It's The End Of The World(s)

tagnone

7

7

“You know, Bill, it can get awfully quiet in here…” said Dr. Lyre as he spun around in his (space-approved) office chair. Indeed, the void of space was an unfit environment for sound to travel through, and as such, no noise ever came from outside the Mobile Observatory.

Would you like me to play ‘Best Hits from the 90’s - All-Time Favorites’ again, Dr. Lyre?” asked the AI through the central speakers, its synthesized male voice reminding Dr. Lyre that his only companions in the darkness of space were chips and wires.

“No thanks, Billy. I’ve had enough of Lerroy and the Galactic Five for a lifetime. Plus, I’m pretty sure we’ve already run out of songs to listen to. Nothing fresh coming out from Mallory Station? Did YNON-9 ever drop her new album?” The Doctor began to sail around the Command Area in his chair like a pirate in the deep sea. Discarded papers, energy drinks, pulp fiction and clothes were crunched and mushed under his wheels as he rolled his way from one end to another. The Command Area was a mess, but it was his - and it’s not like the AI would complain about him for it. Dr. Lyre was tempted to sleep for a while in one of mattresses spread out in front of his papers, but he rested the thought. Today was important, after all.

I’m sorry, Dr. Lyre, but I’m unable to access the Alphanet in our current coordinates.” It had been about 672 hours, 33 minutes, and 15 seconds - or four earth weeks - since they were last able to connect back to Station-279. At least, that’s what the massive digital clock said. “In the meantime, Dr. Lyre, I would like to remind you that, under your current contract with the Office of Analysis and Science, you are obliged to meet a daily observation quota for Space Abnormalities.

“Space Abnormalities? Really, Bill?” Dr. Lyre stopped his chair-faring and raised an eyebrow towards one of the room’s cameras. “You and I both know that my job is not to 'observe Space Abnormalities.'”

Dr. Lyre, I would like to remind you that-

“That the Department of Eschatology is not an officially recognized branch of the OAS. Yeah, yeah, I know how it goes. But we both know that’s bullshit.” Dr. Lyre stretched in his chair, turned on the main terminal, and initiated the remote protocol for outer-telescope observation.

Our conversations may be subject to review upon returnal, Dr. Lyre. It is advised that personnel watch their tone even in private missions,” calmly answered the AI.

“Oh, forgive me, Billy,” Dr. Lyre threw his hands into the air, “I wouldn’t want GD-Null to faint for using a bad word!” Having finished his sarcastic rant, the Doctor began setting up all the correct parameters on the terminal.

- CENTRAL TERMINAL | ACCESSING SYSTEM’S COMMANDS -

===============================================
Atryl Lense Magnifiers… Functional
Conscious Gas Tracking… Functional
Automated Calendar… Functional
Offline Galactic Map… Functional
GRPC-Issued Lexicon Operandi… Functional
B1ll-822 Artificial Assistant… Functional
===============================================

: (c) GRPC | Systems Secured - Sector Delta-3J | Outernet.OS ver. 19.17

“Perfect! Everything’s looking fancy. Now, back to arguing. I’m dying to see if you’ve figured out sarcasm!” Dr. Lyre reclined back in his chair as the grand terminal showed him a crystal-clear view of the nebula they were sailing across. It would’ve been quite beautiful if he hadn’t gone through it a billion times already. He couldn’t blame the poor nebula, however. It wasn’t its fault that it provided the best, unobstructed view of the whole sector.

The Galactic Ranger Protection Corp does not recognize Eschatology as one of the fields studied within the Office of Analysis and Science. Furthermore, the unofficial Department of Eschatology is comprised of only two members: Dr. Patrick Lyre and MB-744’s B1ll-822 Artificial Assistant.” Dr. Lyre and the AI have had this discussion so many times it has almost become a day-to-day routine. If either of them acknowledged this fact, none brought it up to the other.

“Yep, just you and me against the world, buddy. Just you and me…” Dr. Lyre had already begun to set the telescope sights on a distant exoplanet, Vulcan-55, for today was a particular date. “You know they’ll never admit we’re on the right, Billy-Boy. Too scared to look like fools if we miscalculate a date, too scared of the ensuing mayhem if we strike it down to the hour.”

Vulcan-55. Cycle 5 of the 33rd Circle. Yunder’s Day, if your notes are correct, Dr. Lyre.

“Oh?” A big grin began to form on Dr. Lyre’s mouth. “I thought Eschatology was not an approved field of study?” He began to type in the specific coordinates to get a clear, zoomed-in view of the whole planet - a shiny, red and blue marble in the dark cosmos.

Mythology has always had a grounding in reality, Dr. Lyre. We cannot, as acting members of the Office of Analysis and Science, rule-out any possible evidence that may lead to the discovery of an anomaly.

He knew better than anyone else that myth is not always fiction. A legend in Vulcan-55’s Uthjak faith, as written in the Cast of Voices, tells that one day the Great Yridal Matriarch would use Fire Eternal to open up the Primordial Egg, bringing down the end of all known life in the world - or rather, their world. Dr. Lyre had learned of the myth by word-of-mouth from his friend, Galactic Agent Lavoe, during one of his expeditions. Deep within the Uit Mountains, where an alien artifact was said to be hidden, he found a missing piece of the faith’s texts. Ever since, Lyre had become obsessed with the little prophecy, studied everything about it, and even made equations to pinpoint the exact date of Yunder’s Day. It was, after all, the closest Doomsday Myth - in chronological terms, of course - he had ever come across.

“Now look who’s making excuses for our continued existence! Billy, you’re making me flush.” Dr. Lyre faked an embarrassed expression as he continued typing on the terminal. T-20 minutes until the main event.

Dr. Lyre, should I activate ALOS-Comms to send a distress signal to the closest Station?” the AI politely asked, unbeknownst to the uncaring bureaucracy they were both subject to. “In the unlikely event that Yunder’s Day relates to an anomalous-caused disaster, our envoys would be able to rescue several thousands of alien civilians.

“You don’t think I’ve been notifying every station in the Sector for the past two months? Billy, I think you know me better than that! But no, don’t waste your expensive batteries on such a thing. Even if they do reach a Station, they’ll never arrive here in time. And I’m sorry to break it to you, but most people don’t care for a 0.2 civilization.”

Dr. Lyre got up from his chair and walked towards his GRPC-Issued mini-fridge to retrieve a sugary beverage. Vulcan-55 looked… peaceful across the screen. Small lights could be seen on the shores of one of its continents; signs of civilization. Small, yes, but they existed. But he knew it wouldn’t last long. He didn’t think. No, he KNEW. His math was spotless, as was his research. The evidence was simply too strong. Plus, one could say he had the know in his blood.

“Also, Billy, what did you say back then? ‘In the unlikely event that Yunder’s Day relates to an anomalous-caused disaster?’ Is that… a tinge of sarcasm I hear in your speech?” Perhaps the AI could learn to loosen up a little, thought Dr. Lyre.

I was simply stating a fact, Dr. Lyre. There has yet to be substantial evidence for the sudden destruction of Vulcan-55. We are working solely on loose information, hearsay and guesses.

“Thanks for saying ‘we,’ dear Bill. Now, let me ask you something: who was Director-EV?” Dr. Lyre’s usual easy-going expression faded as he turned to face one of the cameras. They’d already had this same argument dozens of times.

Director “E.V.” is the formal codename for the provisional evacuation commander following the Impact Event of 1930.” The AI’s answer was straight and short. It wanted to keep it that way. The less they dragged it on, the better.

“And what did Director-EV do before his promotion to commander, Billy? Surely your little encyclopedia can recall it for me.” Dr. Lyre, however, was having none of it.

He was part of the Axton-Hornsby’s ‘Star-Gazers’ club. He was also one of the main figures in the early detection of the Extinction Event.” The AI knew where the conversation was heading.

“And surely, everyone in the organization heard him back then when he showed his evidence, correct?”

Negative. It was not until the first signs of the Rot that the organization at large further examined EV’s theories.”” Despite its incredible processing power, the AI had to take a few moments to consider its next words. “In years prior, he was commonly dismissed by the anomalous scientific community as a fear-monger, and his theories were considered dangerous for the stability of the anomalous community.

“Yeah, gramps had it pretty rough back in the day,” Dr. Lyre took a sip of the bubbling soda and turned his eyes once more to Vulcan-55. “But you know, it only took until the first signs of calamity for people to take him seriously, so it’s not all bad. And how did they continue the work of his life? By giving me a crappy observatory and a lousy AI to go along with it.”

All cameras turned their “eyes” towards Dr. Lyre.

“Come on, Billy, I’m only jesting. You’re not THAT bad!” He began to chuckle, mouth deep in a nearly empty purple can. A small, red triangle began to blink on the bottom-right corner of the terminal. “Oh?”

Throwing the can behind himself, Dr. Lyre set his eyes on the alert.

- ALERT: FOREIGN OBJECT APPROACHING AT HIGH SPEEDS -

The grin returned to his face.

“Well, well, Billy. What do we have here?” Placing his index finger under his chin, Dr. Lyre turned his eyes once more to the cameras.

It appears that a large asteroid is nearing the sector. My calculations predict it will pass near Vulcan-55’s moon and return into orbit without any noticeable complications.” A white dot appeared in the right corner of the terminal’s screen, moving towards Vulcan-55, leaving a trail of dust in its wake. The asteroid was bigger than some Stations Dr. Lyre had worked in.

“I’m sure it will, Billy, I’m sure it will.” Dr. Lyre reclined back into his chair and set his legs down on the console’s keyboard. “Oh, and Billy? Please, put “The End of the World by Skeeter Davis” on full blast. Turn the telescope’s recorders on, and turn off the lights in the room. I want to savor this moment.”

Dr. Lyre, in the event that the cataclysmic event were to occur, such actions would be seen as highly disrespectful towards a developing civilization.” The AI, however, had already turned on the telescope’s recording mechanism. Even if the asteroid didn’t hit Vulcan-55, it would be nice to possess footage of such an event for research purposes.

“Soon-to-be former civilization, Billy. And tell me, what else can I do? Can we send rescue ships and take all the hundreds of thousands of lives there out into safety? Can we use our non-existent artillery to blow the asteroid to pieces? Maybe I could risk being called paranoid again and blast a distress signal to a nearby Station!” Dr. Lyre extended his arms wide open as he began to spin around in place. “Tell me, Billy, what are the chances that a pure-hearted pirate will sacrifice his life by crashing into the asteroid, redirecting it out of Vulcan-55? If it’s less than 0.0001%, don’t bother answering.”

The AI remained silent.

“You may turn the music up at any time, Billy.” And so, the music began, filling every inch of the observatory in old-timely tones. Dr. Lyre looked at his watch: only 10 more minutes. “What did it take for people to listen to EV, Billy?” The AI had already answered the question before, but Dr. Lyre already knew that.

It took until the first signs of the Rot for the organization to take serious action.

“Damn right. Now, let’s hope this will have the same effect. If we couldn’t save our planet, the best we can do is try to help others.” Dr. Lyre raised an unopened soda can into the air. “Let us toast, Billy. For a future in which we are not jokes, and for the triumph of our hard-headedness in the face of adversity!” Tapping the terminal’s base with his can, Dr. Lyre took a long sip of his beverage. “Billy, let the curtain fall!”

At the command of Dr. Lyre, a white, thin curtain dropped from the ceiling and into the top of the terminal’s screen, carried by robotic hands. It had been drawn on with a permanent marker years ago, and the letters were fading away. Yet, one could still read the inscription:

DEPARTMENT OF ESCHATOLOGY - OFFICIAL BRANCH OF THE OAS


As Dr. Lyre cheered at the sight of his masterpiece, a small rock flew from under the bottom of the terminal’s screen. It was another asteroid, smaller, but fast. And it was approaching its bigger companion.

Time slowed to a crawl.

50s: The asteroids collided with each other, raining bits of space rock all over Vulcan-55.

40s: The collision had obliterated the small asteroid. The big one was mostly unscratched. Its course, however, was not.

30s: The giant asteroid began to glow red as it entered Vulcan-55’s orbit.

20s: The before-white tail grew orange, blue, yellow and red. It looked like the birth of a new sun.

10s: The tip of the asteroid made contact with Vulcan-55. Even with the distance, Dr. Lyre could see the ground melt and bleed around its touch. Fire Eternal.

Then, the Primordial Egg cracked. The small exoplanet couldn’t take the hit. Its very foundation shook to oblivion as the asteroid embedded itself into its heart. Millions, perhaps billions of years of knowledge, of culture, of war and peace; all gone in an instant. Yet… he couldn’t bring himself to shed a tear. In truth, he knew little about the people of Vulcan-55. In fact, he had cared for their demise more than anything else! For him, they had already died when his eyes met those ominous prophecies carved in stone long before he was even a thought. It didn’t feel right, but he had tried his best to help them, hadn’t he?

The terminal’s screen filled with light as the explosion tore the planet in half, breaking it into millions of pieces that flew into the forever darkness. There was no birth of any kind after the Egg’s rapture. Only death. Then… silence. Yunder’s Day ended as soon as it began. The only evidence of life ever existing in this part of the galaxy being the graveyard of continents that laid in its place.

Neither men nor machine spoke as they witnessed Doomsday. Deep within, they had both hoped to be proven wrong. They hoped to mark this day as just one more of their sad failures to predict catastrophe. Yet, it had happened. It had finally happened. But it didn’t feel like a victory. He had done everything he could to help those souls. But they had ignored him, and now the price was paid.

Their small ship made its way across the stars as it always did. In a few days, they would reach a friendly USA Station. Maybe then they would be able to dial back home.

At least, this recording would be good enough evidence that he wasn’t crazy. Once they gave him an official department budget, he’d make sure to buy Billy a sense of humor. Yeah. It only seemed right.

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