2. Flowers

You open your eyes and blink a few times, letting the fog of sleep slowly leave you. You don't feel rested at all. A groan escapes your mouth involuntarily.

It's been three days since you lot reached orbit. You spent most of that time just potatoing in bed, without any real goal or purpose. After all, there's 2 months to kill until Mars.

Sonya though, she's on a roll. Ever since the moment that the stage three rocket dropped off she disappeared into the gym and you'd hardly seen her since. Something about keeping her bones healthy or something. That puzzled you, since this spaceship uses constant acceleration to keep 'gravity' at one-Earth. Whatever, it's not like you're particularly bummed out to be rid of her company. On the contrary, it's just the opposite.

At the end of the day, the reality is that she's not your girlfriend or lover or even friend. She's just someone you barely know that you happen to have shared a substantial lottery winning with.

And how the hell did that happen anyway?

Two million dollars. With inflation and costs of living nowadays it isn't as much as one would think. But you could have still bought a nice house for yourself in the suburbs. Maybe quite a ways away from the overblown and ridiculous downtown prices. Even so a house nonetheless. But you got high and blew it all for some stupid one-way trip to Mars. And with some girl you had only just met at that stage.

Granted, she gave you half the money for the lottery ticket. You two had found a real physical seller of lottery tickets. It was… surreal. It was the first one you had ever seen. It was down a dingy alleyway that looked all of two hundred years old with a man at a wooden stand smoking a cigar that looked nearly as old. Wait, wooden? It had to have been fake. The cigar, too. Maybe the man himself was all a hallucination.

Either way some how some way you won the lottery. You're not really sure what the odds were. And you're not particularly keen to find out.

You get up and walk around the room. On the ceiling of these rooms are identical copies of all the furniture, for when the ship decelerates, so the passengers can enjoy their outdated one-Earth gravity for the whole trip. Not that you'd be able to enjoy one-Earth gravity anywhere out here anyway. Well, Venus is pretty close, you suppose.

You check the news on your AR projection glasses. Such a boring day. Nothing much seems to be happening around the solar system. Some floods in Africa. Some new virus scientists have flagged as having potential for a new pandemic. There are some upgrades proposed for some space station somewhere around Earth. Nothing interesting at all. Scientists launch a new program to use genetically engineered nanobots to terraform Venus. Scheduled to take 10,000 years. Luna is having more supplies pods arriving in two days. What about Mars? A city on Mars declares itself independent. You check the name. It's not Rosa. Bummer.

Just as you're about to close the news, a new story appears and in a matter of a second or two floats right up to the top.

You stare at the title, dumb founded. "Humanity doomed!? Deadly space weapon detected by NASA."

Always one to doubt titles, having been mislead too many times, you tap at the title in your projection.

You scan the article, your eyes darting over the words as you hunt for any indication that this is a joke or some kind of mistake. It's as serious as they come.

They are talking about some kind of 'Relativistic Kill Vehicle' flying at the Earth at over 99% the speed of light. You'd never heard the phrase before in your life. Not that you're particularly technologically savvy. As you skim over the technical explanation a deep sense of unease overcomes you. You aren't really sure what the hell is going on but you have a feeling you're going to see an apocalypse real soon.

12 hours. The article says. That's all the time that they have to try to stop this thing. Or else all life that doesn't live kilometers down in the depths of the crust or deep in the ocean will get 'vaporized'.

You flick at the projected panes of text, sitting like they'd always have on their translucent and tidy little backgrounds, going to the next article, then the next, the next, next.

"No more tomorrow for mankind!"

"Doomsday falls."

"Mayhem at launch ports. Crowds erupt into violence squeezing onto spaceships."

"All life to be wiped out!"

"Billionaires secure seats on private spacecraft. The rich always get their way."

You feel dizzy. You realize you're hyperventilating. What is life? What is humanity? Why are we here?

Aliens. They have to be out there, watching. Silently watching our demise. Why are they doing this?

A deep sense of injustice grips you. Who are they to decide if a species live or die?

But it occurs to you that ironically, humanity never gave a thought about extinction. Extinction of animals, plants, any other species than itself.

Now, they will squash us the same as we squash ants without a thought under our feet.

You collapse onto a generic looking cushioned chair. Everything in between your head and your feet feel like they've been ripped clean from the fake acceleration gravity. Like you're just floating, like nothing in the world is real, like you're still in your nightmare.

You pinch your cheeks for good measure. Nope, not a dream.

"Show me the news again." you say to the virtual AI assistant on your glasses. You've forgotten what they named her on this operating system. Not that it matters in the slightest.

More of the same doom, gloom and utter anarchy. You sigh. "Show me something positive from the last minute."

The projection changes suddenly. You blink a bit as your brain lags behind in interpretation.

A sunflower in a grassy field, with no image caption, no title, nothing. Just a picture, posted online by someone, somewhere. Any other time it would have been inconsequential, you would have closed it or flicked by without a second thought, forgotten about it by the time this sentence finishes. But now? Now it makes you tear up a little. You leave a like and a comment. "I hope you survive." you say. You have no idea if they're even on Earth. But it doesn't even matter. Nothing in the world matters anymore.

Sunflowers are beautiful. The world might end, but flowers are beautiful.

Because right this instant, flowers are your favorite thing in the world.