Hiya all! Sputnik here, retroactively adding a cheery greeting to this prologue. Also this is a polite little notice from me, in which I wish to inform you that can you please, if you read this chapter, read at least three more. This chapter is merely a set up to be paid off at the end of the tale, and if you judge the rest of 'Odyssey' entirely on this chapter then you are grasping entirely the wrong end of the stick, and you are truly judging a book by its cover.
Port Louis, Mauritius, 2057
It was May, the old woman reflected, standing on the balcony of her elegant colonial style house, but this did not excuse the fact that there was a light snow drifting from a cobalt blue sky. This was the tropical paradise of Mauritius; snow here was once something on TV, once something fun and treasured. But the landscape had changed much in fifty three years, gone were the waving palms on the beachfront, gone was the dense rainforest which should have been curving away into the distance to her right and left. Instead now stood the bones of a thick deciduous forest, and an inviting carpet of technicolour leaves clinging to the ground. And now this too was vanishing beneath the thin, clinging veil of the first snow of the season.
The woman sighed, hugging her arms and staring out to a grey sea, foamy and wind-whipped. No more traditional fishing boats set out into those treacherous waters, in the first years after the world had changed the new conditions had swallowed many of the flimsy vessels with an almost contemptuous laziness. Now if any fishing was done, it was by a few powerful trawlers. Even the nature of the catch had changed. The thousands of tropical species – flora and fauna so varied and rich in number as to boggle the mind – had vanished within months. For many years the catch had been of species native to once more temperate waters, the large slow fish that had once been the foundation of many vanished economies, and were now the foundation for the new.
As she watched, one of these trawlers powered its way away from the island, and out into the vast Indian Ocean, still the largest body of water in the planet that was not partly frozen in the colder months of the year. Even so, in the depths of winter large chunks of ice were plainly visible out to sea, having broken off from the vast southern ice cap and drifting in the currents to be melted once it reached near enough to the Equator for the temperature to finally reach a Mediterranean style climate. That however was many miles to the north, so the people of Mauritius, the natives and two million refugees and their descendents watched the ice float serenely by every winter, and only a few remembered a time when all had been different.
Today was a day to think about the past, the lady thought as a light breeze whistled in off the sea, piercing her flowing night gown, sending a chill through her bones, and drawing a dull ache from her left arm. Yes, today was precisely the right day to think about all that had gone before them, after all, today there would be a funeral.
And not just any funeral. It was the funeral of her husband, and her husband had been a very special man. Which is why Mauritius' few remaining hotels were currently all packed with people here for the biggest memorial service the island had seen for many a year. The man who would be buried today was a Saviour, one of those special breed of men who had gone into the frozen wastelands of both ends of the world to save the millions who had survived the Storm. And once that mighty task was completed, the were Saviours were to salvage from the wreckage of civilisation the tools and the knowledge to keep humanity going until at last the earth was ready to shake off its freezing cloak and humanity could once more claim the lands that it had lost.
It was hard and dangerous work. Many Saviours had died, and still their work was not completed. But Saviours were not destined to grow old. Instead they toiled ceaselessly until Mother Nature lashed out and claimed another life to add to the toll of billions She had taken fifty-three years ago. But the man who was to buried today was different. He had not died in the field. He had worked and worked until finally he was able to retire. But years of perilous missions into the icy expanses had come with a fateful price. This Saviour had lived for a decade after his retirement but he was a tired pensioner for those ten years, old before his time for a man who should have been active and vital until his death many years from now.
The old lady remembered with a secret, sad smile at just how alive he had once been, another lifetime ago, beneath the bright August moonlight that streamed through the bedroom window onto their bodies. Fifty-three years, but the memory was still as clear as a bell, undiluted by time and age, it was always with her. Just as the memories of the Storm would always be with her. Some things were too monumental to forget…