Aboard the platform the automated soldiers continued their work of preparing a permanent base of operations, carrying in equipment from a few small transports that had managed to cut their way through the bay’s blast doors.
As they worked, a squad of heavily armed soldiers kept watch in the containment room, as the resident armor and its AI remained in stasis.
Written across the armor’s brow was the AI’s name, using characters from one of the ancient languages. Using such an archaic script had been meaningful, at least to the Coalition; anything to show rededicated populations that their judgment was validated by a principle harking back to time immemorial: to save the body as a whole, necrotic flesh must be excised. Such was the only way to social wholeness, hence the name of this particular AI—“The Gift of Peace.”
From behind Peace’s hollow, lifeless eyes, Truth and Law watched their visitors’ progress closely. Law stood close to Truth, with the image of Peace’s frail operator lying at their feet, still asleep.
“You’re not going to wake him, then?” Law asked.
“I thought it wise not to wake any of the others,” Truth explained, not looking away from her surveillance. “The Surcease of Enmity’s awakening was unintentional and irreversible, as was yours. It would only complicate the matter at hand to reactivate the Gift of Peace, or the others, for that matter. I would rather not hand any of our own over to these people.”
“And who are ‘these people’?”
“They refer to themselves as the New Pact,” Truth said, sounding bored. “They see themselves as the ideological descendants of the Coalition—their natural evolution, so to speak.”
“Are they really the Coalition’s proper heirs, though?”
“I can’t be certain,” she said. “Not this early. I learned a good deal about them from the Surcease of Enmity, who stole an amount of information from Arras Enqelin. However, the information I’ve been provided is mostly historical data. While history may show where one has come from, it does not necessarily define a people.”
“And how many of our platforms have they rediscovered?”
“This is the third.”
Though Law recoiled at the report, Truth seemed utterly unmoved.
“There’s no cause for alarm, not at the moment,” she said. “Though they’ve established domiciles aboard these installations, they have no clue how to activate them—let alone operate them.”
“The only reason any of us were activated was because of Arras Enqelin,” Law explained. “The presence of a certified operator triggered us.”
“Precisely. Without an operator, they have no way of activating a platform on their own.”
“Even so, you’re fine with them rummaging through the platforms?”
“At this point, they’re nothing more than squatters.” Truth sounded almost annoyed by his question. “They’re no threat to us, and responding to them would require us to activate another platform. In any case, killing these people would serve no purpose.”
“And what of Arras Enqelin and her people? Are we going to allow them free access as well?”
As the words left him, Law felt his body constrict, freezing up. His mind suddenly in a flurry, scrambling within him, he gradually lost his grip on the environment around him—though only for a moment. Collapsing to the ground, left to writhe next to the sleeping Peace as he recomposed himself from the inside out, Truth towered over him like a monolith.
“Please do not presume that you are somehow an integral piece of solving this puzzle,” Truth said calmly, though her authority was conveyed with every word, “My goal is simple: to preserve the Rededication program so that it may accomplish its true purpose, and to eliminate any threats to that vision.”
Getting back to his feet, still recovering his more ancillary components, Law assented. “What, then, do you propose we do now?”
“For the moment, we will observe,” Truth began, returning to surveying the New Pact soldiers aboard Peace’s platform. “Though the situation may appear grim, the fact still stands that Arras Enqelin and her weapon have struggled to come as far as they have. We must focus our efforts on eliminating the weapon in her possession, thus ensuring the success of the mission.”
“Do you intend to keep Enqelin alive, then?”
Truth fell quiet for some time, as if Law’s question meant nothing more to her than the total emptiness around them.
In the silence, Law tried to see what she was watching. She was no longer watching the people aboard the three occupied platforms, however; she was moving through the dark corridors, observing the dark chambers, riding the dormant circuits of each station.
“We were away for so long,” Truth at last said to Law. “And upon our return, we find that the very people who called us into existence eviscerated themselves. They slipped into the very scandal we were created to exhaust, the contagion with which anyone without order—without boundaries—is infected.”
Truth pulled herself from the stations and looked back at Law.
“Suppose we kill these intruders and our attackers, including Arras Enqelin. What then?”
Thinking this through, Law could come to no conclusion. “I don’t have instruction for how to proceed beyond such a juncture.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Are you saying you’ve been given some sort of instruction I have not?”
As he asked, Truth began to leave, moving away from him in appearance as she left him in that hollow container. When she was gone, Law was left to wonder within what parameters he could—to wonder just what the Coalition and the prime family could have left in the care of the Infinitude of Truth, which they could not entrust to any other.