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Craig Quackenbush

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Circuit Nerve
By Craig Quackenbush
Sunday, December 07, 2014

Rated "R" by the Author.

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This is the introduction (prologue) to my sci-fi/cyberpunk novel "Circuit Nerve" (title yet to be finalized). Copyright 2014, C. Quackenbush

DYSTOPIA NOW (or, Nothing Else to Call It When It’s All Gone Wrong)

During the latter half of the twenty-first century, there was every indication that a worldwide upheaval was going to occur. It was a nebulous feeling or idea, but signs and events pointed toward irreversible change. Ongoing violent skirmishes between militant groups across the globe, including the United States, caused tensions to mount exponentially. Terrorist activity was almost a daily occurrence. These incidents rarely made the media’s top headline spot, unless it was something massive and tragic, such as the suicide bombing in Berlin that left one hundred and twenty-eight civilians dead. Religious fervor and proponents of End of Days™ hit fever pitch. The media had all manner of blurbs and catchphrases for the sense of an impending cataclysmic shift in human existence. There was “Earth Earthshaking Imminent.” Another was “Apocalypse Soon.” Yet a third proclaimed, “Worldwide Whirlwind of War and Pieces.” A favorite, used by numerous tabloids and less-reputable info sites, was the simple, “FEAR!”

Through all of this, the planet revolved and, in the estimation of some, evolved. Funds that might otherwise have financed social welfare were channeled into technology and the military. After successful construction of the first satellite with grav-tracts and the ability to comfortably host hundreds of human occupants, the new space race was on to build whatever was to be the next biggest and boldest. A modest nine-person moon-base for mineral exploration became an expansive complex. It was replete with grav-tracts for comfort and commercial properties for consumption, still dedicated to exploration but also prepared for exploitation. The advancement of outer space travel with antimatter technology allowed manned journeys to the middle planets. A base was established on Ganymede that provided a launchpad into deep space. Corporations were salivating at the thought of holiday satellites around Jupiter and the amount they could charge for the tantalizing views of the solar system’s imperious gas giant.

On Earth, harmony had not quite been achieved. Alongside the regular bouts of terrorism, there was a Second Civil War in the United States which caused irrevocable fractures across the country. The root cause of the war was the issue of slavery. The prison system had been overflowing for decades to the point where orbital penitentiaries were built to house the worst offenders. This measure was not enough, however. As a final attempt to allay the prison population problem, legislation was drafted and passed that stipulated convicts could be sold into slavery. They would serve out their sentences under the heel of whoever purchased them. A surprising majority felt this was an efficient method to reform both the prisoner and population problem. To the chagrin of some and the bewilderment of others, the “Slavery Clause,” as it was known, proved a potent solution.

The Clause had its ardent detractors, and they were soon literally up-in-arms. The animosity escalated from write-in campaigns and public protest to armed conflict with those who defended the Clause. Guerilla engagements intensified to the occasional full-scale battle. The body count mounted. The Slavery Clause, resultant economic factors, and a growing disparity between states and the federal government led to sides becoming organized. States broke off from the union and proclaimed independence. They established their own political bodies, beholden to no centralized system.

The Southern Federation, the Evangelical Union, areas of the Northern Secessionist Alliance (renamed post-war the Northern Alliance), and the New Texas Republic banded together as the Liberty Coalition. They supported the Slavery Clause and did not want to lose the economic prosperity it brought. They also wore accurate facsimiles of the Confederate uniforms from the Civil War of the 19th Century. On the other side, the disparate elements of the federal government, remnants of the deteriorated armed forces, the Eastern Free Zone, and some areas of the United Western Territories formed the United Free Alliance. They planned to eliminate the Liberty Coalition and return slavery to its place as an odious remembrance of history.

The “United” in “United States” no longer existed. For that matter, neither did the “states.” Though some pockets of slavery lingered, it had otherwise been almost entirely eliminated.

By the early twenty-second century, conflict around the world decreased. Sociologists and armchair theorists postulated that perhaps humanity had begun to learn its lesson from history. Those lessons came to fruition via famine, disease, war, and mass murder. Fear of extinction propelled people to make changes that would preserve the species. The instinct of self-preservation extended from the individual to the masses, in and of itself like an epidemic. That became a sustainable theory, advanced by the so-called professionals.

The late twenty-second century continued with technological advancement. Cybernetic augmentation was on the cusp of the mainstream but maintained its share of critics. Commercial vehicles flew in designated air-lanes above nearly every city and town. Artificial intelligence existed in its fledgling stages. A.I. frightened as many people as its possibilities exhilarated others. Holiday satellites, numerous penitentiaries, and orbital bases created for spacecraft construction spun around the earth. And UFO cults embraced a newfound sense of purpose as strange lights and objects appeared with more frequency in the skies across the planet.

       Web Site: Craig Quackenbush / Harrowhaüs Press

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