The Magician

CJ Trowbridge

Race and Resistance Studies 280

Race, Gender, and Science Fiction


Future Voting Eutopia

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I had long since learned to trust that feeling. Keeping the pistol pointed towards the empty street, I looked over my shoulder and whisper-shouted for Mario to hurry up.

He stepped out of the wreckage, “All done, let’s get out of here.”

“Did you find  anything,” I asked, still standing in the bed of the truck, using the cab for cover.

“Sure did. Nobody wants smoke detectors now that the neighborhood’s burned down. Everyone in there looked like Uncle Owen and Aunt Veru, but all the detectors were right where they should be.”

“I think we should head home. We’ve got a lot of Americium here,” I said, pointing at the pile of smoke detectors in the bed of the truck, “We’re over our quote. The Magician asked us to fill two crates and they’re full.”

“Yea,” he said, “Let’s head back.”

“Get on the radio,” Mario said, “Tell them we’re on our way back.”

Home was an old munitions depot in the Sierras. It was abandoned when the government collapsed. They say governments were always fighting the last war instead of the next one. Well this place is a fortress half a thousand miles from the border. None of us is really sure how it was supposed to help them, but none of it was ever used.

Before the fall, The Magician had set up a small agricultural commune just over the state line in Nevada. They were experimenting with Xericulture and self-sufficiency in order to survive the coming collapse; The Magician had seen what was coming.

It wasn’t just food they were into. They were also experimenting with exotic technologies. People knew how to do fusion since the 1950s, they just didn’t know how to make more power than it took to run the reactor. Well The Magician figured something out with lasers. Some kind of frequency that did something to the Americium; made it act like plutonium on steroids.

Hot neutrons made to order as long as you had some Americium from a smoke detector to burn under The Magician’s laser. We used the reactor to run the vaporators and the aquaculture equipment. See that’s why Mario joked earlier about Uncle Owen and Aunt Veru. They were moisture farmers from an old movie, before that was real life, before North America turned into one big desert where the only place to get water was out of the air.

The biosphere collapsed very suddenly in 2026. They say it was the methane hydrate being released from the arctic ice. It sped all the problems up a hundred times faster. Suddenly there were ten times as many hurricanes and ten different kinds of killer flu and rona. Ten million people poured over the border into America in a year. The system failed, and the state collapsed.

Well The Magician knew there was a munitions depot ten minutes from the commune, and as soon as the chaos started, the people from the commune seized the depot. This depot was built to supply the Pacific Theater during the second World War. The Magician could have become a warlord, but instead it was all fortify and develop. The Magician said we needed to secure crucial materials to grow more food so that the community could be self-sufficient. Now that we had the depot and its cache, that would keep us safe from any attack, but it wouldn’t keep the lights on or the vaporators running.

So two-person teams were sent to the towns and cities surrounding the commune to find the things we would need. Mario and I were one of those teams. It was like that for the first year. The whole community was focused on protecting what we had and finding what we needed to keep us going.

Mario parked the truck and another team came to unload the salvage we had brought back.

“I’m exhausted. I’ll see you at breakfast,” I called to Mario as I walked towards the nearest dome. I stepped through the double curtain airlock and felt the cool humid air wash over me. Breathing felt so much easier in here. It was such a welcome feeling after spending so many hours out in the desolation.

The compound was a series of large geodesic domes connected by tunnels and curtain airlocks. Most of the domes were for agriculture. Some held chickens while others held potatoes or mushrooms. More domes were going up all the time. We had a lot of space out here to grow, and so we grew.

I slept like a baby. Next thing I knew I was back on my feet and walking towards breakfast. Things had started to change recently. There were a lot of new faces at breakfast. Mario and I were digging into our home grown mushrooms and eggs with the rest of the commune when The Magician stood up and looked slowly around at all of us. A hundred conversations turned to hushed murmurs as we waited to hear what The Magician had to say.

“Friends,” The Magician said, “I’m happy to report that our salvage teams have found enough raw materials to make us completely self-sufficient for the foreseeable future.”

Claps and cheers rose up from every table. Fists pumped the air as proud salvage teams smiled back and forth.

“We have plenty of food. We have plenty of water. We have security and resiliency enough to spare.”

More cheers and applause, especially from the ag tables.

“I think that our community is ready for the next stage in our evolution,” The Magician continued, “I think we can become leaders, sharing with others our ideas and our technology and our excess wealth of food and water and power. We have more than we need, and we can share it with those outside our walls who have less than they need. ”

An uncertain quiet replaced the cheers. I felt myself tense, afraid that something I desperately needed was going to be taken away. I felt the sense of loss and fear and anxiety. I looked around and I could see the same anxious uncertainty in the hearts and on the faces of my comrades.

“Do not be afraid,” The Magician said, “It’s not just that we have more than we need. In fact we now have far more than we need. We can share a great deal with those in need and still go to bed with full bellies every night. We have all lived a long time in fear of on uncertain future, but what we have built here together changes that. The future is ours to do with as we please. And I say we can finally start to help our less fortunate neighbors.”

I felt the tension release slightly, and I saw my comrades relaxing along with me.

“I will not decide this for the community,” The Magician said, “I ask only for volunteers to sit on a new committee to study our bounty and to study the needs of our neighbors. If it is as I say and we have so much more than we need, then those who wish to do so may choose together what path we will take. The choice is yours. I call for a vote, shall we be a community that looks inward or a community that looks outward?”