Rising from the ashes - The TRUTH(?)
The death and destruction that we had seen on our screens had shocked us to such an extent that none of us could muster the courage to go out for the next twenty days. After those twenty days of disbelief and fear, and of guilt at being partly responsible for all that destruction, I decided that it was enough and took it upon me to go out and assess the conditions. I asked everyone if anyone was interested in going out with me. Charles and Param immediately agreed to it.
MAXIMUS had already calculated by running simulations that the number of nuclear blasts was so high and was spread so evenly across the planet that there wasn't any place on Earth that had escaped being hit by the resultant radiation. Satellite images had shown huge cloud formations around the world, but, we were not sure of the composition of those clouds. MAXIMUS had given an estimate that those clouds might be carrying some amount of radiation with them. Thus, we had to keep all those things in mind while going out of our secure facility that had escaped all the destruction because of its location deep inside Earth and thick exterior walls of Concrete and interior walls of a mixture of Concrete and steel.
When we reached the inner access wall near the sub-station, Charles went to the inner control panel and turned a lever. Suddenly, a wall at the extreme left opened up to reveal a hidden room. We followed Charles and went inside. It was a big storage facility. Charles opened up one section and gave us body suits with masks. He said,
"It would be better if we wear these suits. These are made from some special materials and would protect us from any radiation that might be present outside. We cannot be sure of the radiation levels outside but whatever it might be, we would be safe inside these suits. And, let us take some oxygen cylinders as well to breathe from as we cannot be sure if the filters in these masks would be able to protect us from radiation laden air."
With that he handed us a cylinder set-up for us, and fitted it on our suits to block outside air.
There were about a dozen bicycles in that storage room. We took one each for ourselves as we were not sure if the cars would still be operative or not as the high levels of radiation could have done anything. When we reached the location where our cars were parked, we found out that our fears were correct. As soon as we reached there, we saw that the tires had melted and had stuck to the rims. We didn't check all the machinery of the car but at least the engine wasn't starting up. It was good that we had brought those bikes with us else we would have had to walk all the way to Charleston. It was difficult for us to ride the bikes with the suits on, but, we had no other option. We rested for a while as we were tired after the long trek from the access point to that start point. Then, we started off for Charleston. It was a long ride and due to the suits, it was extremely difficult and tiring as well.
When we reached Charleston, we found the town to be as deserted as a ghost town. We went to the city center but could not find anyone anywhere. The departmental stores, restaurants, cafes, shops and every other public place was locked and deserted. There were no cars or any other vehicles running on the roads. It was the first time in my life that I had seen totally empty roads in a city center. There were cars parked at various points but there weren't any vehicles moving anywhere. Their tyres had also been melted by the radiation like our car, and, when we checked a couple of cars, we found out that they were also dead like our car. All around the city, there was a dead stillness in the air which was much cooler than usual for that time of the year.
"It seems the effects of the fallout were much worse than we had anticipated. Looking at the condition of the city, I do not think anyone survived the exposure," I said.
"Yes. I, too, think that everyone is dead," added Param.
"But, I beg to differ. If the whole city is dead, where the hell are the bodies? Isn't it possible that all of them fled the city to escape the radiation? Everything is properly locked all around. Maybe they left for some time thinking that they would come back once the radiation scare is over," said Charles.
"I don't think the whole city ran away. There wasn't enough time for the news to spread since all the communication channels were down. We did see a few vehicles leave the city through the satellite surveillance, but, the number wasn't big enough for a whole city," I said.
"But, Charles is right as well to some extent. We haven't seen any bodies anywhere. Are they really dead or have they simply run away?" asked Param.
"They are all dead and their bodies are lying in their houses in places where they had hid themselves," said a voice coming from behind us.
The three of us almost jumped at hearing that as till about a couple of seconds ago, there was no one present anywhere nearby or even as far as our eyes could see. We were as startled as a dog is at the sound of a cracker bursting. When we turned around, we saw a well - dressed man standing there in a calm and composed manner. Surprisingly, he wasn't wearing any suit to protect himself from the radiation.
While we were still staring at him, he said, "Everybody in the city is dead. A few did manage to leave the city in their vehicles but could not go far. Due to the nuclear blast in Chicago, a cloud full of radiation had hit this city. The cloud was supercharged due to collision with the radiation hanging in lower atmosphere after the nuclear blast in DC a couple of weeks ago. And, on the way, it had collided with another radiation cloud and the collision had further increased the charge on that cloud. The levels of radiation were such that it burnt through everyone's skin. To save themselves from the burns, everyone hid themselves in their homes, most of them in their basements. But, they hadn't realized that radiation finds its way inside everything just like air. In fact, even if air cannot enter a place, the radiation can still enter. It burnt holes through wooden structures and entered all the houses. It hit the brains of every living being and caused instant brain hemorrhage and everyone died of internal bleeding. And, Charleston isn't the only city where this happened. It happened in every city and town and village in the world. Almost all of the human population and ninety nine percent of other mammalian and reptilian populations on land have been wiped - off by those radiation clouds circulating around the globe. Their continuous collisions with each other have supercharged them to such an extent that they are burning up all the dry wood and are destroying all kinds of metallic structures as well. It's good that you guys are wearing those suits else you too would have joined that list. Right now, you are among the few thousands that escaped unhurt."
"But, who are you? And, how is it that you are alive when everyone else is dead? Any, why is it that you are not wearing any suit? Is the radiation not affecting you like it affected others?" I asked.
"I have to be here for this radiation to affect me," he said.
"What!! … What do you mean? You ARE here," I said.
"You can see me but that doesn't mean I am here. You can see me because I want you to see me. And, I do not have to be here for you to see me. And, I do not have to be here for you to see me. I can be here or in New York or London or Delhi or Mumbai or Tokyo or anywhere else whenever I want to without actually going there or I can be at all those places at the same time without being there."
"So …. Where are you at this moment?"
"I am where I should be, at my planet," he said as calmly as possible.
"And … Which planet would that be? Mars? Or, Venus? Or, Jupiter?" I asked in almost a sarcastic tone and manner.
He had a hearty laugh before he responded. He said, "I can understand the sarcasm in your tone. But, still I would answer your question. No, I am not from any of those planets or any other planet of your solar system or from any planet known to your scientific community. My planet is located in another dimension of this vast, limitless universe. I had to come to your planet to destroy everything. I am the one responsible for all this destruction on this planet. This world had come to a point where everything would have collapsed had I not intervened ….."
"You destroyed everything …..," interrupted Param.
"Yes. I destroyed the life on this planet to allow it to restart from scratch. In the last six thousand years, you, I mean you humans, have moved away from the path that we had shown you initially and have taken to a wrong path that led you to all this destruction. Had I not caused all this destruction, you would have destroyed the whole planet along with your whole race. We had not created you just to watch you destroy yourself ……"
"We? …. Created us? …. Who are you?" I asked.
"I am one of those who brought life to your planet. We created everything you see in your world. We are the unseen regulators of your world. Alexander told you about us and he was absolutely right. You believe GOD created this world and everything in it. But, that is not true. We created everything and no, we are not the eternal supreme power. We are simply the channels through which that power filters into this universe. We created everything on this planet and on thousands of other planets in this dimension, and, on several hundred thousand planets in all the dimensions combined. We preserve and regulate all the life on all those planets in addition to yours. And, whenever we realize that the chief race of the planet, the one responsible for maintaining the balance on that planet, has taken to a wrong path, we try and amend its ways. But, when we sense that it has reached a point of no return and all our efforts to bring it back have failed, we destroy it and allow it to restart by choosing an alternative path …."
"So …. You are telling us that you and your fellow beings created everything …. not God. Is it?" asked Param.
"Somebody who does not exist cannot create you. There isn't any GOD. It's just a belief that you hold dear. When we created you, we gave you the power of thought, the power of speech and a language. We had put you on the path of discovery after giving you those tools. We gave you some explanations and, then, left you free to gather the rest of the knowledge floating in this universe on your own. But, instead of persevering on that path, you stopped mid-way and gave birth to an assumption and called it GOD. GOD did not create you, you created GOD. And. Had you stopped there, it wouldn't have been a big problem. But, you kept going further on that misleading path that gave birth to 'Religion'. Again, GOD did not create Religion, you did. And, you kept going and going. Some idiots kept reinforcing your beliefs and fears about that assumption for selfish reasons and messed up your minds to such an extent that you started believing in God's Incarnation, God's messenger, God's son and what not …."
"But, why should we take your word for it?" asked Param by interrupting him again.
"You shouldn't. In fact, if you would take my word for it without using your own mind and the power of thought that we gave you, and without trying to find out the answers on your own, it would mean that you are still continuing on the wrong path of blindly following someone else's views and beliefs. It would be good if you come up with your own views about it. And, from then on, try and think about everything else that was wrong with this world and try and rectify it for a new beginning. Robin, I want you to lead the creation of a new world order. I want you and your colleagues to locate all the survivors on the planet and bring them together to create a new society devoid of political or religious or racial differences ……"
"Me!!! … Why me?" I asked with a lot of surprise.
"Most of the scientists, researchers, thinkers, philosophers and a lot of other great minds died in the last couple of months. Amongst the survivors on the planet today, you have the most developed mental faculties. And, you are honest, selfless to some extent, and believe in yourself. You believe in working for common benefits rather than your personal benefits. Most importantly, you have your own independent thought process that is seldom influenced by prevailing notions unless you have weighed them properly. And, as a bonus, you also possess the only piece of machinery left on this planet, and that too, the most powerful one built by mankind."
"But, MAXIMUS is of no use by itself. We do not have any other computer in the world that is still in a working condition. In fact, I believe we do not have any electronic devices left in this world that are still in working condition as all of them must have been fried by the intense radiation enveloping our atmosphere."
"Do not worry about that. I would get you the resources. But, right now, you need to contact everyone around the world to get them to come together so that you can work together to restart the life on this planet."
"But … How would we contact everyone? All the channels of communication are down. Telephones, computers, radios, televisions, cell - phones, Internet, everything is dead."
"Yes. Everything is dead, but, just for now. You would get everything that you would need for the purpose of bringing everyone together. Therefore, you need to go and find all of them and bring them together to start your world again. Get back to MAXIMUS. I will send details of all the survivors and their locations to you."
"But, how would we go to all around the world? There are no vehicles available for us to go to even our site leave alone going around the world," said Charles.
"Look around you. All the vehicles in the world are working absolutely fine now. Use them for the purpose."
We looked around and saw that all the tyres that had been melted by the intense radiation had disappeared and all the vehicles had brand new tyres. It was enough for us to assume that the vehicles were back in running condition.
"That's good. But, by using these vehicles we can get to the people only in mainland US and Canada and as far as Mexico and Panama. But, we would not be able to go to any other part of the world like South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. What should we do about them?" I asked.
"There is a mid - size plane waiting for you at the Atlanta airport. It was a commercial plane used by an airline. You can use that plane to reach those locations where survivors are. However, you do not have to worry about South America, Australia and Africa. I will let nature heal itself in those places. Let the forests and wildlife grow back and be the lungs for this beautiful planet. You only need to worry about Europe, and Asia. And, you need to worry about one more thing. Most of the major airports were destroyed in the blasts caused by Alexander. Therefore, you would not be able to fly off to a lot of places. Therefore, you would have to locate a central airstrip in most areas and go by land to nearby places to find everyone. Right now, take those three trucks with you (Pointing towards three trucks parked on the opposite end of the road). I will give you other details when you reach your site."
"But who would fly that plane? We don't have a team for that and we do not know how to fly a plane," said Charles.
"Don't worry about that. You would soon find a solution to that problem."
"Before we leave, can I ask you a question?" asked Charles.
"I know what you wish to know. I am not from this planet and yet I am speaking to you in English. Well ….. we gave you the ability to speak and we gave you your first language from which you derived other higher languages and from those higher languages, you derived your lower languages and from those lower languages, you derived your modern languages like English. Everything you have today is from what we gave you a long time ago. So, I can speak in any language on this planet or, for that matter, any other planet of this dimension or of any other dimension of the universe. And Param …… I know about the questions you have in your mind about your scriptures and your religion. We will discuss those after this world is back on its feet. And, Robin …. I know what's running in your mind too. I will take care of the radiation clouds. They would be out of Earth's atmosphere in the next twenty - four hours. Then, it would rain heavily all over the planet for a period of seventy - two hours and the air would become clean and breathable and there would be no radiation anywhere after that. Now get going. I don't want you to lose any more time. And, you do not need to go to the access point in the forest. Go straight to the main access to the project site."
"But, that access is completely blocked - off by rubble and it will require some heavy machinery to remove all that rubble," said Charles.
"You don't have to worry about that. It has been taken care of. Now, please leave."
At that, we got into the trucks and drove off to the main access to the project site where another surprise was waiting for us. The site was totally clean. The main building and all the structures around it, including the boundary wall were back up. It was as if nothing had ever happened there. The only difference was that unlike earlier times, there were no security personnel, no support staff or anyone else there. It was like a ghost town and was resonating with death - like silence.
We went to the main building and used the elevators to reach the project level. We were expecting everyone to be surprised to see us coming from that way and bombarding us with one question after another. But, nothing of that sort happened. Then, understanding the questioning look on our face, Neville explained that they had heard and seen everything on the main screen. At that point, we realized that we had forgotten about the cameras built into our helmets that were sending a live signal to MAXIMUS which was recording everything. That also explained the pin - drop silence in the Core control room. Everybody was in deep thought over what they had seen and heard on their screen.
I called up everyone to assemble in the conference hall within thirty minutes. I went to my room, had a shower, and changed my clothes. All through that time, I kept thinking about what had happened and what that person had asked us to do. By the time I reached the conference hall, I had made up my mind. When everyone had settled down, I spoke,
"You all saw on the screens what I, Param and Charles witnessed today. All of you heard what we heard and said, and what we have been asked to do. Now, I am not sure how many of you believed what that person said about our origin and about his planet and his powers, because I am not sure about what to believe and what not to believe. But, there is one part that I believe to be a fact that applies to us and one that I have decided to go ahead with. That man told us that our world needs to be rebuilt and in a proper way, in a new way, in a manner that it is reborn as a completely new world with none of its earlier defects. We need to realize our earlier follies and need to come up with plans to avoid those mistakes and shortcomings. We need to devise ways and means to take us forward on the path of progress but in such a manner that we may never feel the need to fall back on any of those inappropriate measures. And, we need to ensure that we do not relate progress with monetary advancement. We also need to do away with any differences or divisions that we have like religious, political, racial or any other kind. That man told us that the deadly clouds of radiation would be gone in another twenty - four hours and the rains after that would wash away all the remaining radiation from the atmosphere. Then, we would start contacting people all over the world. We will have to find a way to get them over here. I believe it would take us a few weeks to get everyone here. In the meantime, I would like all of you to come up with your thoughts on what was wrong with our world before Alexander and what are the ways we should adopt to ensure we do not end up going on the same path all over again. And, before we start on that, there is one thing we need to take care of. We need to come up with a list of essential items that we would require in the coming days for our survival. So, I want you to start thinking about that first and while working on that, please keep in mind that it isn't only about the two hundred and eighty five of us at this facility; it is also about the other few thousand that would be joining us soon. We have to think about a small city and its requirements. And, I would really appreciate if you could expand your thoughts to those items that can be procured from the places where those survivors are stranded and can be carried by them from there to here. They can definitely find ways to bring those essentials with them. At the same time, it would be good if you could work on another list, which should be of subsidiary items, items that are not absolutely essential but can definitely help us in one way or another. So, let's get to work."
Once I had finished, Justin, one of the senior programmers from the original team from CYBERION - 1, asked, "What are we going to do once all of them are here? Would we be constructing accommodations for all of them at this site? It would become too crowded if we do that. So, have you thought about it?"
"Yes. I did think about it. It would be useless to waste our resources and manpower on constructing new structures when we can make use of existing ones. Once everyone is here, we would create Charleston as our center of reconstruction and this project site would be the operations control hub. We would manage everything from here."
"And, what about that list of essential items? Where are we going to get those items from once the lists have been prepared?"
"All the stores and shops in Charleston are now unclaimed. We can procure all those items from there. We would also make trips to nearby cities to obtain such materials and would store them for future usage. We would also get others to bring in as much material as they can on their way to Charleston. That should help us initially. As for later times, we would definitely come up with something. That is the exact reason why I have asked all of you to come up with suggestions and views on what should our next steps be."
"But, wouldn't all that material be contaminated with radiation? They have had quite a continued and prolonged exposure?"
"Yes. Therefore, we would check everything for radiation before we bring it in. Charles …. Is there anything in your warehouse that can help us with that?"
"Yes. We had planned for a nuclear attack when stocking stuff in the warehouse. Therefore, we do have equipment to detect radiation in various substances," replied Charles.
"But, I am sure that everything would contain radiation to some extent after being hit by such high levels of radiation and for so many days," said Justin.
"I have the same fear but there is nothing we can do about it. Right now, our only option is to prepare ourselves in the best possible manner and start working as soon as the rains are over and the water has subsided. Then, we will go out and check everything. We would also need to locate storage spaces that can be used to store those supplies that we are able to salvage. We also need to work on finding all usable airstrips in the world"
With that, everyone left for their rooms or their cabins or workstations to prepare the lists that I had asked for and also to think about the suggestions that I had requested for.