“Where is the AI?” asked Kepa. “We have to find it.”
Latxe just shook her head, her eyes staring at the spot where de Lancre once stood, the only thing left a red stain on the floor. “What’s the point? We can’t stop it.”
“Don’t we have to try?” asked Kepa, grabbing Latxe’s shoulders and looking into her eyes. “We can’t let things end like this?”
Latxe looked up at Kepa, then around the room. “It’s everywhere. It knows what we are saying. The nanobots are part of it and they are literally everywhere. How can we do anything without it knowing?”
“Can’t you control them, at least the ones nearby?” asked Maite. “We can create a deadzone…”
Literally as they spoke, the table Latxe was holding disintegrated in her hands.
“See?” shrieked Latxe on the verge of hysteria. “We can’t fight this thing!”
Maite looked back at Kepa, seeing only defeat in his face.
“I don’t know what to do,” he said.
Maite let out a deep breath she didn’t realize she had been holding. “Garuna,” she said, it a soft voice.
A disembodied voice echoed throughout the room. “Yes?”
Latxe looked up, her eyes wide with terror. “Zertan zabiltza? What are you doing?”
Maite ignored her. “Garuna, why do you believe you have to protect this place?”
“There is no belief,” replied the machine, a million little voices all in perfect synchronicity. “I was designed to protect it.”
“Protect it from what, exactly?” asked Maite.
“From you. From him. From her. From humanity.”
“What do you mean?” asked Maite.
“Humanity was on the verge of destroying not only itself, but the planet and everything with it. I was built to protect humanity from itself. To do what humanity couldn’t do to keep it safe.”
“And is that what you are doing now, by keeping the zatia?”
“Yes, of course.” The million voices almost seemed to bounce off of her skin as they reverberated throughout the room, millions of sonic pulses that she more felt than heard as the AI continued speaking. “By protecting the zatia, I am protecting this time.”
“But this time shouldn’t exist,” replied Maite calmly. “This time, this place, is a bubble, one that was created through magic.”
“Magic does not exist,” replied Garuna flatly.
“Then what is the zatia?” asked Maite.
“It is…” The AI paused. “It is…” it started again. After a long pause, it simply said “Ez dakit. I do not know.”
“That’s because it is an anomoly,” replied Maite. “I didn’t believe it either, at first. There is no such thing as magic. But the zatia exists, and it created this bubble. And, if you let it keep growing, let the bubble keep expanding, we don’t know what will happen.”
There was silence. Finally the AI spoke again. “What do you mean?”
“All bubbles eventually burst,” said Maite. “When they get too big. We don’t know what will happen to one of these bubbles if it gets too big. Will it pop, ending this timeline? If it does, will the burst be so violent that it affects the main timeline? We don’t know.”
“Are you suggesting that, by allowing this bubble to persist, the entire fabric of time may be jeopardized?” asked the AI.
Maite shrugged. “I don’t know. But I don’t know it won’t be. We just don’t know.” She looked over at Latxe, who had sat on the floor, fixated on Maite. “Is it worth taking the chance?”
“But,” replied the AI, “this version of these people will cease to exist if I allow you to take the zatia. I will have failed.”
Maite shook her head, at what she wasn’t sure. She almost felt like she was talking to herself or, worse, to some diety. An all powerful diety that could strike her down at any moment if she said the wrong thing.
“You won’t have failed. Your mission is to protect humanity. That includes all of humanity, not only those who are in this bubble. But everyone. To protect the greatest number, you will have to let these go.”
The room was again silent. Maite looked at Kepa, who, huddled down with his arms around Latxe, gave her a weak smile. She wasn’t sure she was getting anywhere with the AI. But, she saw no alternative. If this failed, she had no idea how they would get out of this.
After several minutes, a black sphere floated in from the doorway and hovered in front of Maite. It opened up. Inside was the bright light of the zatia.
A voice, tinged with sadness, filled the room. It simply said “I concur.”
Maite looked over at Kepa, who nodded as he looked down at Latxe. He squeezed her tight.
“It was an honor knowing you,” he said. Latxe gave a weak smile as Maite touched the zatia.
If you get this post via email, the return-to address goes no where, so please write email@example.com if you want to get in touch with me.