2043: China begins its own “Pixie” program and recruits via a freely available online game that has twenty-five levels. At the higher levels, (from 16 on) the game is played, not only online and in virtual, in the real world where players face off in straight fights and also across several courses. They are recorded and have live audiences running to millions. Players can have support teams and followers who pay to be in their virtual entourage before they “graduate”. The disappearance of the players is put down to their social morality and not wishing to create a cult of personality, thereby disturbing the tranquillity of the state. No one notices the correlation between those who graduate and those without family or close connection to others. The winners are very rarely those who are 16 years old and older. The program is ultra-secret.
The “Pixies” are trained to see their lives as continuation of the game itself and the work they do is compartmentalised in the same way the game is. Once they reach twenty-two or there-abouts they are “retired” with only the most exceptional being brought forward to be officers and trainers.
2047: Milo reappears in the west. He turned up in Southern England unannounced and it is several days before the system will accept it really is him. Tests show that he has barely aged at all. He offers to work for MI6 but as the system has so changed and those who were involved with him have largely retired there is no one who sees him as other than a curiosity. This is especially so as the use of implants in the military is now common and in special forces ubiquitous.
Satisfied that he is now really free from the control of the military, Milo buys an apartment in London and then heads to Europe. Hearing that he is in France Dr Lopez-Real arranges to meet him in Paris and persuades him to undergo a battery of tests in Montpellier, where she is professor of electronically enhanced medicine. As they get in so well, Milo agrees. In the tests Lopez-Real discovers that his implants have fully meshed with his body and actively work to maintain him physically, something for which the system was not originally intended. She speculates that it was his experience in India that have changed the software protocols which are designed to interact with the experiential needs of the implanted. She arranges for Milo to have an upgrade to the parts of his system that can be detached and he undergoes surgery.
2048: Milo leaves Montpellier but agrees to stay in close communication with Lopez-Real.
Global warming has been accelerating much more quickly than predicted and though the world as tried, (finally) to mitigate the temperature rise certain events cannot be stopped. Coastal regions in every continent suffer flooding. At first it’s seasonal but in various parts of the world it soon becomes the permanent condition of life.
Automation has also taken over most forms of industrial activity. All but pleasure craft on the high seas are unmanned. Crops are planted, tended and harvested by two percent of those who used to work the land. Factories are almost free of humanity. In order to keep the wheels of industry turning most governments offer a basic national salary. There are movements against the uptake as some see it as the final hand of central control of the population. Alternative economies and systems of government begin to rise and develop an uncomfortable relationship with national and international governing bodies.
2049:Tensions across the world begin to rise as the play out of the twin threats of automation and rising sea levels increase pressure on populations.