Quincy Sturgess—dead. My family—gone. Humanity is without intellect. What else must I suffer to atone for my careless comment? But I can’t give up. Quincy died for this.
Journal Entry from Gene “the Ancient,” dated four years after the Genetic Apocalypse.
July 12th, 2246
President Akram of the Malkum marched down the hallway, traveling with the vitality of a much younger man. People would guess him to be half his age. Or less, for the man was 243 years old. Frozen in time. An immortal among mortals.
He grazed the concrete walls with his fingertips. The florescent lights flickered and buzzed, and flickered and buzzed, like a firefly. Spencer Burton sat in a chair in front of a door, munching on potato chips. Akram cleared his throat.
Spencer flinched, nearly spilling his bag of chips. Akram tightened his fist. After centuries, he grew tired of people like Spencer—men who coasted, waited, reacted. Two centuries ago, while nations warred, Akram acted. Before nuclear winter consumed the world, he releasing the virus that crippled human intellect. Except for the Malkum, everyone was stupid.
The world was quiet now. He had saved humanity.
Spencer stood with a grunt. “Sir.”
Akram nodded toward the door. “Custodial closet?”
“I assume you didn’t summon me to inspect maintenance records.”
Spencer waddled into the room. Akram followed, brushing aside cobwebs.
“Sorry about the dust.” Spencer hacked. “This room probably hasn’t been touched for centuries.”
Akram side-stepping a toppled shelf, empty cleaning bottles, and a desiccated mop. The stale air smelled of molding carpet and insect carcasses, garnished with a dash of mouse crap.
“I hope this has a point.”
“You’ll want to see this, sir.” Spencer pointed.
“It’s what’s behind it that’s interesting.”
Spencer fumbled with the gridded cover before dropping it with a clank. “Sorry,” he muttered under his breath. Wiping his face with his shoulder, he shone a flashlight down a dirt tunnel.
Akram crouched, and cocked his head. The light disappeared into darkness.
“It’s about 100 yards long. It leads to a room with computers, electrical cords, blueprints,” Spencer wheezed, “journal entries. But the strangest thing was the newspaper clippings. These clippings—they’re centuries old.”
Akram raised an eyebrow.
“And…” Spencer grabbed a spiral-bound notebook. The wires were bent, and the cover hung weakly from from the binding. The faded ink bled into the yellowed pages. Spencer thumbed through the book and pointed to text.
April 18th, 2042. The rebellion begins.
Akram blinked. “What the…?”
Spencer rubbed the back of his neck. “See…there was this man. A sergeant in our army. But he was really…um, a defector, you might say. He said he belonged to a covert rebellion, so we started looking. A-and we found this.”
“And why haven’t I heard about this before?”
“The circumstances under which he gained the intel…um, well. It’s best you talk to him yourself.”
Akram shook his head. “No. It can’t be.” He’d worked too hard to see the world fall to ruins again. Another rebellion meant more war, and more war meant death.
Unbidden, he remembered those he’d chosen to forget. Over centuries, the sting of their deaths hadn’t diminished—his cousin, his neighbor, half his classmates.
Ancient friends and family members who had died in the war—killed by weapons developed using his research.
War wouldn’t come again.
But if there was a rebellion…
His mobile rang. Akram looked at his watch. 8:05. Dammit.
“Hello?” he said.
“Mr. President, it’s your secretary. I’m calling to remind you—”
“Yes, I know.” Akram rubbed his eyes. “Cancel my meeting with the council. Apologize for my absence.”
His secretary paused. “Uh…sir?”
“Something urgent has come up.” Akram hung up. There’d be hell to pay later. His relationship with the council was already precarious. But this was more important than petty politics.
Akram stood. “How long have you known about this?”
“Why haven’t I heard anything before?”
“We…” Spencer rubbed the back of his neck. “We wanted to be sure.”
Akram’s eye twitched. Spencer shifted his weight, resembling an elephant side-stepping a rodent.
“Where is this rebellion?” Akram asked.
“The rebel…well, um…he doesn’t know.”
“I want to talk to this defector.” Akram charged toward the hallway. “Where is he?”
Spencer trailed behind. “H-he’s been detained. At level one, sir.”
“I want to see him. Now.”
“In the mean time, search the tunnel for anything that will help us find this rebel group. Do a background check on everyone who worked here 200 years ago. Search security personnel, scientists, janitors, everything. And double the number of men searching for this rebel group.”
“Um sir, I believe we’ve exhausted recruits from Fahrquan.”
“Then recruit outside Fahrquan.” Akram stopped walking, bending toward Spencer. “I want a hundred choppers in the sky in one hour.”
Akram turned and marched down the hallway.
Akram stopped and lifted his head without turning to face him.
“Sir, did you want us to destroy the tunnel?”
“No. Let them think their secret is safe.”