“Officer, do come in,” said the lazy drawl of the suspect. The recreational phosphorescence from the club’s atmosphere had faded away to a dim glow. The silhouette and its accompanying shadow shifted in their position somewhat.
Officer Porter steadied her team and entered the room in stealth mode. She had express orders to sedate this highly mobile suspect before taking him into her custody. Do not move until suspect has been located, she transmitted to the rest of the team. This was unbelievably lucky. After almost two years of tracking down this man via his goods, they finally had him. Surrounded and possibly armed.
“Surrender to this, Delirium.” she spoke aloud, addressing the criminal by his chosen code name. “Central Justice holds you guilty for the propagation of narcotics among innocent civilians, and the crimes that they have gone on to perpetrate.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” said Delirium, bored.
“Do not move. You will be provided counsel if requested…”
Prepare the sedatives, she commanded her team. Green acknowledging blips confirmed their response.
“My dear Officer Porter, I did not come this far and let myself be captured.”
Ordinarily, she would have registered some shock at the fact that he knew her name already. But this wasn’t the time to debate such minutiae. Ready to diffuse on my mark. All the green blips flashed off once and then blinked back again.
“If you try to diffuse now, you’ll never get me, Officer Porter.”
Stand by, team. “State your demands, criminal.”
“Come, come, my dear Officer Porter. It’s been 36 months since you have been chasing me and now that I am finally in your arms, you won’t even talk to me?”
“You will be allowed to speak to legal counsel only.”
“But I don’t want to speak to them! I want to talk to you, dear.”
Some of the green blips went orange in confusion. The criminal was requesting an audience with an officer. Porter did not have the time to send a request to higher authorities for this change of procedure. With a high-sensitivity target, she was alone.
Team, commencing negotiations with the hostage. Initiating a code blue pulse. When the pulse dies out, begin diffusion. Some of the orange lights turned red in protest, but as Porter marched into the eerie semi-darkness, they slowly switched back to green.
She entered a partially lit hallway. Recreational skins littered the floor, and the heads up display told her that the concentration of narcotics in the atmosphere had jumped to about 4 parts per million. A chair swiveled around as she entered and positioned itself. In the poor visibility, Porter could make out his presence through her thermal sensors only.
“Please sit. I have many things I want to talk to you about.”
“Speak.” She remained standing.
“Is that how the new generation works these days? I didn’t know that the lack of emotions necessitated a lack of courteous behavior.”
There was silence, during which Porter re-adjusted her sensors in order to pin-point his location better.
“Might I say you’ve done a lovely job with infiltrating my customer base? In the beginning I couldn’t even tell them apart from the regular ones, until I noticed that their delirium wore off a lot faster. Is it a part of your training, my dear?”
Porter continued to scan the room. Two exits. He was located equidistant from both of them. If he had to leave in one way or another, he would have to physically pass by her. He hadn’t yet asked her a question to which she could objectively respond. She wasn’t in the habit of making small talk to criminals either.
“Silence makes this conversation rather one-sided, so when I asked to speak to you, I expected you to reply back.”
“It is my duty to stop crime” was the mechanic, halting, monotone reply.
“You new generation clones are pathetic. Not only do you make awful conversationalists, but you don’t even accept compliments very well. I think it’s time you ask a question or we could very well be sitting here in silence until one of us dies.”
“How did you know of our methods?” asked Porter, wondering that she might as well ask something productive if he was being so insistent.
“Oooh. An interesting one. I know everything about you, dear.”
“I know your dirty little secret in the rehabilitation center. You’re one of the few with the recurring gene failure, isn’t it? ”
If Porter could have felt shock, she probably would. But with her conditioning, she probably translated the information into the binary category of either failures in security networks or manipulative lies.
“…. Well? Aren’t you curious how I know about your private records?” asked Delirium, in some struggle to provoke a response.
It was true, though. Despite all of Porter’s genetic conditioning to suppress emotion, the logic of the situation did not compute.
“Yes. I am,” said Officer Porter, internally setting her own beacon to a blue light. She estimated that this conversation would take no more than three minutes. Given that this was an extremely dangerous suspect, Porter ordered her team to go ahead with the diffusion when the blue light went out. She could be resuscitated if required. Capturing him was the top priority here.
Porter paused to regulate some oxygen within her suit. The narcotics in the atmosphere were beginning to seep into her suit through the vents. How the criminal survived his manic addiction was anyone’s guess. After legal counsel, he would probably be sent to the labs for testing. If indeed his genes turned out to be as robust as they claimed, they could use it to for further emotional conditioning of the gene pool.
“So, tell me, are the suppressants are working?” asked Delirium, pausing just enough to seem nasty about it.
“What is the goal of this discussion, criminal?” asked Porter, feeling a little out of her element. The rehabilitation story was supposed to be expunged from her records. Memories of her days in rehabilitation passed through rather quickly.
Porter had been “born” just like every new generation clone had, derived from the diluted DNA of some True Human. Most clones did not feel emotions any more, as part of their restructuring and conditioning. However, as it was with DNA, there were some cases when citizens of the new generation failed, and regressed into violence or sadness or happiness. It was ironic how the fresh source of DNA (the last of the True Humans) were also the remaining criminals. Sweeping evolutionary changes demanded that the True Humans be rounded up from the ghetto, from their criminal hubs and submitted into the gene pool centers. Their genes would be extracted and applied, and they would emerge as docile, civilized, urbane creatures. The greater the variation in structure, the stronger the emotional conditioning would reflect on the next series of clones.
“You regressed as a child, didn’t you?”
Porter was silent for a while, and then she allowed a barely audible “Yes” to escape her.
Delirium’s mouth curved up into a smirk. Spontaneous signs of emotion. How long had he been breathing in narcotics?
“Tell me what happened during the siege of the Blaniken outpost.”
Porter’s regression had taken on an incontrollable form. The Blaniken outpost was one of the hardest ghettos to crack, and it was evident in the damages the team had suffered. For the first and probably only time in her life, Porter had been possessed with rage. She remembered that emotion, the wild, inherent drive in her head to demolish all. Regressions were usually fatal as emotions that had been suppressed for an entire lifetime managed to find an outlet. Porter’s rehab had tried to clean off some of the memories, but the feeling of actually tearing a fellow clone from limb to limb in blind rage still tingled on her fingers on the worse days.
“That….that information is classified.”
“It feels beautiful, doesn’t it?” asked Delirium, leaning over the table now.
“I am not designed to….”
“You know what I’m talking about. It’s that unseen power that you’ve been denied all your life…”
Porter knew exactly what he was talking about. She had been so angry that not even physical injuries could deter her. She was attacking anything and everything that was in sight. The thrill of having another creature’s existence completely in her unstable control and that she could, with the smallest of effort end it, was overwhelming.
Delirium allowed himself a chuckle as he saw Porter’s eyes expand slightly through her visor. Marketing emotions was exactly his specialization. The beauty was that each user had their own experience. The drug merely worked to restore the natural chemical balance within the still human brain. Once the cerebrum was capable of feeling the emotion, it was pure abandon for the mind. At least until the conditioning kicked in to place, stabilizing the balance again. To feel happy, to feel sad, to literally feel anything that was beyond the capacity of rationale and logic was obviously addictive.
“Are you under influence now?” asked Porter, registering his smile and laughter.
“No, my dear,” he conceded. “You see, I don’t need narcotics to feel emotions. I’m a True Human.”
Increase the dosage of the sedative, team. Call for reinforcements. Green lights blinked consecutively in order.
“Why does my existence concern you?”
“Another interesting one! My dear, you are absolutely scintillating today.”
Porter did not accept the compliment. She stayed emotionless and counted off the seconds from the blue light timer.
“You see, I just wanted to inform you specifically, that the rehab treatments won’t work. As well trained as you are, I know it won’t.”
“Let me see your face,” asked Delirium. “Without the visor.”
This was an imminent exposure to danger. It would take a while to purge the chemicals from her system. Given her history with regressions, it might even send her into another one that could very well irrecoverable.
“You see, my dear, you are my clone. My True Human DNA has been used to create you.”
“All new generation humans are derived from viable True Human DNA.”
“Correct. But the problem is, my genes, like me, are a bit of a rebel. They honestly should have politely asked for a sample instead of forcing it out of me, but I’m not exactly compatible for emotional conditioning. I also have a naturally high ability resist chemicals, as you can clearly tell by my comfortable exposure to narcotics. I didn’t know it was you, at first. But after the Blaniken incident, I knew you had inherited my problem.”
“Are you expecting me to empathize with you?”
“No, no, my dear. That would be ruining the medical charade of a spectacularly designed suppressant.”
Once again there was an awkward silence as Delirium expected her to offer an opinion on the revelation. Porter was unimpressed. Or maybe she was conditioned to feel unimpressed.
“Please let me see your face. Just once, without the visor.”
“You have several clones. Why this attachment to me?”
“See, you and I have been the ones bound by fate. You’re the only person who could hunt me down after all these years. In a way, you are my offspring and I feel strangely proud.”
Delirium was getting more insistent now.
“Before I go to the gene pool centers, let me look at you once. Allow me the last privilege of feeling joy before I’m handed into civility.”
This was unbelievably outrageous and dangerous. Catering to emotional needs of a True Human was not her duty.
“Please. For the last time? I’ll never be able to feel anything after.”
“Would you be more compliant with the procedure that is to follow?”
“Would you really deny me the right to see my own offspring?”
Porter activated the timer alert on her blue light. Then, she proceeded to take off the visor, despite all protests by the internal computer that it was dangerous for her to do so. Instinctively, she held her breath as he visor opened up, allowing her oxygen to escape outside. The stench of narcotics was an olfactory attack in its own right.
Then the unexpected happened. Delirium reached out for her face. In some defense, Porter started back, careful not to touch or breathe anything.
“Please….” asked Delirium softly, persistently, his eyes welling up somewhat. Another debilitating emotional condition.
Porter paused stiffly as his fingers traced a line across her cheek. Every logical, rational and even the remnants of emotional instincts were telling her that something was wrong and this was too easy.
It was odd how the sub-dermal injector camouflaged in Delirium’s fingers and Porter’s team diffused at the same time. While Delirium collapsed to the floor, unconscious, Porter frantically struggled to get the visor back on. She gulped in the oxygen, feeling strangely light and confused and scared at the same time. Her brain began to destabilize slowly as she watched her comrades drag him out. While they fumbled in the dark, toxic, low-visibility ambiance, Porter realized that she had just condemned the only sort of family she had to an eternal hell.
She curled up on the floor and felt the tears. Then, almost convulsively her body surrendered and the regression took over. Porter began to weep.