This story originally published in Antipodean SF
long before September 11, 2001

Tight Security

by C.W.Smoke

Visit Castle Smoke

"Halt! Plastic or paper?"


"Identity card please, sir."

Frank handed the bored-looking woman his plastic ID, and she slid the plastic through the scanner.

"Step through the metal detector and wait at the painted red line for your retinal scan, please, sir," she directed, handing back Frank's ID and gesturing to her right while stifling a yawn.

Frank stood at the red line and waited.

"Remove everything metal and place it in this plastic box, sir. Anything dangerous we should know about?" asked the male attendant while restlessly rocking back-and-forth, shifting his weight from side-to-side, trying to keep his feet awake as he awaited both his break and Frank's compliance.

"Nope, sonny. Just the usual paraphernalia. Keys. Coins. Pocketknife. Beltbuckle. Is all this security necessary? I just want to..."

"Sir! Step out of the line. Now, sir!"

"Huh? Speak up! What's the problem, sonny?" asked Frank as a blonde-haired, female supervisor with gold epaulets adorning her broad shoulders opened a nondescript gray door beside the painted, red floor stripe. She stepped into the room, halting beside Frank, her right hand resting on the butt of a holstered taser.

"You heard the man! He's just doing his job. Step out of the line! Now!" she repeated while nervously fingering the taser's trigger guard.

"You're new aren't you? And cute too. I'd be lookin' for you here every day if I were thirty years younger, you betcha. Been through this a thousand times. I just..."

"Code Red! Code Red!" shouted the captain, drawing her taser and tapping a button on her belt. Four large security guards materialized with drawn weapons.

"But I just..."

"You've been warned!" she cried, discharging her weapon with a loud pop and watching Frank fold like a puppet with suddenly cut strings, his legs buckling as his knees and then his face smacked against the shiny floor.

"Damn! That's the third perp today. This oldtimer's going down. Pocket knives were ruled weapons yesterday by the Office of Allied Justice. You'd think these old folks would have enough sense to check their monitors," said the attendant just loud enough so the onlookers began to disperse. He stifled another yawn while he made an entry in his log book.

"Meat wagon's on the way. Cuff him, and get him up!" ordered captain gold-braid as the guards surrounded their unconscious prisoner. A bloody puddle spread slowly, discoloring the tile floor beside Frank's mouth.

* * *

"Captain, it's not your fault! You followed procedure. How could you know the perp was hard-of-hearing with a heart condition?"

"So this won't be a black mark in my service jacket?"

"No, captain. The review board in its ultimate wisdom recommends a bronze bravery button for your distinguished service."

"Thank you, sir. Did the investigation ever find out why the perp turned up at my station?"

"Well, captain, we're assuming that he wanted to refill the prescription for heart medication that we found clutched in his hand."

"Sir, no one ever told me how rough supermarket duty would be."

"Well, now you know, captain. Now you know!"


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