As she approached Café Ersatz Marie-Claude could see Major Armstrong sitting at a row of tables arranged together on the terrace. He was obviously looking out for her, as he stood up and waved once he caught sight of her.
“I ordered for the two of us – figured it might save some time. I’d much rather spend it talking to you while I have the opportunity. There are a lot of things I have to tell you – developments inside the United Nations States of the US you need to know about. Our scientific guys are predicting worse weather events to come, some of which will wipe out many current areas where we have storm shelters. Within a hundred years fifty per cent of the Americas will be uninhabitable. Your guys are probably telling you the same, but what they’re not telling you is where UNSUS is at with its refugee programme. Nowhere. High-level people are heading into space. You know, leaving a sinking ship and all that jazz. Your European Space Agency assets have been defunct for years, but UNSUS has maintained a space programme, albeit on a much more limited basis, and purely military. We’ve still got a small base on the moon. It all sounds pretty kooky I know, but believe you me a lot of people in our Administration are giving it serious thought. At the moment it’s only on the drawing board, but people are already talking about a moon base with ten times the current carrying capacity. Of course, it’ll probably never get off the ground. I think we’re pretty much doomed, but it might be worth a shot. That’s why I’m here – to see if the Coalition of Non-aligned Nations wants in on the project. UNSUS can’t do it alone. Think about what I’ve said. You don’t have to respond immediately. Great, here comes the synthi-caf.”
After that he would not be diverted from savouring the real milk and freshly-extruded beans. Seeing that the two of them had finished talking, the other committee members pulled up extra chairs and joined tables. They were in high spirits as they had brought along an old bottle of schnapps, which they passed around, toasting each other. She thought about the Major’s comments,paying little attention to the light-hearted banter. She heard her name.
“I’m sorry. What did you say?”
It was the British Republican delegate, Gordon Braithwaite.
“We’re having a debate at this end of the table. Trappinski here maintains that you once met President Willis. Is that true?”
In her early sixties, and having spent most of her life in the UN and later the CONAN, Marie-Claude had become a font of all knowledge on most things historical-political. She had been present at the last meeting of the UN General Assembly Special Session that expelled the US from membership shortly after Gulf War V. She had organised the secret evacuation of all essential UN staff from New York, to help with the establishment of CONAN.
“Not exactly met, but yes, it is true. It was immediately prior to the last UNGASS. Just before he
walked in and made that unbelievable speech on manifest destiny and duty to God. He did not know there were any UN personnel left in the room with him. He made a comment to his aides about ‘nuking’ Europe.”
“What did you do?”
“You know the answer to that. The US was expelled from the UN. It is amazing what kind of results insulting a bureaucrat can have.”
They all laughed. Braithwaite was the most radical of all the CONAN delegates at the meeting today. But Britain had been through a lot.
“I maintain that the nation state as an institution has been effectively dead for years. Wouldn’t you agree? All that holds the world together now is mutual self-interest and the machinery to maintain it. We’re that machinery – us bureaucrats – whether we’re in CONAN, UNSUS, the Islamic Alliance, or wherever. Look at Europe. Country borders have been irrelevant here for decades. And we only have three accepted global currencies these days.”
He was clearly warming to his theme.
“What I mean to say, Madame Secretary, is what are we going to replace it with? We’re already witnessing the degeneration of the non-core members of UNSUS. We know what it’s like there – a series of dog-eat dog enclaves. No offence meant, Major Armstrong.”
He turned to the Major, who inclined his head in quiet acknowledgement, and looked back to Marie-Claude, awaiting her response. The tone of Braithwaite’s questioning had been light-hearted, but she could see he was half-serious. She took some time gathering her thoughts before she responded.
“I am not sure which question you would like me to answer, Gordon, but I will take the first. I can only give my perspective, but it is a long one now that goes back many years. I think that you are right. I have personally witnessed huge changes in the way countries relate one to another. Since The Changes and the collapse of the UN, we have had to look to our immediate neighbours for help. I would go so far as to suggest that this has created a new phenomenon, the so-called ‘pseudo-states’ that we have today with their single currencies, common policies and regulations on an intra-national scale. CONAN is perhaps the most extreme example of that model, in contrast to the autonomous economic regions that are forming within non-core UNSUS.
“As regards your second question, I take it to mean that you want my opinion on what will come after what we have now. That depends on how we respond to The Changes over the longer term. Clearly, things cannot go on as they are. Soon it is going to become impossible to maintain the level of civilisation that we have enjoyed for centuries. The collapse of our cities is a reflection of the collapse of the nation-state. We are going to have to let go of so much history and culture that we will become like pagans again. But before that time, we must do all that we can to rescue and maintain what we have. After that, maybe we all have to evacuate. Head for the stars. Leave Mother Nature to herself. If we don’t, I’m worried we will tear her apart.”