Love & Supernova 18 - Paradise Lost

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When a sheep moves away, the whole flock will follow (ancient saying).

Cowards run first, valiants go straight and the innocents take all the damage (a warrior).

The star Betelgeuse is approaching its death. Although the large core remains inert, a carbon shell ignited and fused into heavier elements in a powerful blast. The shock wave reached the surface. For about 30 days, the sun was very bright. The tremendous heat released scourged Betelgeuse VII, the only terraformed planet, bringing massive storms, like people never seen. The economy is completely disrupted. There is no electricity, no internet and no transportation. Most people remained homeless. Farmers lost their crops and factories were turned into rubble. In each town, many died during the storm. Others died later, because of the wounds and diseases. Without transportation, it is impossible for medical services to reach anywhere... but all hospitals are turned into ruins. Each town was built near a reservoir, to provide electricity and drinkable water... but now, lakes are silted. Some dams collapsed.

The ruling dictator, Caligula XV, tries to reconnect the railways, so that people and freight can somehow circle around. In past, fast trains travelled with 1000 km/h and local trains with 100, but now, it is good if they make it at all. Electricity must reach again each town and the online panels must work. But the situation is far worse. Even in the capital town, there is huge damage. Even the imperial building is ruined. The iron throne, on which all dictators sat, is half submerged in mud and the building has no roof.

The dictator uses any possible resource to make the economy restart, by using all available funds for the infrastructure and communications. But will it be enough? For everyone, it is clear that everything was destroyed beyond recovery. Trying to see what people think and how they feel like, Caligula XV sends its best friend, Himalia, to take the train and talk with other people. Not many people knows Himalia, so it can travel candid, unnoticed.

Himalia takes the train, one of the few vehicles that survived the disaster. As the train departs, the disaster is clearly visible. In many places, trains travel with only 5 km/h, very slow compared to their initial speed. It travels two days, to get far enough from the capital, then steps out, waiting a train on a secondary line. The town where Himalia arrived is Aphrodite.

Everything is so different. A thick layer of earth and mud covers all the area. Houses are ruined. People try to rebuild whatever they can with the little they have. Himalia goes to the town center, where once was a large concrete square, like in all towns on Betelgeuse VII. There, people use to come, buy what they need or just rest in front of a pub or a saloon.

Himalia goes to a shop and buys a pack of cigarette. They used to cost 1 BC, but now they are 5.33 BC.

"Why do you sell them so expensive?" it asks the seller.

"I just purchased them with 5 BC. It is good that they arrived finally".

As Himalia enjoys its cigarette, a person with the look of a woman and the voice of a man comes and sits near it.

"I never seen you here", it says. "My name is Leona. What's yours?"

"Himalia. Do you want a cigarette?"

"Yes, thanks".

"Where are you from?" asks Leona.

"From Deep Purple", lies Himalia. "I just wanted to see if our town is the only one hit by the storm or not".

"You can see it clear. You are not the only one. My wife died in the storm".

"I am sorry to hear that".

"Well, we are both eterophiles, so we are not quite husband and wife. But still, we lived together. Are you alone?"

"Yes, but I am an onanist. I love myself", answers Himalia.

"The whole town worked at the factory, but it is all gone. I could not believe this! Just gone, not a single wall remained. We only have what we had before the storm. But now, it is simple. No job, no money. And everything is getting more expensive by the day".

"Is anything to work in your town?"

"Not much. All is a ruin".

"Caligula XIII tried to save us, but that sun of a bitch, Caligula XIV, betrayed us. Now, the sun will explode and we have no way to escape".

"Why do you say that?"

"Because on Betelgeuse S, new settlers are not allowed to come. Caligula XIV is responsible for this, because it killed Caligula XIII. Its brother Delta will never accept us there. We will just remain here and die!"

Another person comes, which clearly looks like a woman, but with no breasts and with a long white dress. Its bare feet are covered with mud. It takes a seat nearby and lights a cigarette.

"Just managed to find some of my things in the house. I found many objects that don't belong to me".

"Eda, where's your shoes?" asks Leona.

"I lost them in the mud", says Eda, inhaling from its cigarette, hungry for smoke.

"Part of Calypso's house is on my parcel".

"And Calypso?"

"It's drunk".

"What a stupid! It thinks alcohol will rebuild its house?"

Eda laughs, but only with half of its mouth.

It doesn't take much and someone comes, with a wounded foot, a person that appears to be a hermaphrodite. It has all its clothes dirty, full with mud. Even its hair is dirty.

"Are you ok, uncle?" says Eda.

"On the fuck I am. And on the fuck with this whole village. With this whole planet!"

"Hey, calm down!" whispers Eda, taking another drag of smoke. "We will find a way".

"What way? Don't talk with me like that! It is just a warning! Very soon, we will all die! The sun will explode!"

"We have more then ten Earth years until that", says Himalia.

"I want to die now!" shouts the uncle. "Ten more years like this? Of suffering? What had I done to suffer like this?"

"Hey, calm down", says Himalia. "There will be no more solar explosions like this one".

"Shut up, two mouths!" shouts the uncle. "Shut the fuck up! You talk like that big eyed dictator. It told us that there will be nothing to worry about and look at this. Who believes it? I don't. There will be more and more explosions, until we will finally die".

Himalia returns to the railway station, where it waits. The train comes and waits 15 minutes, to go back on the secondary line. But, there is something else that catches the eye. There are about ten people, which look rich, with clean clothes and big luggage. Trying to se what this is about, Himalia sits close to them, lighting a cigarette, like waiting a train to go. Very soon, it finds out what this is all about. They try to go out. They are going away from Betelgeuse.

"My factory is all a mess", says one of them.

"Let's get out of here before the sun explodes".

"Hey, sheriff, where's your girlfriend?"

"I let it here", answers the sheriff. "I am going out, while I still can".

"I don't think the sun will last for more then an Earth year", says someone else. "The dictator is telling us a lie".

"It lies, like all did before".

"I sold everything when I came here, thinking it will be a paradise".

"Fucking paradise".

Himalia takes the train. There, inside a crowded wagon, a lot of boxes are shipped too. With so many destroyed wagons, everything must be carried with what remained functional. What little remains on the planet, is shipped with what vehicle can still travel. The railway is heavily damaged. The train struggles to pass on destroyed tracks. Tree trunks have been removed and are left near the line. There are many landslides. There is so much mud along the way, that has been removed and deposited near the line. Many collapsed bridges are replaced with smaller ones, more fragile and requiring speed restrictions.

Along all stations, people try to repair their homes, try to cleanup the mess. Farmers have compromised crops and are trying to plant new ones. Also, people say that prices are going up. It is something expected, since request is far larger then demand.

**********

What kills a bank? When all people who have money in deposits, request to take it out.

This is exactly what is happening now. The richest try to take whatever they have or whatever they can and flee. Those rich enough, which have a spaceship able to travel between stars, are the first. They take their economies or even borrow as much money as they can, then exchange their money from BC to interstellar currency, CC. Then, they leave. Those not rich enough, take whatever they can and go by train to the surface base. From there, they fly to the orbital station, to take an interstellar passenger ship and get out.

Very soon, Caligula XV finds out that something far worse is happening. Some state employees steal money from the state budget, to buy a ticket and save themselves, to get out. The dictator decides to punish them with death, if found.

It was a time when people crowded to get to Betelgeuse VII. Now, they are moving away... and there are not enough spaceships to carry everyone. The orbital station is overcrowded. Many more wait around the surface base for a ticket. The price of a ticket rises even up to five times its initial value.

Well, this does not last for long. After a while, all banks exhaust their supply of CC. There is no interstellar currency available for an exchange. The base, which is owned by the Interstellar Agency, still accepts some exchange, but at a much higher price. In past, the Betelgeuse Credit was fixed at an exchange rate of 1 CC = 1000 BC. But now, things go wild. One ISA credit is sold at first for a few thousands BC, then for more and more, up to a few millions BC.

It doesn't take much and the whole population is trapped. Nobody can afford the price of an interstellar ticket. Nobody goes out.

**********

At ten light years away, there is a completely different story. The free state of Betelgeuse S earns enough money from body transformations. But the planet is not habitable yet. If the process is accelerated, in the coming years, there will be not enough carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to sustain plant life. In the same time, the planet has significant amounts of other toxins, in water, in soil or in the air, that interact with rocks and need to remain there for some time.

There is another problem. How could you invite millions of people to Betelgeuse S? The new planet has no infrastructure and only one city inside a dome. They need to build towns and transportation routes. They need to provide electricity. Also, people will need land to farm. All this comes with huge costs. This is what Delta, the dictator of Betelgeuse S, is doing right now. But until the atmosphere will be breathable, nobody can settle.

As Delta finds out what happened on Betelgeuse VII, it sends its best friend, Etna, together with their children Julia and Angela Northern, to tell everyone to resist ten more Earth years. Only that and everyone will be safe.

Well, everyone will be safe only if Betelgeuse will survive that long... or only if something else bad will not happen.



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