I would have cried, had I the appropriate ducts. The battle was going poorly; my colleagues were scientists and maintenance staff, not soldiers. They were selling their lives dearly, nonetheless: we had the technological advantage, for all the good it was doing us.

The report in my hand spelled out our doom. In a microsecond I requested and was granted a personal audience with Dr. Singh, the closest thing to a leader we had. I could have sent him the information via the link, but I suppose I wanted to see a human face.

‘We’ve failed,’ I told him, ‘Our spies on Earth have all been discovered.’

I dropped the data-tab on his table. My hands should have been shaking, but we had removed such human weaknesses. That was our biggest mistake, I think.

He nodded. I knew that most of his mental capacity was committed to directing the battle.

My lips should have been dry, that I could lick them to reassure myself. But they were not I and I did not.

‘We should surrender,’ I said, knowing that doing so would mean losing the link, living the rest of my life as a prisoner.

‘I have been sending a signal offering surrender every hour for the past four days. So far there has been no response.’

‘Then we are doomed.’

He shook his head.

‘Gaining the starseed was our only chance of a quick, clean victory. We must retreat and regroup.’

He pushed a data packet at me through the link. I opened it up, could not believe what was there, double-checked it, triple-checked it. In all it took me nearly two whole seconds to process.

‘I thought that project had been abandoned.’ It was impossible, and even if it could be made to work, the collateral damage would be the whole world’s ecosystem.

But it was not impossible. The figures added up.

‘The project was abandoned,’ he said, ‘Because of pressure from Earth. Now that they have turned against us, we have no reason not to complete it.’

‘Millions will die.’

‘Yes. Their deaths will allow us to become creatures of light, and then we will free humanity from its chains.’

‘Have you told those at the front line?’ I asked, and knew what his response would be.

‘Have you told them of your report?’

Of course I had not. To do so would have destroyed morale and hastened my own death.

I told myself at the time that we had no choice. The stakes were too high: the soul of humanity was on the line. Eight million lives was a high price, but…

But the truth was that I did not want to die. So I sat on the chair and became one with the light, and Paradise burned.


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