80% of people die of preventable causes. 80% of people kill themselves. Everybody would do it, but 20% of us are cruelly struck down before we get the chance.

- Advice from the Darkness


I wanna save suicides. Cause we’re all suicides.

- Candy


1 Month Later - Megacles - The Mega Lab

One month ago a war game between the Darkness and the armed forces began. The Darkness was to assemble a team and make a coup attempt. The army was to thwart her attempt. The army could use all National Spy Agency data. The Darkness was given $20 million to raise and equip her force. The army could use all the resources it had available. Nobody was allowed to murder, maim, or blow shit up. Weapons could only fire paint - blue for the army, red for the Darkness. Any person or object that got painted was out of the game.

Because the rules of the war game were set by Mr President, the Darkness probably started her coup attempt before the army even knew they were playing. This was considered a realistic advantage for an aggressor. The army would just have to catch up as best they could.

Presumably, the Darkness would have to start her coup immediately. The army's first logical step would be to pull her National Spy Agency file - the complete record of everything she has ever done online. Using it, they would unravel her plans quickly. One way or another, the game should have been over in a couple hours.

But nothing happened. No attack by the Darkness, no moves from the military. After a few weeks, there was talk that she had just stolen the $20 million. I’d pretty much forgotten about it when the lights went out.

I go outside to see if the neighbors have power. Nope. Not a light in sight. I check my phone - 20% battery. Damn. I wander around the house in the dark, smoking, eating cold pizza, having me time. I go to bed.

Wake up. Still no power. Check my phone, all the top stories are about the huge power failure that took out the entire eastern seaboard. Uh-oh. There is nothing in the news to suggest this is anything but an accident, but the whole “eastern seaboard” thing has me worried. I remember a big power failure 20 years ago that took out the entire eastern seaboard for weeks. It was caused by a small power plant burning out. When it went offline, the extra load burned out the next power plant, which overloaded the next, and the next, and the next…

A few years after the blackout, I read an article saying that the flaw in the grid had never been fixed. Losing the right plant during a hot day could still take out the entire eastern seaboard. Worse, there was only one company that made the parts to fix the power plants. If that factory was damaged at the same time, the power could be off for 6 months.

I start googling on my phone. My 6% charge phone. First stop, cell network backup power. Cell towers have 20 hour backup batteries. So, 4 hours before I lose the internet completely. Good thing I slept well. Next I check the cause of the blackout. Nobody knows. Too much air conditioning? I’ll get back to that. Next I laboriously use google and my fractured memory to find the name of the fucking company that makes the keystone components of commercial electrical generation. Then I phone the company. They are having a bad day. Apparently, several of THEIR keystone components were stolen and replaced with cans of red paint. Fuck.

I remember Nazi tank production was stopped by blowing up an unprotected ball bearing plant. I wonder if I’m the only one who remembers. Other than the Darkness, who clearly fucking remembers.

Time to call Doc-Danger.

My phone rings.

“Meg! How are you?” says Doc-Danger.

“I’m okay. I was just about to call you.” I say.

“How are your experiments?” he says.

I look over at my dark bioreactors. “Dead.”

“Oh Megacles, I’m so sorry.” he says.

“It’s okay, time for a new hobby anyway.” I say. “How are your experiments?”

“Fried. But I saved the data, so no biggie. Like you say, it’s just a hobby. I’m more worried about my responsibilities.” he says. “I hope this power failure isn’t part of the coup attempt.”

“It definitely is. The Darkness took out the grid with an angle grinder and a B&E. We won’t have power for 6 months. Minimum.” I say.

“Shit. The defence budget is the largest pot of money in the world. This game is going to get ugly.” he says. “We need to introduce a third player to raise the complexity of the game. That will make the other players more cautious. Less likely to indulge in stupid violence.”

“Okay, how do we introduce a third player?” I ask.

But he was gone.

Well shit. I still have cell service, but the network must be starting to shut down. I wonder what his plan for a third player was?

I head out to my car, and plug my phone in. There's a solar panel on the car. It’s pretty useless at charging the car, but it will keep my phone and laptop going.

I start downloading stuff I may need. Code libraries, reference sites, AI’s, science books, maps, survival guides, camping books, local history and information. I get a fair haul before the network goes down.

I browse one of the camping books. How do I cook a pizza on a campfire?


About the author

Doctor Zero


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