Clean Slate: The future

96 18 4

Leland awoke, bathed in electric light. He was strapped to a chair. The walls of the room were made of a soft white polymer, and the smell of antiseptic hung in the air. A sanatorium? His instinct was to pull against the restraints, but the chair had a sedation field, and his muscles barely responded below his neck.

“Aha, you’re awake. Welcome back, Dr. Kelley—or is it Sgt. Davis?” A man in a white lab coat peered at him through a scanning film, his face distorted by the translucent material.

It was a good question.

“Leland,” he said. The name had grown on him.

“Fascinating!” The film snapped back, like a blind rolling up, revealing a face dominated by a pair of bushy eyebrows.

Leland decided the room felt more like a mad scientist’s lab. There was a tray of instruments to his right; a nearby workstation held various specimen containers, and a holodisplay of hovering images and text. It was both perfectly normal and terrifying at the same time.

Leland focused on the part of him that was calm and collected: Sgt. Peter Davis. This was his world.

A chime sounded, followed by a digitized voice that emanated from a black dome in the ceiling, “Request for entry, clearance level: Executive.”

“Already?” The scientist straightened. He closed the holodisplay, adjusted his lab coat, and fidgeted with his collar. In a louder voice he said, “Access granted.”

 The door to the lab opened, admitting a judge and two cookie-cutter meatheads from Corporate Security & Enforcement. The door didn’t close, and after a moment Janine Franklin entered. She marched in with her head held high, but the slight delay told Leland she had hesitated.

The judge was a prim, steel-haired woman. She was not dressed in ceremonial judicial robes. Instead, she wore the informal black jumper. There was nothing official about this visit.

Sensible time agents kept their noses out of these back room sessions. Peter had trained Janine better than this, but she was stubborn. She stood stiffly, her chin jutted out, the look in her eyes daring someone to challenge her. The judge ignored her. The CSE twins were doing a bad job of pretending not to notice her; CSE agents and time agents didn’t get along.

“You’ve had your look at it, doctor. Do we go to trial?” asked the judge, skipping all pleasantries and getting straight to business. Leland could guess at the answer the judge wanted.

The scientist pulled at his collar. “Ah, well. There is nothing wrong with him—it, Your Honor. Technically, it is fit for trial.”

The judge had a sour look on her face. “That doesn’t answer the question, doctor.”

“It has the body of one man, memories of both, but as far as I can tell they are just memories. I have yet to determine if it will exhibit behavior patterns of one or the other…” He hesitated.

She narrowed her eyes.

The scientist continued quickly, “The creature you see before you is neither Leland Kelley, nor Peter Davis. There is no proper way to try it for the crimes of Peter Davis, or even those of Leland Kelley. I would like to run more tests.”

Leland frowned. It didn’t make sense—not that being two despicable men trapped in the same body made any sense.

He saw the judge smile. The last thing the Corporation wanted was a trial. But the Corporation could have easily rubber-stamped him out of existence, without the OK from a man in a white coat. She had to want something more.

Clean Slate: A NoveletteRead this story for FREE!