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Saturday, July 01, 2006

Year 2076: Meryan Wins the Lottery

Meryan watched the parched fields roll by as her bus carried her down the badly worn and pot-holed road to the domes. She was terribly afraid. She had heard many stories of the brutality of the soldiers who guarded the domes and fields.
She had won the lottery to enter the domes. She had valuable skills to offer. She had no children. She had no husband. She suspected the last two qualities had given her an edge in the lottery, her valuable skills were not really that uncommon; there were still many people literate enough to read, write, enumerate and operate a computer
Meryan hadn’t mentioned her security skills, they were her hole card. Her security skills might have barred her from getting into the domes; the domes’ security administrators would regard her security skills with suspicion. But, once she was established in her new job within the domes she might still have uses for her security skills, perhaps she could use them to promote herself.
As they approached the domes Meryan noticed that many of the field workers were not wearing respirators. She wondered whether the resources of the domes were becoming so poor that they could not provide respirators to all the workers who must work outside the domes.
The respirators were breathing devices that filtered out carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide to provide air richer in O2. The high concentrations of carbon gases in the atmosphere were killing people all over the world. Before the censors took over the news the latest global death toll from environmental illnesses had reached about 3 billion. That was 2 years ago. The only news you could get now was The Bizgov’s line of drivel about the success of the arcologies or the deployment of new power satellites.
The Bizgov never admitted any weakness or defeat unless it was in their best interest to do so to manipulate its citizens. The Bizgov had acquired the USA in a foreclosure on the national debt. Meryan knew that nations which remained outside of The Bizgov’s dominion blamed the former USA and Bizgov for leading the world into the predicament it was in today.
Meryan had researched the current crisis for anonymous members of the resistance movement. Back in the late eighties a branch of the US government, the National Oceanographic Institute, had published an alarming document describing what they were certain would be the future fate of the world.
They described an inevitable catastrophic breakdown of the Oceanic Carbon Cycle which was the planet’s primary means of cleansing the atmosphere of excess carbon gasses.
Meryan had located several electronic copies of the report which had put the Federal Government and large industries in a very bad light. The report had been swiftly suppressed.
Neither the government nor the industries which shared responsibility for the potential collapse of the carbon cycle wanted to shoulder the burden of the costs to implement changes to prevent the catastrophe. They adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude, denying that there was anything at all to worry about.
Too many people had seen the report or made copies of it, as concern about the report continued to grow in the public sector, the government disowned their Oceanographic Institute while sponsoring a plethora of studies designed to obfuscate the danger and confuse anyone who tried to continue an investigation of the subject.
But Meryan had not been confused. Her security skills made her a superb data miner and she had managed to winkle out the entire story.
In the years from 2012 to 2025 The Bizgov Corporation was formed and acquired several small nations in Africa, Pacifica and the Caribbean. The US government assisted Bizgov in making these acquisitions to help to set a precedent for the transition of the USA from a republic to a corporate entity.
In 2027 The Federal Government of the United States was ceded to the growing Bizgov Corporation; the bankruptcies of the Federal Government and a majority of state governments were used to drive the acquisition through our courts in spite of our constitution. California had barely survived the ‘Terminator’ years in which Ahnald the black plowman had nearly bankrupted the state. When Bizgov won its takeover of the USA California seceded from the union.
The Bizgov responded with deft attacks on California’s industries and brought the state to bankruptcy court in six years, ending California’s second brief existence as an independent nation.
In 2032 The Bizgov announced a program of re-capitalization for their nations’ energy infrastructures. The new energy infrastructure was to be built in space. It would be a non-polluting source of energy.
By 2053 the initial array of power satellites had been completed, nearly 7 years behind schedule. The energy they provided did not meet even half of the requirements of The Bizgov Nations. Bizgov had fought a long war to construct the power satellites. Plans were underway to create a space-based defense system for the satellites to prevent any further assaults or sabotage. The Bizgov had made a big deal about the war brought against them by the Oilers, a union of the middle-eastern oil producing nations allied against The Bizgov, so Meryan had not needed to research this part too hard.
The Oilers had protested to the world that the power satellites were thinly disguised orbital weapon systems capable of roasting any city on earth with their highly concentrated beams of microwave energy. This was true, but everyone understood the Oilers real objection was the difficulty they might find themselves in when trying to compete in the energy market against an energy resource that was virtually free, aside from the cost of the infrastructure required to deliver it.
The burgeoning populations of independent nations, combined with the growth of The Bizgov Nations were now producing energy at a rate four times greater than only 50 years before. In every one of Meryan’s copies of the suppressed report it said that the margin by which energy production could be increased before causing the oceanic carbon cycle to fail could be as little as only fifty to one hundred percent.
The world was now consuming about 400 percent more energy than was being produced at the time of the report.
In 2064 the carbon sinks of the world’s oceans began to reach the point of saturation which was the critical event that the suppressed report had warned about. Bizgov’s power satellite deployment was not keeping up with the growing energy demands, let alone reducing the dependency on the hydro-carbon fueled power plants that were poisoning the world.
Meryan remembered when reports of people dying as a result of the change in our atmosphere first appeared, she had been thirteen then. She had joined petitioners collecting signatures demanding something be done about it.
The number of people dying of lung afflictions and shortness of breath rose exponentially, as Meryan grew older, until by 2074 three tenths of the world’s nearly 10 billion people had expired. Then the census bureau fell under the control of the censors’ bureau, and among the masses of citizens no one now knew where the death toll stood anymore.
But Meryan had penetrated the security of the censors. In 2076 the death toll had passed four billion.
Meryan was grateful to be moving to the domes. She would survive while her former friends and neighbors were doomed to suffocate and die.
Meryan had been approached by the resistance movement again last week. They wanted her help with some of the security systems which monitored threats and dispatched security patrols around the domes.
She had played for time while she waited to see if she would win the lottery to move to the domes. She didn’t want to cooperate with the freedom fighters if she was going to be joining the loyal Bizgov residents in the domes, but she also had wanted to keep her options open, her chances of winning the lottery were slim.
Now she wondered if she had learned enough about the resistance to be useful to The Bizgov security officers. So long as the domes protected her she would have to do her best to protect the domes in return.
The resistance was determined to kill everyone in the domes and take over the domes for themselves. Meryan knew that having the resistance in charge of the domes would be worse than having The Bizgov control them. The Bizgov was connected and could facilitate things like energy, parts and supplies that the domes could not manufacture themselves.
The Bizgov would dispatch an army to quash the resistance if the resistance succeeded in taking the domes by storm. The resistance would house its own select groups of favored people in the domes if they succeeded, but the resistance would, in turn, still leave many people outside to die.
The resistance would never have the resources of The Bizgov; they could never afford to build more domes and tunnels, to shelter more people.
Meryan knew that in the North and in the West the rise of the arcologies had gone more smoothly; fewer people were being abandoned to die as the atmosphere grew progressively more lethal. But in the South and Midwest the resistance movement had ironically been a roadblock in constructing new domes for the arcologies. The resistance looted supply convoys and executed ‘traitors’, traitors being anyone who supported The Bizgov.
Meryan’s bus slowed to a halt at the first checkpoint. They were still several miles from the outermost ring of the domes.
Soldiers with mechanic’s sleds scooted under the bus while other soldiers boarded the bus and forced everyone off at gunpoint.
A thorough search was made of the bus, the baggage and the passengers using fluoroscopy and sniffers. The sniffers were trained rats. Cheaper to train and maintain than dogs, the rats could detect biological or chemical threats and alert their handlers if they found anything remotely suspicious.
When the bus and its load of immigrants had finally passed inspection everyone was made to board the bus again and the bus was sealed. The bus could move through the remaining checkpoints quickly so long as the seals remained intact.
Meryan had been asked by her sister to try to smuggle drugs into the domes, but Meryan had refused and now she was grateful for her good sense. She could never have gotten drugs past the rats without bribing one or more of their handlers, and perhaps their commanding officer as well. More likely she would just have been shot, while the drugs would disappear, distributed among the soldiers to help augment their low salaries.
As the bus departed from the first checkpoint, Meryan settled in to her new seat. This was a better seat than she had had before; there was still a substantial amount of the hard foam padding stuck to the metal plank.
Meryan reviewed what she new of the layout of the domes comparing her new observations against her knowledge. The domes were built in concentric rings with the largest domes clustered in the center. The central domes held housing and offices for the elite leaders and their administrative workers, along with a special cadre of soldiers to maintain order.
The first ring surrounding the center housed the workers and industries primarily engaged in commercial enterprises, but there were also some industries in the first ring engaged in light manufacturing.
The second ring from the center was similar to the first ring in use, but with much more manufacturing work.
Heavy industries and freight companies occupied the third ring. The third ring also held the majority of the security forces and was heavily fortified and armed. The third was the last of the solid rings surrounding the administrative domes in the center. All the armoring of the third ring’s fortifications faced outward.
The fourth ring housed agricultural workers and livestock. The domes of the fourth ring were spaced apart in clusters connected by tunnels. Working and living conditions grew steadily worse farther away from the privileged center. While every dome was crowded, domes in the outer rings were two to three times more crowded than those in the inner rings.
Many domes were appallingly filthy, particularly in the fourth and fifth rings.
In addition to agricultural workers and livestock, the fifth ring housed more soldiers. The clusters of domes in the fifth ring were spaced farther apart than in the fourth ring. The fifth ring was lightly fortified but very well armed. The security soldiers there maintained patrols against marauders and saboteurs.
Shelters beyond the fifth ring consisted of networks of hastily excavated tunnels. The tunnels could be entered and exited through airlocks similar to the airlocks which permitted entry and egress for the domes.
Meryan’s bus was passing through this area of tunnels and she saw frequent signs of subsidence where many of the tunnels had collapsed.
Meryan was grateful the lottery had not assigned her to live or work in this outer region. The tunnels were inhabited by the lowest class of agricultural workers and groups of marginally skilled general laborers who were employed in the mining and scavenging industries.
Meryan and her friends had lived in a small town of sealed buildings. The building seals were always faulty. Under the onslaught of frequent storms the buildings of her tiny town would sway back and forth; the buildings’ joints would pop and the seals would crack.
Maintaining safe breathable atmospheres within their homes and workplaces had been a constant challenge.
Communities like Meryan’s small town struggled for their existence; many failed to survive. They had little or no support from The Bizgov. If they failed to earn enough money to pay their taxes and bills they would be unable to maintain the integrity of their buildings against the lethal atmosphere outside and had to be abandoned. People abandoning their homes and workplaces most often had nowhere to go, if they could not find a place in another community before their respirators gave out they would likely die.
Meryan knew her own community had been on the brink of failure for months now. She doubted they could hold out against bankruptcy much longer.
Many people were still hardy enough to live in the open without respirators; but, as conditions grew worse, fewer and fewer people were able to survive without a respirator or shelter. The majority of people forced to abandon their homes had only one hope which was to be accepted into a band of marauders and live from day to day raiding other communities for shelter and resources.
The marauders tortured and killed the majority of people who sought them out in desperate need.
The marauders often left utter ruin in their wake, the countryside had become an endless series of armed towns and between which cut-throat prowlers wandered, seeking the means to pillage any functioning communities they encountered.
Meryan’s bus halted at a huge gate in the fifth ring which barred all traffic on the road. Meryan watched soldiers come fourth and encircle the bus. Then the seals on the bus were inspected, and the gate rolled back to allow the bus to pass into the first perimeter. It was a short drive to the fourth ring, with the drive to each successive ring being even shorter. At each ring the seals were opened to let passengers off the bus. Each debussing passenger was met by a security officer and who led them away to their new life within the domes.
The bus soon arrived at the central administration domes.
This was Meryan’s destination, only one other person remained on the bus aside from the driver. He was a cranky young man who had bragged about his security technology skills to any and all who would listen. He told everyone what a bright future he had because his skills were in such high demand.
Meryan guessed that her skills were superior to this brash young man’s skills, but she lacked the confidence in her future that this young man exuded.
She suspected his braggadocio was meant to reassure himself, a sort of coping mechanism for the crippling insecurity nearly everyone felt in these terrible modern times.
Meryan couldn’t bring herself to forgive the rude braggart for being so loud or obnoxious; she could not permit herself to take up any of the desperate threads of conversations the young man had tossed her way on numerous occasions during their journey.
He was just too pitiful a wretch to be worth the investment of any of her time or energy.
As the bus doors were unsealed for the final debussing Meryan waited for the young man to pass her and exit the bus. He hesitated before passing her seat and she cowered away, hoping he would not address her again. She was relieved that whatever he might have wanted to say remained unspoken and she waited until he had completely exited the bus before gathering her meager belongings together and leaving the bus herself.
She was met by a security officer of the home guard who took her papers and asked her to follow along. The security officer walked her to a light rail platform and they waited for the tram in silence. When the car finally arrived they boarded and found seats. Twenty minutes later they got off before a low block of buildings cramped beneath a nearby edge of the dome. The security officer introduced her to the block captain.
He gave the captain her papers and quietly departed.
The block captain inspected her papers and winced. She remarked to Meryan that she hadn’t expected her to arrive until next week. Meryan would have to rough it in one of the lounges until the bunk she would be assigned became available. The current occupant was moving to better quarters soon but would not be leaving for at least another 5 days.
Meryan was given a quick tour of the living quarters which consisted entirely of dormitories full of bunks, lounges, and eateries. The lounges were crowded with people playing games, talking and partying. But at least half of any lounge’s occupants appeared to be living in the lounges as Meryan must do for the next week or so.
When they had reached the final lounge the block captain asked Meryan if she had any money. Meryan replied no, she said she had been informed that all her needs were to be provided for. The block captain nodded distrustfully, clearly thinking she had been lied to. Of course she was right, but Meryan was not about to admit she had any money. It would just lead to having to pay bribes.
The block captain withdrew a set of credit chits printed on stiff perforated paper. There were five pages of twenty chits each. The block captain tore off the first two pages and jammed them in her wrinkled jacket. The captain then proffered the remaining chits to Meryan who looked at them dismayed.
The block captain remarked that Meryan must be prepared to pay her way or things could get difficult, then she stalked off leaving Meryan on her own.
Meryan found a small unoccupied space on the floor between two rowdy groups of partiers and settled in to re-read her work entitlement papers. Tomorrow she would report to her supervisor for her first assignment. Perhaps her supervisor could help her with her housing problem.
Meryan considered looking for her sister, but she was too tired, her sister would be unable to help her in any case, she lived in a dormitory that was probably identical to the one where Meryan would soon be assigned.
While Meryan was accessing the old databases from the times before the shutdown of public access to the internet she might have found a blog like this one that I now share with you.