The green in the station was even larger than the green located in the dome, if that was at all possible. Birds cried out overhead, and monkeys swang from vines. The humidity was stifling. Mona's face broke into a smile.
"What is this area called?" She asked the AI.
"This is the biodiversity level for recreation and the prevention of space fautigue." The AI said. "It is based on the rainforests of South America."
"Its beautiful." Mona said.
"This area has been self-sustaining for the last two hundred cycles." The AI said. "Care should be taken to ensure safety from hazardous animal species."
Mona could see one of those species. From a distance a large cat was eying her, lounging on a tree limb. It flicked its tail lazily back and forth, golden eyes shining. Mona walked carefully, having no intentions of becoming the next meal.
"We have something like this back at the dome." Mona said. "How common are they? I mean, were they. before the Rot?"
"A biodiversity area can be found in nearly every level three habitat throughout the Colonies on Mars, Alpha Centauri, Titan, and on numerous geodesic domes on Earth." The AI said. "Such an area is fully funded by the Colonial agreement in any new construction of said areas."
Mona walked through the path provided. It turned to dirt in some areas. There was a roaring waterfall nearby, spanned by a catwalk. As she passed Monarch butterflies flew around her head, their wings beautiful shades of orange and black. Underneath the catwalk the waterfall turned into a gently flowing river.
On the other side was a control station, with a corpse in a chair. She was able to ignore it somehow, at this point slightly numb to the sight. In front of the corpse was a recording. It showed the sideways triangle transluscently displayed over it that meant PLAY, which meant that the recording was, in fact, paused at this moment, or stopped at the beginning of its cycle. She gently eased the chair with the skeleton over to one side, and hit the button. A middle aged woman appeared, with bright reddish-orange hair and pale green eyes.
"-Chief science officer Moira Mctaggart." The recording began. "We have retreated aboard this space station, in an effort to develop a solution to the worldwide viral outbreak known as RT-582. More commonly called the Rot. The virus seems to work on both organic and inorganic material. It seems to spread through simple touch, although there is some evidence that it can be carried on wind patterns." The woman on the screen took a deep breath, and the video ended. From there the flex screen shifted into a tile pattern, with a list of available files, all of which seemed to focus on the woman. Mona chose the next available date and pressed play.
"-Findings today have been unhelpful, to say the least. RT-582 has shown a half-live of nearly half a millenium. Thats five hundred years. Which is not to say that anything will be left standing by that time. Projections show that within six months..." The woman on the screen appeared to be blinking back tears. "Within six months ninety-eight percent of all life on Earth will be gone, for all organisms larger than a bacteria. To include plant and animal life. There is some small chance that insect life will continue, but mostly populations will be decimated by a lack of plant life."
"-What will the world look like? I imagine a vast desert. Not a sandbox, mind you, when we think of a traditional desert like the Sahara or Magobe, but a lack of life. A lack of...of anything."
"-Its staggering to think about this. Within this generation, we have enabled true AI. We have established self-sustaining power sources. Harnassed energy materials that were once the realm of fiction. All of that, all of these accomplishments, are going to be gone now. I should say, gone from Earth. Alpha Centauri and Mars still have a chance."
"-But even then, there is the possibility that the half-terraformed Martian climate will not be sufficient. Or that the existing technology produced will not sustain life indefinetely. Bare in mind that all the Colonies have been established as just that, Colonies, not as self-contained units. In their non-native habitations, there is the distinct possibility that human life will be extinct from those areas within a generation."
"-I'm a little drunk right now. I've tried to hold off on that, but its been very, very hard."
"-Found a crew member dead today. An Ensign from engineering. He was severly decomposed. I assisted with Doctor Forman with the autopsy. He had ingested a modified dosage of RT-582, apparently in capsule form. It caused almost instant death, followed by the severe composition. The only good news is that the dosage appears to be made in such a fashion to lack the severly contagious function of the species threatening all life on Earth."
"After a little research in which the security officer interrogated some of the Ensigns colleagues, the story came out that this sort of pill is getting popular right now among young people on Earth. The idea being, I guess, if your going to die slowly, and everything you know is going to be rotted away, why not just end it now? I am ashamed to say that I dont completely disagree with this sort of nihilism. Although I will do everything in my power to fight against it."
"We lost communication with the North American Mega-City today. The Pakistani and Korean Mega-Cities have been gone for nearly three weeks now. Things are really strange up here. People move about there duties in a sort of trance. At least ten people have been found dead from the Rot pill, but no one really talks about it. When I do talk to people- like Doctor Forman, its about things like how beautiful space is. How many stars there are, how many possible habitable planets. Everyones avoiding the problem staring them dead in the face."
"-I believe I had come up with a long term solution to the Rot. I say long term, because as long as it runs through its virulent primary strain, this solution wont work at all. In co-ordination with the Chinese Mega-city, which I should say is the last Mega-City at this point, we have come up with a sort of seed- pod of extremely potent mixture of organic carbon based flora. The pods can be dumped into the atmosphere, at which point they will produce a chemical rain on the target location. Which may have certain hazardous effects for any surviving population, but who's to say there will be one, at that point.
Anyway, this chemical laden rain, it will 'salt the Earth' as it were, with a mixture of seeds and extremely nutrient rich fertilizer. Its designed to be a mix of simple trees, grass, wild oats. The sort of basic mixture that can support the very bottom end of a food chain.
Now, for the time being, we do not have enough of said seed pods to support a large area. But the good part is the nutrient mixture in the cloud cover should produce several rains. So there should be one area completely covered, maybe a hundred square kilometers, but a larger area partially dosed, five hundred kilometers or a thousand or so. And in that area, as long as the Rot has run past its half-life, there should be some sign of life. Green growing things."
The woman in the video wiped away a tear. "Maybe I'm talking to some visitor from Alpha Centauri, or maybe I'm dealing with no one at all. Maybe this station has long since burned up in orbit. But there is a chance to restore what weve done. Human beings have been the butchers of this planet. We've raped her and in the process killed ourselves. If we do return, I hope that it will be on different, better terms."
In the next video Moira looks shaky, ill at ease. She isnt wearing make-up, and her eyes are darting around the room. There is a little red pill in her hand, that she holds up close for the camera. "I'm going to take it." She whispers, which she does, tossing her head back to swallow. Immediatedly her eyes go wide with horror. She brings both hands to her throat in the universal gesture for choking and whispers, "Oh, God."
What happens next is swift and terrible. There is a sound not unlike burning paper from the video. Her skin is eaten inside out. Her eyeballs fall back into her head, her lips pull back from her teeth, until finally all that is left is a withered husk of a skeleton, that matches the husk Mona has found inside the chair. Mona wishes the chair was empty, so she could sit down. She feels overwhelmed. By all of it. The state of the world, and the knowledge of how it ended.
When she looked across from her she saw the control panel.
It was an old fashioned analog control panel. The kind of thing that was a little more reliable than a touch screen, or at least thought to be that way. Knobs and switches, that sort of thing, along with two screens that looked old to the point of possibly being powered by transistors. In each of them was a picture of some sort of large white cylinder, sticking off a vestigial appendage of the space station. One screen read SP-1 and the other SP-2. From the video Mona acertained that both were the Seed pods the scientist had been talking about in the recording.