Thursday, October 6, 2011

Land Of Shadows: Chapter XXVIII - Sunrise

They moved the boy out of the lobby and into an office nearby.  Elias examined him thoroughly, packed gauze in the wound and bandaged it up.  Old habits died hard and he just happened to have a pack of antibiotics on hand that he'd liberated from an underground cold storage unit.  He would have felt better getting him on IV antibiotic, but that was not an option now.  They all gathered around him with questions, but he didn't have any satisfactory answers.  He had no idea if the young man would make it.  His immune system had been compromised. 

He felt Allison would be a problem, she was distrustful of the boy and kept on hand on her gun every time she was near him.  Someone would have to keep watch on the boy at all times. 

Dee, sensing that Ally would be a problem too assigned her and Olly to explore the base, but warned them, especially Olly, not to touch a damned thing.  She felt the need to explore a bit too.  Aided by one remaining working electric Jeep they found in the tunnels, they quickly found that there was more underground than above, but given the description Elias had given them of the base in Alaska that was not surprising.  There was a huge network of underground tunnels and bunkers, one area in particular, caught Dee's interest.  It was a habitation on the west side of the complex.  Rather than the spartan barracks of the other habitation areas these were divided into lush apartments with the most luxurious being at the end.  It was a subterranean penthouse suite.  The door to each apartment was labeled, President, Vice President, Secretary of Defense, etc. 

But the most wondrous thing was that the whole subterranean complex had power, provided by some kind of automated fusion power plant.  The Alaskan complex had housed the smaller prototypes for the Houston complex Elias had told them. 

Everything was laid in carefully preserved arrangements.  Clothes were in vacuum sealed bags.  Food was carefully preserved in deep freeze or sealed metal containers that would last a century of more.  An armory was supplied with carefully sealed ammo boxes and crates of weapons that reeked of cosmoline that reminded her of Billy Parsons. 

The whole thing was painting a very dark picture. 

"Just what the Hell were your employers up to Dr. Hood?" she demanded of him that evening while he was in the infirmary changing the boy's bandages.  He'd moved him there as soon as he learned of its existence.  Elias handed the soiled gauze and bandages to June for her to dispose of.  She still did not speak to Elias much, but she was always there like his shadow.

"Look, I was just the company doctor.  They recruited me because I was a good doctor with military training and I looked pretty,  They didn't give me a handbook with all the company's dirty little secrets the day I signed on."

"But you had to know something was not right with all the cloak and dagger shit!"

"You didn't grow up in the shadow of big multinational corporations so I'll make allowances for that.  Suffice it to say that government spies were nothing compared to their counterparts in the private sector.  They had fewer rules to follow and better equipment and backing.  The Company had a lot of money tied up in this project and they did not want details leaked out to competitors.  I don't know for sure what they were up to.  I never really could see the purpose of the whole program.  I mean projecting a man into the future in yearly increments has little benefit.  It was strictly a one way trip.  From a medical standpoint you could in theory project a severely injured man a year into the future and then take the whole year to prepare for his return and have everything you could possibly need to save him.  But the projectors, even the small one in Alaska suck a lot of power.  Fire it ten times and you've used enough to power a small city for a year.  There really just is not that much profit in it." 

"But you've got your suspicions."

"I do."

"Well ... "

"The Company, GPMS, had it fingers in a lot of pies.  But the big three were weapons contracting, aviation and pharmaceuticals."

"So?" she asked not getting what he was driving at. 

"GPMS was one of the biggest promoters of enforced contraception.  The company PTBs thought that one of the biggest problems in the world was not so much a matter of dwindling resources, but out of control population growth.  One of the CEOs was quoted in an interview as saying the world would be a better place if ninety-eight percent of the people on earth would just go away.  Of course the question was asked, what two percent would remain?  He responded that of course the two percent that was most like him."

"Nice guy."

"Yeah.  Well he died mysteriously shortly afterwards.  Back in twenty-five there were three outbreaks of a previously unknown virus.  They were quite lethal and very contagious.  But they were rapidly contained.  Almost like somebody had advance warning.  The third was the most lethal of all.  It killed one hundred percent of those infected.  And entire town wiped out.  These were all in different parts of the world, continents apart.  So no one really took notice.  But the company that handled the containment and cleanup afterwards in all three was GPMS.  It was an expensive cleanup in each case because the virus can lay dormant for years without a host.  Everything had to be sanitized or burned."

Dee suddenly understood.  Gather your desired "survivors" together, project them into the future, release your perfect engineered virus.  With no viable hosts left the virus will die off long before you return.  Your survivors return to a world cleansed of the surplus population, build your Utopia. 

"And you worked for these people?" Dee asked. 

"As did about three percent of North America and Europe.  More if you count all of their little subsidiaries and satellite companies."

"So, what about this super virus you think they created?  Is it here?"  She glanced about nervously as if expecting to see it seeping through the walls.  She had grown up fighting very visible and tangible foes.  The idea of coming up against something she could not see to fight was terrifying. 

"I doubt it, this is where their preselected survivors would have been housed.  I don't think they would have wanted it near them.  I know I would not.  I would think it would have needed an aerial dispersal system.  Something their aerospace division would have provided I guess.  I'm sure it's out there somewhere"

*     *     *

Dee told the twins of her conversation with Elias that night and nobody slept well.  In fact everyone but their mystery guest was awake when the alarms went off. 

"Reactor Control Malfunction.  Overcharge condition exists." a recorded voice announced.  "Unscheduled projector sequence initiated."

"What the Hell?" Dee muttered as the headed for the infirmary.  Elias was calmly pulling on his jacket when she got there.

"Our friend in there must have done something to the reactors before we got here." he told her.

"What does overcharge condition mean?"

"It means the reactors are banging out full power overcharging the batteries, overloading the control boards."  Olly supplied from behind her.

"Yeah, what he said." Elias agreed. 

"That's bad?" Dee asked.

"Very bad"  Olly told her.  "It could destabilize the reactors.  They've been running unsupervised for years, who knows what condition they're in." 

"You don't seem too worried about it," she said to Elias.

"The self repair systems can diagnose the problem and either initiate repairs or begin a controlled shutdown.  This was designed to be completely autonomous.  Just like the Alaskan facility."

"Yeah that worked out just fine didn't it.  Mile wide crater and the entire world population sucked into limbo!" Ally piped in from behind Olly.

"Quarter mile,"  Elias corrected.

"Whatever!" Dee kicked a nearby file cabinet in frustration "And you can just sit there and wait for it to happen?"  Dee demanded.

"Look, I'm a doctor, not a nuclear engineer.  The possibilities are this.  One, the reactor repairs itself everything is fine.  All part of the standard safely drills.  Two, the reactor cannot repair itself and we get a warning to evacuate the base, we put on some of the rad suits in that red locker behind me hot foot it out of here in one of those electric Jeeps, the reactor explodes and we don't came back to Houston for about two hundred years.  If the projector malfunctions and fires again we all get sent forward and start over again.  Nothing we can do."

"You can't do anything?"

"I can shut down the projector, but those generators are going full blast, that power has to go somewhere, it may just insure that the reactor blows."

Dee felt panic rising, she had never really told him the full story of his father's journals.  Just enough to convince him that they were going in the same direction.  How could she convince him of what she knew needed to be done.

"You have to stop it!" a weak voice pleaded from behind them.  They turned to the young man on the bed. 

"Worlds merge, the Bodachs will come.  We will all die!"  His voice sent a chill down her spine.  He sounded so old and something about the way he called them Bodachs. Only one person she knew ever called the wraiths that. 

"He's right, my father knew.  We have to stop it.  We have, what about fifteen minutes?"

"Twelve" Olly corrected.

"Your kidding right ... " Elias started, but he suddenly found himself staring down the barrel of Dee's newly acquired Sig-Sauer 9mm. 

"You will shut it down and I will go with you to make sure you do it."

"You realize that if those reactors blow ... "

"I know enough,"  She turned to Olly and Allison without dropping the barrel of the gun so much as a tenth of a degree.  Elias knew anything so much as a twitch and she could blow his head off.  "Olly, Ally, put the boy here in one of those Jeeps and get the fuck away from here!"

For once they did as told without protest. 

"You won't shoot me, I'm the only one that can shut it down."

"I will shoot you in the knee and drag you wherever I need to if I have to.  Move!" She got him moving out into the hallway.  As soon as she was sure the other two were out of earshot she felt she could talk more freely.  He was leading the way but she prodded him to a faster pace with the muzzle of her gun. 

They were on the surface headed for the dome they had seen earlier.  At the entrance way of the dome they found a large steel door.  A covered security panel was set in the wall by the door. 

"You can open this?"

"As the first human test subject they gave me emergency override authority.  There should be an access point in the projection chamber that I can use to abort firing the projector.  I've never been here, but my fingerprints and retina scans are on the company computers."

"Yeah, what does that mean?"

"I think so."

"Do it Dammit!"

Elias lifted the panel and placed his palm on the scanner."  For a while nothing happened.  Dee could feel herself sweating.  Then the panel lit up and a moment later the door slid open.  He looked around somewhat bewildered for a moment.  When asked he just shook his head.

"Nothing, it's just so much bigger than the Alaskan projector." he looked around for second and then nodded, "There it is."
He crossed the room to a service panel and pulled it open revealing a computer set into the wall.  The system status was immediately displayed.  This was a dedicated terminal so there was no extraneous windows or menus to navigate.  He took a moment to read the display.  He tapped a reading to enlarge it and began cussing.


"It's worse than I thought.  According to this the batteries will rupture in three minutes.  After that it is just a matter of minutes till the reactors destabilize.  It is not fixing itself.  I don't know enough about it to fix it."

Olly would probably be able to figure it out, but if Olly and Ally were doing as they were told the would be getting as far from here as possible. 

"I think if I overload the emitters and let it fire as normal it will take the whole base with it."  This dome has more shielding and is better built than the one in Alaska.  The effects shouldn't go further than this base."  He looked uncertainly at Dee.

"Don't look at me, I don't know anything about it!"

He turned and began tapping furiously at the screen. 

"What will this do to us?"

"I don't know."  The projector fired.  The world dissolved into white light. 

*     *     *

Allison several times tried persuade her brother to turn back, but Oliver would not allow it.  He refused to even slow down.  The electric Jeep was fully charged when they started out but its batteries were old and weak.  They made it fourteen miles back the way they had come before it quit.  Only then did they take the time to look back.  They waited looking for any sign of their eldest sister.  The sky to the northwest lit up like a sudden sunrise.  Eyes watering and squinting against the flare they still stared until if faded.  They didn't dare go back to check it out. 

There were sealed dosimeter badges in the first aid box on the Jeep.  Olly passed out three and they waited. 

Three days they waited.  The dosimeters never registered anything above normal background radiation.  Ally was nursing the boy along and he was getting better, but was still not really answering any questions.  On the thrird morning Ally woke up to find her brother gone.  She spent half an hour cursing him and Dee and the world in general.  It was late evening when he returned.  He reported that there was nothing left but perfect half spherical hole in the ground where the base had been. 

They sadly returned home.  Ally cried herself to sleep that first night.  She dreamed that Jewels was standing watch over her.  She woke up to see the boy standing watch.  Olly was asleep. 

"Sleep now Ally Ally Oh" told her.  She fell asleep thinking it just another part of her dream.  It had to be, Jewels was the only one that had ever called her that.

*     *     *

Ten thousand years later.

They stared out at the desolate landscape.  The remains of the base shattered behind them.  They had spent the last three days getting as far from it as possible.  The first day they had rode Penny as hard as they dared, but led her for the next day. 

They camped that night without saying a word.  Neither had seen sign of another living person. 

She stayed up late mulling the situation over and keeping the fire going.  She looked up suddenly to see twin green lights peering at her from across the fire.  'Great,' she thought to herself.  'Wolves'.  It slowly stepped forward and its scarred blunt muzzle came into the light.


The rottweiler stepped forward into the firelight and nuzzled his snout under her hand.  She scratched behind his ears and he wagged his whole rear end in enthusiastic greeting.  Despite everything Dee felt everything would be alright. 

Elias woke early and found Dee and the new arrival already awake.  He moved last night's coffee pot over the coals of the fire.  Together the three of them watched the sunrise on this world they had inherited. 

© 2011 R. Keith McBride