Last One Out, Turn off the Lights by Marie A Parsons
The launches were slowing down now, as she knew they would. Exciting as the prospect of colonizing a new world was, surely leaving Earth was bittersweet. The human race had done it, contrary to myth, superstition, esoteric texts, odd certainties, and ancient sages. It had taken more than a millennium to achieve. But after several “armageddons” and “ends-of-world” that never happened, and after the ‘Net had strengthened and deepened human connection, human beings realized their next great stride was out to the stars. Collectively, with one voice, humanity decided it was time to head out into the stars. All those earth-like planets to start anew…
“Eleven more to go, Rora. You keeping up ok? Why not turn on the automated systems now?”
“Stop mothering me, Vince. It does not become you,” she chuckled. “I may be wrinkled, my hair thin, my fingers knotted, but I can still do this job. And, being Mother is my job—kind of!” Rora smiled as she heard Vince’s amused groan. “I don’t mind staying a bit longer, Vince. It seems a fitting thing to do—a kind of Earth’s farewell, to have a human signing off the ships, rather than a machine.”
Rora frowned briefly. If Vince knew, if anyone of them knew her ultimate intent, they would try to stop her. But all believed her place to be secure onboard one of the last ships, either to Lyra, or to KeplerB, or to Alpha. Rora hoped she had planned that well enough.
As each giant ship launched, Rora hit the “off” button on her panel. The PacificaRim—gone. And now Dark. The SouthernMed and NorthernCircle—there they went—gone. Button pressed. Dark. The various planetary Federations and Consortiums donated funds for this Launch Center-a small formality, but a fine gesture nonetheless. The center’s purpose was simply to monitor that each launch happened as planned—on time, on course, and, once safely gone, to turn off the national and multi-national lights.
Rora wondered who actually came up with that symbolic idea. If indeed every woman, child, and man were leaving the planet, who would care if ocean cities, or desert towns, or seaside villas, remained brightly lit. But since she had been given the task, she would see it through. And, after giving it some thought, the idea was so very apt.
“Eight more ships to go. Your belongings are on the transport. You will have 20 minutes before your ship launches. Did you decide yet for Lyra, for KeplerB or for Alpha?”
Three separate voices in her comm, giving her the same reminder. Three separate transports for three ships, each expecting her decision soon. She had been awarded the privilege of last-minute choice.
“How’s the board looking, Aurora?”
That was Singh, supervising boarding for Lyra.
“A lot more Dark than bright, now, Singh. We are really doing this! Off to new Earths!”
“Well, don’t you be late! We are not exactly on a timetable here, but I think all of us like to keep schedules, you know?”
Rora smiled at the tolerant amusement in Singh’s voice. They were all marvelous—Gina, Wren, Saku, Vince, Singh—all the people she had met in person, holograph, or by voice, during the past years of planning and building. She couldn’t remember who started calling her “Mother of Earth,” or even when the nickname stuck. Just because her given name was Aurora, like the Dawn. She didn’t exactly feel as if she was birthing a new age. But she took the nickname to heart. And it had inspired her private plans.
She checked the timer. There, the fourth ship was leaving. Rora pressed its button, and another region of Earth went Dark. How did the board look? So many panel lights dark now. She almost wished she could see the Earth from above, see entire landmasses, once brightly lit, now dark—but that would in fact require that she be on board a ship, where the view-screens would be on for everyone to say their farewells as the planet shrank beneath them.
Only three more ships to go. Rora let out a sigh. It was time.
“Vince, I decided to go with Singh.” Regretful farewell.
“Wren, I decided to board the ship with Vince.” She would miss Wren, who had become a second daughter—or was that, great-granddaughter, by this time.
“Singh, I am taking Wren’s ship after all.” She would miss Singh the most. He had the deepest dark eyes…
Rora checked everything again, twice. She had enough resources for a while if she wanted. Maybe she would finish one or two projects she had set aside for the Space project.
“This is VoiceofLyra. We have launch. Good-bye, Earth.” And on her private comm came, “Good-bye, Mother.”
“AlphaOne, launching. Good-bye, Earth!”
“Everyone on KeplerB wishes Earth a fond farewell. See you maybe in a thousand millennia!”
Last button, pressed. Every light on the panel in front of her was now off. The ships had all launched.
Rora wiped away a tear. To everyone on the ships, if they were looking back at all, Earth itself was now completely dark. The center where she sat, sitting in an underground cavern, would never show its own lights. Not that that mattered. Everyone assumed Earth was devoid now of human life.
Rora thought, briefly, then stood, stiffly. She blew a kiss up to where the sky would be, if she could but see it. She had seen the human race into a new era. She had listened to plans, discussions, arguments, laughter, and tears. She had watched humanity pull itself together, finally. She had watched children grow, and become scientists, historians, administrators, like their parents before them. Now, she was the last human left on Earth. She had a Mother’s privilege.
She walked slowly to the master panel. One last button to press. The airlocks would open, the air would rush out, the lights would turn off. Earth would indeed be completely dark.
Aurora thought of the new Dawns on countless worlds. She was content. She reached out her knotted fingers. “Last one out..” she murmured.
Aurora pressed the button.
Copyright 2012-2013 Marie A Parsons
((This flash short was submitted for a podcast in SciFiveShorties, to Neil Gardner of LadbrokeRadio.com. It will be expanded into a novella, or perhaps novel length.))