Arc-worlds don’t have weather like other worlds do. The ocean is a battery powering engines, the storms recycling of power sources. In the time I’ve been on the arc-worlds, I’ve seen it snow twice. Until now I’d never considered the worlds capable of producing a blizzard. Arc-Worlds exist to restart humanity if it goes extinct. I’ve been through four of those; I have no idea how often it happened before my time. The first arc-world was inhabited by the humans of this era; it is the oldest arc-world and humans lived on on in my time, too. Then they had a war.
That world is gone now. Only six arc worlds remain, including the seventh. The one I designed, the one I’m on now. It is snowing on all the arc-worlds, the psychic pressure of humanity seeking knowledge, weapons, power, pushing against ancient defenses. They won’t get through, but they could damage the arc-worlds. Cause the defenses to wake up and eradicate humanity without even noticing. The arc-worlds could be damaged, and there are limits to what I can do.
I’m a mechanic. A very good one, probably the best one there is in human space now, but much of the arc-worlds existed long before my time and uses technologies I barely grasp, sciences I can understand the basics of and no more. I was eight when I died, my mind placed into another body: a cylinder on wheels. Tranferring, they called it, and it became rare after my time. The people of my time died in a war against the alien hingari; I survived on an arc-world. I’ve lived on them through three more reboots of the human species. This one has produced psychics who use almost no technology, whose minds can tear wormholes in the fabric of the universe to travel between locations. But hyerpsace remains the domain of the hingari. Perhaps our jailers, perhaps not.
I watch the storm fall, and send out the invite on every open channel. It takes less than ten minutes for my request to be answered; the man I let in through the protections is older. Balding, tall, surrounded in a shimmering energy flux. He studies me for a long moment; I do the same, though I don’t bother with a viewscreen or projection for interaction.
“You are Dar?”
“I am called Mulih. We seek –.” He pauses. “We cannot get into your mind.”
“I am shielded,” I say dryly.
“We-I I apologize. using words is – difficult. Strange, with nothing behind them. The arc-worlds contain power that could boost our own; our seers have seen this.”
“You think you can claim them?”
“No. Even if we formed a gestalt we could not. It is humbling.”
“It shouldn’t be. There have been psychics before, and many other kinds of humans as well. The arc-worlds are here and they aren’t any longer. In my time, they weren’t used for war. Humans lived on four of them as a place of refuge from politics and wars for a long time. You don’t seem to have this problem.”
“We seldom do; it is impossible to hate what one understands.”
“You don’t understand me.”
“We wish to; Shino said we were not to fear you, and not to make war on the hingari. She has been dead for some time, and we have grown as far as we can without access to hyperspace. Without then power the hingari deny us. They may be right in this, they may not. Will you aid us?”
“No.” I don’t move.
“I could destroy you.”
“You could try. But I have a duty – chosen, yes, but still a duty – to see that humanity continues if you fail. If you think you are more important than that, then you are welcome to try.”
Mulih pauses and considers options, studies the falling snow. “Would you help us if you could, Dar.”
“I did when I talked to Shino. I told her about the previous reboots – incarnations, you would call it – of humanity. Left her to mull on that and where it would lead. Every other time, humanity has fought the hingari when it could, built weapons for that, forged entire societies around it. And we’re lost! I could unlock every secret, every technology here, and it might not make a difference at all. All the arc-worlds are for, all I can do is to say that you can find a better way. That there has to be one. That the hingari wouldn’t be there if they didn’t have a reason.”
Mulih is quiet, holding out a hand to the snow, and then is simply gone. I wait until the snow ends and go back inside, deep into the bedrock of the arc-world. And I wait. Oh, how I wait.