The Solar Cross

Part 07 of my third global warming science fiction novel “Last Week”Link to Part 01: “Back To Paradise Era”.

Tuesday, February 7, 2023, 1:12 P.M.

“I will have a big latte,” Satoshi said. “I recommend trying it.”

“Okay,” Angel said. “That will be my first one.”

Satoshi walked over to the Starbucks counter and came back with two big cups.

They had been through several stores, buying clothes for Angel. She always asked for his opinion on what she should buy. Especially with underwear. But she didn’t always listen to his opinion. She bought some much more sexier pieces than he would have. Angel changed into one set of her new acquisitions on the spot and had the rest delivered to her new address for the last week of her life, along with the clothes she had been wearing.

Then they had found this Starbucks on their way to the steak house Satoshi had in mind for lunch. Angel wanted to try the experience, and Satoshi had no reason to object.

“So, you want to know more about my World,” Angel said.

“Yes.”

“What do you want to hear first?” Angel asked

“Your social values. How does your society operate?” Satoshi asked.

“This might take a bit of time,” Angel said. “Let’s start with our Ten Commandments.”

“Ten Commandments?” Satoshi said. “Go ahead. But please take them one at a time.”

“Can you guess the first one?” Angel said.

“Let’s see. How about something basic like ‘Don’t kill’?”

“That’s wrong,” Angel answered. “Want to try again?”

“No. Just tell me.”

“It should be obvious. Our First Commandment is ‘Don’t burn fossil fuel’,” Angel said.

“That’s because it causes global warming?” Satoshi knew that much.

“Of course. And global warming is the biggest crisis humanity ever faced. Most of the misery will unfold in the next couple of centuries,” Angel said. “And there is more to it.”

“What’s that?”

“In our Century, we are fighting hard to keep runaway global warming from happening. We already have about 7 degrees Celsius warming compared to your World. That’s hell. Trust me. It really is. But if we can’t stop the positive feedback loops, it will be just another stage on our merry way to Venus syndrome. We’ll get several hundred degrees Celsius surface temperature, ending all life on our planet. You begin to understand why we don’t approve of burning fossil fuel?” Angel said.

“It’s hard to understand for me. I must confess, I even own a couple of gasoline cars. I never thought too much about it,” Satoshi said.

“How would your society feel if someone detonated a thermonuclear weapon right at the World Trade Center? Would you approve?” Angel asked.

“Not really. If we could bag them, they would get the death penalty, I guess.”

“Burning fossil fuel is viewed in about the same unfavorable way in our society. Remember when you kindly ordered an electric vehicle for our cab ride to your apartment yesterday?” Angel asked.

“Yes.”

“Thank you for that. Actually, I would have been utterly unable to ride in a stinking gasoline car. I didn’t tell you yesterday, but we are conditioned from a very early age against the idea. I would have been physically sick. You would have had to peel the Big Mac I had just eaten from the rear seats,” Angel explained.

“You do seem to feel strongly about the issue,” Satoshi said. “What happens if someone does burn fossil fuel in your society? I mean, do you have any punishment for that?”

“We do. We most assuredly do,” Angel said. “What did you say would be the punishment for nuking the World Trade Center?”

“The death penalty,” Satoshi said.

“How is that supposed to be a punishment?” Angel said. “I have read the Wikipedia articles. You are really living in Paradise Era, even the criminals. Giving them the death penalty is a reward, not a punishment.”

“What?” Satoshi didn’t understand.

“Come on. You are moderately smart, after all. Can’t you see it? The death penalty is administered in a way that makes the experience of death itself as pleasant as possible. Does that happen with normal people?” Angel asked.

“Now that you mention it, actually no,” Satoshi said.

“Of course not. Everyone dies someday. And many people die in some really painful way from some sort of cancer or other. So why does a criminal who has killed millions and maimed millions more get the privilege of a maximum pleasant death? They should get death, all right, but of course the maximum unpleasant variation, shouldn’t they?” Angel said.

“So what happens if someone burns fossil fuel in your society?” Satoshi said.

“They get the solar cross,” Angel said.

“What’s that?” Satoshi asked.

“You said you drive gasoline cars, so let’s assume that you are convicted for burning fossil fuel. We start out with normal crucifixion. Nail you to the cross, with some nails with really big heads. But we don’t erect the cross. We leave it right on the ground, so that it takes longer for you to die,” Angel explained.

“And what’s ‘solar’ about that?”

“Once you’re on the cross, the executioner uses some parabolic mirrors. Usually he would start aiming at the heads of the nails, so as to heat them up. Then, ever so carefully, he would proceed to slowly burn off the skin. Trust me, it is much less pleasant than your death penalty. The last time it actually happened was a year before I was born, though,” Angel said.

Satoshi didn’t say anything. His face had become slightly pale.

“If you want to, you can try the experience. You only need to put on my glasses, and I can make you experience that execution from the point of view of the person on the solar cross. Would you like to try it?” Angel asked.

“No thanks,” Satoshi said.

“Right answer. No one can stand it for more than a couple of seconds,” Angel said. “And, while you have been burning fossil fuel all right, you did so before it was illegal, so it would be rather unfair to punish you for that.”

“And it never happens in your World?” Satoshi said.

“No one in our society would dream of burning fossil fuel in the first place. The idea makes us want to vomit, as I already explained. Also, you can’t get any fossil fuel easily. It’s like someone in your World trying to get their hands on a nuclear weapon. Could you do it? With your unlimited supply of money?” Angel asked.

“I would be very hard pressed. I have to admit it. I would probably get caught. And I don’t have any desire to nuke New York anyway,” Satoshi said.

“We do have some video games with the solar cross theme, though. The executed are only virtual persons, of course. We like to use people from your and the last Century who have contributed strongly to making global warming worse as models for the purpose. It is in the official curriculum in high school, and we have national championships each year,” Angel said.

“There are some hard feelings about our generation?” Satoshi asked.

“Of course there are. Your stupidity and greed has caused misery on an extremely large scale. People in our World are not at all pleased with your record,” Angel said. “Let’s move on. I’ll give you the rest of the Ten Commandments now. Wait a moment, please.”

Satoshi said nothing. He waited.

Angel activated the Glaring Glasses for a moment. Then she handed them to Satoshi.

“Put these on,” Angel said.

Satoshi put the Glaring Glasses on. He was somewhat hesitant, though. That talk about “experiencing the solar cross from the point of view of the executed” had not helped.

He immediately heard the thundering sound of rock music and saw a large plate of stone filling his whole field of vision.

There were letters spread all over the plate. They emitted fire. And they read like this:

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

I. Don’t burn fossil fuel.

II. Don’t waste energy.

III. Don’t waste water.

IV. Don’t waste food.

V. Don’t damage your reputation.

VI. Remove CO2 from the atmosphere.

VII. Plant trees.

VIII. Love someone.

IX. Have fun.

X. Create.

It took Satoshi a couple of moments to take it in. Then he removed the Glaring Glasses and handed them back to Angel.

“Thank you. That was interesting, especially the last one. Create. I am trying to do that with my life,” Satoshi said. “What was that music? I’ve never heard it.”

“Rammstein. A German Band of your time,” Angel said. “The device automatically selects something it expects the user to like. Did you like it?”

“I certainly did,” Satoshi said. “Remind me to google them later.”

“I have finished my coffee,” Angel said. “I might explain more about these Commandments later. It’s a fascinating topic. But let’s go to the steak house you mentioned first.”

Link to part 08: Enjoying Paradise

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003, lenzblog.com).

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