Midnight at the End of the Universe pt 7.

The great space station Remembrance rumbles as another wave of destructive nuclear energy is shot out into the void.

Onboard the E.M.S.X. Calamity, which is attached to the station, the ships rattles along as well. A framed photograph in the Captain’s quarters is jostled and floats free of its mooring. Its drifts slowly and gently into the center of the room.

The photograph is a signed print of the christening of the Calamity, taken in orbit over the Earth. The entire space suited crew is present, floating along the hull. Abraham Standford on the left, fingers splayed in the Peace Sign. Isolde Drarm is to his right, clutching tightly to the tether connecting her to the ship. It was her second spacewalk. Center frame is Thomas “Jax” Jackson. He is exageratingly swinging a bottle of champagne towards the hull of the experimental ship. On the far right is Captain Katherine “Mac” MacNamara. The solar protection visor is down on her helmet, obscuring her face. She was fuming on the inside.

The bottle was meant for her to break against the hull but Jax convinced her that it was more ‘dynamic’ for him to do it.

A plaque is attached to the frame. Written on the plaque is ” Katherine, the E.M.S.X made us a crew, but YOU made us a family.”

The photograph continues its gracefull arc until it taps gently against the wall on the far side. The frame cracks in two, separating the image of Katherine MacNamara from the rest of her crew.

 

In the central hub of The Remembrance, Katherine is secured to a terminal, in a long, curving corridor. The Research and Development wing. Her upgraded clearance has allowed her full access to every file. Information flows across her screen detailing a bewildering amount of projects that were scheduled to occur. She types in the project name.

Euthros payya.

Research information spills across the screen, of a complexity that she has never seen before, far outside her areas of expertise. Typing furiously, trying to narrow onto specific information about the genetic sampling station, brought up only densely technical information. Pleasant singing quietly echoes from a P.A. system. A voice startles her.

“I can do that a lot faster, if you’d like.”

Katherine swivels in her seat towards the voice.

Isolde Drarm, cleaned and in a fresh uniform. Her golden hair spills out from under a military cap, the logo for The Rememberance embazoned on the top. She has never been more radiant. Katherine now realizes that she will never love another person as much as she loves Isolde. She pushes her seat away from the terminal, momentarily at a loss.

“Uh, yes. Yes please.”

She unbuckles herself and floats out of the seat as Isolde slides in. Katherine holds on the the back of the seat, mesmerized by the ease of Izzy’s motions, her effortless understanding of Katherine’s intent. A lock of her hair brushes against Katherine’s hand. The feeling unleashes a wave of memories, all the quiet moments they shared together in their growing relationship.

A growing unease starts to fill her stomach. Something is off, not quite right…

“Captain? I located the DNA extraction machine.” Izzy looks up from the screen to her, her expression quizzical. “What do you need it for?”

The revelation blows her concerns away. The machine!

Mac runs a hand through her hair, uncertain of how best to explain. She determines the direct path is best. Isolde is waiting patiently.

“We are fucked.”

“Totally. Completely. There is no other way to look at our situation.”

Isolde stares in suprise.

Mac continues, swinging her arms around the room.

“This station, The Remebrance, is our salvation. But it will also be our tomb. Yes, we can live out our days here safely and in peace, but that’s it. For us, and humanity in general. Or so I thought.”

“I stumbled upon a plan to survive this apocalypse that we created. The big brains back home must’ve had more time than we thought to set this all up. This station was designed to survive the end of existence that our ship accidently caused. The station was meant to hold thousands of people, tens of thousands, in a continuing arcology while this black hole does it’s thing and collapses, eventually spitting out a new universe for the crew to colonize.”

“I mean, that was supposed to be their plan. Something must’ve happened that prevented the crew and civilains from boarding. Maybe they just ran out of time and had to launch prematurely.” Katherine waves her arm helplessly in this otherwise empty room.

Isolde tilts her head and rests it upon her hand. It was her gesture that she used when she was unsure of a subject matter.

“If that’s true, then why launching without a crew? Without a crew, this station would be just a derelict, a ghost ship of a long dead race, assuming any sentient, star faring race would ever chance upon it.”

“That’s just it,” retorts Katherine, “this station is more than just a colony ship. It’s a seed ship.”

“The DNA of millions of the human race is secured safely on board. The Remembrance is entirely automated, programmed to launch samples of our DNA at worlds that could one day support life. With a full crew, she could drastically improve her odds of seeding worlds successfully. Humanity would not only be reborn, we would be spread across the Universe!”

Katherine takes Isolde’s hand. Cool to the touch, she notices.

“That is why I need to find the DNA extractor.”

“I want to embed our DNA into the system.”

“I want us, you and me Izzy, to live forever on a million worlds.”

Isolde Drarm looks up at her with her beautiful blue eyes and smiles.

“All right Captain, when do we start?”

The audience roars. The screams strike him as a physical force. He basks it in.

Jax smiles and catches his breath, resting his left hand against the mike stand. There is a green bar stool next to him with a bottle of water sitting upon it. He deftly picks up the bottle, opens the cap, and takes a long drink. He is sweating profusely, his heart is racing. He hasn’t worked this hard for a crowd in a long time. Serving aboard The Calamity ruined his conditioning.

He wipes sweat off his forehead, oblivious to the dried blood he is scraping off his hand and leaving on his face. His knuckles are still bruised from his brutal assault on Abraham Standford. The incident is long gone from his mind.

There is only the audience.

The audience demands only one thing from Thomas Jackson. His best.

He will not let them down.

In a move of exagerated sexuality, he spills the rest of his water over his head and down his chest. The crowd goes wild. More. They want more.

He slides into another song, one laced with overt sexuality and dark desire, his body dances along with the rythm. His voice is getting strained and his muscles fatigued but he is taking energy from the crowd. As much as the crowd is taking from him. He will not stop. He will never stop.

The slapping of his shoes against the stage and his strained voice echo hollowly throughout the empty theater.

The station rumbles as another blast of atomic energy is shot out into the void.

The room containing the DNA extractor has an impressive amount of security protocols needed to enter, but Mac and Izzy make their way through easily. The large room is cut in half by a sealed glass wall with a single door on either side of a connected hallway. Several hazard suits line one of the walls on their side.

Lt. Drarm leans in and examines the suits closely. Captain MacNamara fidgets excitedly nearby. Her dreams of immortality are so close.

“Well,” Isolde says after a moment, “the suits are only needed for experiments that require a clean room, which is what the barrier is for. The room has scrubbers which clean the air and surfaces as necessary. The little corridor is also a decontamination room.  We won’t need them for a simple DNA extraction.”

Mac is already moving towards the door. “Good.” She enters the decom room, Isolde at her heels.

The air inside the sealed room is cool and crisp. Katherine’s skin prickles just a little bit. She spots the retractable shelf containing the extractor and swipes her ID card against the reader. The red light in the shelf switches from red to green and the shelf silently slides out from the wall.

The shelf reveals another sealed container. Katherine sighs in mild frustration and looks up at Isolde. The lieutenant is leaning against the far wall. She smiles and shakes her head in commiseration, her golden hair spilling out from her officers cap.

Something strikes Katherine as wrong again with Isolde. She can’t put her finger on it. She is so tired, the enormity of her actions as captain of The Calamity and the utter destruction that followed have hollowed her out. She wants her burden to end.

A faint pounding catches her attention. It fills the room. She looks around for the source.

“What’s wrong, Captain?” Isolde looks curious.

“What is that noise?”, she replies.

Isolde shrugs. “It’s probably aftershocks from the nuclear launcher that this station is built around. Why stop now? You’re so close to your goal.”

“This is what you want.”

Katherine runs her hand along the container in front of her. Then she swipes her pass card along the reader. The container unlocks.

The pounding noise continues, louder this time.

“Yes,” she muses. “This is what I want.”

She opens the container and stares at what is inside.

Lt. Isolde Drarm arrived in the research wing of the central ring of the space station, as per her captains’s orders. She was alone and frightened.

The area was empty. She was suprised, Katherine was supposed to meet her here.

Panic swelled inside of her, twisting her insides until they were hard and cold knots.

She had a murder to report. Abraham Stamford: her friend. While she was showering and finding fresh clothes for herself, her friend was being murdered by Jax. The thought nauseated her. She had to find her captain.

Heading to the nearest computer, she found Katherine’s previous search.

Euthros payya.

Latin perhaps? She took a moment to skim the information folder. Fascinating stuff. She marked the location and launched herself in that direction.

Captain MacNamara was not there.

“MAC!” She screamed, pounding her frail fist against the door of the empty room. She began a room by room search for her commander. Her friend. Her love.

She found Katherine MacNamara in the Nuclear Containment wing.

She was sealed in the Nuclear Fuel Containment room.

She was staring unshielded, straight into a bin of nuclear rods, that were meant for the cannon at the center of the station.

Izzy screamed, pounding futilely against the safety glass as lethal levels of radioactivity flooded the other side of the room.

The pounding has become more insistent. Katherine closes the lid of the container and turns towards the noise. On the other side of the safety glass, Isolde stands screaming.

She looks like hell. Gaunt. pale, Her gold hair barely an inch long. Even in a fresh uniform, she looks nothing like the vision Katherine followed, yet somehow more beautiful than ever.

Isolde finally finds a communications panel. She turns it on with numb hands.

“Mac…what…what did you DO?”

Mac slowly makes her way to the panel, her movements suddenly uncertain and weak. She feels it. It is unstoppable.

She is burning from the inside out.

Katherine activates her end of the communicator.

“Hullo Izzy…I think…”

“I think I just killed myself.” She giggles uncontrollably for a moment.

Isolde weeps, resting her weary head against the panel.

“Don’t leave. Don’t leave me here alone.” The words come out of her at barely a whisper.

After a long pause, “My love,” Katherine responds, “My love. I’m sorry.”

“It’s this place. It gives you want you want. Abraham was right. He said it when we first arrived here.”

Isolde listens mutely.

A wave of fatiuge washes over Captain MacNamara. She is suddenly very tired. She can’t seem to open her eyes anymore. She fumbles for the communication console.

“Izzy.”

“Izzy.”

“You need to leave here, Izzy.”

“This place will kill you if you let it.”

Isolde smacks her fist against the wall.

“Mac…”

“It’s OK, Izzy. I’ll be here.” Katherine leans against the safety glass. “M’tired…think I’ll take a nap now…”

Isolde weeps now, for all that was lost, and curls up on the floor opposite of the glass partition where her lover Katherine now rests. And sleeps.

The E.M.S.X. Calamity pulls away from the death station, Rememberance. Her fuel source still unreplenished, The Calamity could not travel far. Isolde Drarm, her lone occupant, set a lazy orbit around the death station. Once a month, The Remebrance would swing into view.

There is nowhere else to go.

Food and water aboard The Calamity were exhausted for a full crew of four, but for a crew of one, Isolde made them last for a significant period of time. Ship maintenance however, was not her specialty, but she did the best she could. It was the routine E.V.A. into that absolue nothing outside of the ship that was the most difficult.

The supermassive black hole they called Nemesis always beckoned.

When enough small microfractures finally shatter the hull of The Calamity after five years of lonely existence, Lt. Isolde Drarm welcomes it.

Food supplies were finally exhausted, and Isolde faced the gruesome possibility of self-cannibalization. She was tormented by the regular sight of the Remebrance, itself full of food and rescources that she could use, but knowing that she would die soon upon docking.

 A small, framed photograph somehow survived the implosion, drifting away from the ship with just enough force to resist the black hole, Nemesis.

The photo was a reprint of the crew of The Calamity, on Earth, at the launchpad a day before the crew left the planet to board the ship.

Smiling and happy, Abraham Stanford, Thomas “Jax” Jackson, Isolde Drarm, and Katherine MacNamara waved at the camera.

The caption underneath the picture simply states:

They are the best of Us.

The space station, Rememberance, dims it’s external lights in rememberance.

Then, the entire station went into power saving mode, awaiting the rebirth of the universe.

Eager, but patient, the ancient space station, now a remmnant of a dead universe, waited to meet the first life of a new universe.

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