Frederick Galvanni is the thief of the century, but it’s not his first time claiming the title. For Frederick and the inhabitants of his world, reincarnation is real, but people are always reborn in the country in which they died. Now Frederick seeks to pull off his greatest heist yet—enter a maximum security prison, where souls are trapped through reincarnation, and assemble the greatest criminal team that has ever lived.
But for Frederick, the heist is just the beginning of a plan centuries in the making: a plan of revenge for unforgivable crimes committed a millennium before. And in this world, even death cannot keep Frederick from success.
In most countries, murdering a child is one of the worst crimes that can be committed. But in Carcer it’s routine. For good reason, too.
It’s the only way to keep them in.
Carcer is the world’s highest security prison: an island country, reserved for murderers, rapists, and thieves of the highest caliber. But none of the inmates on Carcer are over thirteen years of age, because on entry to the prison country, each and every one of them is murdered when they step off the boat. Within the next day, they’re reborn and cataloged into the system. Then they’re allowed to grow until their minds begin to sharpen and their muscles begin to develop. At thirteen, they’re slaughtered again, resetting the cycle, repeating for the amount of lifetimes sentenced by the judge for their crime.
They say after ten cycles a prisoner can’t even remember who they are anymore, that the memories of their past lives have been eradicated, that they no longer bear the character traits that landed them in Carcer in the first place. At that point they’ve been “reconditioned,” and are ready to be assimilated into society once again.
Due to this system, not a single prisoner has escaped from Carcer since its creation.
I intend to be the first.
Four and a half billion dollars worth of stolen rare metals led to my arrest. Heaps of platinum, gold, silver, and a slew of other elements so precious the judge deemed ten cycles of imprisonment insufficient. The esteemed justice most high generously granted me twenty cycles; the additional ten for pure punishment.
The government’s detectives found me through a hole in my planning, a detail they suspected I’d forgotten to cover up. A twisting trail of clues that led them to me, Frederick Galvanni, the greatest thief of the century. They locked me in a padded cell, strapped to a table, with no chance of accidental death and escape until I was on Carcer.
Except I had planned to arrive on Carcer.
Frederick Galvanni doesn’t make mistakes. I’d left the hole in my plans for them to find.
Now I was on a boat to Carcer, the greatest networking location in the world for top notch thieves. A vault filled with talent yet to be cracked by anyone in existence.
The perfect place to recruit a team.
I was in my study when they caught me. Or at least when they thought they had caught me.
“We’ll call in with the tip at 1900 hours,” said Marco, my technology specialist over our private line, “Expect a one hour delay. Once you’re captured, we’ll continue monitoring until you switch bodies. If the plan goes sour you know the signal- we can get you out of there in ten minutes.”
“My plans don’t go sour.”
“Well, in case it does-”
“It won’t, Marco.” I said, “I’ll see you on the other side. Any additions to our list of potential recruits?”
“Nope. Just the twelve. We’ll reach out to you with updates as they come. Once you’re on the island, you’re outside our reach except for basic communications. At that point, everything is in your hands.”
“Just how I like it. They’re best suited for the job.”
I hung up before he replied, and looked over the list of twelve resumes one last time. There was Antonio Perez, the man who had invented his own coding language for banking, then used a backdoor to siphon millions into his own Swedish account. Tom Noles, captured fifty years prior, but not before the FBI founded an entire division with the single purpose of shutting down the most extensive blackmarket the world hd ever known. And Lisa Watkins whose skill in bed was only exceeded by her skill in killing. I would know, on both accounts. Each of them showed criminal histories trailing back at least three lifetimes, and none of them had wavered to moment’s thought of repentance.
“My rock stars,” I whispered, “My murderers row. My hall of fame.”
At 1900 hours, I positioned myself in my study, my back to the wall length window that faced the forest behind. A forest perfect for a sneak assault, and a thin glass window pane that would break even under the smallest amount of pressure.
And I waited, my arms crossed, and pretending to watch the seventh inch display in front of me.
Fifty seven minutes later, I heard the glass shatter and felt the prick in the back of my neck. I feigned surprise as four elite task force units charged through the window, and I pulled the tranquilizer dart out, my vision already blurring.
“Bastards,” I shouted, fumbling for the gun at my belt and raising it to my temple, “Good luck tracing this dead body!”
But before I could pull the trigger, darkness closed around me, and four sets of hands caught my falling body.
Shortly after I awoke I was escorted to the court room.
“Class three death clearance,” shouted the guard as they took me from my holding cell. Pens, belts, scissors disappeared as I walked down the hall in accordance with his command, as a class three clearance removed any potential methods of suicide. Even the electrical outlets had stoppers over them.
The judge was unmovable and the jury heartless.
“Please,” I said, my voice heavy with sarcasm, “you have the wrong guy. Not guilty. ”
The judge snorted, awaiting the chance to read the sentence he had be preparing to say all day.
“20 life cycles,” he said, rapping his gavel, “Category four deaths. Dismissed.”
I laughed as they led me from the courtroom and boarded the boat that would take me to Carcer. No helicopters or planes were used for transportation- it was too easy to shoot them down, or seize the controls, and die in international waters where the soul fled to its most recent country of residence.
I was sedated the entire trip, and the boat docked an unknowable amount of hours later. The guards ushered me from the boat and led me up the beach, to a roped off section of sand permanently covered red.
“Alright boys,” I said from inside my straight jacket, “You heard the judge. Category four death. Let’s get this over with.”
“Shut it, prisoner.” Said the lead, kicking my knees out from under me, one of them breaking with an audible snap, “You are worthless now. You are no longer Frederick. You are no longer an economic nightmare. You are no one.”
Behind him, the other three guards removed steel batons from their belts. I watched as they advanced, knowing full well what a category four death meant. That there was only one category more painful, category five, reserved for the rapists.
It took twenty minutes for me to black out. They started with the legs, working their way upwards, ensuring no bone remained intact. And just before I lost consciousness I saw the head guard remove a glass jar from his belt, and catch my last breath inside it, which they would use to trace the soul to its new body.
And I, Frederick Galvanni, died my sixty fourth death.
Every parent wants their child to be original.
I don’t mean original like a piano player, or a baseball star, or a poet. I mean original. A brand new soul, one untarnished by past lives. Fresh.
But it doesn’t always happen. In fact, as birth rates and death rates have leveled off, original children have become quite rare. It had been known for centuries that originals were much more likely to be born to couples of passion, whose love ran hot with desire, and a stale baby born into a family could sew doubt in even the most content of couples. It’s not unheard of babies who remember their past lives to fake originality, trying to please their new parents, hiding their past lives behind faux innocence and ignorance.
Even in countries where the death rate far outstripped the birth rate, however, originals have been known to randomly pop into the population. And this posed a problem for Carcer.
Should an original child slip into the prison, only to be raised and murdered in a horrific accident, the public outcry would be deafening. The prison would be shut down, its officials relocated to the inmate side of prisons to pay their own sentences. So babies on Carsus were not made the natural way that babies had been made for millennia. But rather, they were made by machines, in test tubes and incubators controlled by the cold hand of science. With no passion, and no chance for originality.
So when I opened my eyes for the first time to the harsh lab lighting, and breathed my first breath of latex and disinfectant, I knew that I had arrived on Carsus. Not intellectually, no- I had yet to build the mental capabilities to form thought, let alone words – but instinctively I had a feeling. A satisfaction comparable at that time to only the basest of human desires, like sipping from a bottle of warm milk. The machines above me knew that I had arrived too- had I been able to read, I would have seen my name displayed across the incubator monitor as the machine read my first breath, the one most potent with soul, followed only by the last breath.
And despite the bravado in the courtroom, and the confidence over the phone with Marco, baby me knew the feeling that I had tightly wrapped confidence around to cover up. And baby me screamed.
For most people, memory recovery is slow. It starts off young through feelings and instincts, and gradually blossoms into full memories. Some people are better than it than others, and can recall the entirety of their past life by age five. They still have to relearn speech, and writing, and math by developing the necessary neural pathways for these skills but there’s an underlying intuition underneath that will spur them along, molding their body to fit their soul.
But the secret that I had carefully kept throughout my sixty five lives, the secret that propelled me to the height of criminal organizations throughout the centuries, was my ability to recall. By two months, I could remember my entire past life. By four months, I could remember the three before lives that. And by four years my memory stretched back to my very first life, to a set of memories that would have been washed away by the waves of reincarnation in the average man by ten cycles.
And because of this skill, I could manipulate reincarnation like no one else I had ever met.
If I was dealt a bad hand and born into a family too impoverished, or found my body type deformed, or my mind’s processor too slow, I could always restart within nine months. That plump new baby would find a way to turn the stove on so that natural gas filled the house, or roll down the flight of stairs that should have been gated, or sneak into the household bleach. And that new baby would be no more, a vessel discarded in light of a newer model. Like trading in a Honda for a Corvette.
But now, as I stared upwards in the incubator, my neck muscles not yet strong enough to turn my head and my eyes not developed enough to discern the shapes above, I knew I had one chance. There would be no discarding the hand – there was no time, and the entire Carsus facility was certified for class three death clearance.
There was no choice but to play fair. I’d have to make it out of this one alive.