Author : Sam Clough, Staff Writer

We stole the blinkpacks from the research facilities at Ceti Alpha. Stable displacement technology, suitable for individual use. We sealed the holes in our assault armour and slapped on the packs: suddenly we could step through walls and down corridors, infiltrating past sentries and guards and turrets with ease. You could even rig a spare pack to act as a bomb: find something big, displace it into something bigger. If you squint, an overlap detonation looks a lot like a nuke.

From there, we blinked around the perimeter worlds, looting, stealing, hoarding all the high technology and research material we could find: and what we found shocked and horrified us. The colonies were so far ahead of the core worlds that some of them had ceased to even resemble humans. Halfman recombinations with terran or alien stock, populations translated entirely into a digital form or living out in the open under a half-klick of liquid methane.

We blinked out as far as we could; we found terror. Machines. Of arguably human origin. Some even still bore ancient factional flags. There were hundreds of millions of them in every system we checked. Half our men didn’t return, and most of the rest never left again. We dug in the archives, and the libraries; we even unearthed a few buried data centres to find out who to blame.

These were clanking replicators, skewed by thousands of generations of isolation from intelligent guidance. They replicated out of control, torching systems and turning the rubble into more of themselves. One advance party discovered a strain that spent the resources of entire planets to extinguish stars in one shot.

We figured out a plan. It was our only hope of long-term survival. No-one could see any other way. We knew we’d be remembered as monsters, but in the grand balance, we thought that it would be better that someone was there to remember us at all.

We committed grand and unholy sabotage across the thousand worlds. Shocktroops equipped with blinkpacks teleported deep into power stations, factories and defense relays, breaking and fusing and detonating. Navies were brought down in port, armories reduced to useless scrap. We left a thousand worlds without a single communication array or functional ship.

Quickly-assembled arrays folded space, and our navies appeared in colonial orbits. Purification-yield nuclear devices, biological warfare agents and cleansed the hundred worlds we needed. The engineers of the core worlds were flung to these hundred barren wastes, and were set to work. All the while, our fleets tore through the perimeter worlds, conducting a campaign of total annihilation: the might and fury of old humanity, rage driven by our history, our twenty-four thousand years of hatred, violence and war.

We didn’t understand the science, but we certainly understood the engineering. We turned those hundred worlds into the triggers for a giant chain reaction that would wipe out a reasonable portion of our cosmological back yard; isolating the core worlds with a rift of space washed clean of matter. This was our firebreak, our last best hope of survival. We doomed two hundred and fifteen billion people for the sake of thirty billion.

Was it worth it?

I don’t know.

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