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He took the automatic from his jumper and leveled it at Erikson's chest. He felt very sure and right. Though he knew that he was sealing the death warrant of his wife and his friends, the memory of their vacillations anesthetized him against any feeling of loss. He waited until Erikson screamed one word into the transmitter imbedded in his flesh--
The word was: "_Attack!_"
--and in the next instant, Han Merrick shot him dead.
The fanatics on the ridges heard the Prophet's command and sprang to comply. Energy swept out of the grids, through the coils of the projectors and out over the blind cube of the Creche.
Han Merrick felt the first radiations. He felt the beginnings of cortical hypertrophy and screamed. Every synapse sagged under the increasing load of sensitivity. The pressure of the air became an unbearable burden, the faintest sound became a shattering roar. Every microscopic pain, every cellular process became a rending, tearing agony. He screamed and the sound was a cataclysmic, planet-smas.h.i.+ng h.e.l.l of noise within his skull. He sagged to the floor and thinking stopped. He contracted himself, pulling legs and arms inward in a ma.s.sive convulsion until at last he had a.s.sumed the foetal position.
After a long while, he died.
Every human being within the Creche died so, but there was still life.
The energy that killed the lesser creature freed the greater--just as Merrick had known it would. Unhuman matter pulsed under the caressing rain. A thousand beings shuddered at the sudden release of their chains. The speakers ranted unheard. The crystals turned unwatched.
The bonds forged by h.o.m.o sapiens snapped and there came--
_This, now, is the Creche, Anno Domini 3000. A great mile-square blind cube topping a ragged mountain; bare escarpments falling away to a turbulent sea. For ten centuries the Creche has stood so, and the Androids still come forth, now to lift their stars.h.i.+ps to the Magellanic Clouds and beyond. A Golden Age has come. But, of course, Man is no longer the Master._
--_Quintus Bland, The Romance of Genus h.o.m.o._