Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Last Three

"Jesus Christ, close the door, CLOSE THE DOOR!" Nathan shouted as he dove into the room, with Taylor slamming the steel door behind him.

"What the hell is going--"

The entire room shook in reply. The lights were doused by the electricity failing in counterpoint. It was silent, for a time, as the three frightened figures assessed their situation.

"They've done it. Haven't they?" came the first question, from a voice which sounded like Mark's.

The emergency lighting system flickered on, casting his face in a thin, red light. They were five kilometers deep, in a glorified storage closet whose only connection to the upper world was a rarely used mine shaft. A mine shaft which had very recently been sealed. Nathan did the best to shake the clinging dust from his clothes before joining the others, sitting on bare concrete amidst dark steel barrels stacked two-high.

"Come on, man, I don't wanna breathe that stuff in, do that over there," said Mark, gesturing to the far corner of the room.

"Really? Do you really think it matters--at all--what we do anymore?" came Nathan's reply.

The room again fell silent as the three contemplated the gravity of the question. On the one hand, the dust on Nathan's jacket likely contained several milligrams of Uranium-238, an alpha emitter tracked in from the mine, but on the other, the barrels around them carried more death than they could imagine. Taylor took this time to stand, and, staring at the ceiling, tried his best to peer through the vast amounts of concrete, metal, and rock which separated the three from ever seeing the sunlight again. Mark sat up and said, "Look, we just have to find a way to reopen the door, and, call for help, or something."

"No way. This door seals shut in the case of an emergency, and I'm pretty damn sure this classifies as an emergency. We're not getting out unless they let us out. And, seeing as how the shaft is no longer connected to the surface, I'm not seeing that happening," Taylor replied, throwing down his ID badge. The piece of plastic was useless now, even with the built-in radiation detection. He knew the room better than any of them, he knew exactly what was contained within the containers stacked around them, and he knew that there wasn't the slightest hope for any of them getting out alive.

Taylor had brought his two friends down here, thinking that if the inevitable occurred, they could wait out the aftermath comfortably in one of the radiation-shielded employee areas, deep within the vast uranium mine. The deepest bunker on Earth would be the perfect place to hide, since the site was evacuated shortly after the first alert. What he hadn't considered were the reasons why the facility was evacuated, namely, that it would be a high priority target for the incoming warheads. Needless to say, they hadn't made it to the employee areas. They were several hundred meters away from the first of the "bunkers" when they heard the first explosion, the catastrophe which nearly cut power to the service elevator which was ferrying them down the shaft. The second and third explosions were the ones which forced them into this waste storage area, the coffin in which they would spend the rest of their lives. 

"Well," said Nathan, "what do we do next, guys?"

They would die of starvation, or of thirst, or take their own lives in desperation, long before the radiation poisoning set in. But even so, they would suffer a much kinder fate than that of those still on the Earth's surface.

The nations above had spent decades outwardly pushing for non-proliferation treaties while secretly developing more and more powerful weapons, each nation desperate to have the one weapon, the ultimate passive deterrent to keep it safe. These were the superpowers whose collective motto went something like "the best weapon is the one which never needs to be fired." Fission bombs were a thing of the past, the new technology had rendered those as useless as TNT on the battlefield. But the new bombs came with a price. These weapons were so theoretically powerful that not a single nation dared to test them at their full capacity. Regardless, the weapons sat in their silos, strapped to missiles no one ever intended to use. Now, the anti-matter fallout would continue to ravage the world above, raining gamma rays onto the fallen cities for several days. Even then, the dark clouds which filled every sky caused the global temperature to plummet. The food chains were destroyed in a single day, leading to the mass extinction of life on the planet. Eventually, the only organisms on Earth would be found in the deep seas...and a small room, buried now in the Earth's crust. For the three remaining representatives of humanity, there was only one answer to the question of what to do next:

"We're going to have to wait and see."

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