Broken Minds

An Olympus Union science fiction story by Gary Bloom

Analiese was hoping she hadn't made a mistake. When they'd approached her about a prison reclamation program, it seemed like a great idea. She'd help bring someone back into the fold. Now that the time had come, however, she was less certain.

"Mayor Herzog," the lead guard said, "Is everything alright?"

"Ah, yes, my apologies. Please continue."

"Ma'am, we still need you to sign this document." He presented the tablet and light pen once again. "As I said, this certifies that Athena's Clutch officially remands Parolee Shondel Wiedeman to your custody. Parolee Wiedeman will attempt to serve in the secretarial staff here in the Siriancity Mayor's office."

"I already know all of that," she said, annoyed. "Where is Mr. Wiedeman? I'd like to get on with my day."

"Yes, of course ma'am, but this is protocol. We're required to go through this. If you could just sign here." She did so, and he yelled back out the door. "Please bring in the parolee."

Shondel Wiedeman shuffled into the room. Analiese was taken aback. The man's skin was more gray than black. The prison had sent over his record, and the photos had shown a trim, bright eyed, ebony skinned man.

This couldn't be the same person. He was bloated and slow, shuffling from his own deficiencies, not a set of ankle restraints. His eyes were glazed and he blinked very slowly. Thick eyelids looked almost gummy.

"This is normal," the guard assured her, used to the reaction. "Athena's Clutch prides itself on the reduction program. This man is about as safe as can be."

"In his record, it said he headed up a small drug ring, and had killed a man with his bare hands."

"Yeah," the guard chuckled, "he won't be doing that anymore. Clutch policy is to soften them in body and mind. Best of luck ma'am."

Back in her office, Mayor Herzog explained Wiedeman's duties to him. She'd had to repeat everything twice, thus far, waiting for his confirmation in the form of a slow grunt.

In the corner, her bodyguard stood at attention. If Shondel made any sudden moves, the guard would spring into action. Analiese laughed sadly at the thought. Her parolee wouldn't be doing anything that counted as sudden.

After an hour of explanation, that should have taken twenty minutes, Mayor Herzog sighed. This was the best it'd get. Her day was already starting to run irretrievably late. They'd need to get moving very soon.

Wiedeman would accompany her to meetings with several business owners today. His job was to pay attention and take notes. When Shondel had looked around, trying to understand what to take notes with, she'd handed him a simplified tablet. He'd stared at it blankly, then up at her, then back down. The Mayor showed him how to turn it on. He practiced using the power switch.

"Thank you ma'am," the parolee drawled. "I appreciate the assistance."

The words dripped from his mouth. He'd clearly used them before, had been intelligent. Perhaps Athena's Clutch did its job too well. There was certainly no way he'd be a danger to anyone, ever again.

"My apologies, ma'am," he added. "I used to be good with numbers. I'll... I'll get the hang of it."

Wiedeman accompanied her to several meetings the rest of that day. It was far from a successful outing, however. Shondel lost focus quite often. During one important conference, he dozed off for a full five minutes. Fortunately, the presenter was more embarrassed than the Mayor. Still, she was less than pleased.

In the evening, she sent him off to his new quarters. Undoubtedly, this was the most activity he'd seen in ages. She'd try and lighten the load tomorrow, if possible. Sitting at her desk, she reviewed the notes he'd taken; they were worse than expected.

There were nonsensical words. Notes trailed off randomly, picking back up later. She scrolled through numerous unusable pages. An entire day's worth of information wasted.

"Athena's Clutch made his mind frail. He's not a danger, but he's so broken." She shook her head, talking to no one in parricular. "All that time wasted. How long is it going to make him useful? Can he be worth anything again? I can't believe how broken this man is!"


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