An entry into this year's Pod and Planet, the foremost Eve writing competition.
Find out more about it, here.
This piece is an entry into the "Other Things Just Make You Swear and Curse", though I have perhaps taken the name a little too literally...
Legacy and Watchwords
Neath the hellish light, one dying thing judged another. The last gasps of the sun lit the laboratory like dying fire; their yellowed skins and blackened veins cast in sharp relief.
“You cannot stop it, Sheeyt” said the second. “It is untameable, like them. They will spread it, themselves, wherever they tread.”
“Impossible,” muttered the first Jove. “We made it, together, we controlled it, we can stop it!” He thrust hysterically at a haptic keyboard, limited to unfamiliar analogue commands by fearsome protections, now bypassed.
“I am not so reduced as to give you that chance,” announced the second. “It is out there now, and they shall be forever afflicted with it. It will become their legacy and their watchwords.”
Sheeyt accessed long buried code, wreaking chaos tens of light years distant, as he shut down star gates and fluid routers, micro-networks and soft, wetware repositories. He was outpaced, out-thought, out-pathed at every turn. It was fruitless.
The shivering Jove thumbed off the haptic interface and turned. “How could you be so stupid? You know what danger it was, to us and them.”
“Oh, I knew. Why do you think I released it? It will make them exactly what we feared they would become.” It gave a hollow, stilted chuckle. “I was always watching you, brother, stumbling into barriers I stepped over, even as we collaborated. You’re still stumbling.”
“Not so stumbling. You released but the weakest of them. My protections held. Why not the Mon, or Py—?“
“Because they’re so slow, like you always were. This will never be caught or tamed. It will live, eternal, within them and their souls.”
The typist slumped into the chair, muttering the distasteful words, “You’re right. Can it be mitigated? Can they be protected?”
“Hah! Never. You remember what we did; the distributed AI, the micro-gene adaptors? Your finest hour, my tube mate. ” The second’s face stretched and contorted into a smile. “It will remove their soft hearts. It will extract their souls. It will make them masters of numbers and bearers of might. They will become obsessive, inane, insane things. It will be”, he sighed, “perfect.”
“You’re feeling it now, aren’t you, Sheeyt?” he continued. “The rush of inevitability, the pressure behind your heart. Unfamiliar, painful, aren’t they? No wonders the oldest of us cast them away.”
Sheeyt rocked back and forth slowly, rubbing at its chest. He breathed in pained gasps, air jerked in and out by his lungs. Above him, the diagram showed the virus spreading into space, system by system, gate by gate.
“That slow drip realisation of truth, they call acceptance; the too-fast throb of your heart and the thumping in your ears, they call anxiety. Did you know that this…emotion will kill you? Your heart will beat too fast, your blood pressure will spike. You will go into shock, and you will die. In the Shrouded Days, we gained much, but lost more.
“A small price to pay for such glories and such space as was ours, I think.”
With that, the second, older Jove rose slowly from the chair and limped towards the exit. Behind him, the first Jove wept, black tears leaking from dimmed eyes. The retreating Jove turned at the sound and raised one hairless eyebrow.
“Really?” He frowned, “You never even had a chance, oh ignorant brother. The first rule of E.V.E, an Ex-cell virus? It spreads, Sheeyt, in space.”