Dr. Bo’Leo, General Malack, and the doctor’s assistant Billy watched as the AS7 gas began to filter into the sealed test chamber. Inside were two members of the Syon race, a male and a female. Both prisoners of war, the captives had the poor fortune to be selected for this test of the bio-agent developed by Dr. Bo’Leo and his team. Hopefully this test was the last one before the weapon was deployed against the Syons living in the Proxima Centauri colony.
Tomba IV was the fourth planet in the Mor solar system. About half the size of Old Earth, the planet was far enough from the space freight shipping lanes to be considered “off the beaten path.” Humans had discovered the Mor system during a scientific survey mission and cataloged Tomba IV as a K-class planet. K-class planets are worlds located in the much-desired “goldilocks” zone (not too hot and not too cold.) These worlds usually have liquid water, but finding it can be a chore. K-class planets do have atmospheres that can support life, but these atmospheres are usually much less hearty than those of L or M class planets. Basically, life on a K-class planet is no pleasure cruise — it is a constant battle to find and recycle the limited resources available.
One day, Stellar Command decided that Tomba IV would make a perfect place to build a military outpost. This was mainly because the planet hosted a colony of Syons, and it would be easier to keep an eye on the alien race when they lived next door. The Syon race came from the Proxima Centauri area of the galaxy, and they were the third legitimate alien race that mankind had encountered. The first was the bird-like Favians, and the second was the Iskrit, a race of insects controlled by a hive-mind. By the time we met The Syons we were so happy to meet a race that resembled humans that we easily overlooked the red skin. Said to be a function of their twin suns, the skin was the only real difference between their physical shape and humans. Other than that, Syons had two arms, two legs used to walk upright, and a head with the eyes, nose, and mouth in the same position as on a human face. Syons had hair as well, but it only came in one color — black. They had ears that were shaped like a human’s also, but a Syon inner ear could “hear” much more — their hearing spanned a much larger frequency range than a human eardrum. Similarly, Syon eyes could see a much greater range of colors — from well below infrared to well above ultraviolet. This ability to see so many different shades of color is the reason why Syon skin color is so important. Syon skin tone ranges from deep reddish-brown to a very light fuchsia. A rigid class system has been in place for many generations that uses the skin color as the main basis to determine which caste a particular Syon belongs to. The more towards the fuchsia end of the spectrum a Syon’s skin color is, the better class placement he or she is likely to receive. The ruling royal family always has the most vivid reddish-pink skin color because, according to Syon tradition, God determines skin color based on the parent’s worth. Those who are born with brown or even pale tan skin are cursed, for lack of a better word. Many Syons claim that they no longer heed the rules of the old caste system and maintain that skin color does not determine what job a Syon can get, or what town a Syon can live in. Despite this claim, though, the ruling body of the Syon race still looks like a sea of bright neon red. The only light skinned Syons in the room are the ones cleaning up.
Back in the lab, the two Syon P.O.W.s saw the white mist begin to spill out of the vents in the test chamber and they knew their time had come. Both had been restrained, but the didn’t stop them from screaming and pleading for someone to let them out.
“Couldn’t we have incapacitated the test subjects before the AS7 gas was introduced?” General Malack asked Dr. Bo’Leo.
“Actually, no.” Dr. Bo’Leo responded. “To collect the most accurate data on the rate of effect and to confirm that the production of fear and stress hormones will not change the efficacy of the weapon, we must allow the test subjects to react the same way they would as if their home village was suddenly attacked.”
“Very well.” General Malack turned back towards the test chamber window.
They all watched as the white AS7 gas filled up the chamber until it was high enough to begin affecting the test subjects locked inside. As Dr. Bo’Leo watched and waited, he heard a voice.
“You know this is wrong, Cam, stop the test before you cross a line you cannot come back from. I know this isn’t you. You’re hurting, I know, but this isn’t the way.”
“Enough, Teana, it’s done.” Dr. Bo’Leo whispered.
“What’s that Doctor? Something wrong?” General Malack questioned Cam.
“Nothing wrong here, General. I was just going over some numbers.” Cam lied to the general. “Billy, can you check the gauge and make sure the right amount of gas has been pumped into the tank?”
“Sure thing, Doc.” Billy replied. “Give me one minute.” He ran over to the console that controlled the flow of AS7 gas and looked at the gauge. “Right on target, doctor. We are just about at 150ppm.”
Billy Myor had been Dr. Bo’Leo’s laboratory assistant for three annums now, and he was proving himself to be a very capable boy. Cam knew that one day Billy would have a lab of his own, and he would do great things. In fact, Billy’s future was one of the reasons that Cam had decided to develop a weapon to use against the Syon colony — a weapon that would, in effect, remove the living beings from the Syon colony but leave all their resources intact, ripe for the picking.
Tomba IV was not a planet you would consider to be rife with resources. There was a limited amount of water in underground aquifers, and geologists had recently discovered small salt deposits in mines close to the equator. Other than that, all the raw material that the colony needed had to be imported or recycled. As you can imagine, the limited amount of resources on Tomba IV did not make for a very friendly environment. At first, the Syon and Human colonies traded with each other, but that quickly deteriorated into a cold war.
After fifteen years of living with the threat of mutual destruction, the human colony leaders had decided to strike one decisive blow to wipe out the Syon colonists all at once. That way the humans could move in and claim all the Syon resources for their own. It was the only way to ensure the survival of the colony from Old Earth. The younger generation, Billy’s peers, deserved a future, and Dr. Bo’Leo was going to help provide it. He knew how horrible Syon society could be to those who were deemed undesirable. Very similar to the caste system of the Old Earth Hindu society, once you were classed as unworthy it was impossible to improve your station.
Billy finished recording the AS7 gas concentration on his clipboard.
“Thank you Billy.” Dr. Bo’Leo nodded his head towards his young assistant. “General, if you will watch the test subjects, the weapon should begin to do its work any moment.” Cam pointed at the test chamber window and watched as the gas began to affect the Syons inside.
At first, it seemed like nothing much was happening. The Syons were obviously breathing in the AS7 gas, but they were suspiciously calm. In fact, for the first three minutes or so, the test subjects simply breathed normally and no outward symptoms appeared.
“Dr. Bo’Leo, are you certain that this weapon works?” General Malack asked, suspecting that the doctor had lured him here under false pretenses.
“If you’ll indulge me for just a few more minutes, General.” Cam opened his arms with his palms up, the universal gesture of apology. “Please keep watching.”
General Malack obliged, but it was obvious he did not think anything was going to happen. Just as the General was about to speak up once more, the Syon prisoners began to cough. At first, it sounded like the female was attempting to clear her throat but couldn’t quite get it done. After a few seconds, she had broken into a full-blown coughing fit, with attempts to breathe interspaced with hacking and wheezing. By this time, the male Syon had started to cough as well, although he hadn’t reached the stage that his companion was at.
After a minute or two of the worst coughing fit that any of them had ever witnessed, the female Syon began to expel blood from her mouth. In addition, what looked like actual pieces of her lung were flying out of her mouth and splattering all over the glass that separated the test subjects from the lab. The female Syon continued to spew up bits and pieces of her insides, and just before she collapsed, she suddenly and without warning lost all of her color. The female Syon had almost turned white! As she was quite literally suffocating on her own lungs, she looked at her hands as she fell to her knees and her eyes went wide. The female Syon was apparently still coherent enough to be shocked by the fact that her skin had turned white. A few seconds after that startling realization, though, she collapsed fully. Her male companion had begun to cough up bits of his own lungs by that point and he looked at his partner lying on the ground, white as a ghost. The male prisoner glared at the spectators on the other side of the glass for just a few moments before he collapsed and in those few seconds, you could see in his eyes that he couldn’t understand why anyone would – no, could — create such a weapon. Soon he was writhing on the ground, as well, suffocating on his own body parts and fluids. Finally, both patients slipped into unconsciousness and shortly thereafter took their last breaths. The lab became eerily quiet after that, the rhythmic hum of the air pumps the only sound to be heard.
No one spoke for several minutes. Both subjects were dead for at least ten minutes by this time and their pale corpses were still frozen in the positions they took their last agonizing breaths in, eyes wide open. Billy was the first to speak as he shook his head.
“We tested the gas on rats before, but…” Billy paused to recompose himself, “this is so much worse. Those people died horrible deaths.”
“Yes, hmm.” General Malack pursed his lips and put his hand on his chin, obviously deep in thought. “Why does their skin turn white?” The General asked.
“It’s part of the chemical reaction that takes place.” Dr Bo’Leo responded as if he was expecting the question, even interrupting The General. Billy immediately looked at Dr. Bo’Leo with a quizzical expression on his face.
“Well the weapon is certainly effective, but I wonder….” Before General Malack could finish, Dr Bo’Leo interrupted him again.
“The weapon performs exactly as you asked, General. You needed something that would eliminate the Syon colonists but not destroy their resources. That’s exactly what the AS7 gas does. Did you expect the test subjects to simply drift off to sleep, never to wake up? If nothing else, that’s not what the Syon deserve.” Dr. Bo’Leo argued his case. Frankly, the doctor was perturbed that he had delivered the weapon in such a short period of time, and now the powers that commissioned the bio-agent were balking.
“Calm down doctor.” General Malack said sternly. “We were extremely grateful when you decided to join us here, and we are extremely grateful that you developed this weapon for us in such a short time. I’m just concerned about the political fallout.”
“What political fallout?” Dr. Bo’Leo hated politics and politicians equally. “There won’t be anyone left to tell the Syon home world what happened.”
“Don’t be so sure doctor. These things have a way of getting out.” The general cautioned. “I’m sure there are at least several areas that are under constant video surveillance, probably connected to auto-recorders. In addition, if they are like us at all, once regular reports stop coming from the colony, their central command will send a ship here to determine what transpired. It won’t be hard to determine what happened — that we attacked them, unprovoked. Even if we somehow disposed of all the Syon bodies, it won’t be much of a reach to assume humans were the cause. If they blame humans for the genocide of the colony, it could start a war between our home worlds.” General Malack paused to take a deep breath. “You did a fine job, Dr. Bo’Leo, but your part is complete. Now it is up to the war council to determine what to do with the weapon you’ve created. Thank you.” The General shook hands with both Billy and Dr. Bo’Leo, nodded his head, and began to walk towards the door.
“General, if I could just show you the projected numbers for the weapon’s effectiveness, you’d see that….” The general put up his hand as he walked through the double doors that led out of the lab. Dr. Bo’Leo was left standing halfway between the lab exit and the test chamber as Billy stood behind him in awkward silence.
“I’m sure they will decide to use the weapon doc, it’s a great accomplishment.” Billy said, attempting to bolster his mentor’s confidence. Dr. Bo’Leo simply nodded his head as he walked past his optimistic assistant and said nothing as he slipped into his office. The doctor closed the door behind him and left Billy alone in the lab.
Dr. Bo’Leo sat as his desk, head in hand, for quite some time before he heard her voice.
“Cam, what you did to those two was horrible. Even General Malack was disturbed at the weapon’s violence. I know why you made their skin turn white, too, no matter what lie you told the General.”
“Teana, not now.” Cam sighed. “This is what they deserve, you of all people should know that.” While Cam’s back was turned, Billy opened the office door. “I’m going to make sure that this weapon is used, no matter what it takes!” Dr. Bo’Leo exclaimed.
“I know doc, don’t worry. You worked hard coming up with AS7.” Billy said, attempting to calm his boss down. Dr. Bo’Leo whirled around, not realizing that his assistant had entered his office. He stared at Billy for a few seconds, the look in his eyes one of confusion. Billy picked up on it and offered a suggestion.
“Maybe you should head home doc, I’ll take care of things here and clean up. You certainly deserve a break and we can brainstorm tomorrow about how to make the General and his cronies deploy the weapon.” Billy said, obviously concerned for his mentor’s health.
Seeing that his assistant was worried about him, and possibly rightfully so, Cam decided that going home was probably a good idea.
“Thank you Billy. I think I will take you up on that offer.” Cam responded as he gathered up his belongings and packed his bag.
“No problem, doc.” Billy smiled. “Before you go, though, can I ask you something?”
“Sure. What is on your mind?” Cam responded, unsure what to expect.
“After the test, when General Malack asked you why their skin turned white, you told him it was part of the chemical reaction. I’d never contradict you in front of anyone else, but I was here when you designed the weapon. I know you specifically added the destruction of the color pigments in the skin as one of the weapon’s biological effects. Why did you lie to the general?” As Billy asked the question Cam smiled. Sometimes Billy was too smart for his own good, Cam thought, and someday it might get him in trouble. Suddenly, he heard her voice again.
“You need to tell him the truth, Cam. In fact, tell him why you are doing all of this, why the weapon makes the deaths so violent.”
As Dr. Cam Bo’Leo looked down and shook his head, he whispered “Oh, Teana.” Before Billy could say anything in response, Cam spoke.
“Billy, do you know anything about Syon society? Do you know about the undesirables?”
“No, doc, I don’t actually know much at all about the Syons at all — beyond the biology we needed to help develop the weapon, that is.” Billy admitted.
Dr Bo’Leo gave his protégé a quasi-smile and pulled out his chair, sat down, and told Billy to do the same.
“Please,” the Doctor said, “sit down.” He waited until his assistant was sitting on a stool to continue. Billy sat there looking at Cam with his hands folded, ready to listen.
“The Syon society is based on skin color, Billy, almost to the exclusion of everything else.” Cam could see that Billy was skeptical. “You’ve seen pictures of different Syon individuals, I assume?”
“Yeah, doc. I know that Syon skin color can vary, but it didn’t seem like it varied enough to be the basis for some sort of social order.” Billy responded truthfully.
“Well, it may not seem like enough of a difference to human eyes, but remember, Syon eyes are much more sensitive and can see many more subtle shades of color. Just because Syons look like humans on the outside doesn’t mean they are biologically identical as well, remember” Cam reminded his assistant. “Anyway,” the doctor continued “the more pink or fuchsia a Syon’s skin is, the greater chance that Syon is a part of the upper or ruling class. It’s why they sometimes refer to the rulers of Syonia, their home planet, as the ‘pink princes.” Billy smiled but Cam continued. “As you probably have guessed, it also works the opposite way. The more brown or tan a Syon’s skin is, the more likely he or she is to become a member of the lower class or even the undesirables. Have you heard about or read about the undesirables?” Cam asked Billy.
“No, I haven’t” Billy admitted, “but I think I can guess what they are. The undesirables sound like the lowest class in society, the ones who empty the toilets and scrub the floors. The “Untouchables” of Old Earth.” Dr. Bo’Leo nodded.
“Exactly. The undesirables are the lowest of the low, and they are shown no respect to the point of absurdity. Some members of the upper class won’t even acknowledge members of the undesirables as actual, living, people. They will only speak to the undesirable in the room through their servants. It is horribly demeaning to have your entire life’s worth determined by a genetic roll of the dice.” Cam continued, obviously upset. “I even once heard about an undesirable who was born with skin so light that it was almost pink.” Suddenly, Dr. Bo’Leo gave Billy a suspicious look and paused for a second before both had a laugh.
“You had me going for a second there, doc.” Billy said as he smiled. Dr. Bo’Leo patted his assistant on the back as he chuckled and after a few seconds, Cam continued explaining.
“So, as you can see, Syon society shuns those who are born with light skin, and once you are branded an undesirable you can never shed the stigma. Even if you are intelligent enough to go to school and become a working professional, it doesn’t matter. Syon universities won’t accept an undesirable for training in any job other than a menial position in the service industry. Of course, if you ask any of the government officials on Syonia, they claim that the skin-color based caste system is a thing of the past and any member of the Syon race can do whatever he or she wants. Unfortunately, this is purely lip service — the anti-class laws are never enforced. When asked why the caste system still holds people back, the politicians claim that they cannot police individual minds.” Billy looked confused.
“But if their leaders claim the class system is no more they should hire light-skinned Syons to work with them in the government. You know, lead by example.” Billy suggested. “That would go a long way to improving relations and destroying the caste system for good.”
“Billy, they don’t do that because everyone who isn’t an undesirable wants the caste system to stay in place. That way there will always be someone below them to cook, clean, and be used.” Cam responded. “Many Syons are still very pious, and the Syon religion claims that their God determines a child’s skin color based on the actions of the parents. If a Syon child is born with very light skin, then those parents did something terrible to incur God’s wrath. The stigma follows that child for the rest of his life and the only way to escape his or her fate is to leave Syon society altogether.” Billy nodded, finally understanding why Dr. Bo’Leo made the Syon’s skin turn white before death.
“I see why you programmed the bio-agent to turn the Syon skin white before death, doc. You want them to think they are going to their afterlife with light skin.” Billy said. “Actually, the light skin might even be the worst part of the AS7 gas’ effects.”
Dr. Bo’Leo nodded his head. “It doesn’t sound as noble when you say it out loud, but yes, making someone an outcast simply because they lost a genetic lottery is absurd.”
Both Billy and his mentor sat in contemplative silence for a minute or two before Cam got up to leave, confident his assistant understood his motives.
“Well, I’m going to take you up on your offer and get a good night’s sleep. Thanks for this Billy, and thanks for all that you do.” Dr. Bo’Leo said.
Billy smiled with that “aww shucks” look that he got whenever Cam complemented him.
“It’s no problem doc, you have taught me more than I ever could have hoped.” Billy responded. “I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow morning, and we can try to figure a way to make General Malack use the weapon.”
Dr. Bo’Leo gave his assistant a smile as he picked up his papers, put them in his bag, and headed towards the lab exit. Billy was a good kid, and he was going to be a great scientist one day. Cam, knew that deep down Billy wasn’t a proponent of using bio-weapons to fight battles, but he was a loyal apprentice. Billy would never voice his opposition to using the AS7 gas to eliminate the Proxima Centauri colonists, but it was very evident that he found the effects of the weapon to be horrific. Every time they had conducted a test with a live subject, even with rats, Billy had shied away from viewing and documenting the results. He would always do what was required, but as soon as the report had been completed, Billy would clean up the area and destroy the remains immediately. Cam couldn’t blame the kid, necessarily, it was difficult to watch any living creature suffer and die. Unfortunately, Billy just didn’t fully understand how horrible living in a society with a caste system could be.
As Cam walked home through the various tunnels and domes that made up the route back to his quarters, he kept thinking about the pitfalls and dangers of a society based on a rigid class system. Dr. Cam Bo’Leo knew that class segregation could destroy lives, and he hoped that someday his assistant Billy would see that. Cam knew he was doing the right thing. The upper class Syons treated the underclasses with no respect whatsoever, basically using undesirables as unpaid slave labor. The so-called “nobles” would take trips into the ghetto and pick undesirables at random to come work at their palatial estates. There was no consideration for the undesirable at all — it didn’t matter if she had children or if he provided for a family. The unlucky unworthy who were “volunteered” for service were herded into the back of a transport and in most cases, were never seen by those in the ghetto ever again. Wives, fathers, sons, daughters, husbands, and mothers — all there one day and gone the next. It was criminal.
The worst part about it was that the “unworthy” had no recourse. Sure, the Syons had their equivalent of the human colonial police, but the salaries of the police were paid by the nobles of that sector, and the members of the force were appointed by royal decree. Obviously none of them are stupid enough to bite the hand that feeds them. So, that leaves two options — open rebellion or acceptance. The undesirables know they could never win a war against the unlimited pocketbook of the upper class, so they simply accept their fate. Some undesirables even volunteer for jobs at the noble houses. They claim it beats begging for food and barely scraping together a meal. Unfortunately, and the nobles know this, the more unworthy who seek jobs working for the upper class, the more accepted the practice becomes inside the ghetto.
Originally, when the “volunteering” of undesirables began, the ghettos were, quite literally, aflame with anger. The underclass’s stood up for themselves — they protested, held rallies, and blocked the nobles from entering the ghetto. After battling the lower class for a while and getting nowhere, the nobility got smart. They began offering food and money to the families of the unworthy who were willing to let their husbands and sons come to “work” at the royal palaces. Bribed with better food and more money than they would ever be able to obtain otherwise, the families of the kidnapped unworthy became more readily accepting of the practice as time went on, and soon the nobles had their cheap workforce without any hassle. After a few years, the upper class began reducing the amount of food and money they sent to the ghetto. Since many of the capable husbands and sons had already been taken, there was no one left to stand up to these crooks. It was only a matter of time before the food deliveries stopped entirely, and without a viable force to fight them, the undesirables simply accepted their fate and begrudgingly went to work for the nobility all over the Syon colony.
Never content with what they had, the nobles decided that they could even use the women of the ghetto, a group they had traditionally left alone. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to work in the royal palaces — their fate was much worse. The women who were too weak or too ugly to be used as sex slaves for nobles were used as subjects for weapons tests and laboratory experiments. Suffering a fate too horrible to imagine, these women died terrible deaths. Cam remembered a Syon woman who had suffered this fate. Her name was Teana and she was one of the most beautiful, caring, and loving individuals that the Syon colony was ever graced with. She had even married a male Syon who was so deformed that even other undesirables wouldn’t speak to him. Teana didn’t care, though — she loved him. One day, shortly after they were married, a noble came and instructed his guards to take “the pretty one” over there. Teana’s husband attempted to fight back and save his new bride but he was overwhelmed by the noble’s personal guard. The guard beat him badly and left him for dead in the wasteland between the colonies. Unfortunately this story was commonplace and illustrated how Syon society was built.
Cam reached his quarters and the door instantly recognized him from his bio-ID broadcast, unlocking the entrance door before Cam walked through. Despite being one of the more important members of the Old Earth colony, Cam’s quarters were sparse. The main sitting room had a table for eating and a place to sit and watch holo-casts. There was a kitchen and a bathroom at one end of the back hallway, and a bedroom and a closet at the other end. None of the rooms were much bigger than the laboratory test chamber, but space came at a premium on a small colony like theirs. That was fine, though. Cam didn’t need much space — he spent most of his time working anyway. He might need more if he was ever lucky enough to have a family, but the odds of that were slim to none. Finding someone compatible enough to have children with was a long-shot at best. In addition, he would be, after all, the destroyer of an entire colony. Hero to some maybe, but likely demon to more, it was going to be a difficult existence once the AS7 gas had been released.
“I’m so glad that you are O.K. with genocide, Cam. You know what this means if you use your weapon.” The voice echoed in Cam’s head.
“Teana, enough. You know that their society is broken, decadent. It’s time for a clean sweep.” Cam couldn’t believe he was arguing about this yet again.
“And you are the judge of their entire colony? Some would say that’s a bit presumptuous.” Teana countered.
“They made me their judge!!” Cam shouted before he realized he was yelling. “I mean, who else is more qualified to decide their fate than someone who has studied the behavior of their society from such a unique perspective.”
“You can dress up the deed in all the fancy excuses you like, the fact remains that you are about to do a horrible thing. Besides, what about all the undesirables you are going to kill. What did they do to deserve such a horrible fate?” Teana asked.
“There’s nothing I can do about that. I’d save them if I could, you know that.” Cam paused. “Unfortunately sometimes a few bad apples spoil the bunch.”
“That’s a fine little saying you’ve picked up, I guess it makes everything all nice and neat. This isn’t you, Cam, and you know it. I beg you, don’t do this, you won’t be able to live with yourself.” Teana pleaded.
“You don’t know what I’m capable of and what I can live with now. Once everyone sees how many lives will be saved with the resources we acquire once the Syons are gone, I will be vindicated. How you can scold me when they killed your, no, our…” Cam stopped mid-sentence as his eyes began to water. He didn’t want to think about it for one more second. “Just let me go to sleep.” Cam said as he wiped the moisture from his eyes, got undressed and crawled into bed.
“Cam… please. I know you miss m…” Teana began but Cam cut her off.
“ENOUGH!” Cam shouted as he grabbed the sides of his forehead. “I don’t want to hear any more!” He squeezed a second pillow on top of his face until his mind was quiet and he was able to fall asleep. Getting some of the much-needed rest he deserved, Cam feel into a deep slumber within minutes. It was a dreamless sleep, although Cam kept catching vague glimpses of a woman’s face that he presumed was Teana.
After what felt like only a short time, the alarm began to buzz, signifying it was time for Cam to get ready and head to the lab. He did feel especially rested today, though, and that was good since he might have to do battle with General Malack, and that would require Cam having all of his wits about him. He had worked for two years to develop his weapon, and Cam would be damned if it was going to go to waste. He showered, got dressed, ate a quick breakfast, and hurried out the door. He made his way back to the laboratory, and when he arrived, he found Billy already there, entertaining General Malack. They both looked up as Cam walked in.
“Hey doc,” Billy said, “General Malack has some news.”
“Yes, I do.” The General cleared his throat. “It seems that last night our little Billy here discovered a missile site hidden underground in the wasteland between the colonies using the ground penetrating radar. In addition, the rad-meter spiked when aimed at the missile site. Apparently the Syons are planning their own war, but theirs begins and ends with nuclear warheads. I don’t have to tell you what would happen if even one of those nukes landed anywhere in the Old Early colony.”
Cam was shocked. He had never thought the Syons would make such a bold move — it wasn’t their way. They were much more like the 17th century British of Old Earth — they had rules of engagement that they followed and they fought their enemy head-on, face-to-face.
“That’s surprising.” Cam told The General. “So, we have no choice then, I assume?”
“Yes, it looks like we will need you to prep the weapon as soon as possible. How long before you can have it ready to go?” General Malack asked.
“As long as I have Billy here to assist me, we can have it synthesized and packaged by the end of the day.” Dr. Bo’Leo looked at his assistant for confirmation. Billy gave his boss a nod to indicate that it should be no problem.
“Good. I’ll send some of my guys to pick up the canisters tonight.” General Malack’s assistant made a note on his pad. “Once again boys, thank you for your service to the colony. It may end up saving thousands of lives.” The General shook both Cam’s and Billy’s hand and then left the lab, presumably to make preparations for the weapon’s deployment.
Dr. Bo’Leo stared at Billy for a good minute or two before speaking.
“Boy, it was a good thing you found that hidden missile site Billy.” Cam said with an over-emphasis that indicated his sinking feeling that something wasn’t right. “Can you show me exactly how you used the ground penetrating radar to detect it?”
The staring contest lasted for close to sixty seconds before Billy admitted his guilt.
“I’m sorry doc, it was the only way I could think of to get The General to use the gas without question. I knew if he had a perceived imminent threat he would have to strike before the Syons did.” Billy looked at Dr. Bo’Leo like a dog looking at his master, waiting for desperately desired approval. Cam knew that he had no call to be angry with Billy, for he had created this Frankenstein’s Monster. Cam sighed.
“It’s fine Billy, it was a good idea. I’d probably have done the same.” The Doctor reassured his apprentice and could see that Billy was immensely pleased. Cam didn’t know if he’d have gone to the same lengths to get his weapon deployed, but he was glad that he no longer had to make that choice. Cam smiled as he prepared to make the weapon ready for use.
“Ok Billy, let’s get the gas mixed up and ready for delivery.” Cam instructed his assistant to gather all of the AS7 gas they had on hand in order to figure out just how much they had to synthesize before day’s end. When the stock was all tolled, there were just two canisters left to fill. It only took Cam and Billy three hours to finish. They spent the rest of the time cleaning up, and when that was done, Cam took out a bottle of Champagne he had been saving and they drank it out of laboratory flasks.
“Congratulations, doctor Bo’Leo, you worked hard to design and develop this weapon, and now you may be responsible for saving thousands of human lives.” Billy said.
“Thank you Billy.” Cam said as he contemplated the good he had done. “I wasn’t always one-hundred perfect sure that this was the right thing to do, but I was always sure that something had to be done. Without you, though, the weapon would never have been completed. Thank you Billy, you’ve done more than you know.” His assistant beamed with pride.
Cam and Billy made small talk for the rest of the day until General Malack’s team showed up to collect the canisters filled with the AS7 gas.
“Ok, that’s 18 canisters.” The head of The General’s team said. “Please sign here, doctor, acknowledging delivery.” Cam signed his name on the line and the military men began to leave with the AS7 gas in tow.
“Wait,” Cam yelled, “when will we know if the weapon was deployed?”
“General Malack will be in touch very soon. I’d hang around here.” The head of The General’s team said and then left without another word.
“So I guess we wait.” Cam said to Billy.
“I’m going to head home for a while.” Billy said. “I have some things I need to catch up on.”
“Are you sure Billy? This could be the moment of our crowning achievement. You are a part of this!” Cam reminded his assistant.
“Yeah, it’s ok doc, just let me know when you hear something.” Billy said nonchalantly. “I’ll talk to you later.” Cam’s assistant packed up his belongings and made his way towards the exit. Just before he walked through the lab door, though, Billy stopped and turned towards the doctor.
“Just remember doc, you did this. I know you’ve been wanting this for a long time.” Billy smiled cryptically and was gone.
At first, Cam thought Billy meant that he was proud of his mentor, and that without Cam, none of this would have been possible. As he made his way into his office, though, Dr. Bo’Leo kept replaying what Billy had said, not so much the words but his tone.
Could Billy have discovered the truth? Cam didn’t see how — he had worked very hard to erase all evidence about his past. The family that had found Cam in the wasteland all those years ago when he was a young man had never asked where he had come from, they had just accepted Cam as part of their family. Even when he had attended school to become a doctor, Caqm had avoided any serious questions about his adolescence. He had even put off the school-required DNA profiling until he was able to devise a way to falsify the results.
“You know he knows.” Teana chimed in.
“Of course. Why am I not surprised. I knew you’d have something to say.” Cam replied to Teana.
“You know it’s true, why are you denying it? He’s been your assistant for a long time now, you don’t think he could have had a DNA profile done? It’s not as if he didn’t have access to genetic material.” Teana reminded Cam.
“So what if he did? It’s not as if he told anyone and if he was going to he would have by now. Either way, it’s not going to stop the weapon deployment.” Cam shook his head.
“Please Cam, if you ever loved me, call General Malack and stop this. There might still be time to stop the weapon from being deployed.” Teana pleaded. “I know how badly you were hurt — how badly you are still hurting! You were treated horribly and what was taken from you was criminal, but that doesn’t mean you have to wipe them all out.”
“Teana… you were the only one who ever looked at me like a real person, and I will always love you, but this has to end. What they did, it can never happen again.” Cam said softly.
“Cam, I know you want to hurt them, but this isn’t the way. If you go through with this, I will leave you!” Teana begged her husband.
“THEY TOOK, ugh, why am I even yelling! ENOUGH!” Dr. Bo’Leo laid down the law and before Teana could chime in, his phone rang. He picked up and heard General Malack’s voice on the other end of the line.
“Doctor Bo’Leo? This is General Malack.” The General was always so formal, he never called Cam by his first name.
“Yes, I’m here General. Do you have an update?” Cam asked.
“Yes. The weapon was deployed thirty minutes ago. According to preliminary reports we are looking at near one-hundred percent effectiveness. Great job, doctor.” With that, General Malack hung up.
Cam hung up the phone on his end without thinking about it. The weapon had been deployed. Cam wasn’t quite sure what to feel. Near 100% effectiveness meant that almost every single Syon was dead or dying, which was what Cam wanted. Or, at least, he thought that’s what he wanted. He had carried around a gaping hole in his soul for so long, waiting for it to be filled, he wasn’t quite sure how to feel now that his lust for revenge had been sated. Cam kept waiting for that relief to kick-in, and for that “great weight” everyone talked about to be lifted off his shoulders.
In reality all Cam felt was slightly less angry and much more guilty. The place in his heart that Teana held was hurting, and for the first time, he was unsure if he had done the right thing.
“Revenge may be a dish best served cold,” Cam said, “but once you get it….” Cam wished his wife was there. “Teana, are you still there?”
There was no answer.
“Teana?” Cam called out again.
Again, there was nothing but silence.
“Teana,” Cam whispered, “I think I’ve made a terrible mistake.”
As Cam sat as his desk with tears running down his cheeks he realized that he was now the last Syon.