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Within its ring was the golden sphere. Instantly, they swung their weapons upon it, showering it with all the rays and all the forces they knew. Unmoved, the golden sphere hung steady, then its mighty intelligence spoke.
"Life-form of greed, from another star you came, destroying forever the great race that created us, the Beings of Force and the Beings of Metal.
Pure force am I. My Intelligence is beyond your comprehension, my memory is engraved in the very s.p.a.ce, the fabric of s.p.a.ce of which I am a part, mine is energy drawn from that same fabric.
"We, the heirs of man, alone are left; no man did you leave. Go now to your home planet, for see, your greatest ship, your flagship, is helpless before me."
Forces gripped the mighty ship, and as some fragile toy it twisted and bent, and yet was not hurt. In awful wonder those Outsiders saw the ship turned inside out, and yet it was whole, and no part damaged. They saw the ship restored, and its great screen of blankness out, protecting it from all known rays. The ship twisted, and what they knew were curves, yet were lines, and angles that were acute, were somehow straight lines.
Half mad with horror, they saw the sphere send out a beam of blue-white radiance, and it pa.s.sed easily through that screen, and through the ship, and all energies within it were instantly locked. They could not be changed; it could be neither warmed nor cooled; what was open could not be shut, and what was shut could not be opened. All things were immovable and unchangeable for all time.
"Go, and do not return."
The Outsiders left, going out across the void, and they have not returned, though five Great Years have pa.s.sed, being a period of approximately one hundred and twenty-five thousand of the lesser years--a measure no longer used, for it is very brief. And now I can say that that statement I made to Roal and Trest so very long ago is true, and what he said was true, for the Last Evolution has taken place, and things of pure force and pure intelligence in their countless millions are on those planets and in this System, and I, first of machines to use the Ultimate Energy of annihilating matter, am also the last, and this record being finished, it is to be given unto the forces of one of those force-intelligences, and carried back through the past, and returned to the Earth of long ago.
And so my task being done, I, F-2, like Roal and Trest, shall follow the others of my kind into eternal oblivion, for my kind is now, and theirs was, poor and inefficient. Time has worn me, and oxidation attacked me, but they of Force are eternal, and omniscient.
This I have treated as fict.i.tious. Better so--for man is an animal to whom hope is as necessary as food and air. Yet this which is made of excerpts from certain records on thin sheets of metal is no fiction, and it seems I must so say.
It seems now, when I know this that is to be, that it must be so, for machines are indeed better than man, whether being of Metal, or being of Force.
So, you who have read, believe as you will. Then think--and maybe, you will change your belief.