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"The Lost World"
Space Century: 352.00
By J.M.

I'll be dead in less than an hour.

Oxygen's almost gone. Plenty of food, though. Mountains of food. Even the reprocessors still work. What a waste.

Listen to me. I'll be dead soon, and I'm thinking about our food supply.

Wake up, you idiot.

It's hard to concentrate. My thoughts are drifting all over. Could be the low oxygen level. Could be because I'm the last. At least I think I am. No response from any comm station anywhere on the ship. If by any miracle someone aboard is still alive, maybe... stop it. Everyone else is dead. The life sensors still work. The last bio-signal gave out in the southwestern section half an hour ago. Poor soul would have been in worse shape than I am... climate controls have always been less effective down there.

I wonder what he felt, in the last few minutes. Probably nothing. He would have blacked out before his brain shut down. Could he have been dreaming? Is that what happens? Or did he just close his eyes and go numb?

I wish I could have spoken with him. Comforted him. Or maybe not... it would have been like looking into your own future. I know what's coming. I don't need to be reminded by watching it happen to someone else. Doesn't matter now, though. Out on the plains, he wasn't near a comm station. Obviously he couldn't have made it to one in his condition. I wonder why he didn't have his personal comm unit?

I don't want to even stand up. It's too hard. I'll just... lie here. I wish I was outside. I'd like to see the sky one last time, even if it is computer-generated. Feel the breeze... but it'd be poison. One step outside the door and I'd asphyxiate. Atmosphere recyclers off-line, of course. All I have is the air in this room...

What fools we were. Launching ourselves into space. Leaving our home behind. We even had the arrogance to mimic our homeland within the ship. 'It will remind us of our heritage,' they said. 'It won't even be like living on a spaceship... it'll be just like home,' they said. Pompous self-delusions. No matter how much you dress it up, it's still technology. All around, computers, machines, robots. Even the sky and the sun and the breeze are artificial. Fools. Nature doesn't 'malfunction'... nature doesn't go 'off-line'...

It was the explosion that did it. We were the last to launch. When Parma exploded, we hadn't cleared the safety zone yet. The entire eastern section was destroyed by the impact of debris from the planet. Everyone there died in minutes as the hull was breached. There was no safe place. Fuel reserves and power generators exploded. We should have been able to withstand the loss of the eastern section. That's what the ship was designed for. But a chain reaction spread, frying everything along the eastern connection axis. By the time it reached the central hub, it was too late. Systems started fizzing out all over the ship.

Everyone at central control knew it was over when the life-support systems went off-line. There was no way to recover. Quadruple redundancy backups, and they still all failed. Fools. We built our new world out of the very thing that destroyed us. We covered it up, swept it under the rug, pretended that we were still living in a natural world. Lunacy.

My head hurts... throbbing, like the blood is trying to escape... I want it to be over with. I want it to end now. But my body won't give in.

I wonder where we are. Could be anywhere. Navigation went down long ago. Bitter irony. If we had chosen to go to Dezo, we might still be alive. Our launch path would have been different... we might have avoided the debris collisions. More lunacy. Instead we chose we leave the system, 'to seek out new worlds,' they said. What was that catch phrase they used... 'to boldly go...' Heh. We have boldly traveled to our death.

I think... I think I would rather have stayed on Parma. Not for the quick death. But I would have died on my own world, outside, in the genuine sunlight. I would have returned to the earth. But here I will die, and my body will lie amongst machinery, cold, and lifeless.

That's funny. Cold and lifeless. Just as I will be soon. It must be appropriate, then.

We lived in a gilded age. We had everything we could ever have asked for. Perhaps that is what caused our downfall. We had no struggle. There was no more pain to conquer. Our accomplishments seem tame, sterile to me now. To live in another time... to live in another time when life meant overcoming obstacles... when life meant struggling, yearning to be alive. Perhaps the Cult of Alis had it right. Perhaps we should have returned to our roots. Perhaps we should have thrown off the shackles of tedium, of tranquility. There was no true excitement left in our world. Not for the romantics, at least. Not for the dreamers.

In a way, I suppose that is why we chose to leave the system. Perhaps we were actually intent on reinventing ourselves in a more adventurous, more soulful vein. Who knows what might have happened had we reached a new world, stood face to face with new, unknown beings.

We could have brought them a sense of connectedness. A sense of an importance greater than any single race of beings.

Or not. We could have infected them, doomed them, with technology. Our presence might have voided their beliefs, their dependence, on nature.

I'm glad we won't have the chance to find out. We aren't ready. Or rather, we were ready, but not anymore. We had passed the point in our lives, I think, when we might have handled this successfully. We've grown too old, as a race, I think. Perhaps it is better that we die here... perhaps this is our true fate.

Stop being melodramatic. Our race isn't dead. I'm dead. Everyone on this ship is dead. But everyone else... I think they made it. They made it out, out into the universe. And everyone on Mota is still alive. They made lead different lives, but they are still our people. They are still us. They will go on living.

I'm making it seem like we're martyrs. Like we're making a sacrifice for the benefit of the greater good. But we're not. Our lives were snuffed out with no more significance than blowing out a candle flame. We'll become a footnote in history, as the rest march on. 'The mass exodus from Parma before its destruction was a complete success, save for one ship that was terminally damaged shortly after launch. The rest of the inhabitants of Parma, however, went on to lead happy and productive lives throughout the galaxy.'

Is that how we'll be remembered?

Uhnh... where's the rescue ship? Why haven't they found us yet? It should be any minute now...

You're drifting again. They can't rescue, even if they knew what happened. Take too long for them to arrive. Wouldn't even know where to look for us. I mean me. They wouldn't know where to look for me. No one else to look for.

I think... I think I feel a breeze. Something washing over me. Want to open my eyes, but... I'm just so... sleepy. Am I back on Parma? I can smell the flowers... where's the sun... I don't see it... but I can smell the flowers...

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