Before reading this I would strongly recommend rereading or at least skimming through the first part of this chapter.
“You are not the first to go without correct judgment. There have been 23 others that I know of. They all murdered someone else in a horrific act of violence, and when the Stripes came, they, just like you, were allowed to go unpunished. Three years ago, I was ordered by the System to go investigate a double murder. At the time I was stationed on Earth. The report on our PDA’s said that a mother had killed her husband and son. When we got to the scene, the judgment upon her was that she was to be sent to a new town. No punishment was given. At the time, it didn’t bother me too much; I thought that the Stripes in this other town would punish her. Two months later another murderer was let off without punishment. A week after that it happened again. Finally I began to question what was happening. I knew the punishment laws better than most; I’d administered plenty of terminations of murderers before. The night after the third murderer went free I laid awake most of the night struggling for an answer. Sometime past –04.00 I started to fall asleep. In that time between consciousness and unconsciousness a wicked thought came to me: what if the System was wrong. I was awoken from my sleep by this thought. Guilt and panic swelled up inside of me. I rushed to check my PDA to see what punishment I would get for doubting the System. My PDA was blank.
“You are being very patient Mr. U, I’m sorry this is taking so long but we’re almost done. Did you ever have feelings of hatred towards Dr. Ortho?” Said Mr. Hughes.
“At first,” Mr. Hughes PDA narrative continued, “I was unsure what to think. I had my PDA checked for mechanical problems, but everything came out fine. My doubts continued and grew stronger, yet the PDA was silent. After several days of tremendous feelings of doubt and guilt, I had an epiphany: I realized that I was allowed to doubt the System because it wanted me to doubt it; it was asking me for help. The System was just, but it was making unjust decisions. How could our System make these mistakes unless someone had changed it, manipulated it, debased it for their personal gain. This was what the System was telling me by allowing me to doubt it. The System wanted me to see this flaw and discover its cause. Do you understand?”
U looked up and the man sitting across from him. For a moment he considered running out of the room and contacting someone, anyone, who could deal with this man. But, the moment was fleeting and he resolved to tease out all that this Mr. Hughes had to say:
“Do you have any real proof that the System has been disturbed? What if there were other variables involved in those murder cases that you don’t know about. It seems more likely to me
that the System is just than that someone was able to access and change it.”
“Were you expecting to see Dr. Ortho today Mr. U?” Asked Mr. Hughes aloud.
“Proof? This conversation itself is proof. If the System wasn’t changed, would it let us talk such blasphemy against it? You yourself said that all this afternoon you doubted the System without any punishment. Why would we be allowed to think like this unless it wanted us to recognize that it needed help? As for the murders, I poured over every significant variable in the System’s database, and in each case I found that the judgement should have been severe. But they weren’t. What other explanation could there be for these things?” U’s heart beat heavy and swift as he considered Mr. Hughes’ words. He felt as if all the oxygen in his body and been drawn out by some force, leaving him hollow.
“If Mr. Hughes is right,” U thought to himself, “then we’re all lost”. Even as he thought this, he seemed to fall deeper into a panic.
“Why are you telling me this Mr. Hughes? I came here because I thought justice was going to be done, not to hear blasphemous lies from a alleged servant of the System.” U said through his PDA.
“Last two questions Mr. U and then we’ll be done. Did you murder Dr. Ortho?” Mr. Hughes asked.
U’s PDA lit up with Mr. Hughes’ words: “I want your help Mr. U. I know this is difficult for you to believe but if you think it over, I’m confident you will find that the only possibility is that the System has been altered. I want to know who is changing it and why, and you can help me. The replacement for Dr. Ortho will be coming here next week. If you can tell me who he is, and look for reasons why someone would want him instead of Dr. Ortho working as a supervisor it would be a great help to me. Think it over. You may contact me through your PDA, it is secure, I am sure of that. Although the System has been altered by some forces, I have found that those forces can not view my communications through the PDA. How I know this I cannot tell you right now. Please consider my words and give me your answer soon. But for now, I do need an official confession from you. It is a mere formality to validate our meeting to any suspicious superiors. So if you could, please answer my next verbal question on your PDA.”
“What if I don’t want to help you? If your theory is correct then there are people who would be very interested to learn of your little investigation.”
“No,” Mr. Hughes replied through his PDA, “the System wouldn’t let you report me. You would be stopped, how I can not say, but you may trust that it would be unpleasant.”
“I wanted to thank you for your patience Mr. U. Again, these questions are for your protection. The last question I have is why did you kill Dr. Ortho?” Mr. Hughes’ voice seemed as calm and commanding as it did when he had first met him. It was a stark contrast to the passionate words U had read on the PDA. U felt uncomfortable as he tried to recall bits of his once abandoned confession; it seemed so childish now:
“I killed Dr. Ortho because I had to. Five years ago, I watched him on my MediaStation. He explained the System, how it works, its use, its potential. At the time there were people who doubted and feared it, so Dr. Ortho was there to help them understand. He said that we must have faith; that the System only requires faith to operate. We must each take the opportunity presented to us by the System as a chance to have faith. If we feel that we are too severely punished for a crime, then we must use that doubt to show our faith. Accept the judgement, and your faith will allow the System to function correctly. If, however, you do not accept the System’s judgement, then liberty will fail. He said these things to help the people who felt their freedom would be lost by the System’s control. When he said all those words, a feeling came over me. I knew what my act of faith would be. I knew that if I could kill Dr. Ortho, believing in the judgement which would come, then I would truly have faith. I felt, as if this was what he was asking me to do, reaching out through the screen to my heart Dr. Ortho demanded that I kill him. I killed Dr. Ortho because I had to, because I had faith in what would happen if I did.”
“Thank you Mr. U. You will be receiving contact from me or the department concerning our findings. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions regarding our discussion here and the role this interview will play in your punishment.” Said Mr. Hughes as he stood, shook hands with U, and then left the office.
“This was is not how it was supposed to happen,” U thought to himself. He sighed, rocked back in his chair, and felt completely out of place.
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