*The Other Shoe Drops

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OOC Date: April 7, 2011
IC Date: January 11, 2128

Captain Ramesh and Commander Eisley are the first to receive the final transmission from Earth.

The EAV Genesis, Conference Room

A large room dominated by a massive table set with 25 chairs - twelve on each side and one at one end. All of the chairs that surround it are the same, plushly padded swivel chairs with moderately high backs and comfortable armrest except for the one at the far end, which has a higher back and bears a Captain's insignia. Built into the surface of the table is a computer console at each seat, allowing everyone present access to the ship's computers via the tablet like terminals that seamlessly integrate the tabletop. At the opposite and from the Captain's chair is a giant plasma screen that runs the width of the wall and can be used for presentations of all kinds. The lighting here is slightly dimmed, subdued, but bright enough to function easily.

Captain Ramesh sits in the Captain's seat at the conference table, the chair turned to look out the viewing windows rather than at the table or the screen across from it. His chin is in his hand as he stares out at space in silent thought. At the sound of the door sliding open he calls out without looking over, "I had Eve scan as far and wide as possible for any other signals while we're waiting. Contacting Earth is easy for us, since we know where it will be relative to us when we send a message. Contacting us, however, is far more difficult. I thought it possible that they have been trying to contact us, or tried to contact us previously, and we did not receive the message due to the speed of travel and constantly changing location. It would appear that I was correct." He turns the chair and gestures towards the giant plasma monitor across the room from him. "Eve," he calls out softly, "On screen."

"Sir," says the Commander as she steps into the room. She remains by the door at a position akin to attention, which ratchets down by degrees as she takes in the display and his mood. The somberness of it echoes into his words, and the breath she lets out is probably audible even across that distance. Still, she says nothing: instead she moves to the seat she has become accustomed to, at his right hand. Nothing else is said yet, though she turns slightly wary attention on the screen.

"Yes," Eve chimes in reply. "Original broadcast date, July 12, 2124."

The screen comes alive, the face of Admiral Colin McNally appearing. He's dressed, however, as the Secretary of the Navy. It appears that someone got a promotion. "This message is for the crew of the EAV Genesis, Secretary McNally transmitting. Two weeks ago, we lost contact with the research vessels in orbit around Jupiter and its moons. The entire fleet went silent all at once. Four days later, the main colony on Mars, New Hope, was attacked by an alien species without warning. The colony was not taken - they were testing our defenses and getting a feel for how we would defend ourselves. We amassed the entire fleet around Mars as well as the path between it and the Earth and awaited the next attack, but it took a while to come."

Alas, Commander Eisley has been anticipating this news. It's been a long time coming - years, in fact - but that delay does not make this any easier to bear. Comprehension of what this means is instantaneous and it shakes her out of her usual professional calm; she goes white, then almost gray, one hand lifting up to cover her mouth. There are no words to speak right now; this is probably just to keep in a sound of genuine horror.

The Secretary looks tired and haggard, the stress of the job and the current situation written clearly upon him. Eisley would know him to be a good man, and a good admiral. It was under Mcnally that she and Ramesh first serve together around Mars. He would make a damn fine Secretary, and give humanity a much better chance of survival than Mansfield would have.

"At first we thought it might be the Givers, as their technology was similar to what we were given. We've since discovered that this species salvaged it from them by force. Mansfield was a fool. The original Signal contained information about the coming attack but the old man hid it from anyone outside of his circle, which included the Premier of the Alliance, his personal friend. Apparently decided that such a threat could be taken care of, and instead of building ships at the size and specs given as fast as they could, they funneled all of our resources into terraforming and colonization along with the military industrial complex in an effort to bulk up our defenses. It seems that none of them wanted to confront the reality that the Earth needed to be abandoned. They wouldn't let it go, and they wouldn't let anyone else know about it. They've doomed us all."

No, hearing this is not a surprise, but lack of surprise still does not make the information easier to receive. For a moment Eisley's expression flashes over to anger, restoring a hint of color to her, but it is fleeting and quick to drain away. It is hard to be properly wrathful at a dead man, and Secretary Mansfield surely got what was coming to him. Too little, maybe, and too late. Then of course there is the confirmation that Mansfield knew what was coming, and that they chose the wrong option when presented with two choices. Her hand curls into a fist, nails into palms, but it remains in front of her mouth, stopping up a torrent that might even surprise Mono.

A dry, humorless laugh rumbles out of the Secretary. "We knew about this threat since 2112, a full 12 years. We could've build a dozen of those ships at the full size by now. Twelve million people could have been spared. It probably would've been all of the rich and powerful, like Mansfield and his cronies, and people like you and I would have been left behind, so I'm not entirely sure I find this to be a bad thing." He makes another dry chuckle, this one with a slightly malicious sense of humor, or perhaps a sense of righteous indignation. "By the time we discovered what was really going on, completely by accident and pure luck, there wasn't anything we could do. It took almost 10 years to build the Genesis, and we don't have 10 years. At the time I'm sending this, Mars and the Moon are completely lost. They're basically Devourer hunting grounds. A free range preserve, if you will. We've built up the last of our defenses around the Earth and have held them for the moment, but we know they aren't really trying. They won't make a serious push at us until their food supply is dwindling. Until then, we're basically prisoners in our own homes."

"I'm sending you this message to let you know that we think we may have found a hole in their perimeter, and apparently Mansfield did have one other ship like the Genesis built in secret here on Earth at a smaller size than even the one tenth scale. It can carry 30,000, and we're populating it with all of the best scientists, doctors, engineers and the best of the best in other fields like the arts and education in the hopes that they might find somewhere to make a seed colony. We have to assume that you're still on your way to New Eden, which has been compromised, and that your mission will fail as a result. If you receive this message in time, do not continue with your course. I repeat, do not continue. If we're lucky, maybe two beacons of hope can light humanity's future. Good luck, and godspeed."

The screen goes black.

For several long, awful moments, Eisley says nothing at all. She merely stares at the screen as if she could look through it into space, letting this latest, greatest bit of bad news percolate through her mind. Proper decorum got lost a long time ago, evidently, as indicated by her first comment. "So much for my New Years' resolution to stop drinking." Her hand drops to the table, still balled into a fist, but she finally looks toward Ramesh. "Is there any way at all that we can contact the other ship?" A solitary ember of hope flares up, though she scarcely seems ready to embrace it.

Ramesh shakes his head, his expression grim and resigned. "No," he replies. "It would have launched four years ago, and we have no way of knowing in what direction it went or what its destination was, if it even had one. We only picked up the signal because we stopped to look around for it. It's quite possible that they would not receive or even notice a message if we sent one. There were no further broadcasts, at least not that we've found, so we don't even know if they had a chance to launch the ship before the final invasion came."

And, like that, the spark is snuffed out. "I suppose that explains why he was in such a hurry to send us on our way." The words are bitter; Eisley cannot find it within her to be grateful for the lack of delay for any reason. "I suppose this confirms what the Snails' last message indicated. Which means…" Speaking the last words is impossible. They do not come, and so there is only an exhale before she shuts her eyes.

"Which means that we have to assume that we are the last of humanity," Ramesh finishes for her. "We can hope all we want that the second ship made it out, that somewhere out there right now are 30,000 more human beings in search of a new home, but we cannot put any weight behind it or alter our mission to go look for them. If they launched right in front of the Devourers, then they were in all likelihood followed, and without the benefit of cloaking technology such as we will soon have. Maybe they made it out and got far enough away to lose them, and maybe they will find a planet to settle on and rebuild with the best and brightest of humanity. We can hope." It's left unsaid, but the population of the Genesis is not exactly the best or the brightest of humanity. "We have to go forward on the assumption that we are it. We're all there is. In that case, we have to go where we have the best chance for survival and long-term sustainability."

Eisley swallows. Straightens. Squares her shoulders and lifts her chin. Her eyes harden; it is a bit like watching ice form over a pool, steeling the blue. Both hands have balled into fists now, nails into palms, adding little bloody crescents to the bruises she put there when the -first- bomb dropped. "Yes, sir." The words are clipped. It's a defense mechanism. "Lieutenant Commander Kurokawa provided a preliminary report earlier this afternoon. The FTL drives are operational; the cloaking device will take another week to bring online. At this point I recommend engaging the former and making haste for the wormhole." As reports go, this one is delivered with perfect calm, somber and reverent but just a -touch- on the cold side, as if she had somehow managed to isolate herself from the revelation to give it.

Ramesh nods once, scratching his jaw and the beard that has grown there. "I'm simply going to send that broadcast to all of the awakened crew members on their com units. There's no need to convene a meeting just to show them this - it will simply devolve into more bickering and angst, and we aren't ready to make a final decision just yet, anyway. I think it best to allow everyone to learn of the loss of their home in private, so that they may mourn as appropriate."

"…agreed." Eisley nods, though only once. "I am not certain that this information will change anyone's mind, but I have not yet met with all of the senior officers." And almost everyone else is still in stasis, so it might not matter anyway. She inhales and holds that breath.

The Captain makes a few quick pokes at his com unit, then lowers his hands to the table once more. Commander Eisley's com unit immediately beeps in indication that she's received a message. He nods once more, his expression a strange mask of neutrality and deep thought. His is not the expression of a man who just learned that he lost his wife and children. "I will make the decision when the time comes," he replies quietly. "Until it's decided otherwise, I'm still Captain of this ship, and final decisions rest with me. I will, of course, seek the counsel and advice of my crew where their areas of expertise lie, but it will not be a vote that determines our fate." He blinks once, shifting his gaze to look at his Commander. "Do you object, Commander?"

"Most of us have already lost everything anyway, Captain." This reply might be a little bit sharper than Eisley meant it, but he has been just a little bit too easy-going about the family scenario and it has not ever been lost upon her. She likely realizes just how short the statement was and quiets in the next beat to add, "You are still Captain until you demonstrate yourself unfit to retain that position. As I recall, you authorized Dr. Jackson to relieve you of duty if you prove otherwise, and as Executive Officer…" Well, technically she could do it too. Check, balance. "Either way. In the mean time, we should not remain where we are. If the transmissions were intercepted…"

"I had no way of knowing that this would happen when I brought them aboard," Ramesh states simply, his gaze firmly locked on hers. "I knew an Indian woman, a widow with two young children about the same age as mine. I encouraged her to sign up for the Genesis program as they were refugees living in camps ever since the war ended. I told her that I would purchase their places in the stasis tank and switch their identities with those of my wife and children. Ten years of advance hazard pay at a Captain's salary would set them for life. I officially divorced my wife, allowing her to go into seclusion with the children and switch places with the woman and her family. The day that they were to report to the ship to be put in stasis, I had an intelligence officer that is an old friend of mine man the station but they would be checked in thorough and fake their fingerprints and genetic information so that they could make it on board. The woman, now posing as my wife, emptied the bank account and disappeared with her children to live off the money." Still he holds her gaze, open and honest, unafraid. "I wasn't proud of what I did even as I did it, but my wife would not let me go without them, and raising a family on a small ship cleaning the atmosphere scrubbers of the Moon is no way to live. I feel even more guilty knowing what I now know, that I literally bought my family's survival while everyone else on this ship has lost theirs. Guilty, but not sorry. I would do it again in a heartbeat, as I'm sure that you would in my place."

Eisley does not answer, either to confirm, to deny, or even to acknowledge his explanation. Her eyes remain hard, expression schooled into absolute neutrality. It is brittle though; anyone with even a scrap of command experience ought to recognize just how close to cracking she is. It is for this reason, perhaps, that she rises stiffly to her feet and straightens up again. "Permission to be dismissed, sir."

"I leave this with you," Ramesh states, removing the Captain's insignia from left breast and his uniform and setting it on the table. "I will place myself in stasis for the duration of the mission under you as Captain if that is your wish. You have the authority to make that decision and I will respect it. I told you what I have told you because I do not wish to keep secrets from my XO. If I'm to trust them, they must trust me as well."

He then rises from his chair and steps past her, heading for the door of the conference room.

"…Captain," says Eisley after he's gotten maybe… three steps. "I only have the authority to request you to step down in the event that you prove to be a hazard to the ship, its crew, or its cargo. You haven't. I am no less honored now to serve under your command than I was when first appointed to this ship, or when I served aboard the Columbus." She reaches out to touch the insignia, but only to push it in his general direction. "I don't want this." There are so many ways that statement could probably be taken, and she might well mean all of them.

Ramesh stops, turning his head to look down at the table as the insignia slides over towards him. One hand reaches over and gently plucks it from the tabletop, lifting it to study it for a silent moment, then encloses it in a fist. "I don't think that any of us do," he answers quietly, resuming his path to the door and stepping out.

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