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Planet Earth Just Blew And There's Nothing I Can Do

Matthew F. Amati is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His fiction has made a few appearances in Daily Science Fiction, as well as in Flash Fiction Online, The Cafe Irreal, and The Fabulist, and the recent Across The Universe anthology of Beatles-themed science fiction stories. You can find a list on his diffidently-updated website mattamati.com.

Speckled darkness where the Earth used to be.
Such a privilege, to watch from the deck of the Titanium Elite Royalty Lounge.
There are only twenty-three of us permitted to walk these marble floors. We are the elites of the global elites, the monarchs, moguls, and multi-billionaires who had the means to purchase top-tier tickets on the starliner Hope of Mankind.
On the deck below us (Diamond Executive Class) are a larger contingent who'd been massively wealthy, but with assets that averaged only in the low billions. Below them, eleven decks of the progressively less affluent, ending with a steerage crowd of got-rich-quick techies, hoteliers, and one or two pop stars.
The Hope of Mankind, bearer of the last humans in the universe.
A month ago, Comet Matsushita-Berenger 15 slammed into Earth with the force of an angry God, leaving nothing but charred rock.
In the panicked run-up to the catastrophe, only one ark was made ready. They could have built more, but it took time to appoint the upper decks of Hope of Mankind with amenities suitable for the super-wealthy.
We'd be traveling, so they told us, through Alcubierre Space, heading for something called a Goldilocks Planet. I didn't understand the sordid details, honestly. Carlos tells me that it will take a year to get to this Gliese whatsit, and that the most capable, hardworking cream of humankind will populate the new paradise.
As Carlos and I tuck into our meal of Pheasant Almandine, I express fervent hope that this straitened shipboard life will be over soon.
There's been an unforgivable mistake. The galleys have run out of the meals for the Titanium Elite Royalty menu. No more pheasant, no more lobster. There was supposed to be enough Chateau Lafitte Rothschild '63 to last the journey. Gone.
"It's all right, Alice," Carlos says. "We can subsist on the Diamond Executive menu. It's perfectly fine steaks and chops."
"That's not the point," I inform him. "We didn't pay billions so that we could settle for less than the best."
Diamond Executive meals ran out days ago. So, in short order, did Gold Star Voyager deck's truffle pastas, and then Silver Cosmonaut's "comfort foods." I finish my last morsel of Tomato Beef Creme Pate (meatloaf, as any idiot can see) and I wonder what indignities they'll foist on us next.
Carlos asks the Digital Assistant what Business Traveler Plus (eight decks below) are eating. "Mindi" replies serenely that they're on the freeze-dried turkey. And below that? Mindi professes not to understand the question.
"The water in the shower smells like urine." Carlos follows up with Mindi who says we're now on "recycled" water. Unacceptable! To think that standards have sunk so low!
As a pioneer, I expected hardships! But nothing like this! I chew a mouthful of poitrine de dinde reconstituee, and my thoughts are dark indeed.
"Rats," Mindi says reluctantly. The Global Star Lounge (lowest deck) has run out of food entirely. They are technically dining on rats. Of course, the Culinary AI prepares this rodentine fare so artfully that the rat-meat looks and tastes exactly like pheasant.
I shriek. How did rats get aboard the Hope of Mankind? What kind of third-rate nightmare steerage cruise are we on, anyway?
Rat, when prepared properly, rather does taste like pheasant.
It's all over. The worst has happened. Culinary AI has brought us Filet of Global Star Lounge Traveler in a urine-wine reduction. I'm so hungry that to me it could pass for pheasant. Mitzi assures Carlos, myself, and the rest of Titanium Elite Royalty class that there are enough lesser souls below to feed us lavishly for the rest of the voyage.
Worse and worse. The rabble have breached gate security. Our lounge is flooded with pet-food CEOs, gamblers, Silicon Valley types, and even (lord save us) a "rapper."
I worry they'll be angry at us for eating their kin. The more "tech" minded seem preoccupied by something else. They point out the windows.
There's a ringed planet in view. So? That's Saturn, a ponytailed individual tells me. We're supposed to be halfway to Proxima Centauri, but we've only reached Saturn, a fraction of the distance. The Alcubierre Drive must have malfunctioned.
We are going nowhere. The food will run out. We will die out here.
Tears and lamentations from our fellow voyagers. It was bad enough that ordinary humans died out. Yes, we know, they were tedious little people, laboring away their lives, without the foresight to provide for themselves in the event of planetary catastrophe. But we can't go the same route! We are the global elite! The job-creators, the ones who rose above it all, to walk the empyrean realms of world influence! We told governments what was best for humankind! We were the designers of societies, we were the shapers of 21st-century Earth! We were the only ones fit to recreate Earth on a new world.
Death looms in the coldness of space.
Can it be worse?
Oh my, yes.
Ponytail's found a digital receiver in storage.
On a television screen, we see a news broadcast.
From three days ago.
The Earth? Still there, apparently.
The Comet? Missed.
Humankind? Still noisy, vulgar, preoccupied with tacky celebrities.
But we're saved! We can go home! Come on, Ponytail, tell Earth Command what happened, have them send a rescue ship!
Earth's in the middle of some global realignment, apparently. Spreading money around--our money! The money we bought our berths with! They're building schools, hospitals, passing "fair wage" laws, making the economy more "equitable." "Ensuring," some tightlipped PBS socialist snipes, "that the world's wealth will never fall into the hands of the few again."
We, the few, are all up here. We're in trouble. They must know that. Ponytail searches the ship and can't find any evidence whatsoever of an "Alcubierre Drive."
And our plea for rescue? They've surely received it.
We hear only the hiss of empty space.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, September 7th, 2020

Author Comments

I started thinking about what a small group of space travelers would do if there suddenly was no Earth to return to, and then I started wondering upon whom I would wish such rotten luck, and this story came out of that.

- Matthew F. Amati
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