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It had been nighttime now for months. No promise of dawn lay over the horizon until several more had passed. Those unable to cope with the constant murky atmosphere, lit only feebly and intermittently by the streetlights had long since fled. For many, even the prospect of a cramped and tiresome six-week journey back to Earth was surely better than staying for another Venusian night. Genetically refactored body clocks were too expensive and too unreliable for most workers, so it was only those with the stamina and determination to make it that persisted. And of course the convicts. Official stats were all but useless, but it was generally accepted that at least 80% of those that stayed were criminal outcasts from Earth. There was minimal security, other than at the starports – there would never be enough wardens willing to stay in those conditions, no matter what the pay. So for the equivalent of almost 20 Earth weeks at a time, little more than anarchy ruled. Then finally the sunlight would return, and with it the starships, and in them the millions that couldn’t make it full time on Earth, but had the numbers and the firepower to restore some peace and order again.

Until then, Venus was a dangerous place.

Hollow winds swept the alleyways: on occasions, without warning, they would surge to tornado force, and fling about the flotsam and jetsam of discarded litter at random, occasionally maiming and even killing the few who spent any time outdoors, unprotected by their p-shuttles. Even those vehicles, the only reliable means of transport on the planet, could be knocked out of flight by particularly energetic gusts. Banks of computers sat munching away on numbers, attempting to determine algorithms to predict the next wave, but almost always the warning klaxons would go off too late, and with no-one left to repair the damaged sensors, the computers would eventually sit idle, helpless until the engineers returned.

Cotoxy

Cotoxy processor KX-263

Even worse than the winds were the atmos rips. The huge Cotoxy processors that rimmed the small cities weren’t able to reliably maintain the necessary uniform CO2 density to protect the planet against the violent streams of UV light that flooded in from the too-close-for-comfort Sun. Ironically, because before they were installed, Venus had as much CO2 blanket as a planet could ever need. But a superheated greenhouse with no oxygen wasn’t much use to even the most genetically-refactored humans, so it had to go. The Cotoxies pulled out enough carbon to leave breathable air and reduce the atmospheric density enough to let millions of years of trapped in heat to escape. But sometimes they were just too effective, and left gaping holes in the atmosphere, exposing the surface to the raw power of the sun’s rays. No human, even in a p-shuttle, could be expected to survive that.

So mostly, the prisoners stayed in their dorms, and the free citizens kept themselves busy in their dens. There was little to see or do outside anyway.

All that changed when the starship finally arrived, but not with the news anyone wanted to hear. The ship was far more damaged than was usual and, when the hatch opened, everyone saw that it seemed to carry a lot of more people than was normal. Quite a lot of them even seemed to be quite well-off, which was strange. Usually only the odd wealthy kid looking for adventure would dare journey out to Venus and even then they usually came in a more luxirous private craft.

When someone noticed that the President of the United Western Alliance was there, they knew something was drastically wrong. The President stepped forward and addressed the crowd, which the vast majority of had just moments before been hoping to jump on the ship and head back to Earth in it.

"Good people of Venus!" the President said in a voice that made it clearly this was a rehearsed speech. "I am afraid I am not the bearer of good news. It was my sad duty to inform you that the planet of Earth has been destroyed." Not unexpectedly, this caused uproar among the crowd. The President waited until silence fell again.

"As you all know, World War LXII broke out three months again," he continued. "Unfortunately, a nuclear accident destroyed the Earth's atmosphere. We have evacuated all the highest world leaders and greatest scientists from Earth. A lottery was held to determine who else would be able to leave the Earth. Since Mars was destroyed in an attack from the United Southern Guild, we came here to Venus. Here, we will rebuild our race and maintain our way of life, bringing humanity to new heights of achievement!"

The President's speech was followed by dead silence. The human race continuing on with the people of Venus? That was laughable. The whole race would probably end up being one of criminals. Although the President had brought many of Earth's greatest people, the planet's criminals far outweighed them.

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