In a Room Underground...Somewhere Tom Mazanec Year: 2164 Epsilon Charik-6 Herpestes entered into the room and sat down on one of the chairs that rose from the floor. He squirmed around for a few moments and asked "Is it possible to put a hole in the back of this thing?" in a voice surprisingly understandable without a voder, although it still had a distinct herpestine accent. "Sorry, Epsilon, the floor is only programmed to produce that one style of chair. We would have to break or burn a hole in it." said Dr. Cranston. "Never mind. I have the nanochip with the blueprints of the Golgotha and Gehenna nanites here. You can use this information to help you develop countermeasures faster than you could do otherwise." "And why should we believe that these are accurate? Why would you risk your life to bring us this information?" Dr. Powell demanded loudly. The mammaloid rose up from the edge of the seat, his bodysuit pattern swirling kaleidoscopically. "You can believe that they are accurate because I had a paw in designing these horrors. I am risking my life to bring you this data because I am convinced that, even though you do not have an aura, you still have self-aware minds and, thus souls...I believe in a God, even if I do not wear a jewel to tell the entire moon about that politically inconvenient fact. And I would thank you to call me by my rank, Dr. Powell." "Very well, *Epsilon*. And what is this "aura" nonsense you are blathering about?" Charik-6 looked around the room as if seeking a hidden camera, and then shrugged with his entire body. "OK, look. We mammaloids are able to read each others thoughts and emotions if we are within a distance of one or two meters of each other. We have to learn how to ignore the real external world, and in crowds we just get an overall feeling, but in pairs we can share each others minds in some detail." He walked over to Dr. Powell and stood next to him. "We can do this with any species...I can "read" a pangolin or rabbit as well as another mongoose. But I sense nothing from you, Dr. Powell. It is as if I am standing next to a corpse." "Poppycock!" exploded Dr. Powell. But Dr. Cranston nodded his head. "I remember back in the Eighties. CSICOP broke up over that one...they had been debunking claims of psychic ability for over a century, and now they suddenly had one they could not break." "We tried to keep that secret...having an ability to communicate secretly was invaluable during the Koŝmaro. It leaked out at last, of course. And when the Koŝmaro became the Koŝmarego, the Theocracy believed we had such abilities anyway...after all, they thought we were demons." "I still say poppycock. Religion and the paranormal are nonsense. All they ever did is cause death and destruction." "Maybe they just aren't actually being fully followed by their adherents. A lot of Catholics ignored _Imago Dei_, or actually left the Church to form sects like the Real Catholics and True Catholics, and I'm sure other religions are much the same." "John Paul V only wanted to get mammaloid converts, that's why he gave them souls." "Dr. Powell, John Paul V knew he would lose a thousand human members of the Church for every mammaloid he could hope to get. And just swelling the ranks of the Church Militant was not his main goal. Once he was warned that a hundred million Catholics in the United States could be killed because of his position on the Mammaloid Question...which was a very realistic possibility. He replied 'Then Heaven will greet a hundred million Saints.' The next month, he was assassinated." "We know that the Moon has tested antimatter weapons. If your nanites do not exterminate humanity, will these weapons be used, Epsilon Charik-6 Herpestes?" "Of course not. Our leaders may be fanatics, but they are not insane enough to cremate the Earth. We have made telescopic surveys out to several hundred parsecs, almost a thousand light years. Nearly a million solar type stars, scores of thousands of planets with hydrospheres, but not one with the chemical signatures of life. We will terraform them one day, but for now, Earth may be the only self-sustaining Gaian biosphere in the Cosmos." Charik-6 handed the nanochip to Dr. Cranston and walked out of the room. Between Mars and Jupiter, a nickel-iron slab the size of a skyscraper orbited on a path that would, months later, send it through the Earth's geosynchronous orbit region, one tenth the distance of Luna. A photon rocket fired for an hour. Now, months later, it would impact the Australian continent.