Was there no way to kill Alex?
Jason levelled his blaster and shot again, hitting Alex in the chest for a third time. Alex hit the lush green grass of the park with a dull thud, and lay there unmoving. Jason waited, his arm extended straight out in front of him, his blaster unwavering. Around him, people scattered in all directions, screaming. He knew they would call the authorities, but he didn’t care because he knew there was nothing they could do to him. Twenty years ago, after the death of his wife Ashlee, he has gone into the Do Your Time, Before Your Crime program.
Extensive research had found that 60% of people who committed murder, regretted their actions afterward and wished they’d sort help before ruining their lives. From these findings, the program was born and anyone considering committing a crime could apply to the government to be sent to a penal planet for the length of time your particular crime incurred. In Jason’s case, murder was a twenty-year sentence on a harsh maximum security penal planet.
While there, Jason had been counseled weekly in the hopes that when he was released he wouldn’t go through with his plan. The study had also shown that 70% of people came out reformed and re-entered society without a black mark against their names. He however, was in the 30% who’s hatred was so strong he did not waiver from what he intended to do.
Alex suddenly sat up, and started at Jason who threw up his hands in exasperation. “What the hell do I have to do to kill you?” he demanded.
Alex rose to his feet and brushed himself off. There were three smoking holes in his shirt, but no blood. “You can’t kill me, I’m a synthodroid.”
“A what?” Jason demanded, confused.
“A synthodroid,” Alex repeated. “It’s an artificial body.”
Jason started at him blankly.
“It’s a way of becoming immortal I suppose,” said Alex, thoughtfully when Jason didn’t say anything. “You see, I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer three years ago. Even in this modern age there’s no cure. Instead, you can have your consciousness transferred into a synthodroid, and continue your life for as long as you want.” Alex shrugged. “In reality I died two years ago.”
As Alex’s words sank in, Jason’s fingers went numb and the blaster thudded to the ground at his feet. He moved to the bench next to him and sat heavily. Leaning forward, elbows on his knees, he stared at his feet.
“So I’ve wasted twenty years of my life on that stinking penal planet,” he muttered, “worked my fingers to the bone, and all for nothing.”
The only sound that cut through the silence of the deserted park was the distant sound of sirens.
Alex shifted from one foot to the other nervously. “Umm…why are you trying to kill me?” he finally asked.
Jason face hardened as he lifted his gaze to Alex.
“You know why,” he spat. Anger flared in Jason again and even though he knew shooting Alex would do nothing, the urge came over him again.
Alex shook his head. “Transferring a consciousness can leave gaps in your memory,” he explained. “I know we were good friends, and we went to school together, and on holidays.” He smiled at the memories. “And I was best man at your wedding. What a day that was. How happy you were, and how proud I was to stand next to you.” Alex smile slowly faded. “I can’t remember your wife though. I have images of a tall, thin, dark haired woman. Is that her? A deep frown creased Alex’s forehead as he thought.
Jason stared at the thoughtful look on Alex’s face, trying to determine if he was telling the truth. In the end he decided he was. No-one could make up such a bizarre story and keep a straight face.
“You had an affair with my wife, Ashlee,” said Jason, finally.
“No,” said Alex, shaking his head. “No…no you have to be wrong. I’d never do that, not to you. That much I do know.”
Jason had felt nothing but hatred towards Alex for so long that he found odd that a wave of pity rushed through him and for a moment he saw his friend as he used to be.
He’d spend every day for the last twenty years planning this day. As soon as the penal ship hand landed, Jason had gone to one of the spaceports communication terminals and looked up Alex’s number. He had placed a call and arranged to meet Alex at the park the next day, on the pretense of catching up after so long.
Now everything was going wrong. Jason’s shoulders slumped. Now that he looked closely at Alex, he could see that time had not changed his ruggedly handsome features. His black hair showed no signs of grey, his face free of wrinkles and his eyes were as bright and innocent as the day they left collage.
Jason sighed. “I found out the two of you had been having an affair for six months.” He looked down at his calloused hands. Hard labor had turned his once slightly pudgy body into lean muscle. “I know it was partly my fault. After our little girl had died, I threw myself into my work and pushed Ashlee away when she needed me the most…when we needed each other. But we were going to put our lives back together. Go away for a holiday…become a family again.”
Alex stood there rooted to the spot, staring at him.
“Ashlee had been on her way to your house…she was going to tell you it was over…but she never made it…she was killed in a car accident…and it’s your fault,” he said, forcing out every word. “If you hadn’t been having an affair with her…she wouldn’t have gone out…and she wouldn’t have been killed.”
Grief stricken Alex fell to his knees and grasped the hair at his temples in his fists. “I can’t remember,” he groaned. “I don’t know why I would do this to you. Why didn’t anyone tell me what I’d done?”
Jason wearily pushed himself to his feet, moved over to where he had dropped the blaster and picked it up.
“What are you going to do?” asked Alex, staring at the blaster.
Jason looked at it a moment then placed it in his holster. He took a deep breath, and then slowly let it out.
“What am I going to do?” said Jason. He shrugged. “Nothing I guess. You said yourself you can’t be killed. But I will sleep better knowing you will suffer with the knowledge of what you’ve done to me and mine. I think maybe that’s a more fitting punishment.”
Jason turned and strode away across the deserted park and towards the flashing lights of the police cars.
Was there no way to kill Alex?