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Going Past the Town Prison

A Sci Fi story by J E D Cline

Retiring on a distant planet far from home, he goes past the strange looking town prison...

The rhythmic swinging of the synchronized trapeze pendulum system had become wearying to GptpNameone during the past three hours, each huge arc swinging down and back up again on the far side to switch to the next pendulum, on and on across the harsh terrain below where the 200 meter high pylons were anchored. It was a very efficient transportation system, but at this point he was almost wishing for some wheeled vehicle mode across a paved road somewhere. But not down there below him, the jumbled volcanic rock terrain was no place for a road, or much of anything alive to have to travel. Even the pylons from which his cubicle swung as it was handed off from trapeze pendulum to the next, had had their solar melter airlifted in for the buildup of each pylon out of re-fused basalt.

The terrain below was changing now, the spaces between volcanic frozen lava massive shards were becoming filled between by the black volcanic sand, more and more flat space was heralding approach of the desert town that would be his retirement home to the end of his days, here on this desolate planet where he had been employed for the past quarter century. It was too expensive to ship him back to Earth, so here he was. At least he would have his own home here, no longer living in an expensive yet minimal housing apartment in the busy city. His very own home, at last, something he could fix up and enjoy, for a change. 

His cubicle swung down and up, handed off to next trapeze pendulum, down and up, the low points a scarce 10 meters above the rugged terrain. Irrigation ditches now checkered the black sand landscape, and agriculture could be seen growing below, planted, grown, and harvested in a slow wave that could be seen across the landscape. He went past the reservoir that fed the irrigation network, its lake being fed by another trapeze pendulum bucket system that extended off to the north to where water was abundant in an immense volcanic basin, but no sand there in which to grow anything.  Granaries and warehouses came into view, and then the little town itself; then his cubicle was handed off at its high point to the platform serving as the embarkation point for this farming town. 

Picking up his luggage and backpack, he rode the elevator down to the surface and followed the path marked on his map, the exercise a welcome relief from the three hours sitting in the cubicle. The path to his home to be, went past an odd structure that was quite in contrast to the simple dwellings that served as stores and homes here; this structure was a towering rectangular structure which served as the courthouse, and its backside was merged with an even taller cylindrical structure, clearly the town prison. Walking past the round prison, high up he could see vertical slits spaced evenly around it, wide enough to let air in and see a bit out of by the unfortunate folks imprisoned there; the vertical slits also reminded him of the archery slots in the parapets of ancient Earth castles, wide enough to see out of, but not wide enough to escape through the thick re-melted basalt welded unitized structure, which had no doors to the outside, clearly the only way in and out was through the courthouse. As he walked past, he looked up at one of those darkened slots in the prison, and wondered if some wretched prisoner was staring out back at him from that foreboding place. 

And there actually was someone staring out at him from that very slot in the massive wall. GptpNametwo just gave him a glance, as the surveillance cameras were what mostly peered out from the slots that ringed the round structure higher than any building in town. Because those forbidding thick walls of that place were in secret reality designed to keep people out, not in; although to the folks of the town, it was supposed to be the silent prison warning to those who would have an urge to violate the town rules. But in reality, in the round tower were those whose livelihood was part of the rule enforcement system. And the window slots were indeed also potentially available as archery slots in case of need, and each one had a crossbow and quiver full of arrows, attached by each window, ready for any insurrection that might happen. The actual prison was the town out there, full of workers and retired folks, that had to be kept living according to the rules issued by the courthouse.

The crossbows and arrows were only for emergency use; the projectiles normally issuing out from the slots in the building were highly electrically charged very tiny micro-pellets. The pair of guards put the new man walking past down below into the bulls-eye and fired a micro-pellet into his backside, and suddenly the telemetered data flooded back onto the computer screen and into the helmet of one of the guard pair, GptpNamethree. The pair of guards talked back and forth, the helmeted one was essentially linked by the probe into what the targeted man's thoughts and intentions were, to which the guard would describe what those intentions seemed to be. The other guard of the pair listened to this description while also watching the readout of some of the chemistry of the target man, as he wearily trudged on past down the dusty black street, holding a map that showed him the path to his new home. The intention-reading guard said the target was too curious about the round building, so the other guard spoke into the microphone one of a random set of fearsome phrases, which would be perceived by the target's subconscious mind, grabbing the attention of the Reticular Activating System that ever watches for self-preservation, both distracting from the ongoing intention and also inputting a new important concern, too vague to be identified by the target, but the purpose had been achieved, that of inhibiting the target from doing whatever the target had been intending to do.

The pair of guards monitored him a moment more, satisfied that the target was no longer interested in the "prison" shape; then the guards switched their surveillance to one of the long time locals, checking in on him to verify he was obeying the rules. The guards had their assigned individuals they monitored and did their unseen influencing of each target's behavior; this was the guard's job, livelihood, lifetime career. Remote behavior modification technology was the means of control; once targeted by the electro-micropellet, the targeted person was locked into the system unknowingly; his/her DNA now ever hooked into the rule enforcement data system; there was no place to hide. 

In the center of the round cylindrical structure, was the data center. GptpNamefour was alerted by a bell announcing a newcomer to the data system, so she immediately checked the computer screen and noted the new resident of the prison town, GptpNameone. GptpNamefour categorized the newcomer into Group Three, the single men's group. That automatically assigned GptpNameone's relationship to each of other groups in the town; to Group One, the polygamist-united group that operated most of the town businesses, he would be a threat, being not of that male genetic lineage of Group One; and somewhat similarly, also an automatic threat to those of Group Two, another polygamist group, which mostly operated this law-defining and enforcement establishment, again because the newcomer was a male looking for a female to be his mate, thus an automatic rival to both groups of polygamists, who needed all the females they could get. To Group Four, the single women, the newcomer would be a possible source of amusement, income and support when asked, ever luring the single man on so as to do their bidding, while giving the single man the minimum pleasure of relationship needed to keep him working hard for the single women, bounced around between the women according to the women's needs of the moments and the newcomer's skills. Group Five were the monogamist couples, having only one mate, although occasionally they split and re-entered the singles groups to later re-pair with someone else. And Group Six were the Polyanders, the women who had more than one husband at any given time, which helped to balance the polygamous patriarchical groups that inherently kept one man mateless somewhere for each extra wife a polygamist brother took, there being on average equal numbers of males and females born. All six groups had a common purpose, however, that of producing agricultural items for internal use and for export; even the "retired" folks like the newcomer GptpNameone would unwittingly be in servitude to the overall agricultural production, puppetized by the remote behavior modification tools that inhibited this, urged that instead, and ever watched what was happening, all done remotely from this cylindrical tower with high vertical slots for windows, on the backside of the courthouse.

(To be continued)

An Excalator Hi page titled PasttheTownprison by J E D Cline started on Sunday, April 13, 2008 6:20:29 AM US/Pacific

Copyright © 2008 James E. D. Cline. Permission granted to reproduce providing inclusion of a link back to this site and acknowledgment of the author and concept designer James E. D. Cline.