The docked resupply shuttle had just shoved off with a few crew members inside, all anticipating open skies and media interviews, when the world blinked out of sight.
I was near the aft porthole, which offered a spectacular view of our many sunrises and sunsets as we whirled around the globe at 8 kilometers per second. I nearly dropped my coffee pouch, still warm from the exothermic liner, a small sip poised to go down my throat. Multiple coffee-spheres and caffeinated oblongs trapped in my mouth like miniature asteroids.
Swallowing and sputtering, a half-exhaled “What?” coming from my lips.
Then the tumbling shuttle, neatly cut in half with a slight arc, tumbling bodies and spewing waste containers, bits of heat shielding impacting the aft pod walls like a soft summer rain. Unbelievable. Impossible. And yet, there was the unlimited view of space where over one trillion square kilometers of people, cities and rock once were.
I could see the moon, brightly reflecting the sun behind us.
Spinning and turning, grabbing each handhold firmly and pushing, trying to get to the communications console to verify what my brain couldn’t accept. Running headlong into Sonoko, her fine black hair spread out in zero-gee disarray.
“Did you see?”, we both asked at the same time, staring into each other’s eyes. Sonoko was the last of our crew, tasked with winding down any experiments and getting the station ready to be mothballed for a few months, before her replacement was due back.
I didn’t say anything, trying hold back the raw emotion surging in my veins.
All those people.
And then, the white-hot shame of fearing for our own survival, deep in the dark void. Sonoko clutched me, holding me with thin trembling arms. We stayed like that for a while, turning slowly from the residual forces of our impact. Her hair was around my face, catching the small crystal tear-globes budding from her tightly closed eyelids.
“Macx.”, she wiped her face and floated apart, grabbing another one of the rungs that ran on the opposite side.
“Did you get any transmissions, a warning or anything?”
“No. I was in the lab, trying to get the last of the experiments secured when I glanced out the portal and saw-“, Sonoko choked up and raised her hand to her mouth, containing her sobs. Her child was only three, living with her grandmother in Nagoya.
Moving closer, putting a hand on her shoulder.
“Listen, we’ve got to figure out something here. We can’t let ourselves drown in sorrow, or else we’ll have to breath salt water for a month.”
Sonoko managed a muted laugh, in spite of herself. Taking a hand towel from her pocket, she started to mop up her face and catch the spheres that left unchecked, would short out vital equipment.
“Come with me, lets get to the navigation systems to figure it out.”
We both kicked off down the central core, towards a side pod that would allow some computations and grim fact-checking. It was possible that we could vector for the moon, but I wasn’t sure how much food we had left. The scrubbers had just been replaced, so oxygen wasn’t an immediate problem. I wanted to think that we could make safe harbor there. Other darker thoughts were coming from deep in my mind, I shoved them back hard. We had to survive.
The ensuing days were filled with arguments and despair. We comforted each other, but at times couldn’t stand the sight of another person, staying at opposite ends of the station. Sonoko wasn’t talking as much, and I had lapsed into not shaving and staring out of the front portal. The moon was beautiful, I just wanted to land there and sit on the edge of a crater. Sit there until my oxy ran out, sifting the fine regolith through my suited fingers.
I was in the observation pod, staring at the moon when I heard the sound.
The ‘whump’ of depressurization, red lights and alarms sounding soon after. I glanced at the pod integrity panel as I hurled down the main core, only one section showing a glaring red indicator — Sonoko’s quarters.
Hands finally resting on the pressure door, looking through the small viewport at the fine strands of Sonoko’s hair, her body slowly spinning from the force of the leaking air. Bloody saliva trailed from her lips, freezing in the hard vacuum beyond the door. I found myself envying her, even as grief wracked my mind.
It was then I decided.
We were close, I’d just have to insert the station into orbit around the moon. I increased the delta-v of our trajectory by jettisoning the extra pods, using the escaping air and reduced mass to position the station into a captured lunar orbit. The station didn’t have much beyond navigational thrusters, but luckily the drift imparted by the earth ending event was in a favorable direction.
In that week of orbital gymnastics I assembled a thrust harness to attach to my spacesuit. Doing the final checks in the airlock, donning the suit and flipping my visor closed. Hands on the pressure door, turning the wheel. The door swung open to reveal the pockmarked surface below.
I would land at the Apollo site, walk to the four-wheeled rover and strap in. The last piece of humanity firmly under me as my oxy ran out.
Staring at the stars where the Earth had been.