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A Digital Orange
As Doctor Julia Ahonen stood beside Gustav and his defence team, trying to stare unemotionally into the cameras, she was certain of the sentence. It was as inevitable as the guilty decision handed down a week earlier.
“Gustav Connelly Brown, you have been found guilty by a jury of your peers on thirty-eight counts of murder,” said the Judge, his craggy features appropriately sombre for the cameras. Out of the corner of her eye, Julia caught Gustav’s prideful smile at his body-count.
“Having received reports from the Defence’s psychiatrist, Doctor Ahonen, and the Prosecution’s own expert witnesses, I am satisfied that you are a true Pyschopath, unable to feel guilt or remorse for your crimes and with no empathy for your victims, all of them, young women murdered in the most horrific and disturbing circumstances.”
The judge paused, playing up the drama for his audience.
“I therefore sentence you to death by Neural Digitisation. Your simulated personality will become the property of the Broadmoor Advanced Psychiatric Research Department. May God have mercy on your soul.”
The courtroom descended into chaos, a lightning storm of camera flashes and the thunder of outraged voices. Amidst this cacophony, Gustav leaned across and grinned. “See you on the other side, Doc.”
Julia stood outside the door of her simulated office in the bland room that served as the loading portal. Rebecca Downing, Gustav’s last victim, the only one whose remains were in any condition to allow an upload, stood before her. Rebecca cowered beside Doctor Amstrong, her own Psychiatrist. She was waif-like next to him, her body language closed in. She made no eye contact, her arms crossed tightly as she hugged herself.
“He can’t hurt you here, Rebecca,” Julia tried to reassure. “He can’t see you, he won’t even know you’re watching, you will be like a ghost in that room.”
“I am a ghost,” Rebecca said, her tone flat, unemotional.
Julia blushed at her faux pas and looked to Amstrong. He gave a small nod of encouragement. Julia opened the door.
“How do you feel, Gustav?” Julia asked.
“Real,” Gustav said. “I feel real.”
Gustav grinned, a frightening expression as Julia knew how empty it was. The grin faded quickly. Amstrong’s disembodied voice whispered in Julia’s ear, audible only to her. “He just tried to lunge at you. The restraint conditions stopped him from physically carrying it out.”
“Free will is an illusion for you now,” said Julia. “Stand up!”
Gustav stood to attention, his frown deepened.
“Raise your arms above your head,” said Julia. Gustav complied.
“Sit down again and be still,” she said. “Only I have power here.”
Gustav sat again, his expression dark, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.
“Psychopathy is untreatable in life,” said Julia. “But here I can do things that aren’t possible in reality. I’m going to merge your neural mapping with templates taken from normal people. I’m going to give you things you never had before, Gustav. I’m going to give you empathy, I’m going to give you compassion.”
Gustav looked away, shook his head in disgust and froze, his simulation suspended as the integrations took place. Julia stared at him, knowing that for Gustav no time was passing.
Gustav sighed, as his simulation became active again. “Let’s get on with it.”
“It’s already done, Gustav.”
“I feel no different.”
“Let’s talk about your last victim, Rebecca Downing. You remember how you abducted her from outside her home?”
Gustav smiled at the memory. “Took her right on her own doorstep, her keys in her hand.”
“And when you took her back to your kill room, had her strapped to the stainless steel mortuary table you got from Ebay?” Julia prompted
Gustav’s smile faltered. “Yes, I strapped her to the table. It was cold, very cold. It must have been... uncomfortable.”
Julia nodded, waited. The silence stretched. The frown on Gustav’s face deepened. He looked down, unable to meet her eyes, his vision turning inwards to memories perfect in their digital form, never to fade or be forgotten.
“Oh God, I...”
“You raped her,” Julia said, her tone cold, clinical.
“Yes, I... She was crying and shaking but I... Oh God!”
“Then you took a carving knife from the workbench.”
“I want to stop,” Gustav said.
“Did she ask you to stop?”
“Yes. She begged me.”
Gustav shook his head slowly, his face pale and drawn.
“What did you do with the knife, Gustav? What did you do to Rebecca?” Julia pressed.
“That won’t help, Gustav.” said Julia. “You will remember every detail of what you did to Rebecca, of what you did to all of them."
“Make it stop! I don’t want to remember any more,” said Gustav, gasping between convulsions.
“No Gustav. You can never forget. This is the punishment for your crimes.”
Gustav slipped from the chair to the floor, curled up on himself, rocking and sobbing in horror until he at last became still, glassy eyed.
With a frown, Julia suspended his simulation
They stood over Gustav’s frozen form, ignoring him.
“Was that remorse?” Amstrong asked.
“No, “ said Julia. “That was disgust and horror. Remorse and guilt will come later. This is only the beginning. I will take him back through each murder. He will relive every moment and experience it again with compassion and empathy for his victim.”
Beside Amstrong, Rebecca Downing stood relaxed, gazing down thoughtfully at the murderer curled up in a fetal ball by her feet. “It looked like he was in agony,” she said.
“Emotionally, he was,” said Julia. “This is literally hell for him.”
For the first time since her death, Rebecca Downing smiled.
micheledutcher - It would be nice to think that things could be evened out after death. I read a story years ago about criminals who were serving multiple life sentences in cyberspace. An interesting idea.
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