Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part XXI: This is the Way the World Ends

He was in a meeting when he first heard the news. It wasn't all that uncommon, the circumstances. James Ward was always in meetings. He oversaw a vast economic empire. It would have been foolish for him to spend his days otherwise. Of course, in later days, he couldn't for the life of him remember what that particular meeting had been about, and usually he could remember the most obscure things with perfect clarity. It was his memory that had helped James reach so far into the affairs of the world.

Someone came in, James couldn't remember who, either, and whispered into his ear, and for a moment, he sat there, a whole ring of individuals staring at him, waiting for him to say something, and he wasn't even looking at any of them anymore. He wasn't looking at anything. He tried to clear his throat, but found that it was perfectly dry, so he reached for the glass of water in front of him, and almost knocked it over, but finally brought it to his lips. He did remember thinking, Is this the last time I'll ever do that? He tried to smile, tried to reassure those who only moments earlier had been trying to please him, but, and he could only imagine, it must have come off as something of a scowl.

"The, uh, the meeting is over," he finally said. "Thank you all for coming. I'm afraid there are more important things going on now."

This statement must have startled them, since they had become accustomed to believing the particulars of meetings with James Ward were the most important things happening in those moments. He didn't offer any more of an explanation. He just dismissed them, and still he could hardly look at them. He immediately called for an assistant to gather a new team to come to the conference room, all the most brilliant scientific minds available to him. He didn't think anything could be done, except to move forward with the last line of defense, the survival line, against the single threat that only death itself could possibly hold against humanity. He called friends around the globe, to offer his thoughts, assuming that they already knew, and if they didn't, that it didn't matter, that he would do everything in his power to set things in motion. All his power had come to this moment, and it was all he could fall back on. James had no family. He considered himself an orphan, and he had never married, had no friends. He had only had his work. He kept telling himself, There is so much time. Well, now there wasn't any at all. He wouldn't even have gotten onboard one of his own frigates if someone hadn't physically walk him onto it, guiding him the whole way, straight into his seat. And when he looked around, he didn't see faces. James Ward no longer saw faces. And he no longer saw the future.

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