Beyond the End of Time Chapter 7 [Final Chapter]
Author Ben Snyder
Valek listened to the conversation, each sentence laying another crushing stone of guilt on his shoulders. The responsibility for what he knew to be genocide physically bent his long form. As Krachka was escorted out, he caught her eye. Behind her acute despair, he thought he saw a tiny spark of hope–-but then she was gone. He stepped forward towards Chkra and steeled himself for what was to come.
“You are the security force?” Chkra looked around for more.
“Yes. No one else is on duty,” he still winced slightly at the memory of his mistake.
“The human clones have become a threat to society. You will need to enter the dome and and give them sleeping injections. Do you know how to approach the subjects during testing?”
“I have piloted several missions.”
“I am afraid you will need to be quarantined along with the rest of the researchers until we confirm you do not contain the virus, but remember that the need of society always supercedes that of the individual. And Valek, for what you have done for society, you will be remembered as a hero,” there was a hint of menace in his voice.
“Thank you, sir,” he mainly spoke to the Lieutenant who nodded in approval.
Valek walked to the hovercraft bay in a daze. The last two days had tested him in every way imaginable, and again he found himself at a nexus of destiny. Suddenly, he held in his pincers the fate of not just one race, but two. The allure of redemption for both his past mistakes and the ignorant errors of his ancestors was counterbalanced by fear of the future of his own race and its increasingly fragile society. He felt as though he tread blindfolded on the unstable bridge connecting past and future where one misstep would send him plunging off of the precipice. He was a god and the prospect terrified him.
Flicking the hovercraft onto autopilot, it slid noiselessly through the entry port. The clump of trees containing the human children came into view and Valek’s internal war reached its peak.
Maybe someday I will become a hero for this. He made his decision.
He picked up the sleeping injector and walked over to the console. Being on security has its benefits, he concluded as he keyed in the emergency override sequence. He smiled she he pictured Chkra watching this scene through the eyes of a robotic insect. A countdown appeared on the screen and his uncertainty was replaced by a powerful sense of purpose.
Something strong and sharp grabbed Julius’s arm, yanking him awake. He looked up to see a creature out of his nightmares. Huge compound eyes glinted maliciously at him inset in an angular, pointed head. Rows of spindly legs supported a thick abdomen rising up to arms with brutal serrated edges ending in deadly pincers. Julius froze in absolute horror. The creature clicked it's arms together and gestured towards a sleek gray machine behind it.
This is just a dream, these horrors don't really exist. This makes no sense.. His brain tried to reassure himself, but inside he knew the scene was too realistic to compose a dream.
The creature hauled him to his feet and pushed him into the machine. Strange symbols flickered in the air in front of him as his terrified paralysis passed. Elizabeth, Henry, Mary, Juliet, and Richard were propelled into the craft in rapid succession. In the process, Julius was jostled into a very uncomfortable chair now facing the opening. As soon as their awful host entered, the dark outside was dispelled by a flood of dazzling light.
The insectoid gestured at the console and a soft thrumming noise emanated from below their feet accompanied by the smooth ascent of the vehicle. In a moment, they were skimming over the ground at breakneck pace. At this point, Julius was so thoroughly confused that he barely noticed the insect passing a metal cylinder over each of their necks.
An artificial human voice spoke from the console, “Hello. I am Valek, and I am speaking through this computer. We do not have much time, so I will explain to you what is happening as quickly as possible.”
Julius did not understand how Valek was communicating with them, but he leaned forward, eager to uncover the truth about the invisible wall, the insect, and whatever else was happening. The voice was soothing and his deep, instinctive fear of the insect subsided.
“You are the only humans on Earth.” He did not pause or hesitate, “Humans went extinct over 500 years ago. Now arthrids like myself fill the ecological niche left behind. You were cloned by scientists from DNA found underground, but now the government wants you killed because you carry a genetic virus. I have restarted the system so we will be able to escape, but you will need to hide.”
Julius’s world now came crashing in on him. They were really, truly alone on a hostile planet. He couldn't understand much of what Valek said about clones and DNA, but he he knew enough to understand that humans were gone from the Earth.
“Your memories were wiped before each trial by a chip in your neck which I have inactivated. A certain sequence of clicks will reactivate your memory.” He tapped the metal cylinder.
Rapid clicks emanated from the cylinder, each sound resonating louder and louder until some dam in Julius’s mind shattered. Memories of gray chairs, of empty white rooms, of running through great green fields of grass, and of ominous black shapes behind tinted windows flooded through him. Missing gaps and inexplicable feelings suddenly fit into an ordered picture of the universe. Valek continued to talk, but he heard it only distantly. His fragile world created with Henry and Elizabeth was torn to shreds and a larger, much scarier reality now lay at his feet. And strangely, Julius felt almost relieved to know the truth, no matter how terrible.
“You have been trained to survive and here in these mountains you will be safe. At least for now.”
For the first time, he looked out the window at the fast approaching mountains in the distance and realized they were flying. He turned to face the others. They all looked a amalgamation of confusion, bewilderment, devastation, and excitement, and Julius felt a surge of something else: total solidarity at being human. Past lives and impossible futures were of no consequence as long as there were others at his side to share the burden.