Heroes Save the World

Not Too Small, ch. 8: Ananya Sharma

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Monitoring: Ananya Sharma
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

1:30 p.m. India Standard Time
Thursday, February 20th, 2014
8:00 Coordinated Universal Time
Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Fast forward—

Prime Minister Singh doesn’t want to weaponize her. Her father, especially and understandably, does not want to weaponize her. Ananya can follow the chain of logic in each case, and truth be told she doesn’t exactly want to weaponize herself either, but it happens to be the case that she can be weaponized, and she thinks that it is incumbent upon her to figure out how it could be done, if it turns out that she has to be made into a weapon.

So here she is, surrounded by the guts of countless disemboweled tasers, stun batons, and miscellaneous electronics. Before her on the worktable is some sort of electro-Frankensteinian monstrosity, the product of hours of trial and error. Ananya doesn’t think that her father would approve of the risks that she’s taking in conducting this experiment, but that’s why she’s working in a garage while everyone else is away, at work or at school.

Ananya isn’t attending school anymore. This is a relief, because school is just a distraction now that she has been blessed, but it is also an unfortunate thing. It pains her to be ungrateful, but the fact that she has been allowed to withdraw from school is a confirmation to her that she is always going to be defined in relation to the blessing that she has received, and each moment that she is here and not there is a reminder of that. Part of her, a miserly and prideful part of her, wishes that she had been given nothing, so that whatever influence she could have on the world would belong to her alone.

Instead, Ananya may be an integral piece of Indian infrastructure. They have yet to build a machine that can handle her full output, whatever that might be, but the estimates so far suggest that she could supply power for hundreds of thousands of people. It is a far cry from what would be needed to provide power to all of India, but still, it would be clean, and if it were rationed properly then she could give to far more people than that.

And here she is, trying to find some way to turn herself into a weapon.

As she broods, she fiddles more with the copper wires and batteries before her. It isn’t clear to her how long she’s been standing here and working on this, fueled mostly by food bars and soda. The alarm on her phone is set to go off early enough that she’ll have time to clean up before anyone gets home, but all that she knows is that it hasn’t gone off yet.

Maybe she should get used to staying in rooms and losing track of the time. That’s what her future is likely to be, isn’t it? They’ll bring her to a room with a comfortable chair, and she’ll mark the time by books read and films watched as she feeds power to the city. There will be someone to attend to her needs so that she doesn’t have to go far, and a large window or two so that she can see outside. They’ll encourage her to actually go out, of course, but the more effective she is, the more she can do with every second that she stays inside.

They don’t know what her true potential is, in any meaning of the word. Not even Ananya does. It’s frustrating for her, but each time she overloads yet another machine it’s a cause for celebration to everyone else. Her importance becomes that much greater, without any intention or will on her part. Maybe she will be able to keep an entire city running, but if she fed electricity to the whole world and history remembered her forever, it would do so only long enough to mention, in an offhand kind of way, that she was just lucky. If Ananya is going to deserve to have a legacy, and not just have one that fell into her lap, then some of it has to be her own doing, even if it is a little bit terrible.

Her phone beeps and Ananya jolts in surprise, roused from her thoughts. She puts aside the broken taser and begins to clean up–wrapping electrical tape around the ends of wires, removing batteries, and gingerly setting each piece in a couple of small cardboard boxes that she could place at the bottom of her closet.

As she walks the first box out of the kitchen and into her room, Ananya thinks back to the machines that she is being tested on, and she has an idea. They can’t simply go ahead and test her on a power plant, because if she overloaded and destroyed it then they would be down one power plant and still not know what her limit was. That potential blackout which is being guarded against, however, could also be used. Cascading failures in a power grid are difficult to handle. When they happen, all that one can hope is that the process peters out sooner rather than later, because there’s no way to send a signal fast enough to alert anyone.

As it stands, an electroshock weapon is the only available way for her to extend her reach, but targeting infrastructure might be a viable tactic as well.

Or Ananya could choose to not do any of that, she knows, and be content with supplying power. What matters more–what the history books will write about her, or whether she deserves to be remembered at all? The latter thing is something that others might know, especially if it’s big and dramatic and has some flash to it, but it could just as easily be something small, which only she knows. Anybody could sit and fuel a power plant or twelve, but how many people would hold back their hand from wreaking destruction?

If Ananya hits on an ingenious way to extend her reach and destroy the infrastructure of an entire city, then she will certainly have earned her legacy, but perhaps she could earn it just as well by turning away from that path. Is this about her country or about how she will be perceived by future generations? Does India need her to be a weapon, or are her people unknowingly waiting for her to be content with a humbler path??

She is standing at a brink, and it is up to her to decide whether the world learns that she was ever standing there.

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