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The New Way

The night was dark, with a fog that blurred vision despite brilliant lights spaced along the road curving through the park. Traffic had thinned out, and only an occasional car glided past. Then from the distance came the harsh rhythmic sound of approaching heels.

A solitary figure came into view, indistinct in the fog. As the figure approached, it resolved into a well-dressed man of about sixty. He strode with an athletic pace along the sidewalk and past a low spreading tree growing to one side.

As he passed the tree, three figures rushed out behind him. There was a blur of motion, a sharp flash of reflected light, and a brief struggle. The three knelt for a moment over the fallen figure, then dragged it back into the shadows.

A car, wet and gleaming, slid past with a hiss of tires on the wet pavement.

Burr Macon, Chief of Criminal Documents, snapped off the screen and glanced at Hostetter, who was in charge of Apprehension and Arrests.

Macon said, "There you are, Stet. Time of Crime, 2:46 a.m., yesterday. Place, Central Park, within twenty feet of Criminal Activities Documentor #18,769,483 (fixed.)

Hostetter nodded. "Any previews or follow-ups?"

"Just a matter of patience and routine," said Macon. He picked up a sheet of paper. "The criminals entered the park together at 12:09 a.m. They passed, respectively, Documentors (fixed) #18,442,612, #18,696,381, #18,512,397, and fourteen others before they arrived at the scene of the crime. They also passed through the range of Documentor (mobile) #146,987, but that merely duplicates information we already have. After the crime, the criminals, still moving in a group, passed six fixed documentors, left the park, split up, and made their way separately past various other documentors to a rooming house. They went inside and came out separately after about two hours. Right now, mobile documentors are with each of them, wherever they go. When you want to pick them up, it will be a routine matter."

Hostetter nodded approvingly. "How about the victim?"

"We've traced him back, too. He was apparently just out for a walk."

"At a quarter to three in the morning?"

Macon shrugged. "We don't have all the information on him, yet. But maybe he was a night-owl. Who knows?"

Hostetter nodded. "Well, I'll let you know what turns up. Thanks for the information."

"Glad to help," said Macon. He watched Hostetter go out with the folder, then sat down thoughtfully at his desk.

"What," he asked himself, "would it be like to live in a world where there were no crime documentors?" The thought made him uneasy, because he knew that until a few years ago, people had lived in a world where there were no crime documentors. But then the techniques of miniaturization had developed into techniques of microminiaturization, and these in turn into techniques of submicrominiaturization, and now as a result hosts of tiny inexpensive devices watched the public streets, subways, and parks of the whole city.

They hadn't, Macon admitted, prevented crime. But they had certainly made it hard to commit a crime without being caught and punished.

He was uneasy as he thought of the punishment.

Burr Macon spent the rest of the morning in desk work, and in supervising the test of a new type of mobile documentor. Later, returning from lunch, he found a note from Hostetter:


I picked up the three who killed the man in the park, and they broke down under questioning. Their purpose was simple robbery, but one of them got too enthusiastic with his knife. The victim was a diplomat newly returned from a long stay in Turkey. That accounts for his restlessness, by the way. While it was the dead of the night here, it was late morning in Turkey, and he wasn't readjusted yet to our time.

We've checked the criminals for everything, including indications of deep hypnosis, and are clearing the business with the State Department, and the F.B.I. So far as we can tell so far this is a plain case of ignorance combined with an urge for unearned money. But the crime has to be punished.

Since the Farr Bill was passed, punishment by directed union is optional in the State of New York. All three have chosen this. I don't know if you would like to witness this punishment, but if you would I can save you a ringside seat. It promises to be something special.

Let me know if you want to be present.



Macon read the note over twice, noting especially the phrase "I can save you a ringside seat." From what Macon knew of directed union, a "ringside seat" at the place of punishment was like a choice spot near the electric chair at an execution. However, he decided that he should go, if only to find out for himself what it was really like.

Late that night, Macon found himself in a room about fifteen feet wide by twenty feet long. The room was, for some reason, painted a light green. Not only were the walls painted this color, but also the floor and ceiling. There was one door that opened into the room, and this too was painted light green. The door knob, and the hinges of the door were painted light green. There were no windows, the room being lighted by a bulb in a pale green globe overhead. At Macon's end of the room was a row of oak benches, shellacked but otherwise left their natural color. Before the benches was a long table, painted light green. On the light green table lay eight sets of what appeared to be headphones. With each set of headphones was a flat box with a pointer on a numbered dial.

At the other end of the room were two wheeled stretchers. One was covered with a sheet that outlined a body. The other stretcher was empty, but was equipped with four sets of broad straps. At the head of this empty stretcher lay what looked like a set of headphones, their cord neatly coiled.

Macon took his seat beside Hostetter, who sat at the extreme right of the bench. Several other men sat down to Macon's left. All looked uneasily at the headphones before them, then at the sheet draped over the stretcher at the far end of the room. Macon found himself glancing uneasily from the headphones before him to the headphones lying on the empty stretcher across the room. They appeared to be identical.

To Macon's left, someone cleared his throat. Macon glanced at Hostetter, and saw that he was sitting with his eyes tightly shut, and his clenched hands resting on the light green table.

The door opened, and a male attendant wearing a light green smock came into the room, walked to the empty stretcher, picked up the headphones and put them on the floor. He then rolled the empty stretcher out the door. The door closed behind him.

There was an intense quiet in the room, in which Macon could hear someone to his left breathing with a faint wheeze.

Macon looked around the room, and everywhere he looked, he was confronted with the same unvarying shade of light green. His gaze was drawn to the one differently-colored object at the far end of the room. He found himself staring at the stretcher covered with a sheet. The sheet was plainly lying across a human body.

The door opened, and the other stretcher was wheeled in. This stretcher, too, now had a human form lying face-up on it, and covered with a sheet. But here, the sheet reached only to the neck, and the face, pale and grinning nervously, was visible above the sheet.

Two attendants, both green-smocked, wheeled the stretcher so that it lay side-by-side close to the other stretcher. The head of the prisoner twisted to look at the covered form on the stretcher lying close beside him, and the grin vanished. His eyes widened. He glanced around, and swallowed.

One of the attendants picked up the headphones and their cord, and set them on the prisoner's stretcher, close to his head.

The prisoner twisted to look at the phones.

The door opened again, and a man in a plain business suit walked into the room, glanced at his wristwatch, and closed the door behind him. He stood about six feet from the door, with his back toward the door, and waited.

One of the attendants smoothed the sheet over the prisoner, then smoothed the sheet over the other stretcher. The attendants took their places, one at the head of the prisoner's stretcher, one at the head of the other stretcher.

The room became very quiet.

The prisoner on the stretcher swallowed again, looked around the room, then twisted his head to look at the stretcher beside him. He tried to glance back at the attendants behind him.

The man in the business suit by the door glanced again at his wristwatch, and nodded slightly to one of the attendants. Then he reached into an inside coat pocket, and drew out a sheet of paper. The paper crackled loudly in the quiet room. In a low monotonous voice, he began to read:

"The penalty for murder in the State Of New York normally is prolonged imprisonment, or death by electrocution. Owing to the advancement of technology, however, a more enlightened method of dealing with lawbreakers has been devised and is legally applicable in the State of New York. This method is known as 'Directed Union.' You, the confessed prisoner, have chosen this alternative. In the course of the next ten minutes, you will undergo the experience of directed union, and it is to be hoped that from this experience you will derive a new and firm appreciation of the inadvisability of causing injury to others.

"To the spectators witnessing the re-education of the prisoner, it is only necessary to state that the dial before you, numbered from one to ten, indicates the degree of conformity of your experience with that of the prisoner. 'Ten' is the setting corresponding to a full identity of experience. For reasons of mental hygiene the dial is pegged at the numeral 'five', which is roughly one-half the intensity experienced by the prisoner.

"Bear in mind that this particular prisoner killed a fellow human. If the experience becomes too intense, turn the pointer to zero on the dial. If you become sick, please leave the room quietly. The attendants will be fully occupied, and cannot assist you.

"At the beginning of the directed union, place the headphones on your head, as if they were ordinary listening devices. Remove the headphones at any time, but first reset the pointer to zero. Failure to do this may cause a violent and prolonged headache.

"The Directed Union will now begin, by authority of the State of New York, and by the choice and consent of the prisoner, feely given.


At the far end of the room, one attendant put the headphones on the head of the prisoner.

The other attendant turned back the sheet on the other stretcher, to show the pale lifeless head of a man about sixty, a set of headphones in place on his head.

The prisoner jerked his head around suddenly, and shouted, "No!"

The headphones twisted off onto the stretcher.

The attendant behind him opened a long black leather-bound case, and took out a hypodermic.

"No!" screamed the prisoner. He twisted violently against the straps.

The attendant turned down the sheet on one side of the stretcher, inserted the hypodermic needle, and pressed the plunger.

"No!" screamed the prisoner. "No! No!"

Macon swallowed and looked down at the green-colored table.

The screams of the prisoner died away into a moan.

Macon looked up.

The prisoner was lying still, a blank expression on his face. The attendant was putting the hypodermic back in the case. He put the case away, drew the sheet up again, and waited.

A look of conscious horror replaced the vacant expression on the face of the prisoner.

The attendant placed the headphones on the head of the prisoner.

At Macon's right, Hostetter nudged him. "Phones," Hostetter whispered. "You'll miss it all."

Macon drew a slow breath and put on the phones. He adjusted the pointer to "five."

For a moment, nothing happened. Then he became aware of a grayness. Then there was a bright light that gradually died away. Then another light. Macon closed his eyes. Before him, he could see fog, and a highway. A car glided past. Just ahead was another dazzling light above the highway.

"Odd thing," he was thinking. "Here it is, the pit of the night in New York, and it's morning in Istanbul. It seems strange to be back. Lord, the air is fresh. It does a man good to get out, move around. Trouble with our generation is, we don't get enough exercise."

Somewhere, a peculiar high-pitched keening sound began, but the thoughts went on unruffled. "It's just like Benita to say, 'Don't go out, Ted. It's late, and you don't know who may be out. You could get mugged, or beaten up, or anything.'" He laughed to himself, and thought, "It may be night, but it's certainly a well-lighted night. Cars going by. The whole place filled with spy devices. Any criminal should know he'd be caught. Odd, though. There's an unpleasant sensation—a sort of—grimness up ahead there. Not grimness. A sort of grisly feeling. Maybe Benita—No, I can't permit myself to go psychic at my age.—I'll laugh about this later tonight."

There was a steady rhythmic sound of footsteps in his ears, and he realized that these were the sounds of his own heels striking the cement pavement. Certainly, he thought, no-one hearing that hard regular beat would think that he was uneasy.

Ahead, to his left, he could see a sort of low tree to one side of the sidewalk. He felt an increased uneasiness, stiffened his jaw, and strode on toward the tree.

"No!" screamed a voice somewhere. "No! No!"

He opened his eyes. For an instant, he was confused. Then he saw the two bodies, under their sheets, at the opposite end of the pale green room.

Abruptly, Macon remembered where he was—And who he was.

He shut his eyes.

Something—He was aware of a swaying of branches. There was a scruff of leather close behind him. A feeling of dread gripped him, and he struggled like a man in a nightmare to force his body to run. Something smashed at the back of his knees, buckling them under him. There was a sudden brief pain at his back, then a sense of weakness.

Abruptly, rage flowed through him. While he was still falling, he jerked both arms forward. His right arm twisted free. He reached up to grip the little finger of the arm around his throat. Again there was a brief pain at his back.

And again, and again.

His right hand slipped, and fell away.

The bright light began to dim.

"No," he thought desperately. "I don't want—"

The grayness faded. There was a sense of distance. Then a sort of snap, as if whatever Macon had been in contact with was gone.

Macon opened his eyes. The room was intently quiet. But, he thought, I'm still in contact with something. But what?

He closed his eyes. There was a peculiar sensation, as of stiffness, dullness, a feeling such as one might have in a deserted house filled with a lifetime's treasures, but with the roof fallen in, the boards rotting, the plaster falling from the ceiling, and a must and mold taking hold everywhere.

A sense of horror began to grip him.

He opened his eyes.

His left hand, resting on the green table by the dial, twisted the pointer back to zero.

All along the green table, hands were twisting at the pointers.

Macon tore off the headphones.

A horrible scream gurgled up from the stretcher and filled the room.

Macon shut his eyes.

There was the sound of a body hitting the floor across the room. Then there was a floundering, flopping sound, as of a caught fish in the bottom of a boat.

The scream went on. Then words could be made out, as if spoken with a thick tongue. At first the words weren't clear. Then there was a vivid, clearly spoken cry:

"Oh, my God! Oh, help me! Please help me!"

There was a sudden, total silence.

Macon, both hands gripping the edge of the green table, stayed still for a long time, then forced open his eyes.

One of the attendants was wheeling the prisoner, white-faced and unconscious, toward the door. The other attendant was drawing the cover back over the lifeless face on the other stretcher. On the floor beside the stretcher lay the headset, and its cord neatly coiled.

The official in street clothes glanced at Macon and the others on the bench. "We anticipate that this form of punishment will cut the rate of certain categories of crime considerably. If any of you would like to stay, several other prisoners are scheduled for similar treatment. It will only be a comparatively short wait."

"Thank you," said Macon. There was a mumble of voices around him.

Hastily, they all made for the hall.


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