Nobody knew anymore who'd shut away the sky. It was just another unpleasant fact of life. Looking up was a tease, one with blue depths and white puffy clouds at most times. The others it went greenish-black shot through with streaks of pure and lambent white, the feral rage of an infant loose on those beneath before the tantrum
passed, leaving broken death in its wake.
QUICK should have been our savior. Quantum Interference Counter-Kinetics, they called it on the BBC that morning with the air of proud and elated parents. Antigravity. The word had burst from the presenter, surprised out of professional cool, and drawn the expected winces from a scientist who has seen work of years reduced to broadcast cliché in an instant. Well, no, not really, you see...it doesn't actually negate gravitational attraction, not at all. No, rather it interferes with the transfer of energy from reference state vector collisions-
Too late. They'd brought an engineer with them, and that worthy had been blunt. Yeah. Antigravity. Float right up to LEO.
Initial reaction had been one of joy. The thundering rockets were antiques in a stroke. Space could be colonized using minimal energy and a QUICKsilver box; flip the switch, give a good hard kick at the ground and then just worry about air resistance. Or better, just use a good old-fashioned balloon, and start pushing when your gasbag equalized.
Those first few months were lunacy. Not only was QUICK cheap, but easy. Nobody knows who leaked the designs, but someone did. Someone with fantasies of ending government control of space access, or just maybe someone who had an inkling of what was going to happen - doesn't matter. Weeks later, there were pickup trucks sitting in low earth orbit, enthusiastic grinning corpses dead at the wheel in SCUBA gear that high school physics would have told anyone wouldn't have helped had they bothered to listen.
Then, of course, reality set in.
Getting up was easy.
So was getting down.
At first, it was random junk. A bathyscape would land in someone's vegetable patch underneath a parachute, and maybe someone would hop out. The aforementioned pickup truck would come crashing down from halfway to the ledge of LEO when the battery cable slipped off the QUICKsilver box.
Then, of course, someone started remembering sci-fi, and paranoid government projects, and words like THOR and KKV.
Seventeen wars were fought, briefly, in a space of two weeks, with kinetic strikes from orbital distance. No-one knows how many more were attempted but failed for lack of adequate projectile shielding or malfunctions. Millions of people gone.
The U.S., of course, saw an opportunity for control afforded it by its industrial complex and snatched at it. We still don't know whose idea it was - nobody will own up to it - but five months, two weeks and one day after the QUICKsilver announcement, the wall went up.
The U.S., Japan and EU claimed it was simply to protect their satellite systems. They offered the PRC and Russia access to its protection. No-one's sure if they accepted. The system was essentially a bigger, better project THOR - but instead of hitting surface targets, it was programmed to eliminate any object that tried to move above twenty miles altitude with kinetic strikes. It got there first, and nobody else could come to play. They'd been relatively clever, too - it wasn't just a constellation. They'd sent a central manufacturing von Neumann box to lunar soil, and it petaled open and began tossing smart crowbars out at the Lagrangian points, little electronic noses quivering.
That might not have been the end of it. But of course, as is always the case, something went wrong. Some claim it was sabotage. Some claim it was one nation or the other doublecrossing its partners. The system had a complex system of transponder codes designed to allow its owners to fly where and when they wished - IFF from hell, using pseudorandom streams with hellish encryption and God knows what else.
About a week after it announced it was operational, airliners started vanishing. Then light planes. Then anything that moved above a few thousand feet. And the governments finally broke down and admitted it had stopped phoning home. When radio towers aimed upwards started vanishing, they mumbled about self defense modes and other militaristic paranoias.
There have been endless studies done of the projected failure date of the lunar base module. Nobody is sure when or if it will die - and even then, nobody knows how many KKVs it has managed to seed into what orbits. There probably are millions of the things.
Life moves slower down here with no air travel. Ships work fine though. People keep trying dirigibles and small fixed-wing aircraft, and sometimes they get through, sometimes not. There's ongoing concern about the dust and energy being fed into the biosphere continuously via the strikes, but nobody knows what it'll do, really. People being people, they still talk about the weather. Look outside and see that greenish black, with the bright star shining, and there's a phrase that's gained some vinegar.
Hard rain's gonna fall.