Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Solar Regression

    Andrea checked her communicator: 0400 hours UCT. She adjusted the syncman behind her ears and consciously thought that she would like a view of the outside. Immediately the tinted glass covering the upper panel of the nukxi slid away to reveal the virtual viewing pane that allowed her a photographic view of the swiftly passing gulfs and the circulation maze. Normally, Andrea would have taken the atomic transporters home, but today she was restless. She needed to have a view of the outside, especially now that the solar regression had become a reality. It was all over the news and different cults and groups had extremely varying opinions about it.

    Andrea, of course, had known about it since a decade during which her R&D investments had been steadily increasing. Her corporation, Sundance, named for some lost movie of the last century, was responsible for lighting up one-eights of the globe by picotechnology-driven solar lighting systems. They were now the second largest player in the field. At that time, they had undertaken a feasibility study for the jinxed satellite colony on Mars. But it was never enough; her scientists and robotechnicians worked continually at devising smaller and more energy-efficient solar cells. But even the thirty-five odd patents they had accumulated over a span of eight years weren’t any good.

    Then one day, her junior-most staff, Pink Scarborough, a bright young lass of 13, had walked into her office with a possible explanation. She came armed with a memory stick loaded with scientific proof. The synopsis was simply this that the sun was moving away from the earth, and that was leading to a drop in routine solar energy levels. At first Andrea scoffed at the idea, but then she studied the statistical data of temperatures measured in the hinterlands and 47 GB of planetary positioning satellite data. Pink’s theory was that the Star-guard systems that functioned as a huge energy shield for the Earth while trapping only specific heat and light wavelengths, were responsible for this. The Star-guard systems were the first United Global Front [UGF] venture embarked upon to tackle the growing menace of Global Warming. Since it was successful there was also a lurid aura of patriotism attached to it. Andrea knew that talk against the Star-guard systems was taboo, so she quietly locked up the memory stick and its copies after nicking them from Pink. She had demanded a long smooch in addition to the monetary compensation and Andrea had complied sulkily. Now that she knew without a doubt that the solar regression was happening, her only concern was that she would be out of business. That Mars deal with BSphere V would never materialize.

    Outside the nukxis, the dull light seemed to confirm Andrea’s fears. She turned away and thought about getting some news. Almost instantly her communicator lit up and a palm-sized holographic image of a nude black woman presented itself reading the news interspersed with an active jiggling of her tits. "A new cult has been born in Celtia today. Their efforts endure to placate the Sun God and keep her from leaving our solar system. Pastor Subraman Jyoti will lead … blah blah blah" Naked News was the best thing from the 21st century, reflected Andrea. She wistfully wished that her communicator could feature a larger image.

    Abruptly, the nude woman disappeared in a spurt of static and the nukxi’s voice box boomed, "Kindly confirm adult status." What, out of the blue! Don’t I look it, thought Andrea. "Confirmation accepted." Andrea had forgotten that her syncman was still on. The syncman was a tremendous protraction of 20th century blue-chip technology that allowed wireless communication between digitally synchronized appliances. A mi-fi upgrade, the syncman allowed neural impulses to be converted to digital commands that could be transmitted to appliances such as a communicator. However with its growing popularity the feature had been extended to all kinds of devices, even automobiles like the nukxi. So even before Andrea could collect her thoughts, the nukxi received her neural impulses, and a full-sized nude Armenian male appeared in the centre of the nukxi. "And traffic comes to a halt in Celtia where Father Jyoti is rounding up his Children of the Sun … blah blah" went on the Armenian with the news. Andrea frowned at the sight of the image nude jocularly thrusting its fuzzy crotch towards her while recounting the news.

    The nukxi sensed Andrea’s disapproval and immediately boomed out the company policy, "Extremely sorry for the inconvenience. Andrea Trivedi, please accept this journey as a compliment." Then again, "Swapping news reader." A flash of static hit the Armenian, who disappeared for an instant but, was back again. "Technical fault. Extremely sorry for the inconvenience, Andrea Trivedi. Please accept your next journey as a compliment." But the Armenian went on with the news. Andrea sighed. She had not had sex since as far as she could remember but she was not particularly fond of Caucasian males.

    In the 22nd century, sex was truly passé. Most people lived alone and used mi-fi sex-toys, which directly sent electric pulses into the erogenous zones of their brains. This was undoubtedly better than sex. Of course, a miniscule underground network of taboo dating clubs still persisted for the more rustic, and Andrea, as a teenager, had used their services a couple of times but only to satisfy her curiosity about the real thing. The genetics revolution had moved from designer babies to baby malls. Finally, about half a century before, in order to curb malpractices, the ruling UGF had taken over the production of babies. It made more sense too, as they were concurrently able to check population levels. Andrea, himself, was a product of the new wave ‘baby machines’.

    She looked through the virtual window once again as the nukxi was now passing over the Atlantic Ocean. She took in the dark waters dancing below and sourly noted the unfamiliar twilight glow in the sky. The telltale lights of steamers and subs passing through the Suez Canal momentarily took her breath away but she knew that her problems still loomed large. The holographic nude Armenian news-announcer did nothing to make her feel better. She turned off her syncman as the nukxi has started rumbling unsteadily in response to the strange impulses from her brain. She could still use voice commands.

    The virtual window was lit up once more as they passed the northern tip of Africa and entered the Gulf of Arabia. This was the doing of the Sundance Solar Mirror: millions of solar-cell-powered lights that were fixed to strategic points on building surfaces. They created for the inhabitants an illusion of daylight and came with a simple on-off switch. Andrea was particularly proud of these toys as no other lighting company had as yet cracked the technology behind her Sundance Solar Mirror.

    The Armenian had begun a re-run of older topics like the new cult in Celtia. He announced, "The Children of the Sun are undoubtedly the most enthusiastic cult working towards holding the Sun back. Earlier the progenitor of this cult, Father Jyoti, had alleged that the Sun’s withdrawal from the solar system could only be blamed on people’s lack of respect for it. He said, "People are quite happy not to wear sunglasses anymore thanks to all this artificial lighting. But there was a time when our ancestors shed their clothes and bathed in the fresh, beautiful rays of the Sun on beaches, in backyards, in holy rivers."" Then the announcer changed her tone, "Our autocams will shortly bring you live coverage of Father Jyoti’s cult performing an ancient ritual to appease the sun" In a flash of static the Armenian was replaced by a live video showing a multitude of people in what appeared to be some kind of ancient city. Celtia, thought Andrea. Father Jyoti’s petit frame gestured magnificently as his amplified voice boomed over a large gathering of people. Andrea felt strangely drawn to this peculiar man. He was saying something about performing some ritual undressed.

    The nukxi was nearing the subcontinent crossroads where it would take the right gulf into India. This chip of the Asian continent had been artificially revived from a state of near rot and was now the only piece of land which bore a reminiscence to its natural state. It had been turned into the diamond of real estate and only the superrich could afford to live here. It was no surprise that Andrea did. She was looking forward to a long oxygen bath on getting home but Father Jyoti’s appearance made her change her mind. She ordered, "Destination Celtia, please." The nukxi’s voice box boomed its confirmations in reply and at the subcontinent junction over the Fields of Pakistan, they took the left for Europe.

    Andrea couldn’t explain her interest in the Children of the Sun if you asked her. But the answer was evident: she was desperate enough to try out anything. At Celtia’s nukxi port, she was forced to disembark because nukxis were not permitted to travel inside Celtia. She could hire a taxi, but she started walking instead. She felt like an alien walking on the sidewalks in Celtia. The streets were lit by old-fashioned solar lamps that could only make her shudder some more at the veracity of the solar regression. She marveled at the automobiles driving along the tar-paved roads of Celtia. She had considered getting himself a vintage model to boost up her image, but eventually scrapped the idea as practically useless. She had procured a map of Celtia at the nukxi port but she didn’t bother to read it. She trusted her instincts to follow the hoards of people that seemed to be moving in one particular direction. She had walked for about ten minutes when she began to hear the distant boom of a loudspeaker. Thinking that it could be Father Jyoti’s cult, she started running towards it along with the scores of other people who were either just as interested or plain curious.

    When she finally got there, she saw that it was indeed Fathers Jyoti’s cult surrounded by a humongous human gathering. As she elbowed her way through the crowd to get a better look at what was going on, she heard talk about the Children of the Sun performing a ritual known as the ‘Surya Namaskar’. Andrea was intrigued. When she finally broke into the front lines, she saw them. A sea of nude people, mostly women, doing some kind of drill. Father Subraman Jyoti was counting in Spanish, uno dos tres cuatro, as the nude assembly raised their hands to the sky, then to their feet, then lay on the road, then got up once again with their hands joined in deference to the Sun. "It has to be repeated nine times. That’s the third" said the red-haired man on Andrea’s right.

    By now, the crowd had been infected with the momentum of the drill group and they were all shouting together. Andrea joined them. Siete ocho nueve diez. In between repetitions, Andrea looked towards the sky hopefully. The sky stubbornly held on to its darkness. The shouting became a chant now and the gathering of onlookers began to sway as they counted. The red-haired man had really taken to Andrea after she had displayed unwavering enthusiasm for the proceedings in the clearing and smiled at her warmly. It looks like they still use sex around here, thought Andrea to herself. But she threw caution to the wind and linked her arm with that of the man as they swayed together and chanted together.

    As the drill group began their ninth and final repetition, a wave of ecstasy shot thrown the crowd. When they prostrated on the tar for the ninth time, a brilliant light dazzled in the sky and reflected off the surfaces of the dozen tinted buildings on both sides of the street. Whoops went up into the air. The red-haired man hugged Andrea happily. Father Jyoti burst into song and held his audience in a trance until a communicator buzzed. It was Pink. "I guess I was wrong after all. It’s only a retrograde. We’re back in business." Andrea smiled at the red-haired man, "Time to split, tooty-fruity! I need to go make some sunshine."


Anonymous Neeraj... said...

Amazing imagination! :)

3:40 AM, April 08, 2005  

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