KEVIN J. ANDERSON AND DOUG BEASON
Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson has written nearly a hundred novels, many of them co-written (as this story is) with Doug Beason, with his wife, Rebecca Moesta, or with Brian Herbert, with whom he continues Frank Herbert’s Dune saga. Anderson has written several media tie-ins, for such properties as Star Wars and The X-Files. His most recent original project is the Saga of Seven Suns series, which concluded with last year’s The Ashes of Worlds, and his nautical fantasy epic Terra Incognita.
Doug Beason is a physicist and a retired Air Force Colonel. He is currently works at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he is responsible for programs that reduce the global threat of weapons of mass destruction. He has published fourteen books, eight of them in collaboration with Anderson. The writing team’s novel Assemblers of Infinity was a finalist for the Nebula Award.
“Prisons,” first published in Amazing Stories, explores the repercussions of a revolt on a prison planet and shows how one person’s existence influences the decisions of those in power. It examines black market trade, brainwashing, and how far some will go for revenge.
I am still called the Warden. The prisoners consider it an ironic jest.
Barely a meter square, the forcewalls form the boundaries of my holographic body. Once this felt like a throne, an isolated position from which I could control the workings of Bastille. Now, though, I must look out and watch my former prisoners laughing at me.
This projection has been an image of authority to them. Since living on this prison world was too great a punishment to inflict upon any real warden or guards, my Artificial Personality was entrusted to watch over this compound. I am based on a real person—a great man, I think—a proud man with many accomplishments. But I have failed here.
Amu led the prisoners in their revolt; he convinced them that Bastille is a self-sufficient planet after all their forced terraforming work for the Federation. They have survived all Federation attempts to reoccupy the world, keeping the invaders out with the same systems once intended to keep the prisoners in. Besides the prisoners, I am the only one left.
Once, I ran the environmental systems here, the production accounting, the resources inventory. I monitored the automated digging and processing machinery outside. I controlled the fleet of tiny piranha interceptors in orbit that would destroy any ship trying to escape. But now I am powerless.
Amu’s lover Theowane comes to taunt me every day, to gloat over her triumph. She paces up and down the corridor outside the forcewalls. To me, she is flaunting her freedom to go where she wishes. I do not think it is unintentional.
At the time of the revolt, Theowane used her computer skills to introduce a worm program that rewrote the control links around my Personality, leaving me isolated and helpless. If I attempt to regain control, the worm will delete my existence. I feel as if I have a knife at my throat, and I am too afraid to act.
At moments such as this, I can appreciate the sophistication of my Personality, which allows me to feel the full range of human emotions.
It allows me to hate Theowane and what she has done to me.