Rex Partum, finale
by Tracker

Four figures emerged from veils at cardinal points around the room. They stopped dead in their tracks. Standing next to the stone, was a man... long grey beard with a coarse woven robe of brown.

"I was wondering how long it would take before you visited." He paused a moment. "T’would seem that you are here for an explanation. You can be at ease, nothing will happen. There would be little I could do now, at any rate."

I looked him in the eye as he spoke. "And you are?"

He gave a light little laugh. "Oh, pardon an old man... I suppose I should introduce myself... I know who you are." He smiled. "You would know me as Merlin, I think. This was my castle." He paused to let it sink in, then continued. "And you are here because you have come to realize that not all is as it seems, I wager."

I considered what he had said. "So you are... were the stone?"

His smile was gentle. "You might say that... I imprinted my mind inside its crystal lattice. You might think of me as a program... What do you call it?... Oh, yes, an AI. But it does go beyond that in some ways. I can think for myself and work outside of the... program. But, I get ahead of myself."

"So just what were you programmed to do?"

"Ah, now we get to the meat of the matter... I was programmed to find a cure."

I waited, but nothing further seemed to be forthcoming. "Would you care to elaborate? A cure for..."

He chuckled. It was a dry, almost humorless sound. "Why, for man of course."

His answer rocked me back a step.

He chuckled again. "You see, over time, I have come to not like mankind that much. Especially when they have shown up here, as they have in the past. But, I digress, the cure is actually for what makes your species so violent. Before I left, I thought to put into place a laboratory to see if I could find out what drove your kind to be the way that they were. The results of the test were less than admirable... until you came. I thought that I had the answer with you, but then the test returned no discernable difference."

I thought about that for a few seconds. "What exactly were you looking at in these... tests..."

"I had a theory, that it might be in your genetic makeup... but I am no longer so sure..."

"So you set this up to see..."

"How you would react... There are layers here that is meant to test all your basic reactions. Violence, hate, greed, lust... along with their counters, empathy, love compassion and generosity... Most of which, you have fallen well outside of any projected parameters. Generally, the test subjects would have long since been dead. But you, you have thrived here. But you also invalidate my research as I can find no discernable difference in your makeup. But I find that I cannot terminate the program... You are everything that I was looking to find, but I am no closer to finding the answer than when I started."

"What a pity." I said darkly. "And what would have happened to the creatures after your... test?"

"They would have been eliminated, then reborn for the next series."

I counted to ten... then again... "You do realize that these people are intelligent beings?"

"They are constructs... No more... No less."

I stepped forward and found my son in front of me. "Dad, calm down. Killing him will solve nothing."

"But..." I said between clenched teeth. "He is a construct... No more, no less!"

At that Merlin paled and took a step backwards.

"I mean, after all..." I continued. "What is good for the goose..."

"So you would be no better than him?" My son asked pointedly.

That stopped me. He was right, of course, I would be no better than him. It was like a bucket of water to the face. I fought to regain control of my temper…

Taking a deep breath I asked. “Did it ever occur to you to put yourself in their places? To experience the hopes and dreams and then have them ended?”

Merlin was still rather pale…

I plowed on. “You, as a construct now know the full feeling… Fear, hope and pain. How do you feel about being eliminated?”

Merlin stuttered. “But… but… that is… that is to say…” Then he stopped and hung his head. “No, you are right.” He slumped against the wall behind him. “I have betrayed them and committed genocide repeatedly… Lords, what have I done?” The last came out as a whisper.

I sighed. “Mankind generally does not consider their actions beyond what is in front of them, either… And you are better than them… How?”

His head jerked as if I had slapped him.

“I realize that you are an imprint of your creator… that you never deviated from your programming, therefore you never experienced being a construct before… but, it would seem to me, that you have made a grievous error… Not by choice, but by programming.” I sighed. “I suppose that it has never come to this point before… But if I ever meet the true Merlin, I will have words with him.”

Merlin’s face had undergone several transformations during my tirade… now he just looked tired and more than a little fearful.

“Just… just what… are you?” He asked with a quavering voice.

I looked him in the eye… for more than a few moments… “I have no idea…” I whispered.

Suddenly, I found Angel and Lily by my side… Holding me… I felt drained.

“Master, you are a man…” Angel softly said.

“More so for your doubts and fears. More than we had ever hoped to find.” Lily continued for her counterpart.

I felt their love and trust wash over me and straightened. “So I take it that the test is now over?”

“Yes.” He sighed. “There will be no more… I cannot allow it now.”

“Good then, lets move on. In the interest of keeping with this charade, Sean and I will remove the ‘invader’ threat. I want you to remove the prophecies. It is time that these people found peace, don’t you think?”

“Yes, of course.”

And so it ended... and began.

The End