Author : Patricia Stewart, featured writer

“I’ll take two,” said Joe Ferry, the rookie member of the Preemptive Anti-Criminal Activities Task Force. It was traditional for the elite four-man teams to play poker prior to the start of the shift. It was a way to relax and bond before the mainframe department head handed out their assignments.

“So, Joe, how did your blind date go last night?” inquired the team leader, Mark Robbins. “I’ll take three.”

“Not so good, Sergeant. I thought it was going real well, until I mentioned to her that I work for PACATF. Man, she ran away so fast, I swear I saw her red shift. What’s up with that anyway? We’re the good guys. Why does the public think we’re monsters?”

“That’s easy, Joe. They think we’re spying on them. They think we have a time portal, or something, that looks into the future to see if they do anything illegal. If they do, we arrest them preemptively. Then throw them in jail for crimes they were about to commit.”

“Is that true? I thought our information came from informants, or high tech surveillance equipment? Time machines? Are you sure?”

“Did you really think that we achieved a 99.8% conviction rate using moles and wire taps?”

“I never really thought about it before. I just assumed the mainframe had irrefutable evidence. Is there really a time machine?”

“That’s not our concern, Joe. The mainframe gives us a name and address, and we go pick up the perp. That’s our job. After that, it becomes the judicial system’s problem.”

“Wow. I don’t know if I like that. To be arrested for a crime you might commit.”

“Will commit,” corrected Robbins. “Why do you think the first word in our task force is ‘Preemptive’?”

“There’s got to be hard evidence. Not the word of some computer who says it saw someone commit a crime a year from now. How do we know that’s the true timeline? Maybe it’s an alternate reality. Some other future. Not our future. This is wrong. No wonder they hate us.”

Before Robbins could respond, his communicator signaled. “Listen, kid, we’ll continue this discussion when we get back. In the meantime, keep these accusations to yourself. Understood?” Robbins activated his audio implant to take the call. “Yes sir. I understand sir. Right away sir.”

All four men stood up, and began collecting their gear. “Hold on,” instructed Robbins as he reached into his equipment bag and extracted a pair of wrist restraints. “Joe, you are under arrest for the future destruction of government property. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you will say or do can be used against you…”

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