[Foreword from the Author]:
I was a Microsoft Certified Database Administrator and formerly a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer — they don’t call it that anymore because that really upsets engineers, so I’m not sure what the name is anymore — before eventually going back to school for my BSc in computers… And today I just got finished working a shift with an adult diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We drew a space shark. It was awesome. I’ve been in the field of disability work now for almost thirteen years and I can say without a doubt, I won’t ever go back to working with computers.
As good as I ever was with computers, as much as I ever enjoyed being a programmer — and I especially enjoyed the paycheque — nothing, and I mean nothing, has ever compared to the time my twenty year old Down Syndrome client read a Star Wars book to me. Just two years prior, professionals were telling me that he would never be able to learn to read and write, that they tried and tried and it was just impossible. But here he was, telling me about Luke Skywalker getting a medal after blowing up the death star.
In the first Tales from the Year Between I told my story in the backdrop of the apocalypse, and I knew that for the second one I needed to get that personal again. So for this one, I wanted to share the most important aspect of my life, and that’s the wonderful people in the disabled community. People I get to work with every day, and that I am so thankful are a part of my life. Of course, we had a word limit, and I was asked to respect it this time, so I had to find another way to touch on everything I wanted to touch on, hence these webisodes.
But this chapter in Captain Riker P. Everest and West’s story touches on something a lot more sensitive than others, and I want to brace you for that. Today’s story is going to touch on the heartbreaking reality that the world over, people with Down Syndrome are being euthanized at alarming rates. The article I’ve linked to does a better job than I ever could breaking that down from a biological and ethical standpoint, but as you might imagine I’m ardently against it, and this story will reflect that.
Maybe you wish this story didn’t reflect my views on the subject, maybe you don’t want to think about it, or maybe you have yourself a person in your life with Down Syndrome and you don’t want to read a story about someone like them being euthanized. If you choose not to read this story for any of those reasons, or a myriad of others; I respect it. That’s why I’m giving you the option.
Thank you for joining me on this incredible journey, and I hope you stick around until the end.
P.S. if you haven’t already, you should absolutely buy our book.
4 months before quantum event…
Barrett Dems knew what they were doing was necessary. He’d always known it, really. Felt it. Deep in his gut. Other people might not have the stomach for it, but that’s why he had to; to make sure it got done. He doesn’t want to be doing this his whole life of course, he thinks to himself as he blows into his closed hands to warm them against the bitter cold of the planet. What he wants, more than anything, is to be a writer. He wants to write about humanity and their collective history, how they survived the decimation of their species, and how they plan on flipping the narrative and growing back strong.
“One more year,” he says to himself, staring at the twin moons that illuminate large frozen tundra that skirts the mountain facility, “One more…” He trails off. He’d have never seen it if not for the opposing lights of the moons, but he catches a glint off the ship in the snow. “What in the name of Cheyney is grhck!” The large knife penetrates between the third and fourth rib, perforating his lung, and cutting into the right atrium of his heart. He gargles blood in the 12 seconds it takes him to die.
Dolkie Ha’Mra is a good Vokon.
Dolkie make much money for him, and his clan.
Dolkie take money back to wife, who not yell at Dolkie anymore when she see how much money he have.
Dolkie think humans strange of course, capturing their own, but Dolkie no care about human affairs.
Dolkie want to be strong.
Dolkie want clan to be strong.
Dolkie want wife to get off his ass about how much Dolkie drink.
Sometimes, Dolkie have bad day and need giggle juice to make things better.
Maybe Dolkie attract new mate, with all the money he bring back?
Someone who recognize Dolkie is challenged man, but work hard, and sometimes don’t want to do dishes.
Dolkie hear commotion.
Dolkie peak head out of office to see what commotion is concerning.
Dolkie see first man die with knife through back of head.
Second one die when he kicked over the railing into the hot liquid Chorium and get burned alive instantly.
Third tries to run, but suddenly, hole in chest where heart should be.
Dolkie likes cleaning supplies closet.
Dolkie think wife maybe not so naggy, and maybe dishes can be helped with.
“Doctor Card—” The black soldier says following after the man in robes.
Maximilian Card turns to his head of security and scowels. “We’ve talked about this Locke. When we’re in our church, and the disciples are around?”
“Sorry, High Priest Card, forgive me.” Locke says trying to hide is annoyance with a tone of reverence. Maximilian’s family is one of the most important in the galaxy. One of the few humans to not be living as a slave or in abject squalor. When humanity was evacuated his ancestor positioned himself as a person with some authority and wisdom, especially in business and human leadership. This gave him great influence, and the family has continued to acquire wealth and land based on the name alone.
Recently however Maximilian has turned his focus to saving humanity by any means necessary. He created the Council of the Rebirth. CoR would make rebuilding the decimated species it’s top priority, and that included not only protecting it against enemies from without, but also from within. Including people like the young man they captured.
“It’s alright Locke, I know you’re not much of a fan of the pomp and circumstance we put on here. But there’s something to be said for the pageantry. The stories they tell about you are just as valuable as the money they pay you. Remember that.” Maximilian says with a smile and wink before continuing on, his robes flowing gracefully behind him.
“Yes sir, it’s just… Securing this run-down factory—”
“My great, great, great, great grandfather built this factory, got humans out of the mines and smelting Chorium and making ships. He started us on the path to saving humanity, it’s only fitting we make this our church.” He says, beaming with pride.
“High Priest Card, please.” The businessman/cult leader sighs and turns to face his well armed head of security. “Sir this place is nearly impossible to secure. We could have taken care of the kid a month ago and been done with it.”
“But our followers wouldn’t have been ‘done with it’.” Card says, offering a condescending pat on Locke’s shoulder. Locke wouldn’t have been his first choice of security professional, it’s been Maximilian’s experience that men from his… background are not known for their intelligence. Not to say he’s prejudiced of course, he has many black friends, but the head of security needs to be quick on their feet. Locke has proven adequate at the job despite his disadvantage, but Card constantly finds himself needing to explain the importance of people seeing their good works. “He’s a threat to our survival Locke, and we need people to see that for themselves so they believe in our cause.”
“TOC for Locke.”
“Go for Locke.” the soldier responds to the call from the tactical operations center, as much as a small closet can be called an operations center.
“Perimiter’s late for check-in. Again.”
Locke sighs, “Sir, stay in the antechamber next to the hall. Don’t go in without me.” The soldier runs off after giving his instructions.
Instructions Card has no intention of following.
The chamber, as the CoR followers call it, is quite large. When the factory is under usual output, this room serves as storage for loading onto ships. But while it’s being used for CoR’s followers’ most holy purpose, it is the chamber. Where they do the work that needs to be done. Ten priests gather around a long white table while two more bring West into the room, mostly guiding him along. West, usually bright and cheerful, has turned into himself now, looking at people through his brows, his hands crumpled together in front of him. He hasn’t felt like this in years, not since before Warchyk left them.
The gathered priests regard him with pity, but also with resolve as they chant. The way the fear on West’s face presents itself offers them their justification. No normal person would behave that way, they think to themselves. We need strong people, normal people, to continue on our species. We can’t have all of us behaving like this when our backs are up against the wall, now can we?
As West arrives at the table, he hesitates, his first protest since he was taken. The two escorts, having been with him from the beginning, are suddenly taken back by this, and they turn to Card. “You’ve come this far my child,” He says to himself, his voice soothing when detached from the context, “Let us not tarry in what has to be done.”
The two priests slowly nudge West towards the table, and he complies, laying down atop the quartz slab. As the escorts move into position, Card raises his hands and the chanting stops. The muted sounds of the factory ring through the chamber, as the gathered members take their moment of silence. “Brothers of the CoR, we are gathered here to address the greatest threat to humanity, in our brief time among the stars. The work our hosts gave us, mining Tratium so we may find our feet was poisonous to our species. The mild radiation, while posing no threat to any of the thousands of alien races that occupy the galaxy, was life altering to our species. Impurities in our blood caused terrible genetic defects. Babies with third arms, with no eyesight, or even born without limbs…” He pauses dramatically, “Extinction brothers; Extinction is that threat we must now face.
“So, brethren, it falls to us. It falls to the people willing to do whatever it takes to insure the survival of our species, to cull away disease and corruption.” He turns his gaze to West, “We must—” Three shots ring out, and three priests fall to the ground as Captain Everest lands standing over his brother.
“Not today.” Riker says raising his winchester, aimed square between Card’s eyes.
“I take it you’re the reason my security—”
Riker fires a round at the feet of a priest who was preparing to pounce. “Yeah, I’m a pest that way. What the hell is this?”
“What needs to be done!” Another priest calls out.
“You cannot stand in the way of our—” Riker thumbs back the hammer of his six-shooter.
“One at a time, yeah?” Riker nods to Card, who grins.
“You’re a dangerous man.”
“When I want to be.”
Card nods his head, taking Riker in. “We have that in common, you and I. I may not have your talent with a gun mind you, but we’re both dangerous men. Willing to do what needs to be done.”
“And what, ‘needs to be done’ with my brother exactly?”
“Long story. What does this all have to do with—”
“He needs to be purged.”
Riker is stunned silent, he can hear his blood pumping in his ears as he takes a moment to reply. “What?”
“Do you know how many of us are left?”
“It’s been brought up a few times, yeah.”
“Ten thousand. There are only ten thousand humans left and that number dwindles more and more every year. Our species is already on the verge of extinction. In one hundred years,” he snaps his fingers, “humanity could be gone, and that’s if someone doesn’t wipe us out before then.”
“Sur, it’s tough out here.” Riker replies flatly, “But at risk of repeating myself, what does it have to do with—”
“We need to start having babies. Lots of them. More than we’re having now, and we need to make sure the genepool is…” Card pauses, considering his words, “strong.”
Rage builds up in Riker’s face. “Strong?”
“So as not to sully the genepool, CoR culls humanity of the irradiated—”
“He’s not irradiated!” Riker cries out. “He’s never so much been in a—”
“Retardation is just as—”
In nineteen years, West has not once touched a gun, so when Riker hears the gunshot he panics. He had scanned the room before he dropped down, and was certain none of the priests were carrying. But he feels the heat against his leg and looks down to see West, a solemn look on his face, and the gun held tight between his hands. Card lays bleeding on the ground while the other priests flee the chamber. Riker jumps off the table, “Yeah. What he said. Ready to go?”
“What took you so long?” West asks, handing Riker back the gun, his hands shaking despite his bravado.
“I got hungry.”
“You’re the worst.”
“I know buddy,” Riker groans, helping West off the table. “I know.”
Riker had the auto-pilot pick them up just outside the chamber, and they were in slipspace a moment later. West tried to avoid it, but Riker insisted the Med-Pro be turned on to examine his brother. “I know you hate it bud, but I gotta make sure you’re alright.”
“I told you I’m fine!” West shouts trying to stand up from his seat in the cockpit.
Riker pushes him back down. “West this isn’t—” He stops and looks at West who isn’t making eye contact with him. As much time as he spends telling other people to treat West like an adult, he occasionally finds himself in moments like this forgetting to treat him like a person. He moves the Med-Pro arm clamp away and looks at West. “I’m sorry. Listen… What those people did to you, what they were going to do to you—”
“Why?” West asks, still not making eye contact.
“Why were they going to kill me?”
Riker hoped West didn’t fully comprehend what was going on, sometimes he misses things. Riker hoped he could spare West the knowledge that they viewed him as something unworthy. But there would be no such peace for him. “Because… Because some people forget, that all people have value. That just because someone can’t contribute in the way others want, doesn’t mean they have nothing to contribute. And because… Because some people are just assholes.” Riker replies, tears welling up.
West turns and looks at Riker, regarding him for a long moment before taking a deep breath. “You’re an asshole.”
Riker shakes his head, wiping a tear from his eye. “Put the damn Med-Pro on!”