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Niners

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Another storm was starting outside the window, although it might have been the same storm that had been going on for years and it just lowered and intensified in power. Nina Denker didn’t usually make a habit of looking outside anymore to consider it. Ice and wind, wind and ice, same as always. Typical weather for Florida. Typical weather for everywhere.

In her boredom as she waited for the calculations to run, though, she couldn’t help but stare somewhere, and outside was as good a place as any. There had been a lot of talk over the years about whether the windows even needed to be here. They’d been a part of the original complex, and when the Niners had enforced the walls for the first time they’d put stronger glass in, or at least as strong as they could get. Supplies like that weren’t easy to come by. Truthfully Nina didn’t think the windows were any stronger than the first ones had been. It was just another way to keep people calm about the frozen hell waiting for them outside.

Nina tried to make some sense of the shapes beyond the window, but there wasn’t much sense to make. Everything was covered in snow, much of it drifting in unexpected patterns. Some of the Niners before she’d been born had tried to do studies of the shifting in the attempt to better understand the ways of the weather, but the files they had left behind offered nothing conclusive. Nina thought she might be able to have more luck now, considering what the expedition south into the Caribbean had found when she was a little girl. They knew now what had caused all this, and with that scientific knowledge they could make headway with so many projects. The unnatural shifting of ice dunes, however, was not high up on that list.

Occasionally she could see other shapes when the dunes drifted far enough or the storm let up for a few seconds, and those intrigued her more, although in a purely abstract fashion. She knew what they were supposed to be. Trees. Cars. Buildings. She’d seen all these things as they were originally intended thanks to pictures in books that had been rescued over the years. Now they were just vague shapes. Once when she had been a teenager she’d thought she seen a body just outside one of the windows, curled up on the ground as though sleeping. The snow had covered it quickly and she had never seen it again, but that brief look had confirmed everything she’d been told about what it was like to die by ingesting ice-nine. It froze all the water in your body instantly, changing the composition of the water in a way they still barely understood after fifty years of dedicated study. The water could be changed back by heating it to well above room temperature, but that wouldn’t do the person any good. They’d be just as dead.

Nina almost went back to staring at the numbers dancing across the screen of her jury-rigged computer before she thought she saw something moving out in the wastes. She blinked and moved closer to the window, certain she had seen something incorrectly. There were lots of things moving out there, after all, billions and billions of deadly ice crystals that made it impossible for anyone to survive outside for long without an amazing amount of protective equipment. And that was all that could possibly be moving out there.

Still, Nina had thought for a second that there’d been something larger. She couldn’t say what. After looking for several more seconds she shrugged, attributing the sight to the same self-hypnosis that lead to others thinking they saw ghosts walking around in the outer world waiting to finally claim the last holdouts of humanity in Ninerville. Staring for too long always resulted in that sort of thing, and she would do well to stop.

She went back to staring at her numbers, blissfully unaware that someone outside was watching her.

*

According to Nina’s father, the late and esteemed Dr. Arthur Denker, Ninerville’s original working title had been Survivor City. They’d dropped that pretension when everyone had finally admitted there was no way they could rightly refer to fifty-two people as a city and it had simply become Survivorville. That had changed again after the expedition to the Caribbean Island of San Lorenzo, a momentous and contentious occasion in the tiny community that, as far as they were aware, represented the only living humans left in the entire world. The manuscript they had brought back gave the flagging community hope, and they had renamed themselves Ninerville after the newly understood reason for all their troubles.

Nina had only ever seen the manuscript twice. Lipton, the old battleaxe who had long ago appointed herself the "official unofficial” librarian of Ninerville, was very careful about never letting the manuscript out of her sight. It was the most important document they had, and they would have gladly made copies if they had the paper to spare. But most paper was used for the results of their wide and varied amount of scientific work, and although some had been recovered from the outside world it was usually brittle and yellow, likely to crumble if written on with too much force. A few people had done what they could to make the aging computers better at storage, allowing them to leave as much as they dared on hard drives. There was no telling when those would break down, however, irrevocably losing all the work they had put their lives into. Lipton had come up with ways of making their own paper, but that didn’t have much more shelf life. The waning resources often made it feel like they were racing against time to come up with answers.

But then again, that was the way the initial residents of Ninerville had felt as well. Through sheer luck and persistence, however, the Niners had continued to live in a world that should have killed them all long ago.

That simple fact had always made Nina leery of the San Lorenzo manuscript. According the survivors of the expedition they had found it at the top of a mountain, locked in a box held in the grip of grinning blue corpse. The corpse had been on its back and with the hand not holding the box it had been thumbing its nose, as though this person had been under the impression that lying there and doing nothing had been the ultimate act of spite to God somewhere in the sky. The reasoning behind this had been explained right in the manuscript, right along with the improbable sequence of events that had led to the end of the world and the almost-total extinction of every life form on Earth.

It was only “almost-total” because right here in Ninerville they had managed to salvage a small number of plants and creatures. Once Nina was finished running her calculations she had to pass through the greenhouse and the zoo to get to the library where she needed to deposit her results, giving her a view of every last living thing on the planet. Calling them a “greenhouse” and “zoo” was a bit of an overstatement, though, at least according to old standards. Although Nina had never known such a world, she’d heard stories of the unbelievable diversity of life that had once wandered the planet, diversity that had been wiped out just because a small group of people had thought of their own benefits before the consequences of their actions. The greenhouse consisted of a number of tomato plants, peas, beans, and onions. There had supposedly been something called cucumbers once long ago, but a catastrophe early on as they had tried to adapt their limited soil samples to harsher conditions had resulted in those being wiped out. The zoo was a little better, containing mice, a variety of insects, the last two monkeys, cats, and some dogs. Nina’s husband was in charge of trying to keep all these animals reproducing with minimal problems from inbreeding, but there was little they could do and he said that the animals they had now, especially the monkeys, probably couldn’t even be considered monkeys now by the traditional definitions. They were some other species, and a rather poor replacement at that.

But they were still there, and all the genetic experimenting and scientific analysis was to thank for it. That was part of what Nina hated so much about the writer of the San Lorenzo manuscript. The implication was that they were somehow doing something wrong by using their scientific knowledge to keep these things alive. He probably would have looked at everything Ninerville had accomplished and shook his head.

When Nina had first read the San Lorenzo manuscript she had been amazed and overjoyed at everything it contained on the surface. If it was all true – and the people of Ninerville only had a few other vague pieces of information to corroborate any of it – then it was the story of how ice-nine had come into existence and how a family of people had accidently used it to destroy the world. The short of it was that a brilliant scientist, more concerned with his research than the world around him, had created ice-nine as a challenge to himself. Ice-nine was a crystal that, when it came into contact with water, rearranged the molecular structure so that it froze at room temperature and would only be returned to normal when put to very high heat. His family had decided to take pieces of ice-nine for themselves and tried to use them to their own personal advantage. Through a truly unfortunate turn of events one of the pieces had fallen into the ocean, instantly freezing almost all the water on the planet.

When Nina had read the manuscript the second time as she’d grown older, however, she’d been horrified at the subtext she saw running beneath it. The author seemed to be of the opinion almost that science itself had been to blame for the disaster. He seemed to think that if only people hadn’t been too curious for their own good the world could have continued and been a much better place. Not only did it seem cynical to Nina, but it seemed utterly ridiculous considering the life people led in Ninerville. While Nina couldn’t deny that Hoenikker, the scientist who’d created ice-nine, had a lot to answer for, she also knew that it was by science alone that the Niners had been able to continue living in this horrible environment. And it was by science alone that they could even have any hope of reversing it.

That was part of the project Nina had been working on. Ice-nine was only allowed in very tightly locked down sections of Ninerville, areas where the plumbing was kept completely separate from the rest of the complex so that it couldn’t spread and alter the supplies of usable water they’d built up over the years, and in those sections they were working to better understand and hopefully reverse the effects of ice-nine. The theoretical compound that would do this, referred to as ice-negative, was their holy grail.

When she made it to the library Nina was surprised to find it completely quiet. It was her understanding that in the time before ice-nine this was supposed to be the default level of noise for a library, but in Ninerville it was most often the center of conversation and community. At any given time it usually had three or four residents animatedly discuss their latest research, whether it was the actual work on ice-negative, new breakthroughs in genetics that could keep their limited crops from dying, or even just random research that they were doing on the side. Every one of the Niners, in addition to all the duties they took on to keep the community going, were encouraged to do anything and everything that might lead to further breakthroughs later on. Lipton, in addition to being the librarian, monitored radio signals in the hopes not only of finding other communities in the world that might have survived but also in the hopes that they could come up with more effective means of communicating between each other. She had this crazy idea for something called an “intertubes,” but it would require more computer power than they currently had. Even Tony, the man who cleaned the toilets and floors, spent his limited free time studying weather patterns.

Lipton sat at her desk, her radio tuned to random static as usual as she looked through all the reports that had been submitted to her for cataloging. Nina took a deep breath and braced herself for the inevitable conversation. Lipton – her first name was Eve, although no one called her that – could be pleasant on occasion, but most of the time she came off as grouchy. Not many of the Niners were what had once been called “people persons” considering they were all the descendents of introverted scientists who just happened to be inside when the ice-nine cataclysm had happened. Lipton, however, could take it to an extreme. Nina wasn’t sure she’d ever had a conversation with the woman that hadn’t involved her complaining about one of the other Niners. She obviously wasn’t the type suited to living in a world where no one could go outside without modified versions of old spacesuits.

“Where is everyone?” Nina asked as she put the printed portion of her report on Lipton’s desk. She immediately regretted even asking the question. She didn’t really care about the answer. After hours in front of the computer all she wanted right now was to find her husband in the habitat wing and enjoy their next attempt at conceiving a child. Some people, even a few in Ninerville, might have thought it was unthinkable to bring children into this world. But if that attitude had been the norm throughout all the worst times of history then there wouldn’t have been any civilization to start with. The author of the San Lorenzo manuscript might have even wondered if that would be a good thing, but Nina wasn’t about to take advice from someone whose most meaningful act had been lying on his back and letting himself die.

To Nina’s shock, Lipton actually smiled. “Nina! I was wondering where you were.”

“You were?” Nina asked, trying not to sound like that prospect worried her. It implied that Lipton might have some reason to keep her here for longer and away from a warm bed and snuggles with her husband.

“Yes. I was hoping I might finally change your mind about…” She pushed her chair away from her desk and lifted her leg to show Nina her bare foot. Nina bit back the exasperated sigh that tried to leave her throat. The information on ice-nine was not the only thing in the San Lorenzo manuscript. It had also included a lot of information about a religion called Bokononism. Bokononism had become the most prominent religion in San Lorenzo prior to the cataclysm, despite the fact that every ruler there kept outlawing it. As far as religions went it was mostly harmless, although some of the teachings had always struck Nina as pessimistic. A few Niners had started practicing it, including the ritual that said the most intimate thing two people could do was press the bottoms of their bare feet together. Although Nina had no problem with anyone else practicing whatever faith they needed to in order to continue living in a world that oftentimes didn’t seem to want them, she didn’t practice any herself. And she most certainly did not look fondly on those who tried to force their religion on her in any way. Lipton was always trying this with every Niner she could get alone. Quite frankly it made Nina very uncomfortable.

“Oh. Um, no thanks,” Nina said. “I’m flattered for the offer. As always.”

“Are you sure?” Lipton asked. “You’d be surprised how much easier it makes things if you just believe in something.”

The interesting thing about Bokononism was that it was probably the only religion Nina had ever heard of that actually admitted it was full of crap, but it insisted that there was still something to be had from a belief system that was made up for its own sake. Nina, however, had always thought such a thing could become a crutch. If someone didn’t really need the crutch, wasn’t using it only holding that person back from walking by themselves?

“I’m fine, thanks,” Nina said. “Where is everyone else?”

Lipton put her foot down, and her voice returned to that grumpy tone that Nina had expected in the first place. “I don’t know. I didn’t even know where you were. I thought for sure you would be with everyone else.”

Nina cocked her head, confused. It wasn’t like there were many places for people to go around here. The complex was hardly a sprawling metropolis of the old times. Every Niner had pretty much explored its every corner by now. “And it hasn’t occurred to you that this is odd?”

“We’re humans. We’re all odd,” Lipton said. She took the report Nina had given her and put it in a pile next to her without looking at it. Nina stared at the report for several seconds.

“Well, I’m just going to try finding them,” Nina said. She turned and walked away, trying not to let it show how very much she didn’t want to turn her back on Lipton. The librarian was orderly, always had been for as long as Nina could remember. For her to just throw a report on her desk without double and triple checking it first was highly odd.

Once she was out of the library Nina stopped and listened at the door. With so few people and so little space, it happened occasionally that people would have the inevitable mental breakdown. Nina had gone through one or two herself, although she had managed to come out the other side with her sanity intact. Sometimes people didn’t, though. Sometimes they lost it and stayed that way. One man had once walked right out the door into the ice-nine contaminated world wearing only his boxer shorts. He had gone about a hundred feet before he had dropped to his knees and licked the ground, all the water in his body instantly freezing and turning him into a permanent statue outside the door that had soon after been covered in the drifting snow. More often, though, a breakdown would involve screaming or a person talking to themselves.

Nina almost gave up listening, thinking maybe she had just been imagining Lipton’s odd behavior, before she heard the librarian’s voice whispering. Nina strained to catch anything at all of her one-person conversation, but she didn’t get much. All she heard was that Lipton must have been talking to herself in two different voices, one of them quite low and scratchy.

Or perhaps there was someone else in the room with her, but that seemed highly unlikely. A person could have come into the library from one of the two other doors, but she hadn’t noticed any clue that someone might be near.

Nina came away from the door and walked briskly down the hall in the direction of the living wing. If there wasn’t someone else in the library, then Lipton’s mental break would have to be reported. There were protocols for this sort of thing. One person having mental problems meant all of the Niners were having a problem.

The complex, however, remained eerily quiet as she reached the living wing. There was a room at the very end of the hall that acted as a common area, and at this time of day she should have been able to hear talking or some sort of commotion as the rest of the Niners entertained themselves. Some of them would inevitably be working on their various projects or duties to the community, but surely not all of them. She went all the way to the end to confirm that the common area was empty, and then went back down the hall knocking on the various doors she passed in the hopes of getting some kind of answer. Each door was the personal space of some person or family, but no one answered at any of them. She tried opening a few and found no trace of anyone.

She stopped in the middle of the hall to fight the growing and distressing unease that threatened to take her over. This was all wrong. Ninerville was a place of routine, sometimes mind-numbing but more often comforting. There was no way everyone should be doing anything this out of the ordinary.

She checked her own room, hoping that maybe she was wrong and her husband would be waiting inside, but there was nothing. There wasn’t even any indication that he had been here recently. Sometime since she had gone to her out-of-the-way little cubby by the window something had happened here in Ninerville, and Nina had no guess what it might be.

It seemed likely, however, that Lipton had something to do with it.

She heard something from the direction of the library, and working purely on instinct she went into her room and quietly closed the door. It wasn’t until she heard Lipton’s footsteps approaching her door that she realized what an awful mistake she had made: if Lipton was looking for her, of course Nina’s room would be the first place she’d look.

As the footsteps stopped outside the door Nina moved as quickly as she could for the bed. It was hardly the best hiding place. The bed was a rickety and decrepit thing, as were practically all the pieces of furniture throughout Ninerville. There weren’t a lot of ways for the Niners to replace them, after all, and even materials for repairs were rare and valuable. But there was just enough room under the bed for Nina to squeeze herself, a feat she managed just as the door opened. From her current angle she couldn’t see the door, but as the person took a few steps into the room Nina immediately realized it wasn’t Lipton. Despite the same vaguely malnourished state of all the Niners Lipton had always had a heavy plodding feel to her gait, and this person, whoever it was, moved with only the slightest sound. Nina tried to recognize who it might be, but as the person moved she got a view of their footwear. Most of the shoes in Ninerville were nothing more than worn slippers made from long ago scavenged rolls of moldering carpet. This person’s feet were clad in something thicker. Although she’d never seen anything like them in her life, she still thought she knew the archaic word for them from the books she had read over the years. Boots. Even the suits they wore for the occasional dangerous treks outside didn’t include boots, more like tightly wrapped leggings.

Nina almost gasped but resisted as the realization came to her. This person wasn’t from Ninerville.

She thought for sure that the person would think to look under the bed, but the intruder turned around and went back out the door after only a cursory search. She heard the person checking other rooms up and down the hall for several minutes before finally going back in the direction of the library. Nina stayed where she was for several minutes, and then forced herself to wait a few minutes more just to be sure. All the while her mind reeled at what she had just witnessed. Another person. Someone other than a Niner. It was something she had always hoped to see, and yet she had hidden from the person. Her greatest urge right now was to get out from under the bed, find the person, and then try introducing herself in a way that didn’t reveal her giddiness.

But rationally she knew this person could only have something to do with the missing Niners, and probably with Lipton’s odd actions. It was likely that the librarian hadn’t been talking to herself after all, but rather this outsider. She still couldn’t figure out why Lipton would hide this from everyone, but she knew she had to find out.

Once she thought a sufficient amount of time had passed Nina finally got out from under the bed and peered out into the hallway. There was still no sign of anyone else, and there weren’t many more places in the complex where the missing Niners might be. There were several other rooms used for various kinds of research, as well as the water cistern room where they kept all the non-contaminated water they had managed to reclaim from the ice-nine over the years. None of the research rooms were large enough to hide many people, so Nina quietly made her way through several back corridors to the cisterns.

In terms of their accomplishments in Ninerville, there was nothing more important or valuable than the cistern room. They’d built it out of a hanger that had once housed space craft before they were launched. The cistern room was at the center of the complex, far from any windows or entrances, and it was the most heavily insulated building in their little village. It consisted of hundreds of large vats of water, some clean enough for drinking while others were used for cleaning or waste purposes. This was also where they’d put their rough water treatment facilities. There were actually crude airlocks outside every entrance, since they couldn’t risk a single crystal of ice-nine somehow making it through their many other security precautions.

In some dark, hidden part of her mind Nina already suspected what she would find in the cistern room. She just refused to admit it to herself until she saw it.

When she got past the nearest airlock and opened the door she could already feel the chill from inside the completely darkened cistern room. It was always a bit colder than the rest of the complex, since heating such an enormous room would have taken much more than the limited resources they had, but it was at least kept warm enough to prevent the water from freezing.

The chill was far greater than it should have been.

“No,” Nina whispered to herself. “No, no, no.” She groped for the bank of light switches on a nearby wall and, after precious seconds of searching, finally found and flipped them.

The lights, flickering from being used and repaired for years and years after they should have been, came to life and illuminated the cistern room. Nina stood on a metal walkway that surrounded the room, with the occasional set of stairs going down to the floor with the cisterns. She choked on a sob as she saw what was left. Every cistern had been punctured in multiple places, allowing the precious water to come out in streams. The cisterns never had the chance to completely drain, however. There were all frozen solid, the jets of water coming out the sides connecting the water that puddled the floor with the blocks still inside. Nina had no doubt that they hadn’t just frozen by themselves.

And in the center of the room, where the water had pooled the deepest, were a number of frozen solid human statues. She stood there, with her hand covering her mouth, and watched, hoping that she would see one of them move. Several of them were lying on the floor, the frozen water completely covering their bodies, while several stood at the nearest cistern as though they were trying to plug the holes with their hands. Her husband stood in the middle, looking like he was in the middle of giving orders. Even though she didn’t want to, Nina found herself counting the bodies. Excluding herself and Lipton, that was everybody. Every single Niner was down there. The majority of the world’s last humans were dead.

“I thought you would be down there,” Lipton’s voice said from behind her. Nina turned to see the librarian standing in the airlock, although she wasn’t alone. There was a man with her, or at least Nina thought it was a man. The person was so covered in old rotting clothes that Nina couldn’t be sure of the person’s gender. He even had scarves tightly wrapped around his head. Nina recognized the thought process behind the garments: all the better to protect him from ice-nine. Nina noticed quite a few flakes of the deadly crystal still clinging to his clothes. He obviously hadn’t taken the same level of precaution when coming into the complex as the Niners had.

“You did this?” Nina asked Lipton as she came closer. Nina instinctively backed away farther onto the metal walkway. She already thought she knew the answer to her question, but she felt compelled to ask it on the off chance that maybe she was wrong about the situation.

“I had help,” Lipton said, gesturing to her companion. “There was a call over the intercom half an hour ago that there was an emergency in the cistern room and everyone needed to come. Didn’t you hear it?”

Nina supposed she didn’t, since she’d been so lost in her own work. Or maybe the intercom in that section wasn’t working again. She guessed that the reason didn’t matter, under the circumstances. She continued backing up until she bumped into the railing, but she instinctively avoided touching it, since everything in the room seemed to be covered in a thin layer of ice-nine. Merely touching it with bare skin wasn’t necessarily deadly as long as her hand wasn’t wet, but it wasn’t recommended, either. Without being able to wash, it was difficult to get the stuff completely off.

“They all rushed down there trying to stop the leaks,” Lipton said. “I guess some of them probably fell, but every one of them was dripping wet by the time my friend here came out of hiding and dropped a piece of ice-nine in.”

Nina shook her head. “I don’t understand. Who…” She turned to the stranger. “Who are you?”

“I don’t have a name,” he said. “I am of the Last Order of Bokonon.”

“You all thought it was silly that I kept listening to the radio for all this time,” Lipton said. “I knew we couldn’t be the only ones who had survived.”

“We have been looking for this place for many years,” the man said.

“But why?” Nina asked.

“So we could kill you,” he said. He actually sounded surprised, as though he couldn’t understand why she might be unhappy about that.

“We weren’t the first ones to find the San Lorenzo manuscript,” Lipton said. “We were just the first ones to move it.”

Nina tried to keep herself together long enough to think back to everything she remembered about the manuscript. “But all the Bokononists from San Lorenzo died. They killed themselves because their leader told them to.”

“Not everyone in San Lorenzo was a Bokononist,” Lipton said. “At least not at first.”

Nina remembered that part now. In addition to the author of the manuscript there had been a small number of other survivors.

“My parents read the manuscript before it was taken to the top of the mountain,” the Bokononist said. “They told us about it. And we have taken it upon ourselves to make sure no human ever thinks themselves so Godlike that they again create something like ice-nine.”

“But we’re not trying to create anything like that again, we’re trying to reverse it,” Nina said, her voice quavering. It suddenly occurred to her that she should be speaking in past tense. Everyone was dead. The resources they had built up were either frozen or would die soon. Any attempt to fix the world was over.

“Humans had their chance,” the Bokononist said. With a gloved hand he picked a small piece of ice-nine from his clothes and held it carefully in front of him. “Do the right thing. Take the ice-nine. Use it on yourself. Join them.”

Nina looked at Lipton. “And you agreed with this bullshit?”

“Human weren’t meant to live like this, Nina,” Lipton said. She sounded sad and distant, although not nearly as sad as Nina thought she should be considering she had just helped kill a significant portion of the human race. “It’s time we gave up.”

The Bokononist gestured again for her to take the ice-nine. He didn’t look like he had any weapons, and Nina didn’t think he could possibly be too well-nourished under those thick layers of clothes. Nina might be able to fight him off. The two of them together, however, Nina wasn’t so sure about. If they really wanted her dead right now they could probably do it.

Nina looked back over her shoulder at the paralyzed people in the ice. The ice-nine had taken them so quickly that they didn’t even look like they’d felt any pain. Her husband especially still looked so determined. There would be no attempt at getting pregnant tonight, nor ever again. According to Lipton and the Bokononist, such a thing would be futile. The odds for the few members of the human race were pretty much impossible.

Slowly, Nina took the crystal of ice-nine. The Bokononist nodded and backed away. Lipton, however, stayed within arm’s length.

Which was just fine by Nina. That made it easier to punch Lipton in the face, break her glasses, and shove the piece of ice-nine right into her eyeball.

Nina only barely managed to pull her hand away as the ice-nine reacted with the fluids in Lipton’s body and quickly froze her solid. The Bokononist moved quickly, rushing at Nina with his shoulder down, and Nina only barely moved out of the way in time to avoid being knocked backward over the railing. She did, however, have enough presence of mind to give him an extra shove and send him tumbling over the railing himself. The distance from the catwalk to the ice-covered floor below was only about ten feet, but Nina could tell by the sound alone that he hadn’t landed on his feet.

Nina looked over the edge and saw him on his back, now frozen to the floor. She didn’t understand at first what could have happened until she saw the tiny amount of blood leaking out from under what looked like a broken leg. That had been all that was needed for the ice-nine to travel right into his body.

Nina left the room, closing the door behind her for the last time.

*

It took Nina two full days before she finally made her decision. Much of that time was spent crying. She’d given thought about going back into the cistern room and trying to do something to give her husband and all the others some kind of burial, but she couldn’t force herself to go back in. Instead it only seemed proper to let the cistern room become a mausoleum, at least for now.

The one thing she did give a proper send-off, however, was the San Lorenzo manuscript. After making sure she had all potentially useful information recorded elsewhere she ripped the manuscript to shreds. If she believed the Bokononist then there may be others like him out there and they may come for the manuscript, but if they did they wouldn’t find anything. She didn’t want its cynicism to infect her the way it had Lipton.

She didn’t have much food left. Supplies were few. There wasn’t anyone to help her if she wanted to try leaving the complex looking for anything new. She even knew that it was very likely she would soon go crazy from the lack of people. She might, at some point, no longer be able to take it all and kill herself.

But for now she wouldn’t do it. For now she would keep fighting. Until she couldn’t keep going or someone else came to stop her, Nina was going to keep trying to solve the ice-nine problem.

Let everyone else give up the world for dead, she thought. As long as she still had her sanity and her science, she was going to believe something could be done to make the world a better place.