He stood there, with a face impassive. Gazing out at the complex trusswork that formed the huge manufacturing complex that supported what even now was faltering. Supported what even now was causing those who stood around him hoped still to save. They sat stoic, looking at the wall. Other's unbuttoned their spartan, clean-lined grey uniforms at the next and sleeves and took of their caps. Other's sweated in silence, and still other's leaned over to their neighbors to have quiet, whispered conversations. No one smiled, and all gave a quick glance to him once in a while.
He was hailed as many things. A general. A Scientist. A politician. A thinker. What he really was, in all it's glory, was the last great man. As Lee had gazed through soot-covered field glasses at advancing Union enemies, so did he watch the conference room screen.
It was huge, and dominated one side of the simple, square room. It projected upon itself all manner of information, and was now currently displaying a simplified map of the galaxy, showing wormhole connections and attached information on there adjacent planets. These had many numbers next to them, and the largest one was a simple red color. It read in the thousands. Below what was a much smaller green number.
Someone in the congregation called out, and an image resolved itself in one corner of the screen. At first it was hard to distinguish what was happening in the scene, until the eyes focused and the contrast between the black vessels and the dead blackness of space became clear. Another called out and a visual enhancer appeared on the screen, outlining the black ships, if they could be called so. A few of the more agitated let out gasps of surprise. He just sighed, and turned back to facing the shipyards.
A vast swarm was approaching, the number of confirmed ships skyrocketing. A quick tooltip appeared with a rough estimate: 4,688. The number began changing as the sensory equipment and computers exchanged information, but it hovered around that first estimate. Another newly popped up tooltip showed a count down timer.
Someone else called out and a new visual appeared on the other side of the screen. It showed a collection of structures spinning against the backdrop of the stars. They appeared similar to the ones He was staring at, but the difference in complexity and size was easily seen. The countdown timer was very close to it's goal of zero.
There was a moment of stillness. Of anticipation. Even a spark in the eyes of some, as they looked and saw what was about to happen. A sleek, conical object came into view. An object that was a timeless symbol of the greatest conflicts man had ever known. A technology that had changed little in almost a millennium. The warhead kept an even pace as it left the trellises of it's birthplace. The view panned to follow it out, and a small window became briefly visible, similar to the one He stared out of so intently, flashing in the sudden reflected light of the small, orange sun of that system. Then it was gone as the view rotated to follow the accelerating missile.
And then the onset of the enemy. A great wave of black covering the beautiful constructs that had served their creators so well. There proud right angles being obscured and eroded by an enemy which attacked, replicated and grew. An evolving enemy in number and strength. The schredders covered everything in sight with there glistening hulls, breaking down, destroying.
Another tooltip appeared, framed in green. A friendly message, from one group of humans to another.
"Good job boys, see you on the other side." it read. One woman got up, excused herself, and left the room through the only door set in the back wall. The last communication of an entire command has just been sent and read.
Then the view turned black, and it's tooltip disappeared from the screen. The missile had successfully fired. The command station had successfully been martyred.
Still facing the window, the stars and the shipyards, his face broke into the very slightest of a grin, remembering what the now dead station commander had been chuckling about.
Perhaps the last nuclear device ever detonated by mankind would take less then 20 lives. It would have been a sobering thought in another time, another place. But now was not the time for sobriety.
He bent over for a second to the floor next to his cluttered desk, and all eyes turned to him, away from the now vanished video feeds and suddenly empty feeling video screens. He stood again, holding a large bottle. It was covered with dust, a rare thing on any space vessel. And the protocols he had had to override to keep it that way. The bottle dated back centuries, and was rumored to still be the perfection of the craft of wine-making as it was all those years ago. He pulled out a small multi-tool from his pocket and, using a small knife, struggled to pull out the cork. It came off with a pop, and the barest of fizz erupted over the mouth and spilled on his hand. He faced the small crowd of tacticians and scientists. He raised it, as a various automata began circling around him to assist with the pouring and sharing of the wine. He smiled gently, and all responded warmly. Soon all had a simple wine glass in hand, freshly manufactured and clear as no wine glass been in decades. Wine had not been an occupation of the greater part of humanity for many decades.
He then raised his hand, and all other's followed him. A toast, he declared, to the last saviors of humanity. The toast was not uttered. To a man, all present uttered to the toast to him, and drank deeply. A tooltip appeared on the screen, showing a rising red number. None gave pause in the downing of the drinks.
The glasses slammed to the table, and some gave a small laugh of appreciation. It was indeed, good wine. The red number began to grow. A few took notice, all knew what this meant. All remained standing. The general looked at once more into the vacuum of space, his face once more becoming stoic and drawn tight. They all remained this way for several minutes. Soon, a blackness began to become apparent amid the great trellises of the space docks. For a second, as the station rotated, the blazing light of the system's yellow sun disappeared behind the shipyards. But it soon revealed itself once more as the light erupted from holes eaten into the great structure. The enemy had arrived. The enemy had come to claim the last stand. The last hold out of humanity. There was no resistance, the fighting was done. The computerized systems desperately tried to mend and fix failing systems, and small outrunning groups of the spinning, flat shredders began to rush towards the command station. To see them in person, rushing them, to know their lives most likely would not last the next 5 minutes, the composure of the group was impressive. But there was no one left to impress.
As a force of nature the Artificial Intelligence's pawns slammed into the small, free floating structure that held the last free members of humanity. It soon was ruptured and with a small blast the pressurized atmosphere it's contents blew out into space. And still staring at the disappearing shipyards, he stared.
The last great man.