He finally found the opening and the key slid in. He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw . . .
He remembered clearly opening the letter eighteen months ago. His scan number implanted in his left bicep allotted him the chance for an interview. Earth was a dead planet. In an exclusive numeric based lottery, 88 year old Colby Brant had been chosen to help continue mankind's existence. He had been chosen for the interview to possibly share a lifetime of knowledge and carry on in the name of humanity because of his age. His wife of 53 years, Jennifer, could go with him if he was chosen in the interview. The local grapevine whispered the possibility of scientists restoring youth through cloning techniques. Man would colonize the planet formerly known as Mars. It was currently being referred to as New Eden. Earth's resources were drained and pollution had corrupted the ozone to the breaking point. In fact, there was not much of an ozone left. It looked like forever night outside, but it was without the moon or the stars. It was a smog filled void of poisonous vapor and gas. The sun never shined through the smog of smoke, and the climate had intensely deteriorated. North America, once the pride of the entire world, was now a desolate, corrupt place of crime. Scientists had concluded the planet's days were numbered. It was mere months until Mother Nature would begin to purge out the parasite known as man. It could be felt in the trembles of the ground beneath feet; it could be heard in the silence. Birds no longer chirped; it had been years since another mammal besides men had been seen. The world, it seemed had become inhabitable. It could no longer sustain life. Molten lava boiled from inside the core. The planet was sick. It was preparing to cough it the bad out, so it could heal.
Colonization plans were ahead of schedule for New Eden. The technology was there, and science was ripe for the picking. However, the ships which could transport supplies, soldiers, and construction crews were few, and the ships which could transport life were fewer. Colonel Richter, the Supreme Commander of the Americas had ordered scientists, his family, close political allies, elite military personnel, and medical professionals of the highest training to board the escape ships first. There would be room for only 96 others, they could bring one spouse or loved one, and they were to be chosen by a lottery. The candidates would all need to be elderly because of the wisdom gained from a lifetime of experience. It would be determined by the final eight digits of the implant IDs of all senior citizens plus an additional two digit number provided by each potential candidate. From this lottery, 1000 winners for an interview would be chosen. With this being stated, the quiet whispers in the street said falling short in the interview could prove detrimental to one's health. The finality of the interview either gained you company on board the colonel's ships, or it helped fill the holes being dug for his death squads. He had also heard the Colonel had a taste for human flesh, and that many a pound had made it to his evening menu. It was alleged, this man hoped to gain the wisdom drawn from the very life force of his victims.
He had been so ecstatic after opening the envelope. He knew what was being said on the streets. He knew it was happening, in fact. Falling short in this interview would lead a person to taste metal and lead of the executioner's gun. Colby Brant was a maintenance man on "Fort Dread" as the citizenry liked to refer to this place of darkness and evil. It was actually known as Fort Richter, the housing and military complex governed by Supreme commander of the Americas. Colby had seen the holes being dug, the corpses being thrown in, and he had been given the grisly task of cleanup. He had certainly mopped up his share of blood. He also knew his loved one could be executed with him if he fell short in the interview. She had advanced lung cancer brought on by the dense polluted air she was breathing. If he did not make it beyond the interview, escape would be found in death, and peace would be found for his wife beyond extermination. She was already slipping away more and more each day. He wanted to try, at least. She was everything to him, she was love everlasting.
Life under a dictatorship meant life filled with poverty and pain. He had lived the days before the revolution and so had she. They had been young, and they had fallen in love. It had been a good world to fall in love in. Yes, things were different then, but one piece of the puzzle had always remained the same, even to present day. The love for each other had never once faltered. He could do anything for love, but he could not do anything without her. Life without Jennifer was simply a death sentence. With this thought alone, he knew he could still find peace.
Life beyond this . . . this interview (he had thought with disgust) was a whole other story, however. If they were giving bodies back their youth, like he was hearing in the whispering of the wind, he could help fight the injustice of the Colonel. He could play well the subservient citizen role well in the interview. He was currently in the body of an 88 year old man, after all. Inside his mind, he could see the revolution coming. The leadership from 96 elderly people with a lifetime of experience could do greater good than perhaps the Colonel expected in bringing down his regime of carnage. He had fought the regime once before during a small resistance after the collapse of the United States. He had been a leader then. His colleagues had taken provisions to wipe out his existence or involvement. It had been a nasty little fire, he recalled, and a phenomenal hard drive wipe on resistance computers. It was always ironic he had been hired to do janitorial work in the Colonel's own home. Colby decided this interview would be a win - win situation for both himself and his wife. He would go on to his interview with this thought; he would go on with charm and the belief this would not hurt his wife . . . no matter the outcome. Bigger concerns could be taken care of late. His only purpose for now was the present.
His first requirement was a routine medical examination. This was used to help weed out medically week candidates. It was a known fact the Colonel believed in survival of the fittest. He knew the expectations would not be high, however . . . How much could be expected from the elderly, after all? It would only be tight enough requirements to keep the lottery winnings to the required amount. If youth was being given back through modern science, it would seem one requirement would be someone who has already proven they can live for a lifetime. It would only make sense to buy into a product which would pay for itself in the long haul. Colby had certainly proven this. He had always taken care of himself. As a man with a military background, he had always known the importance of physical fitness. He had always adhered to this principle. It had gone and departed as simply as he had expected. He was given a clean Bill of Health.
He then moved on to the interview. He was brought in front of a military psychologist for this process. He was strapped down and injected with a truth serum. Colby was prepared for this. He knew he would remember nothing of the questions, afterwards. He had been trained to survive these issues years ago, nevertheless. He knew he would come clean from the process. Afterwards he was placed through a series of tests. The testing involved intelligence testing IQ, psychological films to seek out potential weakness, and life experiences testing. The life experiences tests would seek out valuable attributes in an individual, reactivity to rapid thought situations, and survival skills. Even at 88, he seemed to sail through the testing. He was confident; he felt he was unstoppable. And he had been…
Six months ago the acceptance letter had arrived. He had kept everything secret from his wife about his dealings with the New Eden project. He had told Jennifer very little, except, he was required an assignment for the regime. She never questioned him. Why would she after a life of trust? She had no reason to doubt him. He had never hidden anything from her in the 53 years they had been together until this very moment. He lied because she would not fear for herself, but for Colby she would worry. She had written off her own life already. She would want him to survive. She knew he held great meaning underground to remaining factions of resistance. His death would solve absolutely nothing in her eyes. She knew his importance beyond their relationship, and she loved him purely second to the needs of the population. She would worry, and she would sacrifice herself for the love she held in her heart for him. She would want the end of his life to come without pain. He felt guilty, but could not add to the worries of someone only living on borrowed time as it is. If he could create a chance to change this for her, he would. He would join one of the Colonel's death squads if it meant saving her life. Her last breath could come at any moment or time, and it was devastating him.
He arrived to Fort Dread a mere two days subsequent to receiving the acceptance letter. Next he was assigned a cloning surgeon. For two long months (and one month more for recovery) he was rebuilt. His very cells were cloned and reinserted into his body. Doctors began to plan for his wife's medical treatment. Cloning science would also be used on her to bring her back to health and youth the moment he requested authorization. His body was the priority at the moment because of the extreme physical demands he would be expected to perform. He would, furthermore, be (unknown to his trainers) retrained in military ways. He could only chuckle at this thought. He was not allowed to see himself during the critical rebirth of his body during the many stages of the cloning process. The surgeons felt this was best for his psychology. Time flew for him, during this time. When he was clear headed outside of the heavy amounts of medication, he wrote to Jennifer every spare moment he had. He missed her so much. He felt horrible about lying to her, as well, and could not wait until he could share the truth with her. They could share years together again. He could lead the revolution once more with his wife by his side . . .
After the cloning, he was pushed into the next phase of the rigorous process. He underwent extensive space training and courses about both space travel and Mars. He was given courses on physics and biology. He had once taught science before he became less useful from age. This is when he became a janitor. They wanted to get more use out of him from strength in his life experiences. He gave it his all. He did not give it on their behalf, however. He did it all for Jennifer because he loved her so.
After, five long months, his training and surgeries finally reached its happy ending. He could recall days of training reaching beyond 24 hours, at times. In retrospect, it only seemed to have served the purpose of speeding up time. He could only be grateful to this thought. It had performed time for Colby well with quickness. It was time to go home and finally tell her the good news. He was given one more medical test and again was issued an even better Bill of Health. He had not felt this great in decades. His confidence was up, and he was going home to the love of his life. The future was back in their hands again. To have and to hold till our deaths do we part he thought with a smile. If only he had known.
As he approached his home in Old Buffalo, NY, Colby began to whistle a tune. It was an old song from his youth by the band Nirvana. "Smells like teen spirit!" He whistled. Even though this band had not been known for happy songs, it was such a happy phrase capturing the feelings of the moment for him. He may even have bumped himself into a happy skip as he approached the building he called home for so many years. He had built this house for Jennifer when freedom bells had still rung in this land. Yes, that was then, but this is now. He felt so happy for the first moment in such a long time. He felt joy, he felt love, and he felt young for Christ's sake. He felt like a young lover approaching his lady in waiting for the first time. It was a grand feeling, indeed. He soon bounded up the steps to their home. He felt this moment would be great. He was ready to ask her to take a leap of faith with him . . .
He did not hear the thumping noise at first. He saw her note though. It was on their small dinner table in the kitchen. They had shared many meals together at this table. He once proposed to her as she sat in one of the chairs to this table. The note was written in her beautiful crisp handwriting. It simply said:
I know what you have done. It is not right; it is not life for us! I cannot live with what you have done!
He stared at the note for a few moments, and he began to feel dizzy. She had found out what he had been doing. She had time to think and worry. Now he was the one worried. This is when he began to pay attention the thumping coming from the upstairs bedroom.
Thump! Thump! The noise was coming from the upstairs bedroom. She was up there. The old man knew it. He ran for the stairs banging his way noisily with quickness up to the bedroom. Thump! Thump! The noise grew louder. His heart banged devil drums in his chest. She had been sick for so long. A gut feeling has this way of letting a man know when the air was not right. It was not right at this moment. He stumbled a bit as he made it to the top of the stairs and spun right. He was running toward the bedroom. His lungs were screaming. His heart banged harder. THUMP! THUMP! The noise was dizzying now. It was driving him harder. He had not driven his body like this in a long, long time. He tripped for a moment slamming the palm of his hand into the floor. Sharp needles of pain tore up his arm like lightning striking cold wet metal. "Aahhh!" He gasped as his body felt the flaming spasms of instantaneous pain. He reached the door still hearing the relentless sick noise from within and discovered she had locked it. "No! He cried. He felt hot liquid flowing like an unpleasant waterfall down his face. He knew…For Christ's sake…HE KNEW! He fumbled in his pockets for his keys. He fumbled around and finally connected with the cold steel jingle jangle of his keys. He pulled them out of his pocket. He trembled and shook as he attempted to find entrance to the keyhole of the ancient door inside his home. He finally found the opening and the key slid in. He turned the key in the lock and opened the door. To his horror, he saw . . .
. . . He saw her hanging from the fixture of an old ceiling fan. It had been a few days. A strong odor filled the room. He turned left and vomited. He looked up and saw his youthful body next to her deceased disease ridden body, so perceptively aged. Even though she was still so beautiful, the cancer had taken its toll through the years. She looked unspeakable next to him now. What had he done? He dropped to his knees. A deep throaty cry bubbled upward from within. He cried. He did not know for how long, but he cried. He never heard them enter behind him. He was now a lost man.
"Well, well, well…What do we have here, General?" he heard the deep gravelly voice of none other than the Colonel. "I could ask for nothing better than the sight of this," he chuckled.
Colby turned around slowly. His eyes were still vacant and blood shot from tears. Members of an elite military death squad stood near the Colonel. Colonel Richter stood looking at him with a cold yet happy look. "I had come to personally execute your wife, General Colbrant, once I knew who you were . . .I obviously arrive a little too late" he snickered with a sneer.
"H-h-how?" Colby heard himself stammer the question.
"It took a while for the software to translate your thoughts, but it came through just hours ago. It is amazing what technology can do." He replied. He then added, "It looks like she gave you a better punishment than I ever could. It is sad, you know, the software also read into your misguided chivalry." He then smiled and looked back at a member of his squad. "There are better ways to take care of this one. You know what to do!" He commanded the young soldier.
The Colonel then spun around and departed the room. This member of the squad then moved forward with rifle in hand.
"There is nothing more you can take from me!" Colby screamed.
"And I am not going to take much from you . . . She did such a good job already," the dictator called back laughing as he left the building. He could hear his laughter echoing all the way out.
The soldier then moved forward like a predator and suddenly lifted his arms. The last thing Colby remembered was the rifle butt slamming his forehead as the soldier's arm jerked forward and connected. It was lights out.
He opened his eyes sometime (though he was unclear how long) later. His throat hurt. He felt as if he needed water. It was dark. He could hear beeps; he could feel movement from some underlying source.
"Aahhh! The beast awakens…" He heard the Colonel speak through a chuckle.
"Where am I?" He asked through a robotic sounding voice. Something was wrong. His voice did not sound human. "How long have I been out?" Colby continued his questioning.
"In due time, my friend . . . In due time . . ." The Colonel spoke sounding fatherly even in his inner cruelty.
Colby lost consciousness again.
He woke back up sometime again later. He could see he was in a room. His vision was blurry but it was clearing slowly. He heard a mechanical sound and his head was turned but not by his own nerves, he realized. In fact, he did not feel his body at all. He became aware that someone was near him. He could see the body taking form as his vision cleared. It looked like the shape of his wife sitting in a chair.
"It seems as if you carry use, after all General Colbrant." He heard a voice speak from behind him. "You, my old adversary, scored the highest on the IQ test out of all candidates. This included my own men. We cannot go without such a resource . . ." he sounded diabolically sly. He also sounded sarcastic and snide, and he sounded ironically happy, as well.
Colby's vision was becoming more unclouded. He was certain Jennifer was seated there. Maybe, they found a way to bring her back to life. The technology might be there. He could not be too sure. It would make whatever they did to him to cause this paralysis more bearable. He could do anything with her by his side. He opened his mouth to speak, but no sound came out.
"Don't bother speaking," the Colonel spoke softly. "You have no ability to do so any longer." He then pulled a cigarette out of his military jacket and lit it. He breathed deep and continued, "You won't speak ever again. With this in mind . . . I should mention your brain now controls this ship. Once we reach mars, the ship is too large to land on the surface. You will be left to spend eternity with your wife together here in the stars. I think that is quite gracious on my part for all you did against my regime. . ." He began to laugh. His laughter never seemed to stop. It just continued forever in Colby's mind.
Colby's vision was now fully focused. He was staring at the decomposed body of his wife. He tried to scream. His mouth opened. The silent scream tried to omit from a voice which no longer existed. He realized he no longer had a body.
His head was attached to the ship. He had plenty of time to replay the Colonel's last conversation in an endless loop over and over again inside his punishing mind. He needed to find justice and revenge. His hate and rage grew like a bad seed in a poisoned garden. His mind began to search the ship's data bases for something. There had to be something he could do. He searched every file, every code. He looked under every crack and crevice a software engineer could devise. It seemed like eternity, but he found it. He found the self-destruct file. He opened it. Soon, he heard a woman's voice come over the ship's PA system. It was his wife's voice, but he was the mind speaking them. He had become one with his wife, now. He was every ounce of love they had shared. He was the avenger's sword of the passionate lovers in death's embrace.
The woman's voice suddenly alerted the human passengers on board, "Goodbye, Colonel Richter! Goodbye to all!"
His mind was in full control of the file now. He opened his eyes and the machine beneath him turned him to the decayed body of the wife. He felt impossibility evolve to reality. He felt tears flowing down his face. He looked at her face, and thought, "I am so sorry, my love. I am sorry I played God with our love. I had no right. I had no right!" He thrust forward with virtual hands, and he squeezed the file tight in his long dead hands.
The ship exploded. It then imploded within itself. He had one last time to think of his relationship with Jennifer. Oh, it was such a beautiful love they had shared together. Colby then he found blackness. He finally had peace, and his wife finally had peace. The stars continued to shine.