by Max Barry

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Antarctic History

The Antarctic continent has a rich and storied geological history. For many millions of years, it was a forested continent much like it is today, until 34 million years ago, when an ice sheet formed and slowly spread across the continent. Antarctica's icy terrain and isolated location ensured that it would remain uninhabited for most of human history. The human history of the Antarctic continent began in the industrial 20th and 21st centuries, when scientists from around the world established outposts on the continent to study its nature. They soon came to an alarming conclusion: the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by continued fossil fuel use was causing the Antarctic ice to melt. The warnings, however, did not translate into action. Coal, oil, and methane gas were the cheapest sources of energy, and in a display of business as usual, the scientists were ignored. The largest uncontrolled thermodynamic experiment in human history thus went forward. As the 21st century progressed, the climate warmed, glaciers retreated, and ice shelves broke apart. The main ice sheet soon had no obstacles separating itself from the sea. Additionally, meltwater accumulated between the main ice sheet and the Antarctic bedrock. This caused the ice sheet to start melting from the bottom as well as the top, and the water also allowed the ice sheet to slide across the land at increasing speed. These factors caused a chain reaction, and the ice sheet began melting and sliding away more and more quickly.

By the 23rd century, the global climate shift had reached its most devastating heights. This period was the heyday of fossil fuel use, as industrialization had fully spread throughout rich and poor countries alike. At this time, carbon dioxide levels peaked at 1,700 parts per million, and temperatures peaked at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. The world's climate continued to adjust to the new normal, wreaking global turmoil as it went. Massive swaths of land effectively became deserts, the retreating coasts were battered by hurricanes more fierce than any in human history, and unpredictable weather became the new normal. The Antarctic ice sheet was melting away into the ocean at full speed, and the oceans themselves expanded as they grew warmer and warmer. The ocean began migrating further and further inland, and combined with desertification and extreme weather, caused billions of people to lose their homes, resulting in complete chaos all over the world. Nations collapsed, and their remnants collapsed further, eventually resulting in a patchwork of very small, and very aggressive, territorial remnants all over the world. Nearly all of the world's wealth was lost in the chaos and war that now became its default state, and what was now left of the world's rapidly declining population became consigned to grinding poverty.

During the 21st through 24th centuries, the tips of the Antarctic peninsula were exposed to the air for the first time by the retreat of the ice, and as more and more of the continent became habitable, Antarctica became home to several million climate refugees, fleeing regions that were now being drowned by the sea: the northeastern United States, southern England, northern France, the Ganges plain and southern coast of India, northern China, and the coastal plains of Japan. As fossil fuels were exhausted, new reserves became harder and harder to reach. Combined with the grinding poverty into which the world had fallen, fossil fuel extraction soon became unaffordable. By the 25th century, worldwide industry had finally ground to a halt, and subsistence agriculture became the main basis of life throughout the world. As the atmosphere gradually stabilized, so did the climate, settling into a pattern much hotter and wetter than it had been before. The remnants of the world's severely shrunken forests began to grow back vigorously, reaching even further than before the climate shift, and grasslands began to grow across the world's severely expanded deserts. The revitalized forests slowly removed some of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, while Antarctica's ice sheets retreated across the continent and into the high mountains. However, during this period, Antarcticans had far more to worry about than the world's climate; their own society had long since devolved into a hell on earth.

In Antarctic history, the 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th centuries are lost in an abyss of hatred, terror, and despair, known only as the Hakai. A word meaning ravaging and destruction, Antarcticans of today use this term to describe not only the nature of this era, but the state of mind that gave rise to it and sustained it, and in Antarctica, the word Hakai can also mean bloodlust. As the disparate ethnicities of Antarctica settled across the land, they innately came to feel and believe that it was theirs. But as the peoples of Antarctica multiplied, they spread further and further, and soon people from all around the world were housed right next to each other. In their natural provincialism, these early ethnic groups failed to prepare themselves for the reality of truly living with one another, and though they could not have known, their failure would mean death for them all. Judgement became twisted into bigotry, and bigotry fermented into murderous hate. Each ethnicity came to believe that the land was theirs, and only theirs. Within generations, people who looked differently, thought differently, or practiced different cultures became viewed as nothing more than impurities, whose only purpose in the world was to be removed. The method of removal then became clear, as Antarctica sank without resistance into an age where bloodshed came and went with the rising and setting of the sun. Peace and understanding became a distant memory, and then no memory at all - merely a weightless abstraction, as far removed from people's lives as the stars above.

For 400 years, the Antarctic continent limped through an age of darkness and despair like few that history had ever seen, where murder, rape, torture, and slavery became ways of life in a society whose very existence was a crime against humanity. Fear, despair, and loss were the only parts of life many Antarcticans ever knew. Happiness was known only when the evil doings of the outside world retreated for an unexpected and brief respite, and the suffering was so endless that many Antarcticans could not imagine a life characterized by anything else. But, during the brief moments of happiness in their lives, there were some Antarcticans who caught a glimpse of something they had never known: a world without hate, or killing, or fear. For many centuries, such concepts were dismissed even by those who could imagine them as useless fantasies not worth discussing. Yet nothing, not even the Hakai, could ever be immune to the gentle push and pull of history. As each bloody century gave way to the next, the Antarcticans' desire to bring the madness to an end grew stronger and stronger, and with it, something else: the visions of an ideal world that they had carried with them for so long. The Antarctic ice rolled back across the continental plains towards its last mountainous home, and each fledgling society of Antarctic idealists found itself mowed down by the forces of hate and fear, only for another one to coalesce out of the chaos, undaunted. Finally, one of them matured rapidly enough to outgrow those who would destroy it, and then something happened that not even the most idealistic Antarcticans had ever dared imagine: they began to succeed.

In 2761, in the city of Aasha, a society was founded by a group of Antarcticans who wanted to codify their vision of an ideal Antarctic society, united under an ideal Antarctic government. Its unlikely founder was a former street urchin named Rupi Chen. Diminutively short and thin from starvation, she was little more than a quiet, timid, penniless dreamer, and a voracious collector of what few books and scraps of learning Antarctic society could muster in those dark times. Yet, eventually, she wrote out the beginnings of a document that would change the southern continent forever. Rupi drafted much of the Antarctic Constitution herself, laying out the articles on human rights and the general nature of the government much as they appear today. Founding the Society for an Antarctic Constitution along with Rupi were her two friends, people who had saved her from starving and given her a home a few years before: Vinson Mahindran, a boisterous and joyful former smuggler, and Harriet Tabarot, a strict and judicious former mercenary. Mahindran and Tabarot worked with Rupi to tease out the specifics of Antarctica's system of government and expand the Constitution into a comprehensive legal document. The vision of the Twelve Articles, as they called it, soon forged them into lifelong friends, and the three of them worked together to expand the Society themselves. It was in 2763, by which point the Society had reached 24 members, the unceasing drumbeat of tragedy outside Rupi's window finally leaked its way into her world and brought it to a fiery end.

Rupi Chen and five other members of the Society were discussing the group's political direction when a bomb exploded underneath her floor. Five ethnic, religious, and racial supremacist groups proudly claimed responsibility for the massacre, and then promptly began massacring each other as well in order to claim the one true mantle of the Society's killers. Tabarot, Mahindran, and the rest of the Society went into hiding, waiting for the killers to pick each other off. The death of Rupi broke the hearts of not only her two closest friends, but of hundreds of people who had heard of her, and the Constitution that she had written. In the Society's hidden strongholds, recruits poured in to help keep alive the values that Rupi had died for. They came in by the hundreds, then eventually the thousands, then tens of thousands. By 2775, the Society had spread from a single neighborhood throughout the entire city of Aasha, and Tabarot and Mahindran felt safe enough to begin speaking in public. Though they were able to keep up a unified face in front of the people, Tabarot later revealed that, although they were very close friends, their personalities could not have been less compatible; they argued often and fought frequently. What kept the Society together was forcing themselves to work out a compromise in Rupi's name, lest her own creation fall apart at the hands of her two closest friends.

By 2779, the Society had spread across half of Antarctica. The names of Tabarot and Mahindran were known and revered across the continent, but not nearly as much as that of Rupi Chen, whose two closest friends had refused all the credit given to them and told everyone they met of Rupi's ideals, her work, and her ultimate sacrifice. Already, Rupi was being called the "Mother of the Constitution" by Antarcticans across the Continent. Vinson Mahindran, in the city of Palashima, was giving a speech in Rupi's name when an ethnic supremacist opened fire on the crowd, killing 12 people - including Mahindran. Tabarot later recalled nearly dying of despair, and for a year, the Society stagnated under the weight of its own grief. But as they healed, Tabarot and the Society were only pushed forward even more strongly by Mahindran's sacrifice. By 2786, the Society had finally established a basic minimum of peace and public order across the continent, and the final three years of the Society's existence were spent in negotiations between its disparate members on the structure of the government they were about to establish. Then, for the first time in over 400 years, the world witnessed a continent come together as one under a banner of shared values and ideals. January 22, 2789 was the 36th anniversary of Rupi Chen's death, and from that day on, the anniversary of the moment when Tabarot knew her absent friends could finally rest in peace.

On January 22, 2789, Harriet Tabarot became the first Prime Minister of Antarctica. She viewed it as her debt to Rupi Chen to give all the strength she had to building the republic that her dearest friend would never see. Tabarot remained politically unaffiliated even as the Antarctic National Congress and dozens of other parties coalesced around her, believing that her service to Rupi had nothing to do with partisan politics. To this day, she remains the only unaffiliated Prime Minister in the history of Antarctica. Perhaps the most important of Tabarot's achievements was the creation of the Peacekeepers, a unified Antarctic armed force tasked with carrying out the will of the Free Republic both within and outside Antarctica. In 2798, after having built up both the Peacekeepers and several other vital government institutions, Tabarot finally retired at the end of her third term rather than continue to seek power. In doing so, she set the precedent for all the Prime Ministers who followed her; only a handful have ever served for ten years or more. She died peacefully, in her sleep, in 2811. For the first century of Antarctica's existence, the most important aspect of the Peacekeepers' mission was the maintenance of public order. During the early years of the Free Republic, hate-driven massacres still blighted Antarctica every few months. But over many years, the Peacekeepers slowly chipped away at the hate groups and their steady stream of murder. By 2850, the massacres occured only once every few years, and by 2870, they were beginning to peter out. The last recorded hate massacre in Antarctica occurred in 2883. As the years went on and the Peacekeepers continued their work, violent crime slowly petered out as well, and finally, any notion of violence on the Antarctic continent became unthinkable.

The 29th century was a time of great social change in Antarctica. At the beginning of the century, Antarctica's ethnic groups still lived apart. World cultures, religions, colors, and sexual orientations all lived in a state of segregation and separation, and hate groups massacred anyone who tried to cross the divide. By the 2830s, Antarcticans had come to believe that if integration was the most mortal fear of these hate groups, then it was the goal most worth pursuing. They began to pursue friendships, love, and families that broke through the boundaries that had divided them for so long. Integration began as a mere trickle, for the massacres still occurred far too frequently, but as the century wore on, that began to change. By the 2860s, the old Antarctic massacres were finally beginning to die away, and the trickle soon turned into a flood. Thoroughly mixed families, neighborhoods, and institutions became Antarctica's most heartfelt desire, and within a generation, they shifted from the exception to the norm. By the end of the 29th century, Antarctic society had become fully mixed on every level, giving rise to many aspects of the society that is known and loved around the world today.

Another great change in Antarctic society during the 29th century was the rise of Anava Hinduism. At the beginning of the century, Hinduism was one of many world religions that existed in violent confrontation with each other as part of a continent-wide patchwork, such as Christianity, Islam, Shintoism, Buddhism, and others. Religious scholars have since speculated that the wholesale transformation of Antarctic Hinduism during this period was made possible by the historical flexibility of Hindu doctrine, at least in comparison to the other religions. During the 29th century, the metaphysical aspects of Antarctic Hinduism did not change much, but its moral and practical aspects changed immensely. As the Antarctic social revolution remade society around it, the continent's new, heartfelt benevolent and humanistic worldview became the object of religious passion, eventually coalescing into the two principles - dharma and kama - that continue to define it today. Any and all notions of castes and caste bigotry were relentlessly cast out of the faith; since the 29th century, caste bigotry has been viewed as a historical crime almost on the level of slavery, and modern Antarcticans consider the notion of castes to be an absurdity. This humanistic transformation inspired hate-weary Antarcticans to begin converting en masse, bringing several more idiosyncratic aspects into the faith, until it became the de facto religion of the Antarctic people.

By the beginning of the 30th century, Antarctica had established what could be considered the most advanced society in the world. Hatred, crime, and violence had been all but eliminated, and throughout the 29th century, the Free Republic had built a free market economy and social safety net that had given its people the highest standard of living in the world. As the chaos and hatred within Antarctica gradually disappeared, the Antarctic people turned their attention outward. Although Antarcticans genuinely did desire to share their own well-being with the rest of the world, their national miracle had also infected them with a subtle complex of superiority. Beginning in the late 2870s, and accelerating after 2883, Antarctica began using the Peacekeepers to effortlessly decide the outcomes of foreign wars, in exchange for territories adopting aspects of Antarctic government. For a time, Antarctica's military adventures worked flawlessly. Increasingly drunk on its own hubris, Antarctica soon became more and more aggressive. In 2897, Antarctica began outright invading tyrannical foreign territories and replacing them with Antarctic-style governments. This seemed to work flawlessly as well, until Antarctica finally invaded the Fiefdom of South Georgia, in 2904.

The Fiefdom of South Georgia was a totalitarian de facto monarchy that ruled over a small island of the same name, just outside Antarctic waters. The regime in Grytviken operated entirely on tyranny, hatred, and fear, not unlike the Antarctica of many centuries before. The Antarcticans, genuinely heartbroken by the scenes of suffering in South Georgia but also drunk on their own power, invaded the island and set up an Antarctic-style government in Grytviken. Unfortunately, the Fiefdom had had a multitude of genuine devotees of their own. These devotees set off a bomb underneath an Antarctic peacekeepers' base, killing hundreds of Antarcticans, and the response of the Free Republic lives on in infamy: "Do whatever you believe necessary to neutralize those responsible." Knowing that the entire city of Grytviken sympathized with the killers, and filled with a white-hot scornful rage at the city for the death of their countrymen, the Peacekeepers stormed through Grytviken in a fit of bloodlust. They destroyed every building and brutally tortured and murdered every human being they could see, before, with the city reduced to a smoking ruin and a mass grave, they reported "the neturalization of all responsible" to the Free Republic. The sights they sent back to the Antarctic people would change their view of the world, and of themselves, forever.

Until the Massacre of Grytviken, all of the Free Republic's history had operated on an underlying belief about its own nature: that Antarctica had permanently outgrown its violent past, and that the Free Republic had had a benevolent history and would always continue to be benevolent. The Massacre of Grytviken shattered that belief forever. Antarcticans across the continent reacted to the Massacre with visceral horror, burning shame, and stone-cold resolve. That year, in 2904, the entire Foreign branch of the Peacekeepers was called home, and the perpetrators made to answer for their crimes. However, the resolve of the Antarctic people did not stop with them. In place of their old hubris, another new belief came to define the Antarctic worldview, and has continued to define it ever since: that no matter how far Antarctica - or any nation - has come from the horrors of its past, it is and will always be capable of sinking into those horrors all over again, and only the constant vigilance of its people will ever stop it from happening. The Free Republic, and the Antarctic people, re-dedicated themselves to the ideals of their founders. In 2905, the Foreign Peacekeepers were permanently disbanded, and the last two articles were added to the Antarctic Constitution, intended to help stop the Free Republic from straying into violence or cruelty ever again. These were the last additions to the Fourteen Articles, as Antarctica's founding document is now known, and no armed Antarctican has set foot on foreign territory ever since.

For two generations after the Massacre of Grytviken, Antarctica resolutely isolated itself from the happenings of the outside world, and focused instead on staying true to its own values and maintaining the society that it had built. The events of the world were still widely discussed throughout Antarctica, and the Antarctic people were often heartbroken to hear the world's disasters. Nevertheless, the popular perception at the time held that any Antarctic meddling in foreign affairs was inherently unsafe, on account of the nation's ability to be corrupted by its own power. Antarctica's long withdrawal continued for sixty-one years, while hot spots of tension around the world inched closer and closer to the breaking point. Finally, in 2966, an unprovoked attack by an aggressive territory in the Rocky Mountains tipped two thirds of North America into a continental war.

The person to bring Antarctica out of its long withdrawal would have been considered, at the time, the least likely person in Antarctica to do so. Prime Minister Henry Nakamura was a soft-spoken yet extremely stubborn man who, above all else, valued stability. As the Great North American War broke out in 2966, Nakamura immediately ruled out any sort of involvement. Yet the scenes of suffering reaching Antarctica from the war-torn continent were more devastating than anything Antarcticans had seen since the Massacre, and a large and growing portion of the Antarctic people began to demand that Nakamura send material and humanitarian aid to the more benevolent actors in the war. Nakamura steadfastly refused; he seemed to have an unshakable feeling of wariness against Antarctica meddling in places it did not belong. Finally, in 2967, one of Nakamura's own aides, Pradeep Gilard, scheduled a meeting between Nakamura and the North American leaders in Boulder without his knowledge, then deliberately gave Nakamura the wrong flight number so he landed in North America. Upon landing, Nakamura was furious, and he intended to board the return flight and fire Gilard, when suddenly a stray missile landed in Boulder nearby. Nakamura rushed in to help, and the scenes of human suffering he saw before his eyes finally convinced him to change his mind. When he returned to Antarctica, Nakamura announced the country would begin sending aid to designated benevolent actors in the conflict, and to the myriad other scenes of human suffering that for so many centuries had erupted ceaselessly throughout the world. He also announced the un-firing of Gilard, who would go on to be Prime Minister himself many years later.

The Great North American War came to its conclusion in 2971. Thanks in large part to Antarctic financial and material aid, the more benevolent side in the conflict had won. Antarctica continued to supply aid to North America in order to help the continent rebuild, and for the first time in its long history, the nation began to win genuine admiration from many corners of the world. Then, in 2979, yet another disaster struck. A massive stock market crash in Antarctica caused a brief recession on the continent, followed by a quick recovery. However, it sent the rest of the world into a deep economic depression, on top of the grinding poverty in which most world citizens already lived. In the midst of this crisis, Antarctica dedicated its entire budgetary surplus, and even a small amount of deficit, to financial aid for any and every country that needed it. This was the defining moment for Antarctica's role in the world, changing its image from an uncaring former aggressor into the actively benevolent and humanistic force in the world that it remains today. With the help of Antarctic financial aid, the world slowly turned towards recovery in 2983, and by 2994 the great global depression was finally percieved to be over. Antarctica wound down its spending somewhat, to regain its budget surplus, but since then the Free Republic has continued to devote a substantial portion of its spending to financial, material, and humanitarian aid for all the world.

Throughout the 2990s and 3000s, the Antarctic economy continued to grow strongly and steadily, and the world's standard of living slowly inched higher. This period is considered one of the recent high-water marks of Antarctic history, as the continent continued to enjoy a completely peaceful society and a high standard of living, while Antarctic foreign aid further solidified the continent's reputation in the world and helped lift people out of poverty. Pradeep Gilard, Prime Minister from 2997 to 3006, was notable for his educational reforms, moving Antarctic schools towards a more hands-on and participatory approach. Zhijuan Kateel, Prime Minister from 3006 to 3014, spent most of her tenure renovating Antarctica's international aid programs, but is better remembered for her nine years being cut short by a severe corruption scandal in which she was forced to resign. The political chaos of the subsequent 3014 election will forever remain infamous for the rise of the worst Prime Minister in Antarctic history: Tomio Batra.

In the 3014 election, all three of Antarctica's main political parties lost seats as a result of their connection to the Kateel corruption scandal. As a result, the Grand Council come 3015 was notable for featuring a much larger slate of unaffiliated councillors. One of these unaffiliated councillors was Tomio Batra, a sociopolitical armchair theorist who became Prime Minister mainly due to his speeches viciously condemning the concept of corruption. However, once elected as Prime Minister, Batra quickly became far more corrupt than Kateel had ever been. He never authored a single proposal on his own; instead he used dirty tricks and underhanded methods to insert his own policies into otherwise procedural proposals. Tomio Batra's political ideology could best be described as complete insanity. Four random selections, out of his dozens of policies, would be attempting to abolish the minimum wage, nationalize every supermarket company, demolish the Antarctic social safety net to encourage "economic immediacy," and attempting to force price controls on common goods. Within months, Batra had singlehandedly steered the Antarctic economy into free fall, when suddenly a private tape was leaked in which Batra boasted to his sister about his success in deceiving the entire Grand Council. He was immediately removed from office by the Council, and was swiftly replaced by a rising star who would soon become a name for the ages: Michiko Mayweather.

Since late 3015, Michiko Mayweather has been Prime Minister of Antarctica. Her first great achievement was sweeping away Batra's political web of madness, along with adding a few of her own tweaks, and restoring the Antarctic economy within a year. Afterwards, Mayweather set herself to work not only on the economy, but also on completing the educational reforms begun by Prime Minister Gilard two decades earlier. In the midst of her constant efforts, she nevertheless found enough time to campaign for her re-election in 3017, the recovery of the economy and her incredible charisma winning her a second term in a historic landslide. One year later, Mayweather's Educational Proposal of 3018 built upon Gilard's earlier reforms, restructuring the education system top to bottom towards a more participatory and hands-on environment, focusing less on standardized test results and more on helping individual struggling students. In the wake of her reforms, Antarctic graduation rates improved to 95 percent, and test results also increased considerably. Mayweather's accomplishment for the next generation of Antarcticans is considered to be the greatest and most important achievement of her legacy.

The Antarctic people have had a long and storied history, emerging from 400 years of ceaseless violence, hate, and chaos into an early history of outward destruction, eventually retreating from the world in fear of themselves, then finally reaching out again in peace, love, and friendship. They continue to keep watch against their own worst instincts, and work to bring an impoverished and war-torn world out of the disasters into which it has fallen. They look forward to a day where the world can come together in peace and friendship, and face the future together.