Monday, November 16, 2020

Microstory 1496: Wayward

It was 2245. For eleven years, Durus found itself hurtling through interplanetary space, though since there weren’t any other planets in the solar system, it was really just general 70 Ophiuchi space. Now the rogue planet was crossing a threshold, all the way into what experts considered interstellar space. They knew how far they had gone, because they knew how fast they were going, and how far they were from the edge when the sun was effectively destroyed, but they had lost most of their instruments since the catastrophe. Of course, everyone was living underground now. The atmosphere had long since been stripped away. Anyone who needed to go outside did so in vacuum suits that they had to plan, fully engineer, and test before use over the course of only a few months. The wind turbines above were still operational, powering their bunkers using the torrential storms still raging, but they required a hell of a lot more maintenance than they did before. The extremely cold temperatures made it much more difficult for these machines to keep going without constant tending. Fortunately, it wasn’t impossible to accomplish this, as long as they kept a team up there at all times. Children were now being taught almost exclusively only what they needed to know to take up the burden when it became their time. They didn’t learn much history or culture, but fortunately, they were at little risk of falling victim to their old ways. Every second here was now pretty much only about survival, and no one wanted to live past the destruction of the population, so they all made sure to remain inclusive and fair. Many crimes were punishable by a naked surface walk, so it was vanishingly rare. It wasn’t nonexistent, but the government made every attempt to give the people what they needed. There was no reason to steal a certain medication for one’s dying daughter, for instance, because if she wasn’t given the medication, it almost certainly meant it simply didn’t exist. As for that government, the Solar Democratic Republic was still intact. It was composed of the same number of leaders, in the same leadership positions, and they continued to have their rounds of elections every five years, just as it had been since the first Republic.

There were some great things about life underground that could have been quite terrible without the proper planning. For example, food was not a problem, and would probably never be. They knew how to grow produce under less than ideal conditions. They also weren’t at much risk of losing their oxygen, because scientists had been perfecting carbon scrubbing technology since the Mage Protectorate. The real problem was available space. The bunkers were designed to accommodate little more than the population at the time of conception, and they were quickly approaching that limit. They still didn’t know where they were going, or how long it would take for them to get there, and more importantly, how getting there would even help their situation anyway. This world wandered the interstellar void for at least millions of years before humans stepped foot on it, and there was no reason to believe it couldn’t do that again. They needed to buy some time for the right people to come up with a solution, and halt nearly all population growth until then. The Nexus replica was the obvious answer, but could it transport everyone, and how would they power it? It would seem the turbines were not enough for it, because they had already tried connecting it to the grid, and came up short. Even the experts weren’t a hundred percent certain how these machines were powered in the first place, but theirs didn’t seem to be working right now. To give them the time they needed, the people elected to invest heavily in stasis technology, which wasn’t something they had needed until now. A team of researchers was already working on it, but they needed more resources to complete it. It could take decades to figure out fusion technology, just like it did on Earth, so it was worth it to use stasis as a temporary solution. By 2252, nearly everyone was placed in their pods. This had the added benefit of lowering their reliance on the turbines. Now the only people awake were tasked with cracking fusion, or with supporting those elite in various ways.

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