Of all the Nerv there is just one who thinks humanity shouldn’t be obliterated. Of all the Nerv there is but one who does not hold the presumption that Homo sapiens are an inferior species. Of all the Nerv there is only one who has stuck up for the human race.
Its name is Spineblatt. And it is a Nerv with a lot of nerv.
Thank great Caesar’s ghost for Spineblatt. For the one alien who sees potential in humanity is also the one alien who controls the lion’s share of nerv in the galaxy. That is cosmic karma on a level only a Buddhist actuary can suss.
If Spineblatt hadn’t shown up with all his nerv, we’d all be gamma ray toast by now. And Spineblatt would never have shown up with all his nerv, if I hadn’t tried to port from the Luna station to Ceres with a stolen batch of ridiculously unstable, highly illegal darken.
Darken is the crystal meth of antimatter. It’s cooked with dark energy, which itself is illegal to possess. Tightly controlled and mercilessly regulated by the gov, dark energy makes porting possible, allowing for rocketless travel between the seven Sol colonies. Because of inherent molecular instability, darken is considered the most dangerous substance in the system, and I ported with nearly a kilo of the stuff.
No wonder I bent the universe out of shape. One millisecond I was being reduced to a quantum algorithm on Luna and about to be recalculated on Ceres. The next millisecond I was surrounded by Nerv prodding me with mindsticks demanding to know where I got my nerv.
Thanks to the mindsticks, it didn’t take me long to get the picture that I’d been ported clear across the galaxy to Nerv, a rocky little planet the Nerv call home. The Nerv are a bit rocky themselves (silicon-based) and more than a bit imperious. Especially about their nerv, which not incidentally is identical to darken—the stuff I was attempting to smuggle to Ceres.
Evidently, nerv, aka darken, is the manna of the Nerv. It powers everything on their world and their expanding empire which I was mindsticked to understand is vast. Like many many galaxies vast.
And they were not happy to see another species (especially one that had to be mindsticked into understanding the basics of their grand civilization) in possession of their nerv. I tried to explain that darken was not nerv. That it was created by my kind. Through their mindsticks, the Nerv scoffed at the mere thought of so lowly a life-form able to manufacture nerv.
They condemned me as a bottom-feeding cheat and thief. They condemned all my kind as lowly parasites, opportunistically leeching the quantum entanglements that nerv made possible. That made the Nerv’s inter-galactic porting possible. The Nerv know how to deal with cosmic vermin and they mindsticked how they would follow my wayward quantum path back to Sol and sterilize my whole system. Burn out the rot and all my scum with it.
Of course I was royally flummoxed by the Nerv’s proclamation and my imminent extermination along with every living creature in Sol. Especially since it had all transpired in the course of five or six mindstick pokes. I wouldn’t even have had time to gape stupidly before all of humanity was summarily executed, if at that very moment Spineblatt hadn’t shown up.
All the Nerv in the room seemed to straighten, though that’s hard for a silicon-based creature to do. They lowered their mindsticks and turned their full attention to Spineblatt. It seemed to already know what was going on. Spineblatt examined my kilo of darken with one of its forward protuberances and then mindsticked me.
Rather than feeling like my mind was being jacked open by a crowbar, Spineblatt’s mindsticking felt more like a magician teasing scarves out of a top hat. It delved so deeply into my psyche that my toes tingled. And yet I hungered for this Nerv to know all of me, all I represented of humanity. Even my baldest lies and boldest crimes. Spineblatt was that smooth. I guess if you controlled two-thirds of the nerv in the known universe, as Spineblatt did, nothing but smooth would do.
When Spineblatt released his mindstick, the other Nerv gathered around him. They were motionless for a brief second. And then they simply left.
Spineblatt’s thoughts entered my head. [[ Greetings, Sol traveller. You are safe now. Your kind is safe now. ]]
“Why?” I said too loudly. “I thought we were to be exterminated.”
[[ I convinced my fellows that your kind could be useful to our kind. ]]
“How? After delving so deeply into my psyche, you of all the Nerv must know how flawed, how weak I am. How powerless my kind is compared to yours.”
Spineblatt pushed the stolen kilo of darken back into my hands.
[[ Yes, we’ve got all the power. ]]
And though I have no way of verifying this, I believe Spineblatt winced.
[[ But you have all the nerve. ]]