This story is by Mike Boze and was part of our 2016 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the Winter Writing Contest stories here.
If the walls had ears, they would have heard the litany of complaints reach its crescendo as the colonel exited the stairwell.
“Menial tasks, going down to the science research and development level,” the colonel proclaimed just above a whisper, “Are better suited for subordinates.”
This time, he had strict orders to go personally.
His was a family with a long history of military service, the real world, and an amplified hatred for science, the realm of dark, forbidden, and often failed attempts to manipulate the laws of nature.
His was a life spent in a military career with a human work ethic, even though his career was helped by an unnatural intuition to know when and where to be positioned for advancement.
Science, on the other hand, had driven the human race to near extinction during the war between mechanized, barely-human, soldiers and humanity’s use of the ‘Dark Ones.’
“The question needing to be addressed is why would the empire attack another when there is so much land uninhabited?”
The colonel paused to pull a kerchief to cover his mouth before restarting his litany.
“All a military force is for, all anyone needs one for, is to beat into submission any malcontent that doesn’t toe the line, the occasional pickpocket or two.”
He paused as the lights flickered. They seemed to get dimmer as he stared at the ceiling. Watching the lights for a second, he muttered, “This has to be what hell is like.”
The colonel looked down as an orderly walked towards him.
“What is it that the Master desires?” the orderly asked.
“It has been weeks since any word of new developments.”
The colonel pushed his glove to his nose. Even with the glove covering the kerchief, the smell was enough to make someone sick.
The orderly grabbed the colonel’s elbow to guide him and said, “Well, I have heard that it took a god six days to create the earth and we’re far from being gods.”
The colonel yanked his elbow free, turned, and cautioned, “Be mindful of your words. Even walls as far down as these have ears.”
As he spoke he nearly slipped from the muck covering the floor.
“What kind of filth am I walking in? I just had these boots cleaned.”
The orderly could hear the contempt and smiled at the thought of the colonel’s boots being ruined.
“As the wise sages say, you have to break eggs to make an omelet.”
“Evidently my words of caution are being ignored. I hope to talk to your superior soon enough.”
“That I can guarantee,” replied the orderly.
“Damn, this muck,” he shouted, “I will see that you have this cleaned up the next time I am down here. I have some position of authority, you know . . .”
His words were cut off from the moan coming from a door to his right.
“What the hell?”
Leaning closer to the door, he almost whispered: “Who’s in there?”
The orderly smiled and replied, “You break eggs to make omelets. When the egg is spoiled the omelet is bad.”
The colonel slammed his fist into the orderly’s back.
“I will have you beaten for your insolence.”
“Yes sir, I imagine you will.”
The colonel threw his hand back to strike a second time but paused when the door to the left opened. The colonel immediately gagged, turned, and vomited on the floor. The orderly took hold of the colonel’s arm, leaned over, and whispered, “Lose your arrogance once you enter the room. You strike the doctor and he’ll remove your arm and replace it with a mop and you’ll be cleaning up these halls until you die.”
The colonel straightened up, trying to display as much pomp as he could muster, and began to use his glove to wipe his mouth. He glared at the orderly, contempt, and hatred could have dripped from his mouth as he prepared to unleash yet another verbal assault.
“Are you OK?”
The doctor’s voice had as much emotion as an actor reading a menu.
The colonel wiped his mouth once more and looked in the doctor’s direction. He had to blink since the light from the room was blinding compared to the hallway.
“Are you OK?” the doctor asked a second time.
“Yes . . . yes, just the impact when you opened the door,” he said with a slight chuckle, “And I thought the hallway was bad.”
The colonel turned, pointed to the right, and asked, “Who is in that room?”
“Which room are you referring? Several are used to help in patient’s recovery,” the doctor replied, leaning out further into the hall. The colonel could see the doctor’s hand and reached for it thinking the doctor had to be better a guide than the orderly.
“I will personally report to the Master what the conditions are like down here.”
“Oh, be assured he already knows.”
The doctor began a tour of the room with the colonel in tow describing in detail what each table was for. The doctor pointed out that some of the tools were relics from digs on ancient cities, some of which were buried deep under the ice.
“Some of these I am quite proud of,” the doctor replied with greater emotion.
The colonel renewed his complaints but the doctor cut off the discussion and assured him, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.”
Pointing to a curtain stretching across the room, the doctor began to almost beam as he said, “Why not go and see what we are working? It is most certainly what was asked for.”
As the colonel stepped through the curtain, there was immediately the sound of a rotor beginning to spin, increasing in speed, before coming to an abrupt stop. As the colonel stumbled back through the curtain screaming, the doctor inserted a hypodermic needle into his neck.
The drug reacted so quickly that the colonel hit the floor knocking all the air out of his lungs. Death would soon follow.
The orderly stepped forward, grabbed both of the colonel’s arms, and pulled him into a recess in the middle of the floor. Turning, the orderly walked over to a table near the wall, and grabbed a metal container. With each step, the orderly sloshed liquid over the container’s sides.
“Careful you fool,” the doctor warned, “I could just as easy have you in the pan.”
“Yes doctor,” the orderly apologized as the look of horror covered his face. His next steps were slower and more deliberate. Pouring the contents into the pan, the orderly smiled as he intentionally poured a large amount onto the colonel’s face and into his mouth.
The curtain parted as a human/machine abomination stepped forward with a mechanical chainsaw where a right arm should be. Looking at the doctor, it moaned.
“Legs . . . now,” the doctor ordered.
The abomination activated and increased the speed of the chainsaw and slowly cut through the colonel’s legs. If either of the two men had bothered to look into the colonel’s face, they would have seen the eyes of a man driven insane.
The orderly watched and reflected on the colonel’s attitude and thought about how weak his fist had felt.
The abomination reached down, grabbed the cuffs of the expensive trousers with his left hand, and stood erect.
“Eat . . . go,” the doctor instructed. The abomination’s first meal since reanimation.
The abomination moaned and turned towards the curtains, as the doctor pointed at the pan and gave his last instructions.
“Make sure the pan stays filled. We need to make sure the alien virus/nanite emulsion goes completely through his system.”
The attendant took a gamble and asked, “Why is this one special?”
The doctor turned and stared for a second, debating on whether to answer or give another beating, and responded flatly, “He has scored off the charts in areas of paranormal abilities.”
Turning to go, the doctor rethought his decision, and struck the attendant on the shoulder, causing him to lean away in fear. Angered the doctor gave him more duties.
“Remove his tongue as well before he has time to reanimate,” the doctor ordered, “Nothing worse than these things trying to speak when they can’t put two legible words together.”
The attendant nodded, leaned over the colonel, and whispered, “Dear colonel, we don’t need an army to beat pickpockets, we don’t need armies to gather more territory. We need an army to control those who inhabit the territories.”
“Be sure and use the gauntlets to bind the legs. This one will get mechanical legs.”
The doctor walked to the door and added without looking back, “When he begins to thrash around, squeegee the emulsion into the hallway. The others can use more to strengthen them.”
“I am going upstairs to report that we have our colonel for the new battalion. Although with walls that have ears, the greater master we serve already knows.”
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