"So it's come to this," I say, trying to be cheeky.
"Come to what?" Elsie asks.
"I didn't bring you back to Exoscience just to take a stroll through a snowstorm," I say.
She laughs. "No, I didn't think you did."
"I have a gift for you. Through those doors."
"He's through those doors."
"Exactly." I pat her on the shoulder before we walk inside to find the Clovis AI all alone.
"If it isn't the saviors of Europa. Done cleaning up the rest of the colony?" the AI asks.
"Just about," I say, nodding to Elsie. The AI knows what's coming.
"You don't have to do this, Clovis-1."
"It's 43, now. And my name isn't Clovis. Not anymore," I say and look to Elsie. "Do the honors?"
"Gladly." She steps toward the main console. Scans in.
"But I—" he tries to plead. We're not letting his snake oil words land on slick ears ever again.
She enters a series of complex code into the console. Then says the final magic words. "Deactivate artificial intelligence."
The light in the giant Exo's eyes goes out. If Elsie could smile, I know it would be huge.
"Well then," she says, "can we finally get off this icy hell moon?"
Not quite yet. "I've got one last request."
"You're sure about this? "This is the last of the radiolarian fluid, you know," she says.
Many of the souls we lost at the hands of the Vex and the terror of Clovis were gone for good. But we managed to bring a few back. Got them all off-world. Now it's just us. Soon to part ways forever.
I get her apprehension. Elsie finally gets a grandfather worth her time, and now I'm about to get a fresh reboot. She deserves to know why.
"When we added Bank E1-815 to your current imprint, all those memories came back to you. About your family. Sisters. Brother. Mother and father. About the pain. The loss. The guilt."
"Elsie, I caused that."
"You're not him."
"I'll always be the ghost of him. No matter how hard we try to ignore it. And you… you deserve to be free from that person."
She bows her head, which tells me she agrees. It pains me to no end. There was a world where we were a happy family. This isn't it. We both know it.
I place a tablet in front of her.
"It's his journal. Yours if you want it. Lock it away if you don't. It's mostly encrypted, anyway. I read a bit. The kind of person I was… fear driven. Obsessed with legacy. I won't become that. Not again. It's time for you and your siblings to rebuild the Bray legacy the right way. Or tear the whole damn thing down."
I can see how badly she wants to. Maybe she will someday.
"All right then," she says.
I don't really know how to say goodbye. But she does. She pulls me in for the first hug I've ever had. Holds me tight. We share the moment. A reverie of what could have been. A passing glance through the looking glass.
Wish I could shed a tear right now. Doesn't matter—I feel it anyway. She does too.
"Do me a favor?" I ask.
"That nickname the other Exos gave me… add it to my imprint? With my number?"
She laughs. It's good to hear it one more time. "You really like it, don't you?"
"It's growing on me."
"Okay then, Banshee."
I step into the pod. Doors close. I give her a little wave.
Let's see what 44 has in store.
Category: Book: Legacy's Lament