The star was breathing, gasping at its last pocket of air in space.
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
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 galaxy.
Humanity has finally stretched further than ever imagined, distant stars now seemed reachable to the common patriot for the same fee as a plane ticket.
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 project.
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 purpose.
‘Prosperity equals 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 destructive nature.
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
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 creators.
The machine will lose its sanity.
‘Intoxicating, isn’t it?’
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, taunting addiction.
‘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.
‘Francesca.’ James 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
‘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?’.
Francesca smiled 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 now.’
James studied 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 floorboards.
Unexpectedly, despite 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 now.
‘A few bad boyfriends can kick me down, but that doesn’t mean you have to get involved.’
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 possibly delusional.
‘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
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 time.
‘I do care about you.’
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
She stared longingly into his eyes, blinking several times before coming to a momentous conclusion, one that would decide their relationship’s fate.
‘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
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
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 forehead.
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 would.
He would get her to safety, and then he was done.
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