Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Chapter Seventy-four

Price sat in the Intel office, all the display screens showing aspects of the Citadel and the assault on it or what had been found inside it. Hundreds of technicians had been given the opportunity to explore it. They had been landed on the top when the fires caused by the last stages of the attack had burned out and they had found their way down into it.

Of course, that was after the soldiers had cleared it. They had moved through every level exploring it fully. They had found no living beings in the Citadel just as Monier had suggested. They had found no bodies in it either. It was just a giant computer, self aware to a degree, that ran the planet, using the few biological creatures it allowed to exist as its hands and fingers. All just as Monier had said.

It was the strangest enemy that Price had ever seen. It was almost as if the war had been fought against a giant video game where you didn't lose your coin but your life. It was the a video game taken to the extreme.

Coollege entered the office, dropped into one of the chairs and asked, "What the hell is going on now?"

"Review," said Price. "Have to tell the Colonel all that we know."

Coollege twisted around so that she was looking at him. "Guess I was wrong about Monier. She came in handy. She could do what she said she could."


"I'm really sorry about my attitude, Tree" said Coollege. "It was unprofessional of me."

"That it was," said Price, "but it's over now. Forget it."

She nodded and asked, "They figure out who built the Citadel?"

"Technically it built itself," said Price. "Developed the laborers through genetic engineering and designed itself. Once it was completed, it let the creatures die off." Price laughed. "It did create the asteroid for space exploration. There are probably a hundred more of those things out there. That seems to be what the technicians have determined so far."

"So what happens now?" asked Coollege.

Price shrugged. "I don't know. I just know that this is over."

She looked at the screen and watched the information as it paraded across it. She knew that they would be expected to analyze it and then prepare a major report that would be filed away in the mainframe. She had the horrible thought that the mainframe might take the report and use it to create a life for itself. Then she laughed at that. It was the stuff of alien planets and science fiction novels.

"You had breakfast?" she asked.

Price took a deep breath and rocked back in his seat. There was enough work there to keep them, and Stone, and Monier, busy for the next several months. He wouldn't be able to do anything right away.

"Nope," he said. "I was hoping we could eat together."

Standing up, she said, "I thought you'd never ask."

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