A Modest Catastrophe

On a small pacific island with an unpronounceable name, the world’s last barrel of oil was extracted. A party was held to celebrate the event: a small team arrived, a humble assortment of corporate caterers, with entertainment provided by Kaden Ledouchi, a neuro-net pop mini-sensation whose somewhat average voice graced the mindwaves every so often. There were little apple tarts and miniature pizzas, and people drank custom, genetically engineered beverages. Kaden stood up on a podium, the nano-diodes behind him providing a dazzling accompaniment to his #22-on-the-charts single “Let’s Get Technical.”

Most people in attendance clapped.

Maximal Energy Technologies’ CEO Michael Doody arrived, with a rolling pin covered in glue, and a very large and ornate sticker reading “$7-Trillion.” He smiled for the nanocamera swarms that had been meticulously covering the event for the Voyeur Reality games that would soon be published for a modest fee on the corporate website, for all the fans of course. Surely they wouldn’t want to miss out on this. He smiled, and he glued the sticker on the barrel, and it was all very charming, very rustic.

Through all this, platform operator Lelinda Busy grabbed hold of her hair and pulled on it, face frozen in a picturesque caricature of utter despair.

After the party, Mr. Doody saw the caterers and Kaden off into protective gunships, bristling with directed energy weaponry to protect them from the Sino-African pirate leagues. He waved as they flew past the force fields, and began to take evasive action as various javelin missile launchers mounted on the pirates’ attack boats started to lock on to them. Lelinda approached him atop the platform, her jaw still partially unhinged, her hair tossed every which way, and her face turning purplish.

“Lelinda, you’ve been a fine gal all these years, keepin’ the platform ship-shape.” Mr. Doody said. “What’re your plans now hun?”

Lelinda suppressed tears, teeth chattering, and raised her hand.

“Sir.” She hesitated. “That was the last one, right?”

“Yup,” replied Mr. Doody, in his cybernetically amplified southeast Texan accent, “I reckon that’s pretty much it for Mother Nature’s bounty.”

“Sir,” Lelinda began again, “The last barrel of oil.”

“I reckon.”

“The last barrel of oil in the world.”



“I’m pretty sure oil don’t come back after you’ve burnt it up, yep.”

Lelinda’s left eye twitched, and her right foot tapped of its own accord. Last week she had written a report, based on all available sources of information, that her platform’s oil reserves would last at least a year more. This morning she awoke to the last barrel of oil, and a few billion over-inflated dollars worth of party being delivered by gunship to her pirate-infested platform. She thought, given the situation, that she had handled everything with poise. But she still wished dearly to rip her tie into little pieces, and maybe eat them, and talking to Mr. Doody hardly helped.

“With all due respect sir, maybe we can at least turn off the force field?” She said, trying to suppress a hysterical laughter, and desire to jump off the platform. “And the lasers? All those sort of run on oil, the last barrel of which we’ve just extracted! Maybe we should try to conserve it a little bit, given that it’s kind of scarce?”

Mr. Doody stood aback, raising his arms in protest. “Now what’s gotten into you Lelinda? If we turn off the force field the pirates will be all over us. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to live out the next,” he checked his pocket watch a moment, “about 72 hours, I suppose, before the world runs completely plum dry of energy; I’d like to live those out! So no thank you! Force field, lasers, it’s all staying up.”

Lelinda clutched at her tie and started to rip it up into little pieces. She forced them into her mouth, swallowed, and laughed just a bit.

“Okay sir!” She said, giggling. “So what do you want the platform to do in that time period? It doesn’t have much use now, does it?”

“Uh, we can figure something out. I think there’s probably an eccentric trillionaire who’d want to buy it. Or we can sell more nano-cam tours.” Mr. Doody replied. “Or we can use it as some kind of coral habitat. Or something.”

“Okay sir!” Lelinda said. “Am I strictly necessary for any of that?”

“Not really.” Mr. Doody replied.

“Okay sir!” Lelinda burst out laughing. “Then I’ll just, oh ho, I’ll just turn on my neuro-net, and I’ll hang upside in my office like a bat.”

“That sounds so hip.” Mr. Doody said. “I’d like to try that before society as we know it crumbles. Anyway, thanks for everything Lelinda.”

In the distance, they heard the whistling of rockets, heavily suppressed by the force field, and the tinny sound of the next gunship coming for Mr. Doody. Lelinda turned around and walked back to the platform elevator, half laughing, quarter trying to find more of her clothes to chew on, and the last quarter crying. Society was done. Last barrel of oil. Yup. And the force fields and the lasers were all still up. Because if they went down everything would be infested with pirates. Okay sir!

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