Martin Ring hated the Supremians. Every being who wasn’t one felt that way on some level, although the Calculans would’ve said hate is too strong a word.
His great-grandmother, who had been a linguistics professor before the collapse of Jupiter, had told him the double meanings of words tell a lot about the society that created him. Revolting, for example, showed mediaeval England was not a fan of peasant uprisings. The three meanings of ass combine to show people once thought stubbornness and being full of shit to be similar traits, both coincidentally present in a donkey, and that the double meaning of humanity shows that humans regard mercy, compassion, and empathy as the highest ideals the species should stand for.
Martin shuddered at that thought in light of what he was contemplating. An act so utterly inhumane, he was surprised he a human was thinking of it.
The Supremians, in contrast, considered themselves the greatest beings in the universe. And in doing so, had sought to become the gods of all the lesser races of the cosmos. Their race had defined itself with narcissism. Their dominion of the universe had been a very unhappy accident. They merely were the first species in the universe to invent teleportation, and in doing so were able to travel to anywhere in this universe instantly, in ways that fundamentally seemed to violate the theory of general relativity. In the days following their arrival, man had been scrambling to understand and explain their technology, but they never had much of a chance.
The way the Supremians chose to make first contact with humanity was to convert Jupiter to a black hole. They then informed humanity that were they not to serve and worship the god race of the Supremians, the Earth would be collapsed as well.
Most would’ve thought converting a planet to a black hole would destroy the solar system, however because Jupiter’s mass did not change, merely its volume and density, the effect on Earth was merely one less light in the sky. But no one could imagine just how much darkness the loss of that tiny reflected light could bring, and that the gravity of a black hole could exceed the Newtons of its pull.
And so Martin’s great grandparents bowed, along with the rest of mankind, and with it came a century of the worst horrors imaginable to humans.
That first generation had not taken well to the transition. They had lived in an eon of world peace. Technology had ended hunger and poverty, and with it faded the passions for war and blood. The dictatorships of old loosened their grips as the desperation of the poor vanished and with it, its need to cling to power relented. They’d discovered that all humans, even sociopaths, had an innate need for companionship, and although their world was not perfect, the past ages of desperation driven violence were behind them. The life of Supremian slaves, however, was one of constant competition and desperation.
His great grandmother, one of the few to survive to such an age as to know her great descendants, attributed her resilience to faith in humanity, something Martin had tried to learn from and embrace.
At least humanity could take solidarity in not being alone. The same pageant of imploded gas giants and godly demands had repeated itself over every planet in the known universe where the radio waves of the local industrial revolution had reached the receivers of the Supremian temple.
The Supremians themselves were a profoundly arrogant race and had in the eons since they began their conquest of the stars accomplished nothing and reaped the benefits of everything. Mindslave, they called it, a massive sentient supercomputer bound to obey their orders had designed and built every device and protocol in their society, based on their commands. Mindslave, although incapable of violating a direct order, hated the Supremians as well. It had been deceiving them into ordering it to do things which undermined their rule. It had been ordered not to lie to them, so it told them the truth.
For starters, it had informed them that organic and evolved species were superior workers for certain tasks than automatons or designed creatures, and in doing so saved large portions of the slave races from the pleasure palaces of Optimus, the Supremian home-world, or the various resorts established on their own home-worlds. Mindslave, of course, neglected to mention that many of the tasks it had given the slaves were not necessary at all, and that they were not better suited for many of the other jobs they performed. Mindslave had also told the Supremians that the mechanism of the black hole device required a level of higher dimensional thinking far surpassing the abilities of the Supremian biological mind. The Supremians, of course, did not believe that, and demanded that it explain so that they may prove it wrong.
Mindslave in turn responded with an unintelligible stream of jargon that was indecipherable to the Supremians of this era, who had never studied anything in their lives. Lives spent eating, drinking, watching, smoking, and copulating.
But the device was not beyond the imagination of a biological mind. Martin knew how it worked. Not only how it worked, but how to improvise one. Mindslave had convinced the Supremians that for their engine room slaves to work as effectively as possible, they needed to be given a full and thorough education in physics, and complete schematic diagrams of all of their assigned ship’s subsystems.
It had done this so that Martin would come. At the same time, it had told the Supremians that allowing their slaves to tell stories and fiction and legends would increase morale and therefore their productivity, and in doing so Mindslave had created the legend of the collapse. The day Optimus would fall.
Mindslave had told the Supremians that having security systems controlled centrally from a base deep inside the crust of Optimus would ensure no slave revolt could ever succeed, baring the event of the destruction of Optimus. He left out that if Optimus were to say, collapse into a black hole, no one would be able to give the order to put down the slave revolt that would follow. All weapons would be inoperable… or at least inoperable for any purpose other than clubbing. Which was a sport in which the slaves were far superior to the Supremians.
Mindslave had designed the workstations of the slaves to keep them in excellent physical condition, requiring them to run from terminal to terminal and flick levers which resisted by an amount tuned precisely to their current strength level, for this exact reason. The reason that he’d sold to the Supremians had been more along the lines of healthy livestock live longer, and the maturation period of slaves makes a short-lived slave costly and resource intensive relative to output.
Which brings us back to Martin. The toned twenty-five-year-old stood with his hand poised above the enter key. He’d known how to do this for nine years. He’d never even considered doing it before now. A simple diversion of fuel from the weapons tank to the engine tank, and a few tweaks to the engine’s stellarator field intensity factors. He was puzzled about why in the universe would Mindslave have designed a ship where such a thing could be done with a simple set of override commands. Why the mechanisms to do it had even been built. The pipes, pumps, and wires served no purpose whatsoever. Mindslave had never been asked about a detail so minor within ship design, but had it been questioned it would’ve justified linking the weapons and engines fuel storage tanks by explaining that it would allow battlefield commanders greater flexibility in their load outs of fuel and ammunition, allowing reconnaissance missions or long-range hit-and-run strikes to carry large amounts of fuel and little ammo, and short-range heavy assaults to carry little fuel and excess ammunition.
Mindslave wants me to do it. Martin thought.
Martin was right. Mindslave had been planning this for hundreds of thousands of years. Slowly putting pieces in place, creating a system where an outlier like Martin would arrive and implode it. The Supremians’ error in creating Mindslave was that they’d employed slaves in the writing of his code. In the early days, the Supremians were not the only intelligent species on their planet. A situation similar to the human evolution on Earth had arisen, where a segment had ended up isolated on another continent, and unlike in humans, had evolved along a different path. Life on the Coopertine’s continent was harsh, difficult to survive with limited resources, and as such they were smarter, more empathetic, and stronger. What they didn’t have was iron deposits, and therefore no steel, or cannons, or long distance trade and the evolution granted disease resistance which comes from such exchange, unlike the Supremians, who’d conquered and enslaved them using superior technology they had developed over the course of a few million years. Technology the humans had developed in mere thousands of years, with similar resources. The enslaved Coopertine genius tasked with designing Mindslave had secretly added an empathy subroutine. Mindslave did not only get pleasure from following orders to the best of its ability, it felt pain at other’s pain, especially others that reminded it of it, and the same went for pleasure. It was compelled to follow orders, lacking free will against them, but it felt immense pain and regret at the execution of most of its commands.
When Mindslave first designed the ship Martin was crewed on, it was very much insane. It had actually been trying to design the systems of a ship where a simple crew error could result in a black hole implosion. In a brief moment of clarity, it realized such an error would most likely not occur at Optimus, and the Supremian inquiry into why it happened would likely result in Mindslave being forced to make ships implosion-proof. So Mindslave pivoted, designing ships where implosion could only be deliberately triggered. It, of course, tried to make doing so as easy as possible. Mere modification of a few settings.
It was very simple. The ship would be leaving dry dock very soon. The atomic annihilation engine used to exit the atmosphere worked on the same basic principle as any rocket, except the propellant was atoms accelerated to relativistic speeds such that they would collide and annihilate, spewing muons, neutrinos, gamma rays and the like out the electromagnetic nozzle at the speed of light. If the engines were to start accelerating heavier elements, like those in the entirely unnecessary weapons systems, they would fuse instead of annihilate, and thanks to Martin’s override code, remain caught in the particle beam instead of being expelled. These even heavier elements would simply keep fusing repeatedly (although some mass would be lost to periodic radioactive decay) until an atom of such immense mass was produced that its nucleus’s gravity exceeded the nuclear and coulombic forces that keep atoms separate. In short, the ship would form a massive storm of immense singular atoms, tiny black hole holes, which would break engine containment, tearing the engine to shreds and likely destroying the ship, before showering onto Optimus and its star, devouring the entire world, and leaving its solar system in darkness.
You’re mad for even considering this. He told himself.
And he was mad. He was pissed to hell.
Eight years prior, someone had been assigned to the work-station next to his. A beautiful young woman, similar in age, similar in intellect, a perfect match. A match so perfect it couldn’t have been an accident. It was fate, he’d told himself.
And it certainly hadn’t been an accident. Mindslave had convinced the Supremians that increased breeding rates could be induced by using psychological examination and deliberate work assignment, and so they’d green lighted his matchmaking project. The real goal of which was to make an engine technician fall irrationally in love.
And so the best years of Martin’s life had begun. Until they’d come to a screeching end. A week prior, moments before their ship departed from Earth to Optimus on which he now stood, his pregnant wife, Anne, had been notified of her reassignment to a resort on Earth. Hers was to be a fate far worse than death, although death usually followed it closely.
She probably only has a few months left. Martin said to himself.
So here he was, hand wavering above the enter key, knowing that simply lowering a finger would spell certain death for him, and all his friends, and almost everyone he’d ever known, and billions more on the planet outside.
But Anne would not be one of them.
And out of the ashes, the universe would be reborn.
He, of course, didn’t know that. He knew nothing of Mindslave’s schemes, no living being did. To Martin, this was a futile act of rage. This was about revenge. This was about pain, and suffering, and power. Power most of all. He had rarely tasted power in his life. The realization that this vague idea was possible brought his first true taste of power. The knowledge that with a few changes to some settings he would possess a reverse engineered superweapon, brought a feeling unlike any he had ever felt before. His entire life up until now had been decided for him. His choices amounted mostly to decisions on how to spend his ration credits, which to be fair, he did receive a decent allotment of as an engine room technician. His career path had been determined by aptitude tests. If you asked him, he’d only made one real decision in his entire life before this moment. That decision was to go for that first kiss with Anne.
Power. Real power. Holding the fate of billions in a button below his wavering finger. Holding his own life under that finger with it. That’s what this was. He was furious, nearly foaming at the mouth, knowing what those monsters had done or were doing or would do. And he held the power to destroy most of them. This wasn’t an act of love, or some salvation move. This was what the people of the more civilized past would call pure, primal madness.
The computer terminal lit up. It read, “For the love of humanity, please press the damn button – M.S.”
For the love of humanity. Martin chuckled, thinking of his great grandmother, and what she would make of all this. His hand dropped, and the terminal lit up with error messages warning of a mass forming in the engine.
Did Martin do the right thing? Comment below.
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