Three Million CE - Episode 2
“The engineering team has been having trouble loading the ML data onto the Ark’s computer,” Commander Chin said. He was sitting across from the Nikola’s Children Board of Directors. He hadn’t had much experience interacting with the Board, but Commander Chin was now the highest ranking officer not in stasis, and the Board had been demanding daily progress reports. “Some kind of problem with storage. They’ve assured me it’ll be sorted by tomorrow.” Shadow cloaked the three Board members–amorphous dark figures against an even darker backdrop. The Board room had one light on its high ceiling, pointed down at the top of Commander Chin’s head. “The Ark launches in one week, Commander Chin,” said one of the board members. “The rest of Engineering was to board tonight.” It wasn’t clear which of the three dark figures was speaking; Commander Chin always assumed the one in the middle did the talking, because that’s the only one he had ever seen move–a slight nodding motion in response to good news. He wasn’t nodding now, though. “Yes, sir, I know that,” said Commander Chin. He felt the heat of the light beating down on his skull, and felt beads of sweat trickle down his forehead. “They said it was a minor problem, they’ll be able to board tomorrow. The launch schedule shouldn’t be affected.” The middle shadow nodded, and Commander Chin stifled a relieved sigh. “What of Deluge?” came the voice from the darkness. Commander Chin had been waiting for this question. He smiled. “We transferred the payload to the Ark this morning. Doctor Ghani and I personally oversaw its installation. We ran a full system diagnosis afterwards and all criteria registered within expected parameters. Project Deluge is now primed.” The middle figure nodded again. “Excellent job, Commander Chin. When the engineers complete their task tomorrow, they must board with you and the remaining security officers. The compound must be empty as we make final preparations.” Commander Chin nodded. He stood and saluted by crossing his arms in front of his chest. “Thank you, Sir. May the Children be praised!” “The Children be praised,” said the shadowy figure, and Commander Chin marched out of the board room. “Do you remember the one where you stuck a Roman candle in your butt?” Sarah giggled. Heady sighed. “Yep, I remember alright. I still have the scar.” Sarah stopped giggling and gawked at him. “Oooh,” she said. “Can I see?” Her cheeks turned pink and she started giggling again. “How far down does this go, exactly?” Doyle asked. Sarah glanced at him, annoyed at the unwelcome reminder of his presence. “It won’t be long, just chill,” said Sarah. She looked Doyle up and down and shook her head before returning her attention to Heady. “Sarah,” said Heady. “Exactly how deep underground is the compound? I’d like to know, you know, for the video.” “Oh, it’s pretty deep,” said Sarah. “It has to be, to hold the Ark.” She studied Heady in the bright fluorescent light of the elevator. He looked so much better in Officer Thompson’s uniform than Officer Thompson ever had. Sarah found it hard to believe that it was the same uniform at all. “The Ark? What’s that?” asked Doyle. Sarah suppressed the urge to scream. Why couldn’t Shit-for-Brains shut up already? She wished Doyle had stayed behind on the surface. Officer Thompson only had the one uniform, and there was no way it would have fit Fatso. She told them it would be dangerous for Doyle to be inside the compound in civilian clothes, but they wouldn’t listen. Sarah needed to figure out a way to bring Heady to the Ark alone. “I’d like to know what the Ark is too, Sarah,” said Heady. “Oh!” said Sarah. “Well, the Ark is our ship. It’s going to take us to the New Home. Away from all the war, disease, climate change, you know… All the bullshit we gotta put up with here. Plus there’s that whole apocalypse thing.” “The… Apocalypse? New Place?” asked Heady. “Hold up, come stand next to me. Let me get this on camera.” Sarah’s heart skipped a beat. She couldn’t believe this was happening. She knew this video would never actually get posted, but the idea of Heady asking her to be in it excited her anyway. She sidled up next to Heady. Heady handed his phone to Doyle, who stepped back and continued to film. “I know it sounds corny,” said Sarah, blushing a little. She hadn’t expected to feel so nervous. “But Nikola’s Children got all the best scientists and engineers here working on it. The Ark is totally legit. Dudes came from NASA, Space-X, plus all kinds of companies I’ve never even heard of that do artificial intelligence and stuff. Oh and the stasis chambers–those were a big deal, tons of scientists worked on those.” Doyle’s face perked at the mention of scientists. He lowered the camera a bit and looked at Sarah. “What about a physicist named Kirsten Ghani? She would have showed up about a year ago. Is she still here?” “Um, yeah, I seen her around,” said Sarah, disdain in her voice. “Of course she’s still here. Why would she leave? I don’t know what she’s working on though. Something important I think. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s already in stasis. Almost everyone is by now.” “Hold up a sec,” said Heady. “Ship? NASA? Stasis chambers? Are we talking about what I think we’re talking about here? Like a space ship? A fucking space ship that’s taking you to… Where? Space?” “Yeah,” said Sarah. “Preposterous,” said Doyle. “And the ‘Ark?’ Couldn’t you think up a more generic name than that?” “Fuck you,” said Sarah. “Wait, wait, wait…” said Heady. “What exactly does being ‘in stasis’ mean? Where’s Kirsten?” “On the Ark,” replied Sarah. “I don’t know how it works, that’s what they got all the scientists for. It’s so we don’t grow older while we travel to the New Home… They’re like freezers for humans, or something. Almost everyone’s on board in their stasis chamber already since we launch in a week. Just a handful of us left but we’re boarding tomorrow.” “This is nonsense” said Doyle. He sounded irritated. “Even if I believed all this prattle about space ships and stasis, what about your lives here on Earth? Family, friends, possessions, pets, you’re just leaving all that behind? And where the hell are you even going? The Moon? Mars? Kirsten’s not stupid, she wouldn’t believe any of this crap any more than I do. Where is she?” “We’re not going to the Moon you idiot,” said Sarah. “Why would we need stasis to go to the Moon? We’re going to the New Home, Kepler something.” Sarah scratched her chin for a second, trying to recall the name the scientists had used. “Kepler-1649c. It’s like three hundred years away. And we’re not leaving family or friends behind–the whole compound is going. And the Ark has everything we’ll need to survive at the New Home.” The elevator finally came to a shuddering halt and the doors slid open. Sarah looked at Heady. He was looking back at her with an astonished expression. “Heady, I uh… I think you should come film the Ark with me. That’s why you’re here right? You came to film me… I mean Nikola’s Children. Before we leave. Right?” Heady nodded, but said nothing. His mouth was agape. “Fuck,” said Doyle. “I need to know where Kirsten is. How do I find that out?” Sarah thought for a moment. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to ditch the loser so she could bring Heady to the Ark alone. “Do you know how to use a computer?” she asked. “Follow me.” Sarah took a left out of the elevator and Heady and Doyle followed her down the corridor that led to her security office. If Heady had showed up even a couple weeks earlier, the halls would have been bustling with activity and sneaking two outsiders through the compound would have been unthinkable. But since almost everyone had already boarded the Ark, Sarah felt confident that she could keep at least Heady from getting caught. She wasn’t so sure about the moron in civvies, but that wasn’t important anyway. The two men Sarah had in tow were whispering to one another, but she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Doyle felt terrified and angry. From his research he knew the cult was up to something colossal and expensive, but he could never have conceived it to be something as outrageously stupid as what that Sarah girl had described. A space ship called the ‘Ark’ with some kind of cryogenic stasis chambers? A three hundred year trip to a new planet? This wasn’t fucking Mass Effect, shit like that wasn’t possible in real life. Right? “This video is going to go so viral!” whispered Heady. “Can you believe this? We’re inside the compound! This couldn’t have gone any better.” The two men trailed behind Sarah, trying to keep out of earshot as she led them through the claustrophobic concrete hallway. “No I don’t believe it. I don’t believe any of it,” Doyle whispered back. “Kirsten would never get mixed up in something so asinine. There has to be something else going on here. And who the fuck is this girl anyway? Why is she helping us?” Heady and Doyle passed between evenly spaced pairs of windowless steel doors on each side of the hallway as they walked. Sarah stopped at one of the doors and waved a card attached to a retractable cord on her belt at a panel on the wall. There was a quiet beep, and Sarah pushed the door open. She ushered Heady and Doyle through into a cramped room. Doyle thought it must be some kind of monitoring center–there was an office chair sitting on the other side of what looked like a metal desk with a grid of embedded monitors. “You, Boyle,” said Sarah. “It’s Doyle,” said Doyle. “Whatever. The computer in here can access the personnel records so you can look up that bitch you mentioned. There’s a spare key card in that drawer.” Sarah gestured toward a cabinet nestled under the console. “The pin is 1234. Think you can remember that, or should I write it down?” Doyle sat down at the console. He opened the drawer and fished through a pile of crumpled up papers and empty soda cans, looking for the key card. His hands wrapped around something slim at the bottom. He pulled out a small black book. Sarah saw what Doyle was holding and gasped. “Give me that!” she yelled. Sarah tried to grab the book from Doyle and knocked it out of his hand. The book landed open and face up on the console. Doyle saw what looked like sketches of some kind, but Sarah snatched it up before he could make out any details. “Oh my God!” cried Sarah. “This is personal!” Doyle scoffed. Did she think he cared about some girly diary or whatever that was? Did she think he’d make fun of her for sitting down here God knows how deep underground writing the names of boys she liked in a little black book when he had just learned that a cult had most likely brainwashed Kirsten with this nonsense about interstellar colonization? Absurd. Doyle felt the edges of his lips curl back in a grin or grimace, he couldn’t tell which–probably a bit of both. He let out a pathetic monosyllable of sad laughter. “Hwah!” “Don’t fucking laugh at me!” yelled Sarah. Doyle leaned forward and put his face in his hands. He stared through his fingers at Heady. Heady had put his hand on Sarah’s shoulder and was patting it, trying to calm her down. Sarah was red-faced, breathing in short loud gasps. How soundproof was this room? Doyle half-expected a platoon of armed guards to burst through the door at any moment. Sarah let out a deflated whimper, spun and pulled the door open, then disappeared back into the hall. The door clunked shut behind her. Heady and Doyle stared at one another blankly. “Shit,” said Doyle. “Heady, make sure she doesn’t do anything stupid. If it turns out this Ark thing actually exists, see if you can get it on video. Try to buy me some time on this computer, but be careful. Meet me back here and then let’s take that elevator the fuck outta here.” Heady nodded with a determined expression on his face. “This is gonna be epic sick!” he said. Heady lifted his phone to start recording again and stepped out into the hallway, leaving Doyle alone in the security office. Doyle returned his attention to the cabinet by his legs and managed to find the key card. He scanned the console and spotted what looked like a touch screen displaying a login prompt with a slot for the key card next to it. He inserted the card and entered the pin Sarah had told him. He was in. After tapping through some menus, Doyle found what he was looking for–a personnel list. He used an on-screen keyboard to type Kirsten’s name into a search box and watched dozens of names zip past as it scrolled to her record. Doyle scanned the screen for any mention of her location. If it said she was somewhere on the compound, then maybe he could get to her. His heart sank when he read the last line of her record. It listed her status as a single word in all-caps: ARK. Doyle groaned and started tapping the screen haphazardly, desperate to find anything–anything at all–that could tell him what ARK actually meant. There’s no way it meant what Sarah had described. The idea of Kirsten boxed up like a frozen pizza for delivery on a space ship to another planet was patently absurd. Wasn’t it? Doyle soon found his way to a list of documents that looked like they could be about the Ark. He tapped the first one and it asked him to re-authenticate. He looked at the key card sticking out of its slot, then yanked it out and studied it closer. It wasn’t Sarah’s picture or name on the card–the picture was of a man who Doyle guessed was in his late fifties, and had the name Jeff Jefferies printed next to it. What a stupid name, thought Doyle Tingler. What was Sarah doing with his card? He slid the card back into its slot and keyed the pin into the touch screen. The document opened. Doyle skimmed through the paragraphs of text and diagrams without understanding any of it. His focus zeroed in when he spotted Kirsten’s name. It listed the project that Kirsten had been working on as something named Project Deluge. Doyle was about to abandon the document, as it didn’t appear to contain any further mentions of Kirsten, but he stopped cold when he noticed two words that seared into his mind even stronger than Kirsten’s name. He read the words over and over, hoping he had been mistaken. But there the words were: Nuclear warheads. A sense of dread filled Doyle as he began to comprehend more of the document he had scrolled past. Blast radius diagrams, tonnage reports, target coordinates, fallout projections. Doyle discerned that Project Deluge comprised of at least ten nuclear warheads, to be fired back at Earth once the Ark had launched. What the fuck had Kirsten been doing? Feeling a sense of panic rising within him, Doyle reflexively wheeled the chair away from the console. He felt dizzy. His initial research led him to believe these people were crazy, and everything Sarah had said had confirmed as much. But this catapulted the cult to a level of crazy beyond comprehension. Did they actually have nukes? Had Kirsten actually built nukes for an insane sci-fi cult? A horrifying thought crossed his mind–was launching the Ark code for nuking the planet? Was this some kind of global-scale murder-suicide cult? One that wasn’t content in merely predicting the apocalypse, but intended to be its instigator? Was “stasis” a euphemism for… For… No. Fuck, no. Can’t think like that. Doyle stood up and rushed to the door. He had to find Heady and get out of there. He had to let the authorities know. He had to make them listen. Doyle pulled the heavy metal door open and peeked out into the hallway. Still empty as far as he could see in both directions. He took one last glance back at the office, and his eyes rested on the key card sticking out of the console. He grabbed it and shoved it in his pocket. He ran, searching for his friend in the unfamiliar concrete hallways thousands of feet beneath the surface of the Earth. Sarah led Heady through the hallways toward the Ark chamber. Heady followed a few steps behind and recorded with his phone. “This way, it’s not far,” said Sarah. “The Ark is really big, you can’t even see the whole thing at once. Half is below the boarding deck. Only the top half with all the stasis chambers is sticking out.” “What’s in the bottom half?” asked Heady. “I dunno,” said Sarah. “The computer and engines, I guess. Fuel for take off. Also all the supplies for the New Home, like temporary shelters and tools and stuff.” They came to a junction with a larger hallway. Sarah motioned for Heady to be quiet and they slowed down. Sarah peeked her head around the corner. “Good,” said Sarah. “It’s just Officer Wiebe, he’s a push-over. Wait here.” Sarah strolled around the corner, leaving Heady out of sight. “Wiebe, I’m relieving you,” said Sarah to the gray-haired officer sitting in a chair next to the Ark chamber doors. “Huh? I wasn’t told,” replied Officer Wiebe. This irritated Sarah. “I’m on Ark duty tonight!” she said. “So move it. Or do I need to call daddy and tell him you’re disobeying orders?” Officer Wiebe sighed. “Whatever,” he said. “I need to take a piss anyway.” Sarah watched as the old man walked away down the central corridor. She held her breath when Officer Wiebe paused briefly and glanced down the hallway where Heady was waiting. The moment passed after an eternity, and Officer Wiebe continued on his way down the central corridor. Once Sarah was sure that Officer Wiebe was good and gone, she exhaled and jogged toward Heady. “Holy crap,” said Heady. “I thought I was done for. I guess the disguise worked.” “Come on,” said Sarah as she grabbed Heady and pulled him into the central corridor. “Get your camera ready, that’s the Ark chamber up ahead.” Heady raised his phone and filmed the large double doors that Officer Wiebe had been guarding. Sarah retrieved her dad’s key card from her pocket. The card was one of a handful of spare copies she had “borrowed” from her dad over the past months. At first she had merely wanted to access the Ark’s hard drives; she needed to be sneaky since the Board of Directors wasn’t permitting cell phones or anything else that she could save her videos on to go to the New Home. It seemed fitting that the same key card that allowed her to preserve Heady’s videos would now also help her preserve the genuine article. Sarah pushed the doors to the Ark chamber open, and she and Heady stepped into the control room that overlooked the boarding deck. “Holy shit,” said Heady. A large glass window revealed the boarding deck to be a metallic floor hundreds of feet below the control room. At the center of the impossibly tall chamber was the Ark itself. The visible upper half of the Ark stretched through a hole in the boarding deck past the control room and towered above Sarah and Heady. Sarah looked far below to where a gangplank connected the ship to the boarding deck and saw there was one lit doorway remaining. Following normal procedure, after the next person boarded through that doorway, the ship would raise itself to reveal the next ring of vacant stasis chambers. Normal procedure didn’t apply anymore, though. One more chamber was all Sarah needed. She gripped her dad’s key card tight in one of her sweaty palms, and her own key card in the other. “Come on,” said Sarah. “You’ll get way better footage down there on the boarding deck!” Heady was still filming and staring dumbfounded at the Ark through the observation window. Sarah gave him a gentle shove in the direction of the control room’s elevator that would take them down to the boarding deck. She handed him her key card. “Call that elevator with this,” said Sarah. “I need to, uh… I need to make sure nobody else is down there.” Still looking dazed, Heady tore his eyes from the Ark. He turned to look at the elevator, then looked at the key card Sarah had handed him. Comprehension seemed to wash over him like molasses and he started shuffling toward the elevator doors. Once Heady’s back was turned, Sarah slid her dad’s key card into the launch control panel and tapped its touch screen. She couldn’t stand her dad, but she was grateful at least for his tendency to lose his key cards. She looked up at the Ark and realized that she didn’t even know if her dad was already on it or not. It felt strange to think she may never see him again. She returned her attention to the launch control panel. She decided on a one minute delay–that should be long enough to get Heady down to the Ark before the launch countdown started, which would set off alarms and alert the whole compound. Sarah rejoined Heady as the elevator doors slid open. “Coast is clear,” she said. Sarah followed Heady onto the elevator. He looked like a kid who had lost his parents in the supermarket. That was good, she thought. It will make this easy. She idly traced her finger around the edge of the concussion pistol in its holster on her thigh as the elevator doors slid shut. Commander Chin leaned back in the brown leather chair in his living quarters. He had scheduled an hour of leisure time starting at 21:00 hours and had only missed it by thirty minutes. He looked at the small pile of books on the table next to his chair. He was half-way through a book titled “Discipline and You” that he had hoped to finish before launch. But there was no way he’d finish it before boarding the Ark tomorrow, and the deadline for adding items to his personal storage allotment had passed weeks ago. Maybe he could just skim through the remaining chapters. The few weeks leading up to the launch had been more hectic and stressful than anything Commander Chin had experienced since joining Nikola’s Children three years ago. The level of alcohol consumption and partying that had gone down during the nightly Ark boarding parties had caused Commander Chin and his security team no end of problems. Hard to believe a bunch of science nerds and politicians could get so rowdy. Now that everyone but a handful of guards were already in stasis, Commander Chin had been enjoying his nightly relaxation time immensely. His doorbell sounded as he picked up his book. He sighed, put the book down, then got up and walked to the door. He pressed the comms button. “What is it?” asked Commander Chin. “Just wanted to inform you that Officer Jefferies relieved me on Ark Chamber duty, sir. Was wondering if you had a different assignment for me.” Commander Chin became confused. “Wiebe, is that you?” he asked. He pressed another button below the comms panel and his door slid open to reveal Officer Wiebe. “Yeah,” said Officer Wiebe. “I thought I had Ark Chamber all night, but now that Jefferies took it I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. Any orders, or can I hit the cafeteria?” What the hell was Officer Jefferies doing taking over Ark Chamber? That incompetent wouldn’t even qualify for latrine duty if Commander Chin had his way. Irritatingly, the Board of Directors wouldn’t allow him to fire the Commander in Chief’s daughter, or even transfer her to a different department. He thought he had found an acceptable compromise by putting her on perimeter duty, since the job practically handled itself through drones and sensors, but she even managed to screw that up on a regular basis; plus it meant she would be one of the last to board the Ark, so he was stuck with her straight to the end. He prayed that once they reached the New Home he wouldn’t have to deal with her anymore. “I don’t know what Officer Jefferies is up to,” said Commander Chin. “But you need to get back to the Ark Chamber now. She is not authorized to relieve you of that post.” Before he could respond, the radio on Officer Wiebe’s shoulder crackled to life. “Commander Chin, do you read me? I think… They got my… I don’t…” came Officer Thompson’s voice. He sounded disoriented. Commander Chin grabbed the radio off of Officer Wiebe’s shoulder and pulled it to his face, stretching its coiled wire until it was almost straight. “Officer Thompson? Is that you? Report!” He hadn’t heard from Officer Thompson since he went to repair the section nine surveillance camera with Officer Jefferies. He wasn’t entirely sure why, but a sense of dread started to grip Commander Chin as he waited for Officer Thompson to respond. “She shot me, sir,” came Officer Thompson’s voice. “Jefferies, she… They took my uniform. I think… I think she took them into the compound.” Commander Chin’s jaw dropped and he looked at Officer Wiebe, who stared back wide-eyed. “Officer Thompson, please confirm,” said Commander Chin into the radio. “Are you saying there are outsiders in the compound? With Officer Jefferies?” The silence that followed felt like it lasted a hundred years. “Yes,” came Officer Thompson’s reply. Commander Chin dropped the radio and sprinted to his desk where he could broadcast on the compound’s intercom. “All units, head to the Ark Chamber immediately,” he belted into the microphone. The lights in his room and the hallway behind Officer Wiebe dimmed. Klaxons started blaring, red and white lights flashing. That was quick, thought Commander Chin, and he wondered who had triggered the alarm. But something wasn’t right–this wasn’t the same alarm used during their security drills. This alarm meant something different… This alarm meant… His legs suddenly felt weak and Commander Chin dropped to his knees. Officer Wiebe took a step forward. “Sir? Are you alright? What’s going on?” “Go,” said Commander Chin in a strained voice. “Get to the fucking Ark Chamber now!” Doyle moved as quick as he could through the hallways while still keeping quiet, desperately searching each corridor for Heady, or at least some sign that Heady had been there, hoping against hope that he didn’t run into anybody else. Doyle started to get the impression that the hallways were all at slightly different angles, like spokes radiating out from a central location. He oriented himself and started moving toward what he hoped was the center, and eventually reached a hallway that was much wider than the others. By then he had lost all hope of ever finding his way back to the elevator. His only goal now was to find Heady. Once they were together they could formulate an escape plan. Doyle felt terrified alone. The large hallway ended at a set of enormous double doors. There was a key card scanner on the wall next to them. Doyle reached into his pocket. Jeff Jefferies, don’t fail me now, thought Doyle as he waved the card in front of the reader. To his relief, he heard a beep as the doors unlocked. To his horror, an angry voice erupted at him as the doors swung open. “All units, head to the Ark Chamber immediately,” said the voice. Doyle looked up to a small placard above the double doors he had just opened. “Ark Chamber,” it read. Oh, great. White and red lights started flashing in the hallway, accompanied by a deafening alarm. “Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit,” mumbled Doyle as he pushed his way through the doors. What he saw on the other side took his breath away. A large window revealed what could only be the Ark. A giant white pillar reaching up from hundreds of feet below to hundreds of feet overhead. Above the window was a large monitor counting down in giant white numbers on a red background. Whatever they were counting down to was happening in ninety-eight seconds. Doyle stepped closer to the window, forgetting the alarm and the countdown for a moment. In awe, he tracked his eyes down the full height of the Ark–from its conical top towering above him all the way down to the floor of the hangar below. Way down there, in front of what looked like a gangplank leading to a lit doorway in the base of the Ark, Doyle saw Heady. Heady had his hands raised slightly, and Sarah was with him. It looked like she was pointing something at him, and they were inching their way toward the gangplank. Doyle squinted and moved closer to the window. Was that her concussion pistol? “Oh, fuck,” moaned Doyle. He glanced around the room he was in, and spotted what looked like an elevator. He looked back up at the countdown. Sixty-two seconds to go. “I mean, that’s probably not what it looks like, right?” Doyle said to himself. Sarah had said they weren’t launching for another week. The documents he saw on her computer confirmed that. It had to be something else. It had to be related to the alarm he had triggered when he opened the doors–like a delayed lock-down or something. If that was the case, he had to act fast if we was going to save Heady. He rushed to the elevator and used Jeff Jefferies’ key card on the scanner next to it. The countdown continued and the sirens blared and Doyle tapped his foot as he waited for the elevator doors to open. Heady backed away from the madwoman pointing a gun at him. “Trust me,” said Sarah. “You’ll love it at the New Home.” “It’s not that I don’t trust you,” said Heady, desperately combing his mind for any idea to stall. “I just, you know, like Earth. All my fans are here.” “Your fans? Who cares about them? You’ll have me!” said Sarah. She briefly pointed her pistol back at herself to make her point before turning it back on Heady. “I’m your biggest fan! And you’ll make new fans. We both will. We can make videos together!” Heady glanced back over his shoulder at the light shining out of the doorway at the base of the massive Ark. The doorway that Sarah was clearly shepherding him towards. “Can’t we talk about this?” asked Heady. “I mean, we can make videos here, too. I’m sure the rest of my crew would love you. I could show you the studio, introduce you on the channel, you could even make your own videos.” Sarah paused, her pistol lowered slightly and she stopped moving toward Heady. “Really? You’d introduce me on your channel? Like as a friend, or… Or maybe as…” “Sure!” said Heady. “I think the fans would love you! We could go to the studio right now!” Sarah shook her head. “No,” she said. “No there’s no point. Earth is doomed. The New Home is the only way. You can make a new studio. You and me. We could be… We could even… I mean, I’m a girl and you’re a boy… Right?” Heady’s panic renewed as Sarah started moving toward him again. He took another step back and heard a metallic thud as his foot made contact with the gangplank. His eye caught some motion behind Sarah. Something was moving near the far wall where the elevator was. It was hard to tell in the dimly lit hangar, but it looked like a man. A man who was running toward them. Heady squinted and looked past Sarah at the figure as it approached at a blurring pace. “Doyle?” Heady said. Sarah smirked and shook her head. “You think I’m gonna fall for that?” Before Heady could answer, Doyle screamed out “Geronimo!” Sarah spun around at the sound behind her. Doyle grunted as he tackled Sarah head-on. Heady dived out of the way as Doyle and Sarah tumbled past him, then watched from the ground as Doyle tripped on the gangplank, falling forward and taking Sarah with him through the glowing doorway into the Ark. Almost as soon as they were through, a metal panel dropped from above and the doorway sealed itself shut. Heady stood up and moved toward the Ark. All signs of the entrance had vanished–the surface where the doorway had been a moment ago was now smooth. “Doyle!” Heady cried, and slammed his fists against the ship. “Dude can you hear me?” The ship started rumbling, then the entire hangar. Heady stepped back from the ship. The rumbling intensified and Heady had trouble keeping his balance. Hot smoke blasted up around the walls of the Ark through the circular gap around it, forcing Heady to retreat further. The hangar floor separated, bisecting along a line that ran the length of the hangar through the Ark. The two halves of the floor moved slowly apart as more smoke blasted violently through the widening crevasse. More and more smoke filled the hangar and Heady found himself lost in a sea of swirling white. A pinpoint of movement appeared above him–a dark, distant circle, gradually expanding. The circle contained stars. The hangar’s ceiling was opening to the sky. A blast of intense heat and a booming explosion knocked Heady over. He scrambled to his feet and ran away from the center of the Hangar as fast as he could, helped by a strong, searing hot wind that buffeted him from behind. The sound was deafening. Then the roaring ceased. The floor stopped moving and shaking. Heady felt numb, and was vaguely aware of arms grabbing his shoulders and men yelling as the smoke began to thin out and blow around him in temperamental wisps. He stared. In the place where the Ark had been there was now a thick column of gray smoke. Heady followed the pillar of smoke with his eyes, up through the gap that had opened in the floor, up through the center of the cavernous hangar, up through the giant hole that had opened to the surface far above, and up into the starry night sky beyond.