The Dead: Book 21 (frag. 4)
Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you're not really losing it. You're just passing it on to someone else.
THERE WAS VERY little time left.
She swiped and coded the control—having great difficulty remembering the password—then removed the control itself and dropped it into the capsule as well.
The world around her was distant, now, and spinning.
There would be no trace of human culture to help future life forms destroy themselves before they matured.
The capsule would drop through the tube to a depth beyond recovery for any civilization which hadn't already developed similar technology.
The tube would degrade on its own, and vanish, leaving no trace.
It would probably never be found.
She had to complete this one last task, had to make herself finish it.
She reached out to swing the top of the capsule shut, but stopped.
She had forgotten the Memory.
Even as she struggled to get it off her arm without falling over she found herself oddly reluctant to let it go.
She would have liked to spend her last moments in the Memory of her race instead of on this lonely planet.
But she shook the idea off.
She knew what had to be done, and somewhere, deep inside, recognized this small sacrifice as a tribute to her kind—a testimony to the basic decency and responsibility of humanity.
No one would know, but that didn't matter—it was somehow more important because no one would know.
Struggling to keep her balance, she placed the Memory in the capsule as well, then snapped it shut.
She hadn't the strength to give it the final push, and so would have to pull herself up and lean her full weight over it.
Then she realized that she could still access the Memory, even through the wall of the capsule.
She allowed herself one last visit as she used the last of her strength to lift herself and fall forward, pushing it down.
In that brief second, she was no longer herself.
She was a virgin about to be sacrificed to a blood-soaked idol.
She was a puzzled Arawak boy, sighting Columbus' ships on the horizon.
With a sudden "pop!" the capsule began to descend.
She was an actress, performing an award-winning role on the stage of the great Albanian theatre on the moon.
She was Newton and Einstein—Galileo and Feynman and Turek.
The capsule plunged out of range at almost exactly the moment her body gave out.
But she failed to disconnect.
She was the President of Afghanistan, with her husband on her arm at a formal ball.
She was a child being scared by a clown, a peddler trying to swindle a customer out of his camel, a Zen monk contemplating a koan.
The capsule accelerated its descent.
She was a member of the first Mars expedition, and the woman who invented the wheel.
She was a fur-covered ancestor, forming the first word.
She was her own mother, her great-grandfather, herself as a child.
She was Adam.
She was Wara.
She was Eve.
She was human.