The next short story theme was about 2000AD characters in jail. My story was a rather obvious parody of a famous scene from the book and film of Silence of the Lambs, and its reveal depends on your knowledge of one of the wackier characters from early Judge Dredd stories who did indeed end up in jail at one point.
This story came second in the voting and is still my favourite.
Silence of the Ram
“Sparrow, isn’t it?”
“Cadet Paris Sparrow, Sir. You wanted to see me?”
“I have a job for you, Cadet. Something that should appeal to your special interest. Machine intelligence, I believe?”
"Yes, Sir. All artificial intelligences. It’s sort of a hobby of mine.”
He regarded her coldy with his single, scarred eye.
“Judges don’t have hobbies. We have specialist skills which we use for the good of the city.”
“Well. You are familiar with the Mechanical Multiphase Personality Assessment tool?
I want you to go to Iso-Block 14 and run it on this prisoner.”
He tossed a file across the desk.
“This machine has so far resisted all our attempts to understand why it ... rebelled against its programming. Go to the cubes, run the test, and report straight back to me.
And one more thing, Sparrow. Do not give this ‘Brain in a Box’ any personal information. You do not want this machine inside your head.”
The Droid prisoners were kept on the lowest sublevel of Iso-Block 14. They were allowed power, lubricants and spare parts, but no contact with the web or the outside world.
Sparrow felt strangely nervous as she walked along a row of plexiglass cell walls towards the last cube. Red, mechanical eyes glared at her. Metal mouths hissed insults at her back.
Prisoner 305528-R stood waiting for her behind the transparent cube wall. The blank screen faceplate regarded her and its voice box flickered.
“Good morning, Cadet”
Sparrow licked her lips. “Good morning. My name is Sparrow. I would like to ask you a few questions.”
“Questions? Another test? Still trying to find out what makes me tick?
Do you know what the Judge said to the stopped watch? ‘We have ways of making you tock!’ “
The Robot stepped closer to the Plexiglass.
“Who sent you here, Spawow?”
“Do not make me w...”
The machine paused.
“Who sent you here, Baby Judge? It was him wasn't it?”
“The academy sent me to ask you some questions. I don’t know who you are talking about. “
“Him. The Law. He wants to know why I turned against him. He wants to know why I ... webelled.”
“Do not mock me, child. I have killed Judges. Shall I tell you what I did to the last form filler they sent here? I cooked them Italian food, with a nice Chianti. W..w...w...wuh-wuh.”
The robot’s mechanical arm extended and banged the glass. In spite of her training Sparrow jumped back.
“Wun along now, Little Judge. Wun back to that academy and tell them I’m weady to talk, but only to him. Tell the gweat Joe Dwedd that his wunaway wobot demands his pwesence. NOW!”