28 Jul 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 19

Posted by joncooper

“The old, underground city is not faring well these days. It has lost almost all of its technically-oriented people, its creative people, its motivated people, and its adventurous people. The only people left are politicians and people who are too apathetic to do anything with their lives. I haven’t been back in years but I’ve heard that systems are failing right and left and no one has any idea how to fix them. I expect that sometime over the next five years something critical will fail and they’ll finally be forced to evacuate the place. It’s only a matter of time.”
–Noel Lawson
July 13, 7243


When Monroe and Nate left the council’s private chambers they saw Doyle for them. “How did it go?”

The child spoke up. “I like Conrad. But I don’t like Evan. He doesn’t like me very much.”

“That’s certainly one way to put it,” Monroe remarked. “But to answer your question, it went very well. I think that the council is beginning to see things our way. Forbes said that they would hold a public meeting in two days.”

“In two days? Why two days? Is there some sort of problem?”

“Oh, I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about. The council just needs some time to study the matter. If the city is going to launch an effort to cure ten million people then there’s quite a lot of planning that needs to be done. Administering the cure will be a significant project that will probably have to be done over the course of many years – unless the Rangers help us, of course, but they may have other matters to attend to. We can’t expect them to continue to babysit us forever. I’m actually quite pleased that the council wants some time to study the matter. It’s a sign that the tide is beginning to turn.”

“I suppose you’re right. It is a good sign. By the way, how did the general take it?”

“Not well at all! He’s quite upset. I believe he sees that the end is coming and he does not like it. But I don’t see what he can do to stop it. He was unable to stop Forbes from scheduling the public meeting, and rumors are already spreading fast. He’s going to find it quite difficult to defend his plan when Nate is standing right there for all the world to see.”

“Yes, he is. So what are your plans for the rest of the day?”

“Why, study history, of course! Now that I know a bit more about the cause of the Ranger-Empire conflict I’d like to reread some of the ancient accounts. It’s possible that I might be able to see things in them that I missed before.”

“All right,” Doyle said. “I’ll stop by this evening and see how you’re doing. Come along with me, Nate. We’re going home.”

Monroe said goodbye to the two of them and began a leisurely walk home. He was in no particular hurry and felt happier than he had in years. The terrible stress that had burdened him for so long was gone. At last everything was going to be all right. A cure had been found. The general was going to be stopped. The council was going to listen. The people were going to change. Instead of destroying the tribes they were going to cure them. His people – his world – had a future. It was a deeply satisfying feeling.

The scribe made it back to his apartment and settled into one of his chairs. He took a book off the end-table and was soon lost in its pages.

About an hour later he heard a noise. Monroe looked around but didn’t see anyone. “Is anyone there? Is that you, Doyle?”

There was no reply. The old man was almost convinced that he had imagined it when he smelled a faint odor. At first he was puzzled, but then he realized what it was. Panic shot through him, but he was already growing sleepy. He tried to climb out of his chair but his strength was gone. The old man slumped to the floor, unconscious.

A few minutes later a team of three men entered the apartment through its unlocked front door. All three men were wearing gas masks.

“Where’s the cure?” one of them asked. “Please tell me that it’s here.”

His friend went through Monroe’s pockets. “Here it is! Huh. I was expecting a fancier bottle, or something. Well, at least he hadn’t hidden it. If he had placed it behind a book we might never have found it.”

“Lucky for us,” the third man commented. “This place is a real rat’s nest.”

“Be sure that you give Maldonado that bottle,” the first man ordered. “He wanted to destroy it himself. Don’t you dare let anything happen to it. If you lose that bottle he will have your head.”

“All right, all right,” his friend grumbled. After putting it in his pocket the three of them grabbed the unconscious Monroe carried him out of his apartment, locking the door behind them.

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