case. Hmmm that is funny.'
Jenkins was immediately alert. 'What is funny?'
'It seems he is handling almost all of the grade 3 cases that have come to us the last year or so.'
'Why is that funny?'
'Well, a couple of reasons. One. There seems to be a large amount of 3A cases lately. He is handling all of the new ones. Usually these cases are spread around a bit to give all of us a bit more experience.'
'So you think there could be something going on here?'
Tracy laughed. 'No prizes for guessing what you do for a living! With such a suspicious mind you couldn't be anything other than a cop. This could happen for many reasons. Maybe the policy changed around here. Maybe this guy Blight is doing a special investigation on these cases. I can think of a few innocent explanations. To satisfy your warped mind, however, I will ask I few questions. Ok?'
Jenkins agreed and they happily made a date for Friday evening to meet for drinks and discuss what she had found.

Chapter 12

Friday evening at the "Knight & Knave" was always a busy affair. As this was not the first time that Jenkins was visiting this particular establishment, he had taken the precaution of booking a table. Just after seven he noticed Tracy and waved her over to his table. It was obvious that he was not the only person to have noticed her pert figure in a pair of tight fitting jeans and loose T-shirt. Many envious looks followed her movements to his table.
She kissed him in her usual flirtatious manner, which he now knew not to take too seriously. After ordering drinks and killing the usual small talk to catch up since the last time they met, Jenkins got right to the point. 'So, did you find out anything?'
'My, we are in rush aren't we? Typical problem with males you know.'
Jenkins chuckled, but Tracy noticed that it was a more distracted laugh than his usual hearty chuckles so she got serious as well. 'Well, I went and asked my section manager, why we were not getting any of the new level 3 cases. He looked a bit surprised that I would ask him that, so I explained that all of us would like to get that kind of experience. He told me that he would find out and come back to me.'
Their drinks arrived and after the waiter left, she continued. 'He came back to me the next morning to say that I must have been mistaken as there were not enough cases to go around at the moment. He promised me that the next level 3 that came along would come to me though.'
Jenkins raised his eyebrows. 'So what did you say then?'
'I told him that this fellow Blight was handling quite a number of these cases. At this stage he got quite frosty with me and told me that I had been mistaken as no person was allowed to handle more than two level 3's at a time.'
'Why didn't you just show him all the cases that you found when I phoned you?'
'That was exactly what I wanted to do. I told him that I would bring him a printout of all the cases. When I got back to my office and ran the search again, I found that all the cases that Blight was handling before had disappeared from my computer. Blight was now suddenly only handling two cases.'
The waiter arrived to take their dinner order. They consulted their menus and both ended up ordering fillet steaks - medium. Tracy leaned across the table. 'This is really suspicious. After a bit more detective work,' Tracy smiled gleefully as she said this, 'I managed to find most of the other cases now spread around evenly. This correlated with the printout that Jones showed me in his office. This, however, is not the most interesting part of the case. What is really interesting is that all these people suddenly started working for Sanford two months ago as consultants. I know most of the people in my field and none of these names rang a bell.'
'Did you go back to Jones with this information?'
'No, I thought I would discuss it with you first.'
'Excellent. Don't discuss it with Jones again. In fact if he asks, then pretend to be quite happy with the arrangement that you worked out with him.'
'What do you think is going on here?'
'I don't know yet, but it is going to take me a while longer to figure this lot out. In the meantime I don't want you to get involved.'
'I could do some more snooping on my computer on Monday if that would help.'
'I would rather not take the chance. If you get caught then I don't know what they will do to you.'
'I promise you nobody can catch me on my computer if I don't want them to.'
Jenkins mulled this over for a while and eventually realised that she would go ahead anyway whether he gave his consent or not. He knew Tracy well enough by now to know that once her interest was pricked then she was like a bullterrier. She didn't let go until the subject stopped kicking.
'Ok, but be careful. I don't know who all is involved in this lot.'
Their steaks arrived and both of them tucked in, surprised by their sudden appetites. Jenkins signalled the waiter for another round of drinks. Once the drinks arrived and he had taken another sip he looked over at Tracy again. 'Do you know anybody in your mind-dumping section well?'
'Yes. Mary Sanders and I started at Sanford on the same day and we have seen each other quite often since then. Why do you ask?'
Jenkins finished chewing a mouthful of baked potato thoughtfully. 'No, just an idea that suddenly came to mind. If I had to ask you, do you think that you can ask her to do you a big favour?'
'Yes. I have done her a few favours in the past as well.'
'Good. I might need you to call on her in the near future. Once everything is in place then I will tell you, but in the meantime I can't afford to run the risk of involving you. I switched my emotional scanner off this morning when I started thinking about this case.'
He grinned self-consciously when she gave him a surprised stare. 'One of the many advantages of working for the cops. In our line of work, the emotional scanner can get in the way sometimes. If we are working on a case where this can happen then we can request to have our scanners temporarily switched off.'
He looked around furtively as if somebody could overhear them in the noisy bar. 'Tomorrow I will switch your scanner off as well. Until I phone to tell you that is done, don't even think about this case.'
She gave him a doubtful look, but for the rest of the evening they managed to enjoy themselves with the dinner and impromptu dancing that broke out later. Even though she knew that he was doing everything to distract her mind from the case, she managed to enjoy the evening anyway.

Chapter 13

The phone chirped away insistently. 'Det.., uh,... Chief Jenkins, good morning.'
'Well, good morning Chief. And how are we this fine morning.' Tracy and Jenkins both laughed at his awkwardness.
'Yeah, I guess I haven't quite got used to the new title yet. I suppose it will still take some time to sink in.' After some more small talk Jenkins detected a more serious note in Tracy's voice.
'I take it that you didn't phone just to congratulate me on my official promotion?'
'No, I found out some more things about our discussion that we had a few weeks ago that I thought you might want to know about.'
'I have also come across a few items, but I don't want to discuss this over the phone. Let's get together this evening. How about you come over to my place and I will throw together something for us to eat.'
'You will make us something to eat. This I have got to see.'
'Fine. Scoff all you want, but this evening you will be scoffing the food down.'

'Chinese take-outs? I thought you were going to throw something together for us.'
'I did. I ordered various items and when they arrived I took everything out of their boxes and threw them together on a plate.'
Tracy shook her head in mock disgust, but she did scoff the food down as predicted earlier. Jenkins smiled as he watched her tuck into her favourite food with relish.
After dinner Jenkins made some tea and they sat down in his small, but comfortable, lounge. 'So, time for the business part of the evening. What did you find out with your high-tech Dick Tracy work?'
'I ran the standard c-and-a on Wood this morning.'
'C-and-A? What the heck is that?'
'Oh, sorry, I keep forgetting that you don't work with the criminals at all once they reach us. The cause and analysis, or c-and-a, is a test that is run on the downloaded mind of the criminal to detect which events triggered the crime. Once the trigger is found we then determine which personality trait would provide such a trigger and then we remove, or reduce, this trait from the person. For example some people need to have a large amount of aggressiveness removed from their personalities to make them socially acceptable again. Are you with me so far?'
'Yes, the basic idea is to clean out all the parts of the person that caused him to commit the crime, thereby ensuring that they will not do it again.'
'Exactly. And it works very effectively too. We have not had a single serial killer since this method was introduced. In fact there are very few repeat offenders of any kind.'
'I thought it was impossible to have a repeat of any kind.'
'No, by repeat offender I mean we encounter the same person, but for a different crime. They never return for the same crimes.'
'Ok, I understand, so what did you find in Wood?'
'Nothing.'
Jenkins' eyebrows shot up. 'Nothing?'
'Yes, I ran a more detailed test this afternoon which produced the same result. I could not find a single trigger event for the crime.'
'But that is impossible, we received the MSI's from the computer which clearly indicated a murder and robbery.'
'Well, I don't work with that side of things, but maybe there was a foul-up on their side.'
Jenkins realised that he had subconsciously been holding his breath and realised it suddenly and sank back in the couch. 'I don't think that is possible. They are extremely security conscious over there. But I will ask a few questions tomorrow.'

Chapter 14

Simola signed the last sheet of the contract and handed it to his secretary when his personal line rang. Expecting his wife, he picked it up and replied in his usual friendly manner reserved for the private line. 'Hi.'
'Mr. Simola, it's Blight over her from Sanford.'
'I told you to only to use this number in an emergency.'
'That is why I'm phoning.'
Simola's breath quickened and he spoke slowly. 'What kind of emergency?'
'I caught somebody snooping around the Wood file yesterday.'
'Who?'
'I don't know. Whoever it is, they are good, they managed to by-pass all the standard security. The only reason I know somebody was here, is because I have added my personal little "watchdog" to "our" list of files.'
'Well, get on it man. Find whoever it is and find out what they know. We cannot afford for this to leak out now. Not with the Thislian deal ready for signature any day now.'
'I will find whoever did it. It would have to be somebody from "inside". No outsider would have been able to penetrate the systems this smoothly. Adios'
Simola put the phone down and composed himself for a few minutes. Then he picked up the phone to his private line again.
'Hello.'
'Yes, it's me. Listen I think we need to get together - soon.'
'Why, do we have a problem?'
'A couple of them, not least of which I think our partner Irwin is going all mushy on us here.'
'Do you think we will have to deal with him in the usual way?'
'No, I think something more drastic is called for here, but I will discuss it with you when we get together tonight. Can we meet at the usual place at around seven thirty?
'Ok, see you there.'

Chapter 15

Tracy Rickman was putting in some overtime, nothing unusual for her, when she noticed her manager leaving.
'See you tomorrow.' was all she managed to get in before he reached the lift. She gave him ten more minutes in case he had forgotten something in his office and then she logged in with her special user id. This was her safety net. One of the systems analysts had given her the password to this high-level userid when her id became garbled a few months ago. A return favour for helping him out with some test data before. The id was just for test purposes and was supposed to have been deleted a couple of days after she had used it initially. But in the chaos caused by everybody's user id's becoming garbled it had somehow been forgotten. It allowed her much more access to the database than her normal id and had the additional advantage that no activities could be traced back to her if somebody did contact her.

Two hours later she was staring at a set of pictures on her screen. She made a few more notes on her notepad and logged off. Before leaving she picked up the phone and dialled Jenkins' home number.
'Jenkins. Good Evening.'
'Hi Matt, Tracy here. I think I have found something that you might want to look at. When can we get together?'
Jenkins looked at his watch. 'It's pretty late, but what the heck, if you can burn the midnight oil, then so can I.'
'Great. I will see you in half an hour.'

Rickman parked her Corsa behind Jenkins' new green Bronco. He was absurdly proud of his new acquisition that he was able to afford after his promotion. He opened the door after the first knock. 'Kettle is already going. I though you might be able to do with a cup of tea.'
'Agh. You are a mind reader. I completely forget to drink anything when I get stuck in my work.'
Jenkins poured each of them a mug, spooned in the sugars and handed her a mug before leading the way to the lounge.
'Right, so what did you uncover.'
Rickman opened her folder and spread a few printouts on the table alongside her notepad. 'These are photographs of the latest level 3 cases that we processed at Sanford. Tell me if you notice something unusual here.'
Jenkins leaned over and looked at the full length photographs of each of the level 3 perpetrators. Carefully looking over each one and putting them aside he shrugged his shoulders. 'Well aside from similar builds I cannot see anything else.'
'Exactly. That is what jumped out at me as well. All of these guys are very well built.'
'Except for Wood, I see you don't have him here.'
'Yes, I will get to Wood in a moment.'
'So, are you going to tell me that this is a genetic thing?'
'Yes, but not the way that you are thinking. I think these men were selected to become level 3 criminals.'
'Selected? How? And by who?'
'Ah, well if I knew that then I would be the police chief and you would be the computer expert.'
Jenkins gave a short laugh. 'Ok, why were they selected?'
'Because at the moment all the level 3's get sent to Pellworth. That is hard physical work. The stronger you are the better you will be at it.'
Rickman noticed the raised sceptical eyebrow on Jenkins' face. 'Wait, you won't smirk anymore when you see the next piece of information.'
She handed over another printout to Jenkins. 'That is a graph showing the number of level 3 cases that Sanford has handled countrywide over the last fours years. You notice that the numbers are fairly steady until about eighteen months ago when they suddenly almost tripled and then settled at the new higher figure.'
'Yes, so we have been going through a bit of a crime wave.'
'A crime wave committed only by well-built men? I think not. Besides, you have not seen this yet.'
Jenkins looked at the next piece of paper handed to him. 'Well, that puts a bit of a different perspective on it then doesn't it.'
'Exactly. It is too much of a coincidence that the numbers increased so dramatically straight after Santinisti's new mine opened at Pellworth. I also checked their public announcement on the Internet and found that the number of level 3's that we have now more or less correspond with the projected maximum number of "employees" that the said they could handle.'
'Ok, so what about Wood. He is a skinny guy. He doesn't fit in with any of these other guys if we keep to you selection theory.'
'Well, I think Wood was also selected, but not for his build. He works for Santinisti, which owns the Pellworth facility. I suspect he found out something and was quickly moved out of the way.'
'Well, if we can find any proof of that then we know that we are on the right track.'
'That is what I was thinking so tomorrow I will try and scan Wood on the computer and see if I can dig out what he found out.'
'No, this is getting out of control. I don't want you involved any more than you are already. Leave the rest of the detective work to me.'
Seeing the expression on Rickman's face, he forestalled her. 'Yes, I know you are not the kind of person to sit on the sidelines, but if we are right, then we are dealing with ruthless people here. To make matters worse, they have backing from very powerful companies.

Blight sat back in his chair with a satisfied look on his face. 'Well, now aren't we the clever little snooper.'
Sniggering away to himself a bit more, he picked up the phone.
'Hi.'
'Yes, it's me again. Good news and better news. What do you want first?'
'Just get to the point man.'
'My, we are touchy today, but you will feel better after this. First of all, Wood did see your e-mail to Irwin telling him that the numbers at Pellworth would have to be boosted like before to make it profitable. If you don't mind my saying so, that was a pretty stupid thing to put in e-mail to somebody.'
'He was out of town. Not that it has anything to do with you anyway. Who else did he show it to?'
'Nobody. He was going to confront you with it first. I suspect a little extra cash on the side is what he had in mind.'
'So nobody else saw the memo.'
'Well, I don't know. All I can tell you is that Wood did not show it, or discuss it, with anybody else.'
'Ok, what else.'
'I found our little snooper. A very clever little lady, but not as clever as me!'
'Yes, you can pat yourself on the back later. Who is it?'
'Tracy Rickman. I managed to track her down using her workstation ID and...'
'Never mind, I'm not interested in the details. Can you set her up for Pellworth as well?'
'No problemo. Give me two days and it will all be done.'
'You have one day.'
'Haste makes waste my man. If I rush there could be a few loose ends lying around.'
'Don't worry, we can pick those loose ends up, just get on with it.'
'It is in progress as we speak. Another senseless murder is about to take place in our sleepy little town.'
Simola could hear him chuckling to himself as he put the phone down. That is one seriously sick man. We will have to get rid of him somehow once this is all over.

Chapter 16

This cannot be happening! Jenkins was furiously scanning the rest of the report. All the evidence was properly documented. He would have thought nothing of it if he had not known better. Dialling Rickman's number he looked over the report again. Once he got through to her he got right to the point.
'Tracy, I have an arrest warrant issued for you lying on my desk right now.'
'What! What was I supposed to have done?'
'You tortured and murdered your manager.'
'Brain, that wimp. I must say that I have had my suspicions about him lately. I did not realise it was that serious though.'
'Tracy, you don't understand. They have overplayed their hands here. The main entry in the file is based on a MSI reading taken two weeks ago when you entered the building at Sanford.'
'That was when I was busy checking on the level 3's for you. I was terrified that Brian would catch me at it. I did not realise that my feelings were that strong.'
'No, you still don't realise. I have not reactivated your MSI chip again. It was impossible for them to have obtained this reading. This proves our whole theory. Somebody is busy selecting people that they want removed from or simply sent to Pellworth.'
Rickman was breathing quite fast now. 'So that means that somebody is onto me. What are we going to do now?'
'I am going to have to speak to Mills about this.'
'The Judge? Can you trust him?'
'Yes, we have worked together for many years. I trust this man with my life. I will see what I can work out with him and get back to you.'
Jenkins decided that a personal visit might be better in this instance. Driving over to the courthouse he decided that he would have to approach this a bit more aggressively.

'Ah, Chief Jenkins, and what brings you here today?'
'I have serious problem that requires a bit of assistance.'
Mills raised his eyebrows. 'This must be serious. I don't think I have ever heard of you asking anybody for help with anything.'
'Yes, I won't be able to do this on my own.'
Jenkins proceeded to relay the chain of events that had led up to Rickman's false arrest warrant being issued.
'So what would you like to do now? If you don't arrest Rickman, they will immediately know that you are onto them and have the same thing done to you. Once your superiors arrive here to arrest you, then you don't have a chance to prove anything anymore.
'Precisely, that is why I would like to be arrested right now and go to Pellworth undercover.'
'Are you sure that is wise? What will you do once you are there?'
'I need to talk to a few people there that used to work for Santinisti. If I can verify that they found out something incriminating about the company just before being sent away then I can find out who is behind all this and go for them.'
'How will you make it past the guards? The only way to get there is after you have been mind-dumped.'
'I have a friend at Sanford that will help me out on this.'
Jenkins explained his scheme which would require Sanders to program a release date in his memory a few days after his arrival. This would get him past the initial check and would then automatically restore his memory after the first couple of days leaving him free to question the other prisoners. After using the emergency code word on the relevant prisoners, he would be able to talk to them.
'Ok, but how are you going to get yourself arrested for something serious enough to warrant a level 3 sentence.'
'I'll fabricate some evidence, and the sentencing I will leave up to you.'
'I cannot say that I am happy with the situation, but I cannot see any other way for us to proceed from here. I think we should have a backup plan in place though.'
'What did you have in mind?'
'If you have not contacted me within two weeks after your arrival at Pellworth, then I will reveal the plan from here and get you and Rickman out of there.'
'Ok, sounds like a good idea, but give me three weeks. I don't know how long it is going to take to get hold of each of the prisoners there.'

Chapter 17

'Mr. Jenkins, you are hereby sentenced to three years at the Pellworth mining facility and a level 3A mind clearance upon your return. May I add that a person in your position as Chief of police should have known better.' Judge Mills' gavel banged down on the desk.
Jenkins hung his head in shame as he was lead out of the court. At the back the led him across the parking lot and helped him into the back of a van. Just before they closed the door, Jenkins looked up. 'Wait!'
'It is too late for that buddy. You should have thought of that before you committed the crime.'
'Just stand to the side for a second please.'
There, on the opposite side of the parking lot, in a bay reserved for Judge Mills was a sky-blue Bronco with a full "sport-pack" fitted.
'Ok, buddy enough funny stuff. Let's get moving.'
The guard moved Jenkins' head into the van and closed the door.

At Sanford, the guards exchanged their usual banter. Holding the scanner up to Jenkins, the Sanford guard looked at his companions with a puzzled look on his face. 'I'm not getting any reading on this guy.'
'Nothing? That can't be possible.'
'Here, look for yourself.'
The second guard got the same result as the first one. Jenkins was not about to tell them that his chip was still switched off, but it did not help. They decided to play it safe and escorted him under armed guard to the mind-dump room. After strapping him in and signing him off, the guards left him in the room, with the technician. As soon as they closed the door, Jenkins tried to turn his head to talk to the technician. 'Mary, it's me, Matthew Jenkins.'
The technician turned around and walked over to him. I'm afraid Mary is having some car troubles today Mr. Jenkins. My name is Philip Carver and I will assist you on your journey.'
'There has been a terrible mistake here. I am a cop working undercover.'
Carver put his hand under his chin and pretended to think to himself. 'Now where did I hear that before. Oh, yes! The chap just before you claimed the same thing! Now is that a coincidence or what?'
Carver bent over and smiled at Jenkins. 'You see Mr. Jenkins, everybody that comes through here is innocent.'
Jenkins was pulling against the straps holding him down. 'Yes, they probably all are.'
'Ah, an optimist. It is so refreshing to meet one these days. Oh and by the way. We know all about your friend Rickman. I personally assisted her on her way just this morning.'
Jenkins continued fighting against the straps but after a couple of seconds his body went slack and all expression disappeared from his face.
Carver printed out some labels with Jenkins new title and stuck one on Jenkins' chest before leaving the room. The digits 97203 could be made out in the faint wash from the surrounding computer screens.

Chapter 18

'Prisoners 97124, 97168 and 97203. Stop work and go shower.'
The three prisoners switched off the machinery that they were using and trudged down the tunnel to the train that would take them back to the living quarters. Just before arriving at the train they passed three other prisoners and a guard going in the opposite direction. The next shift. The guards greeted each other, but the prisoners walked onwards doggedly, oblivious to anything outside their immediate orders.

'Ok, let me get this straight Judge. You want us to stop all flights to and from the Pellworth mine?'
'No, I don't want you to. I am ordering you to stop all flights until further notice.'
'Whatever you say. You are the Judge.'
Mills put the phone down and Simola smiled at him. 'Excellent.'
Mills shook his head. 'No, it is not excellent. I am going to get all sorts of flak about stopping these flights. The medical problem story is only going to keep everybody at bay for so long before they start getting suspicious.'
Simola made placating gestures. 'Don't worry, we will have all the computer records and everything sorted out in no time at all. We just need a breather to make sure that nothing else comes along to catch us unawares.'
Simola looked at his watch. 'Talking of which, Irwin is going to be here any minute. I suggest we broach the topic of his early retirement to him right now.'
'I hope we don't encounter...'

Prisoners 97124, 97168 and 97203, the S7 stoping team were having supper.
'Uh, Cantrell, I heard that all flights to and from here have been stopped indefinitely.'
'Yes, apparently Mills ordered a stop on the flights. I am still trying to get through to him, but you know how it is with these highbrow people. They never want to talk to lowlifes like us.'
'Well I have problem over here. 97168 over there was due to leave on the next flight out.'
'97168 how many days until release?'
'4 days until my release guard Reeves.'
'Ok, carry on eating.'
Cantrell shrugged his shoulders. 'So big deal, he spends a few more days here. Once he gets his memory back, he won't know that he did, and we certainly aren't going to tell him about it are we now?'
Cantrell laughed at his own joke and Reeves joined him after a few seconds.

Chapter 19

All the major newspapers carried the story of Jeff Irwin's death in the morning. The exact details were still fuzzy, but the main event was clear to everybody. A most tragic accident had occurred. The refuse removal truck, which was clearing the refuse on his street had rolled back after the brakes had failed and crushed Irwin against his car while he was opening the door. The truck driver was cleared of any wilful or accidental wrongdoing.
In another article, also on the front page, Santinisti proudly announced the opening of a new rich ore mine in Thislia. It would provide employment for four times as many workers than the current company flagship, the Pellworth facility. It would provide enough ore to power a small fleet of star ships to the edge of the galaxy, and possibly beyond. A new level of exploration had just been reached.
In a later interview on CNN with the new president of Santinisti, Ray Simola, announced the sad loss of his friend Jeff Irwin. 'In his honour we have decided to name the new mine at Thislia the "Jeff Irwin" mine. It is a fitting honour to this fine man that his name should be associated with the facility which will so broadly expand the known reaches of man's exploration.'

The wake up buzzer sounded at the beds of the next shift. Automatically all the prisoners got up and walked over to the dining area to eat their breakfast before heading into the mine.
Reeves ambled over after his leisurely breakfast in the guards area. He was still mentally undressing the waitress. She came in a couple of weeks ago on the last shipment and was definitely a notch above the usual females that made it out here. There was a definite possibility that things could improve here for the foreseeable future. He got into the rail car and was about to signal the driver to leave when he realised that there were only two prisoners sitting in front of him. He ordered them out of the train and realised that 97168 was missing.
'Where is prisoner 97168?'
Both the prisoners looked at him blankly. Cursing himself for even wasting the time asking them something that they obviously wouldn't know, he ordered them to stay there while he went to search for the missing prisoner.
To his amazement he still found him in his bed. His wake up buzzer must have malfunctioned. He shook 97168 by the shoulder and ordered him out of bed. Slowly 97168 turned over and sat up. 'I am tired. I need more sleep.'
'Forget it buddy. We are already half an hour late thanks to you. I am not having my performance bonus taking a nose-dive because you need some beauty sleep. You are getting up right now, and hitting the stope without any breakfast.'
'Well, I just don't think I can do that today.'
Reeves realised something was wrong, but couldn't quite decide what it was. '97168 Get your arse out of here right now!'
As the prisoner's fist punched into Reeves face, he realised what had been bugging him. No prisoner had ever talked back to him before.

Prisoner 97168, or Thomas Fuller as now preferred to be addressed, finally made his way to the central control area of the Pellworth mine. He quickly got rid of the single guard inside the room. After years of manual labour on his part, and lounging around on the guard's part, it was a no-match event. After he threw the guard into the passage, he barricaded himself into the command centre. He spent a considerable amount of time, first finding out where he was and then trying to get away from there as soon as possible. On the surrounding monitors he could see that the guards had finally rallied together and were ordering the prisoners to dig a tunnel into the command centre. In a moment of panic he grabbed a large microphone from the desk in front of him. 'Stop all digging immediately!'
To his intense pleasure it worked. All the prisoners stopped digging. He could still hear his voice echoing back from the speakers placed all over the mine. Slowly, however, the guards ordered all the prisoners back to work again. Fuller ordered them to stop again and then ordered them not to listen to the guards. This unfortunately did not appear to work as the presence of the guards seemed to have a larger effect than the bodiless voice booming at the prisoners. He realised he was only buying time here and abandoned his idea to start searching through the files on the walls again in the hope of finding something about an escape craft.

The prisoners were now almost directly underneath the command centre and Fuller could not see them on any monitors anymore. The only signs of their activities were the rumbles under his feet and the occasional hollow sounds that drifted into the room. Fuller seemed oblivious to his immanent recapture though as he studied a manual intently. Putting it down next to the desk microphone he kept it open with one hand and pressed the transmit button with the other. 'Attention all prisoners! Now hear this. Sanford autocue emergency override now active. Code word is Utopia.'
Looking up from the manual, Fuller glanced at all the monitors where he could still see prisoners. All the visible prisoners were standing or sitting around in an apparent daze. They were looking around in bewilderment as if they did not know where they were. Thumbing the transmit button again, he continued. 'Listen to me. I know all of you are confused right now, but that will pass in a minute. You have been imprisoned at the Pellworth mining facility. If you wish to get out of here, we need to lock the guards up in the storage rooms and find ourselves a space ship which will get us away from here.'
Fuller sat back in enjoyment and watched as the prisoners shoved the guards into any room with a lock on the door. Hearing a knock on the door, he decided that it was probably safe to open it up now.
'Hello, I'm Matthew Jenkins. I'm a police officer sent here undercover to investigate the mine.'
'Pleased to meet you. Do you have any idea how to get away from here?'
'Yes, but unfortunately not everybody is going to be able to make it out of here in one go. There is an escape pod hidden behind that hill over there.'
Fuller looked at the monitor that Jenkins indicated. 'Ok, so how many of us are going to make it away from here in that ship?'
'Fifty at most.'
'You are not going to be popular.'
'I know, so let's get on the radio and call in some relief troops.'

It took more than two hours for Jenkins to get hold of his superiors and explain the situation to them. Then he set about arranging the transport ships which would come to pick up the bulk of the prisoners. Fuller continued in his role as self-elected president and announced the new arrangement to the prisoners in such a matter-of-fact tone that they met with much less resistance from the prisoners than they had originally anticipated. They had wisely decided not to mention the escape ship which Jenkins would use to get back to earth as quickly as possible. Fuller decided to stay behind at the mine, 'to keep an eye on everything' while Jenkins went ahead and sorted out the situation on the other end. Jenkins shook his hand and promised to meet up for a drink once they were back on earth.
Outside Jenkins was totally amazed to see Rickman and Wood chatting to each other. As soon as Rickman saw him, she rushed over and they met in the middle of the room, hugging each other. Jenkins disentangled himself from Rickman's embrace and shook Wood's hand. 'No hard feelings I trust?'
'No, Tracy here has been busy for the last while explaining the whole saga to me. I wish I could get back right now. I could nail them with the information stored on the monthly backup tapes. I doubt if anybody had the foresight to go through all of them and clean the data off them.'
Jenkins led them to a quiet corner in the room and explained his plan involving the escape ship to them. They agreed to leave the room separately and meet at the ship in one hour.

Jenkins looked over his shoulder to see Wood closing the outside door behind him. Wood looked at the array of controls spread out everywhere. 'Do you know how to fly one of these?'
'I had the guys at Sanford give me the flight instruction manuals before I started my little scheme. That should be enough to lift us off and get us on our way. We will be met by a police escort before we reach home. They will then fly us in on remote control from there.'
'Well, what are you waiting for? We are all here and rearing to go.'

Chapter 20

Jenkins walked past Mills' secretary without pausing. He had the door open before she could even open her mouth to protest. 'So Judge, how are you doing? Been getting enough time for your exercise lately? I hope so because where I am sending you, you are going to have to be very fit to cope.'
Mills did not struggle as Jenkins handcuffed him and walked him out the door past his still befuddled secretary.

Chapter 21

In an announcement from the board of Santinisti they made public new proposals to go back to costlier, but safer, mechanical mining methods at all existing and future mines.

Sanford corporation announced today the immediate discontinuation of their successful crime detection chip and said that further plans were underway to assist anybody with the removal of the chip if they so desired. A report released earlier on cast doubts on the validity of extrapolating non-violent crimes from the original MSI's used in the trial cases.

Judge Mills, and his co-accused Ray Simola, were the first people to receive the "new" prison sentences of fifteen years each - without any mind-dumping.

Matthew Jenkins resigned from the police force and started what he fondly referred to as his "Old fashioned detective school". This, according to Jenkins would be the way forward from today. 'Cops will start investigating crime in the time-honoured tradition again. Cops will once again have to make use of their minds and their own judgement to decide each case. No more clear-cut issues to resolve with mountains of paperwork.' Enrolment numbers at his classes have rocketed and his partner, Tracy Rickman, was quoted as saying that they were struggling to keep up with the demand, but would continue in their efforts to get the new modern police force on the road as soon as possible.

Once again humanity could move ahead with the prospect of unrestricted thought lying ahead of them.



The End. - Copyright © Mark Langenhoven 16.10.1997 - 06.05.99
Started on 16/10/97
Revisions on 05/05/1999