by Dan Simmons
All You Have to Do Is Ask
"I will remember Siri" (6.150), Merin Aspic says after standing in line for 72 hours to get a new iPhone4S.
Okay, so that's not true. Siri's a woman from the planet Maui-Covenant. She falls in love with a Hegemony soldier. She's the Consul's grandmother. And she inspires a rebellion that changes humanity.
Despite knowing all that, we don't get any glimpses into Siri's day-to-day life. We see her only through the lens of her lover, Merin Aspic, who sees her only seven times over the course of her life. Let's just say that their romance is unique: Merin ages only a few years as Siri grows old and dies, because he spends most of his time in lightspeed.
Siri sees what the Hegemony does to planets: it takes their resources, it kills their flora and fauna, and it pretty much destroys everything special about them. She wants to stop that from happening. Before she dies, she leaves her journal and a bomb to Merin.
Yes, a bomb. She hopes that blowing up the farcaster portal will keep the Hegemony away. She knows it's just a cork in a leaking dam, but she has to try. Merin uses it, and the ensuing rebellion costs hundreds of people their lives. And, as Siri feared, the Hegemony returns quickly and takes over anyway.
At one important point, Merin pities Siri. "She was seventy years old and still she had never—traveled offworld [...] stepped through a farcaster door [...] received any formal schooling [...] or flown any vehicle except an ancient Vikken skimmer belonging to her family" (6.235). But do these things mean that Siri hasn't led a worthwhile life?
Not exactly. The Consul echoes his grandfather's statement: "I remember Siri" (6.534). She served as a martyr, and shows that one person can make a huge difference, even if they fail at first. We'll never forget her story either.