End of the World

by Graeme


Admiral Joshua Riley gazed at the peaceful beach scene. He had always found the view of waves gently caressing pristine white sands to be restful, but for once it wasn’t working. His rigid stance, with hands clasped firmly behind his back and shoulders squared, was better suited for the parade ground than for his office.

“Administrator Riley is requesting entry,” the computer announced through the earpiece in his left ear.

“Permission granted.”

Joshua didn’t turn as the door behind him slid open.

“The meeting is about to start, Sir.”

“Don’t you wish you were back there, Chris?” Joshua asked, nodding at the beach.

Chris Riley recognized the change from professional to personal demeanor and moved up next to Joshua. He slipped a hand around his partner’s waist. “I got a vmail from Stan.”

Joshua twisted his head at the change of topic. “What did your brother have to say?” Stan Irving lived not far from the beach they were watching.

Chris rested his head on Joshua’s shoulder while staring at the beach scene. “He told me he had just finished shooting his kids and wanted to say farewell before he did the same to himself.”

“What!” Joshua wasn’t sure if he was more horrified by the news or by Chris’s emotionless delivery of it.

“He looked shocking. He had the marks on his face and he said his kids had them, too. Mary died yesterday and he wasn’t going to let his kids suffer the same way. He broke down as he told how he almost couldn’t do it – Ivy was the hardest. She just stared up at him, he said.” Chris turned his head away from the beach. “Can you get rid of that?”

“Computer, switch view to camera six.” Joshua pulled Chris into a bear hug. Chris’s body started to shake as the beach scene was replaced with the sterile moonscape panorama from a camera twenty yards above them. “I thought they’d be safe. The south Pacific is a long way from civilization.”

Chris snorted. “Safe? I don’t think anywhere on Earth is safe.”

Joshua reflected on his brother-in-law and his family. He recalled the last time he had seen the sweet little Ivy. They had been to the island to celebrate her third birthday, only a few months earlier.

“Did he say how they got infected?”

“Does it matter?” Chris asked. “Maybe it drifted that far in the wind? Maybe some bird carried it to the island? Either way, all of my family is dead.”

“With most of the rest of the world.” Joshua sighed as he held his partner close. He suspected Chris needed the physical reassurance as much as he did.

A moment later, Chris pulled himself out of Joshua’s grip. He wiped his eyes, straightened his coveralls and then forced his expression back into neutrality. “Your meeting is starting now, Sir.”

“Thank you, Administrator,” Joshua replied, recognizing that Chris needed the formality to help him cope. Being honest with himself, Joshua realized he did, too.

They left Joshua’s office and headed to the conference room. Joshua stumbled twice along the way because of the lower gravity — he still hadn’t mastered the smooth-gliding stride of the experienced moon dwellers like his husband. Chris steadied him. “Slow down, Sir. It wouldn’t do to take a tumble. Not good for morale,” he said after the second time.

Joshua grunted. Morale was already the worst he had ever encountered in a military career that spanned more than twenty years. He had applied for the transfer as commander of Armstrong Base partially to avoid another three-month separation, and partially in preparation for early retirement. The transfer involved a bump in grade even if it was generally regarded as a dead-end position. Joshua had made enough enemies within the Navy that he knew at the tender age of forty-six it was time to go, and that had seemed the best way to maximize his benefits. A wry smile appeared on his face. It had turned out to be a lifesaving position, but one that had more responsibilities than he had expected.

Joshua returned the salutes of the two Marines that were standing guard. The mere fact that they were there was disturbing. After Dr. Prentice had gone crazy and slashed three people before cutting his own throat, Joshua had ordered guards placed throughout the moonbase complex.

“All right, everyone. Let’s get started,” Joshua said, without waiting to sit down. “Mr. Kyobi, tell us what you’ve learned.” He took the seat at the head of the table and stared at the Polynesian information specialist.

“Why are we even bothering to find out what happened?” Claudia Breton asked. “It’s done, and we have to live with the consequences.”

“Because, Ms. Breton, if we know what happened, we might find a way for us to return.” Joshua ignored his supply and inventory manager and returned his attention to Ty Kyobi. “Well?”

Ty looked around at the other eight men and women before fidgeting with the hand-held display in front of him. “As far as we know, it all started with an escalation of hostilities in the Kashmir area. I received several files of information from the CIA, Mossad and MI5 before they succumbed, and I now believe that the escalation was instigated by a third party.”

Wendy McCafferty leaned forward. “Who?”

Ty shook his head while avoiding eye contact. “I’m not sure, but I can make guesses. With the world’s attention on India and Pakistan, China took the opportunity to try to retake its rebel province. It’s not proof, but they sure moved fast.”

“But China was the first to be hit!” Wendy said.

“That’s because no one expected Taiwan to retaliate with nuclear weapons.”

“What’s this got to do with where NHF came from?” Claudia Breton asked, her tone showing her disgust.

“Tracking information from military satellites showed that one of the missiles went off course and landed on the Korean peninsula instead of mainland China.”

“Military satellites? How do you expect us to believe you when you make up sources like that?” Claudia rose to her feet. “I’m not wasting any more of my time. I’ve got work to do.”

“Ms. Breton, sit.” Joshua’s command snapped across the room. She froze before dropping back into her seat and scowling at the Admiral.

“After I sent out a broadcast saying that we were clean and we wanted to know what had happened, almost every military and intelligence agency in the world opened their files to us. Over half added a note asking to know who the bastards were that did this, and telling us that vengeance was in our hands. Information from the military satellites is the least of what we got.” Joshua nodded to Ty. “Continue.”

“Thank you, Sir. It appears that the stray nuke damaged an old biological weapons cache in North Korea. With the influx of military and diplomatic resources into the region because of China’s actions, the virus infected a large number of people who then distributed it around the world. Neo hemorrhagic fever is an airborne form of the Ebola virus that can tolerate a wider range of environmental conditions than the original, with an incubation period of about two weeks. As we all know, the Koreans are… or were,” Ty stumbled over his words, “excellent geneticists. Information from the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta indicates that NHF was genetically modified. By the time anyone knew what was happening, it was too late. The virus had spread to every major population center in the world.”

Joshua’s attention faded as the briefing continued. Despite what he had said, he privately agreed with Claudia. It didn’t really matter what had happened — the consequences were so dire that most human beings on the planet had either died or were dying. If the Chinese had had a moonbase, he might have been able to get some answers, but China had become insular over the previous two decades and had not joined in when the other economic powers established space colonies.

Scott Base in Antarctica was still clean, but they would be able to survive for no more than a few months without outside supplies. The situation was similar with other isolated pockets of humankind around the planet. The largest groups, and the only ones with long-term prospects, were those on the moon.

Knowing that shock was going to be a major problem, Joshua had immediately organized a number of projects to keep everyone busy. Ty Kyobi was reporting on just one of those tasks, and as the commander, Joshua had to make it look like it was worthwhile. He would have another meeting that day to talk to the group that were trying to find a safe way to rescue the other survivors.

Joshua glanced across at Chris. He took in the stoic expression, but also noted the white knuckles on the hands of his partner. The news about Chris’s family was biting deep. Joshua’s parents had passed away over a decade earlier, and Chris was the only family he had left, but he realized that Chris’s pain was being repeated throughout the personnel under his command. Preventing his group of survivors from giving up was an even bigger challenge than rescuing the people from Antarctica.

* * *

“Any word from the other bases, Chris?” Joshua asked while pushing back his chair and stretching.

Chris glanced away from the camera. “I’ve received an acknowledgement from the Russians, and the Japanese would like to speak to you at your earliest convenience. No response from the Europeans, so far.”

Joshua looked at the list of things still to be done and then rubbed his eyes. The list was getting longer by the day, not shorter. “Call Hiro, Chris. Let’s find out what he wants to say. It would be a good idea to pool our resources — political and economic differences aren’t important, anymore.”

“Yes, Sir.” Chris’s image was replaced by a ‘please wait’ message.

Joshua frowned. Chris was becoming increasingly formal and distant during the day, while at night he was madly, almost frantically, passionate — but with minimal conversation. If it weren’t for the fact that Joshua was exhausted every night, he would have been trying to find out what was going on. Instead, it had become just another thing that was pushed down the list by higher-priority issues.

“Hiro Takasomi is ready, Sir.”

“Thank you, Chris.” Joshua paused before hitting the button. Hiro had always been an enigma to him and he was crossing his fingers that the Japanese commander wouldn’t be playing any more games. While the Americans and Russians had chosen military personnel to head their moonbases, the Japanese had chosen a distinguished psychologist in his late twenties to lead their smaller group. The Europeans had selected a career diplomat.

“Hiro! It’s good to see you again,” Joshua said as the video image of the dapper young man appeared. Hiro was wearing a kimono, which was normal, and a Rising Sun headband, which was not.

“Greetings, Joshua-san. I am very thankful that you are able to speak with me.”

Joshua caught the double meaning and decided it wasn’t the time for polite chitchat. “Same here, Hiro. However, I’m up to my eyeballs in work, trying to keep things going, so I can’t chat for long. I was told you wanted to talk to me, so shoot.”

Hiro bowed his head once. “I wish to formally place myself and what is left of my people under your command. We are ready to move out and join you at Armstrong Base as soon as you give permission.”

“What?” Joshua shook his head in disbelief. “Why?”

Hiro sighed. “We are not a large group, as we have always been more technologically focused. Alas, we have insufficient numbers to sustain ourselves long term, and the numbers decrease almost daily. The ancient tradition of seppuku has been revived. I have commanded that anyone who suicides must do so in the medical center so their body can be preserved. It is the only way I can see to keep my people alive.”

“I don’t understand. How can letting people kill themselves keep them alive?”

“My people understand. I cannot stop them from joining their ancestors, but I have declared that their genes belong to humanity. The ovaries and testes are extracted and preserved after they have finished. Even so, I fear we have insufficient genetic material to avoid the end of our part of the human race.”

“What are you talking about?”

Hiro raised his eyebrows. “Surely you have thought that far ahead? The only hope for humankind is the creation of a permanent colony here on the moon. Children are essential, but we need a gene pool that is large enough to avert inbreeding.”

Joshua shook his head. “I’ve been so busy just trying to keep things going, I hadn’t thought about it.”

“My sources indicate that you are trying to keep everyone so busy that they don’t think about what has happened. Surely you realize that children would be a prime motivator for many of your people?”

Joshua grimaced as he realized that Hiro was right, but that would confirm the abandonment of Earth — at least for the foreseeable future. He hadn’t been willing to admit that to himself until Hiro had forced him.

“Returning to my original request. May I place myself and my people under your command?”

Joshua was prepared to say yes, but he was curious. “Why us, instead of the Europeans or Russians?”

Hiro bowed his head. There was a long pause before he looked up, his normally calm demeanor cracking. “The Russians are still having personnel problems, though Natasha-san is getting on top of them. An influx of new people would disrupt the balance she is creating. The Europeans… the Europeans are no more. One of their environmental specialists decided to take everyone with him and released poison into their atmosphere.” Hiro’s gaze dropped to his desk. “That was when I knew I had to act. My people cannot last much longer. There are too few, and they need to know that humanity is not finished.”

A lump formed in Joshua’s throat. He had only met Jacques a couple of times but he had taken an instant liking to the Frenchman. “Come here as soon as you want. I’ll tell the appropriate people to expect you.”

“Thank you, Joshua-san. We will be there in six hours.”

Joshua was reaching out to disconnect when a thought struck him. “How do you know all these details? None of my people have said anything to me.”

Hiro gave him a faint smile. “It no longer matters, but my government placed all the other bases under surveillance. Purely to try to ensure an economic advantage, of course, which is now pointless.”

Joshua nodded. He suspected that the CIA had done the same, but that information hadn’t crossed his desk. “Thanks for telling me, Hiro. I’ll get things moving from this end.” He ended the connection.

“Chris, I need you to organize something for me.”

“I’ve already started, Sir. Hiro requested that I listen in on the conversation.”

“And you didn’t tell me?” Joshua felt angry at the breech of trust.

“My status was shown on the bottom of your screen, Sir. I’m cleared for all security matters, after all.” Chris maintained his formal tone, but Joshua sensed a coldness that hadn’t been present earlier.

“I’m sorry, Chris. Yes, you’re right. I just would’ve preferred to have been told.”

“Yes, Sir. I’ll remember that for next time.”

The image cut off before Joshua could say anything.

* * *

“Thanks for speaking with me, Natasha.”

“It’s my pleasure, Joshua. It’s nice to spend a few minutes talking to someone who isn’t either complaining or trying to maneuver for more personal power,” Natasha Petrokov replied in her Oxford English accent.

Joshua paused to take in the Russian commander’s appearance. Her hair was in its usual tight bun that had always reminded him of one of his old high school teachers, but there was a haggard look in her eyes that reflected the stress she was enduring. Joshua suspected that if he peered hard enough into a mirror, he would see the same thing.

“I spoke to Hiro a couple of hours ago and he’s moving all of his people here. He said that his base is too small to remain viable. He also told me what happened to the Europeans.”

“Yes.” Natasha shook her head sadly. “It was a terrible tragedy — one that could’ve been repeated. One of our technicians went crazy and attacked the main environmental controls. It is good that we like to over-engineer — it didn’t take long to fix, and the backup unit coped well while those repairs were made.”

“Is there anything we can do to help? To be honest, I’m trying to keep my people as busy as possible, and I would be doing myself a favor if I sent a group over to assist.”

“Sorry, Joshua, but that would be unwise at this point in time. There are people here — influential people that I can’t ignore — who would take that as a sign of weakness on my part and move to oust me. I wouldn’t mind handing things over if I thought they could do the job, but I know they only want power, not responsibility.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. I’ve got my own problems handling staff, but at least I don’t have anyone who wants my job.”

Natasha snorted as a smile played on her lips. “I believe you Americans have a saying — those who want power are the least suited to have it. You are lucky.”

“Lucky? I’d love to hand this off to someone else, but I can’t. There’s too much at stake.”

“Very true, and that’s another problem for me.” Natasha pushed a stray hair back from her face.

Joshua raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

There was a pause while Natasha worked at her computer. A dialog box appeared on Joshua’s screen, asking him to accept the request to make the connection secure. He immediately clicked “yes”. He hadn’t expected to need an encrypted channel when he’d initiated the call.

“Have you spoken to Hiro about long-term plans?” Natasha asked.

“You mean children?” Joshua had been thinking about the subject, but was struggling to see past the immediate problems. He wondered why the topic would require a secure line.

“Yes. I have reluctantly decided he is right. There is no better way to motivate most people than to make them responsible for a child.”

“Then why did you say ‘reluctantly’? Even I can see the benefits, though I’m balking at the short-term logistical problems.”

Natasha grimaced. “Because I will have to do my duty, too. Forty is old to be a first-time mother, but it is not exceptional. I can handle those who say that I can’t be in command while pregnant, but the choice of the father is a dynamite issue. There are those who would be mortally offended if I didn’t pick them, or picked a rival of theirs. If I went for someone who didn’t have political ambitions, I would be making him a target.” She glared at Joshua, but he could tell she wasn’t angry with him. “Choosing a lover should not be a political exercise!”

Joshua frowned. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I’m going to have to do the same, aren’t I? At least it will be obvious to all that I won’t be choosing a long-term lover.”

“True — everyone knows how devoted you are to your husband. If only I had the same. I’ll need to choose a man who is acceptable to the power brokers, who won’t undermine my authority, and won’t become a target for those who think they can manipulate me through him.”

Natasha and Joshua straightened at the same time. They stared at each other.

“Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Joshua asked.

“Are you offering to become the father of my child?”

Joshua gave a wry smile. “There would be some details to sort out — the one time I was with a woman when I was younger I was unable to perform — but if it would help, I’d be honored.”

Natasha laughed. “We can work around that.” She paused and her forehead wrinkled as she considered the suggestion. “I’m sorry — it’s better than many of the other options, but there would be those who would take it as subjugating myself to you. If you are willing to help, there may be a better way. If I chose a junior member of my community, would you be willing to have him join you at Armstrong? That would safeguard him from attacks.”

“Of course! Would it really be that dangerous for him?”

“Probably not, though I wouldn’t rule it out. His main danger would involve being dragged into the schemes of my political rivals, and that could become unhealthy.”

* * *

Claudia was outraged. “Are you saying that all of us women are supposed to become brood cows? Is this what more than a hundred years of women’s rights has come to?”

“I’m sorry, Claudia, but we’re talking about the future of the human race. We need to keep the gene pool as large as possible.”

“Fine, then someone can bear the child for me. We’ve got the technology to do that. I’ve got too many things to do to be pregnant.”

“Sincerest apologies, Madam Breton, but that will not be possible.” Hiro was sympathetic but firm. Joshua had asked him to coordinate the work required in preparing the moonbase for children. They were having their first meeting with the senior staff. “We do not have a sufficient level of medical supplies to do that in any but the most critical of cases. Reproductive technology must be reserved for those people who can otherwise not conceive.”

Claudia Breton glared around the room. Her gaze settled on where Chris Riley was sitting with his Japanese counterpart, Sakura Matsuno, before she turned her attention to Joshua. “And I suppose you and your husband are just going to get someone pregnant and leave them? Women’s rights go out the window, but gay rights remain — is that the way things are to be?”

“Survival takes priority over rights, Ms. Breton. We will do our best to be fair, but we must preserve our gene pool if we want humankind to survive.” Joshua dropped the stern tone. “Even Natasha Petrokov, the Russian commander, recognizes this. She will be trying to get pregnant, too.”

“I didn’t go through eight years of education just to be turned into a baby factory. You can’t make me do this.” Claudia crossed her arms and stared down her nose at Joshua.

“You will still be able to continue your vital work, Madam Breton,” Hiro said. His unflappable demeanor amazed Joshua, who was ready to throttle his supply and inventory manager.

Joshua let Hiro handle the rest of the meeting.

* * *

Joshua slipped into bed. It was the first time in several days that he had felt like doing more than just crashing. The arrival of Hiro Takasomi and the Japanese contingent had increased everyone’s workload initially, but things were settling down. Joshua was having problems with Claudia, who was sniping behind his back about his being a dictatorial misogynist, but he was waiting to see if the complaints would die down.

When Joshua reached for his husband, Chris rolled away.

“What’s wrong?”

Chris grunted.

Joshua slid closer and tried to put an arm around his partner, but Chris shrugged it off. “Leave me alone.”

“Can we at least talk about whatever it is that’s bothering you?”

Chris turned over. Joshua was surprised to see that he appeared upset, not angry.

“Just leave me alone, Josh. It’s nothing to do with you.”

“Then what is it?”

“I said, just leave me alone!”

Joshua rocked back. “Okay, but you know you can talk to me when you’re ready.”

Chris stared at Joshua for a couple of seconds and then lay on his back and stared at the ceiling. “Josh…”

Joshua waited.

“Josh, it’s over. I’m sorry, but I can’t stay here anymore.” Chris slipped out of the bed and started to pull on his clothes.

Joshua jerked up into a sitting position. “What are you talking about? Why is it over?”

Chris paused before he pulled on his shirt. He reached over and put a hand on Joshua’s bare shoulder. “It’s not you, Josh. I’ve lost my family — I can’t get Stan’s vmail out of my head. When I listened to your conversation with Hiro before he came here, that gave me the answer. I need a family, Josh, and you can’t give me that.”

“Aren’t we a family? We’ve been married for twelve years. Doesn’t that count?”

Chris shook his head. “I didn’t think you’d understand — you’ve never had brothers or sisters. I need family around me — I desperately need a new purpose in my life — so I’m moving in with Hiro’s assistant, Sakura Matsuno. We’ve agreed to start a new family. She needs this as much as I do.”

“But you’re gay, Chris.”

Chris pulled his shirt on and picked up the rest of his clothes. He sighed as he stared down at Joshua. “You gave the answer to that yourself the other day. Survival takes priority. In my case it’s not only mankind’s survival, but my own sanity.” He paused. “I do love you, Josh, but you’re no longer what I need and I’d hurt both of us if I tried to stay.”

Chris was halfway to the door before Joshua recovered enough to respond. “Wait!”

“It’s too late, Josh.”

“We can start a family — just the two of us. We can! There’ll be women who won’t want to raise their own kids — we can do that for them. They could even be our biological kids!”

Chris shook his head. “That would work for some, but not for you. You’re not going to able to be a real father anytime soon — you’ve got everyone else to look after. You’d never have time for your own child. I wish it could be different, but I can’t make you change. Goodbye, Josh.”

“What about work?” Joshua kicked himself mentally for the question as soon as it escaped.

“I’ll be there, don’t worry about that. Bye, Josh.”

Joshua slumped back into the bed that suddenly felt cold and empty. He thought about chasing after Chris, but he knew in his heart that his partner wasn’t going to change his mind. Chris had always been close to his family.

“But I need you for my sanity, Chris,” he whispered.

The next morning, Joshua arrived at his office to find Chris already working at his desk. Joshua put his hands on the edge of the desk and leaned forward. “Chris, about last night…”

Chris’s face showed no emotion. “You have a visitor waiting in your office, Sir. I think you should see him right away.”

“Can we talk about it, please?”

“He’s waiting, Sir.”

Joshua was rattled enough that he didn’t think to ask who was waiting. He was glancing back over his shoulder at Chris as he entered the office. It was only as the door slid closed behind him that he focused his attention to the front.

“Hiro. What are you doing here?”

“Excuse me, Joshua-san, but we need one more person with us this morning.” Hiro pushed some buttons and the window display changed to show Natasha Petrokov in her office. “Greetings, Natasha-san. We are ready to begin.”

“What’s going on?” Joshua asked, frowning as he looked first at Natasha and then at Hiro. He noticed that the link to the Russian base had been secured.

“I will explain now, Joshua-san. This is important and cannot wait.”

“I’m waiting, too, Hiro,” Natasha said. Joshua noticed her fingers quietly drumming the top of her desk.

“It is an important time and a time for plain speaking. We are the last major survivors of humankind.”

“There’s still the group at Scott Base,” Joshua said.

“And we’ve picked up some signals from an amateur radio operator in Siberia and a few others scattered around the world,” Natasha added.

Hiro bowed formally to Joshua and then to Natasha. “You are correct, but Scott Base will not last, and those survivors of NHF are too scattered to allow civilization to survive. We are the only ones who can do that.”

Joshua pursed his lips but nodded his acceptance of Hiro’s judgment. “So?”

“I am sorry, Joshua-san, Natasha-san. We cannot survive as two colonies. We must become one.”

Natasha shook her head. “It is too early to speak of that. We’re not ready.”

“I understand, Natasha-san, but part of your problems — and yours, too, Joshua-san — is that your people are not convinced that you fully anticipate the future. You need to convince them that you are putting humanity first.”

Joshua narrowed his eyes. “What are you getting at?”

“We need to merge the bases. We need to show everyone that our leaders are doing the right thing.” Hiro paused and stared challengingly at the other two. “We are at war for our survival. Sacrifices must be made. There is only one solution, and that is the combining of both the personal and political realms. Joshua-san, Natasha-san — you must marry and have children.”

Joshua’s jaw dropped open. He glanced over at his Russian counterpart and saw that she looked equally shell shocked.

Natasha recovered first. “But Joshua is married to Chris Riley.”

Hiro shook his head. “Chris-san cancelled that arrangement this morning. Joshua-san is now free. You were already planning on having a child, Natasha-san — you must show more than that. You must show a dedication to humankind that goes beyond convenience. You two must marry.”

Joshua glared at Hiro as a suspicion jumped into his head. “How did you know about Chris? Did you set all of this up?”

Hiro stared back impassively for a few seconds. “I will do whatever it takes to save humanity. Chris-san has made his own decision, which I encouraged when I could. I am telling you this so you will know how serious I am.”

“You bastard!” Joshua took a step forward before he regained control. He forced his fists to stay at his sides.

“Why don’t you marry me, Hiro?” Natasha asked. Joshua noticed that she appeared more curious than upset.

Hiro turned to face her. “Because of a childhood illness, I am sterile. I cannot complete my duty directly. I will therefore do what I can to make sure others do theirs.” He looked at Joshua. “You may hate me, but your duty is clear. You are a good commander — your personal desires do not matter if they conflict with what you should do. What will you do, Joshua-san?”

Joshua was gritting his teeth when Natasha spoke. “I know my duty. Hiro is right, Joshua, my friend. We have to combine our resources. We also need to show our people hope — not just tell them. It isn’t ideal, but it will resolve a large number of issues. Will you marry me?”

Joshua turned and stared in the direction of Chris while he thought. He hated being manipulated, but he had to concede that Hiro had nailed him regarding his responsibility.

“Your ex-husband will survive,” Hiro said. “Neither he nor my assistant will love the other as they should — their pain is too great — but they will care for each other and love their children. If you give them the chance, they will love your children, too. For the sake of humanity, what will you do?”

“We can merge our resources without doing this,” Joshua said, while he tried to think of alternatives.

“But what else would sway Claudia Breton and those who follow her? If there is no clear leadership, it will fail. Neither of you can command both bases by yourself. Neither of you can concede power to the other without risking dissent in your ranks. The only way you can share power is as husband and wife. For others, a formal union will not be required, but your people need to see clear leadership. There is no other solution.” Hiro stared at Joshua, showing a coolness that contrasted with the intensity of his words.

“Joshua, listen to him. It is not perfect, but I can’t see any better way. Will you marry me?”

Joshua sighed and gave in. He looked at Natasha. “I can’t love you, but I will care for you and our children. Is that enough?”

She considered him for a long time before nodding. “Yes.”

Hiro smiled. “Thank you, my friends. You are giving humanity a second chance.”

Joshua snarled before reining in his anger. “You’re a bastard. You had better be right about this or I’ll kill you for what you’ve done.”

“Survival first, Joshua-san. Once we have ensured the survival of our human species, you may do to me what you wish. It is a price I’m willing to pay.”

After Hiro left and Natasha disconnected, Joshua switched the view back to the beach near where Chris’s brother had lived. Helpless before forces outside of his control, he redirected his rage where it could do some good.

“We’ll be back. It may be our children or our children’s children, but we’re going to return to our world, no matter how long it takes.”

Copyright Notice — Copyright © March 2007 by Graeme.

The author copyrights this story and retains all rights. This work may not be duplicated in any form — physical, electronic, audio, or otherwise — without the author's expressed permission. All applicable copyright laws apply.

Disclaimer: All individuals depicted are fictional, and any resemblance to real persons is purely coincidental.

This story first appeared as part of the Gay Author’s Spring Anthology 2007.

I would like to thank Rain from The Mail Crew for editing this story for me. I can thoroughly recommend their website to all teenagers who are gay, lesbian, bi or not sure.