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TAFC: An Arrangement for the End of the World

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Chapter 2

The year is 2203. The dawn’s song hadn’t changed at all since that horrible morning 23 years ago. Nuuk continued on as if nothing had happened.

Angel Carson jolted awake, as he did every morning, drenched in sweat and screaming for help with memories of smoke and flame suffocating him. As his eyes adjusted, he remembered that he’d survived. He was safe and quickly shook off the thought that it would have been so much easier if he had died that night. A cold shower further slowed his heart rate as he braced for the day ahead.

He finally sat down to open up his emails. It had been a while, but he knew that his team would have had all the current projects well in hand. Dr. Angel Carson headed the Aeronautics Innovation and Development for the International Aeronautics and Space Agency, IASA for short. As he started to scroll, he shook his head, shut the holotablet.

Before the fire, Angel had been a confident and outgoing boy. He was cheeky and always getting into harmless mischief. The trauma of that experience had changed him, and he supposed was still changing him. He hadn’t spoken for five years after his parents had burned in the flames.

Being the eldest of the children, Daniela and Lucia, his older sisters had become the responsible caregivers. They protected Angel like fierce lionesses and made sure he had everything he needed. All he had wanted was to study. He threw himself into studying as much about aeronautics and the history of the agency as he could.

Daniela was 14 years older than Angel, and Lucia was 12 years older. They were already young women, well on their way to becoming who their parents had always hoped they would be.

Lucia was an actual genius. Although she exuded warmth, she had a sharp edge to her as well. At the time of the fire, she had collected degrees in astrobiology, aerospace engineering, as well as robotics. At 17, she became the youngest IASA Administrator, taking the place of her father after his death.

Daniela, always the more carefree and lighthearted of the two sisters. She had already begun working closely with her mother in marketing for IASA, at the time of the fire. She had taken a more leisurely climb up the ranks, but was now the head of the department.

Though Angel had finally found his voice again, he used it sparingly, his words were always measured. His sisters still mourned for the light Angel had brought into their lives. They never doubted that he loved them both dearly. The simple fact was that he had not just broken; he had shattered, and no one could be the same after that.

Angel quickly had a second cup of coffee, looking out over the Aetherube. Steeling himself for the tasks he had ahead that day. From his window, he could see all the capital buildings of the Aetheran Hegemony along the skyline. Angel watched the symbol of their power glinting in the sun, a stylised rocket shooting into the heavens. He couldn’t help but think that their authoritarian rule was the same as all those governments who had terrorised old Earth through the centuries and led to their ruin.

Humanity was beyond the point of running out of time. As all the models predicted since the end of the 20th century, the climate crisis led to a chain reaction of events that couldn’t be stopped. The sea levels rose, and the tropics and the deserts pushed further towards the poles. Half of the world’s human population died from the rise in temperature alone, as well as hundreds of other species around the globe. The only place food was more easily grown was in the north, even still, millions more died of starvation. As the ice caps melted, historic plagues that had been frozen into Earth’s ice caps melted and wiped-out millions more. Needless to say, humanity had successfully created hell on Earth. War and misery were unending.

Now there were only a handful of sky-cities scattered above the 45th parallel north, although people suspect there were still a few settlements that survived in Antarctica, no one bothered trying to make contact for decades. Less than a quarter of humanity’s 8 billion survived. That number got smaller every day. Depending on who you ask, the vast decrease in population had mercifully slowed some of the effects of the crisis, whilst others lament it simply slowed the painful and unforgiving decline.

Old Earth had used B.C. and A.D. to divide time. Since the climate apocalypse, humanity called everything that had come prior, the Before, and everything that followed, the After.

There were now only two classes of people, regardless of race, religion or nationality. They were either the filthy rich or the wretched poor.

Out of the ashes, rose the powerful Aeatheran Hegemony. In monolithic platforms far above the squalor of slums, up above the clouds, lived the elite on these sky-city Aetherurbes. Those that lived there were called Aetheran. Travelling amongst the elegant gardens and buildings, passing laughing women with shopping bags and businessmen on their way to their corporate offices, you’d never know you were floating in the sky. You’d never know that you were living in the After. They had over 2000 years to rebuild since the crisis and they were running out of time, again.

In the Before, just prior to the fall, humankind had successfully landed colonisers on Mars. The remaining governments had pooled all their resources into the International Aeronautics and Space Agency (IASA). Although there were many failures. IASA finally managed to create a stable colony on Mars. They had also collaborated to convert the International Space Station into a larger and more permanent dwelling. Most recently they created the largest and most Earth-like space station named Salvatio. Although the decline did indeed slow in the After, humanity’s only real hope was to bring more people to Mars, expanding the two settlements there, creating more space stations, whilst continuing to develop technologies to find an Earth Analogue on which to permanently resettle. IASA wanted to have as many eggs in as many different baskets as they could.

All this explains exactly why the work of the Carson children was so essential. Their work would literally determine the future for all humanity.

Taking one last look in the mirror, Angel decided he would visit his oldest friend first, who was actually more like a big brother. He would see his sisters that evening. With that, he walked out the door.

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