Last week on Closing Time, an old Nepthli robot came to Joe’s bar in search of a beer and a place to execute its protocol sequence for the end of the universe. What it found instead was the war god of its ancient racial enemy, the Klyth, who immediately proceeded to attack it by blowing away half of the bar.
The Klyth/Nepthli War (Two of Three)
There’s not a lot of things that really upset Joe Eschaton. He’s the guy who’s closing up the universe. That kind of job takes a lot of patience and pragmatism. Still, having an angry god destroy half of his bar has bumped his annoyance meter into the red of “downright pissed off.”
The first thing Joe does is to find Terri. Fortunately, she was standing on the bar side and so she wasn’t atomized in the blast. He hands her a vacuum sweater and she puts it on and starts breathing again.
“What was that all about?” she asks with a worried look on her face. Joe feels bad for her because he’s about to put some pain down on the war god she’s befriended.
“Your buddy Kharnyvor just blew up my bar,” Joe says, as if the facts answer the question. (They don’t.)
“Well, half your bar,” Terri defends the god weakly.
“Stand next to the clock. You’ll be safe there,” Joe says.
Terri looks at the Clock of Doom and shudders, but she moves over to the table it’s sitting on and slumps down in a chair. The clock ignores her and just keeps on tolling.
Meanwhile, Joe has put a space mover over his shoulder and storms out into the dispersing flames that used to be his front door and parking lot.
Kharnyvor, war god of the Klyth, is raging. Floating in the middle of asteroid rubble and splintered wood, he’s blazing with enough energy that he’s literally on fire in the void of space.
“Where are you, Nepthli?” he screams. “Show yourself, you godless machine!”
“Stand down, Kharnyvor,” Joe says as calmly as he can, what with floating in the wreckage of his bar.
“Not while a single Nepthli lives!”
“I don’t want no genocide in my place,” Joe says. “Besides, it was just a robot. Not alive.”
Kharnyvor snorts derisively. “You know nothing of the Nephtli, Joe Eschaton. Each of their ‘cultural storage units’ is a blasphemous electronic backup of their filthy lives. Thousands of Nephtli live on in them! I had thought them all destroyed, but apparently my life’s work is not yet complete!”
“No, no, no,” Joe says, holding up his hands. Blowing up his bar was one thing, but the last thing he needs at the end of the universe is a full-scale war. “We’re not starting anything here.”
“I start nothing!” Kharnyvor shouts. “I will end this!”
“Dude, you just ended my bar!” Joe shouts. “I think you pretty much ended everything on that side of the asteroid!”
“Negative accuracy,” comes a monotone voice across the resonance field that surrounded Joe’s bar.
“Nephtli!” screams a newly re-enraged Kharnyvor, looking around madly to find the robot in the rubble of Joe’s place.
“Look, whatever your races were at war over, it’s long gone history,” Joe says, trying to find the robot first and position him between the two.
“Uploading Nephtli cultural backup,” the robot says. “Protocol IAO/TIO active.”
“No, no, no…” Joe says. “Don’t start anything… the universe doesn’t have time for this.”
“Destruction of the Klyth is resolution, not introduction,” the robot says. Joe finally notices that the robot isn’t in the floating wreckage… he’s still in Joe’s bar, hat and all, untouched by the atomic firestorm that–did anyone mention?–destroyed half of Joe’s bar. Joe’s having trouble getting past that.
“You filth machines already destroyed the Klyth! Now I am their righteous vengeance!” Kharnyvor turns to face the bar and is about to let out another atomic blast of bar destruction but Joe is already stepping in front of him. Terri, up in the bar, has taken a similar position in front of the robot.
“Look, Kharnyvor,” Joe says in his most diplomatic tones, “your race is dead. Their race is dead. Can we just call an end to this war?”
Kharnyvor stops raging for a moment, and it’s like he sees Joe standing in front of him for the first time.
“You have been a good friend here, at the end of all things, Joseph Eschaton,” Kharnyvor says. “Often your words have a greater wisdom than one would expect from a mortal being.”
“Thank you,” Joe says, not wanting to derail this by pointing out that Joe isn’t actually short for Joseph in his case.
“But you are an idiot if you think that I will cease battle until every Nepthli is erased from the universe. Call an end to war? I am a god of war! This must be why I have abided here so long… because until all that is Nepthli is gone, I am war!”
Kharnyvor draws back his fist, dripping with furious energy. Joe wonders for the second he sees it blaze if it’s going to kill him or not when it hits.
Except it doesn’t hit.
Because that’s the moment that the lights in the space around the remaining half of Joe’s bar brighten. And they’re not lights, and they’re not brightening; they’re more robots, and they’re flying towards everyone at incredible speed.
“Nephtli cultural storage and projection units in position for protocol sequence designate INO/TIO. Reactivation of recorded Nephtli identities in process,” says the first robot.
“What is that?” Terri demands. “What is IAO/TIO?”
“Protocol designate: It’s not over till it’s over.”
“That can’t be good,” Terri sighs.
Meanwhile, three feet away from the wrong end of a war god’s punch, Joe is still trying to make peace.
“You’ve got to back down, Kharnyvor!” he shouts. “They’re doing this because of you! This is their response… they’re all coming back as killer robots because you’re still fighting!”
“Mm,” Kharnyvor grunts and squints his eyes at the lights coming to life on the hundred thousand metal figures quick approaching. “There… there might be too many, even for me,” he finally admits, letting Joe float out of his grip.
“Right. Let’s see if we can’t put an end to this, then.”
“Agreed,” says Kharnyvor.
“I’ll break out a case of Munden’s Best and we can sit down… um…” He tries to remember if the big conference table was on the side of the bar that was destroyed or not.
“Angry ghosts of the Klyth dead, I call upon you! The final war against our enemies is nigh! Rise up, revenants of lost Klyth and bring death to the unliving blight that is Nephtli!”
Kharnyvor suddenly pulsed with vengeance-fueled omniscience and all across the universe, angry Klyth spectres ripped themselves out of their afterlife to return to mortal war.
“I don’t think my table is going to be big enough for this,” Joe sighs as the war between the Klyth and the Nepthli ignites anew.
© 2013 by Douglass Barre, All Rights Reserved.