The Department of Research in Science at FIDA was set up in the late 50’s. It was thought very strange that the federation of women lawyers would have any scientific interests, but they explained that this was only the natural progression of growth for them. This was to be a department for scientific research by women for women, an outgrowth of a center of law practiced by women to aid women. There being no definition for the place beyond this, one thinks perhaps of a department dedicated to eradicating the scourge of PMS. Or the scourge of morning sickness. Or the scourge of whatever else it is that scourges women. One does not really want to dwell on such thoughts for long, and so the Department of Research in Science soon faded from the collective consciousness as its novelty wore off. The ladies at FIDA continued to quietly transact their business as they had before, only making it into the limelight when a victim they represented was part of a particularly prolific case. Research, as it was fondly called, also began to quietly transact its business, and nobody knew what business that was, exactly.
Initially, curious members of press wanting to interview the head of Research for some ‘women in science’ article or the other were ushered into a nondescript office with a friendly looking lady sitting at a very big, very bare desk, who was more than happy to chat with them for an hour or so. When the members of the press later reviewed their notes, they were dismayed to find out that they could have gotten the same information off any generic encyclopedia. This was reported to have happened severally – at least to 28 reporters in 26 of FIDA’s 150 member states, which discouraged further curiosity. Anyway, these were the 2050s – very good years for science – so there were many more things to be curious about, which soon overshadowed Research.
The ’60s and the’ 70s were also good years for science, as it turned out. It was a time of astonishing feats and wonderful inventions, among which the initial reports from Eurasia were neither astonishing nor wonderful enough to make it into the news. But in 2080, an intern in the back of a newsroom with too much time on his hands noticed something. A pattern. A very interesting pattern, and when he took it to his boss, he was laughed out of the room. He proceeded to take it up as his secret project, a project that would eventually win D. A. Akin a Pulitzer, and also kill him.
The reports were always the same. First from Eurasia, then from the former Alliance, then from the Periphery. They started in 2078, anonymous reports of violence. What was strange about these reports were that the anonymous tippers never identified themselves as the victim. They were always passive watchers. Even stranger were the tones of the reports. The tones – the very emotions – of the anonymous tippers could be felt as Akin touched the Interface he’d gotten as a favor from a cop friend. There were some who were jubilant, some disdainful, some smugly satisfied, but none were upset, and all were very, very surprised. Akin sifted through report after report, and all of them detailed stories of women who had stood up to their husbands. Now, this wasn’t surprising in itself, given the strides that the Rights movement had made in the last century. Each of the women had, to various extents, physically restrained their violent partners. This wasn’t surprising either. The reports ranged from the partners being jarred to being hospitalized. Interesting, perhaps. The incidences rose from 2 in the first week to 40-50 in the 126th week. Slightly surprising. What made no sense at all was that none of the women in the 1390+ reported cases had any prior fighting experience, and the police were not in the least bothered by any of this.
“Solving a problem for us, if you asked me. Has any of the aggrieved parties complained?”
“Any of the idiots that supposedly started the fights? They complained?”
“No. All of these reports are from bystanders.”
“Nobody’s accusing nobody?”
“Nobody’s committed a crime?”
“Look, Officer, there’s clearly a pattern of violence here -“
“No what you see there son, is a pattern of none of my business. Ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“But see here, be reasonable, isn’t it your -“
“AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT! NOW GET OUT OF MY OFFICE!”
Akin gave up on the police.
The reports consumed him. They ate up two years of his life, and got him fired from his job. He was single-minded in his devotion to this mystery, and the mystery continued to grow larger and larger. His living room was plastered in thinscreens with pictures and maps and diagrams with interconnecting arrows, reminiscent of the old-school detective work of a previous era.
‘…they were at it again, I could hear them…he always comes home drunk and starts shouting…I could hear the kid crying, think he’d beaten him again…dude just turned toward her and started cussing her out, I don’t know why…’
There was always a fight,
‘..she warned him first…told him to calm down or she’d do something drastic…she told him to walk outside for a while…’
the woman always gave a warning,
‘…he laughed then lunged at her with a bottle…he spat at her then smacked her in the face…he wasn’t even listening, he never listens….came at her like he was gonna hit her….’
her partner always disregarded it,
‘…used a fighting style I’ve never seen, eastern maybe…restrained him using a pencil. A BLOODY PENCIL…was suddenly on top of him like a rabid animal, I’ve never seen her move that fast…I don’t know how she got behind him so fast, touched his neck and he was on the floor….’
then the woman would subdue him in a flash, like she’d had some sort of training. It was never haphazard.
‘…her eyes…she was so calm afterward…brushed herself off…looked like she’d just come in from the garden or something…’
And the woman was never scared.
His living room became too small and thinscreens overflowed into first the spare bedroom, then his own bedroom, then the bathroom, then every available nook and cranny and the entire house was full.
Akin had hacked into the Interface he had borrowed from his cop friend and gotten background information on the first 50 women in the reports. His friend found out and understandably refused to be friendly with him anymore, and so Akin depleted his savings box bribing the storekeeps at the Station to give him the rest of the files. He painstakingly read each of them. Birth. Childhood. Adult life. Marriage. Surveillance had gotten to the point where the only thing outside the government’s knowledge was the date of one’s death. The women were from different Zones, different States, different socio-economic backgrounds. He plugged into the thinscreens general data first about their location, then their income, then their ages, and found no correlation. Then their education, the stability of their childhoods. Nothing. He added data, expanding outward, adding things that seemed to be of no practical use, diet, altitude, looking at the graphs and charts generated, each finding less inconsequential than the next. He started connecting the thinscreens to each other, trying to find correlations between the lack of correlations. He wasn’t even sure what he was looking for any more. Until one day, he expanded outward so far that he reached their childhoods. And each single one of these women had visited FIDA as part of a school trip in their early adolescence.
Akin sat up straight in his bed and touched the wall, where the nearest thinscreen was. It glowed, 2.17 am. One more hour of sleep then he would leave his house. Of course he couldn’t sleep, so he wondered instead why FIDA was giving pre-emptive self-defence lessons to teen girls, and why nobody knew about it. He’d been wondering this for a week. He’d asked some of his old contacts, and they seemed to be clueless too. He knew that there was always a compulsory school trip to FIDA, as there were compulsory school trips to the local UN office and the World Court and the Monetary Association and any and every place that had the vaguest hint of historical value – peace had come at a cost, and every citizen grew up painfully aware of what cost that was. There were as many as 15 trips to different organizations each year for 5 years. He tried to recall something from his boyhood FIDA trip and nothing interesting came to mind. The guide telling them the history of the place. White corridors, offices, a quiz afterward. Same as the MA trip. Same as every other trip. Except that these other places had 82-99% attendance by the women mentioned in the reports. Only FIDA had been visited by 100% of them. Akin got up, already fully dressed, slung the bag he’d packed the previous night around his shoulder and left his house, closing the door gently behind him.