Author : Scott Angus Morrison
In the end, the planet’s defence hinged on a single man armed with a stick. There had been limited resistance so far – there seldom was when a planet was targeted for reorganization- secure the air, neutralize any radiation weapons, and then we jet- pack in to clean up the politicals. Standard fare, really, a colonized planet reaches the stage of emergent technology and thinks they can control their AI. AI cannot happen. We’ve learned that lesson.
Six-nine and I work well together. She’s one mean mother, and that’s a compliment. We were assigned to begin a “prejudicial reorganization”. That usually meant locating whatever palace the local politicians and generals were holed up in and getting messy. But when we touched down, there was nobody here, and the building was empty – except for the old guy in hood with the stick.
The Citadel was a large round building of columns and arches and a funky floor with swirly markings on it. I’ve organized a lot of buildings, but this was weird – and empty. No seats, offices, rooms, or even doors – nothing but the swirly floor and the old guy.
Six-nine and I are Pointers – we take point on most live encounters. As soon as we flew into the building and touched down, Six-nine looked over at me and tapped her helmet, “Can you hear me?” she said.
“Yeah,” I replied, “But I think we lost Mother.” The silence that filled our earpieces confirmed we were out of touch with the mother ship.
Six-nine shrugged it off and we swept forward. After 100 metres of empty arches and columns, we neared the centre of the building. There was a large sphere that swirled like the floor, except the swirls were … swirling.
A man stood in front of the sphere. He gave the appearance of being elderly without being frail. In his right hand was a stick that was something more than a cane, yet less than a staff. He was dressed in a brown cotton tunic with a hood knit onto it.
“What?” I whirled on Six-nine. Pointers don’t go by name, and she didn’t know mine, unless I had told her that time we got drunk on Tara-4.
“I said nothing. You gonna start this or what?” Six-nine was always a little touchy before the fireworks.
“Yeah.” I turned back to the man. I was close enough that when he blinked, I saw it.
“Relax, Darius. Your killing is almost done.” His lips didn’t move, but somehow he was talking to me. I had a seen a man go down with space sickness. It started with voices.
“I’m not sick!”
“Then shoot him, One-Seven! Just shoot him!”
“You’ve only arrived, and already the truth is terrifying your poor friend. I think Marion’s ready to shoot you.” The voice sounded serene as he spoke in my head, but my pulse continued to race.
This wasn’t real. It couldn’t be. Science … science …science… I pointed my weapon at the swirly floor and turned to Six-Nine. “Marion,” I said, “He knows your name.”
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!” She screamed and I watched her chamber her juice cube, level her barrel and hold the hammer down.
As the blast of energy ripped through me I was hurled back against a nearby column. In my head I heard a wistful sigh, and as I could see that the old man was glowing … orange, and as my soul was disintegrating, I heard him once more, “Relax, Darius,” as the swirling and the glow increased, “the truth has set you free.”