One.

The last human. The last chance.

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1. 1.

We’re in the control room. The faces around me seem contorted and leering in the heat, and the odour of sweat that drifts to my nose does nothing to add to the nausea I feel from what we are about to do. The lights dim, leaving only the emergency bulb, flashing continuously as if to pace the low rumble of voices, and casting a red glow over the men and women who sit on their metal seats, frantically typing commands to the main system. The man next to me, pig-like in build, hair clinging to his forehead and eyes bulging, taps his foot repeatedly onto the floor in some kind of constant rhythm that resembles the marching of soldiers into battle.

    My fingers suddenly feel sticky, and too late I realise that I’ve been clamping my fingernails into my arm, so that now blood wells up from beneath my skin and spreads over the grey material of my uniform. I’m getting jumpier now, and try to calm my nerves. From behind me, I hear a hastily muffled sob. I turn round to try and silence the person before anyone else hears, but not before our commander stalks over to do the same. I whip back to face my monitor, my fingers scrambling to return to my work. Muffled voices come from directly behind me and the sobbing intensifies. My fingers dance across the keyboard now, inputting the equations necessary for my assignment. The sobbing cuts off instantly and I hear the commander stroll away. As the smell of burning flesh pushes it’s tendrils up my nose, I shudder, resisting the urge to empty my stomach of my last meal.

    The clamour of hasty fingers on keys and the low groan of voices builds until a crescendo is reached. It feels like pressure is building in my head, and I struggle to let out the breath which sits unmoving in my lungs. The commander shouts once over the racket, a harsh sound that instantly flings the room into an expectant silence.

“471, input the ignition number.”

I tilt my head sideways to see the man on my other side grin eagerly at the announcement of his role. Relishing his new power, he taps slowly at keyboard, drawing out the tension into one sinuous, yet brittle substance.

“Press enter, 471.”

His eyes sparkling with adrenaline, the man looks up from his typing, and catches the gaze of the commander. Without looking away, he slams his index finger into the button and the tension snaps. I force out my breath.

    An explosion is heard from outside our metal prison. The eyes of my team are wide as they sit in silence, listening for the next. It comes, louder than before, and then another, then another, and then another. More and more go off until the room is filled with a constant noise, rather than dozens of separate ones. I bite my tongue when I realise that this is happening around the globe.

    We all sit straight and in silence, counting down until the final blast in our area. That’s when the shouting starts. A young woman from the corner closest to myself jumps out of her chair and starts yelling in urgency.

“There’s a breach!”

We sit staring at her, not yet comprehending the significance of this.

She repeats it again, her voice louder this time and cracking with panic, “Sir! There’s been a breach in the pod. The systems are failing.”

I choke on nothing and watch the commander rise silently from his chair and fix the woman with his sharp eyes.

“Sit back down,” he says, voice steady and body rigid.

“But Sir, we have to fix it!” Her voice becomes hysterical, and she struggles to bring it under control. Under the influence of the sense of the impending danger, I feel admiration for her. I would have broken down by now.

The commander seems to get taller.

“I said sit down. There is nothing we can do. The systems are down, we are down.”

    The temperature starts rising at an alarming rate. The woman in the corner sits down, fists clamped at her side, as does the commander; eyes blissful and seemingly uncaring about his fate. A person shouts abuse, but no one does anything. We now know that we’re about to die. Despite this, I feel strangely calm. The man 471, who carried out the final command earlier starts to laugh, not pausing for breath, until his voice becomes higher and the laughter more shrieking. The temperature is unbearable now, and with it comes a hissing noise that starts in the vents above our heads. Our pod is no longer airtight. The noxious gases and radioactive material from the outside are coming in. Slowly at first, then at a faster rate, as if frightened that their victims would get away if they penetrated the prison any less quickly.

    All at once, I begin to lose my awareness of the people around me. Surely the chemicals can’t affect me this quickly? I try to swim out of my stupor, intending to help to find a way to save us, but I know that it’s impossible. This realisation hits me like a blast to the head. Living is impossible. The acrid smell of vomit penetrates the fog in my brain. At once I realise it’s my own, and attempt to lift my arm to wipe it from my mouth. I can’t. My nervous system is shutting down. Screams barely register. My mind is a cacophony of emotions, each one battling for its right to overwhelm me. My eyes close, stinging sharply and probably bringing tears to my eyes. I don’t notice. A vice closes around my chest, as I fight to inhale. Just as I start to fade I hear a bang all around me. My body is burning. The pod has exploded. I’m shunted into darkness.

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