For The Greater Good by Joe Dees

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"It's for the good of the People," she kept telling herself, "for the People." Like a litany endlessly repeated in penance for cardinal sins, she drank the narcotic of mindless repetition, of a tranquilizer commercial caught in a terminal loop by a malfunctioning VCR. "I have transgressed, I owe a debt to Society, it is only right that I pay." Pay the People. But wasn't she herself one of the People? The blasphemous thought was beaten down and died the death of realized heresy. Her claim as a Person, one of the People, had been fairly abrogated by her actions. This was the Law, and most agreed with it; for it was, like all other Laws, a Law of General Consensus. The Majority had Spoken, the Majority was Right, and she knew that they were always, right, forever just and fair, acting solely for the Greater Good.

Never should she have written it. It was illogical folly, and -- as the media proved when it was discovered, a danger to our Love of Fellow Citizens, a threat to freedom, a razor slitting the larynx of Sacred Liberty-and-Justice-for-All. "I threatened General Public Welfare; I am a criminal, and, in the eyes of my Equals, my Peers, my actions have disinherited me from Humanity and relinquished my right to Pursue Happiness." And when she recorded it for the Vox PopuVision she had believed it, she believed it now, and she would believe it when...

When she lost one of her rights. Her punishment was to lose one of her Ten Rights, those on the Bill. Why had she cast the stone? He was only doing his Duty as a Public Servant, whitewashing the disgusting graffiti with which she had soiled and defaced the pristine Administration Building -- and she'd thrown the rock, striking him in the temple, breaking the skin and spilling Patriotic Blood. Her sentence was fair, perhaps, given the circumstances, even lenient, certainly not malicious in any way; it was simply the routine dispensation of impersonal Justice. So why was she crying? She shivered, squeezing herself as one would a dead child, and walked the Rehabilitation Center.

Ohmigod, it's HIM! Magenta features averted to hide her embarrassment, she raised a guilty hand to block his damning gaze. He seemed not to notice her, and there would have been no reason for her to have noticed him, either, if not for the bandage on his temple. She had Wronged him! Would her shame never leave her be?

But her eyes fixed upon her interposed hand, and her pace slowed as, lost in wonder, she moved her fingers. A hand is a wondrously constructed machine, carpals and metacarpals, joined by knuckles and tendons, swathed in skin, tipped with protective nails, and so SMOOTHLY it worked! How the muscles could synchronize! A tool for grasping a palette knife, or caressing a keyboard, or a lover, or brandishing a weapon of war and destruction, and with a mirror image, for better or for worse, on her other wrist; twin marvels - or twin murderers.

But she would have none of that soon! She mentally reviewed what she had done and what would happen, reciting her litany when she weakened, taking no notice of her fingernails digging into her palms, her teeth melting through her lower lip, her blood flowing through her fingers and trickling snakelike down her chin.

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