Welcome to the works of Mark S. LaMaster, Tattooer by day, Author by night

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Sunday, December 12, 2010


Written by: Nick Anderson & Mark S. LaMaster

Word Count: 4,859

Email: Nick.Anderson@bostonbeer.com


6 – 1 – 20 – 5

Dr. Brotman hung up the phone and stood absolutely motionless for an eternity if it was ten seconds.

“What’s the matter?” Elizabeth cautiously asked.

“Come on, we have to go.” The doctor helped Elizabeth out of the chair, paying little attention to any residual pain caused by her hastiness. As Dr. Brotman opened the door and peered down the hall, Elizabeth rifled through her belongings to find her phone. Occupying the office was one nurse, a receptionist, and three people in the waiting room. Dr. Brotman stood in the doorway for no more than a blink before handing down their sentence. She grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, and began to run in the opposite direction. She led her terrified companion to the office’s alternate exit and down a corridor to a stairwell.

“What’s going on?” an exasperated Elizabeth cried.

Elizabeth had been waiting for approximately forty-five minutes before the nurse came into the waiting room and escorted her to the back.

“The doctor will be right with you,” said the nurse as she closed the door behind her.

The room was not one that was designed to set a person at ease. It was an incredibly sterile environment for what had been described as a “relatively informal procedure.” She did her best to appreciate the situation, as any other doctor would have required her to share a room with at least five other patients. In addition to her solitude, this unique practice afforded her the chance to avoid facing her paralyzing fear of general anesthesia. The only down side to these luxuries was that they had required her to wait an additional two weeks beyond the moment that she made her impetuous decision.

Elizabeth had been in many doctor’s offices. This one was the first where she noticed that the walls had not been plastered with any type of product advertising. She would have appreciated something to occupy her mind and wished that she would have grabbed one of the magazines from the waiting room. The six minutes that she sat alone in that room felt like two hours.

Dr. Christina Brotman was an aging, yet statuesque beauty. She entered the room with a calming flow and spoke with a softness that would downgrade a hurricane to a tropical depression. She used subtle informalities such as greeting with the word “hi” as opposed to “hello,” and sitting down to shake her patient’s hand. Elizabeth felt that Dr. Brotman understood her without requiring any form of explanation as to why she was there. More than that, she reserved any form of judgment, and that placated the largest of all of the young woman’s concerns. So soothing was this doctor, in fact, that she talked Elizabeth out of her pants faster than the man that had put her in this situation. There was not a moment of awkwardness between the doctor entering the room and Elizabeth’s ankles resting in stirrups.

“Now I’m going to get started,” stated Dr. Brotman. “I promise this will be nice and easy, and we’ll be all finished here before you know it. Does that sound good to you?”

Elizabeth agreed with a nod of her head as she turned her stare toward the ceiling. She exhaled a thin, yet long breath and felt her grip on the armrests of the chair loosen. As the doctor moved gracefully through the beginning stages of the process, Elizabeth was comforted to realize that it was likened more to a routine exam than any sort of mission of destruction. It could not have been more than one minute later that there was a knock on the door.

“Dr. Brotman, there is a phone call that you need to take,” exclaimed the interrupting nurse. “It is your husband, and he insists that you speak with him immediately.” Her words came out as if she had been frightened. Elizabeth reformed her white-knuckled grip on the chair.

“I am so sorry, Elizabeth,” said the doctor. “You’re doing fantastic. I had just better see what this is about. I will take the call in here, so as not to leave you alone, okay?” She then raised her voice just enough for it to penetrate the thickness of the door. “Jean, can you connect him in here?” She grabbed the receiver from off of the wall, leaving Elizabeth lying in the most vulnerable of positions.

“Hello, Alan. As always, your timing is…” Her words were cut short with the precision of a blade splitting a hair. Elizabeth looked up to the see the infallible doctor’s face flushed as white as the wall behind her. She could hear that the man on the phone was frantic, but could not make out what he was saying. That is, until Dr. Brotman tried to ask a question and was promptly halted; the words ringing through the phone as clear as day:


Dr. Brotman hung up the phone and stood absolutely motionless for an eternity if it was ten seconds.

“What’s the matter?” Elizabeth cautiously asked.

“Come on, we have to go.” The doctor helped Elizabeth out of the chair, paying little attention to any residual pain caused by her hastiness. As Dr. Brotman opened the door and peered down the hall, Elizabeth rifled through her belongings to find her phone. Occupying the office was the nurse, a receptionist, and three people in the waiting room. Dr. Brotman stood in the doorway for no more than a blink before handing down their sentence. She grabbed Elizabeth’s hand, and began to run in the opposite direction. She led her terrified companion to the office’s alternate exit and down a corridor to a stairwell.

“What’s going on?” an exasperated Elizabeth cried.

“Just stay right behind me. We have to get down to the basement.” Dr. Brotman proceeded to descend the stairs as if they were covered in oil.

“What about those other people in the office?” Elizabeth questioned. “Is something wrong?”

Dr. Brotman continued down the stairs as if she did not hear Elizabeth’s queries. The pair spiraled down a distance of five floors; one more than either had traveled upward on that day.

“Come on, we’re almost there!” Dr. Brotman shouted uncharacteristically.

At the end of the stairwell was a door. The only marking on it was a yellow and black symbol that looked like a crude representation of a fan. At that moment, there was a thunderous blast. The two women locked eyes; shock rendering them unable to move. Dr. Brotman then opened the archaic steel door, shoved Elizabeth through, and pulled it to close with a thunderous blast of its own.

Elizabeth locked her focus onto the screen of the cellular phone that she clutched in her right hand. She watched with longing eyes as the inanimate object struggled to obtain a signal that would connect her to the world above. A panic overcame her that resulted from the fear that it was not several feet of concrete that were blocking the efforts of her mobile device, but rather the fact that there was simply nothing up there to connect to. While she still maintained an absence of knowledge as to what was going on, she was perfectly capable of deducing that it was something terrible. She closed her eyes and prayed that a divine intervention would establish a means of communication. She felt that she needed to warn those who still had a chance to get to safety, provided there was any such chance left. Her brow furled as she tried to scream with her mind. As she did this she realized that, on this day of all days, she had a lesser chance of being heard than the struggling instrument in her hand. She looked down again to confirm her suspicion that no signal had been obtained. Then, a voice spoke up from behind her.

“Alan, can you hear me!?”

Clearly, Dr. Brotman was in better standing with the technological deities, as she seemed to have managed to make a connection. Elizabeth listened intently to the only half of the conversation that she had access to.

“What’s going on?”

Elizabeth was grateful that Dr. Brotman opened with the same question that weighed on her mind. If it is possible to flex ones aural muscles, then that is precisely what Elizabeth did. To her dismay, her ears lacked the strength that she summoned.

“Yeah,” she heard the doctor say. “Are you alright?”

Elizabeth hoped that the silent partner in the exchange was the enigmatic Mister Brotman with some overdue answers.

“Are you safe, Alan?

Alan was Elizabeth’s father’s name. She wished that it was her father on the phone, but determined that it was unlikely.

“Wait! Wait a second! What do you want me to do?”

The heightened concern in the doctor’s voice led Elizabeth to believe that the conversation was drawing to a close, and the dialogue did little to reassure her that it had been a useful one.

“Alan! You are scaring me, damn it!”

Elizabeth nearly grabbed the phone from her hand to demand that Alan resolve the situation, when Dr. Brotman drastically calmed her demeanor.

“I love you, Alan.” She spoke softly into the phone, very much like she did upon introducing herself. “Just come and get me, ok. Please be careful and come and get me?”

Elizabeth grew more concerned for Dr. Brotman than herself.

“I love you.”

Neither woman had spoken a word in over an hour when Elizabeth finally abandoned the hope that her phone was of any use. There had been several instances already where she nearly spoke up, but in glancing over at the tear covered face of the doctor, could not find the proper first word.

Upon turning her attention away from her failed technology and neglected implorations, a myriad of thoughts flooded her consciousness, bottlenecked in processing, and slipped through for consideration one at a time.

What was that blast?

It could have been caused by anything, she supposed. Early indications led her to give credence to the thought that it was a nuclear detonation or some other sort of attack. Based on her observation of their surroundings, they did appear to be taking refuge in a bomb shelter. She realized, however, that whatever it was, the doctor’s husband knew that it was coming. She concluded that it could not have been a terrorist attack, because terror does not call ahead.

What about the people upstairs?

She recalled the image of Dr. Brotman pausing in the doorway to survey the lobby. She was certain that the doctor had seen the people sitting there; people that she knew. Elizabeth could not comprehend why she would whisk away silently and leave them to a sudden demise. She could have screamed to them. What was she thinking? They were close enough that she could have pleaded for them to follow. It was not as if the hallway was as long as a football field. They could not have been more than twenty feet away. There was certainly enough room in the bunker. They could easily have fit another ten people in with them. Why did she leave them? Doctors take an oath to help people for Christ’s sake. Elizabeth began to hate Dr. Brotman.

How big was…whatever it was?

Suddenly, she feared the worst for her family and friends. The fact that this doctor was located so far from the dwellings of anyone that she cared for soothed her trepidation momentarily. She looked down one more time to see if all of those commercials about cellular signal strength in remote areas were at all accurate or just marketing bullshit. She began to hate consumerism. She would have given anything to be able to make one call, if just to know that they were not the only two people alive.

Elizabeth pondered an endless chain of questions that ranged from the safety of the President to why she would grab her phone and not her clothes. The latter arose upon recognizing that she was developing a chill, due to the less-than-ample coverage provided by the hospital gown. She could picture her jeans and sweater sitting there on the counter of the doctor’s office. She could see the blank walls. She could almost feel the steel utensils. Then she thought of another question.

What about the baby?

Elizabeth again looked up at Dr. Brotman, as if she expected an answer to the most important of her uncertainties. She began to feel sick as she contemplated the numerous possibilities that existed for what was to be the rest of her life. Dr. Brotman continued to cry with her arms wrapped around her knees, as Elizabeth silently demanded to know whether or not the abortion had been completed. At this point, she was unsure of what outcome she would be hoping for. Finally she spoke.

“What was that blast?”


There are only so many ways to sum up the accumulated meaning of one’s life in a few short moments, as the many roads traveled now remain forever behind me, here at the end. Maybe this is my fault…all of it…just a fool’s hope that things could change; that a guiding light might forever rid us of the hopeless notions of futility plaguing every avenue. So many thoughts here at the end and, regardless of my imagination, I assure you that I’ve never pictured such a conclusion for myself. My eyes remained locked on the cellular device in my hand. ‘Christina’s Office,’ the screen reads. With a call duration of only one minute and thirteen seconds, our last conversation was merely enough time to tell her to run, get to safety, and to say goodbye. My God, if only she knew.

My name is Alan Brotman; ID number 6-1-20-5. I am a Nuclear Fusion Physicist and co-designer of Global Tech Facilities’ Fusion Reactor. The project was a bold move by the powers that be; those who had previously stood silent in the background, unlimitedly funding my experiments. With this, they were presented a price demanding the highest of bounties; one that they could not afford to sit idly by for. It was an idea beyond imagination; so far beyond the understanding of the 21st century, yet only moments ago it sat before the world. Even now, I can hear it just at my backside.

I keep trying to remember where it was the first time I knew that I loved her; the first time I knew Christina would forever be mine.

“Damn it!” I say, trying to clear my head. “Get a grip, Alan!”

“Please confirm Protocol ID number.” The computer screen in front of me repeats as a single message flashes, prompting only one choice.


Protocol 23, titled ‘Project Vanishing,’ has always been beyond comprehension in ways that will forever remind the human race of days when life seemed not quite so painful. Its existence is known only by a few; this rebuttal to end all before it, the essence of the end. Protocol 23 is a nuclear payload with orbital launch capability, which I have now targeted for the Global Tech Facilities installation that will forever remain my tomb.

I should have tried harder. I should have been able to stop them. I can imagine even now the hundreds, if not thousands, of those chosen few that hold the keys to the kingdom barking orders at each other. They can see every move I make, and in the back of their minds they hope only to stop these few final keystrokes. However, their hopes are fleeting, as my decision is made. I only hope for just a few more moments for me to reflect. I still have a little time. There has to be a few more seconds for me. From every corner of the world, even those with clearance above Top Secret can only watch as the cursor continues to flash. Protocol 23 hangs in the balance.

“I THOUGHT YOU HAD A HANDLE ON THIS!” An irate figurehead shouts as he watches the live security feed of Alan Brotman’s final moments. “HE’S ACCESSED THE SYSTEM, DAMN IT!” YOU HAVE TO STOP THIS NOW!”

“It’s out of my hands, Mr. Snyder,” a voice responds. “It appears that he built a backdoor within the system before it went online. It must be some sort of contingency.”


I never wanted any of this. I never imagined how out of control everything could really get, but I guess when you’re present for the birth of a new frontier, the risks seem so very far away. Yet here I am at my final location; Global Tech Facilities in Denver, Colorado - pioneers of Project Vanishing and sole proprietors of the controversial Fusion Reactor. I first came to Global Tech Facilities seven years ago, when I was contracted through the United States Government for head design on Project Vanishing. Our goal was simple: To plan for the worst possible wartime scenario; one in which we leave the enemy buried below a world crushed by our own final farewell. It was to be a nuclear payload one thousand times stronger than any ever detonated within any hemisphere on the planet. Since the moment Project Vanishing went online, the bomb has sat quietly in orbit, away from the eye of the public, waiting for today; waiting for a reason to exist. It wasn’t until the Fusion Reactor became a reality - a tangible ability - that I even considered its use. However, like I said, I tried to reason with them.

“Oh man…oh man.” I repeat as my hands begin to shake furiously, my heart thumping away in my chest. “You can do this. Do it, damn it!”

My ideas were thought to be radical only three years ago. That is, until I met Jim Snyder, CEO of Global Tech Facilities’ green department, which was working on innovative ways to improve the planet’s exponentially increasing energy crisis. He had been following my work on Project Vanishing and knew that I was on the brink of a major discovery. Every resource was at my finger tips as I pitched the idea of recreating the sun here on Earth to the heads of the company, with my silent years of research and speculation sitting there next to me. I thought they would never go for it; never see a dream that followed me at every avenue, every turn. I was wrong on levels that I could never see until right that very moment, when they immediately green lit the project.

I began working on the prototype right away, desperately trying to break through the endless probabilities that might weaken my resolve. Born in my mind’s eye, I remember it quite clearly - the day it all fell into place, as the notion of possibility became the realist form of actuality I had ever witnessed. That fateful day was one week ago, when I suggested the prototype was in its final stage, and that we were ready for some preliminary tests. Jim Snyder was the one to inform me in the early morning hours following my announcement, that the Fusion Reactor was going public.

“We need it now, Alan.” He said to me. “There’s just not enough time.”

“Wait just a minute, Snyder.” I said. “We don’t even know what will happen if we turn it on!”

“The world will never forget your name, Alan.” He replied. “You’re going to be a hero.”

“Damn it, Jim!” I said. “The equations don’t all match up yet. Something is wrong with the reactor. I can feel it.”

“I’m sorry, Alan…it’s out of your hands.” Snyder said. “We’ll take if from here.”
“You can’t do this, Jim!” I said, pleading with him. “What if something goes wrong?”

“That is a chance that Global Tech Facilities is willing to take.”

Maybe Jim really believed he was doing the right thing, on behalf of Global Tech Facilities and humankind. I’d like to think that here in the final seconds of everything we’ve built, but I find it difficult to see past the bottom line. Sometimes progress must follow the natural way of things, for when ideas stretch the very fabric of time and space, caution must be exercised. Snyder thought this company could save the world, and in return make its shareholders rich beyond their wildest dreams. What a naive notion, as the true end seeks us like a predator in the distance. I hope something will remember these mistakes, for in our greatest efforts to save our planet, we’ve only sped the clock to its final seconds.

Arrogance defined by progress, like so many times before, forgotten are the dreams of the few, whose science has brought only tragedy. Here and now, my name is quickly rising to the top of that list, as all I can do now is hope someday they can see past this; see that I had no other choice. Most of all, I hope that Christina continues to smile, even if I will never hold her again, as I can feel solitary tears crawl down my cheeks. Sitting isolated in a large warehouse within the Global Tech Facilities massive installation, I can feel the Reactor just outside, pulling at the foundation, growing in momentum, with only a few more moments left. I reach for the keyboard on my laptop and guide my fingers to the numbers that will forever define this moment: first the 6, then the 1…slowly, I strike the 2 and the 0, and finally the 5 and press the enter key. The computer registers my commands as the screen shifts to the final prompt and, suddenly, my cellular phone lights up again to the tune of American Pie, my favorite song, which serves as a fitting ending tempo as I look down and break a smile across my face.

“Hey, babe,” I say, as I press the phone to my cheek, with the final launch initiative waiting in my lap.

“Alan, can you hear me?” Christina asks, panicked.

“Yeah baby, I can hear you.”

“What’s going on?”

“Did you get some place safe, Christina?” I ask, hoping that there is not a need for more time.

“Yeah,” she replies. “Are you alright?”

“I’m doing alright, I guess.”

“Are you safe, Alan?

“Baby I’m real sorry, but I’m gonna have to let you go.”

“Wait! Wait a second! What do you want me to do?”

“Enjoy every second, every day…for me.” I reply, as the tears flood my face.

“Alan! Your scaring me, damn it!” Christina says, not understanding the severity of the situation.

“I know baby, but don’t worry…it’ll all be over soon.” I reply unable to tell her the true fate that awaits me, moments away.

“I love you Alan.” She speaks softly into the phone. “Just come and get me, ok. Please be careful and come and get me?”

“I will, love.” I say with a soft tone. “Bye for now.”

“I love you.” She repeats once more, somehow knowing this may very well be the last time she ever hears my voice.

I close the phone slowly as my heart begins to beat faster and the reality of what I face now becomes crystal clear. As I gently set the phone on the floor next to me, the momentum outside continues to build a rage that will simply continue to grow until nothing remains of a world home to billions. My eyes once again connect with the computer screen as my final mission flashes before my eyes, reading only a simple command: ‘Initiate Project Vanishing, Confirm or Deny.’ I reach for the keyboard and highlight the confirm icon and pause for only a second, to reflect on the choices that led me down this dark dead end road. The equations never lie. In a world built on hiding the truth, they were always the only things that ever truly made sense. Yet no matter the purpose or cause, I will forever be deceived.

It was only twenty-seven minutes ago when Global Tech Facilities famed Fusion Reactor went online. Twenty-seven minutes too late, as I raced to try and stop them. They knew I would be coming, knew that I would try and stop the unveiling, and so I was barred from the main test sight. I made my way to the nearest warehouse facility on the premises, found that my clearance was still active, and gained access. On my laptop I watched as the reactor was initiated, and for the first time in human history, fusion was now within our control, if for only a moment.

My reactor is very much the same as our closest star, providing life and generating energy for all creatures that call this planet home. Our sun follows patterns etched in the eternal routines of creation, and as I’ve said before, it was bold of me, of us all, to imagine we could control such majesty. I watched the live media feeds as the reactor instantly ignited and began to produce obscenely massive amounts of energy through the process of fusing hydrogen and helium together. At first, everything seemed perfect as the reactor began funneling the endless amounts of energy to every available resource, redefining humanity’s need for the technologies that drive our society.

It was a terrifying error on my part, as I watch the warning in my equations become a truth the world had never seen, for it wasn’t long before everyone onsite and around the world realized something had gone horribly wrong. The reactor began to speed through its lifecycle effortlessly, the same way most stars will be born and ultimately die, with a massive super nova following a destructive gamma ray burst that, thankfully, I was just out of range from. The core of the reactor began to collapse with the intense pressure created by the massive surge of nuclear power until the density of the core became heavier than space and, with that, gave birth to an end no one could imagine; not even me. My God, what have I done? The infinitely dense core became so heavy that it collapsed upon itself, tearing through time and space, creating a dream in every imagination - the singularity. An idea bore in the equations of my forefathers, one that told of an appetite for destruction that could never be quenched, forever lost within a black hole.

I don’t even know if this will work, but somehow I have to believe that this is not the end of everything, that I can make things right again. This building won’t take much more as the singularity just outside rips everything in its path down to a quantum foundation, smearing the remnants across its expanding event horizon, never to be seen again. Just outside, it waits for me as the walls and rooftop of the building begin to shake with a thunderous tone. If only there was more time to remember every day worth living; every moment in her arms. If only I could see her once more, if for but a moment. Yet sadly, I will forever wait for you, Christina. Here I will haunt the dream of what we could have had in our oldest days, as finally I find the will to reach down and press enter on my keyboard, selecting the ‘Confirm’ option.

High above the large terrestrial landmasses that make up the planet Earth, a sleeping giant awakens in orbit, with its eyes fixed on Denver, Colorado as the systems engage. Silently, from the heavens it falls toward the Earth below, powering through re-entry, toward my only redemption; this final equalizer. I have no doubts what will follow in its wake. It will be a devastation the world has never seen, as its ferocity will tear across every open space, sparing only few from the horrors that are imminent. By design, it will be an explosion so great that this growing singularity will be engulfed, leaving behind a cleansed world, free to continue to try and become what destiny has chosen. My last and only hope now, as I can hear it coming, merely seconds away, is that tomorrow will still arrive. Can you hear it now? It is the end of today, and the chance that the sun might rise again and remind the hearts of humanity to believe that anything is possible, even here at the end of the world we all once knew. Do you hear it now?

“Enjoy every second…every day, Christina. Please remember the man that loved you more than you’ll ever know,” I say as a blinding light breaks through every available crevice. “God forgive me.”

F – A – T – E

What was that blast?” Elizabeth asked, breaking the oppressive silence.

Dr. Christina Brotman lifted her face from the sanctuary of her intertwined limbs for the first time since her final conversation with her husband. She peered through the walls of saline that coated the irises of her eyes and gazed far below Elizabeth’s stare.

“Whatever it was, we may be the only three to have survived…”

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