Sharon’s Note: It won’t be long before mankind finds its way to Mars. The red planet holds a literal world of potential. We may even understand some of what we find there. Warning: Futures in the mirror may be closer than they appear.
Jensen and Warden Holden walked side by side down the hall. It was a transparent tube connecting the admin building to the rest of the of the prison. The fine red sands of Mars shifted slowly in the winds, making an effect not unlike rippling silk. Jensen found it inspiring that something so lovely could exist in on cold, barren Mars.
“I am glad you could fit me in on such short notice.” Jensen said, earnestly. He was having to take many more steps than the Warden, to make up for the taller man’s long stride. “Really, your rehabilitation numbers are all anyone talks about at the office these days.”
The Warden chuckled. “Well, a little time on the red planet is good for the soul.”
“Your programs must be phenomenal.” The smaller man pried, hopefully.
“Well,” Holden pondered for a moment. “Yeah, we have classes that teach trades, and shrinks on staff to help the inmates talk through their issues, but that’s not what makes Red Sands special.”
“Well, that’s why I’m here.” Jensen tried to coax more from the quiet Warden. “In the last ten years, there has been a ridiculously low number of reoffenders from Red Sands Penitentiary, and none of them were violent. If we could figure out what you’re doing here that’s working, we could duplicate it in all our other facilities.”
The Warden smirked. “That’s exactly what I’m hoping you can help me with. Come on, Mr. Jensen. There are some things I need you to see to really understand what we’re doing here.”
“I am at your disposal.” Jensen’s eyes lit up as they passed the airlock check point, admitting them into the main part of the prison. Through five years on the job, Jensen had inspected many prisons. Some had been clean and well ordered, and some had been little slices of hell. It was Jensen’s proud duty to review all the facilities, so that those places that did not fit his standard were brought to task.
The inside of the prison was beyond anything he had seen before. He had seen facilities as spotless and well repaired, but the feel of the place was just so alien. As they moved through the blocks, the mood was calm, and almost friendly. There were none of the frightened or hostile looks exchanged between prisoners and guards that Jensen was used to. Postures were relaxed, and smiles were common. One face caught his eyes, and he seized the Warden’s arm, who looked back in puzzlement.
“That’s the Ripper of Rome.” Jensen whispered.
The larger man glanced at the inmate who was vacantly smiling at people as he pushed a cart down the row of cells, handing out what looked like old paper books. “Who, Matteo? Yeah, I guess. I’d forgotten that the media had given him that stupid monicer. He was a little rough when he came in, but he’s an alright guy. Maybe he’s a little slow, but that’s no reason to judge a fella.”
“He killed and butchered eight women.” Jensen stared at Holden in vague horror. “How is that alright?”
The warden waved this off. “Well, I didn’t say he was ever getting out of here. And, yeah, he did some really bad things, but I think he was mostly confused when he killed those women. I’ll let you read his psych reports. They’re really interesting. His past aside, though, he’s better now.”
“Better now?” Jensen’s voice rose an octave. “That kind of behavior doesn’t get better.”
Again, that knowing smile. “It does in Red Sands.”
Unease settled further in Jensen’s stomach. “What exactly are you doing here?”
“Let me show you.”