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LT Fanfic: ~~Gisborne~~Christchurch spinoff of the Wellington story

Issue 1.1. Created Tuesday 25 July 2023

Christchurch Flying Club S1 episode cancelled-1: What is the world like?

*You're the transcriber and you clunk down on the play button on the tape recorder.*

*the whirring of a pre-collapse tape recorder, albeit with a post-collapse chassis, somehow still working after all this time, is heard, both on the microphone and by yourself.*

Left channel. Dear diary.

*that was too fast and also had interference from another diary ("Right channel. Dear dia-"), maybe last week's that was due to be erased. Of course, being both the writer and the scribe, you know the channel to pick. You click on the left channel only selection, and select stop (kerchunk), half speed (click), and play (kerchunk).*

A lot has been on my mind lately, after reading some books from the library.

[Writer's note: the earliest Seth could have come to Earth is 2257, but I assume he came down in around 2262 or '63. The character said to be recording this tape is Pākehā, partly raised in a somewhat racist environment but not themself a racist after adoption and some processing (though they still use European terminology for rulers), and in their mid 40s. They also consistently affect a moderately conservative British accent, from one of the music tapes they still have recording such a thing in speech as well as singing, though sometimes they slip into broad Christchurch.]

It's the 4th of February, in the year 2260 in the Christian calendar. It's quite hot, and sunny. And dry. Very dry. My family - not the ones who taught me to hate the Māori, they aren't my family anymore - tell me it's not normally like this, that it's usually dry but not parching. I think I have the last working compact cassette recorder in the world, and two others with problems for want of parts whose appearance I only know because I saw them in a ratty book from centuries ago. I only know of seventy people, and most of them live here in Christchurch/Õtautahi with me, total population around 2000 according to the census one of my neighbors tried to do, which I think is an undercount because this ruin of a town is still bustling, day and night. The rest, I've heard on my friend's radio thing. I'm not sure why she has that. I get lonely, though, and I don't feel like meeting new people in real life, because another friend of mine did that once and he came back with a broken leg. Arrow shot, he told me. Maybe I should try radio. Maybe there's more where she found that.

I only have four tapes, but somehow, after three centuries, they're all still perfectly strong. I'd heard horror stories of tapes flaking apart in certain archives from around the beginning of the dark ages, but these ones still seem to be holding. Nowadays we can't really make new ones. We just do not have the technology available to us, and it's not like we can go overseas to ask for help.

The Pacific beyond 35° (unspoken: South) has been declared non-navigable to sailing vessels (which are all we have, to conserve firewood) due to giant colour-changing octopodes that tear steel from ships. We fish in our coastal waters, and sometimes meet others from other regions. Countries. Iwi, and the territories themselves rohe, the Māori call them, much changed from their original shapes before these dark ages. I call them counties, and the rangatira I call counts or earls. New Zealand as such doesn't exist. There are many different sovereign authorities in New Zealand. Some of them work together. Some of them are secretly plotting against each other. Some of them are in open war. We don't know what the deal is with the Wellington/Pōneke crew. Everyone here thinks they're at war with us, and I'm not inclined to disagree after what someone claiming to be Wellingtonian did to my sister.

My grandmother, back in the year 2211, as I saw in her diaries (I had not yet learned to read), found, repaired, then modified this tape recorder to record at half and quarter speed to conserve these ninety-minute cassettes and so she didn't have to flip the tapes so often as well. I run it at half speed, and I've further modified it to only record and play back either the left or the right channel, to further increase capacity. Can never understand myself at quarter, it's just too muffled. She's long gone now. Just like the immense factories that made these tapes. She lived a long and happy life (I think she was 90? People here generally only make it to 70 if they make it to 21, itself no mean feat with our medical and teaching infrastructure being pretty rough - most of the people my age aren't as well-educated as me) and died in no pain, I'm pleased to report. Was nice knowing you, grandma.

I've transcribed all the words I've ever recorded over; the first time, it was my grandmother's diaries which she died before transcribing, and most recently, last week's diaries of mine. I've played music on this recorder, but I treat music tapes as sacred. Without something to print them over to ~~(we don't have computers here, although some people in town do)~~(I have a computer but I have no idea how to use it) we can't just record our diaries on the music tapes.

I don't know why I'm saying all this, it's not like some time traveller from the past or the future will be playing this back. But many of my diaries are spoken that way, and all are then recorded on shoddy paper, in a makeshift archival ink, into a three-ring binder, made of polished wood and still-shining, but very delicate metal. Maybe I think we'll see someone and be able to play them back. I've heard rumours of a civilization forming in the Arctic Circle, from my radio operator friend. I even heard from an alleged robot in space, though I never got to talk to him. He called himself Seth, from the European Space Agency. Seemed affable enough. (I) Thought he was human, until he told the operator he was an "eh aye", whatever that is, which she shrugged off ("oh, he's like that. he says he's a machine from Europe in space. I don't believe him. He sounds like the English speakers around here.").

What is the world beyond New Zealand like? Are there any other people out there, as my friend tells me there are, or is it only ghosts in the radio? It gets very hot and a bit cold here, and though we are generally peaceful, at least internally, sometimes we scrap over water. As it always was, my books tell me. They scrapped over water even before the dark ages began. Sometimes they launched big metal or wooden birds they called planes. Bird machines, we call them here.

[Writer's note: in Christchurch, and more generally in south NZ, they don't call it "the collapse" - that's a term they heard on the radio, from the northern people on 50'000 kilocycles (they don't call them Hertz there, and megacycles are only used for frequencies above around 90 MHz), and they don't trust the northern people, the Novomediterraneans (Novamediterrans). Christchurch was a cosmopolitan city, and would have heard of it, but it seems like it was forgotten, or something. No mushroom clouds ever loomed over Aotearoa, at least; maybe they thought it too much of a backwater. New Zealand, a backwater? Psh. The historians here just call it the dark ages - that's when the fibre went dark, that's when the satellites stopped sending back messages from the outside world, that's when the outside world ended, and that's when the power cuts started and things started being put on "life extension programs" to ensure they were used in ways compatible with longer service lives (max amperages on power lines reduced, for instance). Christchurch, like New York, had a project to dam the sea, although there was never any doubt in messaging about the tax increases and corvée bulletins that this is being done due to climate change and to make sure dwellings weren't sunk. They were sunk anyway. The Christchurch Sea Wall Authority wound up operations because it couldn't source the necessary materials (maybe failing silviculture at home being diverted to fuel? loss of concrete technology and materials? and I suppose the powercuts didn't help as the wall was built assuming modern, pre-collapse technology to keep the pumps running whenever would exist for the foreseeable), and the entire area of Christchurch under sea level was evacuated to elsewhere in the Canterbury/Waitaha region. The state, the Republic of New Zealand, took longer to collapse than other states, because its major cities remained inhabitable longer and agriculture and extreme horticulture remained viable longer (horticulture is still viable up to the present, but fishing and kelp farming are now the main way calories are gathered, after the involuntary marine preserve created by the exodus North and South allowed fish populations to recover. Catches are still poor by pre-collapse standards, but reliably enough to feed the whole county, with spares for drying.]