Stop the Press

by tehexile

The last faint rays of light faded out of the silent sky. Standing on the surface of Expel, the soft grass that rippled in the breeze, Claude knew that Energy Nede was gone forever. Destroyed by its inhabitants, just as they had created it. He held Rena in his arms, comforting her. The warmth of her body and the smell of her hair soothed his battle-weary nerves. It must be hard for her, thought Claude. Just as she had found her true home, it was destroyed in front of her eyes. Did she blame herself?

He looked around at the others. Precis, Ashton and Celine were just glad it was over. Dias was nursing a violent headache; teleport allergy. A common condition. Noel showed his grief at losing his home openly, howling at the moon as though he was going feral. The animal-loving biologist had a deep empathy with the land, even the artificial soil of Nede. He probably felt the pain of all the animals. It was as though a computer he was neurally wired to was violently disconnected. Still, he would recover. The last time they spoke, he was absolutely fascinated with the descriptions of animals on Expel.

Chisato was standing a way away from the rest of the party, staring at the sky wordlessly. Her face was impossible to read. Claude was concerned about her; as leaders of the party, he and Rena had a duty to keep their morale up.

"Chisato, are you okay?"

She did not turn around.

"I knew." she whispered.

"What do you mean, you knew?"

"Oh, I mean..." she looked around, embarrassed, "I had figured it out a long time ago. It was inevitable where this planet was heading, considering the social and political situation."

"You really think so, huh?"

She nodded, "I expected them to evacuate everyone first, though."

"I don't think there was time. The entire Universe was about to be destroyed."

"Yeah, that's right." she told him.

"Celine's planning an expedition to the Cave of Trials tomorrow. It'll give us something to do. You're welcome to come along as well." he told her, "And don't tell him, but we're all going to buy Noel a cat. It'll cheer him up."

"I need to be alone for a while. You go on ahead. Better rest and save." she turned around and continued staring into space. She waited until they were gone.

"I knew." she repeated.

She knew everything. All of it. She had known for years. Years of investigation, anonymous tip-offs, hacking government databases... she had been to places forbidden to everyone. She had set up a meeting with the party on purpose because she knew that joining them was the only thing that would keep her alive. The government weren't going to let anyone live; if the wrong person left the planet and spread the secret of an advanced weapon or even the Crest of Annihilation, it could cause disaster to a galaxy or even the Universe. They were utilitarians on an insane scale, sacrificing the lives of an entire planet to prevent harm to other planets. There was nothing she could do to stop it happening, even with the full might of the Nede Chronicle behind her, which she wouldn't have because nobody would believe her. The government trying to destroy the planet? More than usual? Yeah, right. Maybe she could change the Crest of Enchantment herself, given enough information. That would still take years, maybe even decades. The Crest of Annihilation would be complete by then and the whole Universe would be destroyed.

All she could do was pass on the knowledge of Nede. Collecting information- enough sample information to explain the key scientific and cultural developments of Nede, as well as the everyday life of the Nedean- that was something her friends at the Chronicle would help her do. Only a few others knew about her secret project, helped her interview both influential academics and ordinary people. She acquired source codes and blueprints, raw materials and DNA. When the apocalypse was over, she could travel to other planets, planets where evolution wasn't forbidden by law. Just like the old Nede, she could share the fantastically advanced knowledge of Energy Nede with everyone again. Maybe they would use the knowledge to create weapons. The truth was the most deadly weapon of all. If she had to hide the truth, there could be no progress. The Universe would stagnate, come to a standstill. Maybe that was even worse.

"But One Truth." she said, quoting the Nede Chronicle motto. She would never stop believing in the need for the truth.

Somehow, she had to get off the planet and tell everyone in the Universe.