Jul. 20th, 2011

The Feeler

Jul. 20th, 2011 11:32 pm
"All right," said Doctor Safeway sternly. "Now you *are* going to take this seriously, right?" He glared at Daniel sternly.

Daniel opened his eyes and rolled them, folding his arms. "Whatever," he said.

"That's good," said the doctor cautiously. "I've gotten a lot of you psych student volunteers from the university over the years, and sometimes there's a tendency to goof off. But what we're doing is no laughing matter. This is serious business we're working on, kid. With your help we're going to do the world a lot of good."

That got a little of Daniel's interest, but only a little. "Yeah?" he said. "Who are we going to be helping?"

"Guys like these men, for starters," said Safeway. He spread four photographs on the table. The men instantly frightened Daniel. Something about their eyes didn't look right. One was younger and the others were middle-aged; two were bald and two had hair; none of them looked quite like the others. But they all had that same bad craziness in their eyes. Daniel shuddered.

"They're the Oxville Four," said Safeway quietly. "They went on a shooting and stabbing rampage in 1997, killing twenty-one and wounding seventeen others. All four were captured alive and sentenced to death. They'll be executed this year."

"And you want me to help them?" laughed Daniel. "You're not really selling it, Doc."

"It's too late to help them," said the doctor. "We're going to help other people who are sentenced to death by lethal injection. But that's just the start of it. Daniel, what if I could tell you that you can feel what other people are feeling?"

Daniel fidgeted in his chair. "What, you mean like empathy?" he asked.

"No," said Doctor Safeway. "I mean, actually experiencing exactly what another person is experiencing. We can do that now, you know. I've built a test rig. It works; I tried it myself. I put the helmets on myself and a monkey, gave the monkey a random popsicle, and I found myself tasting strawberry. In the next room."

"Nice toy," said Daniel, impressed despite himself.

"Not a toy!" said Safeway irritably. "A useful tool, to be used to benefit all of society." He reached into a bag and pulled out a cream-colored bottle. It had a small handful of pills in it.

"Pentobarbital," said Safeway. "There's a huge shortage in execution drugs in this country, you know. We're run out of the old standbys, so they're starting to use this stuff. There's a problem, though. For the last few executions, witnesses have said they've seen the condemned men writhe in pain and thrash around. It certainly appears that dying by pentobarbital injection is a very painful way to go. That's a problem; if true, it would violate the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment."

Daniel still didn't see it. "So?" he asked.

Safeway shook the bottle of pills. "The Oxville Four," he said, "will be executed with Pentobarbital. We want to know exactly how painful it is, but none of the previous executees are talking. But this time, when our boys die for their crimes, we'll have a witness – a witness who can report exactly what they were feeling."

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