It was past midnight when Detective Jensen received a thought from the Mental Larceny Division.
A mind jobber had been busted. The huge cache of stolen memories would have to be read, as well as the jobber's mind. The download would take days, but would likely lead to breakthroughs in several of her cases. She thought about what particular memories, people, and places she was looking for more evidence on, and the computer recorded all faithfully. The systems would let her know when new evidence was available, at the speed of thought.
Leaning back in her chair, closing her eyes and rubbing her temples she thought of the rest of her caseload. The near infinite stream of data: thoughts, memories, camera views, files, and statistical analysis flowed over her, directly into her brain. Without the advanced AI systems to help sort it, no human being could possibly examine the flood of information. This, of course, meant that the computer decided what data to prioritize, (hopefully) based on the criteria she set.
The quantum-interface mind-to-mind telepresence systems of the day made all of this possible. Her actual system was a variant on what everyone had installed. The nano-fiber superconducting carbon strands had been grown, molecule-by-molecule within her brain, mirroring every neuron, every connection, every mental impulse. The entire network was quantum-entangled with a processing node on the main planetary network, instantaneously allowing her to send and receive messages and data as pure thought.
Inevitably, such technology had revolutionized police-work and law. First, it had enabled corporate and government entities to actually analyze and then build comprehensive databases that would truly predict human behavior. Reading memories had been the next logical step. Everyone had demanded more access to private data: for marketing, for security, to prosecute criminals and to prevent terrorist attacks of increasingly deadly effect. The biological attack in Mumbai had been the final straw. People had demanded that memories could be searched by police and security services. Now, everyone was a witness against themselves.
Jensen sighed as she examined the data-flow. She was overworked. Her supervisor knew this of course. He knew exactly how she felt, what she had thought earlier this morning, what she had for breakfast, and when she went to the bathroom. He was aware of her opinions and memories of her previous lover, and her inappropriate thoughts of a new co-worker that had been reprimanded as unprofessional. All were publicly available. In an age where police could gather any possible data, people had demanded that they be subject to the ultimate transparency.
She put up with it, of course, there was no secrecy or privacy in the world anymore. Most people put up with it as they had no choice, or they figured it was worth the benefits, or because they felt it was necessary for security. Jensen put up with it for a different reason: she was obsessed with justice.
A thought came to her. A murder had been committed at 125784 Gamma-Delta Solar Tower. It was almost certainly a crime of passion. With the ability to read the minds of the suspects and witnesses, very few attempted premeditated murder any more.
Detective Jensen rose from her chair and made her way out of the office. Others might be satisfied in simply mentally receiving the crime scene data from the police drones. Jensen still believed in personally seeing the scene. She felt she owed it to the victim, and it helped ground her in the real world that still existed outside of telepresence.
The tidy corner room of the crime scene was a wreck over in the corner where the windows met. The victim had already been removed by the coronary staff: reading the deceased's memories required more advanced systems than the small portable units. Still, the presence of her could be felt. Small items in the house, patterns of wear on the carpet, a partly cooked dinner. All of it had come to an end.
Detective Jensen brought up the imagery the police drones had captured earlier in the night.
Name: Rena Cole
The information flowed into her mind.
She could see the body laying in the corner, eyes still open, and the look of terror on the face. Bruising had just begun to set in around the neck and cheeks. I will see justice done, she promised to the ghost that only she could see.
The door's lock had been a simple magnetic seal with a prime number encryption key, much like any door lock. Such was easily foiled by a pocket expert system, like the one the killer had used to pick the lock. In an era of artificial intelligence, locks were more of a suggestion than real security. And who would break into a home anyways, when no one could get away with it anymore?
Data from the police drones flooded into her mind. Molecular scans form the police drones indicated only the DNA of the husband and wife; so either the husband was the murderer or the killer had used a chemical neutralizer on his skin and hair. Footprints matched a standardized boot worn by over a million in the city. The choke marks indicated the use of gloves, and a median hand sized and average strength for a male well within the average of the adult population. Home and building cameras indicated the use of a mask. So far, it could be anyone.
It would not be long, though. In this era, everyone's memories were evidence. Someone, somewhere knew something, and the expert police AIs would relentlessly search for data correlations until that someone was found. Mental scans meant that witnesses could no longer lie or hide the truth, and everyone was now a witness against himself. No one got away with murder anymore.
She examined the interview with the husband.
Name: Darin Cole
Status: Under Investigation
The view from the police drones had him looking up at the hovering drones in surprise, and sitting down rapidly as the news hit him. A quick street-search of his mind showed no guilt, indicating either that he may be not guilty, or a sociopath. The way his memory centers responded to the news was more interesting. Nothing. No recognition of the events and imagery. He had not been present at the time, nor did he recognize a murder he may have contracted. There was no fear of discovery, only the usual concern at being interrogated by police drones, and a concern over personal safety after his home was broken into.
He could not have done it.
Jensen closed her eyes as the memories of the victim became available. She took a deep breath and accessed the memories of the dying woman.
She saw, heard, and felt everything. The fear and shock and the pain as she was beaten and forced into the corner. As the life was choked out of her, there was the silent plea: help me, someone help me. Please, don't let me die like this. The world went red with harsh pain, and then black, as she struggled to stay alive just one more second.
Jensen opened her eyes, and drew a shuddering breath. I can breathe again, she thought. How sweet the air tasted. She had not recognized her attacker, which made sense given the mask and generic coat and pants. There had been no arguments or threats, nor had she remembered any reason to fear for her life. The attack had been a complete surprise. It was senseless.
Rena, I promise I will find who did this to you, she promised the ghost in the corner.
The data from the mind of the mind jobber had finally been analyzed by the next afternoon. Human minds were complex, but that was not the reason for the delay of the AI doing the scan. It was simply that human beings were so disorganized and illogical in their thinking that it caused the machines to take hours to fully scan one mind.
When the data was correlated with the genetic scans of the skin flakes built up over time in the jobber's basement office, an entirely new rogue's gallery was established for the police department. Most of the individuals were involved in larceny, and fraud, or found the few remaining threads of privacy laws still too constraining for their taste to know all. The stolen and copied memories of thousands were archived in the jobber's scruffy office: stolen minds. In addition to the illicit uses of fraud, the stolen memories could be used by some to live another person's life. Legally available copies and simulations just did not do it for this new breed of addicts: they had to have the real thing.
When Detective Jensen was alerted that Darin Cole had accessed the services of the jobber, she was not surprised. There were all too many memory addicts that needed to experience real happiness, or real love second-hand, in a stolen form. Then she saw the nature of the mind job. He was the victim and the customer. He had paid to erase his own memories, after the murder.
Detective Jensen immediately put out the arrest order to the police drones.
The judge was the courtroom. The networked adjudication AI was also the the prosecutor and defense who were subsidiary programs to carry out the interests of the law, and defend the rights of the accused, respectively. The people's demand for truly incorruptible judges and legal officials had come to its ultimate conclusion. It was impossible for the adjudication system to be swayed from the legal codes and precedent, by emotion, favor, or other interest; and the other legal programs were supposed to be likewise incorruptible. There was also the matter of efficacy: one AI could scan and analyze millions of briefs in a second, with more accuracy and reference to proper legal proceedings than a legal firm of humans could in a year. Nominally, human beings were still in charge of the courts, but the magnitude of detail and complexity of the ever increasing legal code had long since escaped human comprehension.
Detective Jensen was quite comfortable with the system. It was quick, effective, and lacking in the corruption she found so often in the world. The guilty were punished, and the innocent set free. The other officers on the Force felt much the same: regular mental reviews were clear on that.
Still, even if many of the elements of the court were artificial, tradition still had its place. She and the defendant were physically present in the court in their customary positions. The artificial members of the court were visible as well: mentally projected avatars, apparently human, in their customary roles. The AI judge was an elderly seeming man in the position of honor, both lawyers were attractive women that projected trust and sincerity. The jurors were representatives of a fragmented adjudication program, each element analyzing the case from a separate perspective.
The actual deliberation of the facts was, to human perception, instantaneous. Still, the artificial intellects were nothing if not polite. There was the appearance of thoughtful consideration before the verdict.
The prosecutor made clear the exhaustive evidence. The deliberate mind job on the defendant, his shutting down his mental network during the time of the murder, the lack of any alibi from any of the thousands of machines that one would naturally interact with in the course of a day. He rated high on the sociopath index, and had been in violent altercations before. All of the physical data from the crime scene matched him well within range. There were no actual memories of the killing, but a realistic simulation had been constructed based on physical evidence and the psychological profile of those involved.
The defense laid out that these were all forms of evidence that could strengthen or weaken a case, but were not proof themselves, beyond a reasonable doubt. The mind job could have been to conceal another crime, and and the data from the crime scene also fit multiple thousands of citizens in the city. Most of all, the defendant lacked Mes Rea, the Guilty Mind. He literally had no knowledge of the crime, and had no thoughts of any possible malice or motive.
They both sat for a while in the replica wooden chairs while the AI jury simulated discussion of the facts of the case. The delay was customary, of course, the unanimous decision had been reached in microseconds.
The foreman made her announcement before the jury was dissolved back into the adjudicator cyberspace. The defendant was declared not guilty due to no guilty knowledge and acquitted of the charge of murder, in the first degree. The legal precedence of grounds of conviction and acquittal for years had been the mental testimony of the accused, and that could not be altered in this case. The defendant was guilty of the misdemeanor of the mind job, and was fined appropriately.
Darin Cole rose and smiled as the AI avatars winked out of existence. As he walked out of the courtroom, Detective Jensen's eyes bored into his back.
Detective Jensen knew that she would never remember this. That was both a blessing and a curse. Her outrage at the verdict, and her intention afterward would have to be scrubbed from her memory, of course. She also knew that her new distrust of the automated justice system, and knowledge of the consequences would have to be forgotten as well. Most of all, she would need to forget what she was going to do next. Justice before all.
It would not matter that her override codes had taken her off of the reporting network and would hide her movements. It would not matter that she used her overrides to erase any traces of her entering the building, and opening, and then locking behind her, the door to the apartment. It would not matter that she was soaked in illegal chemical neutralizers. It would not matter that the memory in her neural disruptor would be wiped, recording only that it had been discharged at sometime.
None of this would matter, because the only witness that could acquit her with absolute certainty was the same one that could condemn her with absolute certainty: her own memories. After she initiated her own mind job on herself, she would wonder about all of this. Would her own passion for justice require her later to solve her own crime? All that mattered now was the justice before her.
She continued silently though the apartment, noting that boxes were being packed and items stored. Was he leaving because he felt some residual guilt in this place of murder, or because he thought he could flee condemnation? It was irrelevant, either way.
She eased the neural disruptor our of her holster as she approached the coordinates of Darin Cole. His repeated futile attempts to access cyberspace marked him in the center of the next room.
Detective Jensen slid into the doorway, targeting programs in her neural network and disruptor linking up with the radar and laser rangefinder in her weapon. Darin Cole had time to look up and begin to form an expression of mild surprise before the flash of blue-white light.
Darin Cole awoke tied to his chair in what was still one of the most effective binding materials known: duct-tape. Across the room, Detective Jensen was setting up a small portable cyber-rig.
“Untie me at once!” he commanded.
“No.” Jensen replied calmly.
“You cannot possibly get away with this!” he shrieked.
“You got away with murder, Cole,” she coldly gazed back.
"Are you going to kill me?” he whispered.
“No, you would already be dead,” she said, adjusting the connections on the rig.
“What are you doing?” he gasped.
“You do not even remember the crime you did. Without knowledge of a crime, how can there be guilt, justice, or even redemption afterward? Mr. Cole, guilty knowledge is foundational to the concept of justice. If you were to die before knowing of your crimes, that would be injustice. You will not, of course, remember me.”
He laughed. “That's all? You think I ever cared? I'll probably enjoy watching this! Go ahead! Give me my memories back!”
“Who said they would be your memories?” Detective Jensen activated the rig.
Subject: Rena Cole
Playback: Infinite Loop