A Few Things Ill Considered

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 63 Table of Contents Chapter 65

Chapter 64

The Eclipse Machine, September 7, 2058

I woke up early from a bad dream. My father was talking about the animals of the north that were disappearing — caribou, muskox and bears. Then I was a bearman breaking into a shack. Some guy was shooting at me. I woke up with a start, when a bullet hit me in the shoulder.

I lay in bed totally still — listening. The house was quiet. The clock read 5:13 and there was no way I was going back to sleep. With a sigh I rolled out of bed and into the washroom.

It’s a good thing to break your habits every once in a while just to discover where the edge is and this day seemed like a natural. In ten minutes I was out and strolling toward the university.

As I walked my mind drifted over my dream, UNGETF and Edie. I was still bothered by Jon’s reaction to my message about Matt. He seemed to have mistaken me for some lower order civil servant. His reply had come in the form of a voice only message that said, ConSec had informed him of Matt’s whereabouts and that he had better contacts than I did. I tried, rather unsuccessfully, to put his power games out of my mind. In Cartier Park, I startled a young coyote scavenging in garbage cans. It turned and ran off into the woods.

By the time I got to university, I was thinking about carbon catching plants. The EF1 lichen was reportedly growing aggressively across the Canadian Arctic and Group 10 was negotiating with the Russians to set up a pilot project in Siberia. I had a lecture in mid-afternoon, but until then I was free to work in the lab. At the drawing board was more like it. With all my other concerns, I only ever had 10 or 12 hours a week for my own projects. I buried myself in gene sequences, activation signals and transcription factors and didn’t come up until my padd alarm went off. I had given myself 40 minutes to grab a bite at the canteen before class.

It was an advanced lecture to grad students on artificial biology. Maybe I was tired; maybe I was discouraged; I don’t know, but the talk somehow never quite got off the ground.

I left the university feeling quite disconsolate. It was a hazy day and as I walked home, for the first time, I noticed through the clouds a dim patch on one side of the sun.

As soon as I got home, I logged on to check the sunshade count. It was 769. Other people had noticed as well. Edie mentioned there were discussion groups correlating the L1 construction with the visible smudge.

It’s funny how once a metaphor catches the popular imagination, it frames the discussion and sometimes the understanding. Already at that time, I began to hear the sunshade referred to as ‘the eclipse machine’. The fact that it was man made, thinner than paper, could be lightened or darkened and would eventually become a power source just didn’t cut any ice. It was the eclipse machine.

As my father used to say, some battles are not worth fighting. I noticed the variations in sunlight and tracked the sunshade count, but paid attention to the methane level and the average temperature in the Arctic. They were both still rising.


Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

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Last modified October 29, 2013

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