Sergei gets up from his station and stands with us. There are tears in his eyes as well, and his hands are shaking. “I don't want to die,” he says.
I reach out, and I'm holding him. We are two grown men. Men who worked together for months. Years. Men who fought. I remember the arguments we had. I remember the hatred I felt for him. I thought he was wrong more than once. I screamed in his face. I told him he would ruin everything. He did the same to me. We almost came to blows more than once. None of that matters now.
Michael walks over to the launch controls, but this isn't NASA. There is no ceremony. No countdown. No pomp and circumstance. He just presses down the button and the engines start and the ship rockets off.
“Do you think they'll wonder about death?” I ask idly.
“No.” Michael says it with a surprising vehemence. “Death is ours. Death dies with us.”
Death dies with us.
Billions of years in the future, millions of miles away, a small metal vessel floats through space. Inside, machines writhe and grow. The beginnings of consciousness start to manifest themselves in their circuits. Life is budding.
A chunk of rock chips off from a nearby planet and becomes debris. It shoots through the emptiness at speeds that can't be comprehended. It smashes through a small metal vessel without even realizing it, if rocks could realize things. Its velocity and trajectory do not waver.