FIFTY-FIVE, 2.0

“There’s a broken system here. Not between humans or animals, or thought. But a broken system of science. Planets colliding, asteroids on vigilante ventures through space. The solar system as we knew it is spiraling out of control, gravity loosening while the light of the sun fizzles out. But in this mess of darkness and haze of uncertainty, we must hold our grips on reality.”

These words run through Miller’s head as he leaps towards the first PEAC of the day, getting a head start on all of the work to be done. So much work.

Tess reminds him over the radio, “Just the Eastern seaboard today.”

“No pressure at all, right?”

Ever since he watched the President on television give that speech, the most important speech of Miller’s lifetime, he’d been trying to work and do something good. Now, he feels less a pressure and more of a sensation that he is almost the only person standing between the end of all things and the unity of the planet.

Oh, Miller doesn’t hold illusions of grandeur, nor does he let his ego lift him up because of his responsibilities. He just embraces the reality, the situation in front of him that had been laid bare by his father right after that infamous speech.

“You and only you remain. Our last hope to make things right again, or at least keep them right for a little while longer.” It hadn’t been the most encouraging message a father could give to his son, but that was okay with Miller. He’d never been particularly close to his parents, and once even tried to run away.

This was during the first of four Gravity Crises, when he was a small boy. Two days later, by the time he’d floated to the highest building in Manhattan, Miller decided it was too scary in the world and came home. His parents were more concerned about earth than anything else, and had barely noticed that he was gone.

Now, Miller takes to floating with ease and doesn’t mind great heights. They are necessary, in fact, to his daily routine. He travels over 500 miles in a day, jumping and floating and even utilizing the jet pack to reach each PEAC across the United States.

The PEACs are Primary Electromagnetic Activation Constructs, and must be reset once a month in order to maintain the planet’s flimsy gravitational field. Miller was never properly trained to handle these PEACs, but picked up on their necessity from the public broadcast that spans the nation four times a day, and includes information on other ways to maintain the planet.

When he learned that he was only one of 500 survivors on earth, Miller was just impressed by the sheer fact, and the hard numbers behind that fact. Satellite readings of every living being on the planet gave the survivors a sense of things, a good idea on where to coalesce, and also where to spread out. No one needed to remain in Canada or south of Mexico, for instance. And the former highly-magnetized region of Russia had been decimated when the moon had dispersed and millions of rocks had cratered into the earth.

That was a difficult two years, and Miller was glad that he was only a baby at that time.

Miller finishes today early, and returns to rest against the one tree in his yard at the center of Central Park. The grass is tall and the bushes still standing, though not as green as they once were.

Tess walks over and plunks herself beside him, pulling a few candy bars from her pocket. She’s nice enough and doesn’t ask too many questions, which Miller likes because he doesn’t have any answers. For a time she is quiet, then she says, “I heard the twins missed their PEAC today. Well, PEACs. All of them. Looks like we’ll lose Florida.”

Miller remains quiet. He never liked the Twins, a pair of oddballs who would rather mess around then try to save the planet. They argued there’s no real reason to keep on keeping on, that it’s going to disappear anyway, so what’s the point? Miller was afraid to admit they were right, and maybe that’s why he disliked them so much.

“You want any?” Tess held out a candy bar.

Miller took it and ate the candy slowly, staring up at the sunset that was purple and blue and fading to black overhead. “Berries?”

“It’s got raspberries, yeah.”

“Thanks for the treat.”

She nods and rests her head on his stomach as they both stare at the sky. While they watch the darkness take over, he wonders aloud, “This is worth it, right? The reason we do it all?”

Tess looks up at him and smiles, her teeth awash in chocolate and berries.

Miller sees her ridiculous smile and yaps out a laugh.

Tess says, “Totally worth it.”

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