The sky was red, brighter at the horizon, and streaked with the trails of charged particles. It made Jaro think of a blood orange. He was hungry. No fresh fruit around though; just pallets and pallets of MREs. He grabbed one off the top—calf’s liver dumplings, ugh—and tossed it back. On second thought, he wasn’t that hungry. There was a rumble, and the red sky was lost within the white brightness of another launch. He could see six of the transports now, strung out across the sky on the same vector like beef tips on a skewer.
Jaro was directing the final evacuations of Chalkydri before its star went Type II and obliterated it. It was burning oxygen now; they were down to days.
Of course, people largely stopped settling here a thousand years ago, and every generation after saw the population shrink as people migrated away. It was a big galaxy; lots of other places to go. But millions stayed. Jaro didn’t blame them; he knew it was a cultural thing. Ancestral grounds, local legends, the shapes of the megastructures: it all held a sacred meaning. He’d been through a number of similar evacs and inadvertently carved out a unique specialty for himself. That’s why he wasn’t surprised about the Preservers.
Oh, they went by different names on different worlds, but their philosophies were similar enough. They would not evacuate. Would not leave their world to burn alone. That was their choice to make; who was Jaro to say otherwise? All he could do was communicate the plans and make transports available. But when the last one departed, that was that. No coming back. The final few days were always the busiest as people changed their minds at the last minute—parents with young kids, mostly.
Anyway, Jaro would soon be done here. He’ll be the last living person to have walked on Cahlkydri. Just as he was on Megara Tau, and Permata, and Fauconbridge. There was another rumble, this time from Jaro’s stomach. There had to be some fresh fruit somewhere on this forsaken planet, and he was determined to find it.