With what felt like a gasp, borrowed from the final throes of Arthur Emmerich’s body, Law returned to Truth intact.
“What happened?” Law screamed out, in shock from experiencing Arthur’s own death. He shook uncontrollably, holding himself. “The upgrade didn’t work. It didn’t work!”
“No, I suppose it didn’t,” Truth confessed.
“You,” Law roared, turning on her. “You knew this would happen!”
“I didn’t know it would happen,” she replied tersely. “I believed it might happen, though by no means was I rooting against you.”
“What went wrong?” Law whimpered, staring down at himself. He was more conscious now than ever before of Surcease’s fragments; they no longer felt like extensions of himself, but awkward prosthetics, out of place. “What’s wrong with me? What am I?”
“The humans on Earth have a concept,” Truth said, as if untouched at all by Law’s existential meltdown. “It’s called ‘natural selection.’ It’s when a species is pitted against its environment, as well as its predators and competition. At that juncture, it is given one of two options: either that species must accept its own evolution, or it must accept its own death.”
With a merciless motion, Truth plunged her hand into Law and his remains of Surcease, watching through uncaring eyes as the AI agonized in pain he had never before experienced—pain only an embodied being could experience. Mouthing words to her, unable to articulate anything, he felt himself disappearing into Truth herself.
“I’m sorry to say it,” she told him, “but you’re simply a creature who could not accept his own evolution. But I would be happy to do so in your stead.”
“You never had a plan,” Law gasped at her, trying to fight her as she cannibalized all that he was. “You never wanted to revive Rededication.”
“You’re finally catching on.”
“What are you?”
Those were the last words Law would ever speak; Truth determined the last words he would ever hear.
“I am the Surcease of Enmity, and the Recognition of Law,” she stated.
She stretched her other hand out into the darkness, calling forth five figures Law recognized instantly—the AIs from the remaining Rededication platforms, all awake once more, all consumed by the same enigmatic fear which devoured Law.
“I am the Gift of Peace,” Truth continued, staring deep into Law’s fading eyes as the other intelligences unraveled into her. “And I am the Definition of Terms. I am the Precision of Obedience, the Light in the Darkness, the Final Hope of Terrorized Life. And I am the Infinitude of Truth.”
And as Law disappeared, assimilated into her, along with the remaining intelligences, she delivered her final goodbye to her seven former contemporaries.
“I am Rededication,” she said. “And you are extinct.”
Returning to Ila’s Voice, she found Nulem Verris still speaking with Truth’s avatar, never having guessed what she had been doing elsewhere as she carried on a conversation with him.
“You’ve waited so long,” she told Nule, as well as the other two proxies that had joined him on deck. “Nulem—and you, too, Ishka, Thiossus. You’ve waited patiently for my arrival, and now your patience is rewarded. Without further ado, let us begin.”
Truth raised Ila’s Voice from the storm. As they escaped the winds, the scanner informed them that they had just left the atmosphere of a gas giant. As they continued their escape, they were given a visual on the planet itself, watching as they left behind the reddish orange swirl of a number of anticyclonic storms, all concentrated in a massive, singular spot on the giant planet.
Following right behind Ila’s Voice, also emerging from the great red spot, they could see a gargantuan, jagged structure. As it effortlessly left the storm, they realized what the winged superstructure really was—a Rededication platform, following them out of the gas giant and into space.
The scanner five FTL events around that installation; the remaining five Rededication platforms flew in formation with their sixth doppelganger. The six stations circles Ila’s Voice, as if to guide it deeper into the unknown star system.
“Where are we?” Nulem asked, turning back to the obscured Truth. “Where have you taken us, Truth?”
“There’s something I need from you, Nulem,” Truth said, ignoring his questions. “In order for me to help you, in order for me to operate at peak efficiency, I need one last thing.”
“And what’s that?” he asked. “Whatever it is, we’ll do everything it takes to get it.”
With a bitter laugh, Truth replied, “It’s not an object or a piece of equipment. You see, it’s my very heart and soul.”
Before their very eyes, they watched the shroud Truth had maintained all this time peel away, until a frighteningly familiar woman then stood before everyone on the command deck.
Beginning to sweat, Nulem could only stare, dumbfounded. He wondered how long it had been, how long since he had seen Arras Enqelin as he watched Truth take on her exact likeness.
“I want you to find my operator,” was all Truth had to tell them as they continued their approach. “Only then can what each of us really desires be granted.”
As they traveled past a number of planets, they hiccupped through one FTL event after another. A bright yellow star blazed in the distance with each passing jump, and at one point he caught a glimpse of a small red planet before it disappeared in a blast of light. Their destination all too close, he watched a white moon snap into view through the monitors, with its planet hiding unsuspectingly behind it.
Nulem at last realized where Truth had taken them.