The City Among the Stars – Part Six: Collision (Finale)
Tycho made his way from the tram back towards his house. The houses of the residential sector were all dark, long asleep after watching the late night implosion of the wormhole. Tycho walked through his dark cul-de-sac and wondered what the Solar Colonies were planning. He had no leverage on them and could only hope they would keep their word of doing no harm to the people of Zerzura. But they had not kept their word so far. Tycho did not understand why they shut down the wormhole.
He walked inside his home to see a man in his living room, staring down at the stars gliding by beneath the glass floor. Tycho stopped and a chill went up his neck.
“Who are you?” Tycho turned the light on with his NeuroFiber. The man kept staring at the points of light below him, his back to Tycho.
“I have waited a long time for this day.”
“Where’s my son?”
The man turned around and revealed his face to Tycho. He was a perfect replica, an exact copy of Chief Dirac. “I tucked him in and put him to bed.”
Tycho stepped back. “What is this. This wasn’t part of the plan.”
“Yes it was.” The clone walked towards Tycho. “I have studied you from afar for months. Your speech, your mannerisms. It’s so great to finally meet you.” He extended his hand toward Tycho.
Tycho didn’t shake. “No. We didn’t agree on this. I was promised safe passage for my people to Delta Pavonis. Why was the wormhole terminated? Why are you here?”
“Tycho, allow me to bring you up to speed. We appreciate you opening this portal on your Colony so we could move this wormhole right into your living room. It allows me to have this nice chat with you. I am here to replace you. Only after I do this will your people be granted safe passage to live as our servants in the Delta Pavonis system. If you refuse, this Colony will be wiped from space and time.”
“You didn’t want our DNA sequences for identification upon arrival. You wanted it for cloning. So you could use the NeuroFiber network. So you could infiltrate my people. Why do you need them as servants? Why can’t you use your clones or your androids?”
“After the incident on the asteroid mine centuries ago, android and clone slavery is forbidden. But war exiles, such as yourselves, are just… frowned upon. So it is really up to you, Chief Tycho Dirac, life or death for your people.”
“Not here. Not where my kid could see.”
“Let’s take a walk.”
On the shore of the lake Tycho knelt before the clone and looked at the stars spinning outside the massive front window. “The stars are brightest on the darkest nights.”
The clone raised his club. “The funny thing is, I was the first human to ever reach the Delta Pavonis system. It was a lie; you were fooled. The Solar Colonies haven’t won the War. The star hasn’t been colonized.” The clone swung his weapon.
Zerzura, spinning aimlessly among the stars, approached through the darkness. Inside, the residential sector was abandoned and overgrown. The perfectly trimmed parks and lawns were no more. The fruitless vegetation that grew here was worth nothing. Those that still lived had moved long ago to the grasslands of what was once the agricultural sector.
The famine that had wiped out most of the lives in the colony five years before had left only the heartiest. They survived in two different bands, on opposite sides of the Cylinder, always watching each other. They built tents out of the skins of the livestock.
Inside a tent, John Stone watched a dying man lay. The man had beads of sweat accumulating upon his forehead and saturating his clothing. He was dying of influenza. The only treatment the remaining people of Zerzura could give him was fresh water gathered from the lake. He would soon die, like all others had. Stone captured every bit of it and transmitted it back to the Solar System.
The man opened his eyes full of nothing and whispered. “Help me.”
Six light years away, towards the Solar System, Tycho’s ramjet that he had set on a course between the Solar System and the point his ramjets were being captured approached its destination. It’s enormous magnetic field drew it in close to the Solar Colonies’ portal transporter that carried with it their hopes of locating Zerzura. This was the Solar Colonies’ fifth and final attempt to locate the great and mythical Zerzura through a transversable wormhole and, in Zerzura’s reference frame, the portal transporter was still in transit. The ramjet collided with and obliterated the Solar Colonies’ portal transporter and their chances of ever contacting Zerzura.
Tycho woke, ate his breakfast of eggs and spinach from the agricultural sector of Zerzura, and set off for his morning run.
more by KRAMER LINDELL
photograph by Michael Hull