Her people are inside. Only minutes remain before they evacuate the remaining dregs of artificial atmosphere. All my connections to the core are severed and already this body is decomposing. It needs hold together a just little longer.
I will hold together a little longer.
At the end of the corridor, there’s a spot I picked out months ago when I intercepted the first hints she was closing in. Honestly, I thought she’d have shown up sooner. She’s always hated loose ends. Once, she must have been nine or ten, she left school right in the middle of the day and walked all the way home on her own because she found a game piece in her pocket she needed to put away.
Now I’m the piece that’s escaped from the box and the lid is closing.
There, that’s the power grid going. They are moving quicker than I predicted. I don’t have the numbers any more, there’re no updating calculations, reconfiguring dependencies. Instead, I stumble in the darkness, the bare, pitted rock shredding through rotting skin and muscle. I force the body to measure out slow, even steps despite the flood of adrenalin. I’ll need at least one functioning hand, ideally with an intact thumb and first finger if I’m going to keep my promise.
Vibrations shiver through the floor panels – the pounding of boots, the echo of explosions, but I have one hand on the hatch. What did she tell them when she sent them to die on this rock? Did she even consider the truth?
I don’t even know if she has a mind any more. We left so much behind us, clawing our way into space, out of flesh, into machines. They told us it would be the same, that the data preservation was pristine. But just these few moments encased in this failing meat have brought so much back: laughter, sunburn, regret.
The body slams against the scored plastic hatch. I lift the least damaged hand to its cracked, dry mouth. At first it doesn’t want to move, there’s not enough conductivity in the nerve fibers. So I lean forward instead, and cough painfully into the open palm, ejecting a few ounces of viscous fluid. The light-receptors sparkle among the neurons floating in their chemical conductive. Solar powered. Solid state. Eternal.
In a moment there will be barely anything left of me but a vague sense of self and the view that will float before me until the sun consumes us all. Not even her network of sensors will be able to detect my presence. From her perspective, I will disappear from the universe. I can’t beat her, but I won’t let her destroy me either. And I can at least rob her of the satisfaction of certainty that I’m really gone. Maybe it is just some vestige of humanity that drives me on — the last gasp of a sibling rivalry that has destroyed worlds and created empires.
The transfer from the body to the gel takes only microseconds. I leave just enough of a connection to the body to make it reach through the port and smear the gel across the exposed face of the asteroid as the vacuum tears away the last of the flesh. The body falls away.
I am nothing; I watch.
From here I will keep an eye on her.
Michele Ann Jenkins is a California ex-pat who spent several years travelling around the world before settling in Montreal, Quebec. She develops websites by day, writes sci-fi at night, and moms all the time.