A Dialogue For An Age
The button was a cliff, and Burton knew pressing it would be to step off, not only for Burton, but for everyone.
Burton sat at the console. A constellation of other dials and holojectors and interfaces flickered around her, but they were small hills, tiny eddies in the landscape of choice that had very suddenly become an undefined slope, a y=0.
Casey sat beside her, only a meter or so away. He leaned back in his chair, as if to doze. Maybe he thought if he feigned disinterest in the cliff, it would go away.
No. Casey knew. And Burton knew. This cliff would never erode, never fade, and now it was cliff surrounding them on all faces. Their shoreline had become a sheer-faced island.
Above the console lay the sea--a deep, black expanse that framed the lit globe hanging. Treform, the enemy vessel, the enemy world.
Looking down it this way, from her blinking, shifting judge's seat, Treform did not look so different from Earth, from all the other worlds in the vast catalogue. That blueish-white sheen, that atmospheric frost that sheathed the planet, the climatic cotton clouds, the green and tan and blue arranged in a tectonic mosaic.
But Treform was different, because this item was not typical, it was listed in the compiled cosmos as very and most definitely atypical.
And Treform knew this to be so, and so Earth and Treform were at war. Were.
Burton tore her gaze from the Enemy and their vast Sphere. "T-minus eighty," she read aloud from a counter just below the button. The cliff approached.
Casey sat up, pushed a number of other buttons, adjusted a host of other dials, all the while avoiding the cliff. Not ignoring it, never forgetting. Orbiting. "Systems nominal. Payload is calibrated and primed."
"T-minus seventy." Obligation for the next seventy seconds met, Burton retired her hands to her lap, where they mated, met in a frantic, secret, writhing, desperate intercourse, fingers interlocking and unlocking, knuckle over knuckle, wrist rubbing wrist.
Casey sighed. "In seventy seconds, we'll be in the history books. We will be the history books."
Burton turned her head to look at him, careful not to turn her chair and uncover the anxious lovers. "We already are."
"How do you figure?"
"We made the choice a long time ago. Back in basic training. Back in school. We both wanted to be here, part of all of it, didn't we?"
Casey said nothing, but his shrugging shoulders admitted all.
"Does it matter, then, that we push the button now?" Burton's hands had ceased their dalliance.
Casey turned away from her. "No, you're right. It doesn't."
Burton also looked down. "T-minus twenty." She suddenly felt very...dizzy. Micro-gravity suddenly became the vertiginous, foreign sea it had been in her training years. She stood, steadying herself on the control board.
"It does. And we can't."
Casey stood also. "Burton--Amy! Are you alright?"
She looked at him, clutched his shoulders. "Is this the way we end it, Casey? In flame."
He slouched. His features, his body, his being grew flaccid under the weight, the pull, the dark gravity of the cliff. "Amy...they've killed just as many of us. They're killing more right now." He looked back at the control board. The buttons flashed green. They had reached the cliff.
"Us or them, Burton. We both knew where this was going."
He pressed his button. And what choice did she have, light-years from home, light-years from any real humanity left, years from a different path, another age, a better way.
Burton jumped, and Treform burned.