by David C. Kopaska-Merkel
So the TriDee says, "The natives believed their dance was the only thing preventing the ultimate dissolution of everything. It's like those monks who were recording the 9 Billion Names of God. Or the other monks who were playing a 64 stack of Arky Malarkey and when they finished the universe would end. This powerful image repeats in various forms in religions throughout known space."
"How could even ignorant natives have believed that?! It's the biggest load of BS..."
"Can it, James. You are so dismissive of other people. I find it disgusting." Elaine tossed the chip stack on the coffee table. "I don't understand why you watch that talk-TriDee anyway. A bunch of know-nothings grinding axes." She left. It was weird seeing her ass leave the room without her ex-boyfriend following it. Hadn't seen him since they broke up.
"Anyway," James continued, running his hands through his hair, "they are gone, extinct, disappeared, guantanamowed, couldn't hack it in the new ecology, square-pegged out, finished, finito, finis, etcetera ad nauseam ... and the universe is still here. So they were wrong."
"Maybe not," I replied, "you know how every decision creates at least one new universe. When the last native died the universe split. We're in the one that survived their extinction. So what do you think he sees in her anyway?"
James laughed. "What do you care? You interested? We are living in the world in which the natives died," he said. "Period. The local sophonts have been completely exterminated. It's not what you or I would have done, but it happened. If their unsophisticated religious beliefs were correct, this world would have ceased to exist, and you can't split what has already been destroyed. The world in which we made sure at least a few of them survived in a zoo would have continued."
"Well, if this were a science fiction story," I said, "either the world would now disappear, or it would turn out the homegrown primitives were not extinct." Maybe both, I thought. "Nah, I just find her irritating."
"Me too, but I don't care what she does in bed," said James. "If they were still here we would see them. With modern technology without question we would know. You know how hard the Authority looked for them during the Readjustment. They are gone."
Outside the station, a trio of indigenes shuffle-stomped upslope. The little one lagged behind, and one of the others hoisted it onto her shoulders. They passed a meter behind one of the observation robots. The robot rose to its feet and did a leisurely 360 with its observation turret. About halfway through the rotation it hesitated, cycled through detection modes, clickety-clacked weapon-tube covers off and on, off and on. It finished its sweep and returned to passive mode. A human might have shrugged. By then, the aborigines were gone, soft-shoeing their way into The World That Is.