Earth Bound – Chapter VI

Dark Friday

Dr. Benito Stelfast’s personal serviton, Rodney, escorts Sergeant Viernes into Benito’s residential library. Introspectively, the sergeant wanders around the room, musing to himself as he meanders away from a bookshelf of impressive leather-bound books and casually approaches a portrait of a beautiful woman with piercing brown eyes; bright, chestnut brown hair, long and wavy; a regal woman possessing celestial puissance and the smile of a renaissance goddess.

The library is a large, nearly square room containing brooding bookcases that completely cover three of the walls, twelve-foot high; the fourth wall, opposite the entrance, bears a high-vaulted, multi-latticed window behind a gothic desk facing the door. The sergeant has never ventured this far into the room before, but he’s always wanted to see the view from the window behind the stately desk. He feels uneasy as he walks toward the tall, high-arched window but doesn’t really know why. He walks past the desk, and the beautiful panoramic view of a serpentine river-cutting valley jumps onto the crystalline pane that spreads into a further-widening vista as he gets closer and finally stares into Eden.

After an eternity of mind-expanding silence, Viernes turns and looks back upon the desk, which is immaculately clean, only a few items on it including a monitor that contains a list of names. As Viernes looks more closely, he notices that one of the the names is Francine Eustice.

That’s odd,” he thinks aloud. “That’s the name of one of the senators who was killed by malfunctioning robots.”

He bends closer toward the screen and reads, “Henry Clayton, Jessica Alvarez, Adam Shepherdson…”

It hits him like a club-thrust to the scrotum, making his mouth viscously thick with acrid acidity. Here is a list of everyone who has been killed by the malfunctioning security robots. Beside each name is a comment: “Almost won him over”; “Shame she couldn’t see things my way”; “Too bad… a good citizen,” etc. Beside the name Adam Shepherdson is the comment: “My best friend but expendable. I will surely miss him.”

He looks up and notices Dr. Benito’s gaze, and he realizes that he will die very soon. A dream from his distant past flashes the immediacy of his ensuing terrestrial departure, the unequivocal acceptance of irrevocable circumstance, a hitherto forgotten warmly macabre image from his youth when his eager soul was more malleable, more impressionable, more tolerant of the human condition, more apt to believe in deified thaumaturgy exclusive to Edenic citizenry, the morphing of Autumn into Winter, the Phoenix’ rising from ashes, nebulous space debris clashing to quicken celestial birth:

Standing along an endless shore an insignificant human speck a grain of sand observes in the offing a barely noticeable surge of energy initially felt more than seen but powerful like a Charlie Parker solo quickly developing until it becomes a solid wall of emerald water rising like a mountainous range looming across the horizon then directly overhead covering the sky redoubtable aggression silently screaming escape is laughable eyes wide open and instantly ready to discover the ultimate metamorphosis from a terrestrial citizen to whatever comes next.

My apologies, Sergeant. I’m afraid that you’ll be the next victim of our malfunctioning robots. Thought I was going to put them away for a while.”

Viernes stares, blankly resolved to his Fate but finally says, “You killed your best friend?”

I had to throw off any suspicion that I might be the cause of the unfortunate series of accidents.”

But…”

Yes, Adam was on my side. I had to dispel any doubts of my integrity. You see, the smallest diversion…”

…Would shatter your dreams of becoming sole leader of our planet.”

Benito smiles, “You would’ve made a good ally. But don’t worry, I’ll see to it that your wife and children are provided for.”

You’ll get caught. Bad guys never win.”

Oh, but Sergeant, I already have. I won. I’m the only one who can. It has all been arranged.”

On the way to the senate chambers meeting, Benito hears over the radio, “Another death attributed to malfunctioning robots. Details… ”

Boy, the news sure gets out quickly,” thinks Benito as he smiles in the mirror.

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