Inspired in part by Needcoffee's Fiction Frenzy
. As always, comments are appreciated.
Burden by Scott Campbell
The room was without adornment or distraction. This was a room where you were forced to concentrate on the matters at hand. The matter today was secured to a chair in the middle of the room. The man in that chair didn't look evil or mad. His expression was normal, for lack of a better word. The three people that sat in front of him studied this man who had destroyed billions. The woman in the center spoke to him.
"I am the Mysteriarch for this matter. I will decide how you and the events you caused will be solved for the good of all. These are my advisors." Her hands indicated the avian to her left and the ursine to her right. "Seven days ago, you gained possession of five solar disruptors, weapons of mass destruction that can cause stars to destabilize, even go nova. You then used these weapons on five stars, all of which contained inhabited worlds. You have caused the death of billions of sentient life forms. You have been examined and no biological abnormity has been found. Till this event, you have not associated with irrational influences. Therefore, we require your explanation for your actions. Truth is required."
The avian barked, "This is unnecessary. We only need to identify his conspirators and hunt them down. Surely a mind probe is all that is needed."
The ursine replied, "As I said when you argued this before, if this action was the result of some social disorder, we must address it before it can cause others to engage in irrational acts."
"Irrational acts! Five worlds and all their peoples are now cinders!"
The Mysteriarch raised her hand, "I require an explanation. That is all." She looked at the man in the chair.
The man looked at his judges and focused on the Mysteriarch, "And if the explanation is… uncomfortable?"
"That is why we are here. By breeding and training, I determine what will be done and what will be known for the best of all, without basis or favor." Her stare conveyed condescension. "I doubt your story will shock me."
A ghost of a smile appeared on the man's lips. "I wish I had such ability. What I know has driven me to…" He stopped, wincing at the thought. "I didn't want this. I discovered what I know by chance."
The ursine asked, "This was on your academic study on this pre-Contact world, Sol III?"
The man nodded. "I'm… I was a xenologist. The preliminary survey of this world has some anomalies, the possibility that they were visited and influenced by peoples alien to the natives. I was to find more evidence to confirm and determine their identity for possible legal action."
The avian piped in, "What is this group that acquired the devices?"
The man looked at him and laughed. The sound was bitter and contemptuous. "Oh no. It's far worse."
The Mysteriarch shot the avian a look and turned back to the prisoner. "Continue."
"I went to Earth; the natives call their world Earth, and started compiling information from their academic institutions. They have a natural curiosity of their origins and their past which helped me. As I was researching, I kept having this strange sense of familiarity. Certain religious ceremonies, ancient writings, and legends seem to indicate non-native contamination, but as my researches continued, I was experiencing a sense of … dread."
The prisoner breathed, gathering his strength. "You see, when I was a child, my mother cared for her father who was sick and not long for life. She had no one to care for me but I was a good child and she felt comfortable leaving me to play in the old family home. One day, I was in my grandfather's library and I found some books, so different from the rest. They talked of realms that were vast and inexplicable and alien gods that were mad and reveled in chaos. Of priests who worshipped these gods and made their followers cavort and dance to discordant rhythms. Of the great pain and suffering caused to gain notice from these beings. Of perverted sciences and magics and the abominations created by them."
The three were becoming more and more concerned by the prisoner's childhood experience. The avian screeched, "Do you speak of the ways practiced before the Rational Crusade?"
The avian flew out of his chair and screamed, "Obscenity! We should kill you now before your taint infects us!"
The ursine slunk lower in his chair, "Why did your grandfather have such books?"
"I did ask him before he died," the prisoner said. "He told me that without that dark knowledge, how could we know when such darkness would come again? How could we recognize it, fight it?"
"An interesting argument," pondered the ursine.
The avian looked at his colleague with disgust, "Interesting argument?! The Grand Armies of Rationality purged our stars of those mad cultists. Closed all portals to their domains. Destroyed all their damned tomes and writings. All to ensure that their cancer was cut out and burned. Keeping such books can only inflame and titillate weak minded fools to commit crime and atrocity."
"No!" The prisoner spoke with such force that the avian nearly lost his balance.
The Mysteriarch commanded calmly, "Please return to your seat." The avian complied.
"Don't you see?" The prisoner spoke with more passion, more force. "Earth was influenced by outside forces. By those dark forces we were told were destroyed. We didn't destroy them, they just went somewhere else. They went to Earth. They built their cities of peculiar angles and raised altars to the infinite void and to those vast beings that dwell there." The prisoner faltered. "But something happened. The cities fell and their gods were banished to dreams and the outer reaches of reality. I had hoped that this was the end of the threat."
"But in one book, one horrible book written by a madman addled by narcotics, it talked about how when the stars were right, they would come back. They would rise from the oceans and the earth and from the underside of reality and reclaim all that they lost. I dismissed it at first. A simple resurrection tactic to ensure the followers' obedience. But I checked and those stars would form the conjunction detailed. How could someone with telescopes with crude lenses track stars that take thousands of years in their movements? Then I knew. It was all true. All of it. And it was coming back. I had to stop it. If the stars were destroyed, the various gravitational and electromagnetic conditions couldn't be met. I was able to use some of the hexes the priests wrote down to acquire the solar disruptors and the ship to deliver them. No one helped me. I acted alone."
After a moment of silence, the ursine asked, "If this outbreak was to happen on Earth, why not destroy it? Why destroy five star systems instead of one?"
"Because we deserved it. We are so proud of our past, our Rational Crusade. But we merely moved that evil to taint a young planet without any defenses. We were arrogant in our victory and an innocent world should not be punished for it. We are the ones who should be punished for our hubris."
"And that was your decision to make?" The Mysteriarch asked quietly. "You took it upon yourself to save us without any thought to inform the authorities."
The prisoner opened his mouth but the Mysteriarch spoke on, "But you imagined we would not believe you, that we would still be unable to handle the truth. That we would ignore you, dismiss you. You never looked for other ways of stopping this conjunction. No other methods to prevent this return. You decided to condemn billions who never participated in the Crusade, who never even had knowledge of these matters to death. Just you."
She walked to him, still speaking quietly, "You commit acts worthy of a god. But you only have the wisdom of an ordinary man." She stared into his eyes. "The only hubris I see here is yours. For that hubris, you will be punished. You will die horribly for your crimes. And everyone outside this room will believe you acted to satisfy an insane appetite for destruction and revenge. The only monster they will know about is you. You will be cursed from now till the end of history. My only regret is that your punishment is so slight." And then she turned away.