4 May 2011

The War of the Artilect: Chapter 15

Posted by joncooper

The swarms had regrouped in deep space, trillions of miles away from any other star system. In front of them, separated by only a few million miles, was the rapidly retreating invasion force. The mindless intelligence that controlled the swarms estimated that the bots were less than sixty seconds away from catching and obliterating the invaders.

Then, instantly, the situation changed. A soft white light filled the vacuum of space and the swarms were jerked to a stop. Some unseen force had altered the structure of spacetime so profoundly that their propulsion systems no longer functioned. They were dead in space, unable to move.

The swarms desperately searched for their attacker but they could see no one. All they could detect was a piercing white light that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere. Even the invasion force they had been following had vanished from view. In something akin to panic the swarms began wildly firing in all directions, but the shots simply dissipated into space. They were trapped, and they had no target to fire at.

Unknown to them, hundreds of thousands of Alpha-class starships had surrounded them. These ships were projecting the field that frozen the swarms in place. No matter how hard the bots tried they would not be able to move. Even their ability to enter hyperspace had been taken from them. For the first time since they were created the swarms were utterly helpless.

The technique that the warships were using to immobilize the swarms was quite dangerous. Altering the structure of space itself changed the way matter behaved. If this has been done inside a star system it would have caused the entire system to collapse and destroy itself – a fact that the Artilect was well aware of. That is why it had chosen to lure them into an empty area, so it could fight them without causing any further stellar destruction.

Once the Artilect was satisfied that the swarms were trapped it gave the command to launch its next wave. In an instant billions upon billions of Beta-class starships appeared in the midst of the swarms. Each of these ships was a sphere about a hundred feet in diameter. Unlike the swarms, they had the ability to maneuver inside the disruption field that the Alpha ships were generating.

As soon as the Beta ships appeared they began radiating a white pulse of energy that instantly obliterated the bots that surrounded them. The swarms vainly tried to attack the Beta ships, but it was difficult for them to get off more than a few shots before the energy engulfed and destroyed them. A small percentage of the Beta ships were lost but the onslaught simply could not be stopped.

The trapped bots tried desperately to escape but they could not move. They then attempted to replicate, but they found that they could not do that either. Even their attempts at transforming into some sort of offensive weapon failed. The bots were forced to simply wait helplessly as the oncoming tide of irresistible energy turned them all into cosmic dust.

The entire battle took less than half an hour. When it was over every last bot was destroyed, and less than five percent of the Beta ships had been lost. The Alpha ships were not even scratched.

* * * * *


“Well, that was kind of boring, actually,” Amanda said, sighing.

“Let us be heartily thankful for that,” Sergeant Howell replied. “The invasion was stopped before it started, with no loss of life. That is something we can be tremendously thankful for.”

“Oh, I know,” Amanda agreed. “But – it was just so easy. There wasn’t anything to it! I thought it would be a much fiercer struggle.”

“It’s not over yet, miss,” Jones replied. “The next time we fight them it will be very different.”

“What do you mean, the next time?” Captain Max asked. “They’re all gone, aren’t they?”

“For now,” Jones agreed. “But those who created them are still there, and they have not been neutralized. This is not the end of it.”

“Well, we’ll deal with that when the time comes,” Richard said. “For now I think a celebration is in order! After thousands of years of tyranny the endless war has been finished. The people of Tau Ceti are now free.”

“Does that mean I can go get Amy?” Amanda asked.

“I don’t see why not,” Richard said. He turned to Sergeant Howell. “Is it over?”

“As far as I can tell,” Sergeant Howell replied.

“Then go ahead,” Richard said.

* * * * *


Ten minutes later the entire group was assembled in the holographic room in the core of Tonina. The Artilect had created a table and some chairs, and they were all sitting around, talking to each other and staring at the holographic display in the center of the room.

“So what do we do now?” Captain Max asked. “Are we done?”

“I detect no further threat,” the Artilect replied. “I cannot locate any remnant of the swarms anywhere in space – not even so much as a single bot. The swarms sent their entire fleet into our territory and we destroyed them all at once. There were no survivors.”

“That was a pretty foolish move on their part,” Sergeant Howell said. “I’m surprised they did that.”

“Maybe the swarms just aren’t very smart,” Amy suggested. “Maybe they’ve just depended on their superior numbers for all these years.”

“They lasted an awfully long time, though,” Amanda commented. “I don’t see how they could do that by being stupid.”

“I think the Artilect should take a lot of credit for this,” Sergeant Howell said. “Without his superior technology and strength this victory would not have occurred. I know you girls weren’t there for this, but do the rest of you remember what happened when they attacked Quetzalli?”

“That was terrifying!” Laura commented. “I didn’t think we were going to survive.”

“We almost didn’t,” Captain Max said. “In fact, Quetzalli itself was destroyed. It was a really close call.”

Amy spoke up. “I bet Adrian was overjoyed to hear that the swarms were defeated!”

“We actually haven’t told him yet,” Richard said.

“You haven’t!” Amy exclaimed. “Why not?”

“Well, for one thing, we haven’t decided what to tell him,” her father explained. “Now that the swarms are gone, should we tell them to go ahead and start coming to Tonina? Is it time for them to leave their pods and re-enter society? If it is, do we have a plan in place for their migration?”

“Shouldn’t that be their decision?” Laura asked. “I mean, after all, it’s their choice. Maybe we should let them know what their options are and then see what they want to do. This is going to be a big change for them.”

“Your wife has a good point,” Captain Max commented. “They’ve been in those pods an awfully long time, Rick. It might take them a while to re-adjust to life in the real world. Maybe they should live on their own planet for a while, before we suddenly dump them into the future.”

“But their planet is in ruins!” Amy said. “That’s what Steve said, anyway. No one could live there!”

“I could fix it for them,” Amanda offered. “With the nanites it wouldn’t be hard to make it habitable again. Then they could live there for a while until they got accustomed to life again.”

“That’s not a bad idea!” Captain Max said. “In fact, that’s something we should probably do anyway. It would be a nice gesture on our part.”

The Sentinel spoke up. “Would you like for me to go to Xanthe and talk to them? I would be happy to inform them that the swarms have been destroyed and that we are ready to give them access to the network, once they are able to receive it.”

“Can I go with you?” Amy asked. “I would really really like to meet them!”

Sergeant Howell shook his head. “I don’t think that’s wise, miss. For the time being I think it wold be best if they only knew about your sister Amanda. I think you should stay in hiding until we are sure that everything is safe.”

“But the bots are gone!” Amy protested. “There’s no danger left. What am I hiding from?”

“I think the sergeant is correct,” Jones said. “This is not over.”

Amy looked at her father. “Please, Dad? Please let me go?”

Her father reluctantly shook his head. “I’m sorry, Amy, I really am. I know how much you want to go. But I don’t think it’s going to hurt anything if you stayed hidden for just a few more days, just until we’re sure that the bots really are gone. If nothing happens then you can rejoin us.”

“It won’t be much longer, dear,” Laura added. “Honest.”

Fine,” Amy said, fuming.

“Can I go, then?” Amanda asked. “I mean, we might as well go ahead and terraform Xanthe while we’re there, right? No sense in making two trips.”

“You know, I can perform that function on my own,” the Sentinel replied.

“Oh, I know, but I want to do it. Besides, I think it will mean more to them if I do it. They’ve met you before, but the only one of us they’ve met is Reverend Knight. I want them to know that we’re here to help.”

The Sentinel turned to Richard. “What do you think?” he asked.

“It’s fine with me,” Richard replied. “As long as she’s in your care I am sure that nothing will happen to her.”

“How long will this take?” Sergeant Howell asked.

“Oh, an hour or two,” Amanda replied vaguely. “I won’t be too long.”

“Don’t forget to come home when you’re done,” her mother warned her. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk to them later. All right?”

Ok,” Amanda agreed.

Amy sighed. “I’ll see you later, then,” she said. The girl then disappeared.

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