Artemis

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4

Our scientists had been coerced into creating chemical weapons. Those who refused, were shot. Those who accepted, were killed by the public.

Protests didn’t help in any way. As fear mounted, so did the protests, escalating into full-scale slaughter of those scientists who were regarded as sell-outs. Many simply perished from nuclear poisoning.

Many committed suicide when they learnt that they would be obliged to work simply for the survival of others without any financial compensation. Even our neighbour, Mr. Rosser who’d retired years before, took a lethal overdose of barbiturates when he heard that he would be recruited as a slave-scientist.

The one world government pretended that there was no more money. Life on Earth had become a day to day war over insignificant things we used to take for granted. Only those with an indomitable spirit to survive, now remained. I was one of them, recruited to be trained as a scientist in a fast-tracked program for those strong enough to survive the rigorous selection and training processes.

I too, was astonished at being selected, but it seemed that I had the mental and physical constitution to withstand a one-year space expedition to the Orion Belt to seek advanced technology on planet Artemis.

Everyone was still at odds about where the One World government had stored water for their exclusive use. Subterranean ice caves were the most logical answer but some of my colleagues were of the opinion that they did in fact have access to water-manufacturing technology.

A desalination plant would be easy to locate but despite our best efforts, investigative journalists could find nothing. IT specialists too were on the trail of anything that would resemble an extensive structure that could house a desalination facility. Their tracking software yielding nothing, neither in caves, mountains, in the ocean nor in the desert. They searched high and low - literally - and still came up empty.

The desert had it’s known oases and the possibility that subterranean water was still being held in reserve if it had not yet been contaminated, was plausible.

An ancient cave in which the the purest water existed was not just a rumor. Government seized the farm on which it was situated and the Sandana family was relocated for spurious reasons under heavy guard to a security complex where they had to adjust to living in a confined space. They could no longer enjoy the wide-open space of the farm estate, walk among rows of organic vegetables or feed the birds that came to play in the pond. They were heartbroken and so was the rest of the world who protested in vain. It wasn’t long before the mother, followed shortly by the father both died of heart failure. They just couldn’t deal with losing their beloved Chelsea Rose Farm Estate, which they built from scratch when there wasn’t any vegetation in sight.

With sad faces and broken spirits they told journalists how they had lost their way on a hike as romantic teenagers and never returned to their respective parents’ homes. Mrs Sandana told of their first ramshackle cabin they built when she first fell pregnant, planted tomatoes, beans and pumpkin. From there, they continued, adding a pond to catch rainwater and when the birds arrived, fed them by hand to keep them coming back each year to breed.

When the farm was taken, they were berated for having such a large flock of Egyptian Geese, Guinea Fowl, Ducks and Plovers on their property.

They were told that they were growing produce illegally when the lush grapevines were discovered. Inspectors came to take inventory of all the food they were harvesting. There were apple, pear, peach and plum trees. Cabbages, lettuce and beetroot were noted. Their arrest attracted too much attention and when they returned the first time, most of their birds and fruit were confiscated. The second time, all their vegetables were uprooted and on the third occasion, they were told that they were disobedient citizens and would have to move.

As compensation for the farm, they were housed in a city apartment in a secure complex where they could be under the watchful eyes of good neighbours.

The Sandanas said nothing of the spring they’d discovered in the crag of the hillock. When the government excavated the land to avoid marauders from helping themselves, they found the subterranean cave overflowing with pure spring water.

Mr. Sandana was so afraid when the police came around for the umpteenth time that week that he suffered heart failure. Mrs. Sandanas’ already weakened state only hastened her demise when a week later, she too suffered heart failure.

Their dream had come to an abrupt halt. Although the two children, now young adults inherited a fortune, there wasn’t much they could do with it if they couldn’t grow or buy food. The state took it all when they committed suicide by ingesting rat poison two months after receiving their inheritance. Death was everywhere but there was a glimmer of hope.

When neighbours went into the apartment, they found tomato seedlings growing on the bathroom windowsill which they shared among each other. They left hastily before the police could arrive to confiscate the plants they had hidden beneath their clothes.

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