8 Sep 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 25

Posted by joncooper

“Today one of our astronomers rushed into my office with an astonishing bit of news: they have discovered a giant, interstellar computer! In their survey of the galaxy they’ve discovered six star systems whose planets have been turned into giant computing devices. They don’t know how old the computers are, who built them, or why they were built, but they’re out there and they are real. This news puzzles me tremendously. I wonder if this is connected to the Artilect that Miles once told me about? I’ll have to ask him when he returns to Mars.”
–Noel Lawson
July 15, 7243


Monroe, Miles, Alex, and the Sentinel materialized on the streets of Tonina. Ahead of them, just down the street, was the giant rip in space that Amy had created. Through it they could see the mountains of Earth.

Alex was taken aback at the sudden change in location. The dog looked around, confused. He then saw the Sentinel and hurried over to him. “What happened?”

The Sentinel looked down at him, smiled, and petted him. “It’s ok, Alex. Everything is fine. Amy moved you here because the Earth isn’t a happy place right now.”

“Ok,” Alex replied.

Miles looked at the dog in wonder. “So you’re Alex! I’ve heard a lot about you, you know. Amy loves you a great deal.”

“I know. She’s my person.”

Monroe looked at him, astonished. “Is that – is that a dog? A talking dog?”

“Of course I’m a dog! What did you think I was – a rabbit?”

“Um, no, of course not. I meant no offense. I just – that is – dogs have been extinct for quite some time now. I didn’t realize they could talk.”

“Really?” Miles asked. “Didn’t you read The History of Martian Dog Breeders? All ancient dogs could talk.”

“I thought they made that part up,” Monroe admitted. “It just didn’t seem plausible.”

“Why? Did you think that ancient historians were morons?”

“Goodness, no! It just struck me as a little far-fetched. I thought that perhaps they were speaking metaphorically or something, or perhaps it was some lost cultural reference.”

Alex spoke up. “No, I can talk. Bats can talk too, you know. But I haven’t seen any bats lately. Where’s Amy? Is Amy here?”

“Amy is still on Earth,” the Sentinel explained. “She transported all of us to safety but she still has work to do there. The people in Adrasta need her help. She’s going to make sure that the council can’t stop people from fleeing.”

“How long will she be gone?” Alex asked.

“Just for the next 48 hours. After that Adrasta will be judged and she won’t have to worry about them anymore.”

Monroe looked surprised. “So she’s serious? She’s really going to destroy the city?”

“Yes, she will. This is something that we discussed long ago. Amy was always going to give the Adrastans a choice. If they were willing to make peace with the tribes then she would allow them to stay, and she would even cure them of their infertility so they would have a future. If, however, they were not willing to live in peace then she would relocate them to another planet and allow them to die off. The moment of choice has finally come.”

“But why do it in such a violent and catastrophic way? This is horrible!”

Alex growled at him. The Sentinel stroked the dog’s back to calm him down and then turned back to Monroe. “What the city is trying to do is also horrible. At some point a separation had to be made. A line had to be drawn between those who were willing to live in peace and those who were not. Those who wish to live in peace may come here. Those who do not will be forcibly removed to a place where they can no longer oppress the tribes. In either case, Adrasta must be destroyed. The city has become a cesspool of evil and must be removed and replaced with something better.”

“But she killed Conrad Forbes and Evan Maldonado!”

“And it was about time, too,” Miles remarked. “They were the ringleaders in an attempt to kill tens of millions of people. They had already killed hundreds and were determined to kill more. They even tried to kill you, you know.”

“But she didn’t have to kill them. There were lots of other things she could have done! I told you that one day she was going to lose her mind.”

Alex growled at him again and bared his teeth. The Sentinel pulled him back, and Alex looked up at him. “Just let me bite him, ok? For Amy’s sake! I need to bite his leg. Or maybe his arm.”

The Sentinel shook his head. Alex whined, then looked back at Monroe and growled. Monroe eyed him warily. “I meant no offense. I just think the situation could have been handled differently.”

Miles shook his head. “There comes a time when enough is enough. Those two men were already mass-murderers and they were determined to keep on killing. If she spared them they would have just kept on trying until the day they died. At some point you have to put a stop to it, and that’s what she did. I assure you that after that demonstration people will think twice before they try shooting anyone else. The rest of the council had some nasty things to say but none of them dared to raise a hand against anyone.”

“So this is the end, then,” Monroe said sadly. “Amy is bringing an end to my people.”

“What are you talking about? Amy is just separating the murderous, racist thugs from the people who want to help. The people who want to help will come to Tonina, and after Adrasta is destroyed Amy will build a new city and will send everyone back to Earth. They can then work together to teach the tribes. The only thing that’s ending is the genocidal campaign.”

“How do you know all of this?”

“I asked her,” Miles replied. “You should try talking to Amy sometime. She’s not as bad as you make her out to be.”

“Oh, I know,” he replied, keeping an eye on Alex. “I have the greatest respect for her. It just seems like there must have been a better way.”

“Really? What did you want Amy to do – tell them ‘naughty naughty’ and make them go sit in a corner? I think she’s shown great restraint. She’s going through a lot of trouble to separate the good from the bad. She could have just moved Adrasta to another planet and let them all die out, and allowed the evil continue to oppress and murder the good. Would you rather have had that?”

“I suppose not,” Monroe sighed. “But you must understand that when Adrasta is destroyed a great deal will be lost. What will become of my books and papers? What about our archives? The Order has protected that information for millennia! Why must it all be lost?”

The Sentinel spoke up. “In the meeting Amy made it clear that if anyone needed help they only had to ask. If you wish for those things to be saved then I will relocate them to Tonina. Nothing needs to be left behind.”

“Thank you,” Monroe said. “I appreciate it.”

* * * * *

Over the next few hours Amy was surprised to see that there was very little chaos. People quietly filed out of the debate hall and returned to their homes. Once at home they began debating the matter amongst themselves. A great many people had no desire to leave. They had lived their entire lives in Adrasta and had accumulated a great many possessions. The city through the portal did look appealing, but they didn’t have time to move everything all by themselves. Rather than trying to make some tough decisions (or asking the robots for help) it was easier to just wait it out and see what happened.

Other people supported the surviving council members and were indignant that anyone was standing up for the tribes. The council rallied their armed forces and ordered them to stop anyone who tried to live Adrasta. When the guards tried to carry out those orders, however, they were stopped cold by the giant robots Amy had placed throughout the city. Their every attempt to cause trouble was thwarted – but they were ordered to keep on trying, and so they did.

There were a few people in the city who were glad to see the general’s reign of terror end. These were mostly people who had supported Monroe in the past, but there were a few newcomers as well – men such as Ken Ochoa. They quickly packed up a few of their most prized possessions and hurried off to La Venta. All of Monroe’s followers were there by nightfall. Once there they were warmly greeted by the Steward and shown to new, luxurious homes. They were awestruck at the splendor of Tonina and could not believe the wealth and magnificence that was on display. One man commented that it was like stepping into a dream.

After they had settled into their homes Amy had the Steward tell them that the moment they set foot in La Venta they were automatically cured of all their genetic problems. Infertility would no longer be an issue for them.

Over the next two days Amy continued watching over Adrasta. There were a few more stragglers but very few people transitioned from the stone city to the one in the stars. A quick count revealed that less than one person in ten chose to leave Adrasta. The rest remained, and despite the continued presence of the enormous starship that blotted out the sun, they simply went back to their old lives. It was as if nothing had happened at all.

Amy commanded her robot guards to warn everyone that the city was about to be destroyed, but despite the guards’ imposing size and power people ignored them. So Amy waited and counted down the last few remaining hours.

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