Three days after his friend, Stefan had been taken, Muller witnessed a further twenty-five of his fellow humans taken away for ‘processing.’ He knew his chance of freedom was gone. He had begrudgingly and finally resigned to his fate and prepared for the end of his life. And yet now he would have to wait another day... In two hours time, he would hear the screams from the death chamber, which obviously lay just a few metres beyond the edge of the compound. Then there would be brief normality as people went about their business, just as they had done for the last three to four weeks.
By dinner time, reality would strike again as they realised that this could be their last meal; a growing feeling of resignation, that built up as the evening turned to night and they took to their beds. Sleep was not really on the agenda. When you knew you could be in the last twenty-four hours of life, your body and mind rejected sleep, it was an irrelevance and yet killing time by sleeping would have been the choice of most of the remaining humans in the compound.
Dieter Muller woke from a mild slumber at eight-fifteen am; just as he had done for the last three mornings. He did not get up, there was no rush. Hey what shall I do today?, he thought. In an hours time, he would know; was it today or did he have another twenty-four hours of life? He looked around. Surprisingly, the compound was a hive of activity; people going about their daily routines, some exercising, some washing, brushing their teeth. Why? What was the point...? I’ll brush my teeth after they have called today’s sacrificial lambs.
After a few further minutes of lying and thinking about nothing. He forced himself off the bed and glanced at himself in the nearby mirror. Sixty-two years of age and not going to make it to sixty-three. In today’s terms, still young. Could have had another seventy or a eighty years left. He was still physically fit and there was nothing wrong with his mental faculties. He allowed his mind to wander further as he recalled his childhood memories, his school, university, meeting his wife, marrying and of course his daughter; who now was the most important person in his life; his wife having long since left him. He thought about his business, for which he no longer cared. It had been part of his life for so long and yet it seemed so irrelevant. He glanced at his watch. 8. 57 Am. Where the hell did the last three quarters of an hour go? This is it now... It is going to be today...
Dieter moved himself into position in the recreation area, so he could see when the Kryl guards came through the doors to the front. The exit doors to the left of the main door were where the selected persons would shortly be led. A few seconds later, the two guards entered the compound. Both guards moved into the crowd, purposefully heading to their first intended target. The first one reached an elderly woman, he stood in front of her and she sighed and resigned to her fate, followed the guard towards the exit door, where she was led through, before the guard turned back on his heals in search of his next victim.
There was complete silence, as the guards moved amongst the crowd. Each chosen person was confronted and led to the exit, with the guards once again seeking out the next human. Philip Dubois was the next person to be selected. The two people he had been closest to, whilst entrapped within the compound had now been taken.
The process was drawing to a close and Muller was about to move back inside, resigned to another day of purgatory. But, then he realised, the last guard had come back for his twenty-fifth victim and was heading toward him. Today that person was Dieter Muller.
As the guard reached him, Muller raised his head and remained still, a weak gesture of defiance. There was nothing he could do now. His time had come; but he would make them work.... The guard gestured him towards the exit, but still Muller stood his ground. After a few seconds further, frozen in time, the guard produced a half metre long plasma stick, charged with electricity; the threat of it being used sufficient to end his last stand. He reluctantly moved forward through the compound and through the exit door.
Muller entered the next room; a waiting room with a door at either end and a bench seat running down each side. The condemned obviously sat here, whilst they waited for their sentence to be carried out. Muller joined Philip Dubois, who sat at the front end of the chamber; the end nearest the death room, or so Muller assumed. The remaining guard carried on through and left the room. They were alone.
It took a few minutes for the conversation to start.
“Can anyone believe we are actually doing this? We are about to give our lives because our government says that this is acceptable?” The question came from the other end; a balding, but fresh faced man, who looked too young to be over sixty.
“We are making the ultimate sacrifice to protect our species going forward”. The reply from an older man, who sat in the middle on the same side as Muller.
“Bollocks” The balding man responded. “We are here, because Alpha and the ECG gave up on its own people. We could have defeated this lot. We didn't even try... where was the land war?”
“You need to respect the wishes of everyone in this room. This period is for self reflection. There is no point harping on about what might have been.”
Now the whole group joined in. The tension broken by an opportunity to let off their frustration as the conversation became more heated. Several of the younger men stood up to face up to their opposing number, before Dieter Muller intervened. He pulled himself up onto the bench and stood and shouted louder than everyone else so that no-one was in any doubt as to who they should be listening to.
“That’s enough.... That’s enough!! There are two types of people here. Those who need to show their frustration and those who need to spend time on their own, with their own thoughts... If you are the latter; can I suggest you move to the back of this room?”
Muller gestured to the corner away from the main pack. He was a leader of men and to stand up and take charge seemed the most natural thing in the world, even in your last hour of life
“I think you are in the minority, but we will respect your position. It should be a bit quieter over there.”
Seven people moved to the back of the room and Muller then turned his attention to the others. “If it’s ok, with you I will step down now. Can I suggest if you want to say something... that you put your hand up? I will act as chair if that is ok with everyone?”
Muller stepped down and the balding man raised his right hand.
“Thank you... I think we can all agree to behave now. I feel maybe we should be acting in some way here. Look at us. Most of us are still fit and healthy. We can take on a couple of Kryl guards, maybe even kill them and hey, if we die in the process, surely that is a more honourable way to die.”
Several responses came at once and Muller raised his voice once again.
“One at a time please.”
A second man raised his hand and Muller acknowledged him.
“Have you ever been hit by one of those plasma sticks. I was caught by one over a week ago and it still hurts like hell now. We have no weapons. We don’t stand a chance against them.”
The bald man raised his hand again and spoke without delegated authority.
“The plasma sting will not hurt you tomorrow that is for sure... Would you prefer we did nothing?”
Another man stood up and raised his hand, but his reply was drowned out by a sea of voices as once again, Muller was forced to intervene.
“Gentlemen... Please. We do not have long...” Now it was time for him to have his say. “Have you considered what impact our little revolution might have? How many others have revolted briefly before eventually succumbing to their deaths? We know, because we have heard that the Kryl can make this long and painful for us, if they wish. For all we know they may have thrown us into here, hoping that an argument spills over, so that the decision to deal us a long and painful death is an easy one. I don’t know about you guys, but I sure as hell do not want to be dying slowly over the next week.”
Muller sat down and nobody replied. There was muted acceptance that he was correct. To resist now could sentence them all to an even more painful death. Gradually all the protagonists began to make way and sat down. Muller waited until the last man had sat, before he took himself back to his spot next to Philip Dubois, who curiously had stayed quiet during the whole process. Now it was his turn to speak.
“I think we have all made our points and we all now agree that action is futile. I suggest we take what little time we have left for ourselves.”
Thirty-five minutes later, the doors to the next chamber opened and two Kryl guards stepped inside. The doors were now held in an open position and Muller could see what lay ahead. A large rectangular shaped room, with a transparent partition segregating the humans from the slowly filling auditorium. Already over a hundred Kryl had gathered. It seemed that their deaths would fulfil both the feeding and the entertainment for these Kryl. He looked on in disbelief and immediately hated every single one of them.
Now the guards stood to one side and gestured for the humans to enter the chamber. Within thirty seconds all twenty-five humans had moved into the new room, their brief resistance now over. Total acceptance had taken control.
Muller moved right to the end of the chamber and stood transfixed as the now full Kryl auditorium stared back at him. Satisfied that there work was now done, the Kryl guards stepped back inside the waiting room and the door shut.
Several moments passed before anything happened... A mild tingling sensation in the back of Muller’s neck indicated the process may well have started. He looked ahead and could see that the majority of Kryl had their eyes closed; obviously deep in concentration. He looked to his left and saw several of the older humans begin to sway, unsteady on their feet. They would not last long, he thought.
Now there was a dull ache streaming up from the middle of his back to his neck. Something was definitely going on here. He looked across again, as he heard a thump. One of the elderly woman had just fallen to the floor. No-one helped her. They were all concentrating on their own fate. Another thud and then another as two more people collapsed. Jake could feel it in his legs now, a dull ache spreading through his muscles.
The pain in his neck had started to intensify and he found himself wincing as the each new wave of pain hit him. He looked up at the Kryl audience. They remained passive, no noise, just concentration. They were slowly killing him.
Two, three and then four more people collapsed. From the corner of his eye, he could see the first woman to fall, was now sobbing. There was a trickle of blood running from her ear and her eyes were bloodshot. Now, there was screaming... high pitched screaming from man and women alike.
He was definitely in trouble now. He felt weakness crawling at his body. His eyesight was beginning to fail and his mouth was dry, dry as sandpaper. The screaming had intensified now. Most of his fellow humans had fallen to the floor. They were all dying. And yet, his mind felt as lucid as ever; almost as if the failure of his other senses, and his motor neurone functions had freed his brain. Images flashed past of memories long since lost. Was this his life flashing before him, before he died?
Another glance across, only five people now stood standing. Looking down he saw the woman, who was now quite clearly dead, blood oozing from her mouth, nose and ears and a huge crack, exposing her skull at the top of her forehead. The screaming had died down now, replaced by whimpering and sobbing from those who remained conscious enough to notice the pain. Muller needed to hang on. This was not a competition and yet as leader of this motley crew, he wanted to be the last to fall. This last great challenge was all he had left.
He was the last man standing. All twenty-four of his companions had now fallen and now there was silence as he felt a warm liquid run down the side of his neck. And yet he still stood. He would not fall. He would stand forever if only metaphorically. His legs finally gave way and he too fell to the floor and huddled in a foetal position, no longer able to control the pain.
His mind still raged, but his thoughts became softer, more emotional. He thought of his family, his daughter, even his ex-wife. Would they be ok? He was sure they would. By now, they would be moving on with life already. And yet, his final thoughts were not of his family. His mind focussed on blind hatred for the Kryl. He felt everything begin to close in now. The pain had gone, he could no longer move, and paralysis had taken over as his organs began to shut down. He felt his heart beat, slower and slower and then nothing as finally a dark mist began to cloud his mind. This was it. He had nothing left and it was all over.