The lights above the entrances stay lit, bleeding their artificial red warning into the synthetic gloom beyond the stage. Still live, just as planned.
Looking up from the presenter's desk, I shuffle papers filled with our masters' practiced lies into a neat pile, just as I have done for thirty two years. Tonight will be my last. My trembling hands drift over the laminated circular tabletop as I gather my nerves. So much of my life spent here reading the nightly “news”, so many "truths" told, so many lives ruined.
“I said cut!” roars the director, Mitch Holloway. Storming from the sound stage's recesses to stand between the rolling cameras, tonight's script scrunched into a baton in his shaking fist, he roars again. No one even flinches. We all know what has to be done. Enough is enough. The time is now.
I swallow the lump in my throat and quiet the words of doubt screaming behind my eyes. The clock is already ticking, I am merely a cog.
“Ladies and Gentlemen of the United Allied Continents, you may be wondering why I am still on your screen, this is not a mistake and there is no point changing the channel, we have taken control of central broadcasting….”
“Someone get him off the air now!” Mitch screeched, brandishing his papery weapon as if charging into battle, but his rage blinds him and my PA/Bodyguard is as quick as a snake. With a wheezing crunch Mitch is flattened to the ground, a meaty hand clamping his muffled outrage as he is dragged back into the auditorium. We knew years ago there was no point trying to sway him to our side, he was the very definition of a company man.
“Throughout the last four decades I have broadcast the evening news to homes across the allied nations, delivering some of the most devastating and impactful stories directly to you. From the horrific collapse of moon base six and the hundreds of lives lost that day, to the ascension of the child emperor Mandias, I have been here..."
A racket of jostling heavy equipment erupts, causing me to pause. I evaluate my surroundings under the guise of clearing my throat, tool chests squeak, spools of cabling rattle, and ordered shouts resound in the background as everything is piled against the doors. For all the good it will do.
"I have looked on as greed trampled goodwill, as freedom became a cheap brand filled with political caveats, us versus them, and as identity once praised as unique has been used to fuel hate. I…we cannot continue in this folly. So tonight, I bring the most unimaginable news to you live. Take a moment to hug your loved ones as we only have mere minutes."
The huge scrolling screen behind me flickers from an idyllic overview of the central dome, to a black and red countdown. It begins - 2:32
"I, along with every other staff member in this room will most likely be dead when this countdown ends…as will most of you. Please, try not to panic."
"No doubt Centrus are deploying Justices as we speak. The sky will fill with Watchers, but they will not succeed. We can not be stopped. Let there be no question as to our meaning, this is not a rebellion, coup, or revolt. We have no desire to place another dictator into power, nor do we want reform. You cannot reform what is absolutely corrupted. This is the end… and I am its herald."
There is movement, frantic and jarring in the control booth at the back, floating above all like a great eye. I squint, but it is of no use.
“Citizens, investigative journalism is a figment of a bygone era, extinct in everything but name. The so-called news brought to you by the powers that be is no more than a fanciful script delivered by the Hierarchy, complete with required inflections. The truth has become subjective, and in a world where two truths can exist at once, there can be no reality.”
“When our world began to turn against us, when the temperatures fluctuated wildly and sea levels rose, the Hierarchy moved inland and built the sprawling domes we now call home. They were touted as marvels of engineering, but in truth, mankind was running scared. When animals, birds, and fish started dying out, developments by the Hierarchy’s scientists brought them back. We continuously turned our backs on both our problems and what made us great, empathy, compassion, love, ever increasing our reliance on our tyrannical betters. We pretend everything is as it should be as we savor the melody of digital bird song and revel in the caress of the turbine driven breeze. The truth is the world outside is already dead, and we are rotting away in cities made of glass, feasting on a banquet of lies, pretending, hoping the problem will fix itself.”
“We, The Unseen Hand, have been working behind the scenes. For many years now, in every aspect of life...” My voice quavers and cracks, “hoping beyond hope that it would not come to this…”
The crew begin gathering, hugging, sobbing, kissing, one last touch of humanity before it is gone.
“...but as of 11.56 central time control has been established over seven ballistic missile submarines and eleven microwave satellites. When this countdown ends, all stockpiles will impact. All Domelands are targeted, all communication hubs, all military installations….”
The unmistakable thud of armored boots echoing outside stops me mid speech. Our barricade judders precariously as a battering ram collides with steel.
“My dear viewers, welcome to the end. Our actions today will cut out the cancer eating this planet, excise the corruption at civilisations heart. Should any survive, they will inherit what remains, irradiated and broken. But free of us, of blight. Ready for rebirth.”
A shot shatters glass in the control room, something falls from a broken window, crunches sickeningly wet below. A spool crashes and rolls across the floor, a tool chest careens out of the way. Militant call signs trickle through as gas canisters burst both left and right. I must finish.
“We hope that any who do make it realise we did this for love, not hate.”
Shots boom and crackle. Camera men spin shaking to the floor, sound engineers smash to the ground, their limbs jerk and tremor as lightning arcs across their bodies. Stun shots, they want us alive. Fools
The stage lights halo multiple soldiers and their rifles, but I know they are pointed at my chest.
“...Goodnight humanity. Forgive us.”