The lights shut off sequentially down the corridor before her, leaving a long dark space with the dome at the end illuminated by the light coming in through its the external viewing window. If the base’s original builders had thought to put in protective shutters on that window, she would have closed them and the place would have been completely dark. That would have suited her mood.
She stepped back into the open lift and pressed the button to take her down to the loading dock level. Royd and Tepene were waiting for her in the last lit space in the base. As she locked down and powered off the lift, Tepene started shutting down the remaining life support functions. Five generations had used, crewed and lived in this space built to keep in atmosphere and warmth against the outside world that flirted with zero Kelvin and vacuum. Five generations and she, Secunda Custodia Tertiadomestica Vigilia, was the last to leave. The Great Migration had passed this point and the base was no longer needed but the inhabitants had insisted that it be mothballed, not dismantled. It held too much of their lives and history for its destruction to be acceptable.
The mothballing was done. The rest of the crew were already in transit, either joining tail-end ships of the Great Migration or darting ahead in smaller, faster ships to join new relay stations further ahead on the long journey. Vigilia’s job was to turn out the lights and lock the doors behind them. Royd and Tepene’s job was to make sure make sure she didn’t change her mind about leaving at the last minute.
Tepene finished closing off life support at his panel and for the first time in her life Vigilia heard the silence that meant the air circulation and filtration system wasn’t running. No alarms went off. Vigilia went to the wall panel and turned off the lights, plunging the loading dock into darkness section by section as she flicked the switches. When she was done the only light in the room came from the airlock that linked their ship to the loading dock. Royd was waiting in the airlock entrance and Tepene was making his way there, so she sighed and went to join them.
There hadn’t been time for the heat to leach out of the base yet, so why did she feel so cold?
“Come on,” Royd was using that funny one-sided smile of his, “time to go.”
“Oh yes,” Tepene sighed. “Let’s go home. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own cabin again.”
“You might be going home,” rejoined Vigilia in what would have been a tart voice, if it hadn’t been so wobbly, “but I’m leaving home and I can never come back.”
“Come here, Gillia,” Royd pulled her into his arms and guided her into the airlock. Both men held her safe as she sobbed into Royd’s shoulder while the airlock cycled humans out of the base for the last time.