* Photo used without permission from: http://www.panoramio.com/photo/14512773
The adventure continues! If you'd like to go back and read from the beginning, go here: STORY PART 1.
I rose and dressed in darkness. With the aid of a single candle I made my way out of Max’s laboratory. I left the cave and passed beyond the alcove where the personal transportation device lay stored, hidden from prying eyes. As I passed I remembered how I watched in awe as the vehicle propelled itself forward. Little did I now that this amazing invention would soon pale in comparison to the other revelations I had seen.
The cool air seemed to cleanse me as its recuperative properties cleared not only my troubled mind, but my soul as well. For the first time since setting foot in Scotland no condensation impaired my vision and I could see as clearly as a moonless night afforded.
I began walking; I knew not where I trod. The sky was alight with a million stars as if God himself wished to impart upon me that he was the ultimate creator, the master of not only man, but also machines built from the brains and hands of man. I walked until my candle disappeared to nothingness. I came atop a small hill and looked for lights of a town or village. I saw neither. Wherever I was, Max arranged that any visitor to his compound would not know its location. Even if I stood at that very spot under a cloudless sky of day, I reasoned my understanding of where I stood on the globe would be no less clear.
I cannot say with certainty how long I wandered among the thistle-filled plains of Scotland only that at one point I decided to return. It was then I realized I knew not which way I had arrived and therefore, doubted my ability to safely return to the hidden caves of Dr. Thatcher’s adaptation. After attempting several short tours, I resigned myself to sitting and waiting for first light. Hopefully then I would be able to safely navigate my return.
It was then I heard the first explosion.
I stood and saw a flash of brilliant light roughly two leagues from my current location. I recognized the area at once. It was the caves.
I began running. I had taken three steps when another blast, larger than the first, erupted before me. Its illumination eclipsed the very sun. I thought of only Max and his words hauntingly returned to my mind. He had said he needed to destroy everything.
But like this?
No! The thought sickened me as my legs propelled me forward closer to the disaster that lie ahead. He was no madman. He was a civilized scientist, a man of logic, of reason, of nobility. Surely this could not be his doing.
I ran on. Smaller explosions recalibrated my position in relation to my destination. As I drew nearer the distinct smell of sulfur began to mix with the cool air of the new morning as it entered my lungs.
As I ran the question of why returned to my mind. I saw Max’s operation. His boiler could not have generated enough explosive power to cause such damage. And why destroy his own…
A thought came to me, a horrible, nauseating thought. I began to slow my pace toward the caves even though I knew I should not tarry. Perhaps it wasn’t Max that caused this. Perhaps it was someone—or something else.
The vision of the metal man flew to my mind. Its soulless face expressed nothing…or did it? Titus, Titus, Titus.
I reached the cave exhausted. Only then could I fully understand the total devastation that occurred. I passed first the cave housing Max’s transport. It was destroyed beyond recognition. Next I ran to the main opening. The façade had been completely blown from the cave entrance and burning pieces lay hundreds of feet away. The small fires looked like specters mocking the great doctor’s dream.
“Max!” I yelled into the smoking void. “Max! Are you there?” I knew my attempts to find anything alive in the smoldering hell would garner no successful result, but I had to try.
I ventured further and further into the once spectacular space that housed arguably mankind’s greatest accomplishment. I saw pieces of machinery mixed with items in Max’s parlor. I noticed gears imbedded into the cave wall as the machines turned to burning shrapnel from the explosion.
Blown against another side of the cave wall I discovered the remains of the bed where I lay only hours before. Oh, if I had stayed and not ventured from the cave my broken body would lie among the ruins.
Coughing I tried yelling through the black smoke still bellowing from the laboratory. I made my way to Max’s quarters. Could he have possibly survived this? The evidence surrounding me indicated he could not.
After surveying the dreaded scene I concluded nothing alive remained and I began to make my way out. It was then I heard a stirring, faint, but there.
“Max!” I screamed as I turned to the direction of the noise. Slowly I reached a door, the door to Max’s room and saw that something could be under it. “Max?” I said and my question received an answer.
From under the door I heard a slight rasping.
“Max! You’re alive! Can you talk?” Again, he scraped his fingers on the door. With effort almost to the exhausting of all my strength I was able to lift the door and move it off my friend. What I saw confirmed my worst fears. Max was not dead, but he would not leave his cave alive.
“Max—lay still,” I tried to console him. “I shall quickly retrieve a physician.”
“No,” I barely heard him say.
“Please don’t give up hope.”
“Hope is lost.” He began coughing and his mangled body shuttered with each raspy breath.
“Where is Titus?” he asked as I reached for his hand to offer comfort.
“I…I don’t know,” I said hoping my words did not betray my thoughts. By the extent of the damage, nothing—either living or animated—could have survived the devastation.
“If by the hand of God Titus survived, do not destroy him.”
“But sir,” I argued. “Is not Titus the perpetrator of this heinous act?”
“Do not judge him. He only…” The doctor began to heave again, the distress in his body evident. “He only obeyed my command.”
“In all honesty, Max. I do not believe it…ah, he survived.” I saw life ebbing from the man’s blue-gray eyes. “But, if he did survive, I give you my word as an Englishman, I will do all in my power to protect him.”
“Thank you, my friend.” His breathing became shallower. “Thank you.”
“Please, rest,” I said. “Go to God in peace.”
“The doctor smiled and nodded his head only just. His gaze adjusted to a point just beyond me and the last breath of the great man left his body. He was gone.
I cannot tell you my friend how long I held the dead man’s head in my arms. A myriad of thoughts passed as I thought of all that had transpired. Finally, the oncoming light of the new day lightened the eastern horizon and I knew I must leave this place. Before I left, I covered the doctor’s body with rubble that fell from the cave walls and ceiling. I felt it a fitting tribute that Max should remain inside.
Link To Part 5
Link To Part 5
To Be Continued...