Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

Out of the inhabitants of the world, Conrad was the trend-setter. He’d sparked off the craze for playing as gods when he’d discovered a cache of ancient texts. He’d painstakingly recovered audio platters from the less senile databanks in the cities. The six cities provided everyone with the power to create and destroy, to reshape the land according to their whims. No-one understood them, and most were rightly afraid at hastening their slow decay. Conrad, however, enjoyed prospecting for information.

Conrad casually adjusted his eyes to see into the infra-red. He was in one of the vaults underneath the southwest segment of the city of Suberesk. This segment had been dead for years: vault after vault of quiet, inscrutable machinery. Some seemed pristine, whilst others appeared to have started decomposing. Conrad had even found one vault full of natural florae growing quietly underneath an artificial light source.

In the next room, something caught his eye. A old-style holographic display was flickering in one corner, displaying the same fraction-of-a-second of animation over and over again. The projection was an abstracted human head, spasmodically twitching in a sort of half-nod. Conrad took the first action that seemed natural – he kicked the projection unit.

The animation sputtered through a few more frames, then began to play smoothly.

“Integrator online. On the next tone, it will be beat six hundred and six, subinterval twelve of interval sixty-two thousand. There are two messages waiting, marked for the attention of any and all citizens. Would you like to view them?”

“Yes, of course.”

“The first message was received forty-eight thousand, six hundred and twelve intervals ago. It has been altered for language, tone and content.”

The abstract head shrank into one corner of the display, and a second head appeared. Reptilian in appearence, it spoke in a series of choking hisses. The integrator spoke over it in a smooth voice.

“We have grown impatient, city-dwellers. Your cities have stalled our solarsystem and many others. You waste energy in a ridiculous and profligate manner. Your actions threaten the stars themselves. If you do not halt your activities, we will be forced to destroy you, even if it means destroying ourselves in the process.”

The reptilian head faded, and the integrator once more occupied the whole display.

“The second message was broadcast forty-eight thousand, six hundred and eleven intervals ago by Doctor Aki Munroe at Ichioresk. It is presented verbatim, but carries a strong/disturbing content warning. Do you wish to view it?”

“Of course!” Conrad almost shouted, captivated by the artefact.

Again, the integrator’s head shrank to one corner of the display. A young woman’s face appeared. She looked worried, and she stumbled over some of the words, as if choking on them.

“After long contemplation, the unified response to the coalition’s threats is relocation. This shift will take place at the beginning of interval one-three-three-eight-ten. We’re going to attempt to use the cities to project a frameshift field around the world. This’ll isolate us from the universe at large. Existence effectively ‘out of time’ will allow the city grids to tap any major source of energy in this universe or any other. From any point of time. If this project succeeds, we’ll have guaranteed our survival. Possibly at the cost of our culture, since and isolated world is doomed to stagnate. But we must try this. The alternatives are too horrific to contemplate.”


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