As we made our return journey to Jupiter, we came to terms with the idea that perhaps he’d been telling the truth. That the destruction of the psychic projector had sent our weapon freewheeling. The interaction before had been simple: Earth’s billions, fat on panic and propaganda, could certainly out-hate a few thousand time travellers. But now the Kuiper post was dead. Maybe all Andromeda.
We didn’t hate them anymore. Not like that at least. We’d won decades ago, and in winning had gradually assumed the relieved apathy of the victor. Andromeda, though …
‘They was always angry,’ said the pilot. ‘I don’t know. I was a kid while the war was on. I remember the scares. Getting carried into a sensory deprivation tank, aunt crying, too scared to say goodbye because of the word salad she’d contracted from the memetic virus they’d slipped into the news.’ She set her jaw. ‘You gotta be angry to fight like that.’
‘You think Jupiter targeted them?’ Lemarch.
The pilot shrugged. ‘Hate-seeking missile.’
We got quiet after that. Have you ever been afraid to think?
‘He talked like he thought it was alive,’ Lemarch murmured on some other day. ‘Like we'd given it a mind, or turned it into one.’
I roused in my seat. ‘That doesn’t even make sense. A computer doesn’t become self-aware because you filled it with love letters. Jupiter’s just a weapon. All that’s changed is we can’t aim it anymore.’ I pushed myself to my feet and left them to argue.
Of course, the how made no difference. I became crippled by the fear that when we returned we’d discover humanity had been destroyed just like Andromeda. Or that at any moment Lemarch might explode or collapse or simply evaporate from hating himself too much. We’d have to do something about that. About Earth, too. That was the other reason we'd gone to Kuiper.
What we'd stolen would fix everything.