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Against the Tide panel 1

EPISODE 45

Against the Tide

Clender leaned forward. “I don't understand one thing. How could Flare hope to get through, get the secret from Grydo to Dr. G? She can't telepsych between planets, let alone between star systems. But she must have some plan in mind for getting the information back to Nizhni-Rostov.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“But how, August? We have everything blockaded!”

“This plot doesn't involve mere days or weeks, it stretches out over years, even decades,” Karsh said. “The machines are nothing if not patient. We can outwait Li-Hu. He is impatient, he is energetic and ambitious. But it's different with the cyborgs. Once Flare has the information, she can move from mind to mind on the same planet, stay hidden, stay safe. We can't maintain our blockades forever. As time passes, new men will replace you, and me, and the High Admiral, new men with new responsibilities who won't believe in a bygone threat. Eventually, when enough time passes, we'll relax our vigilance. And that's when Flare would make her move. I assume G is thinking in terms of decades. What's fifty years in the life of a machine, Clender? Practically nothing.”

“By the moons of Jupiter, August, you frighten me!”

“The cyborgs believe they are the future of posthumanity, Clender, and that their victory is inevitable. And perhaps they are right. We can't allow our desires or our fears to obscure reality.”

“Don't you find thought of those machine-monsters spilling out across the galaxy terrifying?”

“Do you ever read pre-space history?” asked Karsh. “Once there was an intelligent brute called Homo neanderthalensis. He owned the world. He was the master of everything he encountered. Then one rosy dawn he came face to face with another brute, but a smarter one, Clender. The new brute was crueler and made better weapons. This brute was Cro-Magnon, and he replaced the Neanderthals. We are descended from him. But we've reached our genetic limits. We've had our little time, we've spread out across the stars, and now our sun is setting. The evening comes. This time, we find ourselves the dumb brute staring in wordless amazement at our successors, only we won't acknowledge them. Archeology tells us that the Neanderthals fought, Clender. They waged bloody battles across continents, but they lost. Their sun set. One day, ours will too. And that day is coming.”

“We'll fight,” whispered Clender hoarsely.

“Yes, we will. That's exactly what we are doing,” answered Karsh. “Our job is to hold this new man down, preserve the status quo, defend Terra's ascendancy. We don't act out of justice, Clender, but out of an instinct for survival. We are but monkeys in the cage of the universe, denying what our eyes see, rejecting what our minds tell us, and raging against the cosmic order. We can't imagine what is coming out of those mysterious worlds, those machine minds. We can't even begin to guess what new species and abilities are being bred there. Perhaps posthumanity will supplant us entirely. Perhaps we will live on through them as the Neanderthal lives on through our genes. But regardless, we will take our spears and hurl them against the tide.”

“Spears?” asked Clender.

“A figure of speech.”

The two men sat quietly for a moment, reflecting on the possibility that their actions would have significant historic ramifications. Then Clender returned to the current problem.

“If we can't trap Flare and we can't keep Terentulus isolated forever, then Daniela is our only hope of stopping them!”

“No, there is a fallback plan,” Karsh said. “You should know there is always a fallback plan.”

“I don't understand.”

“We'll try to trap Myranda Flare, of course. She must have some weaknesses,” Karsh said broodingly. “She can't telepsych when she's unconscious or when she's dead. When she's not connected to a network, she's as vulnerable as any other human. But we want her alive, Clender. She can tell us so much of what is happening on the machine worlds, so much of what the cyborgs are planning. Yes, we'll certainly try.”

“And if we fail, August?” Clender's voice was worried. “And if Daniela fails?”

“In that case, we will be forced to our final alternative.” Karsh's voice hardened. “We'll annihilate Terentulus. We'll destroy it completely and blot it from the face of the universe. The High Admiral has already given Cetus to stand by for orders to that effect.”

“Nova its sun?” breathed Clender, horrified.

“That won't be necessary.” The cold smile touched Karsh's lips once again. “A few cobalt bombs, a barrage of nuclear bolts—it's a small planet, Clender.”

Against the Tide panel 3
A Mind Programmed series cover
Against the Tide episode cover
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A Mind Programmed

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Vox Day
The Greater Terran Ascendancy finds itself facing a historic crisis when the Shiva-class cruiser ATSV Rigel goes missing during a routine patrol through the Kantillon sector. Fortunately, the Ascendancy Intelligence Directorate's top operative, Daniela York, is on the scene.
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