Author : Duncan Shields, Staff Writer

It’s late. I’m smoking a cigarette in the ruins of a burned-down orphanage.

I’m standing in what used to be a room full of cradles. The scorched floor is cluttered with little black bones and black charcoal cribs.

It’s all I can do to stand there. The dome’s supports make black ribs miles above this city cutting the sky into pie slices down to the horizon. I haven’t seen the sun since I got here.

I remember Earth. I haven’t been back to there in over twenty years now. I remember blue sky. I remember not living in domes. I hate this place.

I hate the ignorant first-wave colonists and their ignorant lives. I hate their aversion to learning anything not needed to run the machines. I hate their lack of imagination and lack of originality. They’re augmented slightly to see better in the dark and withstand a few more seconds of vacuum in case of a decomp. Owl eyes that glow in the dark and hard bodies for hard work. All physical. Nothing mental.

I’m a cop. I pissed off my boss and caught a transfer out here to the gulag. The boondocks. Long time ago now. The only way I’m going back to Earth is after I retire which is in five years. Five long years.

I have the standard cop upgrades: total recall, overextended acuity, critical stat sensitivity that makes me into a human lie detector, and bumped-up lateral reasoning.

It all just adds to the torture. Time doesn’t ‘fly’ for me. With my photographic memory, I’m aware of every second going by exactly as long as a second is supposed to take. I hate it. Drinking does nothing to mute it. Believe me, I’ve tried.

To fool a lie detector like me, perpetrators have to be careful about the evidence they leave at crime scenes or at least passably devious during an interview. That would at least lend a little spice to my interrogations. No such luck. I swear that almost all of the population here is legally retarded.

For instance, I’m staring down at a wallet and a gas can right now. It looks like maybe the arsonist must have squatted down to light the fire and dropped his wallet out of his back pocket.

And more than that, he’ll be shocked when I trace it back to him.

I look at my partner. His eyes reflect the starlight back at me in big orange circles and his strong, thick skin blends into the night. He’s a local. Him and I are the only ranking detectives in the colony.

“Don’t you hate it here, son?” I ask him.

Completely stoic about my non-sequitur, he answers, “I grew up here, sir. Don’t know no different.”

I keep standing, staring down at the wallet. My partner stands with me, still as a statue, endlessly patient as only the truly stupid or enlightened can be.

I sigh and pick up the wallet. Time to go make an arrest.

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