Onion Skinner

By GL Schmitt




The room in which the accused sat was muted, save for the hushed voice of his examiner. A multitude of enigmatic graphs, scales and metres engulfed the walls around the room's dimly lit core.

At the focus of this congestion of technology, sat a young man. His head was covered with electro-encephalic transductors. His limbs were strapped to the heavy restraining chair.

Hunched over his control panel in the background, a wizened, psychoprobist sat, ignoring the eclipsed subject while scanning the diverse readouts.

He had two microphones. One was attached to the cyborgesque control system, the other lead directly to the accused man's aural inductor.

"Go to response four thirty-two," the psychoprobist instructed his machine, speaking into the red lit microphone. "Suppress term: broke."

The old man flipped a switch, the red light died, and the green light above the microphone leading to the accused man, switched on.

"How did you get into Roquerph's apartment?" the old man precisely read question four thirty-two from the vid-screen prompter.

The accused tried to repeat his previous answer, "The door was . . . unlocked. I just went in."

"Suppress term: unlocked," said psychoprobist to machine; to the accused, "How did you get into Roquerph's apartment?"

"The door was . . . kicked open," the accused strained. "I just went in."

"Stress visualization: kick," the psychoprobist instructed his machine.

"How did you get into Roquerph's apartment?"

"Ah . . . J-Jessie kicked the door open," the accused stated. "I just went in."

"Side bar to question seven, branching from question four thirty-two," the old man advised his machine.

"Who," he asked the accused, "is Jessie?"

"Good guy," the accused whined.

The psychoprobist watched as the stress readings' climbed.

"Suppress term: Good, suppress term: guy," he informed his equipment. "Who is Jessie?"

"Uh . . . I-I am Jessie," the accused avowed, and the stress readings plummeted.

"Who is Jessie?"

"I am."

"Is the Jessie who kicked in Roquerph's door, you?"


"Suppress conjunctive use: and," the old man instructed.

"How did you get into Roquerph's apartment?" the psychoprobist repeated question four thirty-two.

"Jessie . . . I . . . kicked the door in . . . to get in."

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He was due, man," Jessie declared. The relief showing on the readouts, reflected in his voice.

"Suppress term: due. Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He was . . . he owed."

"Expand definition: owed."

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He . . . was. . . . had no right."

"Expand term right."

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He . . . was wrong . . . sort."

"Expand term: wrong, expand term: sort."

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He . . . was bad . . . people."

The psychoprobist glanced at the climbing readouts.

"Suppress term: wrong, stress definition: people."

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He . . . ba-ba-b . . . pe-po-p . . . a strub."

The stress readouts fell.

"Why did you break into Roquerph's apartment?"

"He's a dirty, stinking strub!" Jessie avowed. "He looks like a strub! And he smells like a strub! Cuz he is a strub!"

"You don't like the Strobelli?"

"Why should I?" It was a rhetorical question. "Nobody likes strubs, man!"

"What's wrong with the Strobelli?"

"They're strubs."

"Suppress term: strubs."

"What's wrong with the Strobelli?"

"They're . . . bellibait."

"Suppress term: bellibait"

"What's wrong with the Strobelli?"

"They're rubbelongs."

"Suppress all terms equal to Strobelli?"

"What's wrong with Roquerph?"

"He's . . . he's . . . he's . . . "

A small red light on the psychoprobist's control panel began to flash.

" . . . he's . . . he's . . . "

"Cancel question."

The stress readouts sank, and the throbbing light ceased flashing.

"Markers at question six seventy-seven, tree back through four thirty-two. Label as a minus BPL."

"What's a BPL?" the young LEO inquired, startling the old psychoprobist.

"Eh! What are you doing here?"

"Just came in to see if I could pick up any leads," the LEO smiled.

"You can't be here!" the old man exclaimed. "Preliminary probes are privileged."

"Well, don't get sore at me, Pops," the LEO replied, conciliatory. "I just asked what a BPL was."

"A BPL?" the old man was slow recovering. "Oh, that's a Big-Path Loop."

"Like that helps," the LEO smiled.

"Big-Path is short for pathological bigotry. And a loop occurs where several terms can only be defined by each other."

"And that's supposed to mean something?"

"I just marked a set of BPL responses to the Strobelli."

"You're saying that your guy's a bigot."

"About Strobelli, yes."

"And that's all you got?" the LEO exclaimed incredulously. "I could have told that from the lightening bolt he has tattooed under his ear. Don't you know what that means?"

"Yes, I know the general definition," the psychoprobist sighed. "But I have to know what it means to him. You can't tell from what is on a person's skin, or hair, or jewellery, or clothes. You can only tell what's in his mind from inside."

"Just how long have you been probing the perp?"

"The accused," the psychoprobist stressed, "has been in the chair for nearly two hours."

"And you just figured out he's anti-strub?"

"No, I have several notations concerned with the possible crime of which he thinks he is accused. Why he thinks he will go free. What he knows that he has done.

"I was trying to track down motives. I had just marked a neginonid BPL when you interrupted.

"Now," the psychoprobist demanded, "how did you get in here?"

"I just walked in," the young officer smiled. "Who's going to stop a LEO?"

"What about security?"

"A plastic badge?" the LEO was incredulous. "Say, what's that thing you said? Before BPL."

"A neginonid?"

"That's it. What's a negin-noned?"

"That's an internal truth," the old man smiled.

"Eternal . . . "

"Internal! In-ternal."

"Never heard of it. You psychoprobes have a language all your own, don't you?"

"Of course," the old man agreed, "but that's a term derived from an ancient profession. Professional lying."

"Professional . . . " the LEO looked askance. "Go ahead, pull the other leg."

"No, truly. Professional liars. What else would you call the people who created Twentieth Century advertising?"

"Okay, but what's a negibob?"

"A neginonid is the opposite of a posinonid."

"Of course. Where's my head at?" the LEO replied, sarcastically.

"You have to break it down," the old man insisted. "A posinonid, is a positive non-inferential identification. A neginonid, is a negative one."

"I don't understand," the LEO countered.

"Most people use an identification name for a person, an object, or an action. It may be either positive or negative, depending upon one's opinion. When no information is conveyed by that identification, it is said to be a non-inferential id. Either a posinonid, or a neginonid.

"Any identification must have at least some inferred meaning," the LEO objected.

"Not in advertising," the old man insisted. "If you infer something, you might be proven wrong. But if you inferred nothing . . . "

"You have wasted everybody's time," the young LEO interrupted.

"Not if you infer nothing positively."

"You can't do that," the LEO declared, "can you?"

"There are two classic examples from the twentieth century," the psychoprobist replied, "but I can never remember which was first."

"Go ahead, transmit!"

"It's a real Wurlitzer!" the old man smiled.

"What's a wurlitzer?"

"You got me? It was a product. Maybe an automobile, or a hamburger."

"Then it's gibberish."

"Not quite," the old man insisted. "If you had one, or you wanted others to want one, it was the real one. There was no denying it. You merely have to sound positive when you said it."

"It's a real Wurlitzer!" the LEO intoned. "Okay, what was the other one?"

"The other one was for Coke."

"Come on," the LEO objected. "Nobody advertised crack in the twentieth century. I know that much law enforcement history."

"Not crack cocaine," the old man chuckled, It was a soft drink called "Coca-Cola, and also known as Coke. According to their advertisements, Coke was the real thing!"

"Not a real wurlitzer?"

"No, their Coca-Cola was the real Coca-Cola. You merely had to sound confident."

"And how does this relate to psychoprobing?"

"Over three hundred years ago, the laws of this country stated that no one could be forced to testify against himself," the old man began. "Instead, they had to be judged by twelve of their peers."

"Yeah, I know that part," the LEO agreed. "A peer was a juryman."

"Close enough," the old man agreed. "I could never understand how a country embracing social Darwinism could accept that idea, and not realize that they were selectively breeding better liars."

"Social what?"

"Never mind, because about a century ago it all changed," the psychoprobist continued, dismissively. "Since then, our new concept is that I could not judge you, because I cannot be objective. Twelve jurymen cannot judge you, either, because they are a mini mob, susceptible to social pressures.

"The only one who can judge the accused is the accused, himself," the old man concluded. "That's the new system, and it's equally as wrong as was our previous practice.

"These people do not know the truth. Sometimes their grasp of reality is shaky. Sometimes, their values have been so screwed up, they do not realize that other people can actually feel!

"So, the judge sends for a psychoprobist to accesses the truth locked inside the accused person's mind. Then he can resolve guilt."

"That's not how I was taught," the LEO objected. "You need physical evidence, fingerprints, forensic evidence, DNA, witnesses, security camera tapes, bank records. That sort of thing."

"That's what you collect," the psychoprobist agreed. "I map memories, attitudes, conditioned responses, and other information. If there is no psychological evidence, there must be a tremendous amount of physical evidence to get a conviction.

"Usually, a judge won't go beyond a preliminary probe," the old man advised, "if no affirmative psychological data is obtained."

"But you know they're accused," the LEO objected, "why don't you dig harder?"

"Well, for one reason, they may not be guilty."

"Oh sure."

"That's right," the old man nodded. "I can be certain that one in ten of the people I deal with are innocent."

"Yeah. Give me the line about corrupt LEOs, why don't you."

"No, one out of ten subjects is a system check," the psychoprobist insisted. "I'm not even told what the accused has been accused of doing.

"An auditor is given the particulars of a phoney crime, and sent through. If I gave back a guilty response, my license is negated. I would have to attend review classes and pass through re-certification, before I can work again."

"Well, look here," the LEO smiled, conspiratorially. "I came here to see if I could get a handle on this guy's motive.

"You don't need to worry, we've got enough physical evidence to put him in depth freeze for life."

"Damnation!" the old psychoprobist swore.

Jumping up from his stool, the old man scuttled across the room. He slammed his hand against a large red button beside the closed door. Immediately, things began to happen.

Bolts snapped into place, sealing the metal door shut. All of the accused man's readouts faded to black. The control panel locked out all commands. Microphones went dead. A personal entry code window appeared in the main computer screen, sealing access to all functions.

By the doorway, an intercom launched onto a situation interrogation. From the background, behind the voice on the intercom, an alarm was ringing.

"Room six zero-one, report situation."

"This is room six zero-one," the old man announced. "Doctor Idra Pandier. My security code is alpha, niner, rocket, seven, rocket, waldo."

"Dr. Pandier. What is your situation?"

"Send in a stand-by probist. I've been contaminated."


"Before you send the stand-by, alert security to escort myself and an unauthorized LEO from room six zero-one. Ask them to have a detention room waiting to secure the LEO until Internal Affairs can respond.

"As soon as I am checked through, I will fill out the complaint."

"Message received. Am responding, Dr. Pandier."

The intercom shut off, silencing the sound of alarms from the operator's source. For a moment, the room was in deadly silence, then the old psychoprobist turned, glaring ominously.

"Since it seems that you could not stay awake long enough to learn psychoprobe protocol at the Academy," the old man intoned, "you are now going to learn it the hard way, mister!"

The End

Copyright © 2003 by GL Schmitt

GL Schmitt is a Canadian who spent most of his adult life writing for television commercials.

E-mail: gschmitt@golden.net


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