Saturday, February 24, 2024

“The Prediction of a Horrific Crime” • by Humphrey Price

I figured I had about an hour before being arrested by the Pre-Crime Police.  

Sky drones surveilled my movements while I fought back tears and left the house inherited from my mom. I was on the Precog AI watch list due to my social media posts, including chatroom banter that was supposed to be unobservable. So much for that. I still had my gun, though. Guns are sacred, protected by court rulings, and Pre-Crime units can’t take them away.

The short-barrelled rifle was in my backpack—semi-auto with smart aiming and fire control. I noticed the swarm of flies headed for the house. Soon those microdrones would confirm that the rifle was not inside. To shake off the sky drones, I ducked into a covered alleyway and jumped a fence into an abandoned yard without an active security system. Everything was going according to plan.

Under cover of a rusty tin awning, I ditched my hooded jacket and pulled the form-fitting spoof mask over my head. I had a high quality black market model, so the street cams would not recognize me when I emerged onto the boulevard just ahead. It was fixed up with a real face from the ID system. The tracking AI would tag me through facial recognition with the likeness of an insurance salesman who lived nearby. The mask was unnoticeable to casual observers. You had to look closely to tell.

The Precog AI has been a smashing success. Mass killings have been reduced by 95-percent and false positives are less than 15-percent. Based on my chatroom posts and cunningly cultivated psychological profile, the precog AI was going to predict a target far away from my intended destination. The Pre-Crime police and sky drones were all being steered to the wrong location to delay my arrest.

I was despondent at leaving my mom’s house for the last time. She died six months ago from a treatable illness. She had been denied medication by FemCare, which controls allowable health care for all citizens with XX chromosomes. Health care for citizens with XY chromosomes is of course unrestricted, if you can afford it.

The underground metro was crowded this time of day, so I blended in with the pulsating mass squeezing down the escalator and onto the trains. On the subway, two people next to me were whispering in Spanish. That was risky. I could get a five thousand dollar snitch reward for turning them in. English is the only legal language now, and foreign languages are not taught in school or allowed at home. Four stops later I pushed out through the claustrophobic humanity and emerged into daylight.

There were new banners in the street for the Patriot Party. Elections were next month. Ballots are no longer secret, and if you don’t vote PP, you will be shamed on Z and lose all employment prospects. I’ve witnessed those without money or a place to live being dragged off the street to one of the homeless camps where life expectancy is about two years. You could also be jailed on false charges, and life expectancy there is also about two years.

After the death of my mom, I was angry and driven to find a way to strike back at the PP, so I joined the underground Fahrenheit Troop. F Troop has a list of the books that are now banned, and our mission is to make all of them available to the public once again.

My destination was just ahead in a nondescript building, unmarked except for a small plaque bearing the letters DBR. The Dangerous Books Repository contained digital copies of all banned books for AIs to reference when searching emails for restricted content. There was only a single armed guard at the door.

I had chosen one o’clock for the assault, because that’s Prayer and Pledge time. I positioned myself out of view behind a tall bush by the entrance and pulled off the stifling mask for better visibility and freedom of motion. Then I extracted the high-tech rifle from my backpack. It was unloaded. The bullets frightened me, and I didn’t need them to execute my plan.

Stepping out from the bushes, I was completely exposed. The camera AI would identify me, plus my ID chip implant would be scanned by the detector at the entrance.

I surprised the guard as the Pledge was being broadcast over public speakers. At gunpoint, she dropped her AR-15 and gave me access inside. I secured the door, dumped the AR-15 into a trash bin, and rushed to the workstation at the end of the foyer. The librarian went pale and trembled in fear as I gave him a slip of paper with the ISBN number and ordered him to download the text into my gizmo. It was designed by a genius in F Troop to hack into the PP’s nationwide Emergency Messaging System.

He typed in the number and brought up the file, shaking his head. “This is a horrific crime, you know. The book is banned for religious blasphemy. I see that in pre-PP times, the author was cancelled for expressing unacceptable opinions, and the cancellation was never rescinded.”

I waved the rifle and said, “Do it.”

He inserted the data cable, and I watched the display to verify the transfer. The file went directly from the gizmo to the PP’s server and was immediately broadcast to the entire population in an EMS email. While there was still time, I made the librarian get other books on my list, as many as possible.

The government was terrified that the banned books would contaminate school kids, grooming them to become monsters instead of being groomed for the PP. Those little monsters were about to be set free to figure it out for themselves. I would be taken into custody in a few minutes, but it was worth it. Now the entire country will be able to read Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.



Humphrey Price is a space systems engineer who has contributed to robotic exploration missions to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. His goal is to introduce interesting plausible ideas for space travel, aliens, and the future of the human race through highly realistic hard science fiction stories. Information on his writings can be found at