The End of the Line
“That’s the last of the wine!” I shook the drips from the last bottle.
“A sad day,” he nodded as he knocked it back without a concern. It had been my glass I had poured it into, but there again Hugo had been out of his mind these past few days so I didn’t begrudge the solace he found in these last dregs.
It was reported in the local press as an archaeological dig. Our supplies had been airlifted in and we had made the tunnel complex our stores. The rugged isolated nature of the Peruvian mine meant the mountain had been adapted internally to accommodate the workers. The miners had abandoned the site to the ‘experts’, so they called us. Our small party had been thrown together by the University of Species and sent out at the behest of the CGH. If you’ve not heard of the CGH thank your lucky stars. If you had you would either be under quarantine, been tested for contamination, been experimented on or be dead.
The organisation of our team had been rushed but we had been drawn to the investigation by the prospect of a world shattering find, the discovery of what was thought to be the last of its kind. That was when the world went crazy and while we were down the main shaft doing preliminary observations and waiting for the military element of the team to arrive the war was lost by every side in the space of a few cataclysmic seconds. Rumours had been emblazoned through the media of a ‘fait accompli’ and we sat idly by as what began as a minor spat between two out of the way nations ratcheted up so rapidly that the whole planet was caught on the hop, and so at the end the warning signs were ambiguous and misread.
We weren’t on the surface to see or hear. As a world we had seen this all too regularly and thought it would blow over and so we got on with our job. The fact that the military hadn’t turned up was one of those obvious signs. When we did come to the surface after sealing off an arm of the mine we realised the bombs had been detonated. We were trapped! The hillside had caved in sealing our three person team with our supplies. Although there was a TV nothing was being broadcast. The phone line in the stores was dead. The internet was unattainable. There was not one contact on our mobile log that picked up a call or message. Our assumption was that nuclear obliteration was to blame and the end of time was at hand.
The first day underground was hard. We did nothing, numb with the shock, trying to come to terms with our fate. We ended up in a pragmatic way assessing how long we had before we would expire and whether we would be the last of our kind, a quite amusing proposition to my sadistic mind. I laughed hysterically I can remember. We agreed to continue with our mission regardless of what had happened to our world above ground. It was the only thing we could think of that would while away our last days.
Our briefing beforehand had been about all the past captures and the eradication of the ‘species’. That was what it was referred to as but we knew what we were hunting and their supposed danger to humanity. Hah! What possible danger could they be now!
Our mission? Were the aims the same? This was cause for some dispute among us since being trapped. To locate the species, that was the same goal! It was purported to be the last of the line, tracked through the final craft incursion. But what would be our ultimate decision? Annihilate it as we had been told to do?
The tunnel complex was huge and it took weeks to secure each new seam. We were steadily working through our supplies and the end was drawing in. Hugo was the first to go. The signs were evident after the last of the wine was gone, there was no lingering death for him.
Tas and I sealed his body behind the penultimate branch of the mine and we turned to explore the last tunnel section, the deepest, a five mile long access passage that hadn’t seen the big machinery operating there. It was the preliminary workings of the next seam.
Our orders had been eradication but we had agreed between the two of us contact and communication would be our last actions in this life. A life of research of these beings only to come across the corpses that the CGH had ‘collected’ had been a perpetual frustration.
We trundled along the service tunnel, the cart inching along as we sent out our scanning devices into the darkness. The cart picked up speed. Tas tried to control the dial but there seemed no way of overriding what was commanding it. We picked up momentum and hurtled into the tunnel’s black jaws and that’s when we hit the end of the line, the frail light giving us a moments glimpse at the rails that had been mangled and smashed out of shape. Our cart plunged into a hole that should not have existed.
That was the last I knew before I came round on the white marble slab. Reaching out before me were a line of vertically aligned pods each the size and shape of a human. They were lit up from inside and they extended the length of a corridor like room. The human occupants of the pods looked serene in their sleep. The last but one held the body of Tas. The very last in line was unlit. There was no-one about. It was obvious the cubicle was waiting for me. I waited, expecting some sort of interaction with whatever had brought me there. We both waited. I knew it must be examining my response, my moves. I had stepped past each cubicle, each human specimen alive and in remarkable condition. Every age, race, of both sexes. I was confused, had we in reality stumbled upon a government bunker? Had we really been sent to eradicate the last enemy of our own species or had it been a ruse in order that we were the last humans to be preserved in these life support modules?
However this didn’t seem to be any Earth technology I was aware of. I reflected on what I knew of the species massive intellectual means. The only live specimen had been shot by over reactive agents of CGH . The technology gathered from crash sites was interpreted as abduction pods for analysis of our species. I considered my plight. Radioactively scorched Earth, trapped underground, no food – there was only one option if no-one was going to show. I stepped to the end of the line of what I believed were the last humans in existence and stepped into the pod, thankful I had been sent on this mission, to this contact with what was believed the last of its kind to be one of the last of my kind.