Looven wasn't alone in his fears about the future when the
world economy staggered, almost fell, and then shakily regained
its feet. Pundits shrieked from vid screens the world over
that wanton spending had sunken the ship, and even more serious
analysts wondered if the economy needed a permanent dry-dock.
James fearfully questioned how long his privileged lifestyle
could continue, but unlike most, he felt he could do something
about it. James was a backyard inventor by nature. He liked
to consider his historical antecedents to be Thomas Edison
and Benjamin Franklin, although his friends would have said
he was much more like Nikola Tesla or Madame Curie. James
had a degree in aeronautics engineering and a Ph.D. in astrophysics,
specializing in reactive mass dynamics.
hero, Thomas Edison, and so many of his colleagues and friends
who worked in the higher sciences or controlled multiple millions
in failing businesses, James came from a privileged background.
For some of them the destruction of the space programs meant
a loss of revenue, but many shared James' vision, and they
were canny enough to fear the loss of humanity's one hope
in the chaos of the oligarchic dictatorships warring for the
last few resources left on a used-up planet. They cried aloud
when funding was cut at NASA, but few thought they could do
anything about it. The public will was not there, they were
told, and if the vid news was correct, people were more interested
in naked pictures of starlets than whether their starving
grandchildren might live long enough to breed more starving
outrage would have perhaps come to nothing, would have been
spent in a few ineffectual protests and letter campaigns,
if James could have remained on the NASA team, and if public
outcry against space exploration had not shut down the space
millions accused NASA of squandering resources and misallocating
money for research, and with marches nearing riot status,
the government buckled and gave up its space program. The
European Space Agency and Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency
soon followed. Russia's had already died the natural death
of economic defeat. Except for China, which was desperately
trying to continue its own fledgling program, humanity had
turned its back on space.
have any idea what they're doing?" James had asked his friend
Chase. "We're running out of resources because all those people
are fucking like rabbits, and now we're supposed to stop doing
the one thing that might bring in enough resources to allow
them to continue to breed."
just worried about their future, James. Everyone is." Although
he knew that what James was saying made sense, Chase had two
children by two different women, and his own fears had multiplied
you worry about something, you do something about it." James
was an engineer through and through. "This is the time to
turn our minds to the solar system, to get out there and get
the resources we need if we're going to continue to overrun
the planet. It's either that or crawl back into the cave and
wait to starve."
sure it's that black and white," Chase grinned.
ones who are telling us that NASA engages in frivolous research
want to use that money for what?"
programs, mainly," Chase could see where the argument was
not just the breeding," James' voice lowered. "We have let
corporations run our science, and all they've given us is
what they can make money from. Terminator genes and social
placebos. And meanwhile, the same people who want to cut funding
to the space program are perpetuating the very problems they
want to use the money to get rid of. If humans wanted to get
rid of poverty, war and stupidity, and we could, we would
have done it. We've chosen this world, so it must be the one
think people want to starve," Chase suggested mildly.
you don't want something, but you do everything to ensure
that it happens anyway, is that the same as wanting it?"
people have children. People driving to work cause global
warming, consumers throw away the trash. And they want to
take the money from the one organization which is not about
either hedonism or greed." James gave a disgusted snort. "The
one organization that unlike them is looking beyond their
dirty navel long enough to wonder about the universe."
heard back from the Mars mission," Chase said to change the
never had a chance. Only a year's worth of food and a team
of fifteen. We sent them on a suicide mission." The Martian
colonists were a sore spot with James; he'd worked on the
team that planned their trajectory. "Even at the time we could
see they were being skimped. You don't send fifteen people
two hundred million kilometres away with just a can of soup."
remembered the arguments, for he'd been the structural engineer
on the planning committee that made many of the recommendations
the colonists would have needed to survive. "They're likely
gone now, James. And with Hubble out of commission, we can't
even look over to see an infrared signature." The Hubble telescope
had been one of the earliest causalities of the war against
space, as James called it. NASA's funding cuts meant that
its orbit was no longer maintained, like that of the International
Space Station, by ion thrusters. It hadn't quite deorbited,
but it was deteriorating and it was only a matter of time
before it was a falling star that starving children could
is still up and running," James said hopefully.
I'm in touch with Gord, who ended up there, and he says public
funding is down at least fifty percent, and they've had some
problems with vandalism. Look, James. I've got to get back."
you were heading back later?"
but I've got some stuff to do. You know, polish the resume."
Chase left, James recalled what'd he said and realised that
Chase was likely weary of the argument. James had been saying
the same thing for at least a dozen years, ever since he'd
graduated from MIT. He was becoming tiresome.
switched on the vid screen for distraction. Ignoring the twenty-four
hour religious programming that had taken over from the NASA
station, he turned to the news. It was all bad. Russia was
reporting widespread famine and asking for international aid,
Africa's population continued to soar and Australia's croplands
were on fire from drought and rioting. India's lowlands were
flooding and refugees were pouring into the UK in a kind of
reverse colonialism. Japanese solar stock was soaring, although
they were in the middle of a resource war with China over
the mining of lithium. James was just about to switch off
the news, when the station went dead.
between the channels, and mentally ticking off those which
were tied to the same communications satellite, James knew
the interruption for what it was. One of the Rogers satellites,
after operating in the vacuum for over four decades, had winked
are you going to do about that, huh?" James yelled in his
empty living room. "You want to breed and you want vids, and
soon you're not going to have either one."
time James stumbled to bed, knocking over empties on the way,
the stations were back on the air, bravely proclaiming that
they'd had a momentary interruption to service, but it was
easy to see that they'd spliced the signal from another satellite
onto the missing one. "Cover up," James mumbled to himself
as he pulled a sheet over his head. "Fucking cover up."