Three quadrillion years. The concept may be alien to a human mind, but there shall be a point in time when this comes to pass. Such a distant future will see the end of all things we know, all things we are comfortable with. Worlds, stars, even galaxies, such comforts of existence will have been deceased long eons past.
Between now and that distant, foreign future, whose concept we can scarce dream of, lies all the history of all the civilized peoples of all the galaxies. The entire history of every species will, by even one quadrillion years hence, have been writ. The history books themselves will be consigned to the dustbins of entropy. Even the greatest monuments, the most heroic beings, the most deadly villains of the entire universe will have come and gone, all consumed entirely by the void.
Yet, tenaciously, vigorously, amazingly, life clings on. While it is true that one quadrillion years from now no more stars will naturally come into existence, while it is incontrovertible that planets will be unanchored from their host stars, doomed to wanted the universe as lone marbles of a celestial oasis, even against the odds imposed by entropy and the empty universe, life dominates. Life triumphs. Life exists.
Three quadrillion years, three times as much time passes between this desert universe dominated by the void, the fact there’s any life left, let alone enough to chronicle the existence of, is a testament to one particular people. One of the few lucky species to reach the stars before such excursions became untenable used all the power they could muster to extend the lifespan of themselves and others.
These farsighted peoples saw it as their duty to wage war against the encroaching eternal darkness to give life scant extra time to exist. These brave beings united together under the philosophy that life is to be lived and that there are still people left to be born who should be. These intelligent explorers gathered about the last vestiges of life across the large swath of the universe they could reach and gathered them all together, offering one oasis after the next to continue living.
First, an artificial stellar system built around their home star. Their great ships claimed rogue planets from the emptiness of freezing space and brought them home to this star, terraforming them along the way. It was thus that billions of years were purchased away from dark nothingness. When their star, like all stars, inevitably started to cool and expire, they moved the planets to younger stars, cutting several billion more years out of a dying universe. This they did several more times, until the last star they could find was the last star formed so long ago, this young, final star half dead by the time they came to live about it.
Knowing that this star will, as well, die in the fullness of time, they sought out the white and brown dwarf stars and used their amazing and powerful starships to drag these stars together, forming a ring of stellar remnants to provide warmth and life. And it was thus that a few trillion extra years were gained. But even the corpses of stars would as well die.
So the preservers of life, these strange beings who fought to continue the process of life within the universe, would crush the stellar remnants into one another, sparking an artificial birth amongst the stars. With just enough nuclear fuel to reignite when smashed together in such a way, red dwarf stars, the longest living true stars, sprung back into life. And this continued again and again, repeating itself until there were no more stars corpses to crush together.
There was but one. One lone dark ember. One oasis of heat in a freezing universal void.
The people living tore apart their planets for resources, tore upon any bits of asteroid and space dust, used everything material they could use as resources, and built a final great project to spite a universe contending to wipe life away from it. They crafted an artificial world about the final star, using the heat and radiation emitted to power their miraculous machinery and offer sanctuary for the rare tenacious few who managed to exist so long. They challenged the ultimate disaster by creating a shell around a flickering stellar candle. And they insured that all things great and small would be able to exist with the food production machines, the atmospheric technology, the liquid replicators. They crafted domiciles and buildings and all the other requirements for society. They gave a future to the hopeless.
Then they vanished. Those that fought so hard for life to continue in any form, in any way, disappeared. Some thankful and some sycophantic peoples tried their best to find and thank their saviors, only to likewise never be seen again. No one could understand. Society continued.
Society is never at all peaceful, not even in these dark future days. Conflicts arose without the guiding hand of their saviors. The last war known in the universe was fought within this eggshell against entropy. Brought on by reckless breeders with no intent to stop creating offspring, everyone else saw an upcoming overpopulation on an already strained and inevitably doomed city. So war was fought, not just to thin the herds, not just for political power, but to wipe out a way of thinking, to end a culture dangerous to the survival of others.
And when the war ended, when the survivors saw how disastrous and deadly the weapons they could use at the end of time were, they collectively threw the weaponry into the star they lived by, hoping the energy and materials would buy even one more day, one more hour, for the star to exist. Such became of all the useless detritus society accumulated, given to the star for fuel in the vainglorious hopes of another hour.
After trillions of years of existing thus, the red dwarf star finally gave out. It flared and it pulsed and it burnt itself out, turning into a white dwarf star, the final white dwarf possible.
Trillions upon trillions upon trillions of years did society exist under the cool, soft light of their home star. The immortal and long lived beings would fondly remember the red dwarf star era as ‘The Golden Age’ and tell stories of its glory to the younger beings. Its dim warmth offered sanctuary to a people that knew one overriding truth:
The end of everything is imminent. Every moment may not be merely your last, but the final breath of all living beings. This dreary existence hangs over the head of all beings, this knowledge that they witness the total end of all history.
It is with heavy hearts that people force themselves to live their daily existences. It is knowing there is nothing that could be done, nothing that could be conceived of being done that could stop this downward spiral towards doomsday that seeps into the hearts and shadows the minds of all those surviving on this sanctuary against the frozen dark.
What is there to do, what can be done? Why bother trying to repair the decaying buildings and salvage the worn machinery when the star flickers and gasps its own last breaths? Why should they bother with ensuring food and water when each day is another nail in the final coffin? It is with these thoughts that the common people live by.
True heroes surpass those thoughts, true heroes fight against the darkness, paragons prove their existence to the very stars themselves, even if it is but one final star. They stand up above society and cleave a name for themselves that even the cosmos trembles to whisper. They provide shining beacons that not even stars themselves could do, they fight the odds that are insurmountable. And even should what they do be simply wiped from existence in their next breath, they continue to do so because that is who they are. That is the mark of a hero.
However, the days of heroes, like the eras of stars, have drawn to a close. Those rare few that exist are the aberration to society, looked down upon and frowned at by a peoples holding onto their breaths while simultaneously trying to draw more.
It is here, in the dark borrowed days that we start our story. It is here on this archaic beyond belief bastion, full of decrepit ruins that our stage is set. It is here, where energy beings dance within the star, only to inform others of how the stellar core is crystallizing and doom is impending that heroes stand up and live a life above the others.
It is here, on our lone dark ember. Here…
Upon a graveyard waiting for its ghosts to die.