Lolicron

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Конец

Конец начался с супервулкана.

Восточные острова были тропическим раем и процветающей страной до извержения. Потом, спустя пару недель землетрясений, произошло самое сильное вулканическое извержение за последние 2 миллиона лет, запустившее в воздух тысячи кубических километров магмы, пепла и пыли, напустила Геену Огненную на объятое ужасом население. В считанные дни бывший рай стал забитой пеплом пустошью. В считанные недели сотни миллионов задохнутся и умрут с голода.

Организация не обратила на это внимание. Пусть и событие было катастрофическим, они занимались только аномальными делами. И когда умерли миллионы, миллиардам нужно пригрозить прежде чем они пошевелят пальцами. Восточные острова были сверхдержавой, ядерной сверхдержавой. Но были и другие. Авалон. Западная Республика. Атлантида. Каждая из них предложила помощь, но в секрете радовалась тому, что их поражённый соперник медленно пал.

Облако пыли со временем разрасталось, принося с собой неестественную зиму. Что искалечило одного искалечит и других: стало ясно, что сельское хозяйство стало бесполезным занятием в этих условиях и что скоро запасов еды перестанет хватать.

Организация не обратила на это внимание. По правде говоря, сверхдержавы были неудобством, с которым ей приходилось вести переговоры по слишком большому количество маленьких деталей. У них были свои методы добычи ресурсов, да и это было не аномальное дело.

Международное напряжение стало повышаться. Начались пограничные конфликты, сначала с союзными государствами, потом с самими сверхдержавами. Солдаты сражались в то время как каждое государство пыталось наскрести ресурсы для защиты своего населения. Люди умирали в агонии, пытаясь найти вещи первой необходимости.

Организация не обратила на это внимание. По крайней мере официально.


Пока Организация в целом формально отдалила себя от участи человечества, некоторые исследователи и сотрудники были обеспокоены. Их семьи были обеспечены всем необходимым, но безопасность всё ещё была под вопросом. Множество высокопоставленных научных сотрудников предлагало Совету вмешаться.

Изморось Атлантская, архивариус Архива Вечного, четко изложила свою позицию.

С моей точки зрения, влияние на человечество никогда не было настолько ясным. Это не то, что я могу увидеть своими глазами или потрогать руками, но то, что я могу ясно услышать. Сам ритм человечества изменился.

Я привыкла к звукам новых жизней, входящих в архив. Плавная и ритмичная барабанная дробь, которая, разливаясь эхом в стенах Архива, становится монотонным постукиванием. Звук новых книг, падающих на полки, чёткий как пульс. Я уверена, что сам Архив радуется этом ритмичному звуку и возможности лично управлять потоком, чтобы сохранить эту плавную мелодию.

Теперь я слышу аритмию у человечества. То, что раньше было ровным сердцебиением, теперь ровная и трещащая последовательность стуков. Это звучит неправильно. Это звучит нездорово.

Такое падение рождаемости — знак того, что человечеству нужно наше вмешательство больше, чем когда-либо. Мы существуем для защиты людей от сверхъестественного, от мистического, от ненастоящего. Но наши обязанности не ограничены этим, и, если мы не сможем разобраться с этой проблемой, угрожающей самой системе, то это обречёт и нас на погибель.

Архивариус Атлантская, Смотритель Архива Вечного

Она была недовольна отсутствием ответа.


Она проснулась спустя несколько дней от звука клаксона. В Архиве редко кто придерживается обычного суточного цикла из-за постоянной темени и затворнических наклонностей его работников, поэтому люди составляли распорядок дня так, как им удобно. Она встала с кровати, влезла в халат и вышла из своей каморки на перепутье, коим была основная база. Будучи архивариусом (и Смотрителем) она смогла уговорить Организацию построить для себя небольшие апартаменты внутри Архива. Не то что бы тут нужно было скромничать: она была здесь единственным сотрудником и она уже давно перестала об этом беспокоиться. Большинство людей перестало бы беспокоиться по достижении второй сотни лет.

Клаксон звучал из человекоподобной фигуры, сделанной из пластика и титана, — один из ИИ, созданных Организацией, которому дали физическое тело для более прямой помощи работникам архива. Изморось подошла и врезала по кнопке на нём, чтобы привлечь внимание.

— Скаутер, прекратить тревогу. Что происходит?

Приближается событие класса XK, архивариус. Все зоны уходят на карантин. Всем сотрудникам следует пройти в укрытие.

— XK? Как? Что нарушило условия содержания?

Все камеры содержания в данный момент работают исправно, однако сканеры обнаружили повышенную активность на низкой орбите. Похоже, что были включены автоматические системы реагирования.

— Какие автоматические системы реагирования? На что они реагируют?

На ядерные атаки.

Изморось побледнела.

— Скаутер, сколько низкоорбитальных объектов было обнаружено?

По последним подсчётам, девять тысяч двести двенадцать.

Изморось подавила панику. Она может сходить с ума можно и потом

— Где остальные работники архива?

В настоящий момент в бункере на поверхности.

— Скажи им спускаться сюда.

Этим вы ничего не добьётесь, архивариус. Все зоны на карантине, в том числе и эта. Выходы перекрыты. В Архив невозможно войти.

Она побежала к лестнице, переступая по две за шаг. Она не была такой уж бодрой и чувствовала себя намного старше, чем выглядела, но всё ещё могла идти быстрым шагом. Она, преодолевая боль в коленях, врезалась в дверь закрытую стальную дверь, нажала несколько кнопок и позвала своих людей.

В ответ она услышала постукивание и приглушенный голос. Она собралась с мыслями и бегом спустилась по лестнице к основной базе.

— Скаутер, свяжи меня с ними. Сейчас же.

ИИ открыл канал видеосвязи. Она увидела на экране лица своих подчинённых: Звездопада, с его седыми волосами и морщинистой кожей, Северного Ветра, с её бледной кожей и прямыми волосами, Утренней Росы, с её тёмной кожей и терпеливым взглядом. Он выглядели так же испуганно и взволнованно, как ей казалось, что она выглядит. Она постаралась успокоить себя.

— Звездопад, доложить о ситуации.

Она ясно слышала его голос, но было слышно как он надламывается.

— Мы застряли тут из-за карантина. Падают бомбы. Западная Столица пала, как и большая часть Республики. Южная Монархия была стёрта с лица земли, — он выдержал паузу — Атлантида пала. Мы увидели в окне взрыв над морем.

Изморось заставила себя не проливать слёз.

— Судя по всему, спутниковая система в скором времени перестанет работать: слишком много помех.

— Дал ли Совет распоряжения на реагирование?

— Совета больше нет.

— Что? Как?

— Скорее всего, из-за неприязни. Одна из сверхдержав включила нас в список своих целей. Они наносят удары по нашим зонам, большая их часть перестала отвечать.

Резерв в порядке?

Звездопад Falling Star looked stricken. Dawn Dew stepped into the centre of the camera.

— It got hit by one of the bombs. It's gone too.

Silver Rain felt another stab of panic in her chest. "Look, just stay under cover out there. We'll wait this out. Once the lockdown finishes, we can find a way to fix this."

In the background, another alarm blared.

— Scouter, what is that?

The proximity alert for an airborne threat.

Her archivists looked through at her. Falling Star was close to tears, and Northern Wind had already succumbed. Dawn Dew forced a smile.

— Don't worry Chief. You've got the Archives. You'll find an answer — she leaned in close — Remember Chief, we all l…

The sky split, the ground rumbled, and the solid steel door buckled.

Silver Rain paused for a moment in shock. Numb, she sank to her knees.

Behind, she heard a single thump of the last new book, and then utter silence.

She filled the silence with her sobs.


She read the new book. It was painfully short. As were the rest.

She trawled deeper into the archives, picking out books at random, desperately searching for a book which continued to update. Searching in vain for a book which didn't end abruptly and pointlessly.

Vaporised instantly by atomic blast.

Died agonisingly from radiation poisoning.

Vaporised abruptly by atomic blast.

Shattered pointlessly by atomic shockwave.

Crushed painfully beneath collapsing fallout bunker.

Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.

She made a decision.

— Scouter, collect my book.

The AI paused to access its internal map, then broke off at an inhuman sprint between the shelves. It returned half an hour later, cradling the book in its arms. It passed it to her.

I do hope you are not considering anything rash, Chief Archivist.

— No. Not yet, Scouter. I'm just going to need this.


She knew that her basic idea was probably crazy. It was based solely upon rumours based from Watcher to Watcher. She instructed Scouter to wait well away from her, and wandered into a dark part of the Archives.

She remembered the first lessons she had received during her initiation here, almost a century ago, fresh out of the academy. They were very similar to the last lesson she had received from the previous Watcher almost forty years ago, before his retirement. The Archives were alive. That much was clear. There was a vast consciousness in there somewhere, and it had a moral compass of sorts. As such, each archivist was taught to respect and care for the Archive Eternal, and it wasn't uncommon for archivists to speak openly to the shelves and books.

What they didn't teach you on your first day was that sometimes the shelves spoke back. If you went into the darkness, and waited and listened, then you could hear whispers. Whispers so faint as to be incomprehensible to the ear, but there were other ways of deciphering their meaning.

She sat down to meditate. Her glasses could enable her to read the texts even in the lowest of light if necessary, and it was never cold, so she felt almost comfortable for the first time in days. She spoke into the darkness. Her voice was hesitant; almost a whisper.

— I don't know what to do.

She felt a wave of emotions hit her. It was a painful thing to admit.

— Am I… the last one left? Am I alone?

There was silence for a long time. She sat patiently, fighting the urge to fidget, knowing that there was no other option ahead for her.

She was almost dozing off to sleep when she heard the sound of wind. On the wind, the hints of a voice. It was slow, and soothing, and motherly. She could hear what almost sounded like words, but either too soft for her ears, or in no language she could decipher.

She opened her book and turned to the last page. The last few lines painted a stark picture of her current mental state. She ignored it, and focussed on the line that mattered.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "You are the last. You are almost alone."

— What do I do? How can I fix this?

Another whisper on the wind.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "It can not be fixed. It can not be repaired."

— Can't I find the person who started this all and try to undo it?

There was a long wait. Minutes, then hours.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "The weight of history is heavy. It is too late. Too many consequences have fallen. The dead have gone to death."

— Can I create more people?

Она услышала голос во тьме: "You are a woman."

— A yes, then. But… Can life recover from this?

In the darkness, she heard a voice speak: "Not to its former grandeur. Besides, those you have kept caged are no longer so."

She felt despair fall. It was over. They'd done it. The world had ended on their watch, and it wasn't even a monster or a curse or an angry god, just the monstrosity of humanity. And done so in a way which couldn't be fixed. No amount of science or magic could repair the devasting amount of radiation which now permeated the atmosphere, and the ground. Nor could a ragtag bunch of survivors possibly manage to recontain the evils that now wandered the ravaged globe.

It couldn't be repaired…

— Could it be undone?

There was only silence, and it did not answer.


She returned to her room the next day and slept. And woke, and read, and slept. Over and over.

Her rations began to dwindle. She would have lost track of time if not for Scouter. He tended to her needs as best he could, but the subtleties of human despair were lost on him.

And then, after seven days, a whisper. Silver Rain quickly opened her book.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "Yes. There is a way to undo history."

— How? What have you thought of?

The voice on the wind was but a sigh.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "The unthinkable."

She understood. Barely. It went against everything she had ever learned, and everything she had ever valued. It was heresy, pure and simple. But the object of her devotion was telling her this…

"I would have to… break history? How large a retrocausal event would we need?"

Она услышала голос во тьме: "The only way to save the world from the failures of your species is to extinguish all trace of them."

She went to say "I can't", but the words caught in her throat. There was no choice here. She could, and she would.

— What will you do without us?

Она услышала голос во тьме: "Start anew. Write a brighter future."

That would do. She could trust the Archive Eternal to know the answer, even if she didn't.

— Scouter.

Yes, Chief Archivist?

— Bring me the fuel from the generator. All of it.

Chief Archivist, what do you plan to do?

— What is necessary, Scouter. Security override. Shut down all Ethics and Personality Protocols. Authorisation Camper-Actor-Stand-Richter-9091.

Scouter stood up a little straighter, and the usual cadences of his voice were muted into a monotone.

As you instruct, Chief Archivist — he walked away and began to gather the fuel reserves.

— I'm sorry Scouter, but you won't like this.


She poured the gasoline across the shelves, and ran lines of it up through the corridors. She thoroughly doused the first and oldest shelf. Most books here were nameless. A few bore titles, evidence of an exemplary individual. She stroked her hands fondly along the ancient shelves.

She took a piece of wood from her bed, splintered it, and dipped it in gasoline. She ordered Scouter to dismantle his arm, and use it to generate a spark. Holding the burning torch in one hand, and her open book in the other, she stepped into the shelves.

— I wish there was a better way than this. I wish we had done better.

A whisper, almost familiar this time.

Она услышала голос во тьме: "I know. But you know better than to wish."

"Will it hurt?"

Она услышала голос во тьме: 'Briefly. It will not take long.'

"I meant for you."

There was a brief but noticeable pause.

Она услышала голос во тьме: 'Yes. Yes it will.'

Она услышала голос во тьме: 'Thank you, Watcher, for your care, and your devotion, and your concern. I will require but one last service of you.'

Tears filled her eyes. She had to be strong now. "We… will you remember us?"

There was a pause, then the last whisper could be heard on the wind. It was barely audible, and it was naught but loving.

Она услышала голос во тьме: 'No. But I will remember you.'

She placed her book upon the gasoline soaked shelves, and touched the flame to it. There was a burst of heat and light, and then a burst of pain, and then… nothing.

The end of Homo nobilis took both mere seconds and many long millenia, and when history stopped screaming in pain, they had never existed.


Начало

There was smoke on the horizon. A lot of smoke.

Smoke meant fire. Fire meant warmth, and safety.

The female carefully climbed to the top of the hill, gathering scraps of reeds and grasses as she went. Short and stocky, she was nonetheless an excellent scout. Besides, most of the males had died on a recent hunting trip after a clash with another tribe, and their tribe had been forced to move to survive, leaving behind many of their tools, and their campfire.

She wound the thick clump of grasses around a thick branch, and tied them on with reeds. While crude, the torch would serve for her to bring the fire back to the rest of the tribe, where it could be nurtured and kept.

Crouching from her viewpoint, she could see the waters of the sea far beneath her, and the source of the smoke. It seemed to originate from a cave, high above the sea. The previously thick clouds were dying down to a small trickle of smoke. She considered her options. They needed fire, and she might need to move quickly to get it, but if it was another tribe she could be in serious danger.

The need to provide for her family overrode her other instincts. She couldn't see any signs of another tribe down there, nor anywhere else. She gathered her spear in one hand, makeshift torch in the other, and set off down the hill.

The cave was deeper than she had first thought. She had half expected a pile of burning wood to be sitting in the mouth of the cave. Instead, the smoke curled up from deep within. She pushed deeper in, ducking low to avoid breathing the smoke. She passed carefully and silently through a narrow passage, and stepped into a large chamber.

It was vast, so vast she could not see the far walls, and it felt wrong. Nothing in particular stood out, but she felt uneasy. If she could articulate so, she would describe it as a room filled with pain. She only could see smoke all around her. The whole place seemed to be smouldering, and a thick layer of ash coated the floor. Here and there, she could see thin fragments of a white material, with black marks on it. It seemed to burn well, so she quickly used it to light her torch. The flame took a little coaxing and care, but soon sputtered to life.

There was a rumble near her. A stone pillar rose from the floor, brushing aside layers of ash. She instinctively recoiled in fear, and brandished her spear. The pillar stopped rising once it was a little taller than her, and the room was silent again. The feelings of pain seemed to have subsided, replaced with… care? Comfort?

She approached it carefully. There were markings all over the pillar.

She leaned in closer to see more clearly, and held up the torch. A thought arose. Not markings. Pictures. She could see the outlines of her kind, standing upright. She could see images of them gathered around, doing different things. She saw images of a baby near the bottom of a pillar, and those of an adult as she studied it up from the floor. She somehow had the understanding that many of these images were of the same figure.

There was a flicker of movement in the corner of her vision. A new image had appeared near the top of the pillar.

An image of a figure holding a torch before a stone pillar, crouched in caution and curiosity. Next to it, there was the outline of a handprint. She raised her hand to place hers within the space and found it a perfect fit.

Language was not something she had experienced, nor much in the way of cognitive thought, but an idea as clear as the blue sky entered her head. This is me.

A spark of inspiration struck her. She reached down to the ash, coating her finger in it, and began to draw. Crudely, with indistinguishable stick figures in a childish manner. But the meaning behind it was clear. She drew figures in a circle, and food around them, and other figures fleeing from them.

Satisfied that her work was done, the Firebringer left the cave, and stepped into a brighter future.

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