Sven Sakarno was a psychopath. He preferred to call himself a sociopath, but the definitions that the experts used were very tightly written, and to them he was a psychopath.
He was also a rarity. In the whole of the Outposts –they’d been off earth for ten hundred years, but they still called the three colonies Outposts, the original meaning of the word long since lost – there had been only eleven psychopaths, and they were all gathered on the same prison island. ‘Island,’ too, had changed its meaning; Heisenberg Island was in fact an asteroid that had been towed in from beyond Jupiter and put into moon orbit between earth and Mars. It was mostly machinery to provide an atmosphere and water and a localized gravity that would keep humans comfortable. There were eight buildings on Heisenberg, a square mile of artificial turf, a hundred and seven real trees, and a dome that contained the buildings, the trees, the turf, and the atmosphere. To support the current six psychopaths, four hundred and forty-two other people lived there.
The buildings included a complete hospital; a port; six apartment blocks with their own shops, restaurants, swimming pools, and gymnasia; a maximum-security block that would hold fifteen psychopaths if that many ever appeared, although the present six were the most there had ever been. Fifteen, it was thought, would signal some kind of crisis in the general population – the first symptom of a flaw in the First Protocol and its offshoots.
The prisoners’ facilities were more luxurious than anything else on the island – or in the Outposts, for that matter. The free citizens of the Outposts could manufacture pretty much anything they wanted in their homes, after all, and luxury was thought ostentatious and anti-social. As the prisoners could not be allowed three-dimensional printers, they couldn’t manufacture things (they might have made weapons, for example), and so they were given more comfort, more things, more entertainment than the general population. Abundance made up, it was thought, for what they lacked in their psycho-emotional chemistry, above all the ability to relate to other people, whom they never saw, anyway. (In fact, and it had been suggested that this might be tried, the six could have lived in their luxurious cells for as long as three years with only the services of machines, the island staff reduced to as few as twelve. The catch was that the twelve would suffer from the lack of society, so in essence four hundred and thirty of the non-prisoners on Heisenberg Island were there to keep each other company.)
Sven Sakarno had been on the island for twenty-three years. Nobody knew when he might be sufficiently revised to be allowed off, although every prisoners who didn’t achieve release was an affront to the society as a whole, and there was a powerful feeling (‘feeling’ because it was sub-rational and because it went back to the Founders), that the human being existed always in relation to others, never happily or sanely alone.
Ordinary criminality was rare in the Outposts but not unknown, but horrors of the sort that Sakarno had committed were so outside the understanding of the Outposters that all they could do was put Sakarno and the rare others like him somewhere where they could be locked up, studied, re-educated. Of course the people felt guilty about this. They knew that they were being cowardly, morally so especially. The island was a frequent subject of discussion at Symposia and greatly troubled the Central Colloquium at least once a year.
Six prisoners had been released from Heisenberg in its hundred-year existence; they had been judged repentant and reformed after years of incarceration. Two had then killed themselves; one had died of old age; one had been killed in an industrial accident (itself rare); one had turned herself in for re-incarceration because she couldn’t bear the world; and the sixth had murdered three people with various sharp tools and was back in maximum security, so of the six now there, two were returnees. What they had in common with each other and Sakarno were three genetic mutations that eliminated the gene tampering done by the Founders on the entire first off-earth generation. There was little public discussion of this; only a few scientists pointed out to each other that the psychopaths’ mutations in effect returned them to the humans of “Before.” The implication that the genetic code “wanted” to return to Before was unthinkable, or at least unspeakable.