Catherine is gone.
Simon is gone.
Or at least, one version is. Simon doesn’t realize this at first. He’s not aware of much amid the electric hum of the diving suit’s hard reboot that draws him back to consciousness about as gently as getting hit by a truck. His internal clock tells him it's been three days and that's confusing for two reasons: he doesn't have an internal clock and he's been here for three days. Out of all the bizarre things Simon has seen an unexpected built in function isn't too surprising. He had no idea about the flashlight and it had still been there, just like the rest of him. Then came a third, unpleasant realization: he's still in the chair at Omnicron.
“Did it work?” Silence, aside from a dull hum of overhead lights. “Catherine?”
His head hurts, lenses heavy and head fuzzy with static. A bit like waking up from a hangover on a Saturday night after one too many drinks, though he hasn’t been on a drinking binge since college...or so he thinks. His human memories seem a distant memory, a lifetime separated so far apart from his current reality that they might as well be a dream—a nightmare.
Simon struggles to stand and, predictably, his knee give on the first step. After three days of sitting around it’s no wonder his muscles are stiff, joints locked up. The earlier surge of power straight to his battery couldn’t have helped. Hands find and squeeze both armrests tight, and it’s all he can do not to collapse on the floor in a heap. Scuffed tiles swim in and out of focus, one heel foot braced against the footrest, the other sprawled out haphazardly across the floor.
“This- this isn’t funny, Catherine. Why aren’t you saying anything?”
It’s the silence that spurs his efforts to stand again. Maybe she's shorted out, just to be restarted and then they can have a good laugh at this little misunderstanding. Arching his back until the bottom of his sprawled foot makes contact with the ground, Simon propels his body up and forward with both arms. He’s on his feet for a second then his balance is gone and he’s floundering to hold on to the door frame, curses flying out under his breath. Simon forces a laugh that cracks static around the edges, gaze moving to where Catherine should be plugged in.
“You didn’t tell me this would hurt so...bad...ly…”
It was a mistake to look up. The...scene that greets him isn’t particularly morbid in of itself, not by human standards. No blood (just structure gel) stained tiles or gut (just broken machinery) strewn about. Just a power suit slumped against the airlock doors, hand clutched tight about the bright red of an Omnitool. Simon surged forward, tripping over his feet at each step right up until he falls to his knees besides the body. He stares at the caved in face plate, broken glass framing the damaged robot face inside, then dares to look down at the gouge across the suit’s chest plate that reaches all the way down to the corpse inside.
He waves a hand in front of the power suit’s face. “Hello?” A gentle touch and then nudge of its arm confirms Simon’s suspicions that, whoever was inside isn’t anymore. It must have belonged to the Simon that won the coin toss, the Simon who descended into the Abyss with Catherine in tow and left him behind.
Anger floods him and he wants nothing more than to strike out, grab Other Simon by the shoulders and demand why, why, why did you leave me here to wake up alone? He doesn’t have the strength to do that and remains trembling on his knees, muscles tensed for a fight that plays out only in his mind. Leaving him alive was fucking selfish, plain and simple. Simon knows for a fact that Other Simon didn’t want the weight of killing him on his conscience because he is Simon. They both are or were, in Other Simon’s case.
“Good riddance,” he breathes and starts the next second as something shrieks from the other side of the airlock, alerted by his voice. He jumps, scrambled back as the thing lets loose cacophony of wails that he swears are littered with garbled English. It sends his vision glitching that worsens as fists pound against metal in a desperate wail of despair or maybe anger. Such differentiation is impossible to make when static garbled his senses. He sits, hands clamped over the sides of his helmet and gaze trained on the floor, waits until the pounding stops to uncurl his body. His breathing evens in the silence and his heart slowly stops racing until he’s clear headed enough to put the pieces together: Other Simon lured the monster into the airlock and sealed it within. Whether or not he managed to launch the ARK...there’s not enough evidence for success or failure but Simon desperately hopes he succeeded even though the idea of Other Simon and Catherine getting to experience paradise among the stars stirs up an ugly jealousy within him.
It was supposed to be him and Catherine who were going to get onto the ARK, not a copy masquerading as Simon. He gazes into the broken face, reflection caught in the larger shards of glass that ring the inner rim and wants so badly to hate his other self. But there isn’t enough fuel to keep that jealousy burning, not with the truth of what a brain scan really did so clearly laid out before him. There was never any coin toss. It was just a copy of himself put into a new body while he himself remained behind. Simon laughs and sits back on his heels, hands clenched into fists on his knees. God...what a fucking idiot he’d been but Catherine hadn’t clarified what was about to happen. Maybe she thought he understood.
Catherine. Simon eyes drop to the Omnitool on Other Simon’s belt, reaching out when he recognizes the WAU infused cortex chip of Catherine Chun. Holding it close to his chest he half staggers to the console on his left and plugs her in. When nothing happens he takes her out, puts her back in again and stares at the dark screens, urging her silently to please come back, please don’t leave me alone down here.
”Guess you were right, Catherine,” he whispers to the Omnitool, “all that reality of continuity stuff was just a bunch of bullshit.” He touches her burnt out cortex chip and can almost feel the tired smile on his nonexistent face. “Sorry I was such a fucking idiot. I hope... I hope Other Simon managed to launch the ARK.” I hope you didn't die for nothing.
Simon turns to take a closer look at Other Simon, having to squint in order to discern the dark shape of a cortex chip behind the stem of the robot head. There’s no way he can salvage the body, too far mutilated by claws and stiff from rigor mortis. Yet Other Simon might still be alive within the cortex chip and he can’t just, leave his other self trapped for eternity. Whether or not Other Simon was thinking of only himself or both of them by luring the monster into the airlock, Simon has to try. He has nothing else to lose. He hesitates, gathering the willpower to reach into the helmet where his fingers search for that familiar, rectangular shape. Groping around Other Simon’s head almost seems like desecration, a feeling not helped when his hand reaches too low and brushes against cool, decayed flesh.
”Uck.” He wipes his fingers on the inside of the helmet and redirects his search to the back of the eye stalks, forced to contort his wrist in order to pull the cortex chip free. “Shit!” he hisses as, with a sharp tug, the cortex chip comes free and snaps in two.”Goddamnit! Fuck!” Simon yanks his hand out and stares in disbelief at the broken cortex chip sitting in his palm, shards of green motherboard spilling out between his fingers onto the tiled floor.
I killed him. His hand trembles, mind thrown back to poor Amy who died right before his eyes as he unplugged her from the shuttle terminal. He’d never mentioned to the Catherine, rationalized away the act but the end result was still the same: he’d killed her, and now he’d killed Simon. How much more can you fuck up?, his mind whispers in accusing tones. Haven’t you done enough? Simon slides the ruined cortex chip back into the helmet, words of apology caught in the vice of his throat before he stands, still shaking with the shock
Simon steps back into the hallway and closes the door. ”I’m sorry,” he says to the metal, disgust and shame for his clumsiness burned deep into his hoarse apology. Simon’s only able to shut his eyes for only a moment in a minute moment of silence before his drive to survive kicks back into gear. The empty hallways amplify his footsteps as he hurries out of Omnicron, sorrow eclipsed by fear which prickles on the back of his neck long after he’s jimmied the airlock open.
Only once he’s on his way out of Omnicron does Simon realize he has no idea where to go. No idea what to do. No plan whatsoever now that humanity has been saved from total extinction.
Standing alone with just the gentle sway of seaweed at his feet and soft work lights in the distance that filters through the gloom should make him feel calm. Instead tranquility serves only to heighten his senses, suffocate him with the knowledge that he is alone, utterly and totally alone with no one to turn to. Not even someone to talk to. There’s a film over his senses, muffling the world until he feels like he might actually be suffocating. Can he suffocate without lungs? Miles of the ocean hover around him, and it seems laughable that this frail body hasn’t already collapsed under its immense pressure. Simon’s legs buckle and for a long time he stays that way, hunched over, fingers buried knuckle deep in the sandy sea floor as if the current might carry him away at any moment.
What’s a robot to do at the end of the world?
He walks. It’s the only thing to do. Keep moving and he’s sure to stumble on something to do, something to distract him from the crushing loneliness of being left behind. Forgotten. Abandoned.
The working Omnitool he salvaged off Other Simon means he can go just about anywhere so long as the machinery holds out. It hurts to replace Catherine with Helper Jane but she’s gone, fried down to every last circuit from whatever Other Simon managed to accomplish down in the abyss. A part of him hopes her self, her real self, somehow, made it onto the ARK to live out a blissful eternity among the stars. It’s a hope he repeats to himself as he buries her cortex chip outside Theta besides a cluster of vibrant purple coral. Simon muses on how this might be the last human burial performed on the planet before shuffling back inside Theta.
And…that’s how it is for a while. He 'lives’ in Theta, aimlessly traveling between stations at first to salvage parts for maintenance and then to collect every scrap of humanity he can find. Photos, letters, trinkets, books all enter his new collection in what he knows is halfhearted attempt to preserve his own version of humanity. It’s nowhere as sophisticated as the schematics of the ARK but, provided some inch of PATHOS-II stays water tight, it’ll last forever. A testament to humanity’s last stand in the form of a museum 200 meters under the sea with Simon as its sole curator. He even dares to venture back to Omnicorn, nerves heightened as he packs his arms filled with human memorabilia as the monster behind the door sobs and cries to no one.
Simon can relate to that despair.
Finally a break in routine arrives. It may have been a day, weeks, months or longer since something interesting happened. All that matters is that something happens and Simon is around to witness the aftermath. Out on a mundane scouting 'mission’ (read: chore) on the newly ‘hacked’ zeppelin, something new looms out of the gloom that catches Simon off guard. Something big. He changes the course to investigate with the idea that it must be a downed satellite before realization creeps up on him that whatever it might be is too big for a satellite. That it looks an awful lot like a spaceship and that it’s intact.
Mostly intact, Simon amends for the closer he pilots the Zeppelin the more debris he can see littered around what must be the crash site and within that lies the ship. A massive, cylinder shaped craft with a strange ribbed midsection that looks too short and jagged to be the rest of the ship. Resting on its side in the sand, particles still swirling around in fresh clouds, Simon can guess the crash was fairly recent. He’s no mechanic and he’s just barely scraped together the knowledge needed to fix PATHOS-II’s mechanical issues. Simon informs the Zeppelin to land besides the front, cockpit esque portion of the ship. He’s too excited by this novelty to just wait and, in a moment of rash impulse, vaults the gate before it has a chance to lower and sends up his own cloud of sand.
He weaves his way through the broken parts, stopping once or twice to examine parts. If this is a spaceship it’s nothing like the ones NASA used to launch into space, lacking any sleek aerodynamic curves or tapered points that Simon associates with space stuff. Even in the ocean lighting he can see the colors are all dull browns and grays as if it was just thrown together without a care for aesthetic. Or maybe aliens just have a different sense of style. Simon gives up that trail of thought and presses on further into the debris field, finding his path more and more blocked by the bulky shape of what must be the front part of the ship. It’s the only intact part left and his curiosity finds him standing before an airlock with a touch activated hologram. No Omnitool required.
By some stroke of a miracle the airlock works, parts used to filtering in an atmosphere now groaning under the strain of having to pump out seawater. It gives Simon time to take in his surroundings, examine the unfamiliar architecture. He remembers once reading that the conditions at the bottom of the sea were approximate to those found in space, for proof of that he need look no further than the chamber he stands in. Function wise it’s uncannily similar to the Dive Rooms of PATHOS-II yet lacks the miscellaneous sea life he’s grown used to seeing growing out of cracks in walls and pipes. That lack of life makes him feel totally out of his element, a reminder that this ship really is from outer space. A real life spaceship.
“It’s just a ship, Simon.” He fingers the Omnitool clipped to his belt as if it could ever be a suitable weapon. “A ship definitely not filled with aliens ready to eat your face.”
Unaffected by his weak pep talk, Simon frantically waves his hand in front of the access panel once the water finally drain away from around his ankles. It opens slowly but it opens and greets Simon with total darkness. He gives his eyes time to adjust and sees a corridor barely lit by red emergency lights situated where the wall meets floor. A warning siren blares, interrupted only by a droning voice that warns about imminent failure of hull integrity and calm instructions on where to find the escape pods.
“...Yeah. Straight out of a horror movie.” Simon swallows a wad of fear and, placing one foot in front of the other, moves out into the hallway. Nothing charges out of the darkness to attack but he turns on his flashlight all the same and follows the warning lights to their source; the cockpit. That’s where comms must be and, with them, the chance to contact someone, anyone who might still be alive up there. He passes doors bent inward by the pressure of the ocean, unnerved by his own damn footsteps that echo back off the walls that makes it sound as if someone is following him - which is stupid. He’s alone, not in Alien or it’s two shitty sequels.
He finds the doorway of the cockpit wide open, the door lying a little ways down the hallway as if blasted off its frame by some explosion. That’s troubling because when he steps into the cockpit, he doesn’t see any scorch marks or stuff you’d associate with a boom. Strange looking chairs and equipment are strewn haphazardly across the floor, sure, but nothing looks burned in this dim light. He kicks aside the twisted stand of a chair, approaches the dim console that doesn’t respond to any of his button pushing or switch flicking. Even the absurd joystick remains locked in place no matter how much Simon wrestles with it.
”Do aliens not label their shit? How the hell am I supposed to find anything?!” He brings his fist down on the useless hunk of metal, exhaling hard until his anger dissipates. Unable to make sense of the button and switches functions, it’s another goddamn dead end. No radio contact means he’s still basically stranded at the bottom of the sea in a lab of delusional robots and half dead humans. Simon wants to scream, maybe cry, finds the energy for none.
He let his hopes for something new get the better of him instead of getting used to his new role as humanity’s last historian. “Great,” he throws up his hands, turns his back on the console. “Just great. Maybe there’s some junk worth salvaging on this wreck...” He swings the flashlight in a wide arc across the room, doing a double pass when the light glints off something reflective in a nearby chair.
Simon’s breath catches in his throat at the sight, a wave of giddiness and shock rushing over him.
There’s someone in the pilot seat.