The Long Dark Winter

freezing

© 2013 loniangraphics

“God it’s cold out there, Simon.”

“You say that every time you go out for supplies. Of course it’s cold. How’d you do?”

“The Rogues’ shipment from down south came in early. Paying those mercenaries cost a lot, but I managed some oranges and strawberries this time. How about you?”

“Got enough fuel from Old Man Mayberry to last us a couple more weeks at least. By then, he says he can get us some more.”

Carrie set her groceries down on the counter. It’s only a one room cabin, originally built as an artist’s retreat several miles outside of town, but now Simon and Carrie Mitchell call it home. Being small, it’s easy to heat, which is important, since the overall global temperature averages 3 to 4 degrees F less than it did before the Indian-Pakistani nuclear war five years ago.

It’s a limited “nuclear winter,” not quite like all of the disaster movies of the previous decade, but it will be fifteen years at least before the climate begins to return to pre-war levels.

I wrote this in response to the FFfAW Challenge-Week of May 16, 2017 hosted by Priceless Joy. The idea is to use the photo prompt above to write a piece of flash fiction between 100 and 175 words, with 150 being the ideal. My word count is 174.

When I saw the photo, after turning over a few possibilities in my mind, I settled on the topic of large scale nuclear winter. I first thought that it would be set off on purpose by a madman to counter the effects of climate change.

Then, doing a bit of research, I decided to lessen the effect and scope to show that even a “small” nuclear conflict could do long lasting damage to the environment.

I imagined that traditional government would break down, at least in certain areas, and that mercenaries would provide necessary services for an inflated price.

To read more stories based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

Bee Drones

robobee

© Eijiro Miyako

It had been forty years since Eijiro Miyako and his colleagues at Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology developed the first generation robo-bees. Pesticides, land clearing, and the effects of climate change had resulted in a steady decline in the bee population. Without bees, many plant species, including crop plants from apples to almonds, could not be pollinated and reproduce.

By the tenth generation of the tiny drones, they were self-replicating, self-repairing, solar-powered dynamos. They did not replace the natural bee population, but they greatly enhanced pollination efforts, allowing flowering plants to survive and finally to thrive again.

Each individual robo-bee’s AI formed a collection of nodes, which, when linked to the population of drones as a whole, formed an intelligence that was arguably sentient.

The problem was finding a way for the natural bee population to either develop an immunity to what was killing them so they could increase their numbers to a viable level, or eliminate the causes of their die off.

The drone AI quickly realized the cause of the die off of bees, and many other environmental problems, was the human race. Robo-bees could go even where the natural bees could not, so the almost complete extinction of humanity was ensured by swarms of millions of these tiny assassins.

I read a story yesterday called Robotic bee could help pollinate crops as real bees decline at “New Scientist,” and thought there could be another side of the story.

This is a pretty grim outcome, and hardly superversive, but if you push your biosphere too far, the biosphere will push back.

Legend of the Sky People

shepherd

Image: BBC.com

Gunter and his two sons, Phillip and Tang were tending the grazing sheep in the meadow a few kilometers from their village, as they had the past several weeks. Soon, it would be the season to take them in for the shearing, and while that would cause them much effort, it would be a pleasure to sleep indoors again.

They huddled close to the fire, cloaks pulled tightly around them.

“Lad, another ale if you please.” Gunter held out his mug to Phillip, his eldest, who had the flagon by his side.

“As you will, Papa.” Phillip, always cheerful (and the light buzz from the ale was adding to that), readily lifted the flagon and filled Gunter’s mug to the brim.

The trio could afford to relax a bit. The dogs were stationed around the flock and the sheep were at rest for the night. The hired hands would be back from the village by morning.

“Look, Papa!” Tang, two years Phillip’s junior, pointed up into the moonless night sky. The constellations were beautiful and brilliant, but something among them was disturbing their orderly progression.

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She Who Endures

rain forest

Image: ABC.net.au / Rocky Roe

The plague struck swiftly, perhaps not by human standards, but certainly quickly enough to sicken three-quarters of the people of the Earth within fifteen years. At first the disease seemed very widespread and indiscriminate, but five years into the plague, the CDC’s Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Sandra Fry, determined that it was most virulent in high population centers with a heavy industrial base.

The nation with the largest number of deaths by year five was China, which correlated very highly to their level of pollution and generally poor environmental standards.

However, as the plague progressed, the Euro-Asian continent fell, as did North and South America. By year ten, four billion people were dead. Disposal of the bodies in any civilized manner was impossible due to the shortage of manpower and resources, so they were bulldozed into mass graves.

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A Boy and His Dog on Mars

space hab

Image: Bryan Versteeg / spacehabs.com

Seven-year-old Timmy Robinson threw the tennis ball as hard as he could, sending it sailing over the Martian surface. Rusty, his pet terrier, scrambled after it, his paws spewing little clouds of red sand into the air behind him.

“Go get it! Go get it, boy! Timmy was screaming at the top of his lungs as the dog followed the now bouncing ball.

“I think this is the last one, Timmy. We’ve got to go down into the gravity lab now.” It was the voice of Joyce Robinson, his Mother. In all the excitement, he hadn’t heard her walk up behind him.

Rusty returned skidding to a halt at the little boy’s feet and obediently deposited the slime covered ball near his left shoe, a red high-topped Converse all-star.

“Ah, Mom. Can’t I stay out a while longer? I’m having so much fun. I never get to play with Rusty except when we’re on Mars.”

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The Homecoming

planet

Image: hongkiat.com

Thanks to the revolutionary Roddenberry-Cochrane drive, Ellis Vanderberg was able to travel to Proxima Centauri A, the closest Earth-like planet to our own, perform a year-long survey of its one continent and the six largest islands, and then return home in a little over four decades.

Of course, due to the time dilation effect, much more time passed on Earth than Vanderberg experienced during his trip. That’s the good and bad thing about traveling in interstellar space at a significant faction of the speed of light.

Vanderberg was twenty-two years old when he was launched into space. The only son of Billionaire Charles Vanderberg, he had volunteered to test the space craft and experimental drive his father’s corporation invented. The government first insisted that the journey not be made, but the Vanderberg fortune and influence insisted otherwise. Then they insisted that a team of trained astronauts and mission specialists be sent instead of Ellis, but again, the Vanderberg fortune and influence won out.

In the end, Charles Vanderberg got his way and Ellis Vanderberg got the singular honor of being the first person to travel to another planet outside of our Solar System.

Now he’s back. Ellis knew that much more time had passed for the people of Earth than he experienced. Subjectively, he was a man in his mid-sixties, but he expected his parents, his sisters, his friends, everyone he’d ever known would be dead.

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