"Are you telling me, Senator, that if my child were here right now, you would look him in the eye and condemn him to death!?"
Senator Holmes leaned forward and put on his "tough on crime" face that his Tennessee voters embraced. "Mr. Allen," the Senator said, "I'd go as far as to do the act myself, if I had to. In fact, I'd consider it my responsibility."
Lamont Allen turned to Judge Wilson. "Are you hearing this!? This monster is willing to murder a three-year-old boy!" Allen was a relative of football hall-of-famer Marcus Allen, and shared a striking resemblance, in both appearance and build. In Wilson's younger days, Allen's build, voice, and job as a trial lawyer would probably have been intimidating. In his 70s, though, nothing rattled him anymore.
"To save the lives of dozens!" the Senator yelled back. Senator Trevor Holmes, in his late 50's, was one of the top members of Congress.
Retired judge Rick Wilson, the government-assigned arbitrator to this case, allowed the men to continue their squabbles, provided they didn't fall into personal insults or come to blows. This was the eighth time Wilson oversaw a case linked to the United States Futuresight Act of 2034. The act allowed the courts--or government-assigned arbitrators, in cases involving children--to preemptively sentence individuals who had not yet committed a crime.
Three years before Congress passed the law, thousands of Americans reportedly started seeing glimpses of their futures and the futures of people they knew. The phenomenon appropriately became known as "Futuresight." If the vision was of a devastating nature--such as someone committing a severe crime--the courts and law enforcement were given the ability to "do whatever needed" to prevent the event from occurring.
The Atlanta bombing of February 2032 and the Omaha massacre a month later proved to be major turning points. Both events had been foreseen and reported by more than a dozen people in the weeks prior. The failures to prevent the incidents, caused public outrage, unlike anything seen in over a decade.
First, America passed an Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Amendment limited the scope of the 2nd, redefining the "right to bear arms." Gun ownership was severely limited, capping the maximum number of firearms per household to one, and only in specific circumstances. This action reduced the overall number of gun crimes in the country, but the reported Futuresight crimes continued to occur with increasing regularity.
After simultaneous incidents in St. Louis and Denver, Congress took action again. In May 2033, government-approved prisons for the Futuresight-accused were constructed. Much of the public were opposed to the facilities, but after a deadly breakout and riot in September (an event that was foreseen by many), the majority of Americans changed their tune.
By 2039, Senator Holmes was one of the three members of Congress who were known to have Futuresight. The 59-year-old was the architect of the Futuresight Act, which gave law enforcement and the courts carte blanche to do what they wanted with those accused of future crimes. It also established the Futuresight Crime Enforcement Agency (FCEA) as a national law enforcement entity.
Judge Wilson was zoning in and out as the men continued to yell. The courts had been liberal in sentencing adults, but the public was still uneasy about arresting and sentencing young children to crimes they may not commit for years. The original Futuresight Act didn't differentiate between adults and children, but Senator Holmes introduced an amendment that would allow youths to go through a less formal arbitration process, where a government-assigned arbitrator--often someone with Futuresight--would hear the case and make a private ruling. The arbitrator could call for execution, permanent detainment, or nothing at all. Alternatively, they could pass on punishment, but place an order on the child's guardians, holding them responsible for future actions. The courts could re-try the child when they turned eighteen, as the Supreme Court ruled double jeopardy didn't apply for something that had not yet happened.
"Senator, you have two grandchildren," Allen said. "What if you saw them shooting someone twenty years from now? Would you turn them in?"
Holmes's face was turning red as he pounded his fist on the table. "Don't you dare bring my boys into this!"
"But it's okay for you to bring my son into this?"
"Three FCEA agents have seen your son gunning down more than three dozen innocent people in a Tennessee church in twenty years. Unlike your child, my grandsons are good kids."
Allen buried his face in his hands.
"Senator," Judge Wilson said in his native Georgia accent, "Mister Allen has a valid point. If the accused were your grandchild, or any child close to you, would you be pursuing this accusation with the same level of conviction you are showing today?"
Holmes struggled to keep his breathing under control. "Your honor," he spoke through is teeth, "I fail to see how that is in any way relevant to what his child is accused of."
The Judge turned to Lamont Allen. "Mr. Allen, how old is your son, Michael?"
"He'll be three next month," Allen said.
"And to the best of your knowledge, has your not-quite-three-year-old son ever killed someone?"
"Not that I'm aware of." Allen glared at the Senator.
"Your honor," said Holmes, "with all due respect, the law in this situation states that--"
Wilson jumped in. "Senator, the law gives me the right to make the call in this situation. I believe that was your idea." Holmes groaned at that suggestion.
"We didn't give you this authority so you could undermine the spirit of the law!" Holmes slammed his fist into the table again.
Allen turned toward the Senator. "You mean the law that allows you to murder a child who's done nothing?"
The Senator pointed at Allen. "He's done nothing yet! But our rule of law is no longer concerned about punishing people who commit crimes, we are concerned about--"
Allen cut him off. "About punishing babies who might do something in twenty years! Face it, Senator, many Futuresight cases have turned out to not happen."
"Because we stopped them!" Holmes yelled. "Personally, I'm worried as to why you're not concerned about this. Your son is going to murder dozens of people, and if we don't do something about it, that blood will be on your hands, boy!"
Lamont Allen immediately stood, knocking over his chair, and slamming his hands on the table. He stared at the Senator. "You want to say that again?"
Holmes locked eyes with Allen. "Your honor, you're recording this, as directed, correct?" Wilson turned toward the camera and made sure the red light was on. Holmes continued, "Allen, if you hit me, this recording will go public as evidence of assaulting your Senator. And I don't think you want that, do you?"
Allen glanced toward the judge, who nodded. He picked up his chair and sat down, keeping a straight face on the Senator. Holmes smirked and said, "That's better."
"Senator," Wilson added, "I have no authority to hold you in contempt--your bill saw to that--but rest assured, if you do not behave yourself, I will throw out this case without as much as a second thought. Do I make myself clear?"
Holmes kept his focus on Allen. "As long as you're holding this animal to the same standard."
Allen shot up again. "Who are you calling an animal!?"
Wilson pounded on the table. "Senator! This is your final warning. You will refrain from personal attacks against Mr. Allen or this hearing is closed. There will be no further discussion on that matter." The Senator leaned back in his chair. Allen sat down and leaned forward. The Judge put on his glasses and looked at his notes. All three men sat in silence. It was Wilson who broke it. "Now, gentlemen, it seems to me that the biggest problem with this case--as are most of these child Futuresight cases--is that the accused has no way to defend himself. And while, Mr. Allen, you have the ability to speak for him, the necessity to do so creates a situation with little-to-no precedent."
Wilson cleared his throat. "We are all well-versed in the law, both the Futuresight Act and beyond. So I shouldn't have to explain my reasoning for the decision I am about to give, but I feel compelled to, given the circumstances."
Wilson took a sip of water. Allen stared at his hands, folded on the table in front of him. The Senator watched the Judge. Wilson went on, "It is wildly inappropriate to condemn someone to capital punishment if they do not have the capacity to understand their alleged crimes. That is why juveniles are traditionally charged as juveniles and why our justice system has the insanity plea.
"Of course, the times we live in are very different than they were just a decade ago. While the appearance of Futuresight has created many legal and moral questions, the core of our rule of law and our justice system remains intact. Despite how the Futuresight Act treats adults, I am under no obligation to treat children the same way. Nor should I. Thus, I feel no obligation--neither moral nor personal--to condemn a child to death for a crime he may never commit."
The Judge faced Senator Holmes. "I rule in favor of the accused, as well as his father, Lamont Allen. There will be no sentencing at this time." As Wilson spoke those words, Allen fought back tears. "If the state wishes to continue pursuing this matter, they will be required to wait until the accused's eighteenth birthday, per United States v. Bertand." He turned to Allen. "Mr. Allen, you are free to leave. My assistant, Chelsea will reach out in the next couple days to discuss the follow-up. Rest assured, this matter is officially closed."
Lamont Allen thanked the Judge, gathered his belongings, and walked out of the room. Senator Holmes continued to stare at Wilson while the Judge started packing his belongings.
Wilson felt the Senator tearing through him with his eyes, but ignored him as he gathered his things. Having been a judge for over thirty years, he was used to attorneys being unhappy with his decisions. Even in previous Futuresight arbitrations, Wilson had faced reactions that were less desirable than this.
But there was something unsettling. Senator Holmes wasn't a prosecutor (anymore), a defense attorney, or an angry convict. He was a man who could easily make life difficult for millions, whenever should he feel so inclined. No active judges had shown desire to stand up to Holmes and his legislation. And most of the government siding with his beliefs. Wilson's one regret in life was that he chose to leave the bench upon the passing of the Futuresight Act, instead of trying to fight it from the inside.
"You made a huge mistake," Senator Holmes said. "A lot of good Christians are going to die because of you."
Wilson continued to ignore him.
Holmes went on, "I know your record. You hate how the system is now. You think your sacred rule of law has been violated. But Rick, we are making progress. Washington won the Revolution. Lincoln freed the slaves. I will end all crime in this country, so we may prosper to a level never seen before!"
Wilson grabbed his briefcase, walked to the camera, and shut it off.
The moment the red light disappeared, the Senator snapped. "You know as well as I do that we have tried all we can to end these acts of violence. The country needs this!"
The judge took a seat. "You are trying to end mass violence with legalized witch hunts, Senator. You have killed due process. There is no fair way to convict someone without it."
"We are preventing disaster, Rick!" Despite Wilson's hopes that the Senator would mirror his demeanor, Holmes was only getting louder. "Each time we take those freaks off the streets, we save dozens, if not hundreds, of lives."
Wilson pulled a notepad from his coat pocket. "Every time someone claiming to have Futuresight makes an accusation--"
"Claiming!? It may be difficult for you to understand, but when you have the ability to prevent a massacre, that's not a gift, it's a duty. And I plan to do my duty and prevent these crimes from happening, using whatever means possible."
Wilson glanced at his pad. "Senator, have you been made aware of the demographics of those directly affected by the Futuresight Act?"
Holmes said nothing.
"My assistant, Chelsea, was kind enough to compile the data with me. Did you know it's nearly impossible to find this information anywhere? Well, Chelsea will be getting a big bonus this Christmas, I assure you. Anyways, based on our research--verified news articles, underground watchdog groups, sporadic court records, and similar resources--there have been around six thousand convictions under the Futuresight Act. I say ‘about' because the act seals all these records, so it's hard to get an exact number. Either way, it's a little over six thousand."
Wilson put on his glasses. "But here, Senator, is where things get a bit interesting. For simplicity's sake, let's round it to six thousand reported convictions. Of those, four thousand and two hundred of them have been African Americans. And a non-trivial number have been Latino. Any questions so far?"
Wilson paused for a moment to look at Holmes. The stone-faced Senator hadn't flinched.
Wilson continued, "Now, this next number was a little tougher to calculate, but thanks to the wonders of a mostly-free press, FOIA, and personal friends, I feel it's worth sharing. You see, Senator, conviction demographics only tell part of the story. And while a lot of black people have been convicted under the act, that's not entirely shocking given America's judicial history. But I have a couple other numbers that will raise some eyebrows."
Wilson took another drink of water and paused for a moment. Holmes was still a statue. "What surprised me the most was the demographical data surrounding capital punishment. There have been about five thousand confirmed executions under the Futuresight Act. It seems that eighty-four percent of those have been African American. The other sixteen percent appear to be almost exclusively Hispanic men. But something about that eighty-four percent number stood out to me. Senator, what is eighty-four percent of five thousand?"
Holmes still remained silent.
Wilson pretended to think about it. "Oh, that's right. I got it. The number is four thousand and two hundred. And what was the relevance of that number?"
The Senator started breathing heavily.
"You see, Senator, every single African American adult convicted of a Futuresight crime has been executed. The other sixteen percent of executions almost exclusively Hispanic men, other than a few white guys in the first couple months. A one-to-one ratio of Black convictions to executions. And a comparable ratio of hispanic male convictions to executions. No statistician worth a dime would chalk that up to pure coincidence."
Senator Holmes shot out of his seat. "What the hell are you trying to say!?" His face was its reddest yet.
Judge Wilson put away his notebook. "I am simply stating the facts to the best of my ability. I am curious if you had any level of knowledge of this information. After all, the Futuresight Act is your baby."
Holmes stood over the Judge, still seated. "I have no control over who the FCEA apprehends. You know that. That's all on the White House."
"Another thing I find odd," Wilson said, "is that you are here fighting against that poor child. Pursuing a case for an agency you allegedly have no connection with."
"There are few lawyers with Futuresight, the FCEA will take what they can get. In this case, they get me."
Wilson stood up. He was two inches taller than the Senator, a formidable man in his own right. "Senator, you don't expect me to believe that, do you? This nation has a long history of injustice. But we abolished slavery. We gave women their right to be heard. We made huge strides in gay rights. But history won't look kindly on what we're doing right now. I am going to say this as bluntly as possible: You and the others may not have asked for Futuresight, but there is no excuse to use that power the way you have. The Futuresight Act is inherently racist and it must end. Now."
"Rick, all your data is speculation. The FCEA doesn't keep records and the courts release next-to-nothing about Futuresight cases. I don't even have access to it."
Wilson took a step toward the Senator, who stepped back. The Judge said, "My numbers, Trevor, are based on credible reporting, 911 calls, FOIA, and other verifiable resources. If longform reporting weren't a dead artform, I think I'd make a fine investigative reporter in this phase of life." Holmes opened his mouth, as if to speak, but Wilson cut him off. "As it stands, however, the best I can do right now is to feed this information to the people who may be able to use it in ways they feel is best appropriate. In fact, as we've been speaking, every news site, newspaper, TV station, podcast, radio show, and news anchor--as well as the entirety of Congress--should be receiving every piece of information I just read, and then some."
Holmes held back his words, instead grabbing his coat and briefcase. He went to the office door and began to open it, but turned and said "This is a massive mistake on your end. This country won't be able to handle the distrust you're stirring up."
Wilson smirked. "Now, Mr. Holmes, don't you think if our elected officials have such a problem with the truth coming out, then maybe they should work hard to ensure that those truths are desirable ones?" He stepped toward the Senator and extended his hand. "Anyways, I would imagine you have a lot to think about and plenty to discuss with your colleagues on Capitol Hill. Thank you for coming today."
Holmes turned around and walked out. Wilson waited until the Senator was down the hall and out of sight, then grabbed his phone and sent a message to Chelsea. A few seconds later, he received confirmation: The anonymous mass message had been sent, per Wilson's instructions. "That girl really does deserve a big bonus," he thought.
Lamont Allen, his girlfriend Sarah, and his son Michael were sitting down for dinner. It had been three days since the hearing and he was still on edge. "With any luck," he thought, "Mike will never understand how close he was to death."
The media was in a frenzy. The Futuresight Demographics Report, as it was known, was immediately embraced by Allen and the anti-Futuresight community. However, the overwhelming public support for the Futuresight Act made it simple for Congress to shoot down the report.
The Speaker of the House insisted the numbers were cherry-picked and forged. "There are no official records available outside of a select few individuals. This attempted whistleblower is making an attack with unverifiable data and fabricated stories. We do not know who he or she is, but we have people working around the clock to discover his identity," the Speaker said. Other members of Congress spoke out against her, but the overwhelming majority denied the report's accuracy.
In the middle of dinner, it happened.
Allen knew something was likely to go down. He received an alert that the President was giving an address. He immediately ran to the TV. "We are going live to the Oval Office," the anchor said. On the screen was the President of the United States. To his sides were the Speaker of the House and Senator Holmes. All three were wearing the same straight-faced expression, as if bottled rage was the only feeling they were capable of emitting.
The president began with his usual opening. "My fellow patriots. Recently, there has been much talk over a report regarding the FCEA and the Futuresight Act. I have read the report, andI would like to begin tonight's address by reassuring you that those numbers are false. Official data is of the highest clearance, only accessible to myself and a select few individuals. Even my two guests tonight do not have access to those numbers."
Allen, like much of the country, had read the report. And while a small amount of data was from government sources, there were enough noted references for the rest of the data to be believed. The report was deemed reputable by everyone worth their weight, which of course meant the government denied it.
The President continued. "Myself, Speaker Anderson, and Senator Holmes come to you tonight with this joint statement. The last 72 hours have made one thing clear: There are those who oppose our leadership for no reason other than dislike of the individuals in power. These people will stop at nothing to undermine our leadership and the government of the United States."
The President continued to deny all claims until yielding to the Senator. "Thank you, Mr. President," Holmes said. "I have two announcements tonight. FIrst, thanks to my friends in the intelligence community, in the FCEA, and my own Futuresight, I have discovered the identity of the individual attempting to end the security of the United States through the falsified report."
"The man who created this report" Holmes said, "is named Lamont Allen, a 38-year-old from Knoxville, Tennessee. He is an attorney who has been actively fighting against the Futuresight Act for his own gain. He would stand to gain a lot of money if the Futuresight Act were to be repealed."
"It's not true, is it?" asked Sarah.
Allen took a moment to find his words. "D-do you think it's true?" He said. "Have you ever heard any of these three say anything true?"
Sarah and Michael sat next to Allen and they continued to listen. "An insider source tells me that Allen recently attended a hearing to defend his son's future crime. Without correction, his son, Michael, will charge into a church and murder more than two dozen people. We have reason to believe that Lamont Allen may be armed, dangerous, and an enemy to our country and our freedom. I have spoken to FBI Director Sonia Dunkirk, and as of this moment, there is a two hundred fifty thousand dollar reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Lamont Allen."
Sarah got up and brought Michael to his room while Allen found himself sitting on the floor, listening to the Senator continue to condemn him on national television. Sarah returned as Holmes went on. "Secondly, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I will be running for President next fall to replace President Turner when his term ends. These years in a Futuresight world have been difficult, but together, we can continue to grow, prosper, and ensure America remains the greatest country this world has ever seen."
The President, who immediately endorsed the Senator's 2040 Presidential bid.
Allen couldn't move. He had made enemies when defending people against Futuresight crimes, but he had never expected to make an enemy out of someone who would put a hit on him on national TV. He slid forward until he was flat on the floor and felt flashes of life in front of his eyes.
He saw himself in his car, with Michael and Sarah. They drove by a sign that read "Welcome to Montana."
He saw himself kissing Sarah at what appeared to be their wedding.
He saw himself teaching a teenage Michael how to drive.
He saw armed officers break down a door and arrest Lamont and Sarah Allen.
He saw Michael, now an adult, walk into a dark building and hand over a roll of cash in exchange for a brown paper bag. Inside was a pistol.
He saw Michael step out of a car and walk up to the Holy Spirit Methodist Church. The address of the sign read "Cookeville, Tennessee."
He saw Michael pull the pistol from his coat and fire at the crowd.
He saw numerous people die, including a large man in a black suit and an elderly man in a sweater.
He saw Michael plead "no contest" for mass shooting and the assassination of a former U.S. President.
Finally, he saw Michael announce his satisfaction as he was brought in front of a firing squad.
Allen came to his senses as Sarah was caressing his head, holding back tears. He assured her he was okay, just a tad shocked. "What do we do now?" Sarah asked.
Allen knew he had to get away. "Honey," he said, "can you grab my phone?" Sarah nodded and ran to the dining room table, and got it. Allen scanned through his messages, ignoring everything from family and friends. One message in particular caught his eye. It was from a blocked number, but the message read: "This is Judge Richard Wilson. I want to help. Call me" followed by a phone number.
"How safe do you feel at home?" Wilson asked.
I don't know if I'm safe anywhere right now," Allen said.
"You all right, son?" The Judge asked. It took Allen another moment to gather his thoughts. When he confirmed he was fine, Wilson continued, "I've a second home just outside Chattanooga. If you need a place for you and Mike to stay, you're welcome to join me for a while. It's secluded and inconspicuous. What do you say?"
Allen put him on hold, turned to Sarah, and explained the situation to her. "Leave Knoxville?" Sarah asked. "This is your home. Our home. We both grew up here. Do you want to run off or do you think we need to?"
"I think we need to, Allen said. "Too many people know where we live. And that reward there to get people to rat me out."
"But you didn't do anything!"
"Do you think that makes a difference?"
Sarah sighed. "I don't get it. Why would they not just come to arrest you? You're not hard to find."
"I think they want to make an example out of me," Allen said.
"Can trust the Judge?"
"I think so, yeah."
"You think we can trust the man with our lives?"
It was that sort of scrutiny under pressure that attracted Allen to her, but he knew this wasn't the time. "What other choice do we have? I don't have family who can take us in and we both know your mother is already on the phone, reporting you as an accomplice. Judge Wilson is a safer bet than running off on our own."
"What about Michael's mother's family?"
Allen told the Judge he'd call him back, then hung up. "Becca and Lou live in Washington state. They'll take us in, I'm sure of it. But I can't imagine we make it that far without getting caught."
Sarah embraced him. "I'll do whatever you want to do. Run, hide, fight, whatever."
Allen thought about his son's future. He didn't mind someone taking out Holmes, but doing it after his Presidency ended wasn't the way to go about it. He wanted Michael to be safe and have a long, happy life. "Pack some bags," he told Sarah. "We're going to Chattanooga."
As Sarah headed to their room, Allen redialed the number and waited. It rang. And rang again. And again. Nothing. Allen redialed and tried again. Still no answer. He tried one more time and gave up. He went into his room and told Sarah, "Judge isn't answering. Let's grab Mike, head to the car, and drive south. If I can't reach the Judge by the time we get there, I'll call Joy's parents and we'll head to Washington. Sound good?" Sarah nodded, grabbed another bag and headed into Michael's room.
Allen continued to call Wilson, but couldn't get through. He looked at his computer while trying. All the major news outlets were asking "Who is Lamont Allen?" and reporting on Holmes's Presidential run. A few were touching on an executive order calling for immediate removal of "innocent until proven guilty" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" from all criminal trials. It was the exact sort of thing Allen wanted to challenge in court.
"You, me, and your Daddy are going on a little trip," he heard Sarah say, bringing Michael into the room. "You hear anything?" she asked.
"Still ringing," he replied. "But we need to get going." He grabbed the bags and went with Sarah and Michael to the door. He had just touched the knob when he heard the sirens.
Sarah set Michael on the sofa and looked out the window. A sea of red and blue lights flooded the streets. Allen told Sarah to take Michael to his room and stay there. Before they left, he kissed his son and walked to the front door.
The moment Lamont Allen heard people outside, he fell prone, placing his hands on the back of his head, and waited.
The last thing Sarah heard before she passed out was a loud cracking noise, a man yelling "he's got a gun!" and a deafening bang.