Author : James Smith

Nothing but killers. They came screaming soundlessly out of the Oort and Mercury Station was gone. My wife swallowed a handful of pills when the remains of Venus fell across the Moon.

The Dyson sphere lays empty, reconfigured into an enormous laser. I remain behind. I am the firebreak between them and our fleeing caravan. I began the power-up this morning, and four years behind me the sun will soon strike the lens now moving into position. The light will cohere and lance through my relays to the diamond core of Jupiter, naked and polished for the purpose. Jupiter’s Lightning will strike some fifteen lightyears out, punch through their sun and cause a cascade effect, ending in a supernova. Before their world is consumed, seas will boil, and the very air will catch fire. Perhaps the man who ordered that first attack will watch his own wife burst into flames and, if he is a man, may be given to regret.

I have not had a body in 145 years, but my sensors register the throb and hum of this station. I am reviewing a video of my wife. I’m wondering why, at the last, she felt the need to first grow a body. So many centuries and we still don’t trust our senses, no matter how superior to the initial five.

The cameras float everywhere, of course, and calling up the file was easy. I watch my wife uncap a bottle with three-day-old hands, an action she hadn’t performed in almost two hundred years, on an object no one’s used for a hundred. I cross-reference with file footage from a family picnic. Yes, she re-grew the body she had when we first uploaded– aged, liver-spotted, sagged and broken. She killed herself striving for a kind of pride we haven’t had need of in a century.

Once Jupiter’s Lightning fires, it will be another sixty years before the light of their exploding star reaches me. Their homeworld will be ash while I still run this station, and for good measure I will once more pump the remains of lonely old Sol into deep space, long after the threat has passed.

I look at my wife on the slab, and superimpose her on top of the picnic footage. Her corpse lays along the blanket where our food is placed. I am not in the picture; I am holding the camera. She and our children appear to reach into her flesh and pull out plates piled high with food.

Across the chasm of centuries, over the expanse of her own dead body, my wife smiles at me. I miss her. I miss the electronic susurrous of the sum of human knowledge, underpinning reality. Somewhere in the depths of me, I ask myself if I will accept handshake from the second relay. Without accepting, the beam will reach Jupiter too dissolute to make the final, murderous journey out of the solar system. I deny handshake and power down. Come and get us.

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