"It's not going to be that simple," said Adam.
At this point, Tom realized just how much stress the decision had actually placed upon him. He slumped back against the elevator tube, for the second time in the last twenty-four hours. It was a dreadful thought that it was probably not the last time this would happen.
Ric got up out of his chair, having finally come out of his useless attempt to withdraw, and went to his longtime friend to bring him over to the seats. As he just started to move, Tom began to slowly slide sideways towards the floor. Ric sped up, racing to catch his friend before he ended the morning with a concussion.
As his eyes closed and the world left his consciousness, the last image Tom remembered was the strangest yet. Despite no indications that it had ever been anything but infinitely serene, Tom could have sworn that Miril's face betrayed a flicker of surprise at Adam's statement.
"Vice Commander, we have an urgent message from Aquarius Control."
"Put it up. Maybe this shift will be more interesting than the last twenty."
"Vice Commander, we have received orders from Tranquility to make ready for evacuation."
The lack of an introduction was what gave it away. It was that and the fact that Commodore Jennings was uncharacteristically agitated. Though the orders came from the Commodore's private office, he looked uncomfortable with his present position, never a good sign from one's superior.
"Say again, Commodore. What are our orders?"
"Triumvir Keating is inbound to Odyssey to supervise the decommissioning and storage of Aquarius base and the subsequent evacuation of all Commonwealth personnel from Earth. I was just briefed on this about half an hour ago."
As he triggered the emergency alert that would bring the Commander and the entire senior staff to the Odyssey's bridge, Harris did some quick mental math: if the Triumvir had left half an hour ago, then he should be arriving--
"Inbound aerial contact, Mach four point one."
I will never, ever, wish for an interesting shift again in my life.
The process of recalling the Commonwealth's agents and securing a few other materials took less than a week. They had always been ready to go, even with less notice than they had this time. The entire city could be made spaceworthy in under an hour, albeit with some unavoidable but acceptable losses. This time, everything was preserved.
In those five days, Tom didn't even emerge from his rooms. Every visitor who came was repelled with the same cold, callous "Not today." He couldn't bear to face them. Not with the responsibility for all of this weighing so heavily upon his shoulders. It was a decision that would always weigh on him, he knew it even now. The fate of 35,000 people was no trifling matter.
To the outside world, Tom Miyaki had passed into a sort of coma. To Tom Miyaki, the outside world had gone insane.
It was the calm, quiet insanity that is most terrifying when finally recognized. Tom peered out of his windows at various times, often in the middle of the night. He beheld a strange sight: normalcy. The people he watched moved at their tasks without the unconquerable anxiety he felt; they walked upright and feared no evil in that great expanse they were about to embark into.
They don't know.
The realization came to him every time he saw those people, every time he gave a moment's thought to the disparity between their reaction to the events and his.
None of them know that there is other life out there. They probably won't even be told until we leave the system.
Tom walked over to his window, looking to catch the brilliant sunrise across the Pacific for what might be the last time. As he gazed out, he could not help to notice that none of Tranquility's inhabitants were walking the city's sidewalks. Tom enjoyed this, the rare feeling that he was enjoying the daybreak all to himself.
As he leaned forward to rest on railing that ran beneath his windows, Tom watched the horizon flare. The great yellow disk of the Sun crept slowly upwards into the sky, wiping the darkness from the navy dome of the sky as it made its stately ascent. Below, on the grounds of Tranquility, the severe line between light and dark receded swiftly from view, until it could be seen no more.
At that moment, the blue emergency lights began to flash, and the warning system commenced its slow toning. For an instant, Tom was convinced he saw a bright white point dart across the sky, then he turned.
It was time to leave his room.
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