Wednesday, 31 October 2012


It wasn't the end of the world, though a lot of us had thought it would be.  The Climate Changed, much as the scientists had been predicting, only a little bit faster and a little bit more violently.  In true British fashion the storm that sunk the Isles was named Summer, and when all that was left above water were some of the rockier bits of Scotland and bits of the Pennines, those of us who had been lucky found ourselves slightly adrift on the gigantic vivirafts.
They were intended to house a couple of thousand people each, and those thousand were supposed to be politicians, royalty, and the rich – the people who believed that the country depended on them and their bloodlines (or in the case of the politicians, their opinions).  A separate viviraft had been dedicated to the diplomats, presumably in case the politicians couldn't find an opinion to agree on.  All of the vivirafts had launched, but none of them had carried their intended cargo, as their simply hadn't been the time.  By the time Storm Summer reached Britain people were cheerfully going about as though it was any other squall of bad weather, refusing to believe that it wasn't anything they weren't already used to.  When it hit, there was an hour of horrifically strong winds and torrential rain, and then everything went quiet.  The British mostly assumed that the storm was over.  When it re-emerged, gaining energy in some novel atmospheric system that fed energy from four different directions into a cataclysmic climatic explosion, the country flooded to a standstill in less than half-an-hour.  Eighteen hours later, and it was sunk.
I found myself aboard a viviraft because it floated by while I was trying to drown in peace.  A rope snaked over the edge and landed in the water beside me with a splash, and so I grabbed hold and was hauled in.
The man who hauled me in, with the aid of cunningly powered winch machinery, told me his name was Jonathan, and that he'd been the caretaker of the viviraft, waiting for the people who were supposed to populating it to arrive.  When the flooding effectively launched the viviraft by itself he put the list of approved passengers back in the safe and got on with bundling everybody nearby on board.
"You've been shanghaied," he said with a grin.  "Consider yourself crew now!"
The viviraft was mostly made of some indestructable non-bio-degradeable plastic intended to see out generations at sea.  There was an entire deck of hydroponics to provide sufficient protein for 2,500 people, and an upper poop deck was like a jungle in miniature.  In there, I found Melissa and Sam, biologists who were cooing delightedly over the plants and insects that were there.
"It's like a little pharmacopoeia," said Sam, who had a beard and was nearly twice my height.  "Unless there was a serious emergency we can pretty much make all the basic medicines, and make a good stab at some of the more complex ones.  We can even make anti-venin!"  He proudly pointed out a nest of snakes that I'd not seen, and I screamed and jumped over the railing to the deck below.
"We've got good telemetry, fuel for about six months, generators and redundant generators, and solar power," said Derek, who told me he used to be an accountant with a hobby in civil engineering.  "I don't know a whole lot about this stuff, but I've been downloading stuff off the internet to learn more about it, and it looks like there'll be some decent on-the-job experience!"
"How do you get to the internet when we're on a boat and the country just sank?" I asked.
"Satellite," he replied.  "Not everywhere's gone yet."
"And when it is?" I said, my heart in my throat.  "What then?"
"Then we'd better hope we've downloaded enough of it already," he said, his face suddenly serious again.
"So what do I do?" I asked Jonathan over tea that night, which was something green and soupy, and may have been plankton.  It even tasted green.
"Entertainer?" he said, and by the look on his face he wasn't joking.  "Chef – this food is rank –, navigator, cleaner,... look, the list is as long as your arm.  Even if you just did whatever needed doing when you were near it it would help at the moment.   Just don't do nothing."
I nodded, and sighed a little.  "I was hoping to be a playboy," I said, with a little laugh.  "But I guess I can be more useful than that."

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