The Last Words of the Hero of the Heatwave Wars

The four stages of ecological grief were climate denial, ethno-nationalistic anger, economic depression, and then bargaining with Alison Brun's company but quickly accepting her terms. She was, after all, the most famous environmental urban engineer in the world, the woman who saved Chennai (for a while), and the last person to leave Houston besides the soldiers and biologists of the informally named North Hell Base.

As carbon released methane and methane kicked off even worse feedback loops, as the four degrees threshold went past before the world could rationalize the first two, when six was the baseline projection and the suicide notes of scientists left mentions of ten, Alison Brun was called more and more often, her field authority increasing. Paid in advance, always, but she always went. Her team of humans, AIs, and GMOs grew larger and sharper every year, learning with every tactical success and strategic retreat how better to cope with the super-hurricanes, the droughts, the breaking agricultural networks, the resource wars over disasters yet to come laying waste to what were not yet wastelands. After a while, scientists and engineers began to kill themselves out of frustration and spite, not just hopelessness.

Alison Brun didn't. She stayed and fought for each city that called her, every battle the deployment of better technology against worse odds, every loss more heroic. Her fortitude made her an icon, a source of strength.

Billions mourned when she died; pancreatic cancer, the worst of the remaining types, so painful that euthanasia was a more frequent form of death than the disease itself. I was there when she did it, as I was her second in command and the closest thing she had to a friend.

I'm going to have to keep going, I told her, seeking her help even then. I don't know how. You never told me how you did it. You were stronger in failure than most people in success.

She smiled at me, free of pain and, for the first time in decades, with nothing to do but breathe and live. I didn't fail as much as you think. I wasn't trying to save the world. It can't be done. She pressed the button and said the passphrase, and the device recognized her body and her mind and released death for both. I was just trying to ease the pain.

I never told this to anyone. I just kept working, people praising my good spirits and strength as we fought each battle and moved our lines northwards, always northwards, leaving behind our dead.