Cover Art

What's Left of Hope

by

Joseph Terry

In a war torn world, two men are working to bring back order and goodness, even as everything falls apart around them. How long will their hope survive?

What's Left of Hope

 

                Dr. Fujikawa went to his lab as fast as he felt was safe. At this hour running through certain neighborhoods would get a person mugged at best, so he rushed when he was sure that there was no one else around. He had received a call from Dr. Andersen just moments ago, at four in the morning no less, telling him that he had made a breakthrough and that he needed to come to the lab as soon as possible. This was unprecedented and Dr. Fujikawa was trembling with excitement.

                “Who’s out there?!” A voice called from an alleyway.

                Dr. Fujikawa immediately put his back to the nearest wall and tried to make himself small. A drunken man wandered past mumbling something under his breath. He was carrying a knife in one hand and a mostly empty beer bottle in the other. He walked past Dr. Fujikawa without noticing him and turned into an alleyway where he promptly started heaving all of the alcohol he had likely just consumed.

                Dr. Fujikawa cursed himself for being so reckless. Whatever Dr. Andersen had discovered would still be there if it took him a few extra minutes to get to the lab. He waited until his heart calmed down before resuming his journey, trying to stay hidden as he made his way to the lab. Most of the buildings around here were in ruins, so there were plenty of places to hide, but that also meant that he could never be fully sure that there wasn’t anyone watching him.

                Dr. Andersen and Dr. Fujikawa had been partners for some time once they discovered that they were working towards the same goal. The world had been left battered and torn apart after the last world war and had never really recovered. It had gotten worse, in fact. There weren’t any stable governments left in the world; any new ones that formed were quickly overthrown and replaced. Rioting and looting were rampant, and there weren’t any protectors of the innocent anywhere to be seen. The world was quickly falling apart, and Andersen and Fujikawa were dedicated to building it back up.

                That was their plan, at the very least. There wasn’t much that two men could do. They had recruited a few others to their cause, but there were so many problems that plagued the world that it felt like an impossible task at times. It had been forty years since the war’s end, and they hadn’t managed to change anything. The men knew that they weren’t going to see much improvement in their lifetimes, the problem had grown too large and had become too deeply ingrained in the minds of the people. They were able to do things like develop medicines that had been long forgotten, or reinvent electronics that weren’t around anymore, but their biggest hope, they both felt, was in children.

Dr. Fujikawa and Dr. Andersen had been doing their best to find orphans and to raise them in a safe place where they would learn goodness and kindness. Dr. Fujikawa and his wife had personally adopted a few, and Dr. Andersen had taken some in as well. When they didn’t have any room or resources left they recruited other likeminded people to assist them. The idea was that If they could raise children up to be better than the world, then the world would have to change. Dr. Fujikawa believed this with all his heart. All of their hope lied in the children. Dr. Fujikawa almost laughed at himself as he thought that again, it seemed so foolish and sentimental to think that way, but it was the only thing that he had to hold onto.

                They had found one girl who was very promising. Her name was Karen and she was as clever as they come, and had a real thirst for learning. She was only fifteen, but she was already helping Andersen and Fujikawa in the lab. They had found her clinging to her dead mother when she was just a baby. Dr. Andersen was raising her as his own daughter. She, more than any other person, seemed to be keeping Dr. Andersen stable. He was crazy about her and so proud of what she was becoming. Both of the doctors thought that she was destined to change the world. They often spoke about how much good she was going to do, though they didn’t talk about it too much in front of her, they didn’t want her to develop an oversized ego.

                As Dr. Fujikawa neared the lab, he was still confused over what new development Dr. Andersen could have discovered. He hadn’t been discussing any new ideas with him recently, in fact he had been a little sluggish in his work. He usually did that when he was getting down about the state of the world, but he would always bounce out of it soon enough, usually because Karen would do something or other to cheer him up. Karen must have done something that gave him hope again and then both of them had probably been working all night until they had made whatever discovery that they did. Maybe they had rediscovered the cure for cancer that was lost when the war broke out. Something like that would go a long way, but it also could have probably waited until Dr. Fujikawa had woken up.

                The lights were dim in the lab as he entered. The only light was in the back room where they kept surplus materials. Why was Dr. Andersen in there? When Dr. Fujikawa approached he found that the back room was a lot bigger than it used to be. One of the walls had swung away and it revealed another room further in. Why had this been kept a secret from him? What was going on? Where was Karen?

                Dr. Fujikawa entered the secret room and found Dr. Andersen hunched over a table. His hands were tightly clenched fists and he was trembling slightly. Dr. Fujikawa hesitated to call out to him. Why should he be apprehensive? This man was his best friend in the whole world, but something about the situation made his insides churn. He finally managed to call out, “Doctor, what’s going on here?”

                Dr. Andersen nearly jumped, but relaxed when he saw who it was. “Oh, Fujikawa, good, you’re here.” His voice was low and sad. He didn’t sound at all like he did on the phone. Their equipment wasn’t the best, so the sound quality over their phone lines was shabby, but over the phone Dr. Andersen had at least sounded energetic.

                “Are you alright Dr. Andersen?” Fujikawa asked.

                Dr. Andersen was slow to respond. “No,” he finally said. “I’m not alright, but I have made a breakthrough. I have finally admitted to myself something that I’ve been struggling with all these years.”

                “What are you talking about?” Dr. Fujikawa asked.

                “For a long time now I’ve had a bit of a different idea on what to do about the world. A different approach than the one we’ve been going on about. I’ve come to realize that our ideas aren’t going to work Fujikawa. We must do something else, something drastic!” Dr. Andersen said.

                “What are you talking about? We’ve made so much progress for just the two of us. We have so many bright young children who are ready to change the world. Karen will be-”

                “Karen’s dead!” Dr. Andersen cut him off.

                The two doctors stood in silence as the words sank in. “Trevor found her a few hours ago,” Dr. Andersen said lifelessly. “She didn’t understand how real the danger was. We kept her too sheltered, too pure. She was just coming to the lab to check on some work she was doing, some stupid inconsequential thing. She didn’t even think to bring someone with her. She’s gone Fujikawa!”

                Dr. Fujikawa found the nearest chair and sat down. He struggled to breath. He didn’t care at the moment for how much progress their project just lost, all he could do was think of Karen’s bright face. He had seen her only a few hours ago where she had excitedly told him about what she was working on. She’d had so many brilliant ideas. She was going to change the world. How could something like this happen? Dr. Fujikawa had tried to prepare himself for when one of their children would eventually be taken. It was inevitable with how the world was today, but nothing could have prepared him.

                “It was foolish of us to think that the world could change. It’s been in a freefall for too long to change its direction now,” Dr. Andersen said.

                Dr. Fujikawa didn’t respond. He didn’t want to be having this conversation right now. He didn’t want to have this conversation at all with the way it was going.

                “I’ve been working on something in secret for the past ten years or so,” Dr. Andersen continued. “I didn’t tell you about it because I hoped that it would never come to this. We’ve always talked about refreshing the world, but our approach was too tame. The world needs to be refreshed alright, but it needs a true refresh. We need to start over with the human race.”

                Dr. Fujikawa was slowly piecing together where Dr. Andersen was going, but he didn’t want his conclusion to be right. “Please don’t tell me what it sounds like you’re telling me.”

                “I’ve created a fast acting and highly contagious virus,” Dr. Andersen said. “It will kill effectively and quickly, so that the necessary victims won’t suffer too much. I’ve also developed an antidote. Both are simple to create really. The way the world is now, it can’t defend against something like this. There isn’t a Center for Disease Control anymore. There aren’t any organizations left to combat the virus. It would wipe the world in a matter of years.”

                “So you want to completely end humanity? Is that it?” Dr. Fujikawa asked.

                “No, like I said, I have an antidote. We would simply have to give that to those who are deemed good enough. We could rebuild humanity with only the best and brightest,” Dr. Andersen said.

                “And who would be in charge of deciding that? Do you have some formula for determining the goodness and potential of a person? Could you really decide who will live and who will die? Could you live with yourself after condemning someone to die?” Dr. Fujikawa asked.

                “I will and I must,” Dr. Andersen said. “What goodness and hope is left in the world will be crushed before long. Karen’s goodness was taken with her life, and she took any hope I had left with her. How much longer do you think you would have held up Fujikawa? Could you have kept going with our naive plan even as each and every child we’ve raised is taken from you?”

                Dr. Fujikawa didn’t know how to answer that, but he also knew that he couldn’t let this mad plan go to fruition. He had to stop Dr. Andersen somehow. Neither of them was very physically imposing, he might be able to take him out in a physical struggle. Dr. Fujikawa kept a gun on him at all times, but he had never actually fired it. He was certain that Dr. Andersen also had a gun on him. He would try to talk him out of it if he could, but if that didn’t work he would have to do something dramatic. He didn’t know if something like that would work, but he couldn’t sit here and do nothing.

                Dr. Andersen sighed and sunk to the floor. “I never wanted it to come to this. I’ve been trying to do anything that I could to keep from resorting to this. I simply can’t anymore, don’t you understand? This world isn’t worth saving, but a part of it is. We can keep the good and eliminate all of the bad. It’s the only thing that will save the human race in the end. If we keep on like we have been, there won’t be anyone left in a hundred years or so.”

                “Doctor, you can’t do this. You would become exactly what you seek to destroy. Could you live with all that death hanging over your head?” Dr. Fujikawa asked.

                “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it yourself Fujikawa! You’ve seen the world fall apart around you just as I have. Have you never thought that it would be easier and more efficient to just remove the biggest problem in one fell swoop? Have you really believed in this inane project that we’ve been working on? You can’t have thought that this would really work!”

                Dr. Fujikawa looked at his old friend, hurt. “I’ve always believed in it. I still do Doctor. Please, put all of this foolishness away, the world can still be saved.”

                Dr. Andersen laughed, just a little bit. “You were always a better man than me, Fujikawa. You are right of course. If I did this, I would become just like the rest of the world. I don’t know how I would choose who would be given the antidote. The fact that I’ve come up with this plan speaks volumes about me. No, this isn’t something I can do.” Dr. Andersen stood up and walked to his desk. He stood there for a moment before pushing a button in front of him. A warning light started flashing in the lab as all doors and windows leading outside started sealing shut. Dr. Fujikawa’s heart froze in his chest. “I couldn’t make a choice like that, but I believe that you could. The virus has been released into the air. With our connections to the other labs, I’ve released it from seventeen different locations. The antidote is stored, along with its recipe, in this case. You can do with it as you will. This room is sealed; you will be safe in here. Now, Fujikawa, the world in is your hands to do with as you will. You take your hope and belief in people and do what you deem right.”

                Dr. Andersen then left a stunned Fujikawa and headed for the airlocks. “Wait! Aren’t you going to take some of the antidote for yourself?” Fujikawa asked.

                Dr. Andersen didn’t respond, merely left the lab’s airlock and exposed himself to the virus that would cleanse the world. As he stood outside he took a deep breath. He would be the first to die.

 

~Three Years Later~

 

                “History has been made tonight as the New United Nations has been officially organized. Consisting of thirty countries, with talks to add several more as chaos dies down. A spokesperson for the New United Nations will be speaking momentarily. We take you there now to listen to his remarks.”

                “It has been a hard road getting to this point. Many thought it impossible for the world to recover from the wars and bioterrorist attacks that it faced. There are those who gave up hope, and there are those who never stopped believing. Today as the world begins anew, we would like to recognize the works of one man who made this all possible.

                “Dr. Fujikawa, founder of the Fujikawa Foundation, made all of this possible. The world was in a downward spiral, and he stepped in to bring it back. Without his efforts, there is no telling where we would be right now, but it is easy to guess that most of us would be dead. When his former partner unleased the Emundabit Virus on the world, Dr. Fujikawa worked tirelessly to stop its effects. He immediately sent the formula for the antidote to as many as had the capabilities to receive the information and then started work to produce as much of the antidote as possible. Desperate for relief, people flocked to him and he developed and produced the antidote as fast as he could. Those who were among the first to receive the antidote banded together to assist the Doctor in producing enough to meet demand. Together they formed the Fujikawa Foundation, whose aim was and still is to assist the world as it battles with this virus.

                “This virus has taken many lives, including the life of the man who created it, and it unfortunately continues to claim victims. That is the reason that Dr. Fujikawa isn’t here with us tonight. We invited him, but he is still hard at work improving the antidote. He did tell us that the newest version is almost ready and that it should double the amount of time needed between doses.

                “The New United Nations will do all in its power to assist in the production, research, and distribution of the antidote. With the world organized again, it is only a matter of time before we discover a permanent solution to the virus. The death toll for this virus is in the millions and continues to rise, but each month that number decreases. Working together with Dr. Fujikawa, the New United Nations will stop the increasing death count and put an end to the virus’s reign of terror. It is only a matter of time until a permanent solution to the virus is developed and we can all sleep easier. After struggling for so long to survive the harsh world, we can finally look forward to a bright future. None of this would be possible without Dr. Fujikawa essentially uniting the world under his banner as he fought to save our lives from the virus. Thank you Dr. Fujikawa, and thank you everyone who is left, for coming together like this.”

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