The Dead: Book 21 (frag. 2)
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
WITH ONE HAND, she delicately lifted an aging breast and probed gently with the other at the nasty wound below it.
Perhaps, with proper nursing, some surgical intervention...
But there was no one to nurse her, let alone operate.
She was the last of the colony.
And it was the last of the twelve.
Twelve desperate attempts at survival.
Five had never made landfall, four had never achieved terra-form.
The other two had not lasted ten years each.
Theirs had been the hopeful one.
They had lasted twenty years, and added two generations.
They had posted the sign, at the edge of camp, when her granddaughter was born:
HOMOSAPIENSVILLE: POPULATION 5!
But then Mil had died, and her daughter Ka, which left just the three of them—a minimal gene pool, but it couldn't be helped.
They had been more careful after that, but the accident had taken little Jo.
Sally had gone into a depression, then.
Wara had done everything she could: drugs for the depression, nursing for the decline—it had made no sense, and Sally had known she was the only hope.
Wara was too old, by then, to have a child.
But Sally had died, and Wara had been left, the last human being.
Her years alone had not been bad, aside from the cloud of sadness and grief.
She had not been lonely all of the time.
There had been periods of mere solitude, and, of course, there had been the Memory—that wonderful accomplishment of humanity at its peak.
Her module was the latest extant design: manufactured in the final years of the Third Civilization—before the plague, and the ice, and the storms.
There was much that could not be brought on the colony ships, but the Memory was light, self-contained, and some thought it indispensable.
And the best units were the lightest.
Hers was in a bracelet on her upper arm, and its field, tuned to her own particular consciousness, could reach half-way across the cabin.
She could access it at any time: reliving any moment of any human life from history to pre-history—the first successful fire-making, the discovery of DNA, the Wara Jones experiment, performed by one of her own ancestors, which eventually made the Einstein model obsolete.
The great Y-plague, and the loss of the men.
The researcher who developed the gene therapy to make reproduction possible again.
And, of course, the battles, the romances, the daily trials and joys of the thousands who were never mentioned in the old history books.
In the early days she had been careful to monitor her use of the Memory.
She had felt it was more important to spend her time learning about the planet they had transformed: the life forms which had evolved so rapidly from the seed-forms they had planted, the local terrain, the dangers and survival value of every detail.
It had mattered then.
To be continued...