The Last Child of Mankind

May 15, 2007

The Samual Rodriguez Memorial Space Station orbited the globe of fair Earth, and as it fell in its endless cycle, all save one of its inhabitants slept within.

Mercy had lived on the station longer than any other could claim. Now reaching the tender age of twenty and three, she had spent over twenty of her years residing on the man-made shell, while the rest of the crew shifted out every half a decade. For them, it would have been risking emotional and physical danger to stay any longer; even with all the advents made by man, he still felt an eternal call back to the planet that had birthed him.

For Mercy, returning to Earth would have been a death sentence.

The doctors had difficulty explaining her condition. They could see the symptoms – she had been a frail child from birth, and in the course of her first year she had only grown worse. Something in the air, some property of the planet’s surface, some contact with all those who called the planet home – whatever it was, it drained her health away. Breathing was a challenge; they predicted she would be dead by the age of five.

She did not know the name of the doctor that suggested she be fired off into space. Oh, it was not put forth in so callous a fashion – but for all their inability to fully explain her condition, the signs were there that it was tied to her terrestrial home. Her parents were wealthy but desperate, and the first few space stations had been fully constructed and put into operation only a few years before.

So Mercy was sent into space, and miraculously, she began to blossom. Her parents came with her, and as they slowly learned to adapt to their new locale, they were delighted as their daughter became healthy for the very first time.

They died three years later, in an engineering accident at the docks.

Mercy survived, and the space station became her home. The other dwellers adopted her – at the time, mostly trained astronauts alone, but as they shifted out back to Earth, people from all walks of life took their place. Tourism to the stations did not become common, but it did become natural, and Mercy grew up the child of a thousand different souls. None could stay, in the end – none had the temperament for it, for long years away from home.

It was, they all agreed, a lovely place to visit – but not a place fit for them to live.

Save for Mercy – and now she sat on Viewing Deck one, looking up at the Earth above her. She was, by nature, quiet and reserved – a product of whatever persona made her fit for her isolated life on a metal shell, while it sapped the will of every other sapien who dwelled upon it.

The Station was on the far side of the Sun, in a sleeping cycle. Automated processes kept the corridors clean and the life units functioning. Mercy was the only one who stayed awake in the long dark hours, having long ago discovered she needed far less sleep than her fellows. One difference among many; they all seemed negligible after all these years.

She thought to herself that she could feel the station moving, despite the perfectly-functioning artificial gravity. And, perhaps, she could – perhaps she had some deeper connection to the celestial heavens, some awareness of the absolute positioning of things, and was not decieved by mere senses and data alone.

Perhaps not.

All others on the station are either visitors or workers. Some are tourists, there to enjoy the freedom of the stars for a few brief days. Others are scientists, collecting valuable data and research that, they tell themselves, will change the way humanity sees the world. A few work to maintain the station, though the machines handle much of that themselves.

Mercy still lives on the remnants of her parent’s fortune. She walks the station as desired – a perpetual tourist in the records, but in truth, the only one who could truly call it home. She could have left it as she grew – her doctors had advised her that whatever condition had afflicted her in her infancy may have passed.

But she shook her head, and quietly demured, and roamed the station and watched the stars and thought her quiet thoughts. She felt that this was her proper place, and she had the money to back her desires – and for all her shy nature, every soul she met instantly took to liking her, and would hardly have sent her away if she did not so wish it.

Her name was Mercy, and she felt the faint thrumming of the still metal that surrounded her. Through the window she watched the Earth, searing its image into her mind.

For she knew that one day it would be gone, and she alone would remain to remember it.

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