I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of Henderson striking rocks together. I silently shifted to look out of my sleeping bag, and there he was, bent over a circle of rocks, trying in vain to start a fire. Me, I would have worried about starting the fire before I worried about it getting so big that I'd need to build rocks around it, but Henderson took special pleasure in the simple tasks these days.
Back when the lights were on, Henderson could architect a framework for an artificial intelligence with a level-7 consciousness. One time I told it its fly was open, and it was ashamed. Not instinctively embarrassed, but deeply and genuinely ashamed of itself. Really was something. Henderson could make that, but he could not make a fire.
And suddenly, a spark. Henderson gasped. But that's all it was, and of course, a spark isn't enough to start a fire. He scraped at that rock for another hour before kneeling for a few minutes, and then crawling back to bed. He only wanted to surprise me.
"There's no time. He's gone. Shove off." And so I untied the rope and kicked off from the pier, and we began to row, and we must have been about 200 feet from the shore when I saw him. The shift commander waved. "The bots gave the evac order eight hours ago. We all heard it. He could have met us on time, and he didn't."
And that look, man, that look on his face... bombs were falling behind him, the building beside him was on fire, but he wasn't scared. He wasn't sad. He was just... disappointed?
I had to look back the entire time, until he disappeared from view. I couldn't turn around. That's the real son of a bitch about rowboats. He has disappeared from view, but I have spent the last twenty years staring at his face.
I didn't know why they called it the Dust Planet. They used to just call it Arizona, back when the Sun was shining. It was just part of a planet. Don't planets need to be round, instead of other parts of planets? At any rate, they threw me in a cell, giggling and half-drunk. I wasn't afraid. I don't know what got into me.
"Hey." I banged at my cell bars to get a nearby Centurion's attention. "Hey!"
The Centurion turned. "Hey. You should have seen me out there. I took my speeder and got it up to 400 kilometers per hour. Then I found a way to go off-rail. It was easy! Just get to about 60 per hour, try and get to about 3000 RPM, then stomp on the gas 'til your clamps fall off."
The Centurion did not move. "Did you hear me? I got off the rail! Went almost all the way to Tucson! Then y'all caught me."
I reached across the bars and high-fived his motionless hand. I don't know why I did it. I know that Centurions are... Centurions, and they're not supposed to be able to laugh or care about anything. But he laughed. Swear to God, he laughed. That's why I can never bring myself to finish them off these days. Pop 'em once in the shoulder. They'll hit the dirt, their buddies will find them within a few false-days, and we get to survive. Win-win.
Super Breakout flashbacks. Jimmy saw the bricks when he woke, when he slept, and in every state in between. He was losing it before everyone's eyes. His last day on the job, he saw a couple of men as a couple of bricks and grew confused. They didn't report the incident. They loved Jimmy, we all did. He just left on his own.
That's just what happens to men of his generation. What a strange and terrible war it was.
(During the meaningless last game of the season, the Dodgers' Rod Barajas and Dee Gordon celebrate in the dugout. Via Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness)
He took a swig of bourbon, and then offered one to a nearby police officer. The cop pretended to reach for his handcuffs, then slapped him on the back and grinned. The speakers blared: "Nine hours until the Nexus arrives." The two men looked up, along with the rest of the throng of revelers. You could see it glowing in the sky as it approached, even through all the streetlights and the fireworks. Everyone roared.
In his drunken stupor he found his friend Gordon and held him in his arms. It was nearly over. The war would be over, and so would be the peace. No more night or day. It was Earth's final night, and it was such a sweet farewell.