Beyond the End of Time Chapter 4
Author Ben Snyder
Chaos reigned in the control center. Arthrids were clambering over various consoles chattering anxiously, trying to get a view of the footage in the security room. Holograms played and replayed the humans’ encounter with the insect.
Valek stood off to the side. Officially, the government had hired him into the research world to provide security, but he was also intended to discreetly keep an eye on the scientists, reporting back from time to time. In fact, only the day before he had received his latest set of orders directly from the governing council.
Knowing what was in store for him, he prepared his response. Sure enough, after a few minutes, Krachka stormed out from the throng and made a beeline for him. He faced his fate boldly, knowing that if he followed through on his covert mission, he would be hailed as a hero. The room went silent and everyone stared straight at Valek, but he only wavered slightly.
“What were you thinking?!” she shouted. He tried to sputter a reply, but he was cut off.
“It was an elementary mission! All you had to do was fly into the containment center with the team and take some basic measurements we don’t get with the chip, but what happens? You somehow fail to notice an outside organism trailing you through the security systems! This could have been ruinous! What would have happened if the subjects had been damaged or killed by the megavolad that you unleashed?!” She did not conceal her contempt at having an enforcer without any scientific training forced on her staff by the government.
Almost wincing with each sentence, Valek barely scraped back a reply, “The s-sensors didn’t pick it up.”
“And you didn’t notice the 1000 kilogram buzzing insect following right behind you? Pathetic! And to think I once saw promise in you. You have jeopardized our project and its contributions to Society and as a punishment you will serve one half-cycle straight guard duty.” Krachka’s tone dropped to a near whisper. The room was stunned--consignment to a single day of guard duty was considered strict punishment.
Overcome by shame, Valek practically crawled out of the control center into the security room. He could feel the eyes of his peers boring into his back, and anger began seeping into the space vacated by shame.
She is the threat to Society he decided mercilessly, strengthening his resolve to destroy her precious project.
As soon as he was inside the security room, he shut the door and turned all the windows on mirror mode. Now alone, he let the anger consume him completely; his mind seemed to separate from his body and he flicked on the display. Not only would he publicize the secret directive A report, he would send it to the government directly.
The feed from all of the security cameras appeared in the air above the display. He indicated the video of conference room D and it filled the whole hologram. Watching the comings and goings closely, the recording rewound until he saw Krachka and Chkra walking backwards out of the room. He swiped right and the tense conversation of the day before came to life in front of him.
A slight, satisfied smile crossed his face at the sight of Krachka entering her passcode into the terminal. After a handful of repeats in slow motion, he had the sequence memorized and swiftly keyed it in. Exhilaration and fear of discovery swelled up in him as he navigated the cascades of DNA droplet files, finally alighting on a folder simply labeled “directive A.”
Maybe there’s a reason she hasn’t released it. No, for the good of Society, the government must know everything. His resolve momentarily faltered, but confidence returned and he selected the file and mentally dictated its translation back into code and subsequent digital journey to the government’s offices before he could question his judgement again. It is done! He did not feel the elation he expected, but rather uncertain, absolute gravity. The weight of his actions was almost stifling, but now that the deed was done, he could suppress his inner curiosity no longer. He opened the file.
Unfortunately, he had been taught about biology knew how to read the information without the scientific perspective to allow his mind to accommodate the weight of evidence. Changing beliefs was a process that everyone found painful, but arthrid scientists often received years of training to approach problems with an open mindset that Valek lacked. As he read, he came to the same conclusions that Krachka had and his vision of reality was shattered into pieces.
Directive A was the highest government priority in investigating living humans. Despite all the breakthroughs in technology founded on the humans, one secret remained: massive and simultaneous genetic modification. Remains of humans indicated some sort of genetic change twenty years before their extinction, but with all the DNA samples corrupted by higher levels of radiation, the specifics remained unclear. That was when Krachka’s group discovered the pristine samples in a lead-lined, underground vacuum vault. It was almost as if the humans intended for their successors to find them. Analysis of those samples yielded clear signs of an active genetic virus carrying DNA sequences completely identical to those in the genes of arthrids.
Humans created us. The thought resounded throughout his mind, destroying his perception of a universe revolving around arthrid protagonists We’re only the product of a failed lab experiment. Even worse, we killed the last of them. We didn’t evolve, the humans grafted their genes into insects. The public isn’t ready for this. He not only felt the pain of losing his most deep seated beliefs, but also the responsibility of unleashing those same revelations on an unsuspecting world.
Valek collapsed in the shock and despair.