And What Then? by R. Schlaack

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SUMMARY: A prisoner enlightens a general about the madness of destructive power.


Rough arms slammed the prisoner to the cold floor at the General's feet. Blood welled from his nose and ears, and his uniform hung off him in bloody rags. He dribbled obscenely on the General's polished boots.

The General's pudding of a face twisted into a smirk.
"So this is the great Hauk Rendam," the General leered, "the Savior of mankind from the evils of the Empire." His face became a mask of false compassion. "So hard for you to see your homeworld squished, wasn't it?" He tsk-tsked. "Daddy would just hate to see you like this now, wouldn't he? Oh, yes, but I forgot...he's dead, too." The General puffed up with satisfaction. "We got to him before you did."

Hauk lifted his head painfully, his lips curled over bloody teeth. He fought for some venomous word, something to wipe the smirk off that gelatinous mass of a head. But all he could manage was a strangled moan.

The General's ponderous mass quivered as he chuckled. A constellation of medals shook and gleamed on his chest. "Your little insurrection will miss you, won't it? "Oh, no! The famous Hauk Sendam has been captured by that awful Empire! Whatsoever shall we do?"" His mockery dissolved in a fit of evil laughter. "Hauk "Hawk". What's in a name? You are nothing but a tiny mosquito compared to the vastness of my fleet. And now, with full use of my Devastator weapon, I have completely wiped out your puny revolt as well as your precious planet." He rolled with evil laughter. The sound boomed around the starship's deck, making the attendants and guards wince.

But then Hauk spoke. It was with a ghost of a voice, barely a whisper, that he said "There must be...others."

The General's expression turned to one of disgust and perhaps pity. "Others?" he snorted, "pah! After my little demonstration? After the plexo-waves split your dust speck of a planet like a grape? Others there will be no "others"."

"But what if there were?

"Oh, my dear worm - rest assured that I would find them," the General said jovially. "I would find them, and I would find their families, and I would find everyone who knew them, everyone who ever saw their faces, everyone who had ever heard their names...I always find them."

"What would you do then?" Rendam persisted.

"Hunt them to the ends of the universe! Destroy them! Destroy every planet upon which they resided until their dissidence is gone forever from the galaxy!"

"And then?"

"Terror! Hellfire! Root out each and every twisted tendril of rebellion and burn it!"

"And after you had achieved this, what then...?"

The General suddenly became suspicious, his piggy eyes narrowing to slits. He walked to the center of the room. "Since you don't seem to have a firm grasp on the concept...You see this screen here?" he said, indicating a 2-D map. "This here is a map of all the planets in this sector. Right now, more than half those little lights are dark. Can you guess why?" He patted a control panel affectionately. "All thanks to this little girl: the Destructive Electron-Altering Tau-wave Heliostat.

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