fiction / Spirals / Apocrypha /

Just an average morning

a short story by Lexi Summer Hale

Hanging weightlessly in electromagnetic cushions aboard her ship, Maranqura Derosdeshai Sefannai twiddled a small white box in her fingers and tried to decide if she should start a war.

Every so often in the course of developing as a civilization, you hit a breakthrough that changes the shape of power forever. Fire. Irrigation. Explosives. Flight. Nuclear weapons. Orbital weapons. Relativistic missiles.

This one, tho. This one made a planet-killing asteroid travelling at .9c look like a fluffy toy. It was a universal constructor. And it was probably the most dangerous technology the universe was capable of supporting.

The little cube that didn’t look like much of anything could build anything from a matchstick to a star system, if you gave it enough input matter. And there was no reason it had to stop at anything less than “galactic supercluster,” since it could manufacture hyperdrives too. More to the point, it could pour out self-replicating nanoswarms to scrub every trace of life from entire worlds at an exponential rate if you gave it the wrong command. And if an AI got ahold of it... She shuddered at the thought.

Five thousand years ago, during a period of galactic strife so unquantifiably violent that whole worlds went extinct and it barely made the news, a group of very humorless individuals from every power involved had sat down around a table and agreed to nuke the fuck out of anyone insane enough to try and make one of the things Maranqura was now holding, because the one thing they hated more than each other was the thought of breaking the universe.

She had a few options.

She could turn the devil box over to the proper authorities, and hope like hell the Conclave was smart enough to respect the old treaties and destroy the thing.

She could chuck the thing into a sun, and try to pretend she’d never seen it. Of course, the inventors were still out there and there was nothing to stop them from making another one. If the Conclave wasn’t going to hunt them down, she’d have to.

She could go to the Empire, show them the tech, try and set up a mutual-custody sort of arrangement so nobody would be able to weaponize the thing.

She could sell it on the black market for enough to set up a rival galactic superpower with herself as queen, at least for as long as it took until the galaxy was snuffed out by a nanoplague.

She could cut out the middleman and just set herself up as God.

Instead, Maranqura told the box to make her a cup of tea, and then she stuck it in a locker and wandered off to have breakfast.