As Close As We’re Ever Going to Get
Written by Ethan Yen on 09 August 2010
Machenwald walked down the brightly lit hallway, adjusting his black leather gloves as he did so. The loud clicking of his shoes on the metal ground echoed throughout the hallway, the sound waves bouncing off the plates of steel attached to the walls. Machenwald sighed, the artificial lights were such a depressing sight, but were necessary. Windows were not an option in the Deadlands, a place destroyed beyond repair, the only spot void of life on Earth. Machenwald always questioned his choice in creating the Deadlands, he knew it was essential to his plan, but such a substantial loss in life always haunted him, despite his best efforts at minimal damage.
Turning around one corner of the hallway, Machenwald reached his destination. One of his robots guarded the entrance to one of the rooms, standing ever so vigilant. Machenwald wondered how long the robot had been standing guard, most likely at the moment he had ordered it, as he programmed all of his creations to do. He was glad he had purposely made all his robots not look humanoid, as he was afraid that he would begin to sympathize with them, but he could not always suppress the feeling. The Creator must always invest some sort of emotional investment into his creations.
Machenwald stopped in front of the door and faced the robot, keeping his eyes straight, as if ignoring the presence of the machine. The robot likewise made no apparent signal at the sight of his creator, remaining perfectly still, only the slight gentle hum of its levitators could be heard, keeping the machine at head level to Machenwald. He paused for a moment before clearing his throat.
“Greetings Machenwald” The robot replied in an obvious electronic voice. Machenwald secretly shuddered, he did not like talking to his creations, as it always gave them a semblance of intelligence that he so always feared. But being the only human in the Deadlands, conversation was always hard to come by.
“Is the prisoner inside the room?”
“Of course, Machenwald, just as you requested. All weapons were taken from the prisoner and food was just sent in 5 minutes ago at your orders.”
“Very good. And the status of the prisoner?”
“In a healthy condition, despite a large contusion on his head from the capture. Chance of concussion is minimal and Prisoner is currently pacing inside.”
“Thank you Sentry, I will now open the door and engage the Prisoner, you are relieved of your duties.”
“Thank you Machenwald.”
Machenwald smiled, at least he had remembered to program proper manners into his robots. The sentry hovered down the hallway and once it had turned the corner, Machenwald approached the electronic lock and entered his pass code.
The door whirred and the panels shifted, opening the passageway. Machenwald stood straight and smoothed his hair and clothes, gathering his composure. This was it: Showtime.
“Hello William” Machenwald said as he walked in to the room. It was furnished with a leather furniture set and dark oak table sitting on a maroon rug. On the walls of the room hung giant red cloth tapestries, embroidered with the symbol of Machenwald’s armies. It was a simple room, but gave enough of a warm feel to distract one from the cold metal and artificial feeling of the rest of the building. Standing at the opposite side of the room, examining the back of one of the hanging tapestries was a man. He was slightly taller than average, with dark brown hair and wearing dark clothes, he was of European decent. The man quickly turned, his hands raised and feet poised to defend himself, but after seeing Machenwald, slowly lowered his arms and attempted to relax. But Machenwald could still detect fear and tension in the man’s posture.
“Machenwald,” The man said softly, nodding politely. His face was emotionless, except for his eyes, glaring while examining his capturer. Machenwald gave a warm smile, trying to be as genuine as possible, and motioned to the couch.
”Please, won’t you have a seat?” The man looked warily at Machenwald, expecting some sort of trap. But Machenwald continued to smile, remaining still at the doorway. “Don’t worry,” he added, “If I had wanted to kill you, I would have already done it.”
The man known as William nodded once again and slowly approached the couch, sitting down awkwardly and trying to maintain his emotionless exterior. Machenwald dropped his arm and approached William, sitting in another chair. He gave a sigh of relaxation and looked at William.
”Would you like a cookie? Or some tea?” Machenwald asked, motioning towards the tea set sitting on the table, “I haven’t tasted it myself, but I’m sure my robotic cooks made them quite marvelously,” He gave a slight chuckle at his joke, and reached over and grabbed a cookie, examining it half heartedly and inserting it into his mouth. William watched Machenwald the entire time, still not responding, looking clearly confused.
Machenwald finished his cookie and poured himself a cup of tea, taking his time as he sipped the tea.
“You know, it’s not easy to acquire these items around here,” Machenwald said, eyeing William. Sensing that he was being offensive (and not wanting to offend the man that had captured him) William reached over a grabbed a cookie, not bothering to look, and took a small nibble.
It was quite a comical sight, two fully grown men eating tea and cookies silently, one dressed in a very expensive suit, the other in dark cloth uniform that Machenwald noticed had the insignia of the United World Council on the chest.
Finally, after a minute, William spoke up.
“What do you want, Machenwald?” His voice was harsh, but careful not to seem too aggressive.
“What do I want?” Machenwald repeated, feigning innocence, “To talk. I rarely have the pleasure of conversing with a fellow human being.” Machenwald noticed William give a slight scoff at the last phrase, but ignored it. “But the real question here, William Walker, Covert Agent of the UWC, is what do you want?” Machenwald opened his arms to invite William to reply, leaning comfortably back in his chair.
“You already know what I want,” William said, “I have been assigned by the World Government by unanimous vote to assassinate you, Abram Machenwald, enemy of the people of Earth, and leader of the robotic forces that have attempted to devastate the peaceful existence of humanity.”
“You didn’t answer my question,” Machenwald said with a hint of humor, “I didn’t ask what the UWC wants, I asked you what do you want.”
“I fail to see the difference.”
“Come now William,” Machenwald said reproachfully, “surely they haven’t brainwashed you that severely. There is still some individuality within that mind of yours I hope.” William looked slightly confused at his captor’s comment.
“The people of Earth live in an age of peace and prosperity,” William said, “Crime has been all but eliminated, poverty is no longer an issue, and all nations are united, sharing information and resources. The only thing preventing us from living in a utopia is you and your armies that attack our cities. I-” William began; Machenwald noticed the man’s voice fill with pride “I want to end the threat to ensure a forever peaceful world.”
“And I want a blue stripped monkey.”
“…I fail to see your point.” William blinked. Machenwald leaned back against his chair, trying to achieve the most comfortable position to conduct his ‘interrogation’.
“Tell me William, what does ‘being Human’ mean to you?”
“What the hell are you talking about?! What does this have to do with anything? What am I doing here if you aren’t going to kill me?!” Williams said, he stood up, frustrated, looking around the room. He was fed up with all the pleasantries. What was he doing? He was supposed to be trying to kill the man sitting across from him. Yet here he was…talking and eating pastries. The realization revolted William, but his inability to do anything angered him even more. He was stuck, helpless at the whims of an evil maniac.
“Just answer the question,” Machenwald said calmly.
“Fine.” William slowly sat down, taking a deep breath. He would play these games, but only until he found a way out. “Being Human is…well, being us. We are humans, we breath, think, have two arms, legs, a head with hair…why are you asking me this?” He repeated, feigning politeness this time.
“Because,” Machenwald said, taking a sip of tea before continuing, “I think after everything I’ve done, and everything I will continue to do, I think it’s time that I explain my actions.”
“Your actions?!” William said clearly outraged, he stood up, his eyes flaring with anger. He could not control it anymore. ” Your actions?! How can you explain yourself? You are Machenwald, the terror of children’s nightmares! You massacred thousands of innocents with your bloody machines, you bombed hundreds of cities and villages creating violence and turmoil wherever you go. You’ve reigned biological and nuclear terror upon all six hospitable continents of Earth. How can you talk to me about being human?!”
“You’re absolutely right,” Machenwald said with an impish smile, “How can I? Someone who has committed such crimes, such sins, ever be considered human? It is a sacrifice I am willing to make, so that you all may live the way you choose to.”
“Sacrifice? How can you even use that word? When have you put yourself out there on the lines, defending your loved ones from death? No, you and your machines are the only threat in our world, and without you, we could all live peacefully and happier.”
“Without me, the UWC, and the world as you know it would crumble!” Machenwald said sternly, still remaining in his seat. William look quite surprised at the sudden forcefulness, and did not reply. He simply blinked, realizing he had touched a nerve in this great villain, and he began to wonder if the man in front of him indeed had a beating heart. Slowly, William sat down, waiting to see if Machenwald would continue.
“Humanity is known for striving for the impossible. Making machines in our likeness, gaining more power and resources to become something we could never hope to be: god-like. But one thing that I thought was possible, one thing that I thought we could reach, was a utopia.” Machenwald’s voice had quieted, and for the first time, William saw the man in front of him as not a black-hearted villain, but as a vulnerable person, it would be so easy to kill the man now. For the first time, William realized how old Machenwald was, the creases on his face, the graying hairs and the frail fingers. William glanced quickly at the security camera on the upper right, he could do it, quickly. But William’s curiosity got the better of him, and something inside him wanted to know the reason.
“I thoroughly believed that despite the greed and jealousy in our world, the vices that so clouded our hearts and minds, that we could create a society in which all lived peacefully. Where we could not destroy our humanity, but utilize our greed to the best of our abilities, to make everyone understand through logic the necessity of coexistence, and that everyone needed each other. Humanity had become so disconnected with nature, that they had forgotten the very environment they lived in. So I sought to find the perfect system in which to create a unified and peaceful world.”
“And apparently you succeeded,” William said, partly sarcastically.
“Yes,” Machenwald smiled softly, “But everything comes at a price. I think you are familiar with the American saying “United we stand, Divided we fall.” It is a very true statement, and one that this world has seen first hand how it works. But unity sadly, is not a trait that humans possess naturally over survival, so therefore, I sought out a way to make unity necessary in order to survive.”
“I see now,” William said, “You made yourself into such a villain in order to force all the nations to unite to defeat you. You turned yourself into such an evil, that the only way we could survive is if we joined forces to combat your forces.”
“Precisely, and it worked quite beautifully. Through subtle pokes of…questionable morality, I was able to make the UWC cure the common cold, solve world hunger, and clean up pollution. But it was all at a cost, they needed motivation, and I decided I would be the motivation…for the good of mankind.”
“For the good of mankind.” William repeated softly.
“Exactly, now you see why I have done what I have done, and why I have no qualms if you kill me now.” William tensed at the remark. He looked up into the eyes of Machenwald, and saw that the man was staring right back at him, his eyes dark and glinting in the artificial light. Could it be? William could have sworn he saw what looked like tears… “Yes, that’s right, I have no qualms if you kill me now. Humans can only change when pushed so hard, they can only take extreme measures when extreme measures are placed upon them. They are a reactive race, while destroying actively. I became such an unexplainable evil to cause the world to change. Life is balance, and I tipped the scales so deeply one way that there was only one way to be tipped back. I have sacrificed my life and my soul to the cause of peace, ironically by being the very opposite. But if you still wish to keep the peace you so desire, you cannot kill me. You see, humanity has reached its limit, this is as close to a utopia as we will ever get.”