Mother of the Machine

"For when your computer crashes, always keep a hard copy." -David Risona

The Twilight of Civilization

The false evacuation order was also a success. The Combine fleet and personnel, now confused, began to flee towards the black hole they had constructed. The different corporations' fleets began to fight for a "place in line" towards the black hole.

From a small command post beneath the surface of the Platform, Mi Sun-Shin could see it all. She did not care who won such skirmishes, as the Combine fleet would either be crushed to subatomic particles, removed from the universe, or both. One by one, Combine stations and settlements were falling silent as more fled towards the black hole.

However, something was wrong. Daniel had not reported back. Acting on a hunch, Mi Sun-Shin opened the program that Zeno and Connie had written. It took only a quick look to realize it was not enough to overpower the Dreamer's psychotic AI. Zeno had surely known. Whether he was acting with or unknown to Connie was pointless. It was quite obvious he had planned this.

When confronted, Zeno simply shrugged his tentacles. "Democratic republicanism is a system not conducive to the triumph of the Will to Power. The coming dark age will allow true Nietzscheans to arise," he said with a smirk. "I've already got enough contacts on this Platform. After I take over here, what's left of the Combine should prove no threat to a social order I have selected."

At once, Shin knew what Zeno referred to. Osirius Group and Zeno Phanes were in league with each other, she thought. Nietzscheans always did like feudalism.

That was the instant before Zeno detonated some explosives he had hidden on the JED's escape craft. Zeno vanished into the tunnels of the Platform, but to Shin, everything made sense.

The Osirians didn't follow the evacuation order, as they had already seceded from the Combine. Any potential threats to their sudden sweep through the galaxy would be neutralized or feeble. With the Armada waiting silently back at Centauri, the JED stranded on the Platform, the Dreamer going even more mad, and Risona forced to start from scratch on Earth, Zeno and his Afro comrades would have little in their way.

Looking closer at the Dreamer program, a more dramatic realization crossed Shin's mind. It wasn't just something to prevent Daniel from controlling the Dreamer, but a control program that could be orchestrated from the Platform itself. There was something missing, though. A copy of Daniel's mind was necessary to activate it.

That was at least one thing Shin had. When the broadcast was sent to the Dreamer, she had a copy. The computer systems inside the Platform, however, would not be able to broadcast. Zeno had sabotaged them, as well. To control the Dreamer, one had to possess Daniel's personality, and then rig up a trans-luminal array to broadcast it to Dreamer. Then, one had to hope the mad computer would understand the program.

Mi Sun-Shin knew it would take a long time for this to come into effect. Centuries, at least. She would have to build up networks of contacts on the Platform, design a high tech array without any industrial infrastructure, and have all her computers degrade due to Zeno's sabotage.

All was not lost, however. She had the remaining members of JED unify in her body. It would take the combined intellects of the JED to handle Zeno's treachery. It was also a pity Risona would not be here. However, if anyone could help put up a resistance to the Osirians, it was him. He would know to find the rest of the Children on the Platform.

There was still one last thing to do. While the Platform's computers would take a long time to degrade completely, they still held Daniel's mind. Remembering how Risona would often like "hard copy," of information, she activated the genetics labs. She would recreate Daniel's body from the uploaded data. The process could take decades, or even centuries to get right. The problem was the genetics system might itself be corrupted by Zeno.

Zeno and Shin now had a new game. Each would try to win contacts and awaken the Dreamer. Otherwise, the civilization would be forfeit. The Combine was gone, but a feudal state run by a Nietzschean with a pet god would be even worse. And so, the Great Game began.

The End.