I stared unbelievingly (and, I hoped, convincingly). "Mr. Chairman, are you quite mad?" I blurted, a little too loudly in view of the cathedral silence that crashed down around me. It was all I could do to hold back a hysterical chuckle, seeing those absurdly horrified faces turned in my direction.
Briy Kardurr's omnipresent smile failed him, just for a second. Then he beamed at me. "Why, I think not, Skorez. My last checkup seemed to show me in perfect health, physical and mental! Are there any other Councilors present who wish to contest my sanity, or who are so vehemently opposed to this proposal that they refuse to even have it explained?" There was a whisper of laughter in the chamber, punctuated by an occasional "No, Chairman!" "Then let us allow our esteemed Councilor Avatar to make his presentation, by all means; I think it merits serious consideration by the Council. If that's all right with you, Councilor Skorez?" queried the Chairman in his most saccharine tones. Only the memory of Pavel's assassination, ten short years ago, kept me from rising to the bait and challenging this dangerous fool. I murmured my assent, and the homicidal Avatar took the podium. I could almost see blood dripping from his immaculate fingertips, so evil did I know this man to be.
"My brothers and sisters," he began, creating a pungent, acrid taste in the back of my throat (already!), "we of the Council of Homo Superior have spent countless months, years, even lifetimes monitoring the decline of civilization. Over the past two centuries, crime rates have multiplied rapidly; countless millions have died of hunger, and millions more of the AIDS virus and its even more horrific mutations. The War of Terror has rendered the Middle East a toxic wasteland, possibly for eternity..." While all he was prattling about was true, I mused, it was not widely know that Avatar himself was responsible for the creation of the more virulent offspring of HIV. There was even a clandestine investigation into the possibility of his having distributed the chemical weapons which brought to a sickeningly rapid halt the war in the Middle East.
I focused on the criminal behind the podium once more. "...The coast of North America is still not completely rehabilitated!" An audible yawn was cut short by a glare from those hateful steel-grey eyes. "In all these years since the founding of our illustrious Council, all we have ever engaged in is observation: taking notes, producing charts, and occasionally publishing articles and essays explaining in detail where the so-called human race went wrong, and what must be done to reverse the situation. We appear to have tied our own-"
I was probably kept from foiling my own plot by Krizz Gahott, who slammed down on his interrupt/comment button. What I'd been about to say would most likely have gotten me ejected. In any event, the Chairman nodded to the older man, who rose wearily to his feet. "I believe that all the Councilors present are quite aware of the misdeeds and errors of our cousins on this planet, good sir, but, like it or not, we cannot distance ourselves from them, nor should we find them distasteful or alien. 'There, but for the grace of God, go we.' We must also realize that most of them would be more than willing to listen to us; it is the leaders, the bureaucracies, that are destroying the race." Amidst a feeble attempt at applause, my only staunch ally retook his seat, slowly. I almost wished I'd been able to speak with him before tonight's meeting, but he'd learn of my intentions soon enough.
"Touching, really," Councilman Avatar sneered in his insultingly polite fashion. God, how I despised the man! "You seem to cling to the archaic notion that we should feel obligated to look after the 'human' race, perhaps even coexist with them." He turned his butcher's eyes on me, and the cold stare that passed between us cut the room in two for millennia. He continued, "However, we have seen the damage these infants do to themselves, and even to us. Our colony on Tasmania was making biological advances almost weekly, until those damned Chinese resumed their underwater beta bomb tests, in violation of United Nations resolutions, and sank the island!" "Yes, but you didn't have to bake their rice paddies and starve nearly a billion innocents in your petty quest for revenge!" a voice screamed inside my head.
"No," resumed he, oblivious to my unvoiced protest, "the majority opinion of the Council for the past fifteen years has been that we, being more intelligent and rational, are destined to take over as guardians of this planet. But, that has been the extent to which that particular thought process has been taken. The fact is, if we wait for homo sapiens to die out on its own, we will probably be dragged to our own early graves as well."
Several Councilors, who had been near catatonia during this whole speech, now sat up in marked concern. Knowing what was to come, I carefully smoothed my sleeves and pretended to be fascinated with the words of the psychopath as well.
"Because we cannot risk the absolute destruction of man and Earth, I have created the following plan for securing control of the planet. As individuals, you may find it as uncomfortable and... distasteful as I do." Right, you blood-sucking bastard! "However, as members of the Council, I feel you will all take my lead and vote for the immediate extermination of the inferior human race. It is, though sorrowful, ultimately necessary."
In the thundering silence that fell upon the Hall of Plato, he continued his speech, in his most plaintive, ingratiating tones. "In order to execute this plan, an army of one hundred million automatons will be created, with infrared links to a master database identifying all Council members and their families, and orders to vaporize everyone else. Since the Chairman has prohibited me from starting production on our eliminators until we put them to a vote" - I didn't know a human voice could sound that dry - "I have only three prototypes, which I now present to you as a vision of the future!"
As the curtains behind Avatar parted, several other Councilors rose to their feet, as I was doing; hopefully, I wouldn't receive any unwanted attention. Gahott, given permission to speak again, burst out, "Surely, the Council will not sanction the use of these, these butchering devices for the wholesale slaughter of innocents, men and women like us! Are we to commit genocide?!?"
Those unholy eyes shifted from their surveillance of me to glint in the old man's direction. "Fool! You allow your emotion for these creatures to get in the way of what you know to be right! What we intend to do is akin to eliminating roaches, or dandelions, or vampire bats! If a pest is threatening to cause damage, you destroy it!"
There were several audible gasps. Councilor Avatar urged, in a more conciliatory fashion, "We understand the difficulties involved in making this decision, but we must carry out this plan with all haste! The Eastern Empire is rumored to be mobilizing for war with the USE, and this could very easily escalate into another global war, from which we might not emerge. If we vote my plan into effect tonight, we could have our army completed and ready to start in four weeks, and the task would be finished in another month. I need your support in this!"
Councilor Dyane Termmlora jumped to her feet and angrily took the opposing viewpoint. As Avatar proceeded to foam at the mouth, I glanced at the three prototypes behind him. Huge, smooth, and black, only slightly more menacing than their creator; their countenances were enough to silence a heart for several beats, and the handful of weapons I was able to recognize in various locations on the robots' bodies only strengthened my resolve. Making sure that the speaker was still not looking at me, I turned quickly to face my neighbor. As arguments were breaking out throughout the hall, there was nothing conspicuous about my pointing to the podium with my left index finger and shouting, "He's out of his mind!" I then contracted the finger and twisted it thus, hoping all the while that the cyberprosthetic with which I'd suffered so long would not malfunction.
I don't think anyone saw the first projectile leaving from under my billowing sleeve. They did, of course, see the almost blinding flash of a miniature alpha explosion on the stage, and I will never forget watching, with grim satisfaction, Avatar's still outstretched right forearm speeding towards the rear wall as most of his head fell forward onto the pile of scrap metal that had been an angel of death. The second missile, the one that took out the other two prototypes, was the one that got noticed, and I heard a woman scream, "It's Skorez!!! He killed Avatar!" I still had enough time to take care of the project's top research and development men before the stunners came out. Before losing consciousness, I noted with sadness that Gahott and Tremmlora were among the Councilors that last robot eliminated before I destroyed it.
I'm alone in this padded box. At least, I've neither heard nor felt anyone else, and I must have spent at least two days in here already. I'd pray to God that my actions have prevented the radicals among us from annihilating the rest of the human race, if I believed in a god. If I hadn't been so intent on completing my grim, self-appointed task, I could've bitten down on that goddamned hollow tooth, but it was gone now. Self-appointed task; and what makes me so sure that what I did was right, or justifiable? Am I really that much different from Avatar, or Stalin, or Hitler, because I only killed a handful and not millions? Maybe I-