There were parts of the original plan that had been inapplicable by the time the entities got the new rock moving. However, the basic principles were valuable, as in the case of using Mars to dump some excess velocity. Too much, as it turned out; there was atmospheric friction as the rock skimmed the planet. There was plenty of warning, and no entities were killed, but it put the rock into a trajectory that wouldn’t provide an opportunity to match up with Earth’s position for several orbits.
There was no hurry.
And there was interesting material coming in by radio all the time.
Nobody doubted the concept of fiction any longer. Now the issue was what was fiction and what wasn’t.
Information was sorted into subsets of material that was internally consistent. A great many of the small subsets were clearly fiction. Some of the larger ones were deduced to be, after it was noted that they were incomplete but claimed all information not included in them was false. There was a large main body of material consistent with all but a few subsets, but these latter were excluded from serious consideration as soon as any content was found that contradicted observations the entities were able to make themselves.
A considerable mass of information was internally consistent, but significant portions of it were explanations of why it could not be substantiated by any observations. These seemed to be disseminated for the sole purpose of supporting warnings against things that could not be found to exist, and required elaborate suppositions to account for such matters as, e.g., the visibility of distant objects which would have to be older than the Universe. The only thing that kept the entities from dismissing it was the fact that its assorted positions were endorsed by the vast majority of transmission sources.
It was Set who suggested that humans were doing the same thing that he and Wieland and Socrates had once done: disputing over which plan they should undertake. To this end, the faction currently in charge had convinced itself that any evidence to the contrary was some form of deception.
This notion would have been regarded by the other entities as deeply flawed—and probably would never have been imagined, by Set or anyone else—if not for the fact that all the material that had not been excluded, regardless of what its subsets disagreed about, was linked, if followed far enough, to the concept of deliberate fission explosions.
Supposedly there were thousands of fission—and fusion—devices, all over Earth, held in readiness to throw at, for the most part, other such devices. The purpose of this was to inflict enough death on other humans to persuade the survivors to follow the plan of the people who had taken the least damage, while preventing other factions from inflicting as much by destroying their bombs.
The peculiar thing was, just about everyone who had those devices was participating in some form of the deception system. They were already in charge.
And one of the things that they had made themselves believe would surely kill them all was, essentially, the entities. Forge.
There was actually a pretty good reason not to hurry.
Copyright © 2013 by Larry Niven and Matthew Joseph Harrington
LARRY NIVEN is the multiple Hugo and Nebula Award–winning author of the Ringworld series along with many other science fiction masterpieces. He lives in Chatsworth, California.
MATTHEW JOSEPH HARRINGTON is the author of Soul Survivor. He is currently living with fantasy artist Valerie Anne Shoemaker and four cats in San Jose, California.