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Seas boil and land burns under the glaring eye of an exploding sun. Mountains, once high, noble peaks, crumble into basins once called oceans. The world is become bereft of life, all scorched clean from its surface. The verdant green of jungles, rustling grasses of the Serengeti and frigid poles all a distant memory, replaced by smoke and ash and rivulets of molten rock marking Earth’s surface. A planet-wide desert of sand melted to glass colored the angry red of the kiln.
An old man watches, skin sloughing from flesh. The end of all things.
He turns to reach out to his flock. The hundreds who still live, huddled in hovels underground, drenched in sweat, in shade, in steaming blood. Their skin drapes loosely from their frames like tattered rags. Their clothing, little more than rotten scraps, curls away from their bodies and sizzles in the heat. Their bones, baking, are brittle and hollow. They are starved and thirsty, cuddled up with the dead and the dying, unable to distinguish themselves from those they chase into the grave. Each man, woman and child stares with the listlessness of the hopeless. He must speak to them, comfort them. But what does one say in a moment such as this?
The truth is all that remains.
"It has come..." He begins with a sigh. "I will not say 'do not despair'." His heart grows heavier with every word. "I will not say 'there is hope'. This is no time for lies.” The last men and women on Earth watch his image shimmer before them, confirming their death sentences. What little light that remained in their eyes fades.
“I say this: Life goes on. If not here, for us, then elsewhere. Life goes on." His voice, a forlorn rasp, falls on deaf ears, dull eyes. Man does not hear him. They do not care. Their dwindling masses have no spirit left. And why should they? This is the end.
"Life goes on," He repeats, now for his own sake, eyes fixed on flaming skies, his hopes centered on a single, twinkling ‘star’. One not visible in the wake of a dying sun, yet growing more distant from it and a doomed solar system nonetheless. "Life goes on. Life goes on. Life goes o-" Despite his despair, despite the heat, despite his own smoking flesh, despite joining with a swelling star, despite the death of all he had ever known and loved, the old man smiles knowingly to himself as blistering gas engulfs the world. Mankind, and Mankind’s only home, deliquesce from the universe and into the quiet of history.
Godspeed Roan, our memories and our souls travel with you now.
Beyond Pluto's orbit of a now rapacious Sun, 7.5 billion kilometers away, Motherlode, a planetoid ship the size of our Moon, drifts away from the cosmic cemetery into the inky void of the unknown. Its captain stands planted to the bridge. A gaunt, crew surrounds her in quiet mourning, working as silently as the dead. Her hands tremble as she thinks to herself:
Life goes on. It must. We. Must.
She turns to survey the bridge, men and women at attention, tapping away at their monitors, busying themselves to distract from the emptiness. Earth, their only home, was gone. Once a safe distance from the condemned solar system, they engage the main drive. Motherlode's speed steadily increases as she drags her way through the stars, into the black, bleak unknown.
The Captain, Roan Oake, clears her throat and speaks, knowing her voice and image are carried to the dozens of others who work in the belly of Motherlode, tending to its multifaceted needs. “Only the weak die with their Mothers. We daughters, we sons, we are the survivors. We go on. On to forge destinies of our own among the stars. I will not tell you not to mourn; I will only say this: Someday, on some distant day, our children, or their children, or their children’s children’s children will walk upon a new world and they will remember that we… we carried them there. There will be a time for smiles again, and for hope. But now? Now we toil until such happier days return. We toil with a sad, human ringing in our hearts.”
She turns back to the monitor at the fore of the bridge, split into eight different screens. Screens that show: various ship functions and their statuses, potential exoplanets which might serve as a refuge, or at the very least Motherlode’s first destination in its quixotic quest across the universe, the luminescent wall of gas arcing in fury where Earth used to be.
“Life goes on,” She whispers to herself, “But for how long? How long will we linger in the black before we all go mad?”
Her second walks up behind her, his presence a silent question. She nods in assent. With a few brusque keystrokes her XO initiates Motherlode's long range energy compiler, a velvet screen the width of a world billowing behind the ship. The screen coruscates with the faint glow of energy and rapidly accruing force, absorbing fuel for the vessel's journey from the matter of space its. Roan waves her hand, and the screen glows bright for a moment as the ship accelerates.
Motherlode is underway. A swelling gulf of darkness separates it from the only home it’s ever known.