Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Roofing

Joe climbed down the ladder, his hands sticky with roofing tar. The
tropical sun beat down from a cloudless blue sky with sort of
tranquilizing calm that belied the destruction that had passed by
several days before.

At the bottom of the ladder, Joe carefully unstoppered a bottle of
xylene--there was a prohibition against hydrocarbons--and used it to
clean the tar from between his fingers. Since the collapse of the oil
economy, few people used good old tar to fill the chinks in between the
solar panels on the roof. An old timer, Joe felt no qualms about using
what worked. His work was now illegal but people were still willing to
pay his fees.

The hurricane came ashore on the Gulf side, just south of Port
Charlotte. The government was accusing the Government of the Windward
Islands had built the hurricane specifically to cause as much damage to
the United States as possible. Now that the Windwards and Monte Verde
had formed an economic cartel that controlled the harnessing of Atlantic
storms, the US could do little but complain. While the entire UN
security council had been squabbling about the oil of the Middle East, a
new form of ultra-cheap energy had emerged.

The tempest had been tamed. The hurricanes that had been the scourge of
the Carribbean had been harnessed for the production of energy. As
tropical storms emerged out of the ocean, the Windwards seeded the
fronts with tiny nano-bots that were both buoyed by and drew energy from
the storms. The bots contained enough intelligence to communicate with
one another and form a three-dimensional matrix throughout the storm.
Talking by laser light and beaming their energy to the ground as
microwives, they produced all the energy the globe needed.

There was one limitation to the design of these bots: they created heat.
At first, this heat increased the instability of the hurricanes and
compromised them as an energy source. The Windwards, however, had
discovered that this heat could also be used to control the hurricanes.
The football shaped bots had limited navigation through an integrated
nacelle. By positioning the exothermic bots within the incoming storms,
the rate of rotation could be roughly controlled. The storms could even
be stopped by concentrating the bots within a specific vertical horizon
and eliminating the convection currents that sustained the storms.

Of course, destroying the hurricane also meant destroying an energy
source. And controlling where the storms went ashore leant a
considerable amount of power to the Windwards position on the UN
Security Council.

None of this mattered to Joe. If anything, this change in energy sources
had been good for business. He and his family now travelled throughout
the south during hurricane season as a kind of itinerant maintenance
crew. Food had become more difficult to get and imported goods were
impossibly expensive, but at least work was plentiful. Especially if you
were willing to use outlawed hydro-carbons.

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