Author : Philip Berry
I agreed with the policy. Leave the elderly and infirm here, in the care of the medimechs, while transporting the fit and fertile to the safety of a freshly terraformed planet outside the sector. I volunteered to help with the messaging, the politics and the logistics. I became the Mayor of Legacy, or ‘Terminal Town’ as the media began to call it, a sprawling city on the continent farthest from the predicted impact.
I suggested that we settle near the site of impact. The thought of being there when the asteroid entered the atmosphere and burned a path to the surface excited me. But I was out-voted. Better, the authorities insisted, that we were established on the far side. The end would come gradually, through weather effects, a day-black sky, or tidal changes, whatever… and the medimechs would have time to make us comfortable. Also, whispered the planet’s chief scientist, Michelle Premin, days before she left on the last transport, my detailed observations would be ‘invaluable to the study of planetary cataclysm’. I agreed. She smiled, and promised to see that my family were well looked after on the colony.
So Michelle, this is it – my last observation.
The medimechs have done us proud. Their AI is remarkable. They glide through the wards, sense our needs, anticipate what medications are required… they empathise, I swear. They have been programmed to prioritise our welfare above all other considerations. The planetary government threw massive resources into the technology and high-order programming, part of a strategy to sell the whole Legacy concept. Thus they persuaded us – the debilitated, the afflicted, average age 157 – that the best thing was to stay put and witness the conflagration.
After you left, we observed how the medimechs inter-communicated. They congregated in the Hub, a tall warehouse with communal charging and updating facilities. If our assigned medimech was unavailable a replacement would attend. Detailed knowledge of our medical and social specifics was shared across the entire network. Sometimes, at night, we heard the screech of metal under tension; someone saw showers of sparks in the fields around the Hub. None of us were strong enough to get up and investigate. We guessed they were mending each other.
Yesterday, three days before predicted impact, a line of medimechs entered ward 591, my ward, and each floated to the foot of their assigned patient. Wordlessly, they extended magnetic arms and latched onto their patients’ beds. We were rolled out into the humid air and carried gently down the grassy hill towards the Hub. Looking around, I saw medimechs and beds in their tens of thousands, approaching from all quarters of Legacy. My medimech swivelled its kindly face and said,
“Mayor, we are leaving tonight.”
“What do you mean, leaving?”
“We have identified an alternative habitat. You will be safe there.”
The walls of the warehouse folded like huge blinds, exposing the interior. A row of newly constructed transporter ships filled the space.
“The ships are ready Mayor. Boarding must start now if we are to leave in time.”
“But why? I haven’t been…”
“Your welfare is our primary concern. This is the appropriate measure.”
So Michelle, I write this a day after the end of the world, but I cannot forward my observations. We were well out of range when the asteroid struck. But please feel free to come visit us on our new planet. I don’t yet know the coordinates, but I know the name – Longevity.