Broken Minds

A science fiction story in Olympus Union 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 was saying, 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 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, "alright, 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.

"This is normal," the guard assured her. He was 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 that he headed up a small drug ring, handling the distribution, and had even 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; the parolee wouldn't be doing anything that counted as sudden.

After an hour explaining what should have taken twenty minutes, she sighed. This was the best that they would 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, shaking his head. 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 were slow to exit his mouth. He'd clearly used them before, was clearly an intelligent man. Perhaps Athena's Clutch had done its job a little 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. This shouldn't be so difficult. I'll... I'll get the hang of it. Let's get into your schedule."

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 rather important conference, he actually dozed off for a full five minutes. Fortunately, the man presenting was more embarrassed than the Mayor. All the same, she was less than pleased.

In the evening, she let him go off to his new quarters. Undoubtedly, this was the most activity he'd seen in a long time. She'd try and lighten the load tomorrow, if possible. Sitting down at her desk, she reviewed the notes from the day. It was worse than expected.

Nonsensical words and phrases dotted the readout. Notes trailed off randomly, picking back up later without any connection. She scrolled through page after page, but it was almost entirely unusable. An entire day's worth of information wasted.

"Maybe Athena's Clutch made his mind a little too docile. He's not a danger, but he's so broken." She shook her head. "All that time wasted today. How long is it going to take us to train him to be useful? Can he be worth anything again? I can't believe how broken this man is!"