Gideon Plock Sr. sat alone in a darkened room. The gentle illumination from the screen displaying a green and blue Earth cast him in a ghostly light, making his features seem almost ethereal . He stared at the image of the lush earth, watched it as it slowly changed, its atmosphere grew grey and thick with sickly ominous clouds that seemed to swarm over the planet. The lush greens slowly shriveled away, replaced with browns and greys, eventually there was almost no green left. The oceans had changed color as well, no longer were they brilliant hues of blue, they were the same uniform and lifeless dull grayish brown.
Gideon liked to sit in this room when he was busy second guessing his decisions and blaming himself. The secluded room filled with monitoring screens had become a private shrine to his own self loathing. A laboratory where he could quietly explore the depths of his own self hatred, surrounded by reminders of his failures. Over the last six years or so, he had spent a great deal of time here.
The image mocked him from the screen. He could change the image manually anytime he wanted simply by altering the variables that went into the simulation. He could have displayed anything he wanted to see on these screens, even images directly from his own mind, but he saw no point in doing so. He never saw a point in it, he knew what the truth was, how long it had taken to happen was really a moot point.
He had left millions of people back on Earth to die in what he had believed was ultimately the only way to save humanity. Even worse, the blood of thousands of children was on his hands, he had been unable to find a way to safely ferry children through space. No matter what he had tweaked, what variable he changed, the result had always been the same. Any child between the ages of 5 and up to 16 had developed severe issues upon exiting the simulation. He had seen everything from the slow onset of debilitating schizophrenia to near instant and seemingly permanent onset of a vegetable like catatonic state. After that it had been taken out of his hands, why waste valuable stasis pods on bodies that would be essentially functionally broken when they arrived. He had been unable to save those children, all their blood was on his hands.
Unconsciously he changed the image of the view screen. It now displayed an idyllic field filled with wildflowers. In the distance sat a small white home atop a mound of green in the sea of color. It was his home. The home for the two people he had selfishly tried to save, regardless of what he knew would happen to them both. He had smuggled them both onto the ship knowing that his wife would likely die when he tried to envelope her in the stasis field, and his son would most likely suffer from any number of conditions once he left stasis at the end of their journey. He had brought them both aboard anyways, he considered what waited for them on Earth if they stayed to be far worse than the risks.
Some people had wanted to ride out the coming storm in great underground shelters. Great cylinders driven deep into the earth and equipped to be completely self contained and self sufficient if maintained properly. The idea had looked attractive at first, but when one looked at severity and nature of the problem they faced, even a fool of a man would have realized it would not have been enough.
What kind of man was he anyways? After sacrificing his wife to a machine and ensuring his son would have nearly impossible hurdles to overcome later in life he had cast them both aside. And to make matters worse, over the last six years he had spent less and less time with his family, especially his son. He knew that his wife was not real, but Alice had done such a good job with emulating her via program that he sometimes forgot she was really dead.
In secret, even unbeknownst to Alice, he had used the network to create mental imprint of himself and a program to emulate his personality from that imprint. He used the program to stand in for himself when he wanted to get away from his family, which became more and more frequent. Soon his guilt over what he had done to them grew to the point that it was all he could feel or see when he looked at his son and emulated wife. He had not only failed all those children, he had personally killed his wife and crippled his son.
And now he sat here alone in the dark as the simulation and the ship came apart around him. His personalized data streams painted a fairly clear picture of the situation for him. The ship had passed through some kind of magnetic anomaly which had severely interfered with with Alice’s EMT cores. There were things he could have done that would have helped the ship and the simulation stay held together, but why bother? If he was unable to save the children of earth, if he was unable to save his own wife and son, how could he expect to be any kind of savior to these people? Besides Alice seemed to be getting the situation under control.
He collapsed to the floor, his body heaving in great sobs, making it difficult for him to speak, but that did not stop him from from mumbling to himself. He sounded more like a pewling child than a grown man as he mumbled, he blamed the medical researchers back on Earth. Claiming that they took everything away from him, foul curses aimed at the those same researchers generously flowed from his lips. He damned them, blaming them for taking everything from him.
Not even realizing what he was doing it his hand slid into a nearly invisible black box that lay just behind him on the floor. In his sorrow his fingers knowingly slid along the the cool plastic casing of a long cylindrical object. He wrapped his fingers around the object, just holding its familiar shape helped to subconsciously soothe the turbulent state of his mind.
The screen in front of him abruptly shut off, leaving complete and total darkness as his only companion. The darkness inspired a child like fear in the emotionally fragile man, and he shrieked like a frightened babe as he was left helpless and alone, trapped with his own thoughts and guilt. He gripped the object in his palm tighter, as if he hoped he could squeeze more comfort from it.
He scrambled to his feet, rapidly issuing commands across several mediums, frantically hoping that he could bring the screen back to life or pierce the crushing darkness. Nothing seemed to work, he quickly made for the door, clumsily kicking the box of short tubular objects over, spilling them across the floor. He pressed his hand against the activation panel, attempting to will the door open but it was unmoving, indifferent to his desperate need to escape this chamber and himself.
He quickly turned and scrambled back into the room, and his footing failed him. He felt himself falling through empty air. He thrashed, twisted, rolled, and contorted as he seemed to endlessly fall. He wondered why he had not struck a hard surface yet as he felt his body continue to plummet uncontrolled. Somewhere, from the back of his mind, a great sonorous tearing noise reached him, fractions of a second after the rumble reached him, his world winked out.