1 Sep 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 24

Posted by joncooper

“Miles has temporarily left Mars. Amy took him and all of the refugees back to Earth for some sort of hearing that’s happening today. (I would love to know how she’s able to zip between planets so effortlessly, but sadly she won’t tell me. It must be an Administrator thing.) She offered to take me with them as well but I had to turn her down – I just have too much to do here. When Miles gets back I’ll have to take him out to dinner one night and hear how things went.”
–Noel Lawson
July 15, 7243


The following day the debate hall was packed. Everyone had heard the rumors that were flying about – that a cure had been found, that someone had tried to kill the cured boy, and that something had happened to Monroe. No one really knew what was going on but everyone suspected that history was about to be made. The room was packed. Every seat was taken, and people had flooded into the hall and were standing anywhere they could find an inch of ground. Those who couldn’t come were at home watching the live telecast.

The opposition section was packed with people. Monroe’s followers had returned to Earth and sat in their seats. Ken Ochoa had not joined them but he did take a seat near their section. He was beginning to realize that he was on the wrong side but he was afraid of Monroe. Privately, he hoped that something would happen in the meeting that would give him a way out. The knowledge that the test bomb he built had killed hundreds of people – people who could have been cured – weighed heavily on him. He felt guilty and apprehensive.

The council had arrived early and were seated around the table. Conrad Forbes was there, as was Evan Maldonado, who was seated beside him. They were talking to each other in low tones.

Five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin a shout went up. General Maldonado whirled around and went pale. There, walking through the front door, was Monroe Araiza. He was holding the hand of Nate, who looked around the room in wonder. Behind him the general saw the black-haired girl who had talked with him in the nuclear lab. He also saw two other people he didn’t recognize – a very old man dressed in overalls, and a middle-aged man wearing a gray suit and hat.

Monroe, the boy, and the girl walked into the speaker’s area inside the ring of tables. The rest of the party sat down in the opposition section. Monroe glanced at Maldonado and politely nodded at him. The general looked at him, shocked. A horrible feeling gripped him. He glanced over at Forbes, who looked equally shocked. The two had a quiet whispered exchange, which Amy watched closely.

With a mischievous smile on her face the girl made a small motion with her hand. A second later their private exchange boomed over the entire room, silencing everyone.

“What do we do now?” the general asked.

“I thought you killed them!” Forbes said irritatedly.

“I did! I don’t understand it.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll get us through this. Just tell your men to be standing outside the door so we can kill them as they leave. I’ll think of something to pacify the crowd.”

The crowd was silent for a moment, then stood to their feet. They began booing loudly. Things were instantly in an uproar. Forbes tried to call for silence but the angry mob ignored him.

Monroe quickly stood up and gestured that he would like to speak, and the crowd quieted down. They remained on their feet, however.

“So now the truth comes out,” Monroe said. “All along I thought that the general was leading the attempted genocide against the tribes, and the council was merely an unbiased facilitator. But now we see that Forbes was behind it all along! Even when he chastised the general it was merely an act to divert suspicion. Maldonado was just doing his bidding. This whole project was his attempt at setting himself up as the first in a line of Emperors.”

“You are entirely mistaken,” Forbes said. “I was simply acting in the best interests of this city.”

“Were you, now? Let’s see. You tried your best to cover up the fact that the tribes can be cured – a fact that the city is quite interested in. You tried to have this little boy killed so that the city would never find out the truth of what was going on. You weren’t trying to give them all the facts. You were trying to bury inconvenient facts that were getting in your way. The truth – as everyone here can see – is that it is possible to cure the clans. Here we have a young man who has been completely cured.”

“Hi,” Nate said. He then looked around, embarrassed, and sat down again.

Miles smiled at him, then resumed speaking. “Moreover, it is possible to cure all of them. All of them! The sacred mission that is carved in the Hall of Stone can finally be completed. We can at last bring light to those who are in darkness. Success is within our grasp!”

Maldonado stood up. “I will never let you cure them, do you hear me? Never! This planet is ours, by right. We are the civilized ones here! It is our destiny to rule over the stars, and for too long we have let these mindless morons stand in our way. I am not going to let you stop us.”

“It is over,” Monroe replied. “You will not be allowed to harm one more clan member.”

The general started screaming. “You know nothing! I will kill every last one of those stupid people – starting with that boy right there! I will kill them all if I have to do it with my bare hands.”

Nate started crying. He ran over to Amy and clutched her, screaming hysterically. Amy held him close and looked at the general coldly. “Don’t even think about it. I will kill anyone who tries to lay a hand on him.”

“Guards!” Forbes shouted. Instantly a group of thirty soldiers, heavily armed, ran into the room and positioned themselves at strategic positions. After they were in place Forbes looked around the room. “This discussion is over. Cure or not, I have decreed that the savages will die and they will die. Adrasta is now under martial law. Anyone who tries to interfere with the bombing campaign will be shot on sight. Moreover, I order the deaths of Monroe Araiza, his followers, and that screaming child right there. General, kill him. Now.”

The general smiled and drew his gun out of its holster. “It will be a pleasure,” he said, as he aimed the gun at the boy.

Amy looked at Maldonado. An intense rage burned within her as she saw the cold hatred in his eyes. Before he could pull the trigger she made a decision, and gave the nanites that saturated the planet a series of instructions.

As the general began pulling the trigger the boy vanished. A moment later Maldonado died. His body dissolved, leaving only a pile of bones that clattered to the floor. As Forbes looked on, horrified, he died as well, and a moment later all that was left of him was a skeleton.

In that same moment sixty giant black robots appeared throughout the room – two beside each guard that Forbes had posted. The guns dissolved from the guards’ hands, and each robot grabbed one arm of each of the guards. The guards struggled but found it impossible to move.

A second later the ceiling rumbled, then cracked, and then violently torn open. The gash spread to one of the chamber’s massive stone walls, which was violently blown outward. The crowd could now see the sky, the mountain, and the plain beyond it. As they watched, a giant spaceship – miles long – appeared in the sky above them. The ship was so large that it blotted out the entire sky. A white light emanated from it, lighting the area.

Finally, in the plain at the bottom of the mountain, a giant rift appeared in spacetime. The rift widened until it was hundreds of feet high and hundreds of feet wide. Beyond it the people could see a magnificent, modern city on a beautiful planet.

Amy eyed the rest of the council, and then spoke. “Citizens of Adrasta, the reign of Emperor Conrad is over. I absolutely will not allow the tribes to be harmed, and they will not be harmed. Since the council does not listen to reason I will respond with overwhelming force.

“I offer each of you a choice. Those who wish to help cure the tribes and heal them may leave Adrasta and come with me. I have opened a door to my home on Tonina. Together we can give the poor people on Earth a new life.”

One of the remaining council members stood up. He glared at Amy. “I would rather die than join you, you monster.”

Amy stared at him coldly. “Then so be it. In 48 hours that giant spaceship out there is going to destroy Adrasta. When it is done there will be nothing left. If you will not change your ways and abandon your hatred then I will forcibly relocate you to a place that you do not want to go. I will take away your city, your comforts, and your future, and you will be left destitute.

“That is your choice, citizens. You can abandon your hatred and come join me on Tonina, and together we can help the tribes. Or you can keep your hatred, stay here, and be forcibly evicted from the Earth. The choice is yours.”

“You don’t frighten me!” the man screamed. “I am not going to bow to your whims. I will fight you if it’s the last thing that I do!”

Amy shook her head. “You have 48 hours to leave this place. 48 hours! Make your choice. I promise you that if you choose to leave the council will not be able to stop you. I will position my soldiers throughout the city and they will neutralize the council forces. My robots will help you however they can. If you need something – anything at all – just ask them.”

She then vanished, along with Monroe, Miles, and the Sentinel.

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