This was written as a response to Phoenix‘s challenge to write a story beginning with the following line: My names Tabitha, I work part time at Mrs Clucky’s chicken outlet and before we start I’d just like to say that it wasn’t really my fault.

My names Tabitha, I work part time at Mrs Clucky’s chicken outlet and before we start I’d just like to say that it wasn’t really my fault. Yes, I know you’ve probably read the papers and the history books but that’s not really how things happened. Look, pull up a chair and let me explain.

You probably already know my upbringing; I was the only daughter of Jebediah X by his third wife Toyah. As a member of the royal family I had the best education money could buy, whatever material goods I wanted… the whole shebang. As a teenager, I had boys queueing up at my door for dates. Life was good.

And then I got to go to University. Naturally, I picked St Stephen’s, the most prestigious university in the whole world. It was at St Stephen’s that I began to realise that I had a particularly cushy life ahead of me. My father was leader of the entire free world, ruler of over 90% of the population. We were rich beyond… well not OUR wildest dreams, because we were accostomed to such weatlh… but the wildest dreams of most common people. I also knew that, as the fifth child of Jebediah and also the second daughter, the chances of me ever actually ascending to that throne were virtually nil.

So I chose to take a rather politically motivated career in Alternative Energy. You may remember the news stories about that at the time. There was quite a kerfuffle about such a high-ranking figure as myself spending six months on an oil rig. But I got down and dirty with the guys there and learned a lot about our current methods of energy production and how close we were to an energy crisis.

For my dissertation, of course, I wrote that paper about nucleonic power. But remember, that was a group project. I know the media likes to portray me as the inventor of nucleonic power, but we were only refining work that had been done some years before us. And that, I suppose was the beginning of the end. Within three years nucleonic power stations were being built all across the planet, promising clean, limitless energy for everyone. And I stand by that promise, to this day there has not been a single report of any environmental problems directly caused by nucleonic energy.

That was, as you probably remember, our Golden Age. With unlimited power, things became possible that would not have been before: hover cars, holographic TV, even our colonisation of other planets. And with this glorious new age came the longest sustained baby boom we’ve ever known. I think the birth rate shot up by something like 10 or was it 12 times in 10 years?

And then, at the height of our glory, came that terrible night. You know, it came from nowhere. I still don’t understand the details but that meteor managed to escape all our astronomers, passed our space-stations and our low-orbit hotels and by the time it hit the atmosphere, it was already too late. They say that, if anyone had been awake at that time to see it, they’d have only had three minutes to do anything. Certainly not enough time to flee.

Three thousand years, the Great City had stood. Countless people had lived and loved in that mighty metropolis. And then, in just three minutes it was gone. Nothing left but a scar on the land and burning rubble for miles. Two years, wasn’t it? Two years before all the fires were put out.

That was the night of my Sister’s birthday, of course. Everyone was there for the Gala Ball. Except me. I curse that meeting I had to attend, but at the time, the business I was director of seemed more important to me that yet another birthday party. Now, I don’t usually admit this, but I completely missed the earthquakes that meteor created. Slept right through them. It wasn’t until a good hour after the event that one of my butlers came into the room and awoke my concubine and me. I remember that night quite vividly.

“Miss Tabitha… Miss Tabitha?” he said.

I sort of rolled over and looked up at him with a half-asleep “Wha’?”

“Miss Tabitha, I’m afraid your father has been killed.” He then bowed deeply. “Praise Be, your Exaltedness.”

Let me tell you, that’s a guaranteed way to wake you up!

So yes, with my family gone and much of the govenment and core business also in ruins, the world turned their eyes to me. I think, though, that under the circumstances, I coped rather well. Within a week we had a skeleton government, within a month we had some sort of central bank cobbled together. You don’t realise just how much it takes to run a world until it’s gone. With no bank to move money around, cash became almost worthless. But without a stock market, how could you tell the worth of the money? And there’s just so much administration. For years, it seems, we’d keep coming across yet another Office of Business Statistics or Bureau for Taxation of Schools… some function that ticked along so well beforehand, that you just forgot about it. But without it, things didn’t run so smoothly.

It was in those years that things really started to break down. But with Nucleonic power, we were able to fabricate buildings and tools just as quickly as we needed. We weren’t short of manpower and, for a while, things seemed good. It looked as though, a decade after the impact, we might be back to the kind of glorious life we once knew. But the stress of that time began to show up a problem that had been brewing for some time.

It seems that, though our energy production capacity had gone up, and because of that we could extract and refine almost limitless amounts of raw materials, there was one aspect of the planet that we’d not considered. Food production. Intensive farming could only go so far and had already peaked at around the time Nucleonic energy was perfected. No matter what you do, crops still take a year to grow and mature, livestock still needs several years to grow up and reproduce.

And so, as the population continued to grow, we stumbled into that terrible state of affairs when everyone had a job, almost everyone owned a hover car or a second house or had relatives on another planet, and yet fresh meat was becoming a delicacy. The pre-packaged meals that were our staple were being packed with more and more filler, the nutrition being spread thinner and thinner. Until, one winter DeliFoods, the largest manufacturer of meals announced that they would have to suspend production for a month due to insufficient stock. That, of course, caused panic buying. Supermarket shelves emptied overnight. A couple of days later, the riots started. As if on some secret signal, ten cities across the globe saw widespread rioting and looting. The next night it was fifty cities.

We sent out what police and army troops we could spare to try to quell the panic, but it was futile. Somehow, people could sense a crisis was happening on a completely unprecedented scale. By the end of that week many cities were as ruined and burning as the Great City had been. People tried to flee the planet, but the colonies, worried that the sudden influx of refugees would affect their own resources began blockading their orbits, turning away all comers.

It was when my own troops began to question the point of attacking the rioters that I took the decision to leave. I realised that I no longer had control over my subjects. My rank held no sway over them. I was just another hungry mouth. So, as the mobs battered down my door, I took my two closest lovers and three of my most loyal staff and we fled. The last ship to leave, they say. Within hours, a fleet from a nearby colony arrived, determined that the panic would not be spread to other worlds. All communication was severed and the people were left to sort themselves out or die.

After six months of hiding, drifting in space and begging supplies from passing ships, we managed to sneak into this planet. I had some minor surgery to disguise myself, but to be honest, the stress from that time had already weathered me to the point where few colonists would’ve recognised me. We split up, got small homes and simple jobs. With a little luck, we can while away our days in this back-water, passing ourselves off as just another face in the crowd.

And that’s my story. I now work Part-time here at Mrs Clucky’s. You do see how it wasn’t my fault, don’t you? Ah, excuse me…

Yes sir? One Clucky’s Fillet Burger coming right up…