There was a timid knock at the door. The Student Counselor checked his notes. Nicola Drummond. Her grades weren’t so bad, but the government had just upped the quota. He hated this – selling his students.

“Come in, Nikki. Take a seat.”

***

The two politicians sat opposite one another, a moderator in the middle. One, surgically young with a perpetually smug smile on her face, talked to camera as opposed to her opponent.

“The building of prisons is vital during a prison crisis, I don’t know why you’re so out of touch with the people not to see it.” She was slick and dismissive, her tone of voice said she could have been filing her nails.

Her opponent was older, grayer. He didn’t look so good on the camera. His party always thought that it was the issues that counted.

There were mistaken.

“We wouldn’t be in a crisis if your party stopped locking up children for copying DVD’s and backing up music-”

“They’re thieves, Bob-”

Bob cut her off. “Oh come on. That old chestnut? It isn’t theft. At best it’s copyright infringement and it does not warrant locking up children with hardened criminals.”

“Which is why,” he voice was icy now. “Which is why we need more prisons. Or are you telling me your party would let criminals walk the streets, amongst our elderly? They fought in a war so that you could be free. And everyone knows that these criminal pirates are in the pay of our enemies. It seems you’re taking your politics from that Dread Pirate Roberts. Why do you have your country, Bob? Why do you hate the troops?”

Robert Paulson stood up, gripped the table until his knuckles turned white, leaned over and spat in his opponents face.

“Of all the asinine statements I have ever heard come out of your hate filled mouth. You are locking up children for home taping. And do you know what you’re doing? You’re putting them in prisons with hardened criminals. These kids are smart. And now they hate you, and everything your stinking party has made of this country. What they didn’t have is muscle. Well, they have it now. You’re training the new age of crime, my dear. And you’re fucking welcome to it.”

With that, he walked away from a life in politics.

While people silently cheered at the act of defiance, it was widely regarded as “not the his best move.”

***

The solution came from a private company with lobbyist ties to the Vice President. They accessed research on Life Extension, Suspended Animation and the, doomed to fail even before it started, experiments into teleportation.

The “elevator pitch” was this: Encode the personalities of criminals in such a way that they are aware of where they are. Load this into a surrogate, one per criminal. Make sure the surrogates aren’t too interesting, and leave the criminal there, living mind numbing ennui for the duration of the sentence.

To ensure the encoded personality doesn’t gain control or poison the surrogate from the inside, a series of mental blocks are erected, and a regime of drugs are supplied to keep these blocks in place.

But, who would undertake such a task?

***

Buried in an Education Bill that no-one, not even the activists – as activism was now a Federal Crime, up there with treason and so punishable by death – read was a clause. It stated that failing students with the prospects of being unemployed forever, would be given an offer they couldn’t refuse. Employment at a menial level, a steady wage, and a criminal piggybacking the whole thing.

Once the program was underway it was heralded as being the best thing ever. “The Equal Opportunities Act. No longer will poor education be a block to a better life and a shot at the dream.”

***

“So, it’s perfectly safe. The government will give you some medication for the duration, and if there’s a problem there’s someone on hand 24 hours, and they’ll help you out. In return you’ll get a job and be doing your country a great service.”

“But, sir. I was hoping to go to university.”

There was a pause. This was perfect. The Counsellor could see Nicola in university. She only has to apply herself and she’d be perfect. He took a deep breath.

“Well. That’s an option. How about you take these brochures about the Equal Opportunity Scheme, and something on university options and then come and have a chat when you’ve made up your mind.”

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