Authors: Timothy H. Scott
Timothy H. Scott
Copyright © 2012 Timothy H. Scott
All Rights Reserved
Cover Illustration by Brent Kim
Kim Koung kneeled
next to his young daughter and held her cold, trembling hand as she lay on the infirmary bed. She couldn’t speak, for the fluid in her lungs barely gave her room to breathe. The artificial respirator breathed in a steady, monotonous way at her bedside. Her dull, brown eyes looked to him with pain and trepidation, then to her mother, who cried as she brushed her hair back and told her that everything would be okay.
Kim wanted to grab her into his arms and hold her warm body one last time, to feel her heartbeat against his and feel her breath upon him, to somehow take away the pain and fear from her.
His wife Ann prayed through whispering lips as her thumb ran back and forth over her daughter’s pale hand, tubes and IVs running from Jasmine’s veins and stretching upwards like strings from a marionette.
Jasmine’s breathing changed as she took in deeper gasps of air. They both startled and grabbed each other in anticipation of their daughter’s final breath.
Ann reached over and kissed her cheek, tears falling onto her daughters breathing mask. “It’s okay, God is here. He
is with you, we’re with you ...”
Jasmine slowly reached with her other arm and pulled off her mask and with belabored effort, tried to say something but could only mouth incomprehensible words between shortened breaths.
“My sweet girl,” she whispered, leaning in to press her face against Jasmine’s. “I’ll always be here for you. We’ll see each other again, I promise.”
Still holding his daughter’s hand, Kim laid his head on his wife and sobbed. Only moments had passed when young Jasmine’s breathing stopped. Ann knew the moment it happened, and she felt a pain in her chest as if Jasmine’s ghost were desperately reaching for her as it drifted away.
Ann clutched Jasmine’s listless body. She kissed her cheeks over and over, unable to let go, desperate to hold onto even that final minute when she could still feel her breath. For the nothing that death leaves in its wake stirs a palling emptiness that cannot be filled, and Ann could not even find the air to cry over Jasmine.
Just outside the room, their family doctor had waited, giving them time with their daughter. Time was running out though, and the President’s advisor James Tully walked briskly towards Dr. Theriault.
“I told you to give them time,” Dr. Theriault said impatiently.
“They’ve had enough time. We need him now,” James said without emotion.
“As you can see,” Dr. Theriault motioned through the tinted window, “they’re a little busy.”
“Is she dead?” James asked
“If she was I wouldn’t tell a heartless sonofabitch like you. What are you doing here anyway?”
James quickly snapped back and calmly stood close to Dr. Theriault in subtle intimidation. James Tully wasn’t exactly a muscular man, but he stood tall and his cold demeanor exuded the sort of evil that could speak to another’s soul.
“There’s more at stake here than their feelings. People are dying all over this ship, not just her.”
“I know full well what the hell
is going on,” he said, the images
of countless people he couldn’t save weighing on his words. Dr. Theriault shifted to face James Tully and
pointed at the President on the other side of the glass
. “This man,” he started, “has done more than any of us could ask for. Give them some time. What is it to you?”
James Tully responded abruptly, “What this man does in the next hour will determine whether we survive or not. As you well know doctor, even your experienced hands have let slip many lives. How many doctor? Have you been counting the dead?”
With that, James Tully pushed past Dr. Theriault and activated the door to enter the room. Both President Koung and his wife were still frozen with grief beside their dead daughter, embracing each other and shutting out the world to their pain. They didn’t notice James Tully’s entrance.
“Excuse me, Mr. President.” James announced with a strong voice. They didn’t move.
“Mr. President!” James called forcefully.
Finally, President Koung turned with red-rimmed eyes and stood to face his advisor. Kim put a hand on his wife, and she held it as she turned to see what could be so important as to interrupt them.
“Mr. President,” James said calmly now, having their attention. “I apologize for discussing matters in this inopportune moment, but our worst fears have materialized faster than we anticipated.”
The President didn’t stop him, so he continued. “The vaccine failed. There are those who are immune, but it will be too few to operate the ship at a capacity to sustain life. It’s time for you to address the citizens and sign Executive Order 13.”
President Koung put a hand on his wife, this time to steady himself. He was exhausted with sleepless nights and the fate of mankind on his hands as he helplessly watched an incurable disease ravage his people. Executive Order 13 meant it was time to let go of everything.
“Okay,” the President said grimly. “Is there a speech prepared?”
“Tear it up. I’ll write my own.”
“Kim,” James said incredulously. “There’s no time. The rebels will know about the situation within the hour. They’ll take the shuttles and ruin any chance we have!”
“I’m writing the speech, James. Now leave me alone. I’ll be where I’m supposed to be, when I’m supposed to be there.”
James stood his ground but knew he would lose this fight.
“Go!” He yelled, and James grudgingly left the room.
Kim gently lifted his wife to her feet next to him, “What do I say? How do I tell them that everything we’ve ever done may have never existed? I can’t bring myself to it.”
Still weary and wet with tears, Ann gently cupped her husband’s sad and defeated face. She had collected herself with renewed strength and looked him in the eye. “You must speak of God. There is nothing left now but Him.”
He clenched his teeth, “God has abandoned us, Ann. I can speak no more of God.”
“You must. Find Him within you and let Him speak, even if you don’t want to. He who has created us will determine when to take us. Please, Kim. For me, at least. This last favor of the heart.”
“But how? How can I?”
“Write, and have faith. They are not your words to decide. You are the only one who can do this. You were meant for this.” She kissed him warmly, conveying the years of love to him, as if this would be the last time they’d ever see each other. “Go, there isn’t much time.”
President Kim Koung
stepped in front of the lectern facing what was left of the council. The surviving politicians from all the districts sat awaiting his address, coughing up fluid and dizzy with fever. Kim was the fifth President of the UNC Westbound, and he would be the last.
He took a deep breath before proceeding with his final address, which was being broadcast live across all districts within the UNC Westbound. “The past twenty years have been a shining achievement of mankind. With heavy hearts and fear of the unknown, we left earth with no other choice but to search for a new home. What we have managed to do on the UNC Westbound is nothing short of a miracle, nothing short of what is truly possible within the unadulterated human spirit, coming together to do what is right, what is required of us as a people. However, there has been no greater calling of us than what we face today.
“I’m afraid, my friends, that I stand here a humbled and searching man of God, as we must once again grapple with the grim specter of extinction. God has riddled us since the beginning of time, and again has set upon us the most daunting of riddles. It begs us the question, ‘Who are we, and does God exist?’ If God did create us in His image, then He must also be here now, as we face our final hours in a universe He created.
“There were many who believed our time had come to an end on Earth. That we must accept our fate and that God has so deemed that man cannot live forever. Yet, surely, God must have known our spirit when He created us, and what lies in our hearts, for while the meek shall inherit the earth, it is the bold who shall first conquer it. Are we not all one and the same being?”
President Koung paused before continuing, and then spoke in a somber, measured tone. “The virus is incurable. Infection probability is ninety nine percent and the rapidity of death upon the host ensures that few of us will survive. I speak bluntly now as I would be remiss to do otherwise. The UNC Westbound will be a drifting tomb, the last monument of man as a gift to the stars. It is a difficult thing to consider that what we have done as a people, what all men have done since the beginning of time, our progress and achievements, our victories and acts of selfless love, will ultimately have been for nothing if there is no God.
“There will be no one left to build statues in our honor, be inspired by the courage of our ancestors, or bear witness to the mark we have made upon creation. The very words I speak now will be lost forever, as if they had never been spoken.
“So why do I speak now?” he put a hand to his chest, speaking fervently. “Because I am still here, and so are you! As impossible as it may seem, there is hope yet for mankind. The Academy has seven students that are immune to the disease. These are our best and brightest, trained all of their lives specifically to ensure our ultimate survival. They carry with them the historical knowledge of earth, the skills, strength, and mental acumen to survive anything. They will be provided with an opportunity to save us from extinction, and they will succeed.
“It is at this moment I say to you that they will live, and in them, so shall we. The Academy is preparing to launch shuttles in order to carry them out into the dark abyss, slumbering, awaiting the signal from an intelligent race or the sign of a hospitable planet to colonize. The odds are impossible for the human mind to imagine, comprehend, or accept. Indeed, the odds are insurmountable.
“However, I am convinced, my friends, that they will survive because God does exist, and He will deliver us from the clutches of death. For we are human, made in the image of God, bound by the laws of nature, but unlimited by our faith in achieving the impossible and God’s ability to surmount anything that man cannot. So I bid you, my dear friends, Godspeed and God Bless.”