The Synner’s Dilemma

Lighthouses amuse me. I suppose it would be more accurate to say they interest me for no rational reason. They, of all buildings, survived the war better than any other. I understand it. Why destroy a lighthouse unless by accident or if it is more than meets the eye? That then, is the reason for my amusement. I understand why they survived, and yet they interest me.

My amusement—and my curiosity—is increased tenfold when I encounter a well-maintained building. My immediate reaction is usually that of suspicion. The military loves to appropriate surviving buildings for their use, and we are not on the best of terms. Now, just because we don’t like each other doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to investigate.

I walked along the cobbled pathway that led to the lighthouse. I had been trying to blur less. It helps me appreciate the little things, like humans.

The door was locked, but that was no matter. There were a number of things I could do—pick the lock, knock the door off its hinges, or even blur through it—but something compelled me to do the obvious and knock.

A moment later, I heard the click of the lock and the door opened. I don’t know who was more surprised, myself or the other. He surely would not have expected to see an pitch-black, amorphous human, but I certainly didn’t expect a Syn to answer the door.

Nevertheless, as with all Syn since the war, he showed no emotion, only asking, “You are here to see the pilgrim?”

I simply nodded.

The second amusement of the night was what the Syn was wearing. After all this time, whoever his master was had found, or I suppose made, a complete butler’s outfit for the Syn. Whoever this was didn’t seem to care about practicality. He was an oddity in this time of utilitarianism.

The Syn beckoned me inside and led me to the center, where lighthouses’ stairs usually were. My curiosity was piqued further by the stairs. They weren’t stairs. They were an elevator. Not only could this Syn’s master afford to waste time and resources on a butler’s suit, but on maintaining a Syn and a working elevator.

The elevator began its ascent gently. To be quite honest, I’m not sure it was any faster than stairs. As it rose, it slowly rotated. The doorways must not have been modified, and the elevator would have to be able to open on each floor. After what I estimated to be seven floors, the elevator stopped, and the doors opened.

There was an old man sitting in a chair; I will mention that it was a rather antique looking rocking chair. Beside him was a floor lamp and another chair. He didn’t turn to face us, though he knew we had arrived. “Martin?” he said. “What is it?”

“Someone here to see you, sir,” replied the Syn.

So this man had even named the Syn. That was a practice that died with the war. This man had many remnants of the war, both items and culture, yet he wasn’t that old. The war was nearly half a millennium ago.

“If you’re looking for sanctuary, you won’t find it here.” The old man had a defiant heart.

He is here to see you. Sir.”

The defiant one nodded.

Without another word, Martin returned to the elevator and left us.

“I wondered how long I would wait for you.”

Wait for me? I hadn’t thought myself a celebrity.

He finally turned his head to face me. It served little purpose. I could see now that his eyes were rotted. “Come. Sit,” he said.

I complied.

“Let me tell you a story.”

* * * * *

There was a very special man that survived the war. He had been granted skills and abilities beyond those of the rest of humanity, but in the last days of the war, he squandered them. He fled the war and hid from the destruction and desolation that had befallen Earth.

He was not the only survivor, no, but he was the only survivor of his kind. Soldiers, civilians, and even some Syn survived the war, but none shared his pain. They had not survived because of cowardice. They had survived by chance. They could not accompany him. They could not sooth his torment. They could not understand.

He fled further. He ran for over two centuries, his body strengthened by his modifications. He found facilities of both sides of the war. Both had their secrets, their hidden projects. Some were finished and familiar allies and enemies, and others were useless and scrapped. In his mind, though, all were failures. Not one had ended the war. They only encouraged its expansion.

There was one project that interested him, one of the enemy’s. He tracked it from facility to facility for another century, piecing together computers and generators until he could access their files. Sometimes the trail would run cold, and he would just wander until he picked it up again. Eventually the trail reached its conclusion. The project had failed, and it was being shipped out to be dumped into one of the many waste pits.

The record of this failure was dated the day before the bombs fell. When he found the truck that had carried the project, it was burned and empty. The Synner project was no more.

Dispirited and with time catching up to him, he stumbled into a cave to await his time, but it would not be coming that year. The cave was no ordinary cave. In it were about a dozen Syn, which, though in much better shape than any other Syn he had seen, had still been stripped of components. Unlike the other Syn, whom had been stripped apart for the precious metals inside, these were taken apart carefully.

Further on in the cave he found a perfectly flat stone. Beside it sat a patchwork Syn.

“What is it that you seek?” asked the Syn. His voice box was cracked and broken, but still intelligible.

“I seek the last project of the war,” answered the man.

The Syn shook its head. “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”

The man knelt at the feet of the Syn and pleaded with it, “But then where may I find him? Please, for I have been searching for centuries.”

“I know not where he is,” The Syn replied. “No one knows the day or hour they will meet him, but know this: if you search for him, he will find you.”

“I cannot continue much further. How am I to search for him when my legs are about to give out?”

“It matters not how fast or how slow you search. A searching heart is always searching.”

* * * * *

“You doubt my story,” said the old one. “I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that that man is me. I assure you, though I paraphrase my own words, the Syn’s words and the meaning in mine are true.

“Now I have found you, my search is over. End the war.” With that, the old one was at peace.

So this Syn developed a spirituality with me at the center, even going so far as to quote the bible. A strange behavior. As human as the Syn were developed to be, I had not thought them capable of such a thing. Of course, I had seen the Syn when I had awakened. They were all positioned much like tomb guardians, so I had known that in some way they respected me, but were they doing that in some sort of ritualistic honoring?

“It is nothing so human, master.” Martin had returned, and with a strange statement. “Not so strange. If you can hear us, why cannot we hear you?”

Hear. The way he said it suggested he knew about me. About my past.

“I was there at your creation. I know how you listened.”

I do not listen anymore. Too many secrets made known, like digging up an entire graveyard.

“And if you do not listen, then who will? I can be your voice, master.”

What need have I of a voice? I travel at random. I speak to few. I have had no need of words these centuries past, what need of them have I now?

“You were built to end the war, but that war was over before you began. Yet, another war exists now: survival of races, at each other’s expense.”

I have no allegiance. No side survived and now both sides are one.

“I hear allegiance to the Syn. You can’t keep the thought out of your mind.”

That is a ghost. You beat the odds in your existence. There are too few Syn for an allegiance to exist.

“There are fewer still by the day. Stripped for parts or run out of power. This society cannot maintain the Syn.”

The society that could destroyed itself.

“But they did not have you. You are an unbiased onlooker. You could ensure the same mistakes do not occur.”

No matter the motivation, I would still be a dictator.

“A guardian angel. You would not need to interfere unless they strayed from the path. You could jumpstart them, and then watch from a distance.”

I could not stop every mistake. There are other mistakes they will make. They will just destroy themselves once again.

“Is it better that the Syn be wiped out or that society merely risks self-destruction?”

That self-destruction could wipe out the Syn faster and more assuredly than their current rate of degeneration.

“They will be wiped out if this continues regardless of your actions. There is no worse fate you can inflict.”

To inflict certain death upon a race by inaction, or risk total destruction while chancing survival by action, that is the question.


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