Lucy felt bad about trying to hit Phoenix. She knew he thought he was right. She knew he was right. But she couldn't do it. Couldn't feed herself to the alien.
She could feel Phoenix's rage. His frustration. Phoenix couldn't feel his rage, but she could. It was buried deep in numbers and programs and the way he talked and the way he walked.
The number almost flipped. He almost snapped. He would have threatened her. Forced her to put on the diadem. He was willing to sacrifice her for the greater good. And he was sure he could bring her back no matter what the New Archivist did. Or he did.
She wished he'd snapped. She wished he had forced her to face her fear. She knew she was putting everyone at risk. She hated it. She hated herself. So she watched Phoenix.
Phoenix ran around the room. He was taking everything apart, and putting it back together. He said he was re-configuring the room so as to control the Archival defenses mentally, allowing his superior intellect to replace the automatic defenses and hopefully overpower the Fortarians through strategic strikes.
The way he moved was strange. He wasn't running. He was walking fast. He walked faster than a car could drive. But it wasn't running, because to him it was slow. He had time to think about every step. Every step was perfect. Exactly the right place. Exactly the right time. The perfect speed. The perfect force.
She had seen a painting of an angel once. Phoenix walked like an angel. He wasn't an angel. But we walked with... an almost divine grace.
"Lucy," he said. He said it fast. We did everything fast. And he didn't wait for a response. "Watch the Fortarians. Watch through their attack patterns and movements. See if you can determine where the leaders are. If you can, then I can start picking them off."
I may have been graceful on the outside, but inside, I was in the middle a furious storm of ideas. Mostly bad ones. And, of course, I was relying on Lucy to do her magic 'see patterns in vast amounts of data' thing and point out the alien commanders. I gave her a sixty percent chance of success. She was good, but aliens were hard.
If she succeeded, I would use what knowledge I had been able to glean from the Archives. That, combined with some helpful pieces of priceless and ancient technology that were lying around would hopefully allow me to destroy them. But walking was slow. I should make sure that I knew what I was doing before I started running errands around this labyrinth of a spaceship.
And if she failed. It was a full millisecond before I thought of a solution. And the solution only came because of an unrelated discovery another part of my brain made while translating the Archives' catalogue.
Three hundred interstellar ramjets, ready for deployment at relativistic speeds to the farthest ends of the universe. I was truly grateful for the bizarre alien mating ritual that involved giving interstellar technology to planetary visitors.
"This is Phoenix. I am currently in command of the Archives. I would like to talk to your Emperor about surrender."
I put the message on repeat. Didn't get a response for four minutes. Four minutes? To respond to a message like that? The Fortarians really needed to get it together.
I saw a humanoid dressed in idiot clothes, struggling to support his unwieldy head full of useless tissue. "I am the great and glorious Emperor," He said in the Fortarian language. I translated so quickly he might as well have been speaking Russian.
A less cartoonish looking Fortarian stood next to him. "You can call me Carpenter. What's this about a surrender?"
"You are currently trying to preserve your race from the threat of annihilation at the hands of the Computer People. To do this, you turn to someone even more dangerous; Dr. Demented."
"We're working with Dr. Demented," Carpenter exclaimed.
"It is a state secret. Only I need to know about it."
"It's an idiotic idea," I said. "He's far more dangerous than the Computer People. But that's besides the point. The point is that you need to bump yourselves twenty thousand years forward in terms of development if you want the Computer People to leave you alone. I can help with that."
"I am in the Archives." Idiot. "I composed a manuscript detailing several thousand important technologies. They should be sufficient that the Computer People will leave you alone." Or at least negotiate a settlement. "The manuscript has been divided into three hundred parts. Each part is useless on its own. Each part is being sent off on a ramjet. You will need your entire fleet to intercept all of them before they self destruct."
"Why should we-"
"I'm sure Dr. Demented made you a very good offer. And then he made you a bad offer. And then he forgot who you were, tried to threaten you, and invited you over for a meal. But my offer is reliable. And it is moving beyond your reach."
Over the next few minutes, I saw an entire Empire's worth of ships fire their thrusters to leave the Solar System.