“Catastrophic system failure.” The interior lights of the escape pod went dark, and then a dull red glow.
The computerized voice was smaller now, farther away. “Life support only.”
Here was the final leg of the journey, the last part of a desperate shot in the dark across time and space. From a time doomed to die, doomed to die in every single permutation. Every sequence of events, no matter how subtly or plainly manipulated, was a failure. Every sequence ended with the death of the universe.
Here was the only gamble left, the longest shot possible—an escape pod sent directly from the murder of a universe.
The passenger lapsed into unconsciousness upon reentry. A world of unfamiliar sensations, each more alarming than the last, had turned the world pitch black and soundless.
Minutes later, he was startled awake. Lights cycled, computers clicked on, and monitors flickered back to life. Green and blue bathed the passenger. Soft, major-key startup jingles played across several pieces of hardware.
Now came the moment of truth, the most desperate and longshot part of this desperate and longshot gamble: the coordinates had to be correct. Without that, this plan was a failure already, and this final plane of infinity would die a fiery and terrifying death.
The lid to the pod shot away, landing with a heavy thud twenty feet away. A head peeked over the lip of the pod, eyes wide with curiosity.
“Oh, dear,” the woman on the left said. “Gary.” She inhaled sharply, and turned away. “Gary, is this some kinda fucking prank?” There was an edge to her voice, a burning anger. “What the fuck are you doing, Gary?”
“Whoa, whoa, Mary! I didn’t fucking know about this!”
“Then what the fuck is that?”
“Hold on, hold on,” said Gary, the sound indicating his proximity. “I’m as freaked out as you.”
Gary peeked over. He looked so much older. His eyes went wide, but with terror, dilating and sinking inwards, shrinking away.
“Davey? Davey boy?”
The man inside the pod nodded, a smile blooming across his face. “It’s me, Gary. I’m back to save the world.”
Gary shook his head. “Everybody wants you fuckin’ dead, Davey. For the last twenty years.”

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