3 Jun 2011

The War of the Artilect: Chapter 24

Posted by joncooper

“What do we do?” Amanda asked. She was terrified. The panic that was surging through her made it impossible to think clearly.

“Can you still communicate with the Artilect?”

“Not anymore,” she replied sadly. “I could for a while, after the attack happened, but space is just too broken now. It’s almost like something is eating it. I know that doesn’t make sense. It’s just that the disorder is rapidly increasing. The longer we’re here the more stuck we become.”

“How much time do we have?”

“I’m – um, I’m not sure. I don’t know! I can’t see into deep space anymore. Everything is getting fuzzy. I guess we might have a few minutes, maybe.” Amanda looked at the preacher. “This is it, isn’t it? We’re going to die here, aren’t we?”

“Oh no!” Reverend Knight said, shaking his head. “That’s not the way it works, you know. The Lord was quite clear that all those who repent and believe in Him will never die. We will never see death because Christ tasted death for each of us. Our debt has been paid, so we will not die. But we are about to leave this place and go home.”

“I don’t really understand what that means,” Amanda said.

“It means that you and I are going to leave this world for a better one – one that is located beyond the farthest star. It means that you will soon be reunited with not just your brother, but with the One who died for you and who loves you with a surpassing intensity. It means that our part in this is over and the responsibility has passed on to others.”

“This is all my fault,” Amanda said bitterly. “I should have built the bots on a different planet. We should have left as soon as they were launched. I should have–”

“You did well,” the preacher said. “You saved the lives of your family and you preserved the Artilect from destruction. This attack was not your fault, and in preventing it you did what few other people could. You handled yourself with courage and wisdom.”


Amanda started to say something but she was interrupted. On the horizon she saw the sun briefly flare up and then disappear. The world around them disappeared as well, replaced with a vast green field. Above them was a cloudless blue sky and in front of them was a short hill, with a golden path leading up to its crest. They could see figures waiting on top of the hill.

The girl opened her mouth to say something, but she stopped. A feeling of intense joy washed over her. Something inside told her that she was finally in the place she was created for. No, there was more to it than that; she was in the presence of the Person she was created to spend eternity with. The joy – the all-encompassing joy that banished every last piece of darkness, and every fear and pain – came not from being in a place, but from being near her Lord. All of her sorrows melted away and she felt an overwhelming peace. She was finally home, and she knew it.

Reverend Knight nudged her. “I think there are some people up there that want to meet us. Are you ready?”

“Oh yes,” Amanda replied eagerly. “I feel like I’ve waited all my life for this moment – even when I didn’t realize it.”
“Then let’s be off!” Reverend Knight took her by the hand and the two began walking up the hill.

* * * * *

“I don’t understand,” Richard said. He was filled with despair and agony as he stared at the holoscreen. “We won, didn’t we?”

The Sentinel paused before responding. “Your daughter did destroy all of the probes, and in this she was entirely successful. However, one of the probes apparently set a trap for her that was triggered by its destruction.”

“Is she really gone?” Laura asked. “You didn’t save her?”

“The star has been destroyed,” the Artilect replied. “The shockwave has reached the planet and put an end to it. I am deeply sorry.”

“Couldn’t you do something?” Captain Max demanded. “I thought you were supposed to protect her! Why did you just leave her to die?”

“I did everything in my power, captain, but there was not enough time. I was unable to penetrate the barrier and retrieve her before the shockwave hit the planet. There was nothing I could do.”

“So you just stood there and watched while she gave her life to save you,” Captain Max said bitterly.

“She died for all of us,” Jones said. “This is not the Artilect’s fault. We knew there was a risk when we let her go, but if she had stayed here we would all be dead. I know that doesn’t make this any easier to take, but we had no other choice. In all honesty I am surprised that she is the only one that died. I thought that time was up for all of us.”

“What do you mean?” the Richard asked. “Did you expect her to fail?”

“It’s not that, sir. I’ve just had a feeling the past few days that our journey was over and we’d done what we were sent here to accomplish. I thought all of us would be going home, not just Amanda. It’s just – well, usually when I get these feelings they’re pretty straightforward. I’ve never known one to be wrong before.”

Amy was sitting in the floor, crying. She was still in holographic form. At this point she was beyond caring about her isolation. All she knew was that her twin sister was gone. “I could have saved her,” she kept saying, over and over. “You should have let me go with her! Why didn’t you let me go?”

“If the Artilect couldn’t–” the Sentinel began.

“It’s ok,” Richard said, interrupting. “Just let her be. Reason and logic are not the right approaches to take right now. What she needs is comfort, and right now there is none to be had.”

No one really knew what else to say. The victory over the probes had been swallowed up in sadness. A terrible weight had descended upon the group. They all knew that their lives would never be the same again.

“I’m sorry,” Sergeant Howell said at last. “I wish things had gone differently.”

“We all do,” Captain Max replied.

The Sentinel spoke up. “Should I notify the citizens of Tau Ceti that the threat has been eliminated?”

“I never told them they were in danger,” the Artilect replied. “There is no reason to disturb them now. This does not need to involve them.”

The Sentinel nodded. “Let me know if my services are required.” He then vanished.

“Where did he go?” Sergeant Howell asked.

“To comfort Amy,” the Artilect replied.

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