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The End of the Line · Original Minific ·
Organised by RogerDodger
Word limit 400–750
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The Last Page

It's been three days since I'm stranded here, starving in this hellhole of a colony.

Nothing fancy, nothing memorable. As us drifters say, born on a ship, dead on a mission. Except I think my ship's dead too, and I guess I know why.

So I'm here. Sitting in a corner of an empty room. Because it's clean. The room's a bit small for comfort, but it's clean.

White, immaculate walls, waiting to be painted. A tiled floor that smells like nothing, unlike the faint smell of ammonia from the corridor. And the ceiling's a perfect white. Unlike most of the place, it's got no traces of smoke on it.

I feel like I'm preparing to enter paradise. And if I go outside, I'll ruin it.

So I don't.

I'll level, this writing is just to keep me distracted. I enrolled to do something big. I failed. Joke's on me.

Not so bad though: my grandfather served in the great stellar war. The war that ended when both sides of humanity stopped the fighting after realising they were being tricked. Since I learned of our history, I was always hoping we'd kick their alien asses one day.

But I guess that was too much to hope for: they gifted us with tech so we'd expand and then kill ourselves over it, and with just a few nudges, we did. Finding out about the secrets of the gates when we did was pure luck; our best people were more busy doing war than examining the things, or figuring out who actually discovered how to make them.

I would've loved to live back then. Sure, most of us rifters died killing each other like idiots, but we thought we were right. We all did, and with the generations, we cultivated the belief, and gladly died for it. We died for humanity, killing ourselves over damned empty space. I regret that, I regret that we were so dumb.

Because now, we have expanded, we have waged war upon ourselves, and we've this whole network of gates connecting our developped worlds, made with a tech we don't fully understand. And they're back. They. Are. Fucking. Back.

I want to laugh, but the joke's on us. It's only been two generations since the war, less time than it lasted, yet they're already back. Most of our more zealous spacers are still bred with hate for the other side, and they're on the move.

Sure, we taught them a lesson, blasted a few when they attacked the fleet that figured things out. But they're not scared. We got a couple easy because they thought they had us blinded, but even if we saw through it, it was just flashy luck and some glory. Nothing else.

We got plenty more whilst killing ourselves.

Sure, we saw what they did to our sensors and fixed it. Sure, we tricked them into believing we fell for it. Big deal.

We showed them not to underestimate us when messing with our own tech, and they lost some ships. But they fled and blew-up their damned stragglers: they didn't care about killing off their own, we acquired no tech that they didn't give, and whoever sent the self-destruct signal escaped.

It wasn't some hasty half-witted retreat: they withdrew. Sure, they could've fought a conventional fight, but they don't fight like us, and they don't need to.

Half of today's rifters boast that battle like a victory. But here I am. Logs everywhere, no-one alive in sight. As I read, I realised this colony was used to acquire first-hand knowledge of us. Our tech, our behavior, our values. It was a giant aquarium. They were just preparing.

And then my ship, one of our best scouts, failed to warn me before contact was cut. Were they abducted, too? Silenced?

That's what happened to this colony starting years ago. And we wrote it off as another success of third-party pirates. It's on a different side of human occupied space, after all.

Last I saw, my ship was slowly drifting away. And I've nothing but this log to comfort me. No water, no food, just light and what remains. And somehow I'm happy.

I joined to fight aliens, to find them and kill them, but they were already here, screwing with us.

Maybe the captain died cursing the feds, but I won't; he can go to hell.

I'm happy; the joke’s over. Just another ship lost. And a clean, white room.
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