The infection was everywhere.
She looked down at the sample through the layers of fine optical glass and sighed. The organism was clearly dying; the virus consuming it piece by piece as it multiplied and expanded. Soon it would suffocate; leaving nothing but a husk in a universe of husks.
She could see the lifeforms spread out in front of her; living symbiotic elements combining to make one unique whole. She wanted to call it beautiful – even the black streaks consuming the rest like a cancer were in their way beautiful. She realised her Inhibitor was on, smiled for a moment, then allowed herself the thought unobserved.
It was beautiful.
Its illness was also lethal and extremely malignant.
She could see clearly the sites forming. It was preparing to expel itself into a new host. Some spores had already been detected surprisingly far from its home; far enough to even have attracted their attention. Those pieces were benign and had been left unmolested. But as she had drawn closer to the organism, she had seen the expulsions become more common, more intrusive. More sophisticated. They could not survive long outside the host but they were learning, adapting. They were a clear risk.
She tapped her Inhibitor off and drew in her mind the vision of the limb outstretched.
She received back the image of limb on limb. Her thoughts were no intrusion.
The tests are complete, she reported, but I need confirmation. The consequences of my conclusions are too stark.
She saw an image in her mind of an asteroid stuck in a tight orbit. She sighed again at the delay. The Eradication should require consideration, not the need for a full review. But she waited silently as instructed.
A solar flare. A planet stripped bare.
She turned off her Inhibitor and looked at the sample and tried to contain her bipedal instinct to flee. This was her research, her conclusions and her recommendation. Her work had been reviewed and far more quickly than she had anticipated: clearly, they shared her concerns. Her task was clear.
It didn’t mean she had to like it. Life was life, after all, even one as dangerous as this.
She closed her eyes for a moment. With the Inhibitor on, it was though she was the only mind in the Universe. It was strangely comforting. It was strangely terrifying.
She looked down at the blue green world beneath her. It reminded her of her half-remembered past as a component of a lifeform just like this. Running through fields under blue skies. Diving into slate green water. Being a part of something greater but permanently separated into her individual unit. Unable to connect with the whole she was a part of. Just herself.
It was as vague as a dream. It was a remnant.
That feeling of disconnectedness; that she remembered. She’d felt distinct from everything around her. It was no surprise she’d done so much unwitting damage. Just like they had.
But for a short while she had also been happy. She was sure of it.
She shook her head to clear it.
Her memory function was flawed anyway. A basic knowledge of biochemistry told her that.
She opened her eyes again and pressed the sequence; her mind still flowing over half-formed nostalgia. The bioweapon launched and entered the atmosphere below. The virulent pathogen would soon be eradicated, although its damage to the planet would last for eons. But with the infection eliminated, life could now go on undisturbed.
She switched off the Inhibitor.
It’s done. Time to Eradication, 2.3 light years. Confirm specimen retrieval.
The light of the sun dancing on the magnetic field of home.
Hers. It was as though they knew what she had been thinking. Which of course they did. That was unimportant. They also understood why she had been thinking it and that was what mattered.
They were pleased. She was ambivalent, as she always was.
They knew that too.
She turned the Inhibitor back off and looked down at the planet below. Even now, the specimen of the disease was stored in her lab. There were years of study for her ahead. First they would need an Inhibitor: access to a being’s thoughts were a choice.
But for now she stood in both mourning and victory at the life eradicated and the life saved.
Third planet from the sun.
Soon it would be free.
And in her lab the human child was waiting.