Personal log entry: 26 May 2234, Mimas Listening Post
I woke up this morning, dressed and went out into the corridor, but it was quiet. Really, really quiet. I went looking around. In the infirmary, I found Chief Pharmacist’s Mate Qul Abend along with Rober Vorta and Mord Delfino. There were a few empty med-jectors laying around. Looks to me like the three of them went in there, Chief Abend gave the others something to OD on, then followed them. They looked… Well, I guess they looked peaceful. I hope it was quick.
After that I went looking for the Commander. I found him in the airlock. He was just sealing the inner door. I ran to the inner door, banged on it, yelled for him to open up. He looked back at me once, sadly, as though he’d failed us all. He hadn’t. Nobody could have held us all together, not after the T’Cha, not with us being the last humans alive anywhere in the universe.
Commander Venko smiled sadly at me and hit the PURGE button. The outer hatch snapped open, and the Commander was blown out onto the gray, dusty plains of Mimas. From the airlock Saturn dominates the sky – at least he had a hell of a last view.
I’m alone now. Not sure what I’m going to do next. I’ve got a pretty good idea, but I need to see Sara once more.
Recorded 0718 hours station time, 26 May 2234, Chief Electronics Mate Bel Deveran, Coalition Navy
Alone now. The last human alive, anywhere.
“Well, shit,” Bel Deveran said to no one in particular. He chuckled. There was no one else to say anything to. Not on the Mimas Listening Post; not on Ganymede or Titan, not on Europa, the mining stations in the asteroid belt, or on Mars, or the cloud city on Venus, on Luna, not even on Earth.
Billions silenced at a stroke, because, presumably, the T’Cha wanted them for raw materials.
For lack of any better ideas, Deveran first went by his cabin and picked up his VR headset. Then, for reasons unknown even to him, he headed for the command suite.
Guess I’m the commander now, he mused. Commander of the Mimas Listening Post, Commander of the entire damn Coalition Navy, and King of All Mankind.
He chuckled again, feeling it to be the only way to hang on to his sanity – which he knew was slowly slipping away.
Sure would like to have seen Sara one last time, he thought as he went into the command suite and sat down. Not in VR. For real. Like the first time I saw her.
The memory, again, was very clear. It was twelve years earlier, in Carolina, the aftermath of a tropical storm, where the Navy personnel stationed in the ancient seaport of Norfolk had been sent to help with search and rescue.
She walked towards the Navy crews as they were clambering down off of a row of hoverbuses. The rain was still falling, the wind still blowing in from the sea, but the young woman with the long black hair looked somehow composed. Her hair was all askew, her calico dress soiled and torn, but she was calm. “I just came from the apartment building up the street,” she said, turning to point. “Part of it collapsed. I think there are still people in there.”
The commander of the relief crew barked an order. “Chief Severs, take a detail down there and take a look. ‘Com me if you need more help. Heavy equipment is one the way but for now it’s manual labor only.”
“Yes sir,” a grizzled old Chief’s Bosun’s Mate agreed. He pointed out several Navy crew members, Deveran among them: “You, you, you, you and you. Come on. Miss, lead the way, please.”
By the end of the first week of disaster duty, Deveran had the young woman’s name and contact. “Sara,” he repeated, tapping her information into his personal ‘com – not the Navy’s issue device, but his personal one.
That winter Deveran wangled five days’ leave. He took Sara to the low mountains of the old North American province – no, they had called them states – of New York, where they spent the days walking through the snowy woods, the nights before a fire in a small hostel among the trees.
The next spring, on a warm, sunny day, Deveran went from Norfolk to where Sara lived in the hills of Carolina, and here, on an old bench by a pond, he had asked her to marry him.
Deveran was shaken out of his reverie by a beeping alarm on the console. He looked to see if it was the magnetic anomaly again, but it wasn’t.
“A ship,” he breathed. “Asking for landing clearance.” He flipped on the radar, stared at the screen, not quite believing his eyes. “A ship. An actual for-real ship.”
He tapped the landing approval code into the console and ran for the dock. He seemed to fly the kilometer down the corridor to the dock. When he arrived, the boxy, dull-gray form of a supply shuttle was just setting to ground, its landing thrusters kicking up clouds of Mimasian dust, but Deveran could still make out the ship’s registration code and the name stenciled on its hull: The Bounder.
The moment the docking umbilical connected, and the indicators flashed all green, Deveran threw open the hatch, ran across the umbilical, and hammered with both fists on the ship’s hatch. Slowly, as if in reply, the hatch opened.
Deveran didn’t see anyone. Minimal crew, he told himself. Probably in the cockpit. He ran onto the ship, to the front, but the cockpit was empty. So was the ship’s tiny Necessary. So were the crew quarters. Then, the realization hit.
“Damn it,” he growled. He collapsed to sit on the deck, his strength suddenly gone. He remembered a bulletin from a month earlier, before the T’Cha wiped out humanity, a notice that the Navy was automating a bunch of the supply ships on routine runs.
“It’s a fucking robot,” he groused.
Fighting back his frustration (as well as the mental image of the post airlock) he pushed himself back on his feet and went through the ship. A month’s worth of foodstuffs, repair parts, some updated manuals on the station’s reactor, and assorted other supplies.
Great. So, I can live a little longer. Alone. On this goddamn rock.
Then a sudden thought drove him into the crew section, where he found what he was looking for – four deep-sleep pods. He went to the cockpit, examined the controls and the ship’s navigation computer. Not that different from the old training hulks they had us horsing around in the ship recovery course I took a few years ago.
A plan began to blossom. Not a hope, not even a glimmer of hope, but a plan. He went back to the listening post, to begin shutting the post down; futile, perhaps, but the Navy’s training ran deep, and he found he could not leave the facility unsecured.
It was in the command suite that he found it.
When he stepped into the suite, there was already… something else there. It was a tall, crackling spire of white light, about two meters tall, probably only ten centimeters across. Tendrils of light popped and crackled as they probed the control board, the sensor displays, the deck, bulkheads, even the three chairs. “What the hell,” he breathed.
The spire of light turned, somehow, in some indescribable sense, to face him. It spoke – not in the human sense, but somehow Deveran heard it in his head.
“You are Bel Deveran,” it said.
“Yeah,” Deveran managed to gasp.
“You are the last of your kind. This is regrettable.”
“No shit,” Deveran said. “You should see it from my side. Who – what are you?”
“What we are, we can not explain to you. What we are called, you would not understand. You may call us the Aa. That will suffice for our current purposes.”
“The, uh, Ah-ah,” Deveran approximated. “Why are you here?”
“We stand against the ones you call the T’Cha, the ones who destroyed your race.”
“Really? Well, your timing sucks,” Deveran said.
How did I meet you? I don’t know
A messenger sent me in a tropical storm
You were there in the winter, moonlight on the snow
And on Lily Pond Lane when the weather was warm
Scorpio Sphinx in a calico dress
You must forgive me my unworthiness