This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
The boat ride was fast, quiet, and most importantly discreet. Discretion was hard to come by these days, but it was important for the four people attempting to visit one of the most secure facilities in the world to go by unnoticed. They needed to make sure it was kept off the record and a quick boat ride at two in the morning seemed the best way to do just that. “When we arrive,” a security office said over the rain, “the Warden is going to ask you to place your hand on a scanner, one a time. Once you’re inside, you’ll be issued temporary ID badges.”
“Is that all really necessary?” The only woman of the four asked, trying to keep her balance in the rocking boat.
“Can never be too careful these days, ma’am!”
It was a few moments later when the boat docked with the island and the four people, all of them wearing raincoats to cover their suits, stepped off. It was raining hard by the time they reached the facility and the dirt had turned to mud, but two guards were already waiting for them. Within a few moments, they were walking up to the door of the facility. A peep hole opened a moment later and two bright eyes filled it. “Hand on the scanner, one at a time,” the man on the other side of the door yelled as the rain intensified.
The first gentlemen walked forward, being careful not to drop his suitcase in the mud forming around the entrance. He placed his hand on the scanner.
Doctor Gregory Knight. Clearance Granted. Welcome to the New Alcatraz Prison Facility.
The light above the door blinked green and Gregory entered first, clutching his suitcase against his chest. Once the door closed, the second gentlemen stepped forward. He stumbled slightly and crashed into the mud, “Could we have picked a better day?”
“Just get on with it, Lenny!”
He rolled his eyes and got up, wiping his muddy hands over his trench coat and fixing his glasses. He placed his hand on the scanner and again, the light above the door blinked green.
Doctor Leonard Sommers. Clearance Granted. Welcome to the New Alcatraz Prison Facility.
Leonard stepped inside and the third gentlemen stepped up to the scanner. He had no difficulties, being careful to place his foot firmly down before walking. Once again, he placed his hand on the scanner and the door opened.
Commander of the Navy Jacob Gray. Clearance Granted. Welcome to the New Alcatraz Prison Facility.
Jacob entered once the door opened. Then, the last of the four stepped forward, clutching her hat to the top of her head, she placed her free hand on the scanner and waited a moment.
Doctor Lillian Burns. Clearance Granted. Welcome to the New Alcatraz Prison Facility.
The door opened a final time and Lillian stepped through the metal door. It shut behind her with a metal thud and the room grew quiet, away from the roar of the rain. “Damnit Lillian,” Leonard said as he shook his boot, “next time look up the weather.”
Lillian laughed and patted Leonard on the back, “Next time for sure, Lenny.”
Leonard rolled his eyes, “Stop calling me that.”
Lillian nodded as she took off her trench coat and hat, being sure to let her blond hair fall behind her suit. She turned to the Warden, “You must be Warden Rice.”
The Warden nodded, “You can call me Hector, welcome to Alcatraz.”
Hector began to walk forward, passing Lillian and the others as they all hung up their coats on the rack next to the door. Each of them were a plain black suit with different colored ties, a NASA pin sat neatly on their lapel. “So, I take it since you found the man, you’ve been briefed on him.”
“What about my facility?”
“We are not aware of how you run things.”
Hector smiled and threw his arms out, “Wonderful, I can do the tour!” Hector waited until everyone was ready before he started to walk forward, “We’ll grab your ID cards and be on our way.” He led them to another room where a young woman handed four ID cards to the Warden, who then handed them off to each of the four officials. They attached them to their suits, “The doors will automatically scan you for the card, you should be able to get just about everywhere you need to go.”
“I appreciate it.”
Hector nodded, “Of course! We don’t get many visitors these days anyway.” Once everyone was ready, he walked to the nearest door before it shot open and revealed Old Alcatraz to everyone. “New Alcatraz was founded in May of 2149, it re-purposed most of Old Alcatraz and added about thirty more floors underneath its concrete base. The first twelve floors are occupied mostly by Death Row convicts and a few who are in for life, but otherwise it’s empty.”
“Who funded it?”
“Private organization, never gave a name. They fronted the money and the government didn’t let it go to waste,” Hector turned his head, “whoever did give the money knew exactly what the prison was and the blueprints of it. They gave just enough, not a penny more.” Hector stepped up to an elevator after they passed the Mess Hall and he waited until everyone was in to press the number forty. “We have eighty-two prisoners, complemented by one hundred and twelve guards; all of whom have been military for most of their lives.”
“I could tell,” Jacob said, “you don’t see military into Private Contractors much these days.”
Hector nodded, “That’s true, but New Alcatraz is still very much government owned. It may be more of a fairytale than Area 51, but we are hired through the military, not outside of it.”
“How buried is it?”
He almost laughed, “Sorry Commander, classified.”
Jacob leaned back on the elevator and sighed. Leonard on the other hand, spoke up, “If you said only the first twelve floors are occupied, where are we going?”
“We’re going to see your man. Unnamed Prisoner double zero-one.”
“He never gave a name?”
“It was lost in his transition from prison to prison.” Hector turned his head slightly, “You’ll understand why he’s down here when you meet him. He is,” he shrugged, “quite the character.”
The elevator came to a halt a moment later and the door slid open with a hiss. The thirtieth floor was nothing more than a large room with a sleeping area, a study, and a kitchen. Everything down here was encased in a glass square, with a single door and hole to pass items through. “The thirtieth floor was designed specifically for Prisoner double zero-one. We deliver him food weekly, but otherwise, he is alone down here.”
Lillian was the first to walk forward as she looked around the room. She stepped up to the side of the glass and peered inside. The study was large, with an entire library’s worth of books and movies, the kitchen had all the essentials and the bedroom even had an alarm clock. Then she spotted him, Prisoner double zero-one was sitting in front of his desk reading a book. An old book and one Lillian didn’t recognize. It wasn’t long before he noticed them as well, his callous, dark brown eyes stared back at them, as if he had seen so many lifetimes worth of death and destruction. He looked back to his book for a few moments before he turned the page and closed it. The man looked up from the book, took a deep breath, and then stood.
It had been a long time since I had seen anyone from NASA and I could tell instantly that the new people who came to visit me were from that organization. Not just because of the pin that sat on each of their suit lapels, but because of how they acted and how they spoke. Everyone at NASA had a way of doing things and it seemed that in the last two hundred and fifty years, that didn’t change. It was unusual too, to see anyone other than the occasional guard or chef that delivered my food. I talked to the Warden now and then, but otherwise no one was supposed to know I existed. That was the plan at least. They were, as I learned, not only quite the scientists, but quite the detectives. And now, all four of them were offering me a second chance. Or a fiftieth depending if you count my other chances in my life. Yet here they were, asking me to do the impossible.
Five hundred years is a long time for a normal human; but for someone like me, for someone who has lived as long as I have, five hundred years is just another blip on the radar, another adventure, another mission, and another chance at something greater than yourself. But five hundred years, by yourself and completely isolated from the world is an entirely different manner. Five hundred years in isolation is a straight path towards insanity.
“Well,” Gregory said, “What do you think?”
I looked back up at the men and woman in front of me; two Doctors, an Engineer, and a military-man-turned-scientist. What they were offering me was another chance at salvation and a chance to see the world in a different perspective. An entirely different perspective; I may have been alive for almost twenty-five hundred years and I may have seen the rise and fall of countless civilizations, but I had never been to the final frontier. I had never been to space. “It is,” I said, “well, crazy.”
“But you’re interested,” Lillian said. She was the youngest of the four, and I learned she was eager to get started in the world of NASA from the few hours I had been talking to her. She was also the one to figure out who I was and why I was here. If she was alive in the Founding Days of NASA, I am sure she would have done well.
“I am, but there a few things I need to set straight.”
The four remained silent, we had been talking for few hours now, they knew how I acted.
“You will wipe my entire record, let me take on a new name, a new life. A new everything? As long as I agree to go on an,” I searched for the right word, to anyone else it was suicidal, to me, it was just another “expedition to the closest habitable planet. A journey that will take, to your current estimates Doctor, five hundred years?”
They all nodded. “Precisely five hundred years, my estimates are a precise measurement,” Leonard said.
I didn’t like Leonard very much, and from what I was getting, he didn’t like me. Thought I was a useless, naive, unintelligent brute. Guess he was overlooking the fact that one of the hands in the Manhattan Project was attached to the person sitting in front of him; which was one of the bigger reasons as to why I was in jail at the moment. But then again, here these people were, offering me a chance to atone.
“But I’ll be alone?”
“You’ll be able to communicate to Earth via the quantum entanglement device we have. It’s a prototype, but it will work,” he slid another file over towards me. The desk that I used for contemplation in this prison was now filled with files, holopads, and data drives with information on this project. I opened the file, it was the plans to the first ever quantum entanglement device designed by NASA. “It’ll require some upkeep, and we have satellites that will act as fail-safes for communications.”
“Alone, on the ship though?”
“Yes,” Lillian said.
“And when I do reach this planet after five hundred years, what do you expect me to do when I get there?”
“Use the available robotics to set up the new colony; that includes the irrigation and water, cultivation of food, buildings and the like,” Gregory said. “The ship that will take you there will be stocked top to bottom with enough equipment to create a city the size of London on the new planet.”
I leaned back in the chair, dropping the file about the quantum entanglement device on the table. I sat in the chair for a few moments, staring at Lillian mostly. She was a smart young woman and definitely had the courage enough to do something as crazy as this. She reminded me of my wife, a person I had not seen, or thought of, for a long time. Then I thought about Rome, such a long time ago. If only the founders of Rome could see the world they have cultivated. If only they could see the people that came from them. If only my people, my Romans, could still live.
Then in that moment it dawned on me, Rome could still live. As long as I lived, Rome had a chance. As long as I drew breath, Rome survived in me. And now, the same government that locked me away was giving me the chance to build a new Rome. They were giving me a chance, although they would not live to see it, to build a new empire. And if five hundred years of isolation was the cost of my New Rome, then I would do it. I would do it for my people.
“I’ll do it.”
They seemed to jump at my acceptance of their plan, and all of them, except for Jacob, had a smile across their face.
“That is excellent news! Excellent!” Gregory exclaimed as he grabbed his holopad off the table.
“You’re doing a great thing,” Leonard added, “for mankind.”
I simply nodded, silent as ever as I stared back at Jacob. Like the others, we had met just today, but I knew Jacob’s type. For the most part, he was either the one calling all the shots, or the one reporting to the person who did. “I do have a question.”
They all stopped and looked up at me.
“What you are offering me,” I said, “is great, a second chance. I am wholly aware of the situation, and I am also aware that I am your only choice given the circumstances. As the only person here who has lived longer than two thousand years, I know the consequences of this. But I need to know something.”
“You’ll learn more about the project in time,” Lillian said.
“It is not about the project,” I shook my head. “No, this question is for all of you.” I looked up at them, staring at Lillian again, “Five hundred years. When I complete this mission, you do realize that all of you will be dead? You will not live to see the completion of this project.” I paused for a moment, “Do you realize that?”
The four were silent for a moment. I felt as if each of them were contemplating the words I had just said, but each of them turned to Lillian. She kept her eyes focused on me and I knew there was something about her that screamed desire; for anything greater than herself. “We do,” she said, “And we realized that the moment I approached them with the plan. But this is bigger than us. All of us.”
I nodded. It was all I wanted to hear. Yes, they knew the repercussions of their actions. They knew what was at stake. And so did I. I would found a new city on a new planet, with an Empire to rule. I would be able to create a Rome that my ancestors would be proud of. And yes, I would be in isolation for five hundred years, but in that, I would have a home, a real home, once again. I would have New Rome, a new Roman Empire. And all of that was just five hundred years away.
“I do have a question for you,” she said.
“What do we call you?”
I thought about the question for a few moments. To these people I was more of a legend than anything and I realized that I would be a legend to the people of the world in a few years. I wanted a name that would be remembered, a name that they could call out to and think, “That is my leader.” In my mind, only one thing came to mind when I thought about leaders, only one nation and one ideal; Rome, and then only one word came to me, a word I had not heard uttered in a long time, “Dux,” I said. “I think it fits.”
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Remini UDA: I would like to firstly admit I do not like the romance genre, it's not something I tend to read and as such I did not complete the whole story and only made it to chapter 15. Whether that affects this review is for you to consider.The Unknown Variant is a very well written book, as a reader I wa...
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jodie456: I started reading this book because of the great cover. I found out you CAN judge a book by it's cover!This wonderful story is fresh, exciting, and intense. The story was even better than the great cover! Matthew Thrush's characters are so real, you will find yourself missing them when you are fi...
ElusiveBadwolf: I loved this book so much! It's a shame that i already came to the end of this. I really enjoyed the story, and i liked it how everything became in the end. It was a great book and i can say that you are a great writer too. Keep it that way and i think you can make it in the writing business!
Jasmine Chow: As I read this story, I was reminded some what of Terry Pratchett, especially some descriptions of politics and economics. The sci-fic setting is quite intriguing. Writing style is quite lovely and grew on me slowly. I was also slightly reminded of Mark Twain, especially his book A Connecticut Ya...
Pablo Rojas: Love the story, at the end it is a western story, simple, yet giving hints and pieces of the situation that is happening all over ravencroft´s universe. easy to read and always keeping with the main stream story I want to keep reading about, Olafson´s adventures.
ericaporamoralcine: La trama es muy interesante y original y eso ya dice muchísimo cuando todos tratan de triunfar con ideas ya trilladas.No puedo opinar en detalle sobre la gramática, porque a pesar de entender el inglés a la perfección, la falta de uso en cuanto a lectura y diálogo hacen que me maneje bastante mal...
thePeeJ: aced it boiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii...
PaulSenkel: If you like Arthur C. Clarke's Odyssey, especially The Final Odyssey, then you will probably also enjoy this book. I definitely did.It does, however, address a more adolescent public than the above-mentioned book.I enjoyed the story and finished it in a few days. The overall situation on earth an...
Mark-Mikkel: Got directed here by the author herself. Started reading it, schoolday turned into a day of reading. I really like the apocaliptic world she has created. There are some oddities in the writing tho, but I guess they are because she did have to do it for NaNo (which she wrecked, good job!). In the ...
snowview03: This is the first book I have read on this app and I loved it! When I read the title I thought about the hunger games, but this novel is so much more. Some book have a comparison between other books that fallow like premises so i will do my own: Arena has the compellingly emotional stresses and t...