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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/2243435-The-Cylinder
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2243435
The Lodestar Contest Entry February 2021
Story Idea

Turning to his men, Sergeant Robinet grumbled, "We have to move now. Get that thing into the elevator. Let's go."

The four soldiers crowded into the freight elevator with the stainless steel cylinder, still on its wheeled rack, the life-monitor lights blinking orange on the power indicator with the small mammal visible in the clear glass window. The elevator lurched and settled into a lifting grind.

Jason, his eyes wide, said, "I came in the tunnel shuttle, I've never been topside. What's up there?"

The other two men looked expectantly at the Captain.

Captain Robinet looked at the young man, his eyes still innocent. He didn't want to tell him, any of them, that he himself had only been to the surface once since coming to this planet.

Just once.

Three years ago. The only other time they had found a live specimen. Barely alive, but alive nonetheless.

They had rushed that specimen to the surface just as they were doing now. Robinet had still been innocent then, his eyes bright with enthusiasm.

Then they reached the surface.

It was a beautiful place - gardens full of extraordinary colors and many lush varieties of plants; buildings of astounding architecture blending in with the beauty of nature; all filled with fresh breezes and sunshine.

But the people...

The people were so disfigured from the disease they were hardly recognizable as people. Boils filled with pus crowded their features and clothing could not hide the lumps created by the boils covering their entire bodies, their clothes stained with the evidence. The sight made his blood run cold, horror filled his heart.

Then they handed the dying creature over to the scientists. Those scientists started experimenting on the poor thing immediately, Robinet and the rest of his team staring in disbelief as the creature screamed in agony.

That was the day he lost his innocence.

He realized then why they weren't allowed to visit the surface, why they were immediately sent down into the tunnels upon arrival, and why the tunnel entrances were located so close to the landing pod.

They were not supposed to see the true nature of things.

And now, three years later, they have caught another of the elusive creatures. He was reticent about handing this one over to those gruesome scientists. Not just because of what happened to the other one, but because this one was just a baby. A wee bit of a thing too. Innocent.

"Jason," Robinet started as the elevator crept along. Then it all gushed out, the disgust, the horror, every detail. "These scientists," he continued, "these people, I don't know if they always had a total disregard for other life forms or if it is a result of the disease, but I swore I would never be responsible for giving them another animal to torture ever again." The men stared in shocked disbelief.

Then the one thing he had been thinking about since the capture of the tiny creature burst forth. "Do you all remember the briefing from last week? The one where they told us that the inhabitants of this planet were starting to die off because of the lack of serum? They said the inhabitants only had a couple of years left, tops."

He looked at his men. Slowly the implications of his statement sank in.

As one they all looked over at the tiny creature trapped in the cylinder, it was looking at them through the glass window, its eyes large, its whiskers twitching madly. It looked a lot like a baby rabbit that had its ears lopped off.

Jason turned to Robinet, "Back on Earth my family has a saying - Mother Nature takes care of her own. I know that might not mean much out here but, maybe, this is along those same lines. First you have a debilitating disease, then you are able to create a vaccine but not a cure. So those that already have the disease, which is pretty much the entire population of this planet, are still going to die unless they find a cure. Then they find a possibility of a cure carried in the blood of a rare, elusive, underground dwelling creature. To make matters worse no one on the planet is healthy enough for the long, strenuous underground search so they call in some favors and get Earth soldiers to come do the dirty work. To sum it all up, maybe their version of Mother Nature is trying to rectify a mistake."

The elevator ground to a halt, the doors screeched open.

The four men looked out at the amazing sunshine. A breeze made its way into the elevator. All four men inhaled deeply. It has been a long time without sun and fresh air.

There was not a soul in sight.

Sgt. Robinet reached over and pushed the down button, no one objected.
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