Katy had no idea how long the
remote cameras and listening devices were in her tiny one bedroom apartment,
the standard allocated domicile for all young unmarried college professors.
Finding four remote units in her bedroom, three in her living room, and another
two in the bathroom and shower, the installation of the devices could only have
been done by an expert; and if she had not suspected they were there, she would
have never found the first. Worse, she realized the cameras had been there
since she moved in, and she originally thought little of the defective paint
job, poorly slapped on the walls. Despite holding four Ph.D.’s in genetics,
virology, entomology, and nano-medicine all before she was twenty. The Regional
Housing Office felt she lacked sufficient need or status for a roomier abode.
Until engaged or her position at the Federal University of New Virginia
improved, the crappy, poorly lit, one bedroom apartment with faded and peeling
walls had been home.
Cramming some of her mother’s heirlooms into a green canvas duffle bag: a silver-lined five by eight picture, a gold locket, and a platinum ring on a silver necklace, she buries the precious items in a sea of socks and underclothes. As she turns to flee the scene, she stops to grab a small loose photo of a young platinum-haired girl. No more than her early twenties, the petit girl possessed a simple beauty requiring little or no cosmetics to enhance the raw beauty emanating from the palm-sized picture. Compared to Katy’s short dark brown locks, cut short out of convenience and against the social status quo of the late twenty-third century, she often wore extensions or wigs to conceal her brazen masculine hairstyle. Captivated by the girl’s emerald green eyes and brilliant silver curls, she pushes aside the landslide of emotion and tucks the picture into her shirt pocket.
Tearing down the emergency stairwell, she nearly trips twice potentially ending her plight all together. Stopping to listen at the heavy fire escape door, she hears numerous footsteps rush past the door, once even trying the lock. Holding fast, the door remains closed and Katy waits for the footfalls to move away. After five minutes, the person moves away rapidly, and the sound of the emergency exit door eight flights up, opens and flashlights burn heavy shadows thru the stairwell. Clutching the corners, her hammering heart decides her actions, and she carefully opens the metal fire-door and side-steps out. Careful not to let the door latch noisily, the door reseals itself, and Katy turns to flee into the night.
An explosion of light blasts Katy’s eyes, catapulting her onto her back. Gasping for breath, she feels her face pounding in pain and a heavy boot crunching into her ribs and stomach, robbing her of any remaining breaths. She barely registers a second and third set of feet joining into the foray, all concentrating on her chest and abdomen. As quickly as it started, the barrage of kicks end and a strong foot forces her onto her pain-ridden stomach, followed by plastic restraints gruffly attaching to her wrists and ankles. With her ribs and abdomen screaming in agony, a burly man yanks her to her feet, forces a foul-tasting ball-gag into her mouth, and tightly secures the straps behind her head. The ball-gag, apparently unwashed or sanitized since the last victim wore it, retained a horrid salty taste that made Katy’s stomach gurgle in disgust. The men, dressed in similar common dark comfortable business suits, lift Katy up and carry her to a waiting step van. The design, a simple yet affordable box with darkened windows, had more than ample headroom, making for a semi-comfortable ride up front. Tossing her in feet first like discarded luggage, the doors slam closed and the vehicle glides effortlessly into the air. Coughing furiously, Katy can barely catch her breath and realizes at least one or more of her ribs are probably broken.
The hover van flies erratically in the late night traffic, often ignoring the established flight paths and given little attention by the traffic patrols. Katy doesn’t miss that little fact, and realizes her fate is faring worse by the second. There were very few organizations the city cops wouldn’t enjoy pulling over and harassing, often disrupting or destroying the investigation and releasing the captive. Without sufficient coordination and payoffs, even the Federal Investigation Branch and Consolidated Military Police wouldn’t execute a warrant without a local officer on scene. Despite all their power and control, all organizations would avoid entanglements with the federally operated Office of Public Health and Purity. Put in place to protect the public against untold communicable and infectious diseases, the office slyly took on a religiously political tone; and over a span of a hundred years, became an unstoppable force only Stalin or Hitler could appreciate.
After a short twenty minute flight, she could clearly see the time on the stereo in the center console, the vehicle comes to rest in front of the in-processing station of the PHP, and Katy is yanked out feet-first from the van. Crashing onto the cement floor, she takes the brunt of the fall on her shoulder, and realizes she will wind up regretting it later. Drug by her feet, she is taken across the threshold and deposited on her back atop a waiting detainment platform. Just as she hits the metal sheet, six bands rise out of the edges and wrap tightly across her chest, waist, and legs holding her firmly in place.
Satisfied that she wasn’t going anywhere, the clean crew-cut toting enforcer extracts a data card from his pocket and hands it to the waiting desk clerk, who pompously waves it into over her desktop. The crisp overly starched uniform was hardly androgynous; as the men’s was tailored to accentuate the large masculine lines of the wearer, the women’s were tailored to accentuate the fine feminine curves one would expect. Both uniforms, made in the organization’s midnight-black and bloody-red trim, enhanced the menacing appearance as they approached. Turning her attention to the clerk, a crisp sharp-nosed blonde with her hair pulled back into a neat bun hidden under her cap, Katy watches her stare at her screens indifferent to her plight, and sighs as the system lags on her case file. Reading the arrest orders and displaying them on the monitor, along with Kay’s processing instructions, she scans them momentarily verifying their authenticity. Before handing it back, she transfers the orders to another data card, no larger than a pack of gum, by merely holding it over the same area of her desk. Passing it to a young man clad in the dreadful black and red of the PHP enforcement officer, he coldly takes the chip and motions for the platform to follow. Not too far from Katy’s age, his sharp golden crew cut hair style along with an air of superiority, makes her wonder if this is how the Jews saw the Nazis as they were being drug off to the concentration camps. Despite the medical caduceus on his left collar, Katy felt his experience was less than relieving pain, and more with inflicting it. The expert tailoring enhanced his physique and portrayed the ideal specimen for the modern man; an amalgamation between an early Greek champion and a cold-blooded SS officer of the Nazi’s Arian race.
Lifting from the ground effortlessly, the platform follows obediently as he marches briskly down the hall, passing numerous platforms with various dregs and bourgeois of society, identically detained as Katy. Panning her eyes left and right, she notes their attire range from business suits, dinner attire, bed clothes or far less. Worse, their ages are as varied as their clothes: from the elderly and many near her own age, to some who are barely teenagers. The crack of his steel tipped boots parts the halls as he approaches, sending junior officers to the walls at attention, no matter what their previous duties were, with Katy carried along in his wake. Recalling his collar insignia, she remembers seeing a pair of golden bars, and imagines that it has considerable sway down these halls; either that or his skills institute an aura of fear and penitence among his troops. Passing unchallenged through two checkpoints, they stop at an elevator and take the next coach ten levels down.
The overhead lights, large flat luminescent panels, provided an over abundance of illumination making Katy squint as she passed underneath each of them. The white tile walls only enhance the effect, and she can’t imagine anyone not going blind after a short time roaming the halls. Unlike her trip upstairs, the halls are practically devoid of people; yet the distant and muffled shrieks and cries from untold souls waft around her. Only now does she realize there will be no escape or parole from her predicament, and her eyes explode with tears. The agony of knowing she’ll never see her lover and friend Lyssa or get to tell her farewell is almost too much for her heart to take. Unfortunately, her heart is a bit stronger and death doesn’t embrace her just yet.
Led into a roomy well lit conference room, her escort orders her to sit. Katy barely has time to process the order before the platform breaks apart and molds itself into a chair, complete with arm, waist, neck, and ankle restraints while never letting go of Katy. The chair pivots around to face the wall of empty tables and chairs, and she stares blankly at a massive video screen. When the lights dim, the screen comes to life, and an elderly judge appears, wearing the black doomsday robes of a Federal Magistrate. Smashing his gavel he begins his speech.
“Silence in the court! Katherine Dawn Marie O’Brien, you are charged with five hundred and fifty counts of possessing materials of a lewd and anarchist nature with the intent to distribute, two hundred ninety-eight counts of lewd acts against nature, six hundred fifty-two counts of contributing the corruption of another person to commit a crime, two hundred and eighty-nine counts of sex with a member of the same sex, one hundred forty-nine counts of sodomy, and four hundred and seventy-six counts of unprotected body-fluid exchanges with a person of no legal relationship. How do you plead?”
As the judge’s raspy voice finishes the reading of the charges, Katy feels the gag unfastened and removed in time for her to answer the judge. Coughing and sputtering, she inhales deeply while the judge waits impatiently, and the Nazi behind her brings a leather strap across the back of her head to encourage her to comply. With the pain surging through her she seethes with what little strength she can muster.
“Fuck you, your honor. I have done nothing wrong! You can’t just−” the leather strap cracks across her face, stopping her from continuing and she feels the gag forcibly reinserted, despite the burning sensation on her face; tears pour from her eyes uncontrollably.
The judge resumes dispassionately. “The Grand Jury will note that as a plea of not guilty, and one additional count of contempt against this court. Based on the evidence at hand, the Grand Jury believes there is enough evidence to proceed with trial. Captain, please escort her to Detention Block 12, for in-processing and interrogation. Court will reconvene for trial at a later time. Court adjourned.”
The smashing of the gavel results in the chair returning to its original platform configuration and it follows the officer out of the room. Continuing along the hall, they pass through another set of double doors only to stop abruptly at a receptionist’s desk. The Amazon-sized officer glares down evilly at Katy, and her smile only sends pain-ridden shivers up her spine. Taking the data-chip from the captain, she inserts it into her clipboard and reads the processing orders. Dismissing him with a wave, she turns and motions for the platform to follow her into the women’s ward. Watching the bounce of the guard’s long golden brown hair tied so precisely into a single pony-tail only to flare at the last two inches, does little to deter Katy from struggling against her bonds. From over her shoulder, the captain talks to herself.
“Damn, another lesbian: just great. We’ve been waiting for you Katherine, my name is Rachel. I see in your records that you go by Katy, huh? Well Katherine, let me tell you, you should have done what your girlfriend did. She was in and out of here in less than an hour. She admitted guilt, and volunteered for mental and genetic reengineering faster than I thought possible; she couldn’t wait to get a man between her legs. Unfortunately, that means you will take the full brunt of the law: full responsibility for everything, from corruption charges, to lewd and indecent sexual acts. I see you even had over five hundred copies of the GLM: that will weigh heavily against you when it comes to sentencing. The jury throws the book at people who even possess one of those; so to have that many, well I don’t want to worry you that much.”
Pausing to take a quick breath, she strides though a sterile white examination room. Joined by another woman, she hands her a package of clothes and towels, and departs from where they came as Rachel continues.
“So here’s the deal: you obey me, behave yourself, and cooperate fully, and I’ll say that you’re on the road to redemption and the death penalty is unwarranted. Without that, I can’t promise what limits they’ll have. I’ve seen them institute the death penalty for far less, and I’m not saying that just to scare you. Some resistance is expected, you’re only human; but in the end, I can only tolerate so much. Full admission of guilt, listing of all of your contacts, how you got the books, along with who was to receive them, volunteering for mental and genetic reengineering, and I can promise you my full and complete support during your trial; the D.A. will have nothing less. So, you don’t have to give me your answer right now, I know your ribs are killing you, and you haven’t slept yet. I’ll get you cleaned up and into your room. After eight hours, I’ll come by and see what your answer is.”
Stopping at the shower room, a young woman not much younger than Katy stands and takes the clipboard from her superior officer. Clad in a silver bodysuit, she sighs dramatically and adjusts a strand of her sandy brown hair. Not too attractive, the outfit does little to enhance her short comings, and seems to care little of that fact.
“Katherine, this young lady is Lieutenant Esmeralda. She’ll get you cleaned up, changed, and put to bed. Obey her every command, as if I gave it, and we’ll have no problems.”
Turning to the Lieutenant, she continues reciting the internment orders. Standing a number of inches shorter than Rachel, she looks Katy over deviously and half listens to Rachel’s instructions.
With a crisp exchange of salutes, Rachel disappears leaving her with young officer. Only when the door closes and latches does she move by gesturing for the platform to rise on end. Obediently, it rises and she orders: “Spread eagle.”
With her command, the platform splits into an ‘X’ and pulls Katherine taut by her wrists and ankles. Katy screams as her broken ribs tear into her, and the platform thins to just a small framework holding her in place. Picking up a pair of surgical scissors, Esmeralda casually strolls up to Katy and leans up against her, enjoying the agony running through Katy. Katy can’t help but notice the kaleidoscope green blue and hazel in the officer’s eyes, noting she’d never seen any as distinctive as hers.
“Well Katy, you don’t mind if I call you that right? Katy you are such a stupid dyke! If you were smart like me, you’d have found a good government job like this and just played ball, I guess with all those degrees of yours, you just can’t see the big picture. Oh well, too late now!”
Unceremoniously, she inserts the tips of the scissors into the top of Katy’s shirt and slices it cleanly in two. Ignoring Katy’s imploring groans, she quickly reduces Katy’s clothes to a pile of rags and escorts her through the auto-shower. After leaving Katy in her cell an hour later, Esmeralda collects the pile of clothes and takes the ribbons to the trash. Leaving a trail behind her, she wanders back to pick the stray pieces. As she bends over to pick up the last strip lying on the floor, she notices a small picture concealed within the remains of the shirt pocket. Captivated, she flops down on the floor mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the girl, and overcome by both guilt and disgust of her own wretched existence.
Rachel, entering Katy’s cramped sparse cell, makes the lights suddenly jump to full intensity. Katy shoots up from bed, and begins shaking uncontrollably in terror. Clad only with the bed sheets to cover herself, she pulls them taught against her and holds it tight with her arm. With a disarming smile, Rachel slides up to Katy and casually traces a line on Katy’s sheet-covered leg.
“Well sweetie, time’s up. What do you say?”
Katy defiantly spits out, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I have every right to live my life free and be happy. Why doesn’t anyone understand that?”
Rachel shakes her head, and smiles. In an understanding tone, she chides, “I can’t say I’m surprised, but I was hoping. Well I pray you change your mind before the trial, but I have to turn you over to the inquisitors now. While you’re in your cell, you’re my responsibility; but when you leave this area, I have no control. Please rethink your position, it’s not healthy.”
Standing, she lays a bundle of white disposable paper clothes on the bed and says over her shoulder, “Breakfast will be in fifteen minutes; be changed beforehand.”
Katy barely finished eating before a pair of rough-looking storm troopers, dressed in their ominous PHP uniforms, drags her out of the cafeteria. Despite her futile kicking and punching, the pair carries her effortlessly down the corridor into a padded room. Without saying a word, they take turns practicing their martial art strikes on her lower abdomen, arms, legs, and head; all the while carefully avoiding her previously broken ribs. After an hour, including suffocation/strangulation training, they abandon their fun and leave Katy sobbing on the floor in pain, terror and exhaustion.
Hours pass, and she wakes to a middle-aged officer pulling her battered and bruised body onto a hover platform. With the care and attention of a doting father, he escorts her back to her cell and leaves her to rest. Katy has no idea how she got from the platform and into bed; but by the morning, she had much of her strength back and is surprised to find many of her welts and bruises well on the road to healing. As she stands to leave her cell for breakfast, a familiar face stands at the doorway. Donning the PHP uniform, she notices Esmeralda wearing the silver bar of a lieutenant, opposite of her medical insignia.
“I see you recovered quite well compared to last night; Rachel thought you were a goner. If I didn’t wash out your wounds, you’d already be half dead from infection alone. I also gave you one of my special healing enhancers; a cocktail of antibiotics and chemicals to heal the body faster. You’re going to need it, if you don’t start cooperating.”
Katy seethes back defiantly, “They didn’t ask me single damn question! All they did was beat the living shit out of me and practice killing me!” Esmeralda shrugs as if unconcerned, and looks around to see who’s nearby before responding.
“All they want is to wear you down, so you’ll sign the confession. Big deal! It’s not like you didn’t do those things right?”
Katy visibly fumes at her remark. “It isn’t a crime for two adults to desire each other! I did nothing wrong, it was just two people in love!”
With a large sarcastic grin Esmeralda can’t help but to blast back, “Only if you’re a heterosexual, and only if you have a license.”
Fishing an apple out of her pocket she tosses it to Katy. “Eat it now. If you don’t, I doubt you’ll get a chance to finish it after breakfast.”
Katy, relieved she followed her advice, doesn’t get half-way through breakfast before she is drug off to her padded cell for further beating. Unlike the previous day, the men took their time whipping and abusing her. Groping and fondling her, they chuckle jovially as she endures their indignant molestations. Even more surprising, they actually asked her the names and locations of her supposed associates. Denying everything during the nine-hour ordeal, she was left a battered pulp as before. Weak and confused, she laid on her back until once again the middle-aged man came to collect her. His graying brown hair stood out the most in her mind, along with his strong five o’clock shadow. Trembling from the pain, she lacked the strength to cover herself from where the flimsy clothing once covered her. Aged and worn hands gently stretch the torn fabric, fearful they might rip under his gentle touch.
She wakes in the shower with Esmeralda washing her wounds; the pain and sorrow in her eyes show she’s not the uncaring bitch she tried to portray. Katy wishes she could thank her for her kindness, but weakness and pain finally take their toll, and she slips into unconsciousness.
When she wakes, she finds Esmeralda sitting in a chair reading a book. Without saying a word, she leaves and returns with a tray of food. They share no words, and Esmeralda seems overly grief stricken to say why. After she finishes, Rachel returns with a sturdier set of prisoner coveralls in hand and lays them on the bed. Solemnly she says, “Change. Your trial is in an hour.”
As she’s led in to the court room, Katy notes the live presence of a federal judge; an elderly woman in the same black foreboding garb as the other judge. Wearing the fresh bruises and whelps, Katy stills finds the strength to keep her head high. The judge smashes her gavel down, activating the monitors and recording equipment. A bailiff dressed in the standard PHP uniform pompously introduces the court.
“All rise in the presence of her Honor Colonel Westbridge.”
The judge motions and says, “All but the accused, be seated.”
The bailiff continues. “Katherine Dawn Marie O’Brien, you are charged with five hundred and fifty counts of possessing materials of a lewd and anarchist nature with the intent to distribute, two hundred ninety-eight counts of lewd acts against nature, six hundred fifty-two counts of contributing the corruption of another person to commit a crime, two hundred and eighty-nine counts of sex with a member of the same sex, one hundred forty-nine counts of sodomy, four hundred and seventy-six counts of unprotected body-fluid exchanges with a person of no legal relationship, and a single count of contempt of court. You previously entered a plea of not guilty. Do you wish to change your plea, or does it stand?”
Katy is surprised she wasn’t gagged for the trial as well, so she decides to exercise her rights. “For the last few days, I’ve been beaten, tortured, molested,…” The Federal District Attorney to her right, immediately stands screaming his objections, but the judge silences him with a wave of her hand, letting Katy to finish uninterrupted. “…and abused. Most of my civil rights were violated while under the care of this court, and I still refuse to change my stance. I’m innocent of violating any law. My actions are guaranteed and protected by the constitution, and it would be a travesty to our forefathers for me to say otherwise.”
The judge turns to the D.A. and lets him speak. “Your honor I object; the defendant is trying to delay sentencing, and waste the time of this court by insinuating that illegal human right violations occurred in our facility. This is merely a stalling tactic; and I have as proof, the International Human Rights Inspection from three years ago, in which we passed with an outstanding grade. This more than proves we are incapable of doing the crimes she claims.” Katy’s jaw drops suddenly.
The judge nods approvingly, and says: “Sustained.” Turning to Katy she continues. “Katherine O’Brien, this court finds you guilty of all charges. Sentencing phase will now commence. Seeing that you have no one to testify on your behalf, this court sentences you to death. Captain Edwards?”
Katy watches her jailer Rachel step out from behind a blind and snap to attention. The Judge nods at her, and points at Katy.
“You will take Ms. O’Brien from this court and deliver her to the execution branch immediately. Case Closed!”
Five minutes march past her eyes in a surreal blur. Rushed down two levels, she can’t wrap her mind around the fact she’s going to be executed, or the world as she knew will end. So many regrets, fears, lost loves, and missed opportunities flash across her eyes even as the orderly sanitizes her neck with an alcohol soaked gauss pad. As he lowers the ampoule with the lethal cocktail into the gun, Captain Edwards takes it from him and orders him to let her do it. Bowing to rank, he hands over the small glass vial along with the gun, and steps away. Loading the ampoule into the gun by shoving it onto a needle, recessed inside, the gun cycles for ten seconds clearing the nozzle, and ensuring the full dosage can be delivered by a single pull of the trigger.
She leans over and whispers dryly into Katy’s ear: “Sweet dreams my little warrior of the humanities.”
A loud pop against her neck, followed by a painful sting, tells Katy the dosage was injected successfully. The icy fluid immediately crawls through her arteries, into her brain, and she slips peacefully into oblivion as the tears of regret dribble down her cheeks.