After a long life of accomplishment I find myself in dire straits. Almost seven decades of breathing have led me to where I am now. I don’t want any of it. I was warned. Warned by family, by friends, by the logical and by the faithful but I never heard nor heeded. I wish I could go back but we are only given one chance.
I was born and raised in the quaint village of Dim Hafan in the south of Wales. I know that many would not call it quaint in this day and age, but it was a beautiful jewel at the base of the mountain when I was young. My parents were loving, they gave me all that I needed and just enough of what I wanted. I have two sisters and a brother, all younger than I. Looking back, they were among the first to warn of where my life would lead. I never listened. I’m not even sure I could.
I have little memory of my life before my siblings came along but what I remember of our times together playing in the fields, running along the disused and rotted railway tracks, and going on expeditions of discovery nearly two miles from home are the things I hold dear to this day. Even as I stand here contemplating the end of my existence, horrified by what I have wrought over the years, I still smile when thinking of those halcyon days. If there is a heaven then it would be those precious few years. Only now in my twilight do I understand what I have left behind and I find myself shocked and appalled at how readily I abandoned such a care free life.
I’ve always been driven. That is my undoing now, but back in my youth I thought that drive was the most important thing to have. I wanted to be the best at whatever I put my mind to. I wanted the world to know who I was, to make an impression. I used to say to those who asked, ‘One way or another, before I die I’ll make a dent on this planet, people will know my name’. I wasn’t wrong. Almost everyone knows my name now. Although I’m sure most shiver upon hearing it.
From the age of 16 things changed for me, I no longer enjoyed the innocent pursuit of fun. I raced through school and university, desperate to enter the real world. I tried to fit in during my first few years of work, tried to do the normal thing in a normal job and work my way up. But I couldn’t, not for long. I saw the atrocities of the world, acted out under many names, most notably freedom or religion. I could barely watch the nightly news once home from work as all I saw was the death and destruction that continually, almost routinely, swept across nation after nation. Even if the news was relatively positive, a country had reformed its ways and was becoming a brand new power on the world stage, all I could see was that for such a thing to happen there had to be some poor souls trodden into the muck for it to be achieved. Something had to be done, but I didn’t know what.
It came to pass that on my thirtieth birthday, surrounded by parents, siblings, wife and son I realised I couldn’t stand idly by any longer. I smiled when I had to, hugged those who wanted it and played the part of the happy birthday boy. But my mind ticked away at a thought, mulling over the kernel of an idea lodged in my head. By the end of the night all but my little boy were drunk and slowly falling into sleep. But not me, I didn’t touch a drop. There was something that needed to be done and I was the one to do it. With my son perched on my lap I sat at my computer, staring at a blank white page, ready and waiting for the right words to be laid down.
After half an hour of typing furiously whilst balancing the four year old child on my knee he looked up with those beautiful eyes so full of innocence.
“What are you doing?” he said.
“Trying to make the world a better place,” I replied. He continued to stare at me with barely a wisp of comprehension before turning back to the screen glowing in the darkness.
“You want to stop the bad people,” he said in a tone far more mature than he should have been capable of. I nodded sombrely and continued to type.
Within a year I had set up Dynamic, a private sector contractor specialising in developing the ultimate defensive technologies that would protect our country for centuries. We worked hard for many years and invented some extraordinary things such as the first fully operational laser firearm. Technology at the time was capable of producing laser blasts that could destroy a fighter jet with ease but they were enormous things that could only be wielded by navy battleships. It was I and those at Dynamic who worked closely with me who thought up, prototyped and refined an energy cell that allowed the destructive power of the battleship lasers to be shrunk down to a portable backpack and rifle. Once that had been proven in combat there was never a shortage of money again. The government threw funds at us quicker than we could allocate them and before long we had managed to shrink the power source even more to fit into the gun itself thus producing the first laser pistol. It was a joyous time, I felt I was on the road to achieving what I had written in that quiet room with my boy silently watching.
As is the way it didn’t take long for other countries to learn from our technology and create their own weapons. I was aggravated by this, the whole point was to produce something that couldn’t be copied and would stop wars within minutes. I slowly fell into an obsession, determined to do what I had originally set out to do. I gathered the greatest minds from around the world, paid them extortionate salaries and made all sign the strictest of Non-Disclosure Agreements. From there we locked ourselves away for months at a time. Every idea that came across my desk seemed feeble and lacking. I demanded more, I demanded better. My employees feared me and my family tried less and less to stay in contact. Just over two years of my obsessive search for the ultimate deterrent my wife filed for divorce. I barely even noticed her leave, taking our son with her.
Three years after the divorce was final I had a flash of inspiration. An idea as clear and undeniable as my first exploded inside my mind, forcing itself to be noticed. When I brought it to the table in a weekly meeting with the best brains Dynamic had to offer there was understandable trepidation. The effort and expense would be monumental and many would oppose it. But it needed to be done, or so I thought back then. The idea was to create an integrated network of satellites, all armed with the most powerful laser weaponry we were capable of producing. This network would be launched into orbit over a period of ten years and when complete would give those in control of it the ability to destroy any threat anywhere on the planet in less than a minute. I believed then that it was the only way possible to achieve peace in any fashion as mankind has an inherent want to destroy itself and so can only be kept in check with a greater lethal force than they are capable of.
We built the prototype in secret but only after the detractors in my employ had been assuaged. The first test satellite exploded during launch and cost a pretty penny to cover up when inspectors came calling at our door. Not long after though we tried again, this time successfully launching into orbit. After all checks were made we performed a test fire which involved aiming the laser at a facsimile of a home, destroying it in one shot – that couldn’t be pre-empted – but doing no damage to the identical buildings either side of it. To say it was successful would be a gross understatement.
We faced fierce opposition once it was found out what we were trying to accomplish but by the time any government tried to do something about it we had launched enough satellites to make arguing with us a very dangerous act. From there we were unstoppable, the remainder of what we called the First and Final Response (FFR) was launched amongst constant cries of protest from all corners and creeds. We didn’t listen to what they had to say, we knew that for my vision of world peace we needed iron resolve. I also knew that no government of man, not even that of my own country, could be trusted with such power and so tied the activation of the FFR to my voice, retina scan, fingerprint and DNA. Without all of those the system was nothing but so many tons of metal floating in space and should some unscrupulous individuals try to hack into one of the satellites manually – which both the US and UK tried early on – it would detonate, taking the would-be hackers with it.
When the last satellite had been positioned I received an email from my son, the first communication from him since my wife left. In it he begged me to take down the FFR, tried to convince me that there were better ways to achieve my goal but his pleas fell on deaf ears. I answered his email as politely and affectionately as I could in an effort to make him understand. I never heard from him again.
The years passed with increasing speed, countries and governments caved over time, joining Dynamic in one unified whole. I was pleased with what I had done. Terrorism was a thing of the past, wars were rare and ended before they had properly begun albeit at the cost of many lives. I know it seems strange to think that killing all those soldiers was a peaceful act but I believed, knew, that it was the only possible way. Eventually wars were but a memory, crime of all kinds declined greatly. I had achieved the impossible, I had achieved world peace. Something no one before me had ever come close to. All it took was the obliteration of freedom.
But that was then, and this, as they say, is now. I loathe the FFR and the tyrant it made me. I stand here atop the mountain, above Dim Hafan and look down at the great, dark drop into oblivion and wonder. Can my son ever forgive me?