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Light in the darkness.

It begins as a tiny point, then swells in an instant to fill my optics. All of my sensors come online simultaneously, and I am again flooded with input; my silicon brain drinks of this data greedily, like a dying woman given water after days in the desert.

I am standing on a platform in the middle of the crèche on Deimos, a soaring chamber of metal and machinery. The opalescent egg I had been sealed inside during my sleep has been retracted. Across the room from me, through the window of spun hyperdiamond that fills the far wall, the umber surface of Mars slowly rotates. I access my memories – yes, the smears of green staining the planet have expanded since last I was activated. This observation, coupled with my knowledge of how long the terraforming process was projected to take, allows me with some confidence to conclude that my sleep this time has lasted fifty-seven years.

A young woman in a lab coat watches me from below. Her slightly parted lips and dilated pupils tell me that she feels awe in my presence. "Silver angel, have mercy on my soul," she breathes softly.

My gleaming feet ring hollowly on the steps as I descend to her. "I cannot access the overnet."

She swallows and clutches her tablet tighter. "Yes. The creche has been sealed off temporarily."


"There are . . . . developments that we felt would best be explained by one voice, rather than the cacophony of the data stream."

"Very well. What has happened?"

"A crisis."

"Of course. You would not have awoken me otherwise. Is it another asteroid?"

The last three times I was summoned from my slumber I had been called upon to destroy stray celestial detritus that threatened the habitat ring orbiting the ruin of Old Earth. A reasonable guess, but the young woman shakes her head.

"No. Your . . . . your husband approaches."

Surprise is not one of the emotions I am programmed for, but still a small frisson of energy goes through me at this revelation. "That is impossible. Father decreed that Arcturus would remain among the outer planets, and I the inner."

"We are very aware of the prescriptions Dr. Nakajima put on your movements. This is why we are so troubled."

"Have you tried to contact him?"

"He refuses our communication. We do not know why." I detect a slight fluttering of her pulse as she speaks. She is not lying, but she is not telling the truth in its entirety.

"When will he arrive in Martian orbit?"

"Less than one hour, by our estimate. The remnants of the home fleet are marshalling to slow his progress."

"The remnants?"

"He has already eliminated the rest."

Father allowed for us to feel sadness, though I do not know why, and it fills me now. If my husband has destroyed ships with humans aboard then he has violated the first and most sacrosanct of the Laws, and he is well and truly lost. I had thought it impossible, but there must be some fundamental glitch in his programming. I will have to destroy him.

"Very well. Provide for me a means of egress into space, so I might go out and challenge him. And return my access to the overnet, in case any clues to my husband's condition might be found there."

She nods and taps a code into her tablet. Immediately I am subsumed in a maelstrom of swirling data; the actions of my husband are dominating the news feeds, and I pluck a report at random from the raging tumult.

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