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"Hold still, sir," the doctor muttered.
Henry hadn't moved.
"I am, sir," he said docily.
The doctor stared for a moment. "Right," he then said. "I'm sorry. Most of our patients put up a fight." He then stared at Henry, as if afraid he had given him an idea.
He had given Henry an idea, but it wasn't to put up a fight. Not a physical one. "Never crossed my mind," he said. "I figure, I've been found guilty by a jury of my peers; I deserve to be punished."
The doctor opened his mouth and closed it again. Henry realized that he was an insecure and vulnerable man, one who hated his job. One who questioned the ethics of it. There weren't many people who did that anymore. That, Henry thought, is what we shared.
"You've been found guilty," said the doctor, more to himself. "Guilty of . . . espionage?"
"Right. You've been found guilty. But . . . does that mean you are guilty?"
Henry sighed again. "I didn't kill the Minister of Surveillance."
"So you're not guilty! You don't . . ." The doctor's eyes darted to his pocket, where Henry knew the syringe was. He shifted on the gurney, catching wary looks from the faceless bailiffs lined against the walls, but it was only to get a better look at the doctor. ". . . deserve this."
Henry smiled. "I didn't say that, doctor. The law found me at fault, and that's good enough for me." The doctor looked scandalized, so he added, "Besides, even though I didn't kill him, I would have very much liked to see the Minister dead."
Henry realized then that despite the grey hairs that popped up occasionally, the doctor could not be older than thirty. He understood why: working at the Justice Ministry was the only way a person could become a doctor without decades of school and mountains of debt. It was clever, really, Henry thought. It was the government's way of getting doctors to conform to their standards. And to keep an eye on the intelligent people.
They had reached a set of double doors now, and as the doctor pushed them open, Henry decided that he should start preparing himself. He could almost feel the hum of the machine in his head.
The doctor was saying something, maybe something important, but Henry could not pay attention. What he was doing required every ounce of concentration he had. The chip was a prototype; the Leader had made that clear. What made it work was mostly just sheer willpower, which was what made it so testy and so costly. Still, it would come in useful, and Henry had known he would need a useful thing.
"Henry Peter Davis!" The judge's booming voice almost cut into his concentration. Henry could see under his closed eyelid a sort of screen, a conscious-projected screen, and a loader. "You have been charged with and convicted of the murder of the Minister of Surveillance, Harold Kinderman. In accordance with the Anti-Death Penalty Act, you have been sentenced -"
(Passive voice, Henry managed to think, as his thoughts, knowledge, and memories uploaded into the microchip implanted in his brain by a non-government doctor five years ago. How typical. Focus on the punished, never the punisher.)
- to a lobotomy, after which you will be committed to federal prison. Your facilities of reason, judgement, and disobediance will be erased. Such is fitting for an active member of the Resistance," the man added, his voice filled with righteous hatred. Henry almost laughed. Ninety percent uploaded.
The bright surgical lights came on, and suddenly the doctor's silhouette appeared, tools in his hands. As the anesthesiologist brought the mask down over Henry's face, he heard the doctor whisper, "I'm sorry. I wish . . ."
But the rest was drowned out by the small ping that told Henry that the download was done. As he lost all feeling he smiled. If the chip did its job, his mind would return to him in a matter of hours.
Ninety minutes later, the anesthesia wore off and a couple of orderlies shook him awake. They barked orders at him, though Henry could not understand - only the sharp voices could convey what he was supposed to do.
The doctor was sitting in a corner, holding his face in his hands. He had to hang around, to inspect, to see to it that the lobotomy had gone according to plan.
Henry was on his feet now - he could walk, with help - and the doctor approached him.
"Henry Peter Davis?" he asked, rather timidly.
Nothing. That, according to procedure, was good.
The doctor did a quick and cursory examination of Henry's body, to make sure that he was in no immediate danger of losing his life - that would be illegal. He rotated Henry's shoulder and listened to his heartbeat and took his hand, to see if there was any response. Then the orderlies led the convicted man off, to be prodded and poked and experimented on at the federal prison. The doctor felt like a murderer.
But just as the door swung shut behind Henry and his guides, Henry's head turned. It was just for a moment, and it could have been reflexive, but the doctor was just able to see the recognition in his eyes. And the wink.
He realized there was something in his hands. A note. How had the convicted man gotten a note? And how had he placed it in the doctor's hands? The note contained only a phone number and a word: Contact.
Well, the doctor thought as he stowed the note in his pocket, intending to burn it after he memorized his contents, he supposed he would soon find out.
Goffstown, New Hampshire
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