Post-Deterrence Era, Year 2 The Morning After the Great Resettlement, Australia
The noises around her quieted down, and Cheng Xin could hear voices coming from the information window over the city government tent. She could tell one of the voices belonged to Sophon, in addition to two others. But she was too far away to make out exactly what they said. She thought their voices cast a spell because the noises around her faded and finally disappeared. The world seemed to be frozen.
Then a tsunami erupted around her, and Cheng Xin trembled. She had been blind for a while, and the images of the real world in her mind were being squeezed out bit by bit by illusions. The sudden bedlam made her feel as if the Pacific had risen up all around her and swallowed Australia.
It took a few seconds before she understood that the crowd was cheering. What’s there to cheer about? Has everyone gone mad? The clamor did not subside, though it was eventually replaced by speech. So many were talking at once it was as if, after the continent had been flooded, a storm lashed the surface of the sea. She could not tell what anyone was saying in the tumult.
But she picked out “Blue Space” and “Gravity” more than once.
Her hearing gradually recovered its acuity, and she noticed a faint sound amidst the general commotion: footsteps in front of her. She felt someone stop there.
“Dr. Cheng Xin, what is wrong with your eyes? Can you not see?” Cheng Xin felt movements disturbing the air. Perhaps the man was waving his hands before her eyes. “The mayor sent me for you. We’re going home, back to China.”
“I don’t have a home,” Cheng Xin said. The word “home” stabbed into her heart like a knife, and her heart, numbed by extreme pain, nevertheless convulsed one more time. She thought of that winter night three centuries ago when she left her home, thought of the dawn that had greeted her outside her window.… Both of her parents had died before the Great Ravine. They could never have imagined where their daughter had ended up, tempest-tossed by time and fate.
“No. Everyone’s getting ready to go home. We’re all leaving Australia and going back to where we came from.”
Cheng Xin whipped her head up. She still couldn’t get used to this stubborn darkness before her wide-open eyes. She tried to make out something, anything. “What?”
“Gravity initiated the universal broadcast.” How is that possible?
“The location of Trisolaris has been exposed—which of course means the Solar System is exposed as well.
The Trisolarans are running away. The Second Fleet has changed direction to head away from the Solar System. All the droplets are gone. Sophon was explaining that there’s no more need to worry about them invading the Solar System. Like the Trisolaran system, this is now a place of death that everyone will want to escape from.”
“We’re going home. Sophon has ordered the Earth Security Force to make every effort to assist with the evacuation of Australia. The process will get faster over time, but moving all the refugees out of Australia will take three to six months. You can leave first. The mayor wants me to take you to the provincial government.”
“Was it Blue Space?”
“No one knows the details, not even Sophon. But Trisolaris received the universal broadcast, and it was initiated a year ago, when deterrence failed.”
“Can you let me be by myself for a while?”
“All right, Dr. Cheng. But you should be happy. They did what you needed to do.”
The man stopped talking, but Cheng Xin could still feel his presence. The commotion around her gradually died down, and was followed by a rainstorm of footsteps. The footsteps grew sparse—everyone must be leaving the city government tent to take care of their own business. Cheng Xin felt the sea retreat around her, revealing solid land beneath. She stood in the middle of an empty continent, the sole survivor after the Flood. Her face felt a trace of warmth: The sun was rising.
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