He was dying. He felt it. It was the end. It wasn't meant to be this way. It wasn't meant to be the end. His end. He'd fought for as long as possible, with every fiber of his being, to live, survive, to get home. To his family. To his children. The ones he loved more than his own life.
It was why he was out here. Out past the edge of tomorrow, riding in one of the very first faster than light ships, screeching through time and space, punching a hole in the universe, existence itself to defy the laws of physics. Laws? Where he was going he didn't need laws...
He and dozens of others had been sent out to find a refuge for humanity, for his children. Fathers and mothers alone were sent. Ones that would have a reason to do their job, do it fast and return as quickly as possible. He and a dozen others, each in their own ships, each with their own destinations. Each with their own quests.
For some reason, they found, machine intelligences always broke down. Computers more sophisticated than something from the 1970s would always fail, always break down if left on while flying at FTL through void space. People worked out just fine. So too did animals and analog computers. Digital or quantum...at least made on a very small nanometer scale, were always fried. They could be switched on afterwards, but not while in flight.
That explained why the voracious swarm at the edge of the solar system that was eating its way inwards, ever encroaching, ever destroying, ever dismantling like some nanotechnological terror from a bad old speculative fiction book didn't have the technology, didn't just leap into the entire solar system at once: they had to go the slow way through normal space. Disassemble, rebuild, make more. Von Neumann's worse nightmare.
And some time in the next century, the Earth would be eaten.
Including all those there.
Including his children.
Jordan was hurtling back to Earth. He was nearly there, but he was going to expire. It turned out, the drive that allowed going to and from the stars at greater than light speed and would allow his children to flee earth to the world he'd found and explored, wasn't so benign to humans and life after all. it just killed more slowly. It was an easy fix though: if you had a shipyard.
Despite all those centuries of humanity writing about the brave engineer whipping something up from nothing and save the day...somethings are too hard. Some things require machines and tools and an industrial base to fix. And this was one of them.
And Jordan would pay with his life.
He just had to hang on...to...he stroked the picture of his children one last time. He closed his eyes and then shook himself. Not yet. Not yet.
It was time. He gave the command and the ship tore through the fabric of the universe to return to reality. To return home. Jordan had made it. He'd found a refuge. He had the data to repair the ships so people could make the leap to another world and be safe away from the black teeming mass chewing its way inward to Earth.
He exhaled. He was so tired. The pain was too great. It was time.
It was time.
It was time.
He'd so wanted to see his children, but at least they'd be safe. At least they'd live. And he'd found them their refuge.
It was time.
He closed his eyes.
He did see his children.
For the last time.