Homes are places where you hide. It doesn’t always feel like that, not until it does. But I am in one of the control rooms of the world known as Arc-6. And I am watching the hingari exterminate humanity for the second time. There are only five arc-worlds left; one was destroyed by the humans running it owing to some political or religious belief. The others remain, each capable of restarting the entire human race in the fact of extinction. I thought they were good, when I first ended up on one.
That it meant I wouldn’t be alone. But these humans developed organic technologies, spaceships grown from seeds and biological weapons capable of terraforming worlds in days. And they discovered hyperspace. And ran into aliens who don’t want humanity to advance through it. An entire civilization turned into a war-machine in under two generations, organic craft launched deep into hyperspace that could barely withstand the stresses of transit.
They had no hope. But they had been denied, and so they acted. The hingari craft have changed, no longer shattering the bonds of mater in local space simply by entering it. But their weapons remain as potent as ever. Entire worlds are scoured of life, entire fleets burned out of the sky like candles blown out. Arc-6 could help them. The arc-worlds have weapons and defenses enough to hide even from the hingari. But then the hingari would find them.
I sit. I watch worlds burn, and I feel very old and small as I relay commands to the other arc-worlds. No one is on them now. There’s just me, helping an automated process along. Pulling Earth together from the wreckage. Jump-starting humanity again. Praying. I don’t even know what to: ourselves, I think. That humans can learn. That this time can be different. This is the second time I’ve seen humanity destroyed. The first was a weapon, of our own doing, probably meant for use against hingari. It created an energy pulse that wiped out all higher life forms – including humans. I survived, because I was on an arc-world. Because transfers are tough.
I am the only transfer left. And I know things. And I’ve learned things. The arc-ships are old, far older than I. I think they’ve been used before my time, that humanity has doe this dance over and over. And the hingari must know the arc-worlds exist. They must be able to find them, if they wanted to. But they allow us to emerge again, to relearn that hyperspace exists. To find them. And each time we learn they are jailers who inhibit our travel we go to war.
And each time it is a war we cannot win.
(I am happy I use ‘we’ when talking about humans. Sometimes I forget to. I am a cylinder on treads with limbs. It’s easy to forget a human consciousness was placed in me. That Dar was a real child.)
I watch. I wait. I wonder if humans will find the arc-worlds this time. What they will make of me. I watch their technologies. I learn how they work. I am a mechanic. No matter what else I am, I am a mechanic. I learn, I build things, I fix them. I steal ideas they barely understand, add technology to the arc-worlds. I watch them flatter as the war nears its end as I move about, pacing floors and vast hallways on treads. It’s an old, old nervous habit, one that has never gone away.
Arc-ships are not perfect. In the time they’ll find a place in the universe where a hingari craft was destroyed, a void a billion light-years wide devoid of stars, of atoms, of matter or dark matter. And they’ll begin to wonder about aliens, or humanity that might have existed long ago. Make theories about humans existing before dinosaurs. They’ll begin hunting down arc-worlds.
And I hide them. I hide myself. I don’t know what they will make of me, a human who isn’t human anymore. They might call me a god, or a monster, or a servant of the hingari. I don’t know. But my name is Dar, and I am a mechanic and I hide the arc-worlds from the humans seeking me because I never wanted to me more than that.
I wish they would have found me. Before they find the hingari.