TERRORISM HAD BECOME RIFE, with no corner of the globe safe from the grasp of its evil tentacles. Law and order was becoming a thing of the past. Everywhere, people lived in fear, and while that suited the long-term aims of the World Governing Council, the daily carnage was in danger of turning into mob rule and becoming a threat to the very safety of those on the WGC and their families. Something had to be done, and following months of top secret research, technology had at last stepped forward with the ultimate solution.
Change had been hinted at, and after weeks of speculation, the WGC announced their decision. The death penalty was to be abolished. Nobody on the face of the earth would ever have to face a firing squad, put their neck into a noose or be strapped down in the electric chair. With one stroke of the President’s pen, they were consigned to the history books.
While the citizens of the world cheered, they were unaware that the decision had been taken not for humanitarian and altruistic reasons, but because the death penalty in its current form had ceased to be an effective deterrent, and even then, only after a new and equally grisly punishment had been devised.
The Committee of Elder Wisemen had debated long and hard before taking a vote, but demonstrations of the new technological advance on death row prisoners finally convinced the one or two waverers, and the Bill was passed unanimously.
In the midst of all the celebration, the WGC dropped their bombshell. As from now, all those who would have faced the old-fashioned death penalty would now be subjected to what was to be known as Animated Death.
A video release explaining Animated Death soon followed.
Anyone convicted of the most abhorrent crimes—terrorism, murder, paedophilia, rape and treason—would be taken to a secure facility in their own country and placed inside a capsule in a state-of-the-art virtual reality suit which would transport their minds into a virtual arena populated by pre-programmed monsters and their thug-like Neanderthal slaves. Once there, the only chance of escape and returning to the real world lay in the convict’s ability to slay all the monsters and Neanderthals. It was kill or be killed, with no half measures. At the same time as the virtual convict died, so would the real one back in the capsule.
In a clever sop to the people, the Committee of Elder Wisemen said that in order to ensure fair play, the action in the virtual world would be transmitted live over the Internet, twenty-four-hours a day, until the prisoners had either vanquished the enemy or been slain. While fair play was the last thing on the Wisemen’s minds, they calculated that this new video game with real humans would keep people everywhere enthralled and entertained, taking their minds off what the Wisemen were really up to. It was the perfect solution.
Such a punishment was unheard of and immediately became the only subject of conversation in bars, pubs and cafés all over the world. TV talk shows discussed little else, while scientists outside the WGC loop speculated about how the new technology, which was way beyond anything they were familiar with, might work. Many had doubts, but did not dare voice them lest they were accused of treason and sent to try out the capsules first hand.
Even presidents and prime ministers kept their counsel. They, too, knew that any public denouncement or expression of being less than one hundred per cent in favour would result in their swift demise. They were where they were because they towed the line and kept the crumbling facade of democracy to the fore in return for riches, security and an easy life. However, face-to-face meetings raised fear and doubt, and told an altogether different story. Throughout it all, the Committee of Elder Wisemen stood aloof. They had pronounced, and that was the end of the matter. They expressed their Will and the toothless governments of the world obeyed. What the Wisemen hadn’t mentioned was that no matter how many monsters and Neandetrthals were killed, they would just keep being replaced. If the convicts weren’t slaughtered in combat, they would die of exhaustion, whereupon their bodies would be dismembered and eaten in full view of the Internet audience.