Roger stood in the narrow access area of the mainframe chamber surrounded by alternating colour displays and the humming of intricate internal machinery. It was odd to think that this construction of crystalline circuitry represented the true Keith and Josella. He had always known they were machines, albeit incredibly complex ones, but this was not as he imagined. Knowing it and seeing it were two entirely separate things. He held his palm up to one of the panels and felt the tingle of static electricity dancing in the air. It made the hairs on the back of his hand stand on end.
When Keith had asked him to stay he had considered refusing and going home with the girls. But then, this wasn’t just about the Ochre, it was about every living human on his planet. He would have been no safer at home than on the ship, and if Keith’s mad plan didn’t work, then his family and his people would die anyway. By staying onboard he might beat them to it by a few hours, but that would be all.
It felt strange to know that the fate of a world was in his hands; all because he had once swung a hammer at a man who was less than human. If he hadn’t swung that hammer then Keith would have completed his mission and departed. The revolution would have still happened, a ship would have been dispatched to destroy the population, and there would have been no defence, no way out.
It made him shiver to think about it. The galaxy was a cruel one and humanity was far from the top of the food chain. If the Hierarchy of machine minds could decide to eradicate the entire population of a planet just for convenience, then a human life meant nothing to them. The realisation left a bitter taste in his mouth. He felt both humbled and terrified. He also wondered what would happen if they did succeed. If the invading ship was destroyed would another one simply be sent in its place? Would the humans of Borealis be trapped into a war they could never hope to win?
The thought made him want to jump up and shout at the sky, demand the galaxy be righted and his world be left alone. They had no weapons, no space craft of their own. They were no threat to this Hierarchy, no threat at all. The very injustice of it made him want to lash out at the circuitry that surrounded him. He almost laughed at the thought – to lash out at the very creatures who were trying to save them? He could almost hear Keith making some amused comment about the stupidity of humanity.
“Roger,” Josella said quietly. “It is time.”
G.D. Tinnams has worked as a barman, a call centre operator, an IT support analyst, and a software tester. But during all this time he was also an insatiable reader of science fiction and fantasy books like Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark Is Rising Sequence’, Orson Scott Card’s ‘Ender’s Game’, Robert Charles Wilson’s ‘Blind Lake’ and Greg Egan’s ‘Permutation City’. He is very fond of weird, mind-bending stories and decided quite early on to try writing some. ‘Hunter No More’ is his second novel.