Seven years. This was the time the world needed to walk the distance from hope to death. Mere seven years. For those who did not live this time through it might have been unthinkable. A few thousand year old civilization brought to its end - the Almighty God's creation of seven days ruined in seven years.
Some did not know it was coming. Some had known for years but chose not to believe. Some believed, but hoped they were mistaken.
Autumn came early that year and with it arrived the scent of leaves burnt in the fields on the outskirts of Washington. Some birds flew away to warmer places, dark-brown acorns lay on the pavements, lazy cats rested in the semi-warm sunlight, yawning from time to time. The world was as it had always been.
That day the sun had already set and the cool wind was playing with dry leaves turning them around on the pavement in front of the gate to the Taelon Embassy. Yet the whirl somehow ceased towards evening and everything stood still as if waiting.
Waiting for Them.
They came when it was dark, Their shadows walking the streets soundlessly, like apparitions. The black sky engulfed their spaceships making them unseen. But some knew They were there and locked their doors cautiously that night. Apocalypse was to come quietly: without angels or golden trumpets announcing the Judgment Day; perhaps even without God. And the city lost in darkness would sleep its end through.
The Taelon Embassy in Washington was almost deserted: only two slim figures were visible in the dim light, staring into nothingness in silence that spoke more than words could. The North American Companion was gazing at the floor when Liam Kincaid turned his look towards the garden, anxiously holding his gun. On the marble paths the shadows of fallen leaves slow-danced in the lamplight.
‘We can still activate the energy shield,’ he spoke even though he knew what the answer would be; yet he took the comfort of speaking; a useless conversation to break the silence before a simple 'no' sounded from the audience chamber. He sighed as he turned back to look at the Taelon ambassador and their eyes met.
‘I can't believe it's ending this way,’ Liam muttered more to himself than to his Companion and watched as Da'an walked up to the banister, the alien energy in his blue eyes glimmering in the twilight. Outside in the garden everything seemed to be perfectly in order, only the cold air made him shiver from time to time. The virtual glass was deactivated so he could see and hear everything that moved outside.
‘You should have gone like the others did,’ the Companion spoke gazing towards the sky.
‘Lame as it sounds, this place is more of a home to me than... ,’ he paused, realizing that he was going to say ‘the Resistance hideout.’ Da'an looked at him and smiled, but there was something tragic in his features that made Liam unable to think about anything else than what was to come. His alien, glimmering eyes betrayed resignation that could only be nested in superior beings, no more led by instinct, but subject to logic; a dignified acceptance of death that no human could ever reach.
‘So you think that everything's over up there?’ Liam changed the subject, pointing towards the sky. The Taelon did not answer, only closed his eyes.
‘How long till they get here?’ the man carefully loaded his gun.
‘I believe they are here already,’ the Companion whispered and as if the reality wanted to prove his words true, several shadows appeared in the garden, half-running through the marble paths.
‘You left the gate open?’ Liam inquired standing up.
‘Let them be my last guests if they so wish,’ Da'an answered and with a single movement of his pale hand activated the central computer. The lights were lit in an instant and the virtual glass emerged, but the security system remained deactivated. The Companion tilted his head to one side, thinking. The Embassy looked exactly like seven years ago when he had visited Earth for the first time: only now there were no guards anywhere, and the people who had been long dead would not perform their duties that night.
As the sound of footsteps filled the silence, Liam once more checked his gun and aimed it at the corridor which led to the audience chamber. Six Jaridian soldiers dressed in dark protective armour entered the room, but immediately stopped when they saw a human pointing his gun at them. The shadow of another Jaridian who was most likely walking after the squad appeared on the wall and an authoritative ‘She'brath di'rea!’ could be heard.
‘You stand right there!’ Liam shouted. ‘I honestly hope you know English cause if you move an inch from there I swear I'm gonna shoot you.’
The Jaridians looked at each other, but did not answer. Not a few seconds passed before their commander emerged from the corridor, eyeing Liam carefully. ‘I am Ter'eth, the Commander of Re'kh in the service of the Jaridian Empire,’ he announced in English.
‘Kincaid, and I don't think you need to know more,’ Liam shouted back. The Taelon diplomat shook his head sadly and walked towards his Protector. ‘Stay back, Da'an, they're armed,’ the man glanced at the North American Companion, then back at the Jaridian Commander.
‘This is pointless, Liam.’ Da'an spoke softly. ‘The war is over. I have to go with them.’
‘You can't be serious,’ Liam's voice started shaking, yet when he looked at the diplomat he knew he would not change his decision. Reluctantly, he lowered his gun and watched the Jaridian Commander step closer.
‘This was a wise decision, human,’ he stated half-smirking, then turned to the Companion, ‘Da'an, member of the Taelon Synod, Taelon Ambassador to North America?’ he asked as the protocol required even though he knew the answer.
‘Yes,’ Da'an nodded, making the gesture of Taelon greeting and the Commander returned it with a brief, strained smile.
There was something cat-like in his green, glimmering eyes: more than victory-bound pride, but not yet malevolence. He slowly started walking around the chamber, his footsteps echoing through the empty corridors like war drums. Suddenly he stopped in front of the virtual glass, observing the world behind the pinkish glimmers. Da'an waved his hand and the barrier disappeared, giving the Commander a clear view of the city.
‘Thank you,’ he said without turning back, but then something else entered his mind. He clasped his hands behind his back and gracefully walked up to the diplomat. ‘You of all Taelons have chosen to spend your last days on Earth,’ he said looking at him suspiciously. ‘Why?’
Da'an's blue eyes met the gaze of the Jaridian. ‘So you might come for me and see what you wish to destroy,’ was the short answer.
The Commander turned around. ‘That will not change anything. Humanity has already been judged as guilty.’
Da'an blushed, making his skin seem translucent as it revealed the blue energy particles of his true form.
‘Guilty of what?’ Liam blinked.
‘Providing shelter for our enemies and sending troops to aid them in the war,’ the Jaridian recited.
‘This means that the leaders of your governments will be detained and trialed in the Jaridian court of war,’ Da'an explained almost in a whisper, having noticed that his Protector did not understand. ‘The leader of each country on Earth will be trialed separately and, if found guilty, they will be executed along with all the citizens of their country.’
‘A good knowledge of the universal law is always useful,’ the Commander smirked.
‘However you may wish it to be such, this is no universal law. This is your law,’ Da'an spoke in a very official manner.
‘Is it not so,’ the Commander stepped closer, ‘that it is the law of those who emerge victorious from the conflict that withstands the storms of war? You will certainly find it true that these are the winners who create history. For would anyone attempt to disagree with a weapon pointed at their back?’
Da'an fell silent and allowed his gaze to fall to the floor. Yet even it, in an act of treason, like a mirror reflected the figure of the Jaridian Commander, reminding the diplomat of his final fate. All seemed to be lost that night. A sudden gust of wind brought dry autumnal leaves into the chamber and Liam watched the alien Commander crush them with his boot.
‘It is time to go,’ he stated finally, gesturing for Da'an to go first. The diplomat looked at his Protector for the last time before lowering his gaze.
‘You can't go with them,’ Liam muttered.
‘I hope we shall meet in another life - in a different world,’ the Taelon smiled slightly trying to hide all his emotions like a perfect diplomat should. ‘Goodbye, Liam.’
‘But you can't...,’ the man's voice died out in his throat as he watched his Companion slowly leaving the audience chamber under the watchful cat-like eyes of the Jaridian soldiers. He did not even notice when his hand released the gun; he only twitched when it hit the floor with a metallic sound. The dust of the crushed leaves was still dancing on the purple floor as the wind played with it and whirled it around.
As if suddenly awoken from a trance, Liam Kincaid ran to the window and searched the garden for the Jaridian soldiers. Finally, he noticed them near the iron gate, their dark-green armour glistening in the lamplight. His eyes were open wide when he shouted; ‘What are you going to do to him?’
‘We'll trial him and kill him,’ was the Commander's careless reply.
The man hit the wall with his fist. ‘When is this fucking circus going to end?!’ he shouted back but nobody seemed to hear him anymore. And he stood there like a fool, staring at the darkness, waiting for nothing.
Three months later when winter came and a thin layer of snow covered the city, the streets were empty. Only a flock of wild dogs ran through the Embassy garden, howling, then disappeared behind the half-open gate. The water in the marble fountain was frozen in silence, grimly waiting for the first signs of spring.