Chapter 1 - Humanity Seeks Heroes

In 2036, life on Earth is pretty much the same as it was in 2015 regardless what kind of marketing gets plastered across people’s screens or retinas. By and large, people live in homes and apartments rather than geo-domes, floating cities, and yurts. There are no flying cars. Well, there are, but they are not flown by the populace. There is no fully immersive, holodeck-type technology. Well, there is, but it is not authorized for used by the populace. There are no nano-sized bots capable of traversing your bloodstream and maintaining you for eternity at twenty-eight years of age. Well, again, there are such nano-bots that can do this very thing, but like everything else, this technology does not benefit the populace.

The reasons behind the populace being so restricted in such a technologically enlightened era are complex, but they are not so complex as to be beyond understanding. For instance, the reason the common Joe in 2036 does not fly vehicles is because it just so happens that to do so requires Joe to have a pilot’s eye, a pilot’s reflexes, and a pilot’s intelligence. A pilot’s eye, for instance, can detect a myriad shades of blue as well as a near-infinite spectrum of greys. This ability is of immense assistance when it comes to depth perception, and although many people in the common population can handle this pilot’s prerequisite, many others cannot. Understandably, those that cannot should stick to crashing vehicles on the ground.

Then there is the matter of reflexes.

At five-, ten-, or fifteen-thousand feet, most things are coming at your neighbor Joe at rates of speed ranging from four-hundred miles per hour for a rental bird and upwards of three-thousand miles an hour for a luxury zip liner. Basically, when it comes to Joe, if he cannot catch a fly between his fingertips, he will not do well hustling passengers at four times the speed of sound.

Next: intelligence.

In terms of intelligence, the general population in 2036 is not any more or less intelligent than they have ever been, but at the aforementioned four-hundred miles per hour, the average person’s problem-solving ability can become sluggish when faced with the possibility of a mid-air fender bender. Even if Joe has the reflexes necessary to recover from a mid-air fender bender, he will, ideally, have the requisite intelligence to actually anticipate and avoid said mid-air collision. On the ground, normally, Joe can manage his life just fine. However, distractions and panicked reflexes can drop one’s IQ by a hefty thirty points. This is called altitudinal intelligence, and in the same manner that a plane must maintain altitude, a pilot must maintain altitudinal intelligence. The inability to do so has proven both dangerous and expensive.

Obviously, the general public should be neither shamed nor blamed for this. In the oncoming fight with which humanity is already faced, we need Joe--and Jane. As it has been proven, Joe and his wife Jane are goddamned heroes.

Which means you, too, can be a hero.

Which is good because we need you. We need you to understand that as you prepare for your mission, the mind-body requirements of air commuting are cumulative in nature. Problems arising from missing one or the other of the aforementioned capabilities become compounded. As a result, events arising from a mid-air collision at level two of the employment-transit path, which is restricted to people with a specific work destination, will--in spite of the muscle memory that develops over time in someone trained to recover from such collisions--result in hundreds of pounds of steel, aluminium, and plastic--as well as chunks of organic tissue--raining down upon commuters in the level-one transit lane, which is reserved for drones, public transit, and deliveries. Although the drones of 2036 can certainly detect debris from 360 degrees and can stop and hover accordingly, the first models could not.

Nor can most average commuters.

Mr. Elmer R. Canters, for instance, from Cincinnati, Ohio--a man with over 14,022 hours of experience flying his Toyota Firefly--was side-swiped by Mr. Irwin J. Reynolds, also from Cincinnati. Following this little bump, they were able to avoid becoming transformed into a mass of debris. However, in his successful recovery from the sideswipe, Mr. Reynolds over-compensated a mere nine inches. This caused a third average Joe--a.k.a. Mr. Jason H. Barbery, also from Cincinnati--to rotate his controls by a mere two degrees, which at four-thousand feet and four-hundred miles per hour caused an over-compensation of nearly sixteen feet. Being off his flight path by sixteen feet caused the wing of his Hyundai Dragonfly to clip a rental Bluebird.
Unfortunately for everyone, like the ground-based Gremlins of decades earlier, the Bluebird exploded on impact.

This disaster might not have been such a PR nightmare (perhaps) if the resulting thirty-two plane-car mid-air explosion had not been captured by Jennifer T. Carrols of Portland Oregon, who was obtaining an extreme selfie by hanging upside down on the exterior of her auto-piloted Hummingbird 2DX. Ms. Carrols happened to be in the level-three transit lane for tourists and shoppers. She happened to be in the very car above Mr. Reynolds as he was sideswiped by Mr. Canters, a near accident she caught on film but dismissed because it was not nearly exciting enough for her viewers. In fact, if she didn’t edit it out, the sideswipe could easily lead to her avid fans commenting on the near miss rather than the reflective Mandelbrot fractal that the glass buildings in this part of Cincinnati formed, something she was intent on capturing if only she could manage to snap the right picture from approximately four-thousand feet while hanging upside down on the outside of her vehicle.

And although the near collision between two pilots in the employment-transit lane irked her to no end, she was able to continue recording, smiling perfectly as she captured the fractal reflections created by the sunrise ricocheting among the surrounding buildings. Of course, that is approximately when the first Bluebird rental exploded. Which ignited a tail-gating Hawk 43. Which ignited an Excalibur Sunburst, which ignited--you get the point.

Having successfully captured the mythological transit-lane Mandelbrot, as it was known, Ms. Carrols was already wondering what her audience might now want. With the driven need to fill her viewers’ hunger, this surprising chain reaction did not in any way irk Ms. Carrols.

Of course, at four-thousand feet, hanging upside down, she was terrified, yes, but she would do anything for her fans and the sixty-two thousand dollars per week her antics generated. So, she braced herself, held the camera as still as possible, and got the shot.

After a few deft taps of her thumb, her gifORjif app generated a perfectly spliced, perfectly timed series of looping explosions, which she posted to her Eye Orgasm site and have now been running non-stop for nearly sixteen years. If the gif was not the reason for the policy change restricting regular Joes from piloting flying cars, it was probably the cute, popping, bubble sound effects that went with it. Or it could have been the decapitated head careening upward into level nine, which was reserved for executives, a head whose hairspray had ignited, a head that shot so brilliantly skyward like a mid-morning meteor, that Ms. Carrols knew she had to capture it.

Which she did.

And this head, belonging to Ms. Avril Lavigne (not that one) of Chelsea, Connecticut, was frozen against a backdrop of brilliant orange flame and blue sky, the mouth and eyes forming perfect Os. It was this head that Ms. Carrols then used as what is arguably the most insensitive OMG emoji in the history of insensitive OMG emojis. This event was just one example of why flying cars and many other useful and amazing types of technology are no longer available to the general population in 2036. Kinda like coca leaves being used to infuse original cola drinks with a little kick--it just is not a good idea.

Such technology, however, does exist for hardened soldiers, such as Damini Pai from Miami, Florida. It does exist for people like Luana Facundo, who hails from Lisbon, Portugal. It does exist for diplomats, such as Levi Gluck. For these people, the technology you have been promised since your youth does exist.

As it will exist for you.

It will exist for you in the same way it exists for people like Levi who at the time this story began was perusing a retinal communique aboard the Global-United 15-D shuttle. Carrying sixteen passengers, the shuttle shot moonward at twenty-five thousand miles per hour, which, by the way is the standard-operating speed of heroes.

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In the year 2028, after much turmoil and strife humanity finally attained world unity. After an unprecedented age of global rebellion humanity managed to look past the scars of the past and move onto greater things. By the year 2032, humans completed their first space station. It was a huge achievement from every nation on earth who finally realised what could be achieved when everyone worked together in the pursuit of bettering the species. By the year 2036 humanity was now moving beyond the planet earth

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