Story by Kelly Hallman
Song Lyrics for "Coming Home" by Geoff Tuffli
++++ DATE 10.3.2463
++++ TIME 02:58 Solar Standard Time
++++ LOCATION Yasu Correctional Facility, Triton, Neptune
Walking down the corridor in her pink prison jumpsuit, the two guards flanking her closely, flechette pistols at their sides, Kazue Tyler had one thought: This oughta be good.
She had always known what the result of her capture would be. She was no martyr; she was not looking forward to her execution, but she thought she had come to peace with the inevitability.
Kazue wondered if it would be worth trying to grab for one of the pistols – that would at least end it quickly. She tested the magnetic pull of her restraints, but there was no give, not that she had really expected any.
She walked into the cold white room, her escorts still flanking her. My posse, she thought mockingly, a smile creeping up to her lips.
A lone table and two chairs opposite each other were bolted to the grated floor. Kazue moved in front of the chair, where the guard on her right adjusted the proximity that her wrist straps would allow.
She moved them in front of her and sat down. The guard then readjusted the proximity sensors on the straps and locked her into the chair.
"Thanks, guys," she said casually as the guards turned and left the room through the door they had come in through.
Her gaze decided on staring at the table’s computer’s time display.
Five minutes passed, then ten.
Fifteen minutes passed. A loud bang startled her. She jumped, and her wrist straps tightened their hold on her, and a man in plain white walked into the room. He took the chair opposite her, and regarded her with a carefully schooled expression.
"It's only 0300 hours," Kazue said sourly. "What could have possibly possessed you to drag me out of sleep at this ungodly hour?"
"Ms. Tyler, I am here to inform you that your punishment has been approved by the Department of Corrections."
"Well, clearly this couldn’t have waited until tomorrow so, by all means then, let’s not let the executioners of the Democratic Republic of Triton wait."
Baristol touched the table near her hand. "Relax. Death penalty yes, but not physical death."
Her muscles twitched slightly. "Psych death, then."
"Ah yes, you were hoping to go out in a blaze of glory," he leaned back. "Terrorists generally do prefer that kind of exit."
Ignoring her fidgeting, Baristol cleared his throat. "Neuroscience allows us to pinpoint areas of the brain specifically involved in antisocial behaviors, as well as those associated memories and personality traits that have had an influence in the development these behaviors."
He touched the table’s terminal, bringing up a holographic model of a human brain.
Rotating, exposing, and enlarging the model as he spoke, Dr. Baristol continued as if giving a lecture. “Areas around the anterior frontal lobe that we find have a connection to your violent tendencies will be lesioned out."
"Yes. I will be severing any connections this area of the brain has to various other parts to inhibit similar such violent inclinations in your new future."
The model suddenly rotated and a longitudinal cut was made across the side facing her, exposing the internal structures of the temporal lobe.
“Following that I will lesion out those Hippocampal areas associated with memories of the crime, as well as any memories judged to have contributed to the commission of the crime. Finally, I will inject stem cells derived from your own cheek into the lesioned areas. The areas will be have hyperwave stimulation applied to them, regrowing those areas of the brain earlier lesioned out. New memories will be implanted over the span of a week or so, of course."
“After, of course, you will be reintegrated into society. You will pursue your interests and relationships as a normal, functioning member of society."
Kazue swallowed, but said nothing.
"We consider this to be more humane than pushing you out an airlock." Baristol leaned back. "Which was, actually, one of the options discussed."
He shook his head. "For all intents and purposes, you will become a completely new person. You will be assigned a new identity, as well as plastic surgery to alter your physical appearance, per the Stanford Act."
The doctor nodded. "One of the first patients to undergo the procedure was not given the benefit of implanted memory reconstruction, nor was he given a new identity and appearance. Certain unhappy members of the citizenry who were particularly upset about his actions found him and pushed him into an airlock which they then partially cycled the pressure repeatedly for six hours until he was dead."
"I think I would rather die than walk around like a happy recycled version of myself."
"You don’t have a choice in the matter," Baristol stated. "Society at large on Triton doesn’t particularly enjoy executing people. However, since normal rehabilitation is obviously out of the question, this is the next most humane option."
"How kind of you," Kazue said dryly.
"You are only twenty-seven," Baristol pressed. "You could be a productive member of society; you still have the potential to do good. Most such offenders will do anything in the name of nationalism."
He paused. "Even bombing a childcare center and killing eight children."
Kazue swallowed. "That wasn’t supposed to happen. The bomb went off too early. It was only supposed to be the political staff." God, how had it all gone so wrong?
He looked at his watch, "I have another appointment in about an hour, so..." he touched the desk terminal, and the door she had come in through slid open, the guards filing back in.
"Don’t I need to make arrangements or something?” Kazue protested.
The guards reached her chair, the one on the right adjusting her wrist straps. She stood, mind reeling. She placed her hands back behind her back. The guards readjusted her straps, and took their respective places on her flanks.
"For what?” He inquired, "It’s not like you’re actually dying."
"But what about my friends and family back home?" she pleaded as the guards guided her out into the hall.
"If you’re lucky, they will have already mourned you," Baristol shook his head.
They walked in silence, then turned to the right, entering a brightly lit white room. An exam table sat in the middle, a small faux wood paneled counter lined the left side of the room, a ceramic sink in the middle. A stool sat vacant in the corner behind the door.
If Kazue didn’t know better, she would have sworn this was just an ordinary doctor’s office.
"Sit," Baristol ordered curtly.
Her forehead blazing with heat, she decided then and there that this wouldn’t happen if she could help it. She stood in stubborn defiance.
The guard on her left grabbed her arm, she wrenched free but at the same time the other one snagged a hold of her right arm. She tried to wrestle free from the guard and run, but his grip held her firmly.
Baristol walked to her left side, and held down her arm, allowing the guard to set the magnetic strap on her right. The one at her feet pulled out two additional straps and placed them on her ankles, right and then left, using his own weight to hold down her left leg as he locked her directly to the table. Baristol relinquished her left arm to the other guard, who finished restraining her.
Sweat starting to bead her forehead, Kazue felt her head spin.
At least you gave them a fight, a voice inside her head consoled her, Going out with your boots on – that’s the important thing. She glanced down. Well, she amended, With your pink slippers on, technically.
Baristol turned to the guards, "That'll be all," he said. The guards both turned and left the white room.
Kazue heard a vague rustling near the counter, as Baristol slid a finger over the counter terminal. Two guitars started playing, accompanied by an up-tempo drumbeat.
“There we go,” Baristol murmured. He turned back to Kazue. “Let’s begin, shall we?” he said almost conversationally.
Her heart was palpitating, her palms began to sweat, and her mind began to race, frantically trying to think of a way out of this as the singer' voice joined the accompaniment.
“I know the whole damned lie
They told on the prosecutor’s bench
But the joke’s on them
‘Cause if they ever knew the whole of it
They’d’ve shit their own pants.”
Kazue could hear her own heartbeat as she struggled against the restraints, tears obscuring her vision.
"If I could send that judge to Hell
He’d be coming home
At last he’d be coming home…"
"Please, don’t do this!” she begged.
Baristol pursed his lips, saying nothing for a long moment. He shook his head. "If you could bring back those children, then perhaps we might have something to discuss. Until then, I think you have reached the end of the road."
Now in the throes of despair, her prayers and bargains unheeded, she began to weep.
Baristol sprayed a small puff of mist in Kazue’s face as she took fast shallow breaths. Her vision began to swim.
"But Death, she loves a jest
So I sit here condemned
For the one I never touched
While sixteen others lie
Forgotten in their holes."
She tried to scream, but with her mouth dry and facial muscles now too relaxed to form any kind of words, it came out as a small, incomprehensible whisper.
"Where I left them each and every one
They were coming home
At last they were coming home..."
The saxophone’s tones, more subdued now, assured her that everything would be alright, despite the fear shouting that it wouldn’t.
"But can’t wrestle the hangman
When your eyes lack even two pence
And even though they’re all set
To take it all from me
They can’t stop the fact that"
Her eyes tried to open, but she found her eyelids were too heavy.
She tried to fight against the darkness now enveloping her, but her body protested. Her muscles began to relax, her stomach unclenched. Her mind tried desperately to rally her determination to rage, but could not.
"Now at last I’m coming home,"
She would be dead and gone very soon. She thought of her family and friends back home.
Would they remember her? Would they miss her?
Soon she realized she could no longer remember her mother’s name. He's started already. I'm not even fully under and that bastard started, she thought as her anger struggled to rise up from somewhere deep within. In the background, the saxophone continued to wail.
"I'm coming home,"
She thought of her home: the smooth grey walls of her bedroom; the sounds, kids giggling laughter, a kitten meowing; the smells - all were fading.
"At last I’m coming home..."
She struggled to hold onto the memories, but like wisps they kept slipping away from her even as she reached out for them.
Hot tears of sorrowful mourning fell down her cheeks, until suddenly, she could not remember why she had begun crying in the first place.