36 Decima 10 7999 (The dawn of the ninth millennium)...with Miton & Arpo
'A war is coming, Miton!'
'And it will be a war to end all wars!' added a pensive-looking Arpo, who was looking out at the city, spread out in front of him, from the top floor of a long-abandoned industrial building a few miles to the south of the sprawling metropolis of Caspya.
Caspya was indeed a truly stellar place in which to live. The pride of Cryopia, a mineral-rich superstate on the remote ice planet of Grano.
Recent events, however, had abruptly brought about the end of an almost euphoric era. Shattered dreams replaced by new fears and murmurings of major change ahead.
Miton and Arpo had been the best of friends for a long time...a very long time! And Arpo was right to feel apprehensive.
Miton felt it too!
These past few months had seen a general deterioration in the relationship between the masses and The Cause (the 'non-political' ruling body of Cryopia).
But that wasn't all.
Cryopia was abundant in important minerals and just lately it had increasingly come under the eye of resource-depleted Aurania, a once-powerful and almost perpetual war-mongering rival superstate no more than a few thousand miles away across a semi-frozen ocean.
Aurania was a shadowland though. Its citizens were poor in the extreme. Yet, in stark contrast, those in control possessed great wealth and, in addition to that great wealth, they had new designs on Cryopia!
An uneasy peace pact existed between the two nations.
Somehow it had held firm for many years now since the last catastrophic war but Cryopians were becoming more and more restless with The Cause's reticence to deal forcibly with the regular minor incursions from Auranian forces.
Auranian spycraft, manned by a crew of highly-trained intel gatherers, ventured into Cryopian airspace, almost at will it seemed. Just along the lesser populated southern coast at first but one was spotted by an astronomer at super-high altitude about 100 or so miles from the outskirts of Caspya.
'Shoot them down' cried the citizens of Caspya.
But The Cause (and the power they actually possessed) was weaker than the populace had been led to believe and all they could do was continue to issue tepid-sounding warnings.
Truth be told, the new defence programme had not yet been fully implemented (some of the intended funds for key upgrades had even gone missing!) and right now Cryopia was in fact extremely vulnerable to any organised act of outside aggression.
In the city of Caspya, protests and random acts of disobedience against the state had become almost the daily diet.
Only today, two Caspyans had been arrested for pelting a senior official of The Cause in broad daylight as he made his way into the ruling body's headquarters building.
Arpo had watched all these recent unhappy events unfold from the sidelines and made sure to keep Miton abreast of the rapidly deteriorating social climate.
Miton had always preferred to keep himself to himself. Relying on his friend for updates on such matters.
But Arpo valued Miton's reasoning above anyone else. Miton's scientific mind was indeed a sharp weapon to have on your side.
'If things are as bad as you say, Arpo, and I have never had any reason to doubt your words, then I too fear war is inevitable' said a sober looking Miton.
Arpo and Miton were, without doubt, two of the finest citizens ever to have lived on Grano.
Mere shadows now. But none-the-less greatly concerned for the country they cherished...the planet they cherished...for all eternity.
36 Decima 10 7999...with Irnst & Suli
Irnst Najer surveyed the scene outside the smoked-glass window of his apartment in Living Block A45, located within Accommodation Sector 13.
He could just about make out the vast skyline of Caspya in the distance. Its huge buildings were obscured somewhat this morning however by a dense industrial-like fog of the kind the old city used to have way back in the first millennium.
Today was a special day...36 Decima 10... and the first microsec of tomorrow would herald the arrival of a ninth millennium!
Cryopia had done well...extremely well...to reach this point in time.
It had come through war, drought, famine and disease. But all of these great foes had eventually been vanquished – at great loss mind you – but vanquished none-the-less.
Irnst worked for The Citizen's Bank in the Domed Heart of Caspya. He was a model Working Citizen and worked hard for The Cause...which was what life was all about these days wasn't it?
He had been partnered with Suli Pahnep for six Decima now.
Suli was also the perfect example of a Working Citizen and she worked at The Cause's head office in the capital, deep underground, where only an elite workforce ever ventured.
Presently though life felt less safe, less cocooned than it had for many years. Attacks in the city had increased. Though these had, as yet, only been in the form of several unruly protests against The Cause.
Security was at its highest level for ages. Citizens were being more closely monitored than ever.
Tension in Caspya had certainly heightened and there were to be only muted celebrations tonight as the world welcomed in the year 8000. Probably just a pre-recorded projection against the night sky, watched in the flesh by a select few and beamed live on Viewbox. Everyone had one and citizen's were expected to watch all the infrequent programmes that were broadcast!
Rumour had it that these Attacks were not the work of some crazed citizens from the impoverished outer regions of Cryopia with a grudge against the so-called golden city of Caspya but an outside terror group with an old score to settle.
This was already being talked about in ever-widening circles as the beginning of something much bigger. Possibly the much-fabled World War Five. A topic that hadn't been spoken of for many moons.
Irnst had seen images of WW4, via the History Discs. Millions of Granoans had perished. And when it was all over...who had really won?
At an historic post-WW4 meeting the great and the good of Cryopia and Aurania voted unanimously to round up the remainder of the globe's heavy nuclear weaponry and shuttle it to a locked-down location on a far away uninhabited moon. Smaller weapons capable of mass destruction would be destroyed on Grano.
And as part of a Cryopian-driven radical masterplan, Grano's space programme was to be disbanded immediately after deployment of the remaining arsenal, with only a small elite ever knowing the precise co-ordinates of the dump site.
That was all a very long, long time ago.
Over time, the decision to begin again had proved to be a good one.
Cryopia and Aurania put their signatures to a carefully-worded peace treaty and agreed a basic set of principles which both countries were to use as a blueprint for the future.
The Cause – a non-political group of top minds – was formed to govern both states. And they immediately outlawed any form of unsanctioned mass entertainment, alcohol, recreational drugs and, of course, religion! All cast aside en masse as life started afresh.
Personal computers & personal communication devices could only be used for work purposes. Printed matter was for the provision of information only.
In the new world order, Cryopia clearly fared better than Aurania but they had been the non aggressors in the war between the two superstates and fully-deserved to hold sway. A two-way alliance was duly signed. And peace returned.
Having ignited the firestorm that was WW4 and failing in their bid to exterminate Cryopia, Aurania was left with much to reflect.
Much of the country was a barren wilderness. Less than half of the populace still thrived.
And shortly after the war, a massive comet had struck to cause even more widespread destruction and loss of life to an already-ravaged nation.
But while Grano had moved on apace and the refocussing of citizens worldwide had brought about the desired stability and general prosperity, there were those in Aurania who were hell bent on raining terror on a target not so far away...the country that to this day (36 Decima 10 7999) still remotely-monitored them...Cryopia!
36 Decima 10 6999
Veela had waited 20 long years for Arpo's return.
And now he was back!
Back from the depths of space...back to his home planet of Grano (which, Arpo always thought, looked truly magnificent when viewed from space)...and, above all else, back to his beloved Cryopia!
Arpo's arrival was a triumphant one. Befitting the Commander of the magnificent 'StarExplorer' spacecraft on its ambitious data-collecting mission to the very edge of the known galaxy...some 10 light years away.
And, under his expert tutelage, the mission had passed off totally successfully as Veela and Miton, among others, knew very well it would.
The huge spacecraft had set off in the year 6979 and now it had arrived back just as Cryopians, and others on Grano, were about to welcome in the eighth millennia.
Veela thought Arpo was a particularly handsome example of a Cryopian male. He towered above her at over seven feet in height, had flawless dark green skin and his prematurely grey hair made him look even more distinguished...quite the model spaceship commander!
Arpo was only 61 years of age (still young considering the average life span of a male Cryopian was 135) yet he was prematurely silver-haired...and very few males under 75 had even the slightest trace of grey!
Arpo found Veela highly attractive too. Typically Cryopian with long blonde hair, perfect light green skin and a slender figure.
But what set Veela above other females in Cryopia was her stunning jet black eyes. 99% of the country's females had crystal-clear blue eyes. The fact that Veela did not meant she was a member of Cryopian aristocracy, a direct descendent of the nation's founding family.
Miton was Arpo's oldest and truest friend and he too had been looking forward with immense pride to giving his closest ally a hero's welcome.
From the moment he had first met Arpo, on the morning of their first day at the Casypan Space & Science Academy, he'd felt a special bond between them. One that had come to grow far beyond just mutual respect.
Both Arpo and Miton had excelled at the academy. But they were always set on different career paths.
Arpo's sights were fixed on space travel...while Miton's feet were firmly planted on the ground, pure science his speciality.
So while Arpo had progressed to the country's Space Centre, Miton had gone on to become the foremost scientist in Cryopia. His breakthroughs – particularly in medicine - benefiting many, while his skills were also much sought after by those with devious minds in the defence industry...an avenue of employment Miton did his best to avoid...despite the ridiculously lucrative offers!
36 Decima 10 7999...later
Tomorrow was 01 Decima 01 8000 – Millennium Day - and before that day had felt the warmth of a Winter sun, the good citizens of Caspya in the peace-loving country of Cryopia would be given a bloody reminder that this new world order would not be tolerated forever. Not without one almighty struggle!
The majority of Working Citizens in Cryopia had been granted an Afternoon Reward on Millennium Eve and so Irnst and Suli had agreed to meet up in one of the capital's Loungebars at 1300.
Irnst and Suli had worked hard for The Cause all year and this rare moment of relative freedom – if a working citizen could ever be truly free with all the monitoring equipment across the city – was something to be treasured.
Irnst was looking forward to tomorrow's annual demonstration athletics meeting in the capital, which was to be transmitted live on Viewbox. But, on police orders, it was to be staged behind closed doors this year at the state of the art City Stadium.
Non-competitive sport was encouraged by The Cause – indeed physical health was paramount - but competitive sport had long since been eradicated due it being counter-productive to a nation's work output. Sportsmen and Sportswomen were considered key working citizens though and, as such, contributed fully to The Cause.
Suli had advancement exams in the first Decima of the new year and she had already decided to devote her Freetime tomorrow to revision via her Workbox.
Suli rarely, if ever, spoke about her employers. Irnst knew that The Cause was the heartbeat of Cryopia. He knew Suli's work was vital, as was his own. But deep down he knew that Suli was a more valued citizen than he was...by those that really mattered.
His work involved making sure that fellow Working Citizens received their share of Cryopia's Decima Profit. He wasn't involved in the process of calculating what that amounted to in any way...he and his co-workers at The Citizen's Bank were given that figure straight from The Cause's Central Information Office. But Irnst had to ensure that only eligible citizens received their quota.
And that meant constant liaison with other state-controlled organisations and fellow Citizen's Bank workers in other cities in Cryopia.
Later that night, Irnst and Suli, after consuming a HealthyMeal each, settled down to see in the new millennium together, seated on their shiny, standard-issue, synthetic black sofa, which was strategically placed in front of their large Viewbox.
'Only seven other groups of citizens have ever stood together to witness the arrival of a new millennium' said the usual male announcer on Viewbox. Someone who was never seen and could easily be of artificial extraction. And Irnst couldn't help but feel just a little bit special.
But then something happened. Something that had never happened before!
The screen suddenly went black...and all the lights in Living Block A45 went out!
In the distance a warning siren started up, until all Irnst and Suli could hear was its baleful sound filling the night air.
Then the sound of a huge explosion. The whole apartment shaking robustly with the blast.
Of course, there had been a few relatively minor Attacks in recent times – all without use of
any kind of weaponry. 'But nothing of this scale', thought a shocked Irnst.
'We'll be OK!' said a visibly less disturbed Suli.
'We knew something might happen...like this...tonight' added a slightly sheepish Suli.
Within the matter of thirty seconds or so though the lights came back on. Then the Viewbox stirred into life.
A blank screen at first. Just the time in the top right-hand corner.
It was 2359...45...46...47...48...49
And at that point a view of the City Memorial Tower appeared with the numbers 10...then 9 projected onto it. The countdown continuing until the camera cut away to a black background showing '8000' in large gold numbers, followed by a spoken message from Citizen 1.
'Fellow citizens of Cryopia, we stand today at the beginning of the ninth millennium. A time to reflect how well we have all worked to be here together at such a momentous point in the history of our wonderful planet...Grano!'
'We have shown that working together for The Cause is the only way. Long may it continue. I wish you all well and bid you all goodnight.'
And then the screen went blank again!
Looking out towards Caspya, Irnst could just about distinguish a large pall of smoke rising high above the capital. Somwhere fairly central.
'If it was an outside Attack, the dome would surely have provided ample protection?' thought a still badly shaken Irnst to himself. But he was soon stirred out of his musings by his Partner, who began to speak like she had never spoken before!
'I think that may have been pre-recorded!' said Suli
Irnst couldn't believe the suggestive nature of the words that continued to flow from Suli's mouth.
'From the time the Viewbox came back on!' added Suli
'I think something bad has happened, Irnst...something very bad!'
And Suli was right. Something very bad had happened!
On the brink of the ninth millennium – at around 2359 – a huge rocket had torn through the previously untested defensive barrier of the dome and totally destroyed the City Memorial Tower, mortally wounding 50 of The Cause's key players, who were present to watch the countdown in person.
In reality, the beginning of the ninth millennium was clearly going to be a very different and very challenging time for Irnst and Suli...and their fellow citizens of Cryopia.
All Miton and Arpo could do was watch on in horror. Just shadows in the shadows.