The star was
breathing, gasping at its last pocket of air in
The grey, shadowy mist
now illuminated by the sun's gaze, created this illusion, forging
what seemed to be the last days of a dying sun.
But that was all it
was, an illusion. Nothing but a reminder of what the sun might
look like in a billion years' time, when the planet Gliese will
truly be nearing its eventual baptism by fire.
It would seem the
world furthest away from the tide of economical prowess, and from
mankind's home, had become the most sought after world in the
Humanity has finally
stretched further than ever imagined, distant stars now seemed
reachable to the common patriot for the same fee as a plane
The once great
depression, unemployment and poverty had entered its final reign;
soon it will disappear completely, due to the marketing expansion
that came as baggage alongside the first colonisation
Prosperity had reached
its limitations, and nothing could spoil the progress achieved
throughout the previous era.
The strategic command
centre was conceived with what was supposed to be an intimidating
aura to inspire confidence, adaptability and bravery in
humanity's undeniably finest hour, but that had all dispersed
throughout the ages, or at least that's what James Blackburn had
been taught in his youth.
There was no longer
need for people with strategy, because there were no longer any
wars to fight. Leaving places like the SCC empty and without
progress, progress equals peace, and where there is peace there
cannot be war', some of the first words ever said to the suckling
baby that was James so many years ago, peace had finally come to
all corners of the galaxy, proving humanity could outrun its
But this came at a
price; the military was slowly left to disappear, without any
need for it to be disbanded by the ruling governments. There was
no need for an army anymore.
James glanced over to
the central control panel, it surveyed and managed the automated
defences atop the weathered, stone pillars outside, dust had
gathered around the almost artistic shape and design of this once
praised machine. It was almost sickening for James to think about
how long it took to build this place, for all the men and women
who spent their lifetimes to prepare it for war only to have it
discarded soon after.
He especially felt
sorry for the artificial intelligence that coursed through the
room, the living robotics floating through the transparent piping
hanging from every part of the ceiling, channelling itself into a
state of frenzy and madness, and eventually leading itself into
the life support panels to be shut down bit by bit.
The saddest part was
yet to come, for although the AI does not feel pain, it is still
essentially a database, a memory core that's fully self-aware,
and due to an unstoppable amount of processing power constantly
updating its memory, despite it being left without purpose, the
AI will eventually become corrupted, its core systems will make
it delusional and paranoid of the external influences of its
The machine will lose
The faint wisp of a
burning cigarette echoed throughout the darkened room, James
shivered as the sharpened cackle of the burning, crudely made
joint shot straight up his spine, reminding himself of his past,
'Watching them die
isn't something I enjoy.' James swivelled on his heel to face the
woman shadowed under the glare of the passing traffic, the
roadside blared over the throbbing pulse of the concrete,
militaristic bunker they now stood in.
clarified the woman's name, dispersing a sense of intrigue
shrouding this old friend's sudden appearance.
Francesca took a
single step forward, the thick fog of the burning heroine pouring
from her joint left her feline features obscured. The world
seemed to pause for just a second as James gave the slightest
hint of a smirk, gesturing towards the casual fidgeting displayed
by the woman's obvious hatred of the cold night, brought on by
the small dose of her favourite drug.
'You feel far too much
for these machines, you always have done.'
Francesca flung her
cigarette onto the ground; a small thud could be heard as it
bounced off the decrepit, wooden floorboards.
'Last time I checked
you were off the coast of Egypt, cataloguing fish no doubt.'
James paused for a moment; the smoke had cleared finally,
revealing Francesca's unnaturally vixen appearance, 'Which
brings me to the question; why would an oceanographer such as
yourself, someone who's decorated with noble prizes and who
rarely needs the help or guidance of friends or family, be so far
away from her solemn work?'.
awkwardly; the invigoration of the drug induced adrenaline almost
caused her to cry out in bliss. James remembered fondly of that
emotion, a craving sensation rekindled in the back of his mind,
he forced himself to ignore the temptation to join Francesca in
her moment of ecstasy.
'James, you've always
were the inquisitive one, some even say you might be ever so
slightly…competent because of it' Francesca scanned him from his
head down to his waist, her eyes widening as she surveyed his
silk trench coat for imperfections, which was unnaturally still
despite the ferocious wind now cascading inwards from the
unexpected, oncoming storm.
'I'm not in the mood
for games Francesca, as you may not be aware of yet; I have an
airport I have to appear at in just minutes from
Francesca thoroughly, she swayed within the wind, appearing to
have some sense of rhythm without a sense of balance, she wobbled
uncontrollably due to this and despite her struggling to resist,
Francesca was forced to sit down on the already weakened
the intensity of the surrounding darkness, James noticed what
seemed to be a bruised cheek and a bleeding finger hidden under
vast amounts of skin coloured make-up, anguish fused with
empathy, causing James to clench his gloved fists.
He nodded subtly
towards the most serious of the wounds; the finger.
'I trust you weren't
bashing your head in alongside some rugby players?' James tried
to sound as sympathetic and playful as he could in order to avoid
an unfriendly confrontation, but he could sense that she knew
anger was the primary emotion controlling his thoughts right
'A few bad boyfriends
can kick me down, but that doesn't mean you have to get
Her voice was stern
and croaky, dissipating the majority of the empathy inside James'
mind. In his desperation to regain some kind of normality in that
unusual situation, he quickly came to the conclusion that she was
'Please don't make an
enemy of me; you know how much I care about you, regardless of
whether you care about me.'
James had failed to
calm his emotions before speaking; unintentionally raising his
voice in that moment of atmospheric tension, the echo of the
deepened tone ricocheted around the archaic
The reminder of the
overhead AI now resisting the final push into termination, caused
James to remember his urgent appointment and to imagine the scene
of horror if he missed the oncoming flight at the terminal, in
which he must await for the last remnants of his own family, a
burst of adrenaline coursed through his veins as he tried to
comprehend his sisters words to him if he didn't make it on
'I do care about
James looked into her
eyes for just a brief moment, her sentence explained her sudden
arrival, it was obvious when he truly looked into her soul; she
wanted to hurt him, she was emotionally scarred, and she needed
someone to blame.
'Listen, I can't help
you, but you have to understand we needed to go our separate ways
before, and for a good reason' he took a second to interpret what
he had seen in the dark abyss behind her eyes, all he could
partially understand was the pain tearing her soul apart, 'But
just because we couldn't be together before, doesn't mean we have
to burn more bridges than we have to.'
She stared longingly
into his eyes, blinking several times before coming to a
momentous conclusion, one that would decide their relationship's
'We've already burned
all the bridges made, there's nothing left to salvage anymore,
I'm just here to see you blame yourself for what happened to me,
to see you realise that when the moment came for you to be my
hero, you were long gone.'
James' heart fell a
thousand feet and then rose again without warning, his pulse
increased as the words diminished his pride and he felt betrayal,
depression and above all hatred.
Francesca lay down
sharply onto her left side, revealing her lack of physical
stability while under the influence of whatever concoction she
had thrown together into her cigarette before talking to him, the
sentence was allowed to smother both of them in a spiral of
thoughts and emotions. The world just collapsed around her, and
she fainted into a pit of despair and darkness.
There was nothing left
here for James now.
He crept over to her
body, as if worried that she might awaken from her drug induced
slumber, he knelt beside her crumpled figure and delicately
brushed her hair pass her right ear and kissed her on the
He knew she wasn't
safe here, despite the halls being empty and lifeless inside this
desolate structure, if the local wildlife from the nearby
grasslands didn't find her, then someone equally despicable
He would get her to
safety, and then he was done.
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