Was there no way to kill Alex so that he would just stay dead?
Jason leveled his blaster and shot again, hitting Alex in the center of the chest. 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.
Jason 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, Jason has gone into the Do Your Time, Before Your Crime program.
After extensive research it was found that 60% of people who committed murder, regretted their actions afterward and wished they’d sought 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. Interestingly, 70% of people came out reformed and re-entered society without a black mark against their names. Jason 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 got to his feet and brushed himself off. There were three smoking holes in his shirt, but curiously not 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 a three years ago. Even in this modern age there’s no cure. Instead, you can have your consciousness transferred into a synthodroid, and continue you life for as long as you want.” Alex shrugged uncomfortably. “In reality I died two years ago.”
As Alex’s words sank in, Jason’s fingers went numb and the blaster fell to the ground with a dull thud. 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 his 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 to be replaced by a frown. “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 thought, and Jason found he wanted to laugh at the entire situation. Instead he stared at the thoughtful look on Alex’s face, trying to determine if he was telling the truth. In the end Jason decided he was. No-one could make up such a bizarre story and keep a straight face.
“You had an affair with Ashlee,” said Jason, finally.
“No,” said Alex, shaking his head vigorously. “No…no you have to be wrong. I’d never do that, not to you.”
The pain in his voice matched the look on his face and Jason suddenly felt sorry for him. He found this odd considering he had felt nothing but hatred towards Alex for so long. 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…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.” Tears cascaded down his face. “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 on his heel and strode away across the deserted park.