An episode of the classic TV show, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, is playing on a terminal in a darkened office room. The room is empty, except for the cleaning bot who is using one of its utility arms to vacuum dust from a bookshelf. The terminal desk is at standing height, in the corner opposite the door. Mitch leaves the TV on for the bot.
In the next room, Mitch is reclined on a sofa, sipping on a glass of whiskey. He smacks his lips annoyingly after every sip, followed by a grotesque “ah!” He’s scrolling through jobs listings on his phone, its screen reflects off of his glasses like a fun house mirror. “Here we go,” he says, having found what he thinks will be an interesting job.
Mitch, along with about half a billion other people, lives in Chicago. The great lakes region split from the US after a civil war we know as the Water War. This region became Great Lakes, with Chicago as its capital. Splitting from the union did not save the water, however, people never changed their consumption habits, and sharing the lakes with Canada did not help. By the turn of the twenty-second century, the water level of all five lakes was in a grim state. The aquifers are drying up too.
His apartment is an efficiency unit toward the top of one of the hastily-built towers erected for the purpose of providing housing for the millions upon millions of immigrants seeking water. It has only 2 rooms: a bedroom, and a common room containing a living space and the kitchen. Each room has one window, barely big enough to fit your head out. There was a rash of building-jumpers in the late twenty-first century, code now requires the windows of high-rise buildings to be one foot squares. Still big enough for some particularly motivated, or small, individuals. There are no decorations on the walls, no extraneous furniture. He has 2 plates, a bowl, one fork, and the glass he’s now drinking his whiskey from. He spends most of his time aboard his company-owned T1, a Volvo T1000, only returning to Chicago for R&R.
He sets his glass down on the floor and stands up, stretching his arms up over his head with a satisfied grunt. He bends down, picks the glass up, and walks over to the window. Through it he sees mostly yellow smog, with hints of buildings and vehicles here and there. People said climate change was a lie, it wasn’t. The average wintertime temperature in Chicago is now 35 degrees, you can imagine what the summers are like.
“Hank, what’s the date?”
“Today is Thursday, February 13, 2105.”
Mitch lets out a huge yawn with another stretch. “Thanks, send a message to the crew: ‘Meet at O’Hare Monday, 9am. Details will follow.’“
Mitch is the Captain of the Merchant Marine vessel, the Magna Concordia. For a long time, the T1 spec was just a placeholder, room left for the future. Volvo introduced the T1000 late last year. It was the first time a firm had been able to produce a vessel the size of an aircraft carrier that can achieve escape velocity. Mitch, ruthless and unforgiving, got the nod to captain its maiden voyage. In the intervening months, the Magna has made 4 trips: a low orbit flex, two from Earth to Mars, and one supply run to the outer rim installation.
“Hank, get me a taxi to O’Hare.”
He’s been at home since Saturday, and starting to get cabin fever.
“Done. ETA 5 minutes,” Hank responds.
Mitch puts his computer in his bag and dons his re-breather, then walks out the front door into the hallway. The hallway is very dark, lit only by the tiny windows at either end. He makes his way to the elevator and presses the call button. As he waits for the elevator to arrive, he checks his phone. There’s a text from Alice, his sometimes-girlfriend.
Can you come by sometime? We need to talk.
No, he thinks, and then slides the phone back into his pocket. The elevator arrives and the doors slide open to reveal a completely unlit interior. He steps on and the doors close behind him. It takes about 15 seconds to reach the ground floor, where the doors take way too long to open. When they do, the light coming through the giant glass windows of the apartment’s common area blinds him. He shields his eyes with his hand and steps off of the elevator. The common area has several couches, armchairs, and tables, all of it ratty and worn out. He walks past the receptionist without either of them acknowledging the other’s existence and out the automatic front doors. The entry way is a sort of air-lock, you walk through the first set, wait about 5 seconds, and then the second set opens.
Now stood toes to the edge of the curb, he looks around for his taxi. He pulls out his phone to check the time. It’s only been 3 minutes. Damn.
Here comes the taxi. An ancient thing, a relic from a bygone era. Solar powered, he rolls his eyes. Solar taxis are fucking slow. It should take 15 minutes to get to the airport, but in a solar it will likely take 30. Now seated in the back, he pulls out his computer and opens it. The screen comes alive to a text terminal still connected to the T1000.
[mitch@t1000 ~]$ _
From here, he can check on the service status of the ship. It’s moored at a service facility just outside the airport. As part of the beta testing process, after each trip it is inspected. The software is updated and technicians assess all major systems. Mitch and his crew are guinea pigs for this new breed of transport, they give feedback based on their experience with the Magna. He’s headed out there now to complete his debrief from the previous trip.
[mitch@t1000 ~]$ vreport -l [mitch](02092105) Cockpit terminal screen flickers when increasing pulse drive power [mitch](02092105) Maneuverability: in Earth atmosphere, needs more responsiveness sea level-2000m, struggles to turn quickly. [mitch@t1000 ~]$ vreport -m "Comfort: passengers complain about the sound of pulse drives toward rear of passenger compartment" [mitch@t1000 ~]$ _