11 Aug 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 21

Posted by joncooper

“One of our computer scientists just found a server in the data center that is filled with music. Music! I had a chance to listen to some of it, and to be honest it’s a bit perplexing. Apparently music has changed a great deal in five millennia. I was hoping that it would be astounding and deeply moving, but in reality it’s very much an acquired taste. Still, it does give me hope. If music has been preserved then perhaps – just perhaps – another server, somewhere, has other bits of ancient Martian culture. I have to wonder, though. Are ancient books, films, and art going to seem just as bizarre to us modern Martians? Culture might be a lot more time-sensitive than I thought.”
–Noel Lawson
July 13, 7243


As soon as the noise of the mining cart had finally died away, the dark vault was filled with a brilliant white light. Monroe’s eyes had become accustomed to the darkness so the bright light momentarily dazzled him. As he blinked his eyes he felt his chains suddenly vanish. At the same time the dizziness left him and his pains disappeared. He heard a gentle female voice call to him. “Here, let me help you out of that cart.”

As his eyes adjusted he saw Amy Stryker standing next to the cart, offering him a hand. With her help he climbed out of the cart and looked around. To his amazement, the light in the room was coming from no obvious source. It seemed to be everywhere at once.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Amy said. “I had to go save Nate. Maldonado has been busy today.”

“So you were able to stop him?”

“Yeah. He had sent a sniper to go look for him. I spotted the sniper and made a minor adjustment to the way his gun was configured. When he pulled the trigger it kind of exploded in a bright flash, injuring him. Doyle spotted the explosion and was able to detain him before he escaped, and he’s now in police custody. When the general returns he’s going to have some explaining to do.”

“You know, he may try again,” Monroe warned .”I think he’s finally gone insane.”

“He went insane a long time ago. Actually, evil is a better word for it. He went deep into pure-evil territory the moment he decided that genocide was a good idea. I’m not at all surprised that he tried to kill you. In fact, I’m surprised he waited so long. Why would someone who is trying to kill millions of people hesitate to kill just one or two more? You and Nate are nothing to him.”

“I suppose you’re right. I guess I should have seen this coming. I just thought that now that we had a cure he might change his mind. I still had some hope for him, I suppose.”

Amy shrugged. “Well, now we know. I think he’s made his decision.”

“What are the Rangers going to do about him?” Monroe asked.

“Look,” Amy said, hesitating. “Oh, all right. I guess you had to find out eventually. There aren’t any Rangers left. They’re all dead. In fact, they died out a very long time ago. Well, except for the ones on Xanthe, who died out recently. But the point is that they’re all dead. I’m the only one who’s left.”

“You’re – what?” Monroe gasped. “But that’s not possible! You’re just a little girl. How could you possibly have come up with a cure all by yourself?”

“It’s kind of a sad story, really. Basically, the Rangers built a giant supercomputer to colonize the stars for them, and then they were all killed by Elder Lane’s bots. But anyway, that computer kept growing and growing for five thousand years until it controlled millions of star systems. Since I’m the only one left I wield all of its power. I can do pretty much anything. It’s a long story, though, and it’s kind of depressing. I’ll let Miles explain it to you.”

“Just how much power are we talking about?”

“Well, like I said, I can do pretty much anything I can imagine. I can terraform planets, and build cities, and materialize just about anything I want. I can build giant armies and create mile-long starships just by thinking about it. I can even stop time.”

“Is there anyone in the galaxy more powerful than you?”

“Well, there’s God,” Amy pointed out. “And I guess there are the angels. But that’s about it.”

“And there’s nobody left out there among the stars? No one at all?”

“Nope. The only humans that are still alive are on Earth and Mars. Everyone else is dead. Now, keep in mind, I didn’t kill them. They were dead before I got here. I had nothing to do with it.”

“So let me see if I understand this,” Monroe said. “All of the Rangers are dead and you’re the only one that is left. A giant computer gave you an unfathomable amount of power, and you’re going around doing whatever it is you want. Is that right?”

“I wish,” Amy sighed. “No, I’m not going around doing whatever I want. Instead I’m dealing with psychopaths on Xanthe, apathetic people on Mars, and genocidal maniacs on Earth. If I had my way I wouldn’t even be here. I never wanted to come to the 73rd century in the first place and I really hate it here. The future is not the exciting place that everyone made it out to be. But I’m here now and I can’t go back home so I’ve just got to deal with it.”

Amy looked at Monroe and frowned. “You know, you look really unhappy. You do know that I just saved your life, right? You’re fine now. Nate is fine. The general will be stopped. The sky isn’t falling.”

“That’s because the sky already fell,” Monroe replied. “You just told me that the Rangers are completely dead, mankind is all but extinct, and a teenage girl who isn’t accountable to anybody is the most powerful person in the galaxy. I don’t see how things could possibly be much worse.”

“And there we go, right on schedule,” Amy said, shaking her head. “Somehow, no matter what I do, I’m always the problem. That is exactly why I didn’t tell you about the Rangers earlier. I just knew that things would get to this. But, whatever. I have work to do. Let’s get you out of here.”

Monroe looked around. “That is an excellent point. Just how do we get out of here? For that matter, how did you get in? The vault door appears to still be closed.”

“Here – I’ll show you.”

A moment later the room vanished, and Monroe found himself standing in a giant, ultramodern city. Gleaming skyscrapers surrounded him and the city streets teemed with life. There were vehicles driving down the streets and pedestrians walking down the sidewalk. As he got a better look around he realized that he recognized some of the pedestrians.

“Doyle!” he called out, running over to his old friend. “It is so good to see you again.”

Doyle shook his hand warmly. “I see that Amy was able to rescue you! Not that I had any doubts, of course. So, what do you think of Mars? It’s quite spectacular, isn’t it? Tikal makes Adrasta look like a dingy old tomb.”

Monroe looked around. He suddenly realized that he felt a good deal lighter. The sky overhead was a rich blue, which surprised him. “This is Mars?”

Amy nodded. “It’s the new city of Tikal. Noel Lawson and his men are working on excavating and restoring it. I can introduce you to him later, if you want to meet him – he’s busy right now, but he’s a great guy. I’m sure he’d love to meet you.”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand. Why did you bring me to Mars?”

“To keep you safe from murderous psychopathic generals. All of your friends are here, as is Nate. I assure you that there’s no way Maldonado can reach you here. As long as you’re on Mars you are completely out of his power. You are safe.”

“Well, I would imagine so. But how will we return in time for the meeting?”

“Oh, I’ll take care of that. This time I’m going to go with you. You won’t be standing before those wolves alone. I will be there to protect you if things get ugly.”

“But surely it won’t come to that. The general would not dare to attempt physical violence at a public meeting!”

Amy shook her head. “You do you realize that he just tried to kill you, right? That man is eager to wipe out an entire planet. Don’t underestimate him. I assure you he is not a good man.”

She then noticed that an elderly man was sitting on a nearby bench, patiently waiting. She smiled at him and motioned for the man to join them. “Speaking of good men, there’s someone that I would like you to meet. Since both of you are historians I think you will have a lot to talk about over the next few days. Monroe, this is my good friend Miles.”

Miles eagerly shook Monroe’s hand. “So we meet at last! Amy has told me a great deal about you. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance. I visited Earth once, you know, about a thousand years ago. I tried to help the tribes but I was simply not able to do so. I’m glad that Amy has found a way to succeed where I failed.”

“A thousand years ago?” Monroe asked, surprised. “Forgive me for asking, but just how old are you? Do all of you Martians live to such an extreme age?”

Miles smiled. “I’ll be more than happy to explain everything. Tell me, though, friend. Has Amy told you her story?”

“She has told me very little, although what she has told me is quite unsettling. It would appear that she does not like to talk about herself.”

Miles shook his head, smiling. “That’s Amy, all right. She does have a habit of keeping people in the dark.”

“Now wait just a minute,” Amy protested. “I didn’t hide anything from Noel. He just didn’t believe me, as you may recall. He thought I was totally out of my mind.”

“And you enjoyed every minute of it,” Miles commented. “You’ve got a devious streak in you, Miss Here-Are-Your-Pink-Shoelaces. You’re not half as innocent as you claim.”

“That is something you brought on yourself,” Amy replied, giggling. “That was so entirely your fault.”

“Was it now? Well, at any rate, I will take good care of your friend. Speaking of that, would you have any objections if I accompanied you to the public meeting in Adrasta?”

“That’s fine with me. Just don’t be surprised if it gets ugly. The people there are pretty corrupt and they have terrible manners. That meeting is not going to go well.”

“You never know,” Doyle commented, who had been listening to their conversation. “I still have hope.”

“As you always do,” Monroe replied.

Amy bid them goodbye and disappeared. Miles then turned to Monroe. “Have you eaten?”

“I have not. Maldonado did not give me the courtesy of having a last meal.”

“Then come! I know of an excellent restaurant just around the corner – a nice place called Tom’s. I think you will find Martian cuisine quite delectable!”

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