I gaze at my reflection in the mirror as I unbutton my uniform's jacket. Halfway through my thirtieth year and already a major—promoted for discovering a serious fault in the design of the barrier wall, saving Global Command billions, and single-handedly driving the project to its end in record time. Once and for all, the raids against the southern A&O cities and industrial parks in Nunavut would end, or at least would now be manageable. The barrier had been designed to be near impossible to breach: sheer, armed, and patrolled by military drones. It would take a lot to get through, organisation, coordination, and a serious amount of explosives. And even if the UFF did manage to attack, we would be waiting for them. No more easy pickings for them, no more running around in circles after an elusive aggressor always one step ahead. Today, along with my promotion, I had been given command of the forces controlling the barrier's nearly eight hundred kilometre length. A huge responsibility. One I would not fail.
'Major Ezenwa', I say and salute my reflection, sharp, precise. The title sounds good in my mouth. I say it again, the Rolex glinting on my wrist as I drape my jacket over my arm. I smile, my even white teeth brilliant against my deep complexion. My smile fades as I recall the request I made to my CO, thinking of Adiana, the neuroscientist I met a year ago, the chemistry between us palpable—the woman I intend to marry no matter how many barriers stand in our path.
I turn away from the mirror, the memory of my CO's reply over a smoky single malt souring my fledgling sense of accomplishment.
'Right now we need you serving Global Command. Maybe in a few years time. Anyway, it's too soon to be thinking of settling down. You are still young. Plenty of time. Survival first. Family later, eh?''
I let out a disgusted breath. 'Survival first. Family later.' The motto of the restricted zone. Everyone said it, and everyone lived by it, all of us marching to the same beat, even my father. But I am the son of the last, and arguably one of the best presidents of the United States and can't help but chafe at the enforced equality across the A&O cities, at the utter lack of nepotism, of even the merest shred of favouritism. I had heard rumours the newest city, Alpha VII—completed in 2058 and nestled in a bay along Greenland's north coast—where, it was claimed, the most valuable citizens to Global Command resided only by invitation. I had never seen it, and neither had anyone I knew. Once, I tried to look up information about it on the military database, but everything regarding the city, its construction, and its residents lay locked under several forbidding layers of security. I searched for satellite images. Nothing. Old data streamed across my screen of an empty green coastline edged with rocky fjords. Even now, as a major, I still didn't possess Q Clearance—the level used for matters of extreme secrecy, and the one required to open Alpha VII's most mundane files.
I toss my jacket aside. All I know is Alpha VII is being kept isolated from the rest of us for reasons I have yet to learn, reasons I suspect point to a further separation of society. I glance at my jacket, draped over the back of a chair, the bright insignia of my new rank peeking out from between heavy khaki folds. All the more reason to elevate myself, to ensure I am invited into that hallowed, silent, invisible city perched at the top of the world, and not left behind.
I unbutton the top three buttons of my shirt and roll up my sleeves, unable to stop myself from wondering if the privileged citizens of Alpha VII also put survival first and family later. A bitter part of me doubted it. So nepotism did exist, just not for me or my father, relics of a dying world. It wasn't too late yet, despite my awareness the world was getting hotter and drier, even here in northern Nunavut.
At a recent briefing, scientists informed us within the next three decades, A&O's southernmost cities would become uninhabitable, the water table totally depleted. By 2100, the North American continent would be a desert, and only at latitudes above 75 N would we have a chance to continue to survive. To realise after all the effort of building the restriction zone cities and constructing the barrier, we had only bought ourselves a thin margin of time, and unless we rebuilt the majority of our cities in the furthest north, we would end up just like those left out in the exclusion zone.
My father convinced me many good people had been left behind when the separation of society happened in 2048, but I have never heard about any good people. Instead, reports from inside the still-habitable cities of the exclusion zone have made for grim reading. Within what is left of North America and Europe, the UFF are still organised and a formidable opponent to Global Command, but in the cities of South America, Africa, India, and Asia, those who were initially in power have become gangsters, those cities still standing fallen to anarchy. In drone visuals from Rio de Janeiro: images of rampant cannibalism. I shudder, sickened by the end result of what those who came before us have wrought in their relentless pursuit of profit—the legacy they left, the suffering, the destruction, the devastation, and the inescapable spectre of our slow annihilation along with millions of other innocent species.
My gaze roves over my apartment's living room reflected within the mirror, taking in the spartan, orderly cleanliness of it, nothing like the drone images pouring in everyday of derelict, drowning cities left to sizzle in blistering heat. We would be living like that if it wasn't for what was done by the US military in 2039—the year before I was born—when the president before my father signed an executive order to take over a private, luxurious city being built in Greenland for the world's wealthiest barons. But it was the government's seizure of the barons' billions made from pillaging the world's natural resources—its fossil fuels, metals, lumber, and palm oil which had financed the construction of A&O's fourteen cities of Alpha I to VI, and Omega I to VIII. The barons' combined wealth had soared well past hundreds of trillions. By the time the world had been pushed past the point to support human habitation, less than one percent of the world's population possessed enough private wealth for the United Nations was able to build a vast sanctuary for fifty million people, as well as large land and marine arks to house those remaining surviving species of plants, insects, fish, and animals.
But still, the planet continued to warm. The last of the Arctic's deepest permafrost had melted, and with the release of the trapped methane, CO2 levels were already well past 800ppm and escalating fast. The scientists at the briefing had made sure we understood time was short, their quiet urgency unsettling. Plans were made, but we knew it wouldn't be enough—every one of us knew we were fighting a losing battle.
I look at myself again, critical, searching for faults, for reasons I might not be worthy of admission to Alpha VII. I find none. I am educated, healthy, strong, a major within Global Command, and the son of the last president of the United States. My eyes harden. I will not fall with the others, somehow I will escape the net tightening around the last remaining stronghold of the human race. Whatever it would take to reach my goal, I would do it. I would get an invitation to Alpha VII, and permission to make Adiana my wife. I would survive. And thrive. I just needed to prove myself.
The doorbell chimes, a soft tone. I smile, my dark thoughts fleeing, superseded by far more pleasant ones. Adiana. Time to celebrate.