This story is for the Star Wars Galaxies MMO, which closed this week. Rest in peace.
“Crimson, do ye read me? This is Thorin. Get out! Get th’ hell out, now!”
“What do you think I’m trying to do”, I shouted into my helmet mic, banking hard around a jumble of boulders. “I’m heading for the spaceport now!”
I didn’t look over my shoulder. I didn’t need to. There was literally nothing to see. The sheet of black that was sweeping across the face of the planet absorbed light, matter, energy, and turned it into nothingness. It would have been less terrifying had it been roaring and rending the earth, but the annihilation of the planet was proceeding in utter silence.
I spotted the spaceport in the distance, and kicked the bike into overload. The power plant couldn’t sustain this sort of punishment. I loved this bike, and I was destroying it. It didn’t matter. Unless I made it to the ‘port ahead of that curtain, then me and the bike and the priceless data I was carrying were going to be erased as if we had never been.
This close to the city, the buildings formed a tangled maze, as if laid out by a drunk with a serious straight line phobia. I twisted and jacked the bike around, never letting up on the throttle. Faces blurred past me, people standing on their balconies, watching the curtain draw near. I felt like slapping them and telling them to run, but there was no time left.
“What’s going on?” barked the voice in my earphones. “Crimson, are ye still there?”
“Thorin, SHUT UP!” I screamed all my rage and terror into the mic, just to push it aside and keep it out of the way so I could save my ass. The spaceport was looming up ahead, and even from this distance I could see the doors crammed with people, surging forward in a stampede, only to break against the reinforced doors.
I banked the bike hard and settled to the ground. Even if the doors were open, there was no way I was going to get past that crowd before the dark curtain swept through and obliterated the people, the port and the ships.
“No good, folks,” I said into the mic. “I can’t get to my ship. I’m uploading the Codex now.”
I punched a button that would transmit the coded text I had come here to retrieve, and turned to face my approaching doom. “Hard to judge how long I’ve got… maybe five minutes, maybe less. Get word to my sister. Tell her… tell her I’m proud of her.”
There was no response from the radio. An indicator glowed red in the corner of my vision… I’d blown out the mic yelling at Thorin. Shoddy Imperial technology.
The curtain drew nearer, and I embraced the Force. I was no Jedi, but I had enough experience with other forms of power to channel a bit. Enough for comfort. For calm. For acceptance.
The curtain swept down upon me.
My body began to fade, motes sparking within my form like a beam of light through glitter.
And then I was gone.
I was fading back into existence, the glittery process reversed, and I found myself standing, unsteadily, on a hard translucent pad in the transporter room of the U.S.S. Auric. There at the transporter console was Thorin Ironbeard, very dapper in his Star Fleet uniform, grinning at me like a Cheshire cat.
I crossed the transporter in two bounds and laid him out flat with a right cross.
“You’re welcome,” he said, spitting out blood.
“ARE YOU INSANE?” I yelled, “ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND!?! Tell me you did NOT just bring a Federation starship cross-dimension into the Galactic Empire!”
“What I did, young lady, wuz ta save yer ungrateful hide. Now kin I git up, or are ye gonna deck me again?”
I clenched my fists, and noticed they were shaking. Rage, fear, imminent death… it used to be fun, once upon a time. I leaned back against the bulkhead and tried to get myself under control.
“Thorin,” I said, as calmly and reasonably as I could manage, “Federation and Empire are not compatible technological spheres. Bringing the Auric here was stupid. The anti-matter containment could have failed. The hull plating could have just ceased to exist. Hell, there is NO way the transporter should have worked at all!”
“But it did,” said Thorin. “I ain’t stupid, Crimson. We ran th’ models, science and magick both. With this dimension comin’ apart at the seams, we wuz able ta force a pocket of Federation space in and extend it just far enough to git a lock on ye. The odds wuz… well, they wuz good enough to take a chance fer one o’ th’ family.”
I… well, I’m a mercenary, you see, and I haven’t cried since I can’t remember when. The sudden stinging in my eyes was due to a malfunction in the life support systems. “Thank you, Thorin,” I said.
Any hugging that ensued at that point is entirely off the record.
Later, alone in my cabin, a safe number of dimensions away from the end of the universe, I tried to mourn. But I couldn’t. It was too big, too abstract. How many millions of lives, how many billions, just wiped away as if they’d never been? How many voices stilled?
But I felt as if… they weren’t gone. I can’t explain it, but it’s almost as if I could feel, for just a moment, the vital force that animated each of those lives, and they were all still alive and well… somewhere. Somewhere in a galaxy far, far away. Or maybe as close as the thickness of a computer screen.
And maybe that’s just a comforting delusion. But I’ll take it.