The Dead: Book 21 (frag. 3)
No culture has yet solved the dilemma each has faced with the growth of a conscious mind: how to live a moral and compassionate existence when one is fully aware of the blood, the horror inherent in all life, when one finds darkness not only in one's own culture but within oneself. If there is a stage at which an individual life becomes truly adult, it must be when one grasps the irony in its unfolding and accepts responsibility for a life lived in the midst of such paradox.
IN THE EARLY DAYS she had been careful to monitor her use of the Memory.
She had felt it was more important to spend her time learning about the planet they had transformed: the life forms which had evolved so rapidly from the seed-forms they had planted, the local terrain, the dangers and survival value of every detail.
But then it had mattered.
After the others died she found herself using the Memory more and more: any time that she wasn't hunting or cooking or maintaining the camp.
It was, she mused, a bit addictive.
But it made her feel less alone.
At times, she sought other things there as well—she studied the ancient religions, millennia before her time, which had claimed to provide hope and comfort.
But she had never been able to understand how the promise of land to farm in an afterlife could change the reality of now.
Perhaps it was because she knew better, but she suspected that the worshipers of Ra, or any of the other gods, knew the truth deep down.
She could sense it when she tuned into them—why else the amount of energy they exerted to vanquish their doubts?
The Memory was also how she knew for certain that she was the only human left.
The name was deceptive in that respect.
It didn't play back a record.
It somehow bypassed time and space, tapping directly into the consciousness of past humanity.
It was supposed to be hard-wired to historic personages—to prevent access to the consciousness of anyone in the last hundred years.
But her model was the most expensive ever made, and she had soon discovered that it could be hacked.
She didn't use it to spy on her own colony, while they were alive or since.
But she had known when the other colonies died out, and when the home planet froze over.
Her only real company was Nick-nick, a semi-domesticated mammal, somewhere between a cat and a monkey, who cuddled up to her in the evenings, and demanded food at odd times during each day.
They had monitored Nick-nick's species, and noted a rudimentary social structure, with a mixture of aggression and egalitarian tendencies.
She could almost take the Memory back to a time when humans were much like that.
It was entirely possible that these creatures would be the next conscious, intelligent race—a new species, a new start, on this very planet.
She hoped so.
But Nick-nick was not real company yet, and she had need of human contact, so she had spent more and more time in the worlds of the Memory, until she sometimes wondered if she wasn't somehow becoming the entire human race.
A nice thought.
But there was little time, and much to do.
She couldn't destroy the hut, but it was essential to leave as little evidence as possible.
She paused while destroying the drug supply.
What if she needed it later?
But she knew better.
She wheeled painfully around the rooms, picking up the few really advanced bits of technology the colony had brought with them.
It was surprisingly little: a 'puter, two viewers, a scan, and a turtle.
Sally's antique wrist clock.
There was nothing else she could think of.
She wrapped them up in a table napkin, and rolled her way to the door.
The door posed a problem.
She finally managed to break the latch free with a rock and deposit it in the table napkin with the rest of the technology, then she jammed the tracks, hoping the door would stay open until nature had claimed the interior.
It was important that Nick-nick's kind were allowed to evolve at their own pace.
Too much technology, too soon, could destroy a species.
By the time they could understand the significance of the hut, it would be long overgrown and destroyed.
The real technology, which was built to last and which Nick-nick's kind might have learned something from, was in her table napkin, and would go into the capsule.
The capsule was at the corner of the clearing, resting at the top of its tube.
It took the last of her energy to navigate her way there.
She placed the salvaged technology inside.
There was very little time left.
To be concluded...