Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Tutime paid for the bus ride from Centerville to North End with traceable credit, being sure to show his face to the cameras at either end. Three blocks on foot brought him to the Art School campus, and two more hours riding through culverts on a stolen bicycle brought him undetected to his destination in South End, just a five minute walk from the Mechanic’s District.

Tutime scratched beneath greasy hair at the barcode tattoo on the back of his neck. The judge had warned him about getting into trouble again, had tried to impress upon him the severity of the third strike penalty, but he was careful, there was no chance anyone could have followed him tonight.

He’d curled up in the shelter of a dumpster until the sun had purpled and faded out of sight. He stayed still, dozing until all the lights in the shop yard had dimmed on powersave, only then did he slip quietly from the shadows. Chain link and razor wire stood guard at the street around the shop parking lot, between Tutime and a row of Ambulances, fresh off the street for maintenance. Strategically cracked windshields and broken running lights made them unsafe for service tonight, and left them here, exposed.

He skulked along the fence line until he found a spot out of site from the garage where he made quick work of the fence, a mono filament blade passing effortlessly through the heave gauge wire.

Tutime closed the distance to the nearest Ambulance and slipped his backpack off his shoulders, singularly focused now on the stash of drugs that would surely still be onboard. He raised the filament blade to the door lock and was startled by a sudden booming voice from behind.

“Charles Tutime Birkit, you are under arrest for breach of parole, put your hands on your head and remain motionless.”  

Whirling around, Tutime froze in fear, his reflection cowering back at him from the visor of a police trooper, armoured and towering over him.

Impossible. How’d they get here so fast? He’d been so careful. How’d they know his name? Darting to the left he raced around the corner of the vehicle, only to come face to face with a second trooper.

“Please remain motionless”. Beads of sweat formed on his reflection in the trooper’s visor, and over his shoulder the first trooper reappeared, barring his retreat.

Tutime broke into a full body sweat, a searing pain crawled up the back of his neck into his brain. He could feel heat radiating through his skin, like his body was on fire. Something was terribly wrong.

“Charles Tutime Birkit, you are guilty of a third strike violation. Transport has been dispatched for your immediate retrieval.  Please remain motionless”. He couldn’t tell which of the two spoke, the sound seemed to permeate his consciousness from all around.

At the base of his skull, the second strike processor was straining to maintain the visual of the troopers. If only Tutime would look at the ground, but no, he was fixated on his own reflection, and with it both guards. Billions of polygons were rendered and raytraced into Tutime’s cortex as the tiny unit approached near critical core temperature. Wrapped around his carotid artery, heatpipe mercilessly seared tissue as it raced to dissipate heat through Tutime’s bloodstream.  There was a good chance that his heart would burst or his brain would boil before any real troopers could get this far out to South End, but no matter, this was his third strike after all.
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