Welcome to NaNoWriMo, where I - and thousands of other plucky souls - try to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.
You are reading "Tales of the Algorithm". A compendium of near-future sci-fi stories. Each chapter is a stand-alone adventure set a few days from now.
Everything you read is possible - there's no magic, just sufficiently advanced technology. Think of them as technological campfire horror stories.
Your feedback on each story is very much appreciated.
And so, let's crack on with...
Amun-Ra was a mighty god and was growing in power every day. All the gods of yore were envious. Their followers had long-since lost faith and that drained the gods of their strength. Once in a while an academic would write a paper about a destitute deity and the god would feel a brief surge of adoration before falling back into irrelevance. Amun-Ra was different. People had always worshipped the sun - and likely always would - but the Abrahamic faiths had diverted the people's attention. But now, the world was slowly turning in Amun-Ra's favour.
Surya didn't really care for religion. She just cared about fucking up infrastructure. It started casually enough. She'd seen a viral video of The Sunshine Band - a group of renegade solar installers out of Baltimore - and she decided to emulate them in Purley; London's least fashionable suburb. She borrowed some time on her school's 3D printer and fabbed up a bunch of perovskite solar cells. In the middle of the night she scrambled up the side of her local bus shelter, installed the panels, and rewired the lighting to accept the new power source. Then, just for good measure, she screwed in some USB ports so that passengers could charge their phones while waiting. She slipped away and awaited the fall out.
The knock from the police that she was dreading never came. Suburbanites loved the new charging options and thought it was very good of the council to refurbish the shelter. So she did it again. Every night she'd sneak out of her dad's home, find a new bus shelter, and start pirating sunshine. The government seemed supremely uninterested in fixing climate-change so, she figured, it was up to her to make a difference. She was a tiny spark and was determined to be a mighty flame.
It had spiralled out of control since then. Her friend Dom had been roped in to helping out. He had a bigger printer than the school's measly effort and was able to help her make more panels. His dad was an electrician, so he almost knew what he was doing when it came to rewiring. Their first target was a little too ambitious - a small sheltered car park. It took them all night to wire the illegal new panels into the grid and through the handful of EV chargers on the site. They were rewarded by a view of the sun's early rays tickling their panels and trickling electricity into the sleeping cars. Their anonymous blog about the stunt had been picked up by news outlets around the world. Soon, guerilla installations were popping up in every city.
She didn't mean to start a cult, but that's how it ended up. When picking a name for her anonymous blog, she took inspiration from a recent school lesson about the Ancient Egyptians. "Meryetamun" was the High Priestess of Amun-Ra and that seemed like a fitting name for a group of sun worshippers. Meryetamun blogged regularly about the installations they were doing and shared schematics for higher efficiency panels. Every post was seized on with great excitement. As her blog's following grew, so did her influence. Thus began the resurrection of Amun-Ra.
Over the years the group became more political. Meryetamun would post long rants about traitorous politicians and evil oil barons. The harsher she was, the more people fell under her spell. They encouraged her to greatness, all in service of Mighty Ra. It was yet another midnight and her team of merry pranksters were atop the roof of a mansion in the country which belonged to the CEO of a petrol company. The company had spent decades denying climate change and were on an intense lobbying push for a crackdown on domestic solar. So Meryetamun decided to teach him a lesson. The corrupt oligarch awoke to find his energy bills had dropped to zero. Thanks to the Herculean efforts of the gang, his entire roof was now covered in gleaming panels which had been hard-wired into his mains.
Meryetamun's followers emulated her every move. The world gradually became more eco friendly as every available surface was hijacked for solar. Hail Meryetamun! Hail Amun-Ra! The followers truly believed in the supremacy of the sun. And they would stop at nothing to ensure their master was worshipped. With every MegaWatt of solar power, Ra grew stronger. Ra grew hungry.
It hadn't been Meryetamun's intention to incite a kidnapping. Was it her fault if her blog's followers took her literally? Nevertheless, it seemed that the kidnapped scientists had made some remarkable breakthroughs in solar cell efficiency. Isn't it amazing what the threat of being fed to a crocodile can do! The plans for the new panels were made available to download and a loose network of manufacturers started churning out hectares of cells. Gorgeous, lightweight, flexible, tiny, ultra-efficient miracles. The hostaged scientists were released only on condition that they continue their marvellous work. Ra must be fed!
Deep in the valley between reality and faith, Amun-Ra began to eclipse all other gods. But as his cult grew, so did his envy.
𓈙𓆄𓅱𓀭 (Shu) was one of many children fathered by 𓇳𓏤𓁛 (Ra). Amongst 𓈙𓆄𓅱𓀭's many responsibilities were lions, peace, and wind. The cult of 𓈙𓆄𓅱𓀭 was also in ascendance. Father and son locked in an eternal struggle for dominance. The new planet Earth was dedicating GigaWatts of energy to these old gods, lifting them from forgotten relics to vibrant and powerful manifestations of the divine. But the gods of old were now immortal rivals. After so many years of dormancy, they couldn't conceive of collaboration. Humans had outgrown pantheism and it seemed there was room for only one god.
Having carpeted the world with solar panels, 𓇳𓏤𓁛's followers started bombing wind turbines.
A field of turbines was, in their eyes, an abomination. An affront to their new god. Each towering windmill was a slur against the awesome power of mighty 𓇳𓏤𓁛 and must be destroyed. Meryetamun was the chief instigator of this campaign. She alone spoke directly to 𓇳𓏤𓁛 and he spoke through her. The acolytes knew that the supremacy of their cause was not to be halted. Solar must win; it was imperative. There was no choice, it was demanded of them.
Shattered carbon-fibre blades littered the land. Celebrations and feasts were held whenever an offshore wind farm drowned. Wind power was sacrilege which had no place in the new world. The devastation was complete. 𓈙𓆄𓅱𓀭's followers were converted - by force if necessary. They watched as their totems to the sky god were dismantled, then they were put to work constructing floating platforms to harvest solar power from the vast expanses of the ocean.
It still wasn't enough. There was another god who set out to thwart 𓇳𓏤𓁛. On learning of the destruction wrought upon her twin, 𓏏𓈖𓆑𓏏𓆘 (Tefnut) vowed revenge. The day she had been married to her brother, she had sworn to destroy all his enemies. Apparently, that now included their father. It was true that she was a minor goddess but, although her name had changed over the years, people still prayed to her. Humans all over the world, without knowing it, summoned her whenever they longed for rain.
𓏏𓈖𓆑𓏏𓆘 cried. An endless downpour for the loss of her brother/lover. Her tears filled the skies with thick black clouds which smothered the solar panels beneath. As the panels power levels dropped, 𓇳𓏤𓁛 became incandescent with rage. His daughter was now a traitor and needed severe punishment. By now, Meryetamun was an ancient and much venerated priestess. Her gnarled fingers still tapped out endless sermons about 𓇳𓏤𓁛's majesty. Her thin and reedy voice was heard by several billion people.
There was no need to kidnap scientists any more, they willingly turned their devotion to the problem at hand. A geoengineering challenge like no other - the complete eradication of all clouds. A battle was fought in the skies. Sun versus rain. 𓏏𓈖𓆑𓏏𓆘's grief and rage and heartache and spite were nothing next to the endless power of the sacred flame. She was vanquished. Earth bathed in endless blue skies. Solar power had conquered all and the world was finally at peace.
It still wasn't enough. When 𓇳𓏤𓁛 first ruled the world, the idea of mortal flight was a fantasy. But now his subjects were able to fly far beyond the atmosphere. A vast fleet of satellites were constructed in order to reach a more pure view of his magnificence. Every day another constellation unfurled its solar arrays, soaked up the photons whipping through the æther, and beamed the electricity down to Earth. Praise be.
Meryetamun's eyes were old and failing. It was a miracle that she had survived the immense gravitational forces which had lifted her rocket into orbit. All around her floated devotees, priests, and technicians. This was her last act of service for a god who had given so much and asked for so little. Through the porthole she could see the planet below. Not the famed "pale blue dot" seen by those who had witnessed it last century, of course. There were no clouds to obscure the beautiful view. The Earth was black. Every surface was dedicated to absorbing the love which shone down from above.
The assembled helionauts gathered around a central podium and held hands. Each of them knew that this was the culmination of their sacred work. They meditated on the journey they had undertaken to get here and the great adventure that was to come. As one, they depressed the button on the podium which set the controls for the heart of the sun.
"Finally!" Thought 𓇳𓏤𓁛, "A human sacrifice."
I'd love your feedback on each chapter. Do you like the style of writing? Was the plot interesting? Did you guess the twist? Please stick a note in the comments to motivate me.