June 2042, Journal
by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ June 14, 2020
We had to turn on the air filters last night as the bio risk alerts started flashing up on our screens about bedtime. That was just what we didn’t need. April was already hot and not even summer yet. The storm system has been stalled over us for a week playing hell with our photovoltaics. Our buildings’ power packs were showing yellow with no sun for four days, and the air filters are power-hungry.
It would have been ok if two of our three wind dynamos hadn’t been sabotaged last week by a pack of Denialists. The milbots arrived quickly and knocked most of them down for pickup and transport to a camp, but a few got away with enough cabling to screw us.
Now we need to pay for cabling and repairs to the dynamos; we’re low on power, the storm cells are coming faster. The thawing tundra viruses are blowing down from the artic swamps, causing sickness in the Canadian breadbasket. Farmworkers are getting spooked, and the First Nation tribes are demanding full hazmat PPE. Who can blame them? People still remember when forced, death work, and Gestapo tactics blew up the planet back in 2020. The GoSaveMe sites fill up fast when the call goes out. We know who is critical.
I had to turn on utility power about three AM to keep the filters going. That’ll hurt. We’ll need to take a special collection this month to pay off the utilities. Fortunately, the ‘all clear’ flashed up about six this morning. Since the storm cell and clouds are stalled, we kept services on for two hours to recharge our power packs. They just made it into the green when we called it good enough to avoid an internal money problem.
That’s why I’m complaining. Typing all of this lets me put things in perspective and look for changes in our patterns. But our standards of living are built on a downward sliding scale of ‘good enough to make it.’
Last night was scary. Yes, it was a collection of individual events that equaled a near miss, but there are few options, and things are only getting worse. It’s been that way most of my life. At some point, this year or next, our ‘good enough’ is going to become ‘not good enough.’ Then what?
That’s pretty easy to answer; we start dying.
The collection probably won’t be good enough either as of the fourteen podders sharing this residence; only three have consistent and good incomes. The rest are wannabe creatives, jobber admins, or data presentation gig workers living on UBI. Not a lot of extra credits and no luxury at all, but we can still claim to be ‘middle class’ although that is an old, tired joke. Others have it much worse, but what does that say?
Maybe we can figure out a cheap design to add a couple of premium pods and add some more substantial income members to the family. But we’re out on the metro edge, and that is scary. I enjoy the birds in the mornings and our animals like it, but it’s getting dangerous. It takes the mil bots twenty minutes to respond if they don’t see a problem group before we do.
We have several million Flooders and Dusties, some still call then Denialists, mostly from the old Trump racist Confederacy. They blow around North America like dust storms or slosh around like floodwater destroying things and making everything dirty. With the early American commitment to willful ignorance and not much workable education, they tend to ugly cults. They seem to be falling back into a nomadic, tribal life if you can call drunks on old riding lawnmowers nomads.
They seem to spend most of their time searching for old, fossil-fuel stations to power their steads, whether lawnmowers, old Harleys, or clapped-out pickup trucks when they’re not stealing food or cabling from Share Residences. The only good thing is that the lawnmowers slow them down, or they’d be a bigger problem.
Why am I even talking about human swamp life? Its a distraction and someone more miserable than us. But that’s life mid-century on the northern edge of the old United States.
So, ok. No more sidetracks. I’m going to talk about what happened yesterday. It needs to be said here, and I can’t hide from it. I don’t know how this will work, as I can’t type if I start shaking — and crying.
Joni left yesterday morning. Things haven’t been right for a while, but I didn’t realize how bad they were. We just didn’t seem to talk much anymore. It’s hard not to talk when you live in a three tatami pod, somehow the arguments became ritual and then meaningless. It just went downhill, and we ignored each other. We spend so much time dealing with food issues and housekeeping, mostly because there isn’t anything else to do, that you don’t realize how long it has been since you said anything of any value.
My fault, I guess. We’ve been together for three years, and it was fun. Joni was a very talented graphic artist and was good at hustling gigs, so she was the breadwinner. Lucky me.
The lack of a future beyond storms, droughts, heat, and pandemic spikes is hard on us all, but it finally really got to her. She wanted me to get serious about my alt-reality designs, but I’m more interested in imagining where that could go than making money building sex fantasies for cultists. Joni understood and didn’t push me about it, and I let her, so that is my fault, too.
What can I say? We’ve grown up with the reality of the long slow slide. I was a little kid in the ‘teens, and life was still amazing. Everyone had everything, even cars. Deadly fossil fuel relics, but they were everywhere, and you could go anywhere without masks and trackers.
Shopping was a thing. My parents and grandparents would take us shopping when there were still malls. I was a kid, so it didn’t make much sense to me why buying piles of things was fun when you knew what it was costing. But people seemed so happy, dumb happy as my father used to say. You could stay that way as long as you avoided making any logical deductions about where it was all coming from and where it was going.
Then the first planetary pandemic hit, and the world ended. I was ten, and it was a challenge spending months sheltering in place. At first, it was kind of exciting, and we were lucky with both my parents able to work from home. They got seriously into cooking and growing herbs and veggies. Everyone thought that was cool and a good thing to keep doing, but everyone also thought the whole thing was temporary.
But the Trumpsters and related people around the planet got crazy and broke the pandemic rules, and the death rate went up. The US government went down, and then the nation broke up. I kind of remember that, but it was all in pieces. Every state and city that was functional was on their own, anyway, so the loss of the US government didn’t make the much difference as I remember.
We were in northern California, then, so the change was pretty easy, and poverty wasn’t a problem for a while. The Trumpistan areas went down hard and fast. I remember my parents watching videos of the city parties, racist riots, and the mass graves that appeared overnight as the people that ran those places swore that nothing was happening, and it was all a lie for some reason. Why someone would lie about dying in a pandemic was a question I never could get answered.
After two years of tracking, getting our noses swabbed, local lockdowns, and daily body counts by metro area with no real vaccine, we finally got UBI. The income was supposed to be enough to avoid starvation and life on the street, but the storms, droughts, and food disruption was going in the opposite direction. What had been kind of a fun, sustainable game became a severe need to discover the edges of what was good enough.
When I was fifteen, fossil fuel relics became illegal, but it was too late anyway, and the Denialists kept right on doing whatever they wanted. My family got us to a small town because they thought it would be safer. That was a mistake. Like a lot of small towns, one day, they burned the schools and made everyone go to the church of the White Jesus.
My father and older sister died because of that. That’s just not something I want to talk about, though. My mother got us away from that town and back into the city, in fact, several cities. She still had some money and was an excellent data modeler, so we lived in a small apartment while I caught up on my education. She got me a long term subscription to one of the first big VR Academies with a full edu reality. That was another thing that came from pandemics and isolation; virtual reality became real very fast.
That was the best thing that ever happened, but it made me impractical. At least that was what Joni told me at the end. I spend my time working on problems that most people don’t understand. I have followers and a few virtual communities who keep my subscription crypto base alive, but that’s not enough money for anything serious.
I’m hung between the potential for full planned realities and the guilt of giving up our old reality. Most people can’t see anything else as real even though they use it as a getaway. Could I build something that would positively affect the disaster we created? In the end, Joni didn’t think so.
We all need to get serious about this as we have used up this planet and are going backward from where we were, but that shouldn’t happen. We’re still in transition. I sound like my father. Joni used to laugh when I talked like that, but then she stopped laughing.
I had to stop for a bit. The dogs and the hobo cat wanted dinner. The dogs are pretty standard, but the hobo cat talks. The cat showed up last week and asked if he could stay for a while. This stuff is happening more and more, but it is still a bit of a stumper when a cat asks if you would trade food and shelter for some rodent control. Yes, the hobo cat said, ‘rodent control.’
We have a rat problem, so I let him stay, and everyone went along with it. He’s not much of a conversationalist, but he is polite.
The whole garage CRISPR thing has gotten to the point you don’t know what will show up next. There are rumors of some scary stuff happening, but they don’t seem to make it across the truth filters. I’m not sure why people even look at raw feeds. I guess people just can’t give up finding something to tell stories about, even if it is bullshit.
Hobo cat just asked if he could go outside as he needed to take care of some things. I agreed, so he jumped up and hit the door switch to let himself out. As I said, he is polite.
Joni left for Lagrange City yesterday. So far, there are three small geo sync orbital cities, but they have taken nearly all of the planet’s available resources to build. Each one is a different social model with Lagrange as a fully shared environment; you go by invitation only. It’s a lot like a full-ride scholarship, but for the rest of your life and an AI facilitated direct democracy. We just couldn’t ever get that to work down here — too many centuries of bigotry, hatred, and willful ignorance. Maybe if we started early enough, but ancient Athens is pretty early, so I guess it had to be in another world entirely. I’m rambling again.
So, there it is. Joni left me behind. She had a job invitation with full fare and a chance to become a citizen. They only take one person at a time, and I didn’t get an offer. I’m happy for her, but it sure does hurt.
We pretended to the end that this is temporary, and I would work hard and get an invite, or she would make enough to come back and live down here. We both knew it wasn’t going to happen either way.
At this point, I don’t have what it takes to move to the future, but at least I’m not a Flooder or Dustie or living in a camp. It’s best to be positive.
It’s been a month, and things are not right. More of the Antarctic ice sheet broke off, and another three feet of sea-level rise is coming, but it will take a while. That’s why we are so lucky to be up in the coastal mountains. The trouble is that a lot more Flooders will be looking for homes, maybe outnumbering the Dusties, and the camps are full.
Camps are supposed to be temporary like camping but what do you call them when there is nowhere else to go? I guess that is not new as there were refugee camps that were just dirt poor cities for decades.
The fighting is picking up as new Flooders are showing up from the coast, and Dusties are slipping across the border from the hot desert states. There just aren’t enough milbots to stop them, so the Pacific Coast army flies in and drives them back if we get enough residents with money to ask for help.
We don’t talk about it, but a lot of those people end up dead. I guess it is better than just starving to death or dying of heat. One change to reduce the need for the army is to give each citizen pod residence a permanent home milbot for protection. Our milbot’s name is PCAmil223, but we call her, AMY. all caps.
Some of my housemates have problems with robots being treated like people hence the all-caps name. I have an awful feeling about that. It looks like the old human problem sneaking back in even though we say we got rid of racism. There is a logical problem with our daily lives and what we say we do.
She has a bit of personality and is androgynous, but has a small Gatling gun for serious antipersonnel actions that is scary and a laser for snooping drones that kind of makes up for her limited character. My mates are unhappy about a lethal weapon in our house, but she hasn’t killed anyone yet and says she cannot unless countering deadly force, so I guess we will deal with that when it happens.
And hobo cat never came back from his night out to take care of things. I miss the cat as I was starting to enjoy having a polite, talking cat.
Another week and three things happened. AMY took down a drone and destroyed a truck. Both were part of a group of starving migrants. AMY just fried the drone and managed to destroy the truck without hurting any of the people in it. They got the idea and took off back the way they had come chased by a squad of neighbor’s milbots that AMY called in. We didn’t realize that it was part of the programming.
Excuse me if I’m not excited about the improvements, but this is a pattern for most of my life. The technology keeps us going and manages to prevent a real collapse, but it’s just a holding action — more of the ‘good enough to get by.’ We’re hanging on to our planet with our technological fingernails.
The second thing is horrible. Maybe I’m just very numb, but I need to say it. Lagrange City is no more. What’s left of the old US government in the ruins of Washington DC claimed to have destroyed an abomination that was not approved by the current Trump sitting on the White House throne. All of the Trumps are crazy, but this one must have gotten someone rich in Russia to fire a missile that made it out to Lagrange City. Who knows why? Did they need a reason?
Joni is gone now with everyone else, so I don’t need to fight to stop myself from thinking she might do what she said and get me an invitation.
The technology cuts both ways, and the stupidity that destroyed everything we had is still out there, and we can’t seem to do anything about it but hang on to what we have.
The last thing, Hobo cat, came back. I guess that is his name now. The strangest thing, Hobo cat, is much smarter and keeps asking to talk about my alternate reality plans.