15 Sep 2012

Stryker #5, At the End of Eternity – Chapter 26

Posted by joncooper

“Today one of our computer scientists pointed out that Tikal’s data center doesn’t contain any history or log information. From the computer’s perspective the first time it was ever turned on was when we repaired the unit and activated it. But how is that possible? I suppose someone might have run a purge routine before shutting it down thousands of years ago, but why would they bother? It doesn’t make any sense. This city has no personal belongings, no books, and no historical logs. How can Tikal not have a past? Maybe Miles can shed some light on this.”
–Noel Lawson
July 17, 7243


Two days had passed since the eventful meeting in the debate hall of Adrasta. Amy slowly counted down the remaining minutes, and when the final minute had passed she materialized in front of Adrasta’s massive city gates. A quick scan of the area confirmed that there were no stragglers left who were trying to flee. Despite the constant warning of Amy’s guards, people had simply gone back to their old lives. Amy shook her head. After all they’ve seen me do, how can they not take me seriously? Do they really think I’m going to just walk away and leave them alone?

A moment later the Sentinel appeared beside her. He was accompanied by Miles and Monroe.

“Oh, hey there,” Amy exclaimed. “I wasn’t expecting company. I mean, I knew you would come, but I thought you would be alone.”

“They wanted to see what was about to happen,” the Sentinel explained. “If you don’t want them here then I will send them back.”

“No, that’s fine,” Amy said. “You can leave them. I just – I don’t know. I just wish things had never come to this. This didn’t have to happen, Steve. If they had just left the tribes alone I would never have bothered them, and Maldonado and Forbes would still be alive today. All they had to do was not attempt the total genocide of an entire race. That’s all I asked. But apparently that was too much to ask of the 72,196 people who still live behind those gates.”

“Are there still that many people left in the city?” Monroe asked.

Amy nodded, and Monroe looked surprised. “But La Venta is amazing! It surpasses anything I have ever imagined. Even the Spanish Empire itself had nothing like it! Why would anyone want to remain in the stone city when one could move there?”

“Really?” Miles asked. “You do realize that, just two days ago, you were all upset about having to leave Adrasta. You were quite upset at Amy.”

“But that was before I had a chance to see it, and before I knew what was going to happen to all my books. Once I was there–” He stopped. “Oh. I see.”

“Exactly,” Miles replied. “You were so intent on trying to convince me that Amy was evil that you missed–”

“What’s that?” Amy interrupted. She turned to Monroe. “You think I’m evil? What have I done this time?”

“He didn’t think you should have killed the general or the councilman,” Miles explained. “He was pretty upset about it.”

“Are you kidding me?” She looked at Monroe angrily. “Are you telling me that when the general pulled out a gun and tried to kill Nate, you were on his side?”

Monroe turned pale. “Oh, no, certainly not! I just thought that, um, that is to say, that maybe you could have taken a different approach.”

“What is it with you people? I save you from starving to death in that coal mine, and you turn around and whine that I’m a dangerous threat to all mankind. Then when Forbes seizes power and commands your execution, and I save your life again, you tell Miles that proves I’m an evil tyrant. Are there no sane people on this planet? Are you all out of your minds?”

The Sentinel placed a hand on Amy’s shoulder. “Amy, I understand your frustration, but you have a job to do here. You need to focus. You can always turn Monroe into a frog later today.”

“She – what?” Monroe asked. He looked at Miles. “He’s kidding, right? She can’t really do that. Can she?”

“It would certainly be interesting to find out,” Miles said thoughtfully. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen her try it. It might be possible.”

Amy looked at Monroe and shook her head. “Oh, whatever. If you want to think I’m a monster then I guess that’s what you’re going to do. I need to move past all this and move on. I just didn’t want things to come to this! I wanted to help these people. I wanted to give them a future. But they just weren’t interested. They wouldn’t have it. They wouldn’t change, and they’ve left me no choice. As much as it pains me to do so, it’s time to bring this to an end.”

Amy closed her eyes and connected to the network of nanites that saturated the planet’s atmosphere. She then reluctantly closed the gateway that led to Tonina. The way was now locked; the opportunity to go there was over.

Next, she turned her mental gaze to the giant stone city in front of her. With the network she could see every corridor, every room, and every person. Nothing was hidden from her. After locating every person in Adrasta she transported them all to the plain that was at the base of the mountain. There they could see the city but were a safe distance from it. As soon as the people materialized there was a great commotion, and the mob began getting angry. Amy simply froze them all in place. They could see what was going on, but they could not move or do anything to stop it.

The girl then glanced up at the giant starship that filled the entire sky. She had created it two days earlier from plans that were in the nanites’ pattern library. The ship was not an illusion; it was a fully-functional battleship. After moving her friends to the base of Falcon Ridge so they would be well out of harm’s way, she issued a command and the starship began bombarding Adrasta. Spheres of bright orange light shot out of the ship and reigned down onto the city, blasting it to pieces. Over the next ten minutes the starship completely obliterated every corner and crevice of Adrasta. Not one stone was left intact. When it was finally over and the thunder of the last explosion had died away, there were not even ruins remaining. The city, and everything it once contained, was entirely gone. With its work done, the spaceship dissolved into nothingness.

Amy then used the network to look across space. Two days ago she had made some changes to the planet Xanthe, to prepare it for an influx of visitors. The Adrastans would have what they needed to survive, but life would not be easy and the life they once knew would be gone. They would have no future, for without a cure for their infertility – a problem that they continued to deny, even now – there would simply be no future generations. The people were being transported to Xanthe to die.

Amy looked over the crowd. She transported herself in front of the giant mass of people, and then floated in the air above them so they could all see her. They were all frozen, but she knew she had their attention.

“Adrastans, your city is no more. I offered you a future and you refused it. I brought you to the border of the promised land but you refused to cross over and possess it. Now you will inherit the wilderness, and you will die there. You have made your choice. This is the end.”

With that, Amy used the network of nanites to transport the entire mob to the planet Xanthe. After making sure that they had all arrived safely and were unfrozen, she opened her eyes and looked around. Adrasta and its people was gone. There was a stillness in the air.

“So I guess that’s it,” Miles remarked. “It’s all over now. You finished what you were sent here to do. Your job here is done.”

“Well, almost,” Amy said. “The tribes aren’t fully cured yet. Steve has administered the cure but it will take another week or so before everyone has been made whole. The process takes time.”

“But you aren’t involved in that process,” Miles pointed out. “The nanites will do the work on their own, without your intervention. Plus, the Steward is in place and is already taking care of the cured children. Everything is well in hand.”

“I guess you’re right. But how do you know all of this?”

“Oh, I just asked Steve. He’s been a great host, by the way! Among other things, he’s a whole lot better at giving direct answers to questions than you are – and he has yet to offer me a pair of pink shoelaces.”

Amy grinned. “You’re never going to let go of that, are you? But there is one more thing I need to do. I need to take everyone on Tonina and bring them back to Earth. Except for you, of course. You need to go back to Mars.”

Monroe spoke up. “Why would you do that? Doyle is quite happy here, as are the others. La Venta is a beautiful city and, quite frankly, we have no desire to leave. I don’t think anyone would mind if you left us there.”

“But it isn’t your home! You belong on Earth. You were born right here on this planet. Besides, this is where the tribes are. How can you possibly help them if you’re thousands of light-years away? And it’s not like I’m going to move you back here and then stick you in a mud hut. I can build a city on this plain that is every bit as glorious as La Venta. It will be big enough to house you and the tribes.”

Monroe nodded. “I suppose that would work. Now that the tribes are cured I would like to help them grow, and I know the others would as well. I have no objection to that plan.”

“Then it sounds like I have one more task left,” Amy remarked. She turned to Miles and smiled. “Why don’t you do the honors? You’ve built cities before, you know.”

“I’d love to, but I’m afraid I didn’t pack my pink shoelaces. They’re not the sort of thing I tend to wear in public.”

“But they go so beautifully with those hideous orange shoes! Well, what a pity. I guess we’ll have to do without them. Give me your hand.”

Miles looked at her, puzzled, and took her hand. Instantly the world changed. His mind connected to the network of nanites, and his perception was vastly expanded. The memories of designing Tikal on the planet Jasmine flooded back to him.

“Why, you’ve given me access to your connection! This is amazing. I’d forgotten how much fun this was.”

Monroe looked around, puzzled. “I don’t see anything. Am I missing something?”

“You might say that,” Miles replied, as he studied the planet. He mentally zoomed in to Falcon Ridge. He could see every last detail – the mountainside that had been blasted apart, the scorched prairie, and the crater where the forest had once stood.

“We’ve really got to fix all that damage,” Miles commented. “That is just plain ugly. What would you think if we took care of that first?”

“Sounds good to me,” Amy agreed. “Where do you think we should put the city?”

“Well, why not put it at the base of the mountain? We could always flatten that peak to create more space, but it’s quite beautiful and I hate to destroy it. The only change I’d make to it is adding a layer of trees – pine tress, maybe. The plain itself ought to be big enough to meet our needs.”

“I agree. Let’s keep the mountain. Now, were you considering a neoclassical city or something more modern?”

“Let’s experiment and see what looks good. I want to make sure that it fits the landscape. I’m leaning more toward a postmodern design, with a bit of a twist.”

“Interesting,” Amy remarked. “I’d like to see that. Are you ready to begin?”

Miles smiled. “Absolutely! Let’s get started – one last time.”

* * * * *

Amy and Miles spent the rest of the day building the new city. They could have simply chosen a preexisting template from the nanites’ library, but instead they took their time. They both knew that this would be the last time they’d ever work together, and they were in no particular hurry. So, as Monroe watched in awe, they took the dust of the ground, turned into programmable matter, and fashioned the shell of a city. Once the basic structure was in place they customized it endlessly – moving streets, adjusting buildings, adding parks, tweaking architecture. When they were done they had a city that was quite a bit smaller than La Venta but still retained its beauty and amenities. Unlike Adrasta, this city was a splendor of light and crystal, refracting the sun in endless ways. Colors abounded. It was truly magnificent – a beautiful new home for the true Children of Light.

By the time they were finally done the day was over and the sun had set. The stars had come out and glimmered brilliantly in the sky. The city was spread out before them, in all its glory.

“It’s beautiful,” Monroe said. “Thank you very much. It is an amazing gift.”

“And thank you for letting me help build it,” Miles added. “Construction via programmable matter just never gets old.”

“You’re welcome,” Amy replied, as she disconnected Miles from the network. “I appreciate your help.”

“So when are you going to move everyone here?” Miles asked.

“Oh, I think I’ll do that while they’re sleeping. Probably sometime around midnight. They’ll just wake up and find that their homes have moved.”

Monroe looked surprised. “You’re actually going to move their homes?”

“No, not exactly. I’ve actually recreated them here on Earth. All I’ll have to do is move their stuff and move the people. They’ll wake up in what appears to be exactly the same building, but the building will be on Earth instead of on Tonina.”

“I imagine they’ll be a bit surprised.”

“Which is why I’m going to let you explain it to them,” Amy remarked.

Miles spoke up. “So what happens now?”

“I am afraid this is where we part ways. Steve and I will stay until everyone has been moved, but between now and then we have a few other things to do. It’s time for you to return to Mars.”

“I had a feeling you were going to say that,” Miles said sadly. “I will miss you. You have done more for Mars than I dared to hope. I am sincerely, deeply sorry for the losses you have suffered. I wish there was some way I could help you.”

“I know you do, and that means a lot to me. I can honestly say that you’ve been my only friend. Well, you and Noel. Everyone else just wants me to get out of their life. You’d think I had a contagious disease or something.”

Monroe blushed. “I know we have had our differences, but I am also grateful for all that you’ve done. Without your help all would have been lost.”

“And yet you’re still overjoyed that I’m leaving, aren’t you? Yeah, I know. I’ve saved the world, I’ve accomplished your goals, and now it’s time for the Big Security Risk to leave. Let me go on record as saying that the 73rd century is a terrible century one. People were way nicer in the 19th century. Time has not improved the human race one bit.”

“Amy,” Steve said warningly.

“Well, it’s true! When you grabbed me off of the Sparrow things were not this bad. Governor Nicholas was genuinely grateful for my help. He was quite kind to my sister and I. Even those crazy people on the Starfire were nice. But here – well, fine. It doesn’t matter. It is what it is.”

Amy turned to Miles. “I’m going to miss you. Please tell Noel goodbye for me, will you? And I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again soon. Not that I want you to hurry up and die or anything, but–”

Miles laughed. “I understand. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you again too. Give my regards to your family.”

Amy gave Miles a hug. “Goodbye,” she said.

“Goodbye,” Miles replied. He then vanished.

After Amy verified that Miles had arrived safely on Mars, she turned back to Monroe. “Well, I kept my promise. I told you that I would save the tribes and I did. I’ve given your people a future and I’ve given you a brand-new city to live in. I even saved all those books of yours. You’ll find them in your room; the Steward can give you directions. I’m now going to make your final wish come true and leave.”

“Please don’t go like that,” Monroe pleaded. “I really am grateful – truly, I am. You have saved my life more than once, and this entire planet owes you a great debt. I’m very thankful.”

“Oh, I know. And I would probably be a lot more touched if I didn’t know how badly you want me to leave this universe. What you don’t seem to realize is that I’m not some hypothetical variable in some thought experiment. I’m a real person with real feelings, and I’ve had a terrible life, and you have not done one thing to make my life any better. All you’ve done is tried to convince the one friend I did have that I’m a maniac. I don’t hate you, but – well, I’ve said enough. I did what I came to do. I saved your life and gave you a future. What you do with it is up to you. Choose wisely, because I won’t be around to save you again.”

With that, she disappeared.

The Sentinel was about to leave as well, but then he saw the look on Monroe’s face. “Was there something else you wanted to say?”

Monroe sighed. “Well, that was just kind of awkward. I really don’t know what to say. I feel like I’m going to regret what just happened but I don’t know what I should have done differently.”

The Sentinel shook his head sadly. “Since Amy became an administrator she has encountered a great many people, and they have wanted a great many things from her. Among all those she has met there have been a few who have cared for her and tried to help her. You had a chance to be on that short list, but you refused. That chance has now passed you by. It will not come again.

“Instead you put your name on a different list – the list of those who saw Amy as a dangerous threat and wished she would die. When future generations ask what happened today, you can tell them that a hero came, saved your people, and gave them a new life – and you looked at her, said thanks, and asked her to drop dead. That is something you will never be able to undo. You will have to live with it for the rest of your days.”

“I never asked her to drop dead,” Monroe protested.

“Do you want Amy to stay here and live out the rest of her life?”

“Goodness, no!” Monroe said, horrified. “The risk of corruption is far too great. She needs–” and then he stopped.

“Exactly,” the Sentinel replied. “I think I’ve made my point. Goodbye, Monroe Araiza.”

The Sentinel then disappeared, leaving him alone.

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