4 Aug 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 20

Posted by joncooper

“We found an old movie theater in Tikal today, but it didn’t have any films. We could probably repair the equipment but without any movies to show it would just be a waste of time. I’m going to have its located logged and then seal off the area. We just have too many other things to do right now. Maybe when things have calmed down a bit we can come back and explore further. It makes me wonder, though – what kind of movies did people watch five thousand years ago? I suppose even if the movies had been preserved we wouldn’t be able to understand them. Miles taught a few people how to read ancient Martian but even he doesn’t know how the words are pronounced. Amy’s probably the only person alive who knows, but when I talked to her yesterday she seemed pretty busy. I doubt she has the time to teach a class on ancient languages.”
–Noel Lawson
July 13, 7243


Monroe slowly regained consciousness. His head was throbbing, and the pain made it difficult to focus. He felt weak, unsteady, and more than a little nauseated. He struggled to open his eyes and saw that he was in the back of an electrically-powered mining cart. The cart was battered and rusty and looked as if it hadn’t been used in ages. When the scribe opened his eyes he saw that his hands and feet were chained together, and the chains were attached to the side of the cart. In the front of the cart was General Maldonado, who was driving it along a series of tracks. A wooden crutch was lying on the seat next to the general.

As Monroe looked around he saw that he was in a dark tunnel. The only light came from the headlights on the mining cart. On the walls he could see thick seams of black rock.

“This is a coal mine,” Monroe commented.

The general said nothing, so Monroe continued. “You know, that’s interesting. Adrasta hasn’t used coal in more than a thousand years. The city’s power plant is fusion-based. That means this mine must be truly ancient. In fact, I’m not even sure were it is – as far as I know there are no ancient mines near the city. All of the nearby mineral deposits were depleted long ago, and even the Founders used more distant sources. This place is really quite a find.”

“There are very few who know about it,” Maldonado said curtly. “I have records of everything, of course, but I assure you that others do not. Even your Order is unaware of this place. No one will ever think to look for you here.”

“You’re making a very foolish decision, general. I don’t know what you are hoping to gain by this but I assure you that this will not end well. You are making a very foolish decision.”

Maldonado laughed. “Don’t kid yourself! You know exactly what’s going on. There’s no way you can win this one. You have just conveniently disappeared right before the public meeting, and all evidence of your so-called cure is gone as well. With you gone, the cure gone, and the boy gone, all of the evidence will be missing and the council will be forced to dismiss the entire thing as a hoax. Everything will go back to normal and I will be able to eradicate the savages, exactly as planned.”

Monroe felt in his pocket and noticed that the bottle of cure was gone. Something else bothered him, though. “I don’t see the boy here.”

“Oh, my men are looking for him. In our little meeting you neglected to mention where he was being kept, but I assure you he won’t be able to hide for long. We’ll get him, just as sure as my men got you. It won’t even be a challenge.”

“This is a very serious thing you’re doing,” Monroe replied. “You have escalated the situation dramatically. You can no longer claim that your purpose is to provide a merciful end to a race of incurable lunatics. Now you are deliberately trying to exterminate millions of people simply so you can rule this planet and build your empire. Of course, that has been your true purpose all along, hasn’t it? You don’t care how many millions must die. You are truly a monster.”

“Oh, get over yourself,” Maldonado barked. “You’re too old-fashioned for your own good. Your fabled Stone Hall was created by a bunch of pathetic losers. The Law of Nature dictates that the weak must die and the strong must live. The savages are weak so it’s our duty to massacre them all. I’m going to enjoy killing them, Monroe, and you won’t be able to stop me. No one will. Then the Earth will be reborn and we will go on to conquer the planets and rule over the galaxy. I will win and your kind will be utterly stamped out.”

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. You are showing a remarkable lack of judgment. Do you really believe that my sudden disappearance will go unnoticed? Do you think that the council will not have any questions? Do you think that people will not realize you are behind this?”

“It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. They will never find you, or your cure, or your boy, so it won’t matter. I will win by default.”

The general steered the decrepit cart into a side-room. Monroe noticed that the room had a giant steel door and thick metal walls. The room was empty, but Monroe guessed that at one time it had been a vault.

Maldonado stopped the cart. “Well, Monroe, this is it. I hope you have a pleasant eternity. Oh, wait, no I don’t. I would kill you myself but, honestly, I’d rather you just starved to death. It will kill you just as surely as a bullet would but it will take a whole lot longer. Knowing that you are trapped here, slowly starving, will make me a very happy man.”

The general got a flashlight out of his pocket, then turned off the lights on the mining cart. The room plunged into darkness, so he turned on his flashlight. With his other hand he removed the key from the cart and slipped it into his pocket. Next, while still holding onto his flashlight, he took his crutch and gingerly walked out of the room. Once he was outside he dragged the giant metal door closed and then locked it. The room went pitch-black.

Monroe heard him turn on the engine of another mining cart. As the general drove away the sound got quieter and quieter, until all was completely still.

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