The Center – Prologue

The Center – Prologue

Though the threat of global warming is omnipresent and fear of melting ice caps setting off a catastrophic chain of events, culminating in the destruction of life on earth, at least as we know it, there are those that welcome the changing climate with open arms.  Like an arms dealing selling to both sides of a bloody conflict, there are those that yearn for the chance to make a profit, even if means entire island paradises will be submerged in the process, taking countless men, women and children along with them.

Fear is a great motivator.  Most of us get our daily dosage in the news or from one of the many social media outlets.  Even though scientists from all over the world admit that it is impossible to gauge exactly what the results of global warming will be, if any, the fear mongering has been in full throttle for decades.  Now, more than twenty years after the Kyoto Protocol was scrapped in 2012, the developed world has yet to come to a clear consensus on how to effectively battle the phenomenon.

Will global warming eventually lead to another ice age? Or maybe widespread drought and famine from rising global temperatures?  Will the heating effect of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere offset the drop in temperature from a stalled Thermohaline Circulation? Will entire islands be swallowed by the rising tides of the oceans?  Although Hollywood clearly has its own favorites for worst case and most likely scenarios, the truth is, no one really knows for sure.

What we do know, is that where there is pain and suffering, there is potential for profit. With the ice barriers around the arctic receding, the area has become the hot topic of the international community.  Not so much for the ever-expanding gap in the ozone layer, but because experts estimate that as much as a third of the world’s untapped oil supply lies in the deep recesses of the arctic region and with oil shortages plaguing the modern world, the race to seize control of the area has begun in earnest.

In 2020, dozens of corporations had set up surveying operations and temporary facilities to get a foothold on the area and a head start on the competition.  Only, by 2025, much of the melted ice had unexpectedly regenerated, dashing the hopes of the shareholders and executives alike.  Many a CEO was usurped over failed arctic endeavors.  It is now 2035 and once again, the ice is in recession and lineup of those willing to stake their fortunes and careers over the promise of untold riches, is no shorter than it had been before the disaster of 2025.

Most educated people believe that we need to take better care of our planet by reducing carbon emissions and pollution in all of its forms while eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels.  Oddly enough, those same educated people have very little to say when it comes to finding alternative sources of those same fossil fuels, when their own supply becomes limited.  Drilling and mining in the arctic, along with increased ship and vehicle traffic would surely do considerable damage to the now nearly pristine arctic environment.

New highways and train routes would be required as well as commercial airports to transport the riches back to mainland society.  New factories and refineries would be constructed and pollution of every kind would be introduced to the region.  Wildlife would become an expendable nuisance and relocating or employing the native populations would be a necessity to maintain peaceful working conditions.

The additional damage to the environment and wildlife may seem appalling at first… that is until there is not enough gas or fuel for people to get to work, heat their homes or run their barbecues.  Not to mention the fact that petroleum is required for the manufacturing of thousands of daily use items from toothbrushes to garbage bags.  Realistically, the machinery used to refine oil and those that manufacture items from petroleum, cannot function without petroleum.

The fear of losing every day conveniences trumps the desire for habitat preservation.  Besides, the money made from the new oil could fund several dozen new polar-themed zoos.  With the most likely alternative to secure oil reserves being war, the public support for arctic excavation is at an unprecedented majority.  Dozens of small towns are already being erected in the northern regions of competing countries in anticipation of the mass migration north.

The promise of hefty wages for workers willing to risk their lives in the rugged and unforgiving terrain seem almost too good to be true for those drudging along in a time of constant economic struggle; a time that has seen the middle class teeter on the verge of extinction. Severe drops in already freezing temperatures, powerful winds and tremendous storms plague the area and only intensify as the sea ice retreats.  The same boon that allows passage into the arctic is also the curse that makes it increasingly inhospitable.

Where most will fail is not due to the fragility of the human body, but of the mind.  Being hundreds, if not thousands, of miles from family as well as urban comforts and luxuries, in an eternally frigid and barren ecosystem that cycles between six months of constant sunlight and six months of perpetual night and twilight, can lead to a host of psychological issues ranging from stress disorders to depression to solipsism syndrome.

The Center was the promised solution to that problem.  A self-sustaining facility that offered not only the top of the line equipment and machinery, but also the essential creature comforts to allow people to live and function as capably and enjoyably as they would in any small town.  Doctor Phillip Sizemore, a renowned psychologist and mental health advocate was the one who developed the idea.

The Center started as a pipe dream for Doctor Sizemore. His idea had been rejected nearly twenty times before anyone actually offered the time to discuss its potential merit.  All it took was one willing ear to get the snowball rolling downhill.  Within six months, he and his new partners received a sizeable government grant and the backing of eight large corporations.  Two years after receiving the funds, phase one, the construction of the facility and installation of life support systems, was complete.

A giant concrete dome, built along the western coast of Baffin Island.  It would eventually become the envy of the world in the race to exploit the arctic’s riches.  Built to withstand both the most treacherous winds and all but the most powerful modern bombs and missiles, The Center would eventually be recreated several times, in strategic locations as bases of operations.

Billions of dollars of computer equipment, both for civilian purposes of surveying the region for reserves and deposits and military purposes with advanced sonar and radar systems, would be implemented in the final phase.  There would also be billions of dollars of defense systems such as surface to air missiles and communications jamming devices.  With a priceless supply of oil and natural gas embedded in the arctic seabed, it was almost inevitable that their procurement would turn violent, especially without significant deterrents in place.

Phase one dealt with the feasibility of constructing the facility.  Every step was assessed, from being able to transport the materials safely and economically, to the efficiency of installing the required electrical wiring and equipment.  A state of the art, albeit only a working prototype, of a miniature nuclear reactor was created specifically for The Center.  It could maintain power, even with all systems running at maximum capacity, for over a century.

The living quarters were designed to feel more like hotel rooms than jail cells and were loaded with as many modern-day conveniences as space would allow. It was imperative that the workers stationed there, be able to associate The Center with the comforts of home.  An enormous cafeteria was scrapped in favor of several small, differently themed eating areas. With the first phase a resounding success, the second was about to begin.

Doctor Sizemore was given the task of proving The Center’s superior ‘livability’, and how the increased mental health and comfort of the crew stationed there would increase productivity and reduce major liability issues such as depression-induced suicides and costly treatments for disorders.   If The Center could live up to its promise, with lower expenses and higher standards of living, the workers could be offered greater incentives and it would be easier to lure the highest quality staff.

Four months of sunlight, followed by four months of darkness, that was the timeline he was given.  Eight months and his brainchild would become a reality, vaulting him into the top twenty wealthiest people on the planet rankings.  He, along with thirty test subjects, ten military personnel, two cooks, two doctors, four nurses and his best friend and colleague would be stationed at The Center for the duration of the experiment.

All they had to do… was survive eight months.  They may have been successful too, if it was not for the meteor shower that proved too enticing to resist.  With the promise of never before seen minerals, a team sets out to track down a meteorite, only to return with more than they bargained for.

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