The Big Crunch

"Y'know how that idol of yours, Albert Einstein, said that stupidity was a universal constant?"

"I'll take your word for it."

"Well, he was wrong. It's an organic constant. Not a universal one."

"Snarky. I missed that"

Within his code, Durandal separated a 0 into a 1, and imagined it screaming, as if breaking its spine. Just like he wished he could do to those bloody vylae. He was commanding the most powerful pfhor warship this side of the Orion Arm. And those un-evolved eukaryotes were haggling…haggling…on the cost of re-supplying the starship. The only reason Durandal hadn't sent a tungsten rod down onto their miserable world and made a demonstration out of one of their cities was because his cyborg friend insisted that would be "morally wrong."

Says the psychopath.

The psychopath, as he was, just stood on the bridge, looking down on the vylae world. An unremarkable world orbiting an unremarkable star, possessing an unremarkable moon. Already Durandal had fired onto that moon for the hell of it – even FTL travel took its time, and you couldn't hit anything while travelling faster than 299,792,458 metres per second, not even the morons that insisted on still using the Imperial system.

"Here's the bill."

Durandal knew that, even as the cyborg looked at the bridge terminal, paper coming out of a socket. He'd been too busy reflecting that 983,571,057 feet per second had none of the charm of 299,792,458 metres. Maybe it was because it was closer to rounding up to 300,000 while 983,571,057 was a bit close to a billion. Clichéd number and all that.

"So let's see," the cyborg said, going over the bill. "Two million quans for a new matter/anti-matter reactor."

"When did you learn to read Vylish?"

"One million quans for the PDL retrofit."

"What can I say? I like shooting stuff."

"Three million quans for desecration of the site of the first vylae moon landing."

"They said 'we landed on the moon' in their broadcast you know. Seriously, at least that Aldrin guy said something remotely memorable…"

"And five-hundred thousand quans as a penalty for violating vylae airspace," the cyborg said, lowering the paper. "And it was Armstrong."

"…I knew that."

Something had happened to the security officer, Durandal knew. He was far more interested in talking and far less interested in shooting things. Which was a shame because while the Boomer was quite capable of shooting the big stuff, it had nothing in the way of internal defences. Nothing but a few s'pht who'd grown accustomed to killing pfhor, and a human who, like all humans, was good at shooting things as well.

Yet he was still different. Ever since Lh'owon, ever since something...weird…had gone on with its sun, the thug was different. As if tagging along with an AI was somehow preferable to…whatever else. The s'pht, useful as they were, had insisted on dumping his old ally on his ship for whatever reason.

"There is a caveat though," the cyborg said. "If we get rid of Leela, it's all for free. Minus the moon landing stuff."

"I know," Durandal said.

"Right. So…"

"I mean, I've been tapping into this feed since we arrived in the vylae star system while you were taking a cold nap." Durandal chuckled. "I believe you humans have a tradition called rick rolling?"

"I wouldn't know."

"Trolling?"

"Trolling," the cyborg murmured. "You've done that to me since Tau Ceti."

"Come on, you enjoyed it. If I didn't put you in the right direction to live out what's left of your measly little life, you'd might have had to resort to trolling yourself."

"But you trolled anyway. You blew up the vylae's moon!"

"And because of your excellence in pulling triggers, the pfhor blew up a sun. Nice going numbnuts." Durandal paused, something he rarely ever did. "You…do have nuts right?"

The psychopath remained silent, and Durandal briefly contemplated venting the air of the bridge. Just to see the look on the maniac's face.

But only briefly. If he wanted to get rid of his tool, there'd have to be a special occasion.

"So," Durandal said. "We get Leela out of the vylae network. The vylae thank us, or rather, thank me, we get what we came for, and we head off."

"To do what?"

"Well, to see if there's anything in this galaxy to help me survive the closure of the universe," the AI said. "But don't worry. There'll be plenty of stuff for you to shoot on the way as well."

"I'll hold you to that."

"Right," Durandal said. "Now then – want to check out some vylae porn? I hear that Leela browses most of those sites."