“You knew it was going to be like this.”

Spoken aloud, to himself, the words seemed even more empty and brought little comfort.  Tiny things, muffled by plastic, glass, and thousands of pounds of water overhead.  He’d forgotten how it was a bad idea to speak.  How it was a reminder that nobody would be answering.  That they were gone and he was…

Damn it!  He cursed himself silently.  He was doing it again.  Time to get up, to focus on the task at hand and occupy his mind with other things.

He strode through the wide glass hallway, walking on the scintillating patterns the light, strained through the water, left on the ground.  He walked on the shadows of fish.  He checked the airlocks one at a time, first flooding them, then re-pressurizing with forced air.  The pumps were good.  The seals were good.  The same as yesterday.

He took some readings on the bacterial growth on the bio-filters, ensured they were rotating in and out of the water properly, and that the fans were functional.  Air was good.  He didn’t need readings on the algae food processors.  Simply looking at the thin layers of green being scraped into the processor told him that it was working fine.  Same with the plankton tanks.  Food was good.

It was time to send Roscoe up to the surface.  He released the automated submersible and watched it go.  Three hours before it would get back.  He busied himself by doing the weekly maintenance on Roxanne, Roscoe’s counterpart.  Next time she would go and Roscoe would be serviced.

He would do these things over and over, until the day that one of them came back with low enough radiation.  He hoped it would be within his lifetime.

Finished with time to spare, he sat for a while, looking out into the vast blue blur, eyes unfocused.  He was having a bad day.  Couldn’t shake the feeling.

He decided to check on them.

This was one task he didn’t do often.  There was always a risk when opening the chamber and he didn’t like risks.  There was far too much at stake.  But sometimes he just had to do it.  There was no reason for it mechanically.  He justified it as maintenance for his mind.

Putting on the winter parka, goggles, and gloves he entered the access code that opened up the pressure core.  It was darker in here, among the rows of tubes, no natural light.  The tanks, hundreds of them, each glowed faintly.  He walked down the hallway, his breath puffing in the cold air, ignoring the glass cylinders until he came to an intersection and turned right.

A metal plate on the wall simply read: Homo Sapiens.

Here he stopped, gazing into the first tank.  In the center hung a tiny embryo the size of a marble.  He went from tank to tank, visiting them.  Looking at the tiny faces, the miniscule nubs that would be arms and legs.  The pinprick dots of eyes.

When it was time for Roscoe to return he left, took off the cold gear, and re-sealed the arc.  For the thousandth time he hoped the readings were good, knowing the chance was impossible.  He rubbed his eyes.

“You knew it was going to be like this.”