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๐—ฉ๐—ผ๐—ถ๐—ฟ ๐——๐—ถ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐—ถ๐—ป ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐— ๐˜‚๐—น๐˜๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐˜€๐—ฒ

by Thomas R. Willemain



Brane 1


โ€œNumber 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, what is your occupation?โ€


I work for the government.


โ€œCan you be more specific?โ€


Department of Defense.


โ€œWhat do you do for the Department of Defense?โ€


I kill things.


โ€œYou kill things?โ€


Affirmative.


โ€œWhat kind of things?โ€


I canโ€™t say.


โ€œMr. Baker, you are required to answer the question.โ€


Computersโ€ฆ and maybe people.


โ€œYou also kill people?โ€


Maybe.


โ€œYou donโ€™t know whether you kill people?โ€


If somebody dies, someone else does the final bit.


โ€œThen how do you kill people?โ€


I put them on the X.


โ€œThe defense excuses Number 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, you are excused.โ€


Brane 2


โ€œNumber 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, what is your occupation?โ€


Iโ€™m a statistician.


โ€œWhere do you work?โ€


At Halstead Tech.


โ€œMr. Baker, what do you do as a statistician? Does that involve computers?โ€


Statistics is about gathering or creating data and drawing reasoned conclusions taking proper account of uncertainty. Usually, yes, computers are involved. But the essence of statistics is the search for truth.


โ€œNumber 14 is acceptable to the defense.โ€


โ€œThe prosecution excuses Number 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, you are excused.โ€


Brane 3


โ€œNumber 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, you list your occupation as โ€˜software developerโ€™?โ€


Correct. Weโ€™re currently migrating from prototyping in an R environment to production using Python on the Microsoft Azure cloud. We have some legacy C++ code thatโ€”


โ€œMr. Baker, do you believe you can be objective in this case?โ€


Probably, if this doesnโ€™t take me away from my team for too long.


โ€œThe defense excuses Number 14.โ€


โ€œYour Honor, the defense has already exhausted its allotted peremptory challenges.โ€


โ€œIndeed. Mr. Prosecutor, do you have questions for Number 14?โ€


โ€œNo, Your Honor. Number 14 is acceptable to the prosecution.โ€


Brane 4


โ€œNumber 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, where are you employed?โ€


I am self-employed.


โ€œOK, then what do you do?โ€


I am a poet.


โ€œSo I take it that serving in this trial would not be a hardship?โ€


Oh, no. The per diem would be most welcome. And Iโ€™ve read some great poetry written by a sequestered poet named McClung.


โ€œThank you. Your Honor, the defense has no objection to Number 14.โ€


โ€œMr. Prosecutor?โ€


โ€œThank you, Your Honor. Mr. Baker, look at the defendant. Do you believe you can be objective in judging her guilt or innocence?โ€


I would have to look deep into her soul first. I would also need to hear her speak her lived experience.


โ€œMr. Baker, do you believe yourself capable of rendering a verdict of guilty, provided sufficient evidence is adduced?โ€


I believe we are all guilty souls yet that all are worthy of redemption. I also believe that this process in which we are engaged can harden the human heart so much that not even art, in its many forms, can soften it.


โ€œYour Honor, the prosecution asks that Number 14 be excused.โ€


โ€œMr. Baker, you are excused.โ€ โœฆ




Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is an emeritus professor of statistics, software entrepreneur, and former intelligence officer. He holds engineering degrees from Princeton University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His flash fiction has (or will have appeared) in Burningword Literary Journal, Here Comes Everybody, Hobart, Detritus Online, The Medley, Drunk Monkeys, Tamarind and The Mathematical Intelligencer. His memoir, Working on the Dark Side of the Moon: Life Inside the National Security Agency was published in 2017. A native of Western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York. Web site: www.TomWillemain.com. [Yes, we are Mr. Baker.]



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