|Chapter 73||Table of Contents||Chapter 75|
Waiting, September 18, 2059
I went back to the university and sat in my office. Luckily I didn't have any more classes that day. I tried to work, but it was no use. I ended up scanning half a dozen news channels looking for information about the sunshield and the rockets.
Finally I felt so useless, I headed back home. That meant I was offline for 35 or 40 minutes while I walked. I could have monitored the net with my padd, but I have always tried to pay attention to the real world around me: Be here now and all that. It would be far too easy to lose oneself in the 24/7 wraparound electronic world.
Edie and Anna were in the greenhouse. They had picked a mess of corn in the garden outside and were thinning the carrots. I plunked myself down on a bench and watched. Edie caught my mood and sent Anna into the house to get a platter for the corn.
"How are you?" she asked a little cautiously.
"Let's just say I've had better days."
"Do you want to talk about it?"
I shook my head. "No. I can't."
I picked up an ear of corn and started husking it. Edie brought over a pail and Anna showed up with a platter. We sat in a circle and cleaned all the corn while Anna regaled us with the latest adventures of her cartoon hero, Jib Jab the Junko, a flying marvel of a bird who seemed to survive no matter what was thrown at him.
The news broke about 10 o'clock that night. An amateur astronomer, making a sunset observation of the sunshield, caught the flare of a rocket making a course correction and when he expanded the field of view, he realized something was going on. Soon the whole world knew. The jig was up and I was able to tell Edie what I knew.
There was a lot of nervous speculation in the media. Some worried about war breaking out. The world held its breath. Before we went to bed, Carillon issued a press release that a rogue group had surreptitiously taken control of the sunshade to influence the Asian markets. What had looked like a 'causus belli' became a corporate dispute.
Time dragged by. Carillon announced that all L1 workers had been evacuated, except for one who refused to leave.
The next day officials posted warnings not to watch the sunshield explosions. Everyone who had a telescope was peeking.
For her birthday, Anna had a group of neighbourhood kids over. They had candy and cake. The kids all had pop-crackers and paper hats. Anna just beamed when Edie put a papier mache tiara on her head. We all sang Happy Birthday.
I was in the front room, half watching-half listening to the kids giggle and squabble over their cake and goodies when the news came in. The missiles had struck.
It was hard to get Anna to bed that night. She was so excited and more than a little wired on sugar. She kept telling us stories about little things that had happened at the party and before. She finally ran out of steam about eleven.
Edie came to bed with a happy smile. "She had a good day."
"Yeah, it was nice to see."
Edie grabbed my foot playfully. "Then why the long face?!"
"The sunshield. Now we have nothing."
"What are you going to do?"
"I don't know."
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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A Gentle Introduction.
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Last modified January 7, 2014