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Null to the Thirty-Third
The man sits, staring out the pod window at the decimated planet below. He looks at it mournfully, as though by looking hard enough he could bring the past back. His mind wanders to his reflection on the pressurized glass--green eyes, messy brown hair, and a nametag reading “Jaxon Way”. He sighs. As far as he knows, he’s the only person out there left alive. He continues to stare, thinking about all he has lost.
“Sir, now would not be the time,” comes a mechanized voice from the station’s speakers. It was the Station’s AI assistant, SAIL. “There is a leak in pod bay 3a requiring your attention.”
“If you know so much about it, why not… fix it yourself?” challenges the man, knowing the bot wouldn’t pick up on his sarcasm. “Sir--” the man shuts off the speaker before SAIL can say anything else. Feeling lonelier than ever, he turns away from the window, going to fix whatever problem SAIL started gibbering about.
“I just don’t get it,” he mutters to himself after the job is complete. “Why am I the only one left? Why am I here? I shouldn’t be. I can’t be.” His mind drifts to the war, to the program he was accepted into, to the station he thought he’d only be in for a little while… He laughs harshly. He can’t believe how wrong he was back then.
After laying there on the floor for some time, he finally stands up, pushed to motion only by the crick in his back. He wanders his way back to the control room, each step harder than the last. It seems like the weight of the husk below that was Earth is on his shoulders. He can’t take it.
The man begins to lose his sense of time. He sits at the controls, driven to madly sending SOS messages to a long-silent control room, to the ruined HQ, finally to anywhere and nowhere at all. Saddened by the obvious lack of response after a while, he takes to looking at the torn photograph he keeps on the desk. The other half, probably burnt to ash, is a picture of him with the goofiest grin on his face. This picture is of his girlfriend… he can’t bring himself to think about her anymore. Shoving the photo aside, he lays his head on the panel and falls asleep.
He begins to argue with himself, a full-blown tirade party of 1. “No! There HAS to be more of them left!” he screams to nobody. “I’m not the only one!”
“But you have to be,” comes his own lonely reply, “or else they’d be here with you. Or they'd respond when you call.”
An alarm sounds. The man jumps and starts hitting buttons on the panel, anything to make it stop. “Sir,” SAIL pipes up. “Unidentified spacecraft launching from the planet’s surface.” Excited, the man begins to prep for whoever is arriving. He tidies up a little, puts on a torn dress uniform and waits. And waits. Eventually, a ship comes into view. It’s small. Maybe too small. He scans it for human life. He finds none. He assumes his worst fears have come true: it’s a missile. “Won’t these wars ever be over?!” he curses, preparing to destroy the missile. As he begins to boot up the defensive systems, showers of sparks fall on him like little fireflies from the ceiling, and smoke pours into the room. “Well, so much for that,” he says.
The “missile” surprises the man by doing the one thing a weapon wouldn’t: it docks at the station. Suspicious, the man grabs his gun and sneaks to the receiving area, his mind a whirlwind of emotions. He kicks in the door and points the weapon with a shaky hand.
Nobody is inside the vehicle, but a single piece of paper is on the floor. He picks it up cautiously. It reads, “I’m hoping it’s really you up there. Nobody else really could be. Please, come and find me.” Attached is the other half of the picture on the man’s desk. He can hardly believe his eyes. Wasting no time, he runs into the control room and puts the two pieces together, his eyes lighting up as they mesh together perfectly.
“I’m not alone!” He yells triumphantly to the stars. “I’m not the only one!”