Away From It All

Author: Alastair Millar

Driven out of Selene Station by the furious outbursts typical of the frustrated but truly powerless, Sheila and I went looking for space to reflect; we ended up making a mostly silent, three-hour crawler ride to one of the old prospector shelters three craters over. It would do for the night, and maybe for longer – as I’d expected, the power cube and life support were functional, and the clear geodesic dome over the living area was still intact.

The quiet here was a blessing. No-one was knocking on doors to discuss or debate or report the news and the dire predictions that were circulating, and we’d escaped the shrill voices and thinly-veiled hysterics in the corridors. Now we could actually relax, and think.

“I always thought that mutually assured destruction was an urban myth,” she said, eventually. “Something to scare us into trying to be better people.”

“No, the warheads were always there, even though we stopped talking about them.”

“But why now? What went wrong? Were we just blind, not to see this coming?”

“The wars in South America have been going on for a long time. But populists elsewhere started using them as an excuse to crack down on immigration, which oh-so-coincidentally raised tensions with their own neighbours. A few elections, sloganeering and pandering dog-whistles later, and someone felt backed into a corner. I guess they thought a short, victorious war would keep the voters onside. Except that their little expedition triggered another conflict, and that one another, until the whole world’s involved. And then some idiot loses patience and presses the button. Game over. Madness. Maybe we deserved this, for letting it happen.”

“What about us? What happens now?”

“I don’t know.”

“Really?” she asked.

“Not beyond the obvious. No more supply runs, we’ll have to make do with what we can produce here. No luxuries for a while, certainly. It’ll be tough, lots of belt tightening. No more advice, either, no suggestions or ideas from Ground Control. And of course, knowing that there’s no going home: I don’t think people are ready for how hard that’s going to hit. More depression, and no meds to deal with it. So more suicides.”

“That’s… pretty bleak.”

I shrugged helplessly.

The Earth rose, and in the dark we could make out the pinprick marks of Armageddon marching across it.

“All we can do is carry on,” I said. “It’ll be a new and much smaller world for all us. Let’s hope we don’t screw this one up as well. We’ve got nowhere else to go.”

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