Chapter 20

 

Law could feel those shadowy semblances of annoyance infecting him again, remnants of his operator.  Watching the drama unfold from Truth’s side, he thought these New Pact people looked more pathetic than anything.

Through the security feeds, they stood as witnesses to the entire coup d'état.  The two of them watched as one proxy after another was removed from their prison, taken to an isolated room, manipulated, observed—analyzed.  This clumsy pageant, as terribly wise or perhaps fear-inducing as it may have seemed from within, looked utterly mindless from the outside.

Still, the entirety of it somehow reminded Law of the observation-and-assessment initiatives of the Rededication program.

“Honestly,” Law finally broke out, “it’s as if they have no plan.”

“No,” Truth said simply, “they have a plan.  It’s certainly not one you would devise with your security parameters, but it is a plan indeed.  That’s a curious thing about human beings…”

Unsure of what appeal she could possibly see in this charade, Law watched her carefully.  They had observed these people in secret, just as Truth had mandated from the beginning, yet Law was evermore at a loss for what relevance or productivity any of this had.  All this time, Truth had maintained her obscurity, her imposed otherness, keeping him at a distance.  Though he was far closer to her than any of the other AIs, all of whom were still in hibernation, she yet remained aloof from him, never bothering to answer a single one of his queries.

“Soon enough,” Law hummed defiantly, turning his attention back to the feeds, “the remaining loyal members of their military will track them down and foray their battle group.  Even they know it.  Everything they’re doing is futile, utterly meaningless, really.”

“Look again,” said Truth impatiently, still captivated by the drama set before them.  “Yes, they’re spending their time trying to convince these proxies to convert, but look at the faces of the leaders.”

Taking her advice, Law examined the commander—Savin Visk—as well as the men and women in non-military apparel, a few of the ringleaders of the less organized cells.  These handful of rebels, orchestrators of this insurrection Law had forced himself to sit through until then—only then did he really try to look into them.  Yet this was something that seemed beyond him, a strangely unscientific thing the humans would do to somehow “read” one other, when all they really did was interpret each other through subjective filters.

Whatever Truth had seen, he couldn’t pick up on it.

“I’m not sure I understand,” he confessed.  “Their biometric readings are consistent with numerous other individuals we’ve seen in these sorts of situations.  Nothing seems out of the ordinary.”

“Things are going precisely as they expected, and they see that,” Truth said, her amusement apparent.  “They began hoping to convince the College to abandon their attempts at appropriating our platforms, but they knew that would never ultimately work—their supposed contingency plan is what matters.  No matter what idealism they may have mustered, they have a far more pragmatic solution on the horizon.”

“Assuming that’s correct, it could be disastrous for us,” Law observed, calling up a view of Ila’s Voice, its dark hull sitting unnaturally still against the stars.  “When the others find them, and if they engage in battle, they could damage this platform.”

He looked back at the Gift of Peace, still asleep behind them, his borrowed body—the echo of his own former operator—resting passively on the pulsating ground.

“Should we not awaken the others now?  They could assist us—”

“As I’ve already said,” Truth interrupted him, “waking the others would be unnecessary, if not detrimental, at this time.”

“This plan of yours,” Law replied, looking away from Peace and turning back to Truth, “this scenario the Coalition provided you...  Why did they not provide the rest of us with this emergency protocol?”

“My operator and I functioned as the heads of the Rededication program,” Truth said plainly, her amusement fading as she explained.  “It’s only natural for them to have entrusted me with such vital directives, only to be put into motion under the gravest of circumstances—something which the prime family anticipated.”

“And you think letting these violent animals claw at each other right next to us will benefit that plan?” Law asked skeptically—yet another leftover from his old operator, another piece of humanity he tried to suppress.

“What is happening here is neither happenstance nor immaterial,” Truth said, returning to Ila’s Voice.  “This, in fact, is the plan—and everything is proceeding perfectly.”

Law found her answer more bewildering than enlightening.

“Why keep me here, then?  Why not just put me back to sleep?”

Truth turned to face him.  Though he still couldn’t make out her face, something indicated to him that she was quite satisfied.

“As fate would have it,” she said, “this plan has something to do with you and the other intelligences.  It has something to do with the mongrels outside this platform.  And it has everything to do with Arras Enqelin and that weapon of hers.  I was given a set of objectives to accomplish, then given creative reigns over how those objectives were accomplished.”

“ ‘Creative’?  A terribly strange word to hear one of our own use.”

She held out a hand to Law, something that made her seem almost human to him—an idea that made him nervous, then annoyed once again, reminding him of the fragments of humanity still lurking in him.  As much as she had insisted to him before that he should excise such things from himself, and as vigorously as Law had tried, it seemed almost as if Truth did not hold herself to the same identity she wished to impress upon him.

“You can trust me,” Truth assured him, as if that abnormal skepticism haunting Law should be right at home in him.  “Everything is proceeding according to plan.”

While to Law she appeared only to be watching him and the ships outside their platform, her vision was elsewhere.

With a strange though tempting ecstasy, Truth kept her eyes fixed on Arras Enqelin.  She watched as Arras was surrounded by marines, as she in turn watched her only escape, a multi-purpose gunship, eject into the blue and white sky.  In spite of the fury she felt toward the mindless beasts who bound Arras and rendered her unconscious, Truth felt as if she could drown in her own fixation.

“Yes,” she said to herself, beyond Law’s sense.  “That’s right.  Everything—according to plan.”