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May 17, 2012 / Daniel

Presidential Address

[1389 words, rated G]

Cynthia lay on her back, looking up at the very realistic starscape on her ceiling. Despite the irony of being indoors, she fell into the notion of the nothingness between her and the endless void above. Her sense of self and perspective flowed away into the thought that were it not for gravity, there would be nothing to keep her from falling upwards into the ceaseless oblivion.

“What are you doing?” her friend Karly burst in, allowing the door to bang the wall as it swung fully open.

“Lying on the couch, it would appear.”

“Hey I wanted to watch something holo, do you have your bHeld charged up?”

“Yeah here, let me get it. What are we watching?”

“Remember the Ripping, when they blew up half the planet?”

“Well I don’t remember it, I’m not that old.”

“No, but we were talking about it in school, I mean. We’re supposed to watch the Presidential statement after it happened.”

Cynthia pulled the halves her of DaNA-Tech branded PDA apart, and the bHeld device glowed to life, “Be Informed. bHeld.” announced a friendly voice.

Karly opened hers and they each positioned the devices on the table at matching angles. Karly poked through a menu to bring up the video clip, and both devices synced. The paired projections meshed together between the devices and formed a holographic playback of the selected video.

“February 26, 2132. President Nathanial Green’s address to the nation following The Event,” the subtitle faded away, and a podium appeared, situated in front of a wall adorned with the emblem of the President of the United States.

President Green entered the room and took his place behind the podium. His face was lined with tears. His motioned with his hand for the room to sit and to quiet itself.

“My fellow citizens,” President Green’s face was wet, but his voice was unwavering, his face was stone, “It is worse than we thought. However, we are safter than we had feared.”

“Nine days ago, at China’s Jian Liang facility in Darwin, Northern Territory, on the continent of Australia, an event occurred. You with the media have been referring to this as The Ripping. In short, an experiment involving several varieties of micro-scale nanotechnology was put into action wich over-powered the precautionary controls where were in place to prevent any adverse progression of such an experiment. Specifically, devices containing the capability of self-replication, and devices containing the capability of molecular dissassembly, were combined, producing a resulting process which expanded to a massive scale.”

“To state it another way, the Jian Lian facility created a substance that is designed to create itself, as well as to dissolve anything it comes into contact with. As of six days ago, the entire continent of Austraila has been affected by this event, and has been effectively erased of building structures, of landscape, and of life.”

The audience of the press corps and other attendees murmur and buzz with discussion, President Green again extends his hand to quiet the room.

“This dissolving substance, however, appears to have its affects abated by seawater. At least, as far as could be observed, the expansion of the substance and its ability to dissassemble molecules appears to stop at the water’s edge. It is too soon to say if water acts as an antidote, of sorts, to the dissolving behavior, or, if the dissolving behavior is simply being slowed by the enormous amount of water present.”

Green again gestures down the murmurs.

“Unfortunately, the destruction has not ended there. Unknown to the international watchdog agencies overseeing the nanotech projects engaged by the Jian Liang facility, China had constructed a massive subterranian tunnel to facilitate the movement of staff and materials. This underground tunnel, although secret, was a feat of engineering of astounding and impressive effort. Sadly, it was also by way of this tunnel that the dissolving material was able to travel to the greater land mass of the Eastern world.”

The room errupted with conversation and paniced tones of discussion.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please, please…” Green gestured the room again to quiet.

“As reports came in from other sources in China, Asia, Europe, and Africa, we learned progressively of the erasure of each of these areas of the Earth. As of day seven, it appears that the spreading effect and the destructive effect has reached as far as it can reach, and has ceased to increase. We have not seen destruction extend further in the last two days.”

“Among the land masses spared are Antarctica, locations consisting of disparate islands, South America, Central America, and, of course, North America to include Canada, Alaska, Iceland and Greenland. All other connected land masses, have been erased of structures, landscape, and of life.”

The press corps was silent.

“It’s been said that destroying easier than creating. Of all the lessons of life, we have taught ourselves this in great measure. We stand today in the shadow of tremendous, soul-stripping, loss, and what is bittermost, is that it has come by our own devise.”

“Hope is a funny thing. On one hand, it can be the single rope thrown down from a cliff’s edge by an unknown saviour, which will become the means by which you survive. Hope can also be the rescue that never comes; the memory of a song that fades and fades until it is as if it never were.”

“My fellow citizens, I do not hope we can fix this. This is a thing that is too big, too strong, and too much. We are not prepared, and we have no where to run, no place to hide. We are left with little, too little. We are small, and our world has just gotten smaller. If there is any hope at all, it is that in a smaller world, our voice will echo more loudly.”

“We remain. We are here. Right now. Alive. We have no one to count on, no where to go. We must do for ourselves, support ourselves, be responsible for ourselves.”

“Starting now, I am relieving all duties related to my office which deal with foreign policy. We are alone now on this Earth, as one people.”

“Starting now, I am relieving our space program, NASA, and all efforts to look elsewhere for answers. We are Earthbound, and we have work to do at home.”

“Starting now, I am relieving the office of the Presidency, and am announcing the inception of the United Earth Government. I will serve as the first Chancellor of the UEG, and my office will consist of leaders from the remaining nations. Canada, Mexico, and key leaders from Central and South America have all stepped forward in favor of this body of governance, and it is by the UEG that we will begin to find our way though this together, as one people.”

“Starting now, the primary focus of the UEG will be the construction of the most extensive civil engineering project every undertaken by mankind. Taking advantage of our knowledge of nanotechnology, we will look to our shallow shores of the sea, and will begin by the processes of mechanical, artificial, lithification and diagenesis to construct from the sea floor a protective wall around the remaining continents of Earth.”

“This wall will serve both as a protective barrier from the dissolving substance unleashed by the Jian Liang facility, as well as a constant visual reminder of our new horizon as one people of the Earth. This project will bring no end to jobs, and will bring a solid foundation to the new economy for decades, if not centuries, to come.”

“There will be those that disagree. They will say there is always more out there, more to discover, more to conquer, more to live. I must disagree with them. There is nothing else. We have forged our destiny, and it is to survive. I stand with you today, as a man who’s lost it all, and as a man willing to get to work, right here, right now.”

The hologram faded and the projections stopped. Both bHeld PDAs blinked and turned themselves off.

“Weird to think; that was almost four hundred years ago at this point,” said Cynthia.

“Yeah.”

“Do you think they’re out there? In the deadland? Anyone?”

“Past the wall?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m scared to think they are.”

11 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. ElizabethM / May 18 2012 10:24 pm

    Excellent! The story flowed well and I didn’t feel distracted by the tech or description of futuristic items or situations (as sometimes happens for me in science fiction stories). It made sense. I LOVED the ending!

    • Daniel / May 18 2012 10:38 pm

      Thanks, Elizabeth! I’m happy that you felt that way. I love scifi, but I think it can tend to get heavy in technology for alot of readers. Glad it was approachable!

  2. Larry Kollar / May 20 2012 9:00 am

    It *was* infodump-y, despite the dump being in the form of a presidential address. A classic “grey goo” story, well conceived though. Maybe it was deliberate, but the ending left me wondering which side of the Wall the young ladies are on?

    • Daniel / May 20 2012 9:07 am

      Definitely. I’ve been wrestling with this info-dump for some time; fussing over which exact way to package it. I finally decided on this form, at least for now. If for not other reason than to just have done with it. Always room to revisit the other forms, too, and I’ll probably post those as well. I failed to communicate the true nature of this goo I’m dealing with; it’s got many facets to it, but I’ve painted it here as “destroys everything”, which isn’t accurate in my concept. Meanwhile, I like the idea, too, that, at this point in time, is the President a reliable source (or are his sources reliable)? Very much appreciate the comment, Larry, thanks!

  3. John Wiswell / May 20 2012 11:18 am

    Why did I read the narration as a supervillain? By the time “oblivion” happened I’d already hit the diabolical voice, almost like it was rooting for the speakers to be doomed. Was that intentional, Daniel?

    • Daniel / May 20 2012 11:43 am

      Great angle, John. I don’t feel like Green will be your cookie-cutter mustache-twirler, but I do see him as that brand of evil that’s a puppet of the office, yet not exercising the power he’s positioned to wield to _prevent_ the diabolical choices. Sort of that “I know this is the wrong choice, but, how wrong is it, and it does work out well for me.” mentality. I’m working on a broad canvass with this world, so there’s lots of room for the mustache-twirlers, but I haven’t really explored them yet. Thanks for the thoughtful read! I always learn from you.

  4. Helen / May 20 2012 7:32 pm

    Interesting story, I too wondered about the girls and how their side of the wall had developed to leave the deadland on the other side. This piece was full of info in the form of the P’s speech, but not too hard to read. I saw this P’s speech as background information, and wondered if it could be lightened by breaking it up, maybe have the girls stop it now and again and comment – just an idea. ^_^

    Like the new look of the site by the way. I don’t have RSS so will have to come back to read your comment. (you could add subscribe by email to comments too!)

    • Daniel / May 21 2012 9:12 am

      Hi Helen!
      I’m fixated on these people, as well, in how they live in this environment; hopefully I’ll be showing more of that aspect as it goes.
      Great point about weaving in their reaction. I admit, looking back, I wrote this with blinders on “of course it’s an info dump, it’s a speech”. Yes, well, if I’d let go of that, I can see now more room to make it more interesting. Thanks for that suggestion!
      Glad you like the site! I’ll look into setting up email subscriptions. I always erroneously assume that I use RSS and so does everyone else (in fact, more people use Blogspot, it seems, with inter-linked subscriptions).
      Thanks again!

  5. Helen / May 21 2012 7:04 pm

    Thanks Daniel for the great response and for adding the subscribe button ^_^

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