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Nuclear Empire

It rained.

A warm, sweet rain pouring from a stream of low, grey clouds looming over the countryside. It was the 52nd year of the third century of what was yet to be known as the Low Age. Gentle streams of water went down the daunting cliff of the vast concrete structures that filled this part of the countryside, on the left bank of the old river, the one that led to the city ruins downstream. Red lights blinked in unison, once every thirty seconds, signalling the cooling towers to approaching airships. The grey monoliths exuded hot water vapour that swirled and spiralled as it joined the upper cloud layer, drawn towards the rainy sea above like a shoal to the ocean. The hammer and sickle of the USRE gleamed on the cooling towers, adorned with the moth of the Common of the Earth. Two echoes filled the nightly soundscape. The rain, clicking on the roofs and in the river, and the distant, droning sound of high-power electrical facilities on the opposing bank. Allied with the red and yellow lights, almost fire-like, it created a singular feeling of serenity.

Deep inside the concrete cubes by the river, fission occurred. Atoms split and neutrons send hurling in the void, feeding the three monoliths with heat, and ten million people with light and warmth.  The monoliths stood over the countryside. The rain and night mattered little to them. Now ask yourself -- was there anything sinister in this?


Nuclear fission was, and always will be, the purest incarnation of the empire. Not as a defined political entity, but as an idea. At this exact point in time, the empire was the United Socialist Republics of Earth. Built upon the ashes of the old world, determined not to repeat the past yet forced to indulge in its secrets and its methods, the empire had started leveraging the power of the atom once more. But contrary to its predecessors, it knew. It knew what nuclear power entailed. It remembered the radioactive ruins littering Europe, it remembered the fire from the heavens glassing entire cities, it remembered the great hubris of the ancient age. It knew that nuclear power, on a fundamental level, was evil. 

Evil because it meant control, over oneself and the world, irregardless of the elements, irregardless of the night and the rain, irregardless of the little inconvenience we call nature. The empire, by very definition, was evil and so were its tools.

The USRE was not cynical. It did not believe that the empire could be understood as anything other than evil. It wasn't utopian either. It did not try to be perfect, merely good enough, and such were its tools. Evil, for sure. But, for the time being, good enough. 

And so the concrete monoliths stood silent under the rain. Everything was normal on Earth, and the Gods were in their Heavens.

Illustration: Flickr user Bjoern Schwartz, CC3. 

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