Today, nobody believes in reality. Fiction remains stronger than fact. All stories are true - satires in particular. Imaginary heroes are more dependable than the other kind, living or dead. Whatever you need is unavailable, so choose the brighter new tomorrows that you want instead. FAX 21 is a muse (news) blog-fest of science fiction concepts and fantasy ideas for genre enthusiasts. Paradox free since next year!

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Fresh Air Fares

by Jake Elliot

Nearly 3 weeks ago several large vans sealed off a 5-mile quadrate of London as Trans-Parent Enterprises bought up the inaugural test package from the sell-off of the air. Commentators quickly labelled this the 'first puff' and watched with interest prior to the scheme being rolled out nationwide.

A number of high-level complaints and protests have expressed outrage, but considerable amounts have been spent in order to explain that introducing the free market into the atmosphere will lead to immeasurably better quality. We will all notice the improvement immediately.
Picture by Toby Fearnside

The new supply will not be free, but through a particular system of rebates and credit arrangements, nobody will be in actual danger of suffocation or even left short of breath. Furthermore, there will be the recently appointed Off-Air watchdog to safeguard our interests. As the Trans-Parent presentation document, Breathe With Us, assures, “competition ultimately benefits the consumer more than anyone.”

This hasn't ended the disquiet from both civil liberties campaigners and prominent environmentalists. The air-pressure group GASP (Get Air-Stealing Prohibited) has voiced continual claims about the legitimacy and practicality of the proposals. In an ill-tempered and explosive public meeting, supporters of the plans accused GASP of picking over theoretical arguments and living in a vacuum. They could always have a go themselves and distribute it through the network for free, an irate shareholder heckled.

Opposition has also been registered in some corporate sectors. London Underground dispute the results of a report that found air quality in their trains and stations so low they would be liable for substantial surcharges. Haulage firms have questioned whether they could face import duties on foreign air. Also, the scientific community have expressed doubts. Professor Miller of the Lagado Institute believes natural phenomena could jeopardise the scheme. “Rogue air currents could play havoc with the business plans,” he warns.

Already there have been a few glitches, which have been put down to teething troubles. Somehow, a few streets around Whitechapel were overlooked. A press release apologised very sincerely and the clear up was organised quickly and discreetly. Some older people, heavy smokers and asthmatics have also experienced difficulties. The rebates don't go far enough, they gasped. Off-Air pledged to investigate. Later, they agreed that the complaints procedure had responded too slowly; however, they said lessons have been learned through this regrettable incident.

There have also been a few instances of 'air-rustling' reported. In one case, police say thieves raided a building firm and stole canisters of oxygen used in welding. More recently, breathing apparatus was taken from a fire engine responding to a hoax call. Legislation is to be prepared to tackle unlicensed air, although civil servants are said to be struggling to exempt gardeners, farmers and groundskeepers.

Lately we were told that due to warm weather and traffic fumes supplies of marketable quality were running well below capacity. We may have to enforce regulations, the industry announced, as demand has become excessively high. It was thought some people were stocking up on air, just in case. The news caused panic and bated breath on the stock markets, and even a sell-off of stale reserves to Russian states failed to stabilise the share price. Today eyewitnesses reported seeing ventilation tents being erected and breathing equipment being tested.

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