Humanity has developed a method of achieving immortality, a complex synthetic compound that essentially halts the ageing process. But it’s expensive to make, and quickly becomes a big business, sold at a premium to the super-rich. Stockpiles are salted away to be rationed out to those who can pay, and the general public are left out. But exclusion breeds resentment, and all too swiftly groups arise to protest this new wonder, whether claiming it should be free to all or hiding their envy under the cloak of religious righteousness, for, as they would have it, man was not meant to be immortal. Finally, some take it too far. In their attempts to make a protest and take a stand, they detonate bombs at the storage sites, destroying the world reserves. But what they hadn’t realised, hadn’t bothered to learn about the compound they claimed to hate was what would happen afterwards. Flung into the air by the explosions, it spread across the land, in quantities enough to kill by overdose the vast majority of the population. Only children and young teens, more resistant by virtue of their youth, survived. But what could they know of the complex tasks their parents had performed, set suddenly adrift and alone in a terrifying world of death? Power failed, water failed: the infrastructure of society fell apart overnight. The survivors gathered into gangs for protection, and in time, grew used to their new lives built upon the ruins of the old. The eldest among them had children, and though one by one the original survivors fell prey to injury and illness, life went on.
Until, in the ruins of the once-proud city of London, a young man named Spitfire rose to leadership of his gang, the Hunters. Equipped with intelligence and vision beyond the ordinary, Spitfire sees beyond the challenges of everyday life. When the Hunters begin to run out of food, it is Spitfire who decides to lead them, not simply to a new territory nearby, but beyond the concrete and glass boundaries of the world they have known all their lives, to establish a foothold for themselves in the countryside while they still have the luxury of choice — before all food in the city is exhausted forever. Spitfire’s loyal second-in-command Wildcat will follow him anywhere, and their adopted fellow Lone Wolf is a reminder to them all of how insightful Spitfire can be, but can the Hunters hold up against the countless challenges of their journey into the unknown? And who or what is the shadow that follows them…?
Running Low (by request!)
The Fallen Empire is quite possibly the oldest story* that’s still alive in any half-relevant sense, and I can’t even remember now how it began. It was a massive part of my childhood, with myself and my siblings playing the roles of main characters Wildcat, Spitfire, and Lone Wolf: we adventured just about everywhere, avoiding other gangs or acid rain, or slipping through a radioactive wasteland on a strict time limit, always with our invaluable little allies the rats. Today it’s much the same as it ever was, but now I can write a lot better, and it’s far past time I got around to telling the entire story in a way that does it justice! (And yes, every concept in that prologue above is as old as the rest of the story. I’m not jumping on any bandwagons here… not even the bombing one. This is a ’90s story!)
* Obviously Oranges and Lemons is technically older, but in terms of how long I’ve actually been working on things, TFE is unquestionably the oldest still-running story I have.