I rolled out of bed and hit the status button on the inverter. Fifteen percent [ed. note - are inverters measured in percent?]- not good. The winter nights were taking a toll on the battery banks, and the sunlight just couldn't cut it. I'd have to turn on the generators before getting started on today's broadcast.
The generators, or as I came to call them, Grumpy and Wheezy, ran off of my own special brew of ethanol. True DIY stuff made from my own garden scraps. This was the last batch of the growing season, so it had to last at least another month for spring to arrive. Ninety eight litres left; cutting it close. [ed. note - how would I even know? How many litres of ethanol would it take to charge two battery banks?]
Grumpy and Wheezy sputtered to life, and I took the opportunity to head into the kitchen area and start making some breakfast. I missed the days of Honey Nutty Whatevers and Hoopy Fruity Ohs. Today's nosh was quinoa and beans. The beets had failed this season, so there wasn't any sugar to sweeten things up [ed. note - what the hell is this rambling?]. Not that it would have helped.
I grabbed my tablet and started scouring the overnight wire captures to see how things were looking out in the wider world. The HAMnet hadn't picked up anything new. One of the coastal antennas had picked up a marine CB conversation, I filed that one under Review Later. Ground station had picked up a few orbital waves, looked like the colony on Luna was having a good harvest. Then, I noticed a frequency I hadn't seen for a long, long time.
Not since it all started.
Not since our little apocalypse.
The year was 2039. The global depression, otherwise known as the Avocado Tornado (long story), had already been stretching on for seven years. But then a blackness bubbled up from the melting northern not-so-permafrost. A disease that had been lying in wait for millennia. At first, it was incompatible with most hosts. Insects, reptiles, birds - they were all immune. But we mammals were not so lucky. It got a foothold in something small ... and then it stole genes from other diseases it found along the way. Eventually it became a kind of virus-voltron, the worst nightmare of epidemiologists. Nothing in our arsenal could stop it.
I survived. Billions did not. We were careful to isolate the space stations and Moon/Mars colonies; only one was lost, a small orbital resort that didn't properly quarantine some gerbils. Or maybe they were hamsters. (Armageddon!)
Throughout the A.T., I had been having a hard time finding stable work. Plenty of places still needed web developers, but they came to treat the service as being very gig-based. Hard to feel stable when your livelihood keeps vanishing.
Around this time, I started toying with the idea of buying some land with the last of my savings and trying to live completely off-grid and self-sufficient. I began compiling a collection of articles and instructional videos and books that I thought would help me out. Turns out, I can be a bit obsessive about that sort of thing, and I basically overwhelmed myself with data. I built my own catalogue software to organize all of this together, and I realized that with a bit of polish, I had basically created a software system that could guide people from being alone in the woods all the way up to building a shelter, farming for sustenance, mining, smelting, blacksmithing, and so on - all the way up through the ages. Stone age, bronze age, industrial age, space age, information age.
I made it open-source. It was a bold choice, and it turned out to be the correct one, but it was difficult to go against all the advice I was receiving. If I had monetized it, it could have pulled me out of the A.T., they said.
And then the virus hit. I was able to get my family evacuated to Luna, but I had been in an exposed area, so I couldn't join them. I might be a carrier. And afterward, the entire planet was placed in quarantine.
With 2 million on the Moon, and ten million on Mars, and about a million on various orbital stations, it was clear that humanity had a decent chance of survival, but it was a close call. The population of the planet was, as best I could tell, reduced to around 250 million.
Enough to keep things moving, but only as a skeleton crew. The Internet still worked, sort of, but pretty much every economy and country had collapsed.
Ironically, despite basically everything being bounced back to the bronze age, web developers were still in high demand. Old electronics still worked. Folks still had tablets. People still needed to communicate. The only problem was, all the fancy support systems around web technology had died in the collapse. There were no megacorporations. The cloud had evaporated. Bandwidth was extremely limited.
That meant that accessibility ruled the day. If you could write a web page that could be downloaded in under 50 kilobytes, and didn't require massive client-size resources to render, you could get hits from all over the solar system.
Or, in my case, if you could assemble an Earth Quarantine Broadcast from available sources and downlink it to your content distribution nodes on each colony and space station, you could get a viewership in the millions. And your family could see you every week, even if you couldn't see them.