“They look at the R’de ruins and see nothing but the junk of another failed civilization with nothing to teach. ‘Oh, our computers run faster than theirs do!’ ‘Oh, these structures are too cramped and ugly!’ Typical.”

“You see something else, huh? Something I should care about?” said Jai.

“I see something everybody should care about. It doesn’t even take an evolved mind like my own to see: the R’de structures and computer systems resist entropy to an unprecedented degree. So much so that the silly tests the few people that cared ran on them indicated an age of fifty thousand years when in fact it’s been more than 500,000! Do you–can you–appreciate that?”

“So what?” snapped Jai. “There are old things on Earth.”

“The oldest thing you apes have erected on that miserable orb is barely five thousand years old!”

“It’s not that big of a difference,” said Jai. “It might have another 495,000 years in it.”

“An intellect like that, and they let you operate a starship? Listen to this, and maybe it will force a proper appreciation through your lizard brain. Years ago, when nuclear waste was first starting to really pile up, a government on Earth decided to bury it. But that stuff stays tangy for a long time, so they wanted to put up a warning that people would understand in 10,000 years. They formed a government committee, had hearings, heard proposals from people with letters behind their name. And do you know what happened?”

“What?”

“A new government came into power and the whole thing was abandoned. Your pathetic species’ plan to last 10,000 years couldn’t even survive five years on the drawing board; the R’de came up with one that’s lasted longer than your entire evolution from an australopithecine. It’s not just an impressive feat, it’s not just an engineering marvel, it shows that they built it for a higher purpose for higher beings. It is quite literally the secret to unlocking the heat-death of the universe. And yet you sit here, surrounded by bullets and bodies, pissing and moaning about what’s happened over the last week.”

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