Saturday, March 19, 2011

Lost Convoy, Part XVI: Jim Brewer

When he was a younger man, before he was ever married, or had ever even thought about it, Jim Brewer had been a lot like how he pictured Clive Lockwood. He kept mostly to himself. When he did meet his wife and he did start a family, it was as if he took them into himself, treated them as if they were extensions of that favored, private life that he kept locked away from the rest of the world. But the difference was his personality. He was one of the most amiable people you could ever meet.

To watch not just the world but Jim's entire world crumble around him would have been heartbreaking, to witness every detail of those final days. This is what had been occupying his every waking moment since the frigate took off, trying to ignore and forget everything that threatened to unmake the man he had always known himself to be. And yet, that was what had motivated him to distraction, to look at clocks and see how he could be useful, because he couldn't face what remained when everything else was (and had been) taken away.

Everyone around him had some level of a sad story, because that was what humanity itself had, not just some of it, but all of it, all of humanity. He struggled to think, to grasp, the magnitude of the whole planet all of mankind throughout history had called home, in so many languages, so many different times, no longer being there. He tried to count in his mind the number of ships that had been part of the fleet, the one he was now separated from. No matter how many there were, how big that fleet was, many, many people had died. He had no business feeling the slightest bit of gratitude for being spared, for being one of the survivors. There were so many more people dead than there were alive, a population of billions...He tried to guess how many there were now. He had no doubt humanity would survive, even if he wouldn't, if all his best efforts, and those around him, brought the fleet back together, made it whole again. But he wondered if humanity now numbered only in the thousands. Perhaps a million.

He had looked about in wonder, too distracted to take in every nuance, but marveled at all the efforts displayed on monitors throughout the launch site. There were ships for every nation, or every region, as far as he could tell, from the United Kingdom, from China, from Russia, from all the obvious places, and many he found himself surprised to see represented. He had lost track of the developments in the space program over the years. It had been too long since anyone seemed to care, too long since there had been a reason. Yet when it really seemed to count, money had no longer been an issue, not when it was literally the difference between life and death. He wondered only briefly in those moments how many species would be lost forever, if someone hadn't thought to fill some ship like Noah's ark, two of every animal...

Every moment for the past week at least Jim's mind had been racing with a million thoughts, and it had never slowed down, even when everything seemed to be going right. That's what made him look at clocks, and that's what motivated him to seek the pilot out one more time.

As it turned out, Kim Jones, the flight attendant, must have been having the same thoughts.

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