2050 by Dave Borland - HTML preview
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His mind was made up. He was leaving tonight. Kurt Sloan now knew how he would get to the small village of his ancestors in Scotland. Up to this point in time, the problem had been the execution of his plan. The time that he’d spent delving into the Sloan family history, had ironically provided him the way and means to leave his beloved homeland in the year 2050.
Kurt worked for the government of Alleghenia, which was the western most State in the new country of
Atlantica. His job site was in the Castro Library in the University Center section of Pittsburgh. As he thought of his work station, he chuckled to himself. Most of his associates were either Latino or Africano, and the joke was that he was the token Anglo. In truth, he was. Kurt graduated from the University of Pittsburgh receiving both a Masters and Doctorate in Historical Research prior to the fall of the U.S. Kurt had then been hired by Alleghenia to work as a Historical Research Associate for Dr. William Alexander. As the years went on, even with constant assurances by Dr. Alexander that conditions for Anglos would improve, he realized he did not fit in with the new country. Kurt was an outsider in his homeland and his condition had become intolerable. After toying with the idea for months, he made up his mind to leave Alleghenia and go to Scotland. This had been a strange time in his life and he thought about how things had finally worked out.
For an Anglo in an Administration job it was extremely difficult to get a visa. Security was tight and he would never be permitted to take any data with him, family history or not. He had decided to handle the problem of leaving after he found all the information he wanted.
Kurt lived a quiet social life. In the past year he spent much of his off time in the basement of the Library, where the historical records of the defunct Carnegie Library were kept. On his off-days he searched for Sloan family records. He found numerous references to his family in the archives.
Recently he concentrated on searching for data concerning the Pittsburgh Aquifer System, where his father had been chief project engineer. He wanted this to be part of the Sloan history that he took with him. He could locate nothing definitive, just newspaper articles on the building of the Aquifer, until two weekends ago, when not only did he find data on the Aquifer, but the solution of how he was going to leave Atlantica.
Late on that Saturday, while continuing his research at the library, he took a break and began walking through the dark halls. He noticed a sign over one of the rooms that said “Planning Department.” This meant nothing to him, however it aroused his interest. He entered and switched on the light which exposed a room full of metal cabinets. He browsed around and noticed one of the cabinets had a nameplate that read, “PLANNING
SCHEMATICS, PITTSBURGH AQUIFER SYSTEM, 2022-2042”. He was overwhelmed with his discovery.
Over the weekend, he scanned all the materials into his data-file, not spending any time to digest the contents.
He was concerned Security monitoring would pick up his heat imprint or notice the download activity. The next day he returned to the library and his good fortune continued. While returning files to the archive room he saw, propped up against the corner wall, a very colorful advisement which he had never noticed before. It read,
“THE GREAT ALLEGHENY PASSAGE GRAND OPENING, MAY 1, 2008”. He looked closely at the
smaller print. It described the opening of a new trail that would go from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. He remembered another cabinet he had seen before that was labeled “Allegheny Passage”. He found it along a side wall. Kurt opened the top drawer and discovered maps and mileage descriptions of the trail through the Allegheny and Laurel Mountains into the Potomac River valley of Maryland. Its final destination was still Washington, however, this was now the capital of the new country of Columbia. He could not believe what he was looking at. He instantly realized that in these two days, he may have found the solution to leaving Atlantica.
His plan would be to leave as soon as possible. He knew once he left, Security would become aware of his absence. At that point they would download his work and personal data activity looking for clues as to why he left and where he was going. Normal travel routes would be impossible for him to use. The trail was his escape route and the Aquifer data that he previously retrieved saved could possibly be used to barter in Columbia for passage to Europe. He was aware that Columbia had been trying, unsuccessfully, to gain water access from Atlantica when the Aquifer opened early next year. Kurt would begin his hike on the old trail to Columbia. He thought of the journey ahead and the irony that the trail, opened in 2008, designed to go from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., was his escape route in the year 2050. He knew his decision was dangerous, but absolutely necessary for him to achieve his goal of freedom.
Kurt was leaving the library for the last time. He walked down the wide, marbled steps rolling in his hand, the silver capsule that contained his family history and the Aquifer data. He hoped that its contents would be sufficient to convince Columbian authorities to grant him air passage. He hadn’t studied the data in detail but one thing struck him as he remembered his first sighting of the documents. On the last page was his father’s signature as Chief Engineer and the notation that “This System Is For All The People of Our Hemisphere”.
The underground water system had been built by the United States government with the capacity to collect, deliver, and recycle water to most of the land mass of the United States. Because of a combination of factors: global warming, solar activities, and natural hemispheric changes in wind currents, the precipitation zones in North America had drastically changed over the last fifty years. Beginning early in the century, the Northern Appalachian mountains began to receive annually more precipitation than any other region in the Northern Hemisphere. The United States recognized this drastic change. Concurrently other areas of the Country were becoming drought ridden. A massive project to create the world’s largest manmade aquifer system was
designed and construction began in 2022. This system would capture and retain water from the various rivers and streams in the Appalachian area; six new retention lakes would be developed; a huge underground storage capacity would be constructed combining newly discovered caverns and lined abandoned coal mines; and a reverse conduit system that would return water to be recycled. It was the largest government project in world history. It was close to being completed when the United States ceased to exist and the country of Atlantica, within whose borders the Aquifer System was located, gained control of this state-of-the-art system.
Leaving the library, he looked across the empty street and could make out against the fading light, the ghostly outline of the gothic Cathedral of Learning, once the centerpiece of the University of Pittsburgh. It looked like a forty-four story castle in the sky. Kurt knew the story of its building and that funding was assisted with pennies donated by the children of Pittsburgh over one hundred twenty years ago. Tonight, it rose straight into the darkness. To Kurt it looked as if it came from the days of medieval England, instead of the days of the First Depression Era in the United States. A few lights were sprinkled about its base, but from there, all the way to the top, it was dark. He recalled as a young boy how the building would be a blaze in white light. In recent years, it had sadly reminded him of an abandoned cathedral in disrepair.
Five years ago, the Alleghenia Administration moved the University System to a new campus along the
Monongahela River Most of the buildings in this area were now government facilities like the Library where he worked. The Cathedral remained, too huge to move and too beautiful to destroy. To the old timers that remained it was a symbol of a city and an area that had created the industrial power of the defunct United States. The Administration had decided to use the Cathedral as a receptacle for its records. Kurt was saddened by that news, but at least the Cathedral would remain standing, as it had for so much of the history of this area. Its darkened shadow was next to the other ominous looking structure in the old school campus, the Heinz Chapel.
The beautiful chapel seen this cool evening, gave Kurt chills, as he remembered meditative visits where he sat amongst its magnificent stain glass windows. In some ways, the Chapel symbolized what had become of Kurt’s state of mind. What had been, was no more.
Kurt turned away from the Cathedral and Heinz Chapel, and began walking briskly toward the Panther Hollow.
He passed in front of another relic of a long ago time, the shuttered Frick Museum. This area was where he had matured and learned about the world. Now, as he was leaving, it sadly seemed just a collection of antiquated buildings.
The walk was depressing, especially since it was probably the last time he would be on this sidewalk he knew so well. Shortly, he reached the weathered Panther Hollow Bridge, which now only had two walking lanes, vehicular traffic having been banned for the last few years. He picked up his pace, letting his long legs stretch free from their daily confinement in his office space.
He was born and raised in a secure old Scotch-Irish Pittsburgh family. Even as a child he had an avid curiosity as to how things worked. Early on, it was puzzles. Later in school, it was geometry; then engineering; then physics; and finally, any type operational system. Oddly with all his mathematical and logical interests, his first love became history, concentrating especially on how political and social systems developed. This passionate interest evolved into his professional work, now with the Historical Commission of Atlantica. The position gave him the authority to do personal research, which was, ironically, what enabled him to recently do his family research.
The history of his native homeland became his passion. As a young man, he was an idealist and sympathetic to the demands of the new influx of Latino immigrants that had begun early in the century. Slowly, then in a tidal wave, the Latino culture began to dominate many parts of the United States, including this area. When the U.S.
was dismantled and Atlantica formed, the reality of the new culture gradually began to overwhelm him. By that time, a great majority of U.S. citizens had either emigrated. The emigration decisions made by citizens during this time were primarily based on their cultural, religious and ethnic similarities.
Kurt stayed on, but increasingly it became more difficult for him. He had to learn Spanish as a work
requirement because it was the language of government and business. Few people spoke English. Six months ago, life became worse. The Administration tightened travel for Anglos, who worked in sensitive positions. For reasons that he could not understand, his position was included in this classification. From that point, Kurt experienced a confinement he hadn’t felt before and realized he could no longer remain.
Kurt looked ahead. The bridge was empty, except for a light fog coming up from the valley below.