Mari Conu twiddled his thumbs as he sat quietly behind his desk. His mind was in the densest haze he had ever experienced before. He stared almost moronically at the giant X etched into the ceiling above the room. The thing was painted in a metallic alloy that seemed to sparkle and twinkle in the brightness of the office. Mari blinked his blood-shot eyes slowly and laughed out loud. He absolutely loved staring at the giant letter on the roof when he was high and wasted. He could do it for hours and hours without getting bored. It was his favorite thing to do to pass the time. As a matter-of-fact, it was his only thing to do to pass time, and he loved every second of it.
The space academy hardly ever had any bloodthirsty criminals to send down to the extermination Deck. It was common for years to pass by without anyone coming in or out of the department. Everything was quiet, boring, and mundane in his life. So when Mari was free for his lunch break, he would always take a hit of the death gas that they gave to the convicts. He was always careful not to take too much—that would most definitely kill him. Too much was a bad thing, but too little was amazingly great. After taking little increments of the special gas, Mari would stare euphorically into space as the clock ticked by. Seconds would turn into minutes; minutes would turn into hours; hours would turn into days; and so on and so forth. Sometimes he would spend a whole week at his desk dreaming about everything, and nothing.
It was so much fun to be high! You didn’t have a care in the world. Everything seemed to go right and, on top of that, you would get to experience life in a different way. It was like having a third eye opened to your body.
Mari shuddered with disgust as he reflected back to the time when he used to be sober. He remembered how dreadful it was. He hated having control of his senses. He hated how boring it was to see the world through staid and somber eyes. He wanted things to dance. He wanted things to wave and bend… he wanted the world to turn his way when he wanted it, and how he wanted it.
This is my candy land, thought Mari with a slanted smile. He looked down at his wrist watch and checked the time. It read some strange number that he couldn’t under-stand. He laughed out loud at his inability to read the clock face. He laughed long and hard for a few seconds… then he coughed violently for a minute… then he cried for a whole hour… or so it seemed.
Mari could feel the death gas wearing off slowly now. He was coming back to the cruel world like an astronaut entering the blazing atmosphere of some foreign planet. The approaching sobriety had to be stopped before it got any worse… And it had to be stop-ped now!
“I don’t need to know the time to know that it’s time for another hit of the death gas!” barked Mari aloud to the quiet room. He reached over and grabbed the green gas canister off his desk. He put the short nozzle to his green lips and slowly turned the handle on. Death gas started spraying into his mouth and down his lungs. His body began to tingle as the hemoglobin in his blood plasma filled with the oxygen blockers. His eyes dilated and became more distant. His mind began to float softly on a sea of serenity and peace. He had reached his nirvana again… Yes!
Mari turned off the gas tank and dropped it on the floor. It made a dull thud as it hit the ground at the base of his chair. The steel cylinder rolled under the metal desk and clanked against one of the legs.
“WOW!” said Mari abruptly, “that’s some powerful stuff!” He propped his legs up on the desk and let out a contented sigh. He reclined his office chair back as far as it would go. He reached out for the ceiling where the giant X was resting. He was like a mindless zombie now. His fingers and hands tried desperately to grab the electrons that shimmered above him like the stars in the heavens. It was beautiful… it was amazing to behold… and it was his, all his….
Mari’s eyes were half closed and his breathing was very shallow. “Man, life is so beautiful. I love life. Whatever it is that makes us tick, I love it!” He shifted his gaze to his pencil holder resting on the table. “I love you, pencil holder. Please don’t be mad at me any more! I said I was sorry!”
The tin cup seemed to wave its happy response back. “It’s almost time, Mari,” said the pencil holder softly. “Are you ready to fulfill your duty? Don’t chicken out like last time. You have to do this!”
Mari raised his eyebrows in surprise. The pencil holder had never spoken to him before; this was a new development. Usually it was the metal incinerator across the room or the giant X mounted in the ceiling that kept him company. Those fixtures were the chatter boxes of the extermination office—not the pencil holder. This was all new to Mari, and he wanted in on the action!
“What did you say?” asked Mari as he took his legs off the desk and leaned in closer. “I didn’t hear you too well. Say again!”
“Of course you didn’t hear me, Mari. What I said was that it’s almost time to begin the execution of the prisoner. You know; the one that is in holding cell 12 just down the hall over there. She has to die today!”
Mari looked puzzled for a minute. He took his eyes off the tin cup resting on his desk and looked down the long hallway to his left. He could see the gas chamber doors as they extended to what seemed like forever. Odds were on one side and evens on the other. It was a weird pattern but it worked.
“The only prisoner we have, ‘Pencil Holder’, is Jue Kaki, and she’s not supposed to be executed until a month from now. I have my orders from the Dean. She can’t die until then,” said Mari firmly. He would stick to his guns in this conversation. He would not be manipulated. He didn’t want to kill anybody before it was time. Doing that would be cruel and mean… and that was most definitely not in his nature, to be cruel and mean like that. Mari wouldn’t hurt a space flea.
“But she went crazy and murdered her colleagues on Y Lab… she needs to die, Mari. It would be a kind service to the academy if you killed her now. Someone who does that kind of stuff has to die! Wouldn’t you agree with me Mari?” asked the pencil holder rigidly. “You would be a hero if you gassed her now!”
Mari shook his head awkwardly at this reasoning. He didn’t know whether to agree or disagree. “I am not sure what you’re getting at, Pencil Holder. I don’t want to kill anybody. If I kill I’ll be just the same as her. I don’t want to kill like her; she kills for the fun of it. I don’t want to kill for the fun of it… I am not crazy… I am not crazy like the others that came before me!” Mari gripped his mouth. He promised himself he would never bring up the others and there failures. He promised!
“You make a good point, Mari. You aren’t crazy like them!” said the pencil holder happily. There was an edge in his metallic voice as he continued. “If it means anything to you, I don’t think you’re a murderer either. I think you’re doing what you have to do because it’s necessary for the academy. Death is a part of the natural function of the universe and we are the dispensers of the gas; the sweet, lovable, mind numbing gas. We are the judges who judge. We say who lives and who dies. Don’t you want to fulfill your duty as a judge?”
Mari held a finger to his mouth as if he were trying to stop himself from speaking at that moment. He thought for a bit about the question. The cup had raised a good point; he was the judge of this lab, and he did want to fulfill his duty.
“Yes, I want to fulfill my duty!” yelled Mari.
“Then kill the prisoner! Kill her! Kill her! Take charge and gas every ounce of life out of her! Gas her dead!! Gas her till she is lifeless on the ground!”
“Is that okay… should I?” Mari paused. His was shaking a little with excitement. His knees where moving up and down like two super powered bouncy balls, “But what about the Dean’s orders? He would get on us for it all… he would… ah, punish us! I don’t want to be punished.”
The cup laughed out loud. Mari always seemed to use this excuse. “No he wouldn’t. He didn’t punish us the last seven times we did. He didn’t even care we did it. No one cares about these worthless people that come to Deck -X-. They are cancers to our society. And, boy, is it fun to watch them squirm and die. Boy is it fun… fun… fun… Wouldn’t you agree, Mari?”
Mari smiled devilishly and nodded his head with enthusiasm. He did like watching their reactions to the gas. “Yes, it is fun to gas them, Pencil Holder.” He paused suddenly and changed his response. He didn’t want to sound like he would enjoy killing someone. That would be crazy. He continued and gave a better response, “I mean, I guess it would be all right!”
“Do you know what you need to do now, Mari?” asked the pencil holder rhetorically. The thing was still waving back and forth.
Mari shook his head yes.
“Good, now let’s go spray the gas in her chamber. Let’s get rid of her, but most of all, let’s have fun doing it… because isn’t that what this is all about… fun? We need to occupy ourselves with good wholesome… fun!”
Mari laughed hysterically to himself as if seeing some invisible joke behind the pencil holder’s words. He stood up from the desk and headed down the long hallway to Jue Kaki’s lonely cell. His mind was filled with dark thoughts as he slowly passed by the chamber doors in the hall. He muttered softly to the cold air around him until he got to room 12. He peered through the circular window mounted in the steel door. The prisoner was sitting at the far end of the chamber on a steel cot. She was staring at the ground and rocking back and forth. Occasionally she would run her fingers through her long green hair and shift her weight to get more comfortable.
She looked cold and alone!
Mari could see her lips moving up and down. It looked as if she were whispering to an imaginary person on the other side of the room—only there was no one in there. Mari lifted up a hand and tapped lightly on the window to get her attention. Startled, Jue looked up and stared at the window. Tears were now coming down her slender face as she made eye contact with Mari. She looked profoundly sad.
“There has been a change in plans. It looks like today is going to be the day of your extermination, Miss Kaki. I am so very sorry,” Mari yelled through the thick glass. “It was nice having you here with us.”
Jue stood up and ran over to the chamber door. She pressed her face up against the window and yelled, “Don’t do this Mari. I am innocent. I didn’t kill my fellow scientists on -Y- Deck, the Dean did! He killed them because of what I had discovered. He didn’t want anyone else to know. You can’t do this!”
Mari smiled at her words. “What did you discover, Jue? What was it the Dean didn’t want us to know about?”
Jue ignored the sarcasm in his voice. She was determined to reach someone before she died. “It’s about the GOG gene, Mari! I was the one doing the research on it. I know its origin now. I know why it can’t be made or destroyed in our cloning labs… the humans were correct… the humans are correct! We are in danger of The Maker’s wrath! We have to stop… before the bad thing happens.”
“Before what bad thing happens?” asked Mari sympathetically. He could tell the woman was completely off her rocker, and he liked goading her on.
“The Maker is going to replace us with a new species if we don’t stop killing the humans! We will no longer be the intergalactic power. We will die off quickly and the only thing left will be the hybrids… the Human hybrids. We’re doomed, Mari. If we don’t change, we’re doomed!”
“And who are these human hybrids, Jue, and how do you know so much about them? Are they inside your head? Are you a human?” asked Mari slyly. He was getting a little bored with the conversation. Jue was apparently one of those crazy persons who believed in human mythology and theology. There was no such thing as a Maker or a God in the universe. That crap was all made up!
“If we don’t change, if we don’t stop killing the humans, they will be the new intergalactic power, Mari! The Maker plans to change them, he plans to evolve them into something better than us.”
Mari laughed at this. “Who told you about this crazy Maker and the humans evolving, Jue?”
Jue looked around her cell quickly for any eyes that could be watching. Then she looked back over to the window. Her features looked scared and helpless. “The Father of Creation told me… he told me in my research and in my mind. I could feel his words in my skull like a soft breeze and a burning fire… the Tenatians are not in control of their own destiny any more, Mari. As a matter-of-fact, we are quickly loosing control of it. We are old news!”
“Jue Kaki, you are insane. I can see why you killed your colleagues. You couldn’t find a real answer for the GOG gene so you went insane from the research. The Dean was right to put you in here! There is no universal father of creation, that’s all human myth. The only father of creation is ‘EVALUTION’. Our labs cleared that up a long time ago. We are the god’s of space. We are the judges that judge, and nothing can dethrone us. We are unstoppable!”
Jue stepped away from the glass and started laughing mockingly at his foolish comments. Her soft voice started out with a low chuckle, and then gradually got bigger and louder until it filled the whole room. Pretty soon, she was yelling her ha, ha, ha’s at the cell walls… she looked crazy.
Mari was about to protest her behavior when she stopped suddenly and stared at the window. Her eyes seemed to twinkle as she pointed at him. “You think I am crazy, don’t you, Mari? You think I am making the whole thing up? Well, I have news for you… I am just as sane as the next guy. I have seen what is coming and you can’t stop it from happening, no one can now. Our race will be replaced with the human hybrids from Earth. They will be faster than us. They will be smarter than us… and they will be the future of the universe….” She drifted off.
Mari felt a chill run down his spine as she said these haunting words. The former scientist had gone completely mad. He reached over and set his hand on the red gassing button right next to the door.
“Well, Jue, it looks like this is the end for you.”
She looked back over at him and smiled calmly. “No, Mari, this is the end for us. The only thing the Tenatian race will inherit is the darkening void, which is known as the mythological hell to the humans. That is what awaits us if we don’t change. It awaits you and it awaits me. We have punished nature, now she will punish us!”
With that said, Mari pressed the red button firmly against the wall. Death gas began to fill the gassing chamber from the vents overhead. Jue smiled as she saw it rapidly pouring into the room. She stuck her hands out as if to catch the fluffy white gas with her palms. Mari watched with utter amazement as the crazy lady twirled in circles for a few minutes. She started singing an old nursery song that he didn’t recognize at all. The melody sounded creepy and humanish. After a while she stopped singing and collapsed on the ground. Her eyes closed as she faded into oblivion.
Mari hit the ‘clear cell’ button to the left of the door and watched as the gas was sucked out of the room. For a few seconds he stared at Jue’s lifeless body; and then he opened the hatch. He walked over and stood by the still corpse. His breathing became heavier as he thought about what she had told him. The words to her creepy song kept replaying over and over in his mind.
Could it be true, he thought. Could that really be the new future of the human race? It sounded so absurd, and yet there was something about it that bothered him on the inside; something that had gotten under his skin during the conversation. What had it been? What was different about this gassing then all the rest? He stood in silence for a bit. Then the answer hit him like a ton of bricks, Jue hadn’t pled for her life like all the others had. She didn’t claw at the window. She didn’t yell for help. She didn’t ask to see her loved ones before the execution. She didn’t even look surprised that he had moved the date of her execution up. It was all very strange. There had been no fun in it at all… and that is what he was after, wasn’t it… the fun?
Mari bent over the body and felt for a pulse. “Yep, she’s dead….” His words faded slightly into the cool air.
He stood up and walked out of the room. His mind was still floating from the death gas he had taken back in the office. He walked back down the long hallway to his desk. He didn’t even close the door to Jue’s cell… he didn’t even take her body to the incinerator like protocol said to do. He did nothing. His brain couldn’t stop thinking about what had happened back in the cell. Who was the “maker” she was talking about? What was a human hybrid anyway? Questions after question stabbed at his fragile little mind like a thousand pins.
Mari sat back down at his desk and stared off into space for a bit. His stomach churned with disgust as he shifted his gaze to the pencil holder resting on the table. Why do I feel this way, thought Mari. She was crazy. She killed people. She killed her fellow scientist. So why do I feel sick inside?
“She deserved what she got!” yelled Mari, trying to defy the silent building around his fractured mind. “I am not the bad guy here! She was the bad guy, and I did what needed to be done.” He got quiet again as he reflected on his own words. He didn’t believe himself and it scared him even more.
Maybe she was innocent, thought Mari, and I killed her. He turned to the pencil holder. “This is your fault! You’re the reason I feel this way. You’re the reason she is dead! This is your fault! You tricked me!”
The pencil holder was silent, completely silent.
“Don’t get all quiet with me; I know you can talk! Talk to me!”
There was nothing but silence
Mari’s head was spinning with frustration now. He reached over and grabbed the pencil holder. He shook it violently in his hand. “Talk to me! Tell me why I feel this way. Tell me why I always feel this when I kill people.” Tears started streaming down his face as he recalled all the gassings he had ever done in his life. He let out a groan as he stood up and walked over to the incinerator. He opened up the big steel door and set the pencil holder on the burners.
“I am through with this lifestyle, no more will I kill!” he exclaimed as he closed the door and pushed the button on the wall. The incinerator lit up to a million degrees Kelvin in just a few seconds. There was a loud ding heard when it was done obliterating the pencil holder. Mari opened up the steel door and peered inside. The oven was completely empty. The thing had done its job well.
“Good riddance, Pencil Holder!” yelled Mari as he slammed the incinerator door. He was about to head back to his desk and take another hit of the death gas when the elevator doors opened. Surprised, Mari turned and watched as many space officers trotted loudly into the office. They were wearing black uniforms and holding two prisoners in their arms. One was a beautiful girl and the other was an unconscious man. He looked to be in very bad shape. Blood was dripping from his wounds.
One of the officers stepped forward, “Are you Professor Conu?”
Mari nodded his head slightly. “Yes, I am Mr. Conu. What is going on here? Why are you bringing me two youths?”
“We are bringing you these two youths for extermination!”
“What are their names?” asked Mari with incredulity.
The officer looked behind him at the detainees and then back over to Mari. “The girls is named Evila Gonthina, and the man is named Tone’i… uh… umm…” he checked his instruction papers quick. “Umm… it’s just Tone’i, it seems; there is no last name with this man.”
Mari looked over to the prisoners. He was still amazed at how young they looked. He had never really had people so young before in his office. All the blood thirsty crim-inals were usually in there late forty millions. That is usually when the mind stated to go for most Tenatians. But this was different; these kids were healthy and fresh. They were practically students at the academy. “What is their crime? What have they done?”
The lead officer shook his head and looked down at the ground. Mari could tell he was trying to keep himself from tearing up. He cleared his throat, “They are here for the murder of our head Detective, Bri Cuffers. They killed him in the Dean’s office a while ago. They’re here for extermination!”
“WOW, you don’t say, Bri Cuffers is dead? I thought that old windbag would live to see a billion. He was a good man. What a shame. How tragic, how horrible,” said Mari with shock and amazement. “those are some wild charges. How did you manage to catch them without injury?”
The officer looked up. “We didn’t catch them! The Dean had everything under control when we got to his office. We just took them away!”
“I must say, I have heard a lot of things in my day, but that takes the whole wormy bunt cake. These kids must be something else… I mean it’s really hard to break into the Dean’s office and do anything. It’s practically impossible.” His mind trailed off into an avenue of bizarre thought. He thought about how he would break into the Dean’s office and do his dirty work. It seemed impossible.
“Do you have any cells open at this time, or don’t you?” asked the officer insistently. He didn’t want to talk about the matter any further. Justice had to be served!
Mari came out of his daydream and looked over to the officer. He could hear the urgency in his voice and nodded his head. “Yes, we do. We always have cells open for murdering convicts. We hardly ever get anyone down here on Deck -X-. It’s always quiet and boring. There was this one time when I—”
The officer interrupted him. “We are not here to chat, Professor. We are here to hand these criminals into your care. Now show us where the holding cells are. I want to get rid of them.”
Mari smiled; the officer was being so persistent. “Okay, okay, you’re the boss!” He turned and headed for the hallway. When he got to the first holding cell he opened the door. The space officers walked into the gassing chamber and put the two prisoners in-side. One of the officers rested Tony on the steel cot. When everything was set up, they took off the pacifying bands and quickly stepped back. They blocked the door just in case the prisoners tried to make an escape.
Evila could feel her senses slowly kick back into gear as the bands came off her slender wrists. She could move her arms and legs freely now. She was no longer any-one’s puppet. Evila looked up at all the officers standing in the room. Her eyes looked frantically back and forth between them. “I have done nothing wrong! I didn’t kill the detective, you have to believe me! I am innocent!”
The officers ignored her as they began to retreat out of the room. One of the officers stayed behind. “We don’t want anymore trouble from you, miss! Just stay where you are and don’t move a muscle!” He gripped the steel door to the cell. Everyone was now safely out of the room. Evila couldn’t believe what was going on. Everyone was buying into Dean Redder’s lies. It was crazy.
“We are innocent; you can prove it with a Ewyu machine! I’ll take the test right now. I’ll show you. You can’t do this to us with out a trial!” Evila took a step forward and held out her hands.
The space officer rested his hand on his stunner just in case Evila tried something. It wasn’t unusual for a convict to go crazy right before the execution. “I don’t need a Ewyu machine and a trial to know the both of you are liars and murderers. You will be gassed and that’s final.”
“I am not a liar… the Dean is!” She yelled with frustration.
The officer slammed the chamber door and locked it tightly. He looked over to Mari. “When can you begin the extermination process? I don’t want these jerks living any longer than they need to.”
Mari shrugged his shoulders. “I need to rig up the death gas and clean up cell 12, but after that I can get rid of them for you. Will that work?”
“How long will all of that take?” demanded the officer.
“Hum… well, it doesn’t really take that long. Maybe about thirty minutes or so… it depends. I need to know the weight of both the girl and the guy. I wouldn’t want any death gas to go to waste. It’s very expensive stuff.”
The officers in the hall looked at him suspiciously. They knew that some extermination professors were notorious for taking hits of the gas themselves. They knew how crazy it would make a person. It was a very serious crime, but in order to prosecute someone for doing it they had to catch them in the act of it. It was a complicated procedure and the officers weren’t in the mood.
The head officer finally spoke up. “Okay, do what you need to do and then report back to me when it’s all done. I don’t want them living any longer than they have to. Their crime is horrible. It’s disgusting to think anyone would do such a thing. It’s just wrong….” His voice trailed off and his thoughts turned grim and dark.
Mari spoke up. “Okay, I’ll give you a ring when it’s all done.”
The head officer shook his head and then walked to the elevator. The rest of the officers followed him. In seconds Deck -X- was quiet again.