Malcolm W. Keyes
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"Tell me: What are you guarding, from what, and why?"
"Not the text book answer. Your answer."
Jonah wasn’t sure what Walkingstick wanted from him. "We’re guarding an area of intersecting multiversal space—"
"I said, ‘Not the text book answer.’ You sound like a damn orientation video. This is a test. Pass it."
Jonah tried hard not to let his frustration show on his face. A soldier never disrespected their superiors. That was something his father had told him when he was still the man Jonah knew. Obey first, argue later.
"We’re guarding that big black spot in the sky, sir," Jonah said.
"Really?" Walkingstick said. "And why is it black?"
"Because there are no stars on the other side, sir."
"And why not?"
"Because a trillion years ago, some alien scientist in that universe invented a self-replicating machine. The machine didn’t know when to stop and eventually turned everything in its universe into copies of itself. Stars, space dust, everything."
"And what does that have to do with you?"
Jonah wondered how long Walkingstick planned to play this game.
"I keep the machines out," Jonah said. "If even one of the machines passes through undetected, it could do the same thing to our universe."
"Right, like a virus," Walkingstick said. "Final question, Moore. Why is that bad?"
Jonah didn’t understand. "Sir?"
"Let’s say one of those machines landed on a moon somewhere out of the way. It would take years to convert the whole moon. Decades to convert a solar system. You’d be dead, and your children’s children’s children before anyone even noticed a problem. So why do you care, Moore?"