Monitoring: Ananya Sharma
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
11:10 p.m. India Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
7:40 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
Brigadier Rao is still and silent behind his desk. The palms of his hands are pressed together in front of him, as if in prayer. His breathing is steady, and he seems to be looking at something a long way off, even though the door to his office is closed. The brigadier is also, and most notably, covered in soda. The same is true of the papers on his desk, some of the floor, and Ananya herself.
She moved away from the desk a couple of minutes ago, but is still reluctant to sit back in her chair. She is, after all, still wet from the soda and it is starting to get sticky. Extending the present mess to one of the brigadier’s chairs will in no way alleviate her nervousness. This situation is, after all, entirely her fault.
“So,” the brigadier says at last, and he pauses for a moment as if to let that word hang in the air. “Do you have any idea how much electricity you had to generate in order to…” He pauses again, perhaps caught up in the ludicrousness of what he is about to say. “In order to make that explosion?”
“No, sir. I’m sorry, sir,” she says for the third or fourth time. Ananya looks to her father for reassurance that she hasn’t done something drastically wrong. Again, he gives an encouraging smile, and again it does little to actually relieve her when she can not just see but feel the mess that she has made in a brigadier’s office.
“Could you have done more?” he asks, and when she nods in response he shifts in his chair and settles back as if nothing strange had happened. “Then tell us more about this situation, Ananya. What should India expect, and how should we prepare?”
“I, aa…” Ananya stops and closes her eyes for a moment. She has done nothing wrong, and there is no reason to worry that she will be disbelieved. The evidence of what she says is all around (not to mention, on) her. “There are one hundred of us. I don’t know what they can do, only that each of us is different in some way. I don’t know how I know this either, only that I do, in the same way that I knew that I could do this,” she says, gesturing to the exploded soda. “I don’t know what my limit is, sir, or if I even have one, only that I haven’t hit my limit yet.”
The brigadier exchanges a look with her father, then asks, “Do you know if energy is consumed while you do this, or how much?”
Her father pulls lightly at his mustache. “Ananya, we should put you on a controlled diet and track your activities for the time being, to see if you’re consuming calories when you do this. But even if energy is required to produce energy, there are circumstances in which this gift would be useful, and if you don’t need anything, then the possibilities are very great.”
“Do you have any way of finding the other ninety-nine?” asks Rao. “Do you know if your gift came to you today, or if you merely received knowledge of it today? The difference is important. It is possible that one of the others, perhaps by accident, discovered their gift before today.”
“I am not sure, sir. I knew what I could do, and I knew that there were others who had gifts of their own, but nothing more specific.”
The brigadier nods. “We have to act quickly and find some way to identify any others in the country. If the distribution is even roughly proportional to population, then close to a fifth of these gifted children may belong to India. The same is true of China,” he adds, grimacing.
“If it is proportional to geographical area, then we are going to be much further behind,” her father says.
Rao nods. “Or it may be totally random. Exactly what each child can do may be more important than the number on one side, at any rate. Be that as it may, though, it will probably be a good idea for us to alert our allies. Certainly the United States and Israel, and probably Canada as well, which would mean telling the rest of the Commonwealth.” He pauses. “I am glad that the decision, and its consequences, will be made by someone whose pay grade is much higher than mine.”
“If you will excuse me, I have to make several calls.” Brigadier Rao sighs. “At least I am used to sleepless nights, yes?” He stands and walks around his desk. The brigadier is a little short, and she is tall for a fourteen-year-old girl, so he stands eye to eye with her as he extends a hand. “Thank you, Ananya. You have done a great service to India.”
All her past mistakes fall away in insignificance beside the swelling of her heart. Even the mess that she has made in his office is forgotten as she takes his hand. “Thank you, sir.”