The Future

Despite the early winter dusk, in the abandoned underground railway tunnel below the city there was a dim glow from the shipping containers that had been set down about five hundred metres from the entrance. At this time of night the three young men had parked their car without any problem in the laneway behind the office blocks and trudged over the wet bitumen through the barely visible archway and onto the uneven ground of broken sleepers, cracked rock and split iron rods. In the near darkness the sound of rubbish being blown about by an unexpected flurry followed them into the end of the narrow box.

Tom continued his introduction to the prospective investor

“Science has lost its revolutionary flavour. In the Middle-Ages science was an underground clandestine activity, mostly engaged in surreptitiously by a few intellectual adventurers. Now it is a target not an agent of revolution. The fields of technology are overcrowded and discoveries are increasingly difficult and expensive to make. Few elegantly dramatic or low-budget but rewarding theories, like relativity, await our discovery these days. But keep an open mind. I think we can surprise you”

In front of Lachlan one wall of each container was removed to link them each end to end, making a very long brightly lit space. The industrial wheels and pulleys were positioned at intervals right to the final wall and they seemed to be twisting a number of thin strands in a systematic manner. Just a faint whirr whispered like a library, hinting that there was something secret and special being accomplished here.

“This is the most versatile high performance reliable solution” Tom continued in superlatives describing the unique product that he explained could replace steel beams and cables, transmit and receive communication signals, carry and produce energy.

“It can be used in every building application from vehicles to skyscrapers and avoids the expense of using iron ore or carbon. This is the environment saviour the world is after”

Well it certainly looked like a low cost alternative in its current state, housed in a cheap makeshift factory in a disused dugout. But Lachlan had seen the engineering calculations and some film of the prototypes with experimentation into the various applications and he had a hunch these guys were the Australian version of Bill Gates and his friends, closeted away in a Seattle garage with their formative concepts of the internet. The idea that the intrinsic geometry of fibres could be harnessed to provide super strength and incredible qualities needed for the future of modern man in the years to come … this had a magic allure.

*

Summers seemed longer and hotter than ever these days. Tom flicked on the instant climate adjustment switch as he eased into the flight pod of his personal transporter. His company had revolutionised travel by introducing such lightweight aramid-titanium composites that these little jets were just everywhere now, cheap as chips and run on the smell of an oily rag he jokingly thought. No one used oil now. Not even for chips.

 

At the turn of the century twenty years ago he had struggled to explain how his composite solution would facilitate rapid design development. His vision of prototyping through from small batch manufacture to full scale production in a variety of sectors had been hard to sell at first. Now the automotive, civil engineering, aerospace and defence industries were revolutionised. Tom’s clothing-embedded chip communicated the message that Lachlan was now landing in Sydney ahead of schedule. No problem, the velocity turbo charger had simultaneously kicked in and the ETA of the smart little pod now matched his partner’s.

They agreed that national morale and pride were at stake in the competitive international arena. The global environmental impact of the invention could only be achieved if its use became a total planet encompassing reality and to do this they would have to remove any economic factors. This plan would turn world money markets on their heads as never before. Philanthropy was well respected generally, with a billion here and there to help vaccinate against malaria or send books to the Himalayas but to give away the key to solving the world’s dependence on fossil fuels and simultaneously provide a building material of hitherto undreamt of strength and durability? Would this bring peace or war?

Using an almost ancient calculation from 1973 the leaders rehashed a plan which controlled the balance of payments for every nation. Their surplus would have to be invested abroad so that the corresponding deficit would be floated, then provided with highly mobile funds from recipient countries this would be offset by the additional revenue derived from a new scale of fiscal and monetary policies. The developments caused concern that some countries would be unable to meet their obligations. However at the same time as stocks reduced there emerged a growing understanding of the possible benefits of global cooperation and in an interesting publication by the Independent World Bank the findings centred around success stories in formerly developing economies. The thinking went firstly through the stages of basic needs as a strategy of equalisation and fairness, but quickly moved on with proposals enabling enormous reallocation of wealth which broke down former political obstacles and welcomed a new age of prosperity and cooperation on a multilateral basis.

World development had become a term in colonial administration in the early twentieth century and its implications of ‘welfare’ were linked to political influence, trading and productivity but there always had been an element of humanitarianism present and now that took on emphatic importance. The anthropology of development had supposed limited beneficiaries in days gone by and due to this the motives and the interactions of the different interest groups were problematic when engaged in planning. But in a context of universal benefit the scheme had few opponents and a spirit of cooperation with unprecedented acceptance shocked the old leaders. Timetables were drawn up and deadlines met. From village level to super city, the exhortations and demonstrations of the proponents were met with positive reception. Traditional households and domestic economies were transformed by a social structure mimicking the new world order. Peace reigned supreme and wealth in the form of energy streamed into the veins of the neighbourhoods.

 

*

Tim’s early reputation of naturalist warrior had been slashed seemingly beyond repair by the right-wing shock-jocks earlier in the century, when global warming had seemed to disappear due to an unpredicted and temporary reduction in sunspot activity.  Now he was feeling vindicated. His foreshadowing of dried up river systems and empty dams in an unproductive Australian outback were realised but overcome by the new technology of energy producing fibre construction. He revelled in the temperatures of 58C that kept the New South Wales beaches as abandoned as the expanding deserts of the Sahara used to be before the wild rain of years ago turned them into surging flood plains finally inundated with wild rice crops. As always he met with Tom and Lachlan for their monthly evaluation of the innovations that Future Fibres had given the planet. The three old men gazed with a sense of awe at the glistening cables that threaded through the architectural sky-scape, the blood vessels and sinews of a motherboard coordinating every factor of physical and cyber necessity for the new millennium. The transformed rail tunnel system leapt from darkness into a glowing pulsating network now totally free from environmental impact.

 

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About clareseligman

A flash fiction/short story writer with an interest in the themes of cultural studies, travel, music, teaching, sailing and snow skiing.
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