Volume 1: Rocks Glass #dyingplanet

The Doctor stared out his office window. The sun was setting. Red doused everything in view of the burning star, including the thousands of gray pods launching in wave after wave from the planets surface. Each wave at different heights, created the comical illusion of a dotted line across the horizon. The pods had twinkling lights so bright they were visible from the planets surface. Every pod base had rocket thrusters belching out black smoke as they ascended higher towards oblivion.


Dr. Thomas jumped wildly when General Markadii touched his shoulder. The simple gesture scared Dr. Thomas so badly he spilled his glass of bourbon all over his immaculate white jacket. 

“Damn it General!” The Doctor said with an angry grunt, flinging the loose bourbon from his hands, and wiping at his jacket front. However, wiping didn't remove the liquor it only smeared it across the white fabric.


“I’d called your name a few times. You seemed… A bit transfixed.” The General said gesturing towards the window.


The Doctor felt a wave of embarrassment wash over him. “Oh… Yes, I suppose I was kind of mesmerized by it all.” 


The General stood gazing out the window with the Doctor. “I’m sure you were, it’s hard not to be. A planet with three point five billion people, and only enough ingenuity to save four hundred and eighty-thousand. Pioneers to a new planet, for a new life.”


Dr. Thomas laughed sheepishly, raising his empty glass. “Enough ingenuity to save 480 thousand, and let the rest suffer the ingenuity of atmospheric destabilization. I hope the future still understands irony.”


“How long will it take for them to forget us?” The General asked. “How long until a dead planet gets swallowed in the sands of history?” The General stared down at the hat in his hands, now realizing he was rolling the brim, one of his subconscious ticks. When he was deep in thought he would often find himself engaged in the hat rolling, almost as if his mind was turning it like a steering wheel.


“Depends how arrival goes.” Dr. Thomas said sharply, turning his attention back to the swarm of pods. 


The General raised an eyebrow. “How so?”


The Doctor sighed, “The 480’s dirty little secret. Engineering realized it was basically a numbers game. By that time we admitted the planet was fucked. They had to move as many people as possible, in a very small window of time. There was no time to fully develop and test landing gear. Breaking through an atmosphere is challenging in and of itself, even a weak one such as ours. Entering back through an atmosphere, well that’s a whole other bag of tricks entirely. Those people aren’t on space craft General. Those pods, are space missiles, and they are loaded with people. Every one of those pods contains women, men, and children. Did they win a spot through the L.M.C. lottery system? Were they one of the intellectually valued?  What will their futures hold? Will they be the lucky ones that make it, or will they simply end up among the dead with the rest of us? Will they burn up in reentry, or maybe survive reentry only to sink into an ocean? Maybe they’d survive the landing, only to have another pod rocket into them before they could scramble to safety? There are so many variables, and outcomes, all of them unknown to us. The worse case of course, is if they miss the new world entirely. Jettisoned from the dead planet only to drift into the endless void of space. Starvation, lack of oxygen, or thirst a multitude of agonizingly slow ways to end a life. The fate of a species rests more or less aboard a hand full of oversized bottle rockets.”


The General didn’t hold stock in fantasies about death, those were signs of fear. Civilians had a fear of death, not the General. The General had detached himself from fear long ago. In the Generals mind you were either dead or alive. If you were alive, you fought not to be dead. If you were dead, there was no value to you. He’d always maintained a black and white point of view on the issue, it helped him to operate under the stressful conditions of combat. The doctor’s blabbering about the ‘what if’s’ made him appear like a coward.


The General cleared his throat, then inquired. “Don’t suppose you’ve got another one of those bourbon’s handy?” The General was ready for a drink after receiving that bit of information.


The Doctor nodded his head affirmably, walking behind his desk. He pulled open his top desk drawer, emerging another rocks glass. The Doctor filled the glass to the brim with bourbon.


“Pretty generous pour!” The General said smiling at the Doctor. “Although,… Court Martial doesn’t have the same threatening tone it once did.” The General smirked, winking at the Doctor.


“I’ll drink to that!” The Doctor said, clinking glasses with the General. They drained the glasses effortlessly.


The General lowered his gaze to the floor. “I never got to tell you, how sorry I was about Eric and Samantha’s trial.”


“You’re only sorry because they were right.” The Doctor said, refilling the glasses to the max allowance.


The General felt compelled to explain himself. “When Eric came to me with the data, it was my patriotic duty to see him reprimanded. I was entrusted to protect our world from anyone who would try and commit treason against the L.M.C.”


“Oh Yes, the great and grand L.M.C.! They definitely needed our protection, the fearless leaders of the Life Management Coalition and their infinite wisdom. Our all knowing government of bureaucratic superiors! Heaven forbid, anyone rise up against their incorruptible morals!” The Doctor waved his glass in the air in mock admiration, and paused for a second. 


The Doctors face grew grim, “May their bones turn to dust on the new world. May they become as meaningless in death as they were in life!” The Doctor sarcastically raised his glass for a toast.


The General seemed paranoid, looking to and fro searching for anyone listening that may have slipped in undetected.


“Why so paranoid General? This is the end of our existence! The results of our beloved and cherish Life Management Coalition cracking the planets core. Sure, they knew it would destroy the planet, but there was so much fuel profit how could you blame them? They aren’t worried about sentencing you to Treason, they’ve committed it on the highest level and left behind the planet they ruined.” The Doctors sarcasm clearly showed the high level of drink now coursing through his veins.


The General cringed as he took an extended gulp of whiskey. 


The Doctor with his hand still cusping the raised glass, straighten one of his fingers and pointed it at the General. “Dead men don’t commit treason. You and I General, we are dead men.”


“Had I known that the data your Son brought me contained evidence of this planet’s destruction, I would… I’d have…” The General stammered, but was quickly cut off by the Doctor’s fist slamming the table.


“Stop! You Stop right there! We don’t get to blubber! We don’t get to have remorse! When my son came to you with the data leak you turned him in for treason! When I found my wife worked with him to gather that same data, I turned her in for treason. When the court declared them guilty of treason, you and me bore witness with proud dumb faces as they were slowly lowered screaming into corbonetic acid. Samantha, Eric, they were better people than us. They gave their lives trying to save innocent people. While those same innocent people watched their executions on the Teronic Screens live broadcast with patriotic blindness. We all helped silence their lives for going against a government who turned around and snuffed out the entire population. Samantha and Eric deserved far better than this cursed dust marble could ever possibly offer them. Me and you General, we deserve far worse.” The Doctor half shouted as spittle shot from his mouth.


“Don’t come to me now with your regrets for my family. I carry a big enough cross as it is, let alone having to shoulder yours! You played your part, you carry your own guilt. Pledging your life to Bureaucrats that used us to complete their agenda, only to toss us off to the side like Perrygon husks!” The Doctor realized that he was now standing, his rage at the truth had boiled over. 


“The mighty General Markadii, protector and enforcer of the Life Management Coalition armed forces, along with Doctor Thomas, revered medical pioneer dedicating his life to DNA recision. You were their strength, I was their elixir. Now we are here. Left behind like a broken hammer and a bent scalpel, as the rich politicians scurry off planet with a handful of civilians. We are forgotten!” The Doctor concluded throwing the rest of his bourbon down his throat, and pouring another. His anger subsiding, he slammed down back in his office chair.


The General’s eyes began to well with tears. He had done his best to be the lap dog Life Management Coalition wanted, and when the scat hit the fan, there was no exit ticket for him. He wasn’t wealthy, he failed at the lottery, and he was a war machine on a planet that needed to extend life, not end it. General Markadii was obsolete, and he felt it now more than ever.


The General began to feel a howl of sorrow rise up from inside his belly. It shot straight to his mind as the true nature of his existence bore it’s ugly gruesome head. Every Directive he’d followed out, every order he acted upon, all of them without question. Every civilization they conquered under the direction of the General, had all been but one foot step closer to the end of the world. The General could see it in his minds eye. The faces of his dead ‘enemy’s’, the haunting sounds of his dying men, the nefarious smiles from the endless stream of Governors, Senators, and Presidents as they pinned medal after medal to his uniform. The deafening sound of the audiences applause at every award ceremony. Ghostly voices came from those  memories. He could see vividly the President’s face as if transported back to that moment. Only this time, the Presidents face contorted, his eyes becoming completely coal black. His sparkling white teeth now twisting into yellow fangs. What once was a long speech of recognition by the President, was now twisted by the flood of guilt. Each word that leaked from the presidential apparition felt like The General was being burned alive. 


“Congratulations old boy! You did it! You helped us wipe out an entire planet! You stay here, we won’t need a mindless killer or the truth on the new planet were escaping too. You’re worthless to us now!”


He stood up suddenly. He sat his drink on the table, and began ripping off his uniform. The uniform he had kept so meticulous. Mere hours ago he had primped and primed over the uniforms condition. Now he tore at it like a savage beast breaking it’s chains. He ripped, and tore, buttons shot off in all directions, medals clanked to the ground. The General howling with rage until the clothes lay in a heap on the floor. The General gathered up the shredded uniform, slammed the fabric scraps down in to the Doctors waste basket. General Markadii stood naked as a rebellious infant. Then he began to urinate all over the strips of useless cloth. After finishing, he sat down back in his chair, wearing only the flesh he was gifted at birth. The General snatched back his glass chugging the liquor down. Once the glass was exhausted he grabbed the bottle off the Doctors desk, refilled it, and guzzled that one down as well. 


The Doctor stared at him stunned. The Doctor had no words for what had just taken place in his office, he simply stared at the now naked General. A few moments passed, neither man spoke a word, then slowly the Doctor had an astonished smile take over his face. The General pointed at the empty glass. The Doctor scrambled to fill it. The General lifted his glass high and proud from his seated position. “To Eric and Samantha! Two people who deserved far better, yet received much less! Fuck the Life Management Coalition in their stupid fucking faces! May they miss the new world, and be forced to eat their children, and may they forever rot in the heartless blackness of space!” The Generals chin stayed stoic. His naked body covered in scars from wounds of past battles. 


“General…” The Doctor began.


“I am not a General. The General is dead, left to rot by the L.M.C. Please old friend. Call me Mark.” The General winked at the Doctor.


“Mark, you crazy bastard! I’ll drink to that now, and forever! However short that may actually be!” The Doctor toasted Mark, and they guzzled like two men who had been lost in a desert. 


Lost in a desert is how Dr. Thomas would have described himself after his wife and sons trial. His strong military son cried and pleaded to his father to save him. His wife simply refused to look at him, choosing instead to face upwards towards the sky and remain silent. Dr. Thomas had felt a sense of patriotic duty, showing he could sacrifice the people he loved in order to put his nations well being first and foremost. He’d become so brainwashed by the L.C.M. that at his families execution, he’d actually felt a sense of pride and prestige. It wasn’t until he’d returned home to an empty house that reality crept in.


After every treason conviction the government performed a ‘scrub’. Removing all the traitor’s personal affects and belongings from their homes. They went so far as to alter family portraits. What was once a coveted family photo of the Doctor with his wife and son, now showed the Doctor by himself. New furniture, sheets, and decor dawned his home, but they couldn’t scrub the emptiness the Doctor felt in his soul. The gaping hole in his heart where the love of his family had belonged.


The Doctor stared at Mark, then turned his gaze to his coveted achievement wall. He stared at the multiple doctorates and degrees he’d worked so hard for. The glowing seal of approval from the L.C.M. dawning each one. Right there in the center of his academic accomplishments, a picture of him shaking hands with the President himself. The President that had acted as the judge during the trial. The President who had made the decision to harvest the planets core. The President that broke the world. The President who was on the first pod to leave for the new world. The President who was the human being the Doctor hated the most. The rage shot out of the Doctors core.


The Doctor jumped to his feet. Sprinting towards his achievement wall. The Doctor, now possessed by the beast of the truth, began pulling down his framed degrees and doctorates, slamming them to the floor. Shards of glass and torn parchment cascaded in the air as the Doctor let the beast rage. The wall was cleared except for the photo showing the Doctor and the President shaking hands. He slammed his fist through the photo repeatedly, obliterating the photo, the frame, and the dry wall behind it. He punched and punched until the blood from his mangled knuckles stained the wall red. Then he began ripping his white jacket, tearing off his shirt, throwing them into the same waste basket until he was naked himself. After a brief moment of struggle, Doctor Thomas sent an arching stream of deep yellow urine onto his once proud lab coat, then back over to the destroyed degrees. Laughing manically like a madman who’d been wrongfully discharged from a lifetime of incarceration.  


“Well now! It appears Doc….” Mark was cut off by the Doctor.


“No Mark.” The Doctor stopped him, huffing and puffing from the rage of the beast. “I am a Doctor no more. Please old friend…, Call me Tom!” Tom said with a physical expression of joy he had not shown since his wife and son were still alive.


“Of course. Well, Tom, it appears the only thing we need in our current life, is more Bourbon.” Mark said finishing the last of the bottle directly.


“That is one concern, we need not waste any time on.” Tom said walking to his book shelf, blood dripping from his right fist. Casting a shelf of literature to the floor he revealed a hidden row of twelve or so bottles. Mark now laughed the same maniacal laugh Tom had cackled a moment ago.


Snatching a bottle off the shelf and breaking it open, Tom boasted “We drank to our fallen loved ones, we have shed our programming, it seems, the only thing left to do, is drink to those who will decide the fate of mankind on the new world!” Mark grabbed the empty glasses off the table, and joined Tom at the window. The two men stood naked, staring out Toms window. The sun now creeped behind the trees, as the last sliver from the giant red ball disappeared. An astonishing swirl of purple and orange filled the sky. Enough light remained that the green from the trees was still visible. From the 56th floor of Toms office situated in the Medical Committees pyramid shaped building, the beauty of the planet remained for a few minutes longer. Tom filled the glasses with bourbon. They toasted to the open window of the lush forests and rivers that spanned out over the horizon. Their attention turned towards the many pods now turning into specs.


“To the brave new world!” Mark said raising the glass.


“To the brave new world!” Tom said meeting Marks glass. Clanging the beverages together, they drank until the glasses were empty once more.


“How long before the atmospheric blow out?” Mark inquired to Tom. Tom turned to face the crooked clock that now sat on the floor of his decimated office.


“About four hours, depending on if the eggheads were right.” Tom answered pouring more bourbon.


“Four hours. Well…. It feels pretty good to be a dead man.” Mark giggled.


“It truly does. Who would have ever thought that today would be the day, that Mars dies.” Tom said somberly.


“Indeed, What will they call the new planet?” Mark asked taking a gentlemen sip of the bourbon.


“From what I’ve heard, people have been referring to it as Earth.” Tom said taking a gentleman’s sip of his drink.


“Earth?” Mark laughed. “Earth? They named the new planet after a portable toilet? HA!” Mark was clearly amused by the thought.

Steve Poggi