“Body scanning complete. Access granted to agent CI24806.”
The security system announced Adam’s return to the windowed room in its metallic, toneless voice. A moment later, the blast doors slid open to reveal his tall figure. Slightly tinted by the blue-white glow of the hallway lights behind him, he entered the small room, a clear-bubbled extremity of the massive Central Intelligence building. As the heavy double doors slid shut behind him, he removed his sunglasses, tossing them onto the desktop. His utility belt, gloves, and jacket joined the glasses, forming an untidy pile.
His gaze traveled to the seated form of a young woman about twenty-four years old, with layered brown hair reaching several inches beyond her shoulders and hazel green eyes. Wandering over to the transparent, rounded wall, he allowed his thoughts to drift back to when he had first met her.
“I never work with a partner, sir, and I have no intention of beginning today.”
“I know that’s how you typically work, Adam, but there’s absolutely no way I am sending you on this mission alone.”
“Sir,” Adam began.
“You’ll like her. She’s pretty, about five-eight, perfect body…”
“Of course she’s pretty. Who isn’t in the age of genetic modification? You know I never care for that. I only work alone. Choose another agent to partner with the girl.”
“I didn’t assign another agent. I assigned you, and you will work with Amber. End of story.”
A gentle touch on his shoulder broke Adam away from his reverie. Amber had risen from her seat and was standing beside him, slightly illuminated in the darkness of the room by the glowing of the multiple computer monitors.
“What’s on your mind?” At the sound of Amber’s voice, Adam moved to face her, leaning forward to look into her eyes. While Amber was tall, she was still significantly beneath his six feet, seven-inch frame. Smiling, he slipped his arms around her waist.
“Thinking about when I first met you.”
Amber laughed at his words. “You did exactly as you were told. You were mechanical, just like the drones we use around here.” She laughed again, mimicking the monotonous voice of a computer: “Greetings. My name is Adam Sanders, Agent CI24806 of Central Intelligence.”
“How about you, Adam?”
“Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up? What brought you to CI?” Adam paused as if unsure of how to answer the question.
“I do not remember much of my childhood; most of what I do know I have gathered from logs.”
“Logs? What happened to your parents?”
“I never had parents. I was grown in a containment tank, the sole surviving embryo of thirty genetically engineered in a body enhancement experiment.”
“Adam! What did they do with you?”
Oblivious to Amber’s tone of genuine concern, Adam replied, “I remained inside the laboratory until I was fourteen.”
“You didn’t see outside the laboratory until you were fourteen?” Amber gasped.
“How did you get out?”
“I was declared a failure and sent to a federal education center.”
“Nothing but computer hookups and exercise stations,” Amber spat angrily. She vainly searched his eyes for some sign of emotion. “I don’t understand how you managed, Adam. Growing up like that.”
“Well, I had a complete education by the time I was eighteen,” Adam gave a slight chuckle. Amber pulled him closer, burying her face in his shoulder.
“It still makes me sad to think about it,” she said softly. Drawing back, she allowed Adam to brush away a tear beginning to make its way down her face. After several moments’ pause, the two continued to reminisce.
“From that point onward I was completely on my own. It was somewhat of a shock at first; for eighteen years I had lived at the hands of others. When left to myself, I was at a loss.”
“Which is how you found Central Intelligence and got mixed up in this whole mess,” Amber filled in.
“‘Which is how I met you,” replied Adam, winking as Amber’s face broke into a grin. “That was the first real conversation we had, wasn’t it,” he went on.
Amber nodded. “I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so emotionless. You felt no pleasure in life’s simple joys…and no pain or sorrow at the suffering, death, and destruction that surrounded us.”
“Everything simply existed for me. It was all unworthy of my notice.”
“They’re evil, Adam. If we can’t stop their scheme, think of what will happen!”
“Amber,” Adam replied coldly, “I work for CI, but I care nothing for their war, their battles, or their strategies.”
“But Adam,” Amber pleaded, “think of the cities, countries, all the people!”
“I never trouble my mind with the fates of others.”
“Don’t you feel anything?”
“My feelings are not what have made me one of CI’s top agents.”
“You would get me so frustrated,” Amber mused.
Adam gave her a squeeze. “Your personality fascinated me. You were vibrant and full of energy! Unlike myself, you were capable of experiencing life with a full range of human emotions. Most of all, you knew happiness, something that I did not.”
“Amber, I have known what it is like to walk in a living death. I look through your eyes, and I can see a world that is much more full and worthwhile than my own. Amber, somehow you have helped me discover one emotion my broken, hardened heart is still capable of feeling.” Adam hesitated. “I do not know what you would call it,” he finished feebly.
“Love?” Amber asked, clasping his hands. “Adam I…I love you.”
For the first time in his twenty-five years, a smile played at the corners of Adam’s mouth. “I love you. Amber, I love you!“
“I love you,” Adam repeated, holding the girl close to himself.
“I love you too,” she replied. Closing their eyes, they held the kiss for several moments.
“You gave me a reason to live, a reason to care, and now the door has been opened for me to experience a myriad of other emotions. Loving you has made me become human.”
Amber’s response was cut short by the harsh screech of an alert siren. Adam hurried to one of the computers, stopping abruptly when he saw the message on the screen. Shutting off the alarm, he turned back to Amber, their eyes meeting as she looked up at him. An expression of pain passed across her face as realization dawned upon her.
“Lance. He…didn’t make it, did he?” She asked the question even though she already knew the answer.
Adam took a deep breath, trying to sound calm. “No. No, he didn’t. He was shot during his last attempt.”
Amber’s voice trembled as she spoke. “How much time do we have?”
“Less than ten minutes.”
The two agents once again encircled their arms about each other. Adam spoke first.
“It’s ironic, isn’t it, how so soon after I discovered what it meant to live, loving you with all my heart, I must prepare to give it up. Life itself is so fragile, so easily blown away like grains of sand before a great wind, and yet we cling to it so desperately. It is the nature of this universe for things to end. For all our efforts to make our lives permanent, it will all be lost in ten minutes, simply because of one infinitesimal mistake. In a heartbeat, everything that exists on this planet will be destroyed. Everything we have lived and worked for, hoped and dreamed, all will end in one fell moment. It seems so pointless to live, placing our trust in things and people that can be taken away in an instant. Like every other being before us, we also enjoy that elusive state of functionality we term ‘life’ for a short time, at the end of which we too fade away into the vast recesses of the past. Nonetheless we live, ignoring the reality of death until it is upon us. The people of the world carry on in their business of life, making plans, anticipating the future as if the tomorrows would never end.” Amber held Adam tighter as he continued.
“It seems to me that we as humans cannot bear the thought of hopelessness. We cannot think of simply facing what is inevitable with a steady countenance. Instead, we try to run, grasping feebly at the naïve belief that somehow, some way, everything will be all right.” He kissed the top of Amber’s head.
“But I have you with me, Amber, the one person in the world whom I love, and with that, I have no need for foolish trust. I have no vain attachment to this temporal world, thus I feel no loss. With you, I am content to simply pass away. It is not my place to wonder at what could have been.”
“It is because of you that my life, beginning without meaning, will end fulfilled, for I have love, and there is nothing that can take it away.”
The two agents’ eyes filled with tears as they held each other in a tight embrace.
“I love you, Amber.”
“I love you, Adam.”
As their lips met, the planet known as Earth silently exploded into a ball of fire.
Just a short story, no aliens.