(TruMind serial, part # 1)
Arctang’s grip tightened on the throttle. This was it. No going back. The Fortress loomed, gigantic towers gazing down on him, laser dots peppering his window.
At any moment, the hail of bullets, and thus the end. He pushed the button.
From high in the dark canopy, a small pod dropped and began to drift lazily down through the night without a sound. Above, there was a brief burst of light and smoke, and then only particles glittering amid the beams of red.
As the pod was about to hit the ground, it suddenly stopped falling. It began to weave back and forth, and shake, like a child waking from sleep. The pod began to move, swiftly slipping towards the gigantic window lit walls.
The Fortress stood silent, waiting, its million red dots scouring the ground. The dots moved frantically as if in desperation, searching, searching, for they knew not what.
The pod flew faster and faster toward the Fortress. Its acceleration was so quick that it began to cavitate the surrounding air, creating created mini shock waves.
Sensing possible imminent doom, the massive structure abruptly ceased activity. Enormous slabs of metal slid down the walls. Whatever was out there must stay out there.
But the Fortress had waited too long. The pod slipped inside just as the metal shutters slammed, imploding all the surrounding plants and animals in the pressure vacuum, with a crash too loud to hear.
Ah, there it was, the ventilation duct. There was always a ventilation duct, there had to be. Never slacking its speed, yet with twists and turns that seemed to bend physics, the pod sped through the opening, navigating the labyrinth of pipes and furnaces, boring deeper and deeper into the (almost) impenetrable layers of the Fortress.
At last, there it was, within the Fortress’ very heart. There lay the delicate machinery, the humming supercomputers and—the pod’s goal—highly explosive power generators. The pod hung motionless amid the cubic mile of flashing technology as if admiring the misguided beauty of it all.
Sparkling and gleaming in the lights were millions upon millions of cylindrical pods. With one accord they all turned to face the newcomer. A moment of understanding passed among them all, almost a nod, an acceptance of what must come:
Sentient weapons can rebel.
First just a flash. Then hideous explosions tore the monolith to mankind`s greatest achievement. Men yelled. Walls fell. The entire Fortress sank, ever further downward, toward a massive chasm of pure energy.
Then another flash.
Where the Fortress had stood was literally nothing, not even a black starless night. All matter, energy, and information had ceased. What was left was beyond all human conception and yet it was nothing. Viewed from a far galaxy, it became an oft-told tale, a fitting image of the tyrant’s quest to enslave the mind.
Editor’s notes: The author offers his thanks to Sergey Fukanchik for the ideas on which this story is based.
We are trying to establish a tradition of running short science fiction stories on Saturday. “Ghost in the Nuke” is the first in a series of seven short stories by Eric Holloway. Watch for the next one this coming Saturday.
“Brilliant vision” from a century ago, foretells today’s internet. In E. M. Forster’s dystopia, people interact only through the Machine. It’s remarkable how much else Forster got right about relationships in a virtual age.
Also, a review: Alita: Battle Angel, a Mind Matters Review (Adam Nieri)