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“Thank you for coming,” John Surek said, smiling at his four guests. “Please, help yourself…” he gestured to the food spread out before them. “I can assure you that this room is completely sound-proof, so speak freely.”
He waited for them to sample some of the food before starting. “The question is, Gentlemen, Mrs. Lundy, where do we go from here? What are your thoughts?”

Larrabee, a young, brilliant computer scientist sat up strait. He always did this before speaking, as if the extra inch would make his words more important. “It is, when

you come right down to it, a moral decision.” He picked up a cracker and spread some brie onto it.

Mrs. Lundy, a bone-thin woman with sharp features turned to Larrabee, making him cower slightly. “Please,” she said sarcastically, “leave morality out of this. We’re not here to have some sort of religious conference.”

Mr. Chi, an old man of Chinese descent, took a cluster of grapes. “Mrs. Lundy’s right. The moral dilemma, if there is one, is irrelevant when compared to what will happen if we don’t act.” He popped a few in his mouth.

Mr. Putnam tilted his head back slightly, looking out from underneath the rim of his cowboy hat. “Survival of fittest. We are the fittest and we decide who lives: only the strongest. Ya with me, Pards?”

Everyone but Larrabee nodded. “What of the children?” he demanded, “Just let them all die? How many do we save? Where do we draw the proverbial line?”

“Which brings us to next question,” Mr. Chi said, “How many can we save?”

All heads turned to Putnam, who was reaching for the shrimp platter. “There is only enough raw material to construct…maybe…a thousand?”

“A thousand!” Larrabee spat out in disbelief. “Dig deeper, find more of the materials.”

“Phil,” Putnam said with a mouth full of shrimp, “My workers are getting are doin’ the best they can. You’re just some computer nerd. Ya’ll don’t know nothin’ ‘bout mining. There just aint no more of that…stuff left.”

“That’s true,” Chi said. “The artifact told us where to look. I do believe that is where the aliens hid the material. All of it.”

Lundy , while picking tomatoes out of her salad, said, “Now that you brought up the aliens—anyone else suspicious as to why they would leave that artifact for us to find?”

“I found it,” Putnam said.

Chi cleared his throat. “Actually, your workers did. I’m the one that cracked the encryption.”

“Speaking of your workers,” Surek said, “you’re sure they have no clue as to what it is, right?”

“Pard, I already assured ya’ll. They’re just a bunch of manual laborers. ‘Sides, even if they did figure it out—he snorted—who’d believe a bunch of illegal Mexican immigrants?”

Surek rubbed his temples, an old habit to relieve stress. “We’re getting off subject,” he said.

Chi looked at Surek intensely. “Yes. Lundy brought up a good point. Can these aliens be trusted? What if they gave us this immortality so that they can come back one day, and enslave us for eternity? Do we wish that fate on others?”

“I think,” Larrabee said quietly, “That the aliens are afraid of immortality. They want us to use their technology, perhaps, as an experiment, or, perhaps as some cruel curse.”

Putnam pushed the cocktail out of the way and reached for the sliced pineapple. “Ya’ll crazy,” he said loudly. “I’ll tell ya what happened. The aliens died before they even got a chance to finish it.”
“We’re getting ahead of ourselves,” Larrabee said, “We haven’t even made the first cyborg body. Then, there’s—he looked up at the ceiling, calculating—at least five
years of research ahead of us to figure out how to remove our brains and put them in these immortal cyborg bodies.

“And that, my young friend,” Surek said, “Is why we have the best minds working on it.”

Larrabee blushed, incorrectly assuming that Surek was referring to him.

“How much time do we have left before the end?” Chi asked with a touch of melancholy in his old eyes.

“One, maybe two more generations,” Surek answered flatly. “Then, when the environment is completely destroyed, they will start dying off. No air, food.” He shrugged his shoulders.

“In my opinion,” Lundy said, “Let’em all die. It’s their fault. They’re the ones destroying the environment.”

“Not everyone,” Larrabee said, “Those are the ones we should save—the activists. The people who want to save the environment.”

“Yeah,” Lundy snorted, “Like we want a bunch of immortal tree-hugging hippies running around with us.”

Chi and Putnam laughed.

“The obvious solution,” Chi said, “Is to create as man cyborg bodies as possible and then, when the time comes, help as many worthy ones as possible.”

“And watch the others die,” Larrabee stated in a resigned manner.

“Phil,” Chi said, “It’s a thousand saved, or everyone dies.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Surek noted that everyone had stopped eating, sickened by the reality before them.
“We need to remember that book,” Chi said, “Frankenstein.”

“We don’t wanna create monsters we can’t control.” Larrabee said, finishing his thought.

The room was silent. The weight of that statement was tangible.

“The obvious solution, then,” Chi said, “Is to use the remaining generations of time to watch people. Study them. See which ones are worthy.”

“Then again,” Lundy said, “who among us can be completely trusted?” She swept her eyes across the room, looking at each of them.

“Oh, please!” Putnam burst out. “Don’t y’all start in with the paranoia.”
Lundy glared at him.

“We have a lot to think about. Meditate on,” Chi said.
“What of the religions, Pards? Which should be allowed in our new society?”

Surek let out a condescending chuckle. “That’s obvious. There will be none. Religion hasn’t exactly benefited mankind. They’ll be a new society—new laws. New beliefs.”

“Well,” Lundy said, “Can’t agree more, and, that will narrow down our search considerably.”

“How’s that?” Larrabee asked, avoiding eye contact with her.

“How many people, even when faced with impending doom, will forsake their religious beliefs?”

“Yes. That is a good point,” Chi said. “But I feel that we should have, at least, some kind of enforceable law code. But, how do you keep law amongst immortals?”

Surek rubbed his chin and said, “When they undergo the operation, we can also recondition their brains, you know, make them docile.”

“Dear God!” Larrabee spat out. “What are we, Nazi’s?”

“Now, wait a minute,” Lundy said, “That’s not a bad idea. In a few years I’ll have perfected that technique.

“You’re sick,” Larrabee spat.

Lundy glared at him with cold eyes.

Chi said, “When facing the extinction of the entire race, I think, to ensure law and order amongst immortals, that is the obvious solution.”

Larrabee sighed and then sat up strait. “There is nothing obvious about any of this. This is beyond us.”

“That is why,” Chi said, “We should enlist the help of the worlds greatest minds—that is, besides Lundy, Larrabee and I.”

Putnam stood up, “Now listen here!” His face was red from the perceived insult.

“Sit down,” Surek said, chuckling, “You know its true. You just got a case of dumb luck finding the damn thing to begin with.”

Putnam slowly sat down.

“Great power comes great responsibility,” Chi said quietly, perhaps to himself.

“So,” Surek said, “Like it or not, we have to take on the undesirable role of executioners. There’s no way around it.”

The room was silent.

“I think,” Larrabee said, breaking the suffocating silence, “That we’re starting to think like machines: pure logic, no human compassion. If we lose our compassion, we lose the human race we’re trying to save.”

“Phil,” Lundy said, “You’re so naïve. We’re not trying to save the human race. We’re trying to survive its destruction. And as far as thinking like machines…” she grinned.

“We will be machines,” Chi said. “Machines incapable of being destroyed. Not needing food or air. Totally self contained. Brilliant, simply ingenious, these aliens.”

Chi cleared his throat and said, “What you don’t realize, is that by the time we figure out whom to save, it will be too late. We aren’t equipped, morally, ethically, religiously, to undertake this responsibility.”

“Unless,” Surek said, “We alter our brains so that we don’t have a sense of morality.”

Lundy nodded in agreement and added, “Humankind has brought this upon themselves. I think we should no longer consider ourselves human and forget about our ancestors. Let’em die.”

“No offense,” Putnam said grinning, “But spending eternity with the four of you…I’d kinda like others around too.”

They all laughed.
“Okay,” Chi said, “Here’s what we do: each of us decides who we want to survive—family, friends—we don’t give them a choice. When it comes time, we remove their brains, place them in those cyborg bodies and they’ll thank us later.”

Everyone, even Larrabee, murmured in agreement.

“Everyone would die anyway,” Larrabee said softly, looking down at his plate of unfinished food.
Lundy said, almost kindly, “That’s true. And I suggest you keep telling yourself that until you actually accept it.”

Surek stood and rubbed his temples, looked at each of them and said, “Thank you for coming. You have said some very important things that need to be taken into consideration. I’m afraid, though, that this information can not be released yet. Think
what would happen if the government found out. I’ve arranged to have the rest of the material shipped here and have hired scientists to each work on a small piece of the project so that they won’t know what they’re really doing.”

“Now, just wait a damn minute!” Putnam yelled, jumping from his chair, “Ya’ll went behind my back and—”

“It’s like we talked about: I need to start thinking like a machine. You all are no longer needed. I am sorry, but it is too risky to have anyone but myself know about this project. Besides, you’re hardly ‘the worlds greatest minds’.” He grinned wickedly and glanced at Larrabee.

The four of them stared in disbelief for a moment before all yelling at once.
“I hope you enjoyed your last meal,” Surek said, smiling wryly, “It was laced with poison.”

The End

Thanks for reading :^ )


The following comments are for "The Immortals"
by whitewolfe

So much for immortality!
This is really intriguing! At first "The League of Extrordinary Men" came to mind. I was pleasantly surprised when it wasn't even remotely related. This hooked me at the beginning and forced me to read it through. I like the twist at the end- quite evil!

( Posted by: Cynical_Scribe [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )

Beyond Good and Evil
whitewolfe~ I love the way you worked the question inherant to your story so that the victims agreement that the end justifies the means has them justifying the means to their own end. Now that's a tidy little plot trick.

Some of the characters struck me as bluntly two-dimensional, particularily the Texan. I don't know that I've ever encountered an individual who throws around the phrase "ya'll" in quite the same way you have Putnam bandying it here, aside from a handful of actors in the process of impersonating a Southerner, poorly. This would be a much more significant complaint, though, in a story in which character description and development had a more key position in relation to the plot. In this case, I think the stock quality of your characters almost (though, to my mind, not quite) works in the favor of your story's impact.

Oddly, your story reminds me of a cross between Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None and Dr. Strangelove as filmed by Stanley Kubrick. That's a potent mix to be sure. And it doesn't even cover the cyborg angle.

You've got my interest piqued. I'm going to have to delve into your horror submission very soon.

( Posted by: hazelfaern [Member] On: January 2, 2005 )


Living in Maine, I've only talked with one Texan, and he did say 'Ya'll' almost every sentense, but I didn't even realize I was being predujice.

I apologize to anyone offended!

Thanks for the comment!

( Posted by: whitewolfe [Member] On: January 3, 2005 )

It had a peppery flavor
I liked your story. The story had nice pace and rythm. I thought you did a good job initially of giving us some character description, but then trailed off missing opportunities to re-inforce/add dimension to the characters.

In such a short story, I think it adds value and depth to characters if you insert a little piece of who these people are every few times they speak. Really a small complaint though and I liked the story very much. Good surprise ending.


( Posted by: Jeff [Member] On: January 4, 2005 )

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