Sunlight, ch. 06: Vihaan Sengupta

Monitoring: Vihaan Sengupta
Jalandhar, Punjab, India

3:35 p.m. India Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
10:05 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Rewind—

As was typical for the Children, Vihaan goes from revelation of his powers to experimentation in short order. Seeing as he is living on India Standard Time, he has the good opportunity to be riding the school bus when it happened, and there is someone sitting beside him, who he can test his newfound powers on.

He doesn’t need to do it more than once to get the confirmation that he is looking for, at least for the present, but as the bus comes close to his stop, Vihaan pauses to give counsel. “Just tell your parents what’s worrying you,” he says before he slips away from his seat. Vihaan had boarded the bus as a fourteen-year-old boy, and now disembarks as a saint or minor god.

Or at least that’s what how it seems, but Vihaan can’t explain what exactly is going on. He isn’t a swami or fakir or any other sort of person who might deserve supernatural powers. There has been no training or process of enlightenment, nor any kind of blessing (so far as he can tell). That may be the oddest part of it all, and the most disturbing. There is no good religious framework through which he can interpret these events, and the good old materialist understanding of the universe is clearly lacking. By the time that he goes to bed, and has had a chance to practice on his siblings, Vihaan feels as though he has actually lost knowledge, even though he has really just learned that what he thought he knew is false.

It is disappointing, He would prefer that he were the one who was mad, and not the world, but he can’t go through life with the belief that nothing that he sees is real. Just to live, he will have to accept something, so he accepts this: His name is Vihaan Sengupta, and he can read the thoughts of other people.

And he ought to do something. It is not that being in possession of this power implies that he has also been given a responsibility; Vihaan is wary of assuming too much, now that he it looks like he can trust very little of even what science has discovered. He does, however, feel that he has an obligation regardless: that he ought to do something, because he can.

That is no excuse for acting hastily and inadvertently hurting someone, however. Again, he has received no specific injunction against doing so, but if Vihaan has not been given moral instruction from whatever being or force is responsible for his empowerment then he can still make those decisions on his own, and he chooses to value caution and prudence.

A week passes, and Vihaan is no closer to deciding on a course of action than he was before. Another week after that, however, and he decides to double down on his original position. His power exists, which means that there are ninety-nine others like him, in accordance with the other part of the revelation that he received. It is too much to hope that they will all be patient, and therefore the wisest thing to do might be to wait, see what they are doing, and help those who should be helped and hinder the rest. Without coordination, plans will collide. He will be doing the world no favors by adding another plan to the pile.

The plan, then, the better plan that will hopefully not collide with anybody else’s plans, is to wait until he knows what some of the other plans are and can evaluate whether and how he can involve himself in them, and in the meantime build on his capacity to be useful.


Kolkatta, West Bengal, India

2:40 p.m. India Standard Time
Saturday, May 24th, 2014
9:10 Coordinated Universal Time
Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Fast forward—

The air is thick with incense, but not as much as Vihaan is used to. When he tried to set the proper amount, or what he said was the proper amount, it got to be too much for the man that he is sitting in front of and they had to air out the room so that he would not be disoriented. After all, he might not be able to properly evaluate Vihaan’s (purported) abilities if he were occupied with a choking fit.

“I sense that there is this decision that you have made, you are still wondering about it,” he says. “Not often, yes, not often, but sometimes you are unsure as to whether you made the right decision.

The man, Divyansh, stares back at him, nodding slightly but clearly unimpressed. Vihaan can’t blame the man for thinking that he’s a fraud, even if he is currently reading the man’s thoughts about how unexpectedly dull and formulaic this test is turning out to be. He did, after all, specifically train himself in cold reading techniques, not just to get his subject’s mind walking down the right path (as it turns out, VIhaan can only read conscious thoughts) but also to supply an easy explanation to anyone who is trying to figure him out.

“Now, I’m getting something from your grandfather,” he says. “Wait, no, your grandmother,” as soon as Divyansh thinks about how both of his grandfathers are alive. “Yes, that’s it. Samaira? No, Prishna? Pihu? No, Pari. That’s it. Pari,” he says, though Divyansh had thought of his grandmother’s name as soon as Vihaan supplied the first wrong one. “She wants you to know that she’s very proud of you, even though you’re a skeptic and you don’t believe that she’s actually trying to communicate with you or even still alive. You’re honest, and there are a lot of frauds out there. She’s glad that you’re exposing them.”

From Divyansh there is now unadulterated anger, and a bit of uncertainty about whether it’s right to be so furious with a child. Vihaan is the youngest person to apply for these tests, after all. Divyansh would prefer to believe that he’s just a kid who’s been manipulated by his parents into being a faux-mystic money ticket for them.

“Enough,” Divyansh says, as someone hands him a sealed pack of cards. “Let’s proceed with the first test.” He opens the pack, plastic wrap crinkling in his hands, and feeds it a shuffling machine on a small table to his left. It spits out a card, which he retrieves without letting Vihaan see it. A quick glance, and then he sets it down on the table.

Vihaan will be confronted with a series of twelve cards. His success, based on the rules of the test that both he and Divyansh had agreed upon, requires that he correctly call six out of the twelve to pass it.

He puts his hand over Divyansh’s. “Are you thinking of your card?” he asks, but the question is superfluous. Vihaan already knows that he is. Ace of Hearts, he reads, and “Six of Hearts,” he says.

Without saying anything, Divyansh repeats the process.

Two of Spades. “Four of Clubs.” Two of Hearts. “Queen of Diamonds.”

They go through all twelve, and Vihaan fails every one except the eleventh, which he correctly calls as the Four of Spades. Vihaan complains about the lightened incense on the fourth failure, but Divyansh will have none of it (and rightly so, Vihaan acknowledges in his head).

“You agreed to the rules. If you couldn’t perform under them, then you could have said so in the beginning.”

Fair enough, Vihaan thinks. I just need an excuse for the believers.

They run through two more tests, similar to the first, and Vihaan performs just as badly on those. That’s fine.

The Prabir Ghosh Challenge offers two and a half million rupees to anyone who can demonstrate proof of supernatural powers. That’s a decent amount of money and the biggest single payout in his short career as a psychic.

It’s not that much, though. This time next year, he’ll be making that much every two months. Maybe more, if his career really picks up steam. There’s no end to how credulous some people are, or how much they’ll pay to communicate with the dead.

He can afford to lose this contest, and that’s the point of coming here. The believers will always believe; this will not harm his potential to make money and connections to use later, when the others have revealed themselves. In the meantime, though, he’s discredited himself. After all, what bonafide supernaturalist would voluntarily take a challenge like this and fail?

One that was trying to hide.

There are ninety-nine others like him, and he can expect that at least some of those will be looking for people like themselves. Let them reveal themselves. His plan, inasmuch as it is merely a plan to assist those who deserve it, requires that he be able to locate them. Being located, though, is…not in the cards, as it were.

Vihaan and Divyansh shake hands at the end, and he makes one last excuse for his poor behavior. Divyansh doesn’t even grace this one with a response, and Vihaan doesn’t have to read the man’s mind to know how dismissive he’s feels. What Vihaan especially enjoys is the small note of confusion in the man’s mind: Divyansh can’t figure out why Vihaan is smiling.


Jalandhar, Punjab, India

1:25 p.m. India Standard Time
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014
7:55 Coordinated Universal Time
Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Fast forward—

Vihaan has an office now. It’s small, admittedly, and it’s just a converted room in his house, and ever since he switched to correspondence school he’s used it more for schoolwork than for business, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it exists. He feels so official that it hurts. Maybe he should get a visiting card: Vihaan Sengupta, Certified Psychic.

The certification isn’t a lie, either, even if the paperwork was from societies for paranormal research. That’s fine, though. It’s all fine. Lots of people eat that stuff up, and for everyone else it’s just one more reason to dismiss him.

Now that’s what he should really have on his card: Vihaan Sengupta, Nothing to See Here.

The best part of this office is the chair. It reclines all the way back, so his back is completely parallel with the floor. He bought it with his own money, too, which is nice.

There’s a light knock on the door, and his mother comes in. Well, there goes the illusion of being all official and business-like. “Vihaan, there’s someone to see you.”

That’s odd. He doesn’t remember setting any appointments. Still, he can always do his schoolwork later so his schedule is effectively open and it wouldn’t be polite to leave them waiting.

No sooner does he express this position than a man steps past her, pausing briefly to thank her again before he takes a seat in front of Vihaan’s desk. He’s middled-age, probably somewhere around his late forties, with a hard, rough face, like he had spent his youth smashing it against granite until his face toughened up, and bits of it had chipped off in the process.

His smile is unexpectedly bright and inviting, as if he had stolen it off of somebody else, a person with softer features than his own.

“I know that I already sat down, but we should shake hands,” he says, reaching over the desk. Vihaan reciprocates without unthinking, and just as reflexively exercises his power.

Found you, the man thinks, and Vihaan recoils violently, slipping away from the man’s hand and out of his chair, onto the floor.

“W-What? You can’t—you c-couldn’t… “ Vihaan pauses, hand pressed against his chest, and tries to not hyperventilate. “Who are you? How?”

There are too many questions. He can’t do this. What’s going to happen to him?

“I’m a friend,” the man says, and Vihaan forces himself to calm down. Whether or not it’s a lie, Vihaan can’t do anything about it. Not for the first time, but definitely more strongly than ever before, Vihaan wishes that his power came with a truth-detecting component, but unfortunately that aspect only functioned insofar as somebody consciously thought about the fact that they were lying. Someone who was good at it could conceivably lie without thinking. In fact, Vihaan is pretty sure he had read an article about how some people are just able to convince themselves that anything is the truth, on command, like they’d walked out of Nineteen-Eighty-Four.

Or something. He had read it awhile ago.

The man waits for Vihaan to return to his seat, and then for Vihaan to speak. “Okay. So. First question: Who are you?”

“Colonel Rachit Sharma. I’m here as a representative of the government,” he says, and Vihaan feels like he’s in danger of falling out of his seat again.

He isn’t dead yet, though, and this is even more evidence that Vihaan’s options are, well, limited to say the least, so he might as well stay where he is, at least until he gets more information and he gets more options.

After another minute of silence, which Colonel Sharma again does not interrupt, Vihaan finds his next question. “How?” A pause. “I mean, why? I-I mean, I failed the tests. You should have passed me by. I’m not the only kid who’s done tests, not even the only one to get some of the endorsements that I have.”

Vihaan had wondered how long he should wait, and whether his age would be too much of a tip-off for him to successfully obscure it. The other ninety-nine were children too, after all. After much deliberation, he had decided that the risk was reasonable, compared to the opportunity cost that he would have to pay by waiting for a year or three before he started to exercise his power.

Maybe he made the wrong decision. Vihaan isn’t sure, though. Colonel Sharma’s reply makes everything very doubtful.

“Everyone that we’ve found like you has been born on December 31st,” he says. “Also, you’re prone to more academic success than average, although that isn’t a surefire sign because there can be confounding factors and reasons why even a bright child would receive poor grades. Really, it comes down to your birthdate. Someone who is doing extremely well in school is certainly noteworthy, but for other reasons, and there are lots of babies born on any day of the year, and plenty of fourteen-year-olds in this country, and you are correct that it is not unheard of for a teenager to evince supernatural powers, but all of these things combined? It makes us suspicious.”

Vihaan nods glumly, but does not say anything.

“Be more cheerful, Vihaan,” the colonel says. “What you did was very clever. You couldn’t have known that your birthday would betray you, and as far as that goes, you would have to have literally done nothing in order for us to overlook you. That would have been a waste of a good gift, just as much as if you didn’t apply your intelligence.”

“What now?” asks Vihaan.

“We talk for a little bit more, and then I give you my contact information and leave you to think about it.”

“You’re trying to recruit me?”

“We would have to stretch to find a combat utility for your powers, and thankfully enough, it isn’t hard to come up with other applications.” Colonel Sharma sounds like he’s genuinely grateful for that. “You would be put in a strictly non-combat role, then, assisting your government through other means. In addition, you would be put in contact with others like yourself, which I’m sure is an interesting prospect.”

“What can the others do?”

“A variety of things,” says the colonel. “A variety that is classified unless you agree to work with us.”

“How long? What will it be like?” asks Vihaan, and Sharma pulls out some sort of brochure and sets it on the desk. It’s about life in the armed forces.

“Sort of like that, with equivalent pay and a little less physical training, to be renegotiated when you reach your age of majority. I can’t tell you more unless you accept, and then we’ll talk with your parents and make sure that they accept. Since they seem to believe that you have supernatural abilities, what we tell them will be reasonable close to the truth.”

Vihaan picks up the brochure. “I don’t have to make a decision now?”

“No. But we’d appreciate getting one within a week. It would be nice to know where we stand with respect to each other.”

He nods, then looks down at the brochure again. It might be time to do some research on what military life is like. “I’ll think about it,” he says. “I’ll let you know.”

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Sunlight, ch. 2: Ananya Sharma

Monitoring: Ananya Sharma
Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, India

3:20 p.m. India Standard Time
Sunday, October 19th, 2014
9:50 Coordinated Universal Time
Sunday, October 19th, 2014

Fast forward—

Ananya shuffles the card back into the deck and draws another index card. “Next question: What are the aims of the Indian Ocean Rim Association?”

With additional children in the program, a makeshift educational program had been established. Ananya and the others have been mostly allowed to manage themselves, so long as their test scores keep up. The decision could have been due to any number of things: a lack of interest in running classes (maybe, but that implied an inability to find teachers who could be given security clearance or even a halfway decent cover story, which was less likely), trust in their capabilities to educate themselves (possible, especially since they all seem rather bright and able to learn under the proper circumstances—a noteworthy fact in itself), or an attempt to give them some measure of independence and at the same time keep them occupied and out of trouble (also likely, though it is a small source of conflict for Ananya, as she isn’t sure whether she ought to take it as a patronizing manipulation and feel offended).

The curriculum is a little nonstandard. There is an emphasis on international relations. Ananya has a feeling that some of it is more advanced than what most fourteen-year-olds get up to.

“All of them?” asks Aadhya, and Ananya nods. “Okay, aa, economic development, disaster risk management, maritime safety, cultural development, scientific development…” She stops, and looks at Ananya. “Still more?” she asks, but Ananya doesn’t respond. Aadhya bites the edge of her lip. “Oh. Environmental conservation.”

They had been relocated again, this time to Hindon Air Force Station. Nobody is sure exactly what why, except that it has something to do with one or more of them, but they all have their theories. Being prepared for an immediate mission isn’t possible (or at least it shouldn’t be, if their superiors have any sense of timing and forewarning), and Ayaan would be better-suited to a factory than a hangar if they were trying to improve on the assembly line that been set up for him. Kyra and Aadhya’s powers, to remove herself from people’s memories and to slip objects in and out of a small extradimensional pocket, respectively, didn’t seem like they required any kind of location change to take advantage of.

Maybe Rudra? His ability to touch a humanoid object—dolls, mannequins, statutes, it didn’t matter, though there was apparently a point where it no longer looked human enough to count as a valid target—and animate it was interesting, but not incredibly useful, seeing as it turned lifeless again as soon as he was no longer in contact with it. After a few tests a couple of months ago, the military seemed to have lost interest in him and Ananya isn’t sure why they would need him here now. Ananya had thought up a couple of applications herself, but wearing a humanoid shell as armor wasn’t all that great next to Ayaan’s ability to make any outfit tougher than kevlar and lighter than a feather.

“Okay, and what’s the ultimate aim of the IORA?” she asks Aadhya.

“By promoting sustained and balanced economic development across the region, India itself is bolstered and the region as a whole becomes invested in the current order. Stability therefore increases, which is better for everyone, everywhere. Eventually,” Aadhya adds, a tone of uncertainty entering her voice. She’s probably thinking of the people who are hungry now, if past conversations are any hint. Ananya can’t say that she blames her, but…

For that matter, the relocation was possibly for Ananya herself, if Hindon was better-suited to being a power plant than any of the alternatives (an important consideration, Ananya notes to herself, is defensibility; she can’t generate electricity for anybody if a foreign power finds out and decides to bomb her). Recent tests showed that she had a capacity to provide power to at least a million people if their usage was kept to a reasonable level, and the government might have decided that it was finally time to capitalize on her potential in a way that warranted putting her under security.

Nobody has set her up in front of a power station yet, however, so if that’s the plan then they’re taking their time in putting on the finishing touches. It’s been two days already.

Ananya slides the card to the back of the deck. She’s about to read off the next one when a tapping sound grabs her attention. It’s her father, rapping his knuckles on the door.

“There’s a show ready,” he says. “They’ve been working on something.”

“What did they do?” asks Ananya, but her father only motions for them to follow, so she and Aadhya slip off the couch and exit the room. They collect Kyra, Ayaan, and Rudra and then take an elevator to another floor, where her father leads them to a vast. The ceiling looms over them, at least eight stories high, and the chamber stretches out far in either direction, the largest room that Ananya has ever seen in her life. She can’t imagine how many planes this is supposed to hold, but there are only a few of them here, plus one unidentifiable mass that’s hidden beneath a large brown canvas.

There are a few other people present, a general and some other officers, a few enlisted members, and a couple of people who aren’t in uniform and might be contractors of one sort or another or just politicians that she doesn’t recognize. For the first time, it really strikes her just how large an operation it is that they’re running. Hindan is the largest airbase in on the continent; India might be concealing the exact capabilities of its “empowered humans” (as Ananya overheard somebody calling them), but they’re evidently not being too paranoid about it all.

“Are you ready, Rudra?” asks her father, and he nods and heads to whatever is concealed under that canvas. Someone that she doesn’t recognize hands him goggles and a pair of gloves, and he disappears beneath the canvas.

“What is this?”

“Wait and see,” answers her father. His expression is…not grim, exactly, but severe. Not angry or disgusted or sad, but less than pleased. She only catches it in profile, because he doesn’t turn away from the canvas when he answers her and she doesn’t lean away from his side to see more of his face.

A mass shifts beneath the canvas. As it begins the rise, the cover slips away, first revealing a hand, then an arm, then the whole body of a huge sculpture, nearly tall enough to reach the ceiling. Its hands are wrapped in cloth that, by its garish purple coloration, must have been altered by Ayaan at some point. The thing’s face is monstrous, with bulging yellow eyes and huge tusks jutting out from a shallow mouth. A recessed viewport sits in its chest, and covering it is another shirt of Ayaan’s, transparent rather than colored but presumably as resilient as anything of his other alterations.

“It’s big,” Kyra whispers, and Ananya nods wordlessly. The more amazing thing to her is how smoothly it moves. She had seen Rudra animate smaller things, dummies and action figures and the like, but those had been small. It made intuitive sense that they move so, but some part of her keeps expecting for this giant to be a lumbering brute. This is nothing like that, however. There is some uncertainty in its movements, definitely, but that clumsiness seems due more to Rudra’s own unfamiliarity than any fault on its part. Rudra draws a hand close to the viewport, so that he may examine it, and as its fingers flex and clench they move like quicksilver, as though there were many hinges in them.

Most eerily of all, the thing itself doesn’t make noise. She expects it to creak, like something under pressure, not move in silence. Oh, sure, there are sounds as its feet land on the hangar floor, great booms that echo off the walls, but its movement does not make noise in itself, more like a living being than a machine.

“This is just another prototype, isn’t it?”

Her father nods. “He won’t be able to hear in there, and an alternative to a window, however shielded it might be, would be appreciated.” He frowns.

“How big can it get?” Ananya asks him, as Rudra’s stone body stalks across the hangar floor. Again, the ease with which its body moves is striking, but more startling is how it accelerates and then stops on a dime.

“We don’t know. Steel and concrete alone could advance us far enough on their own, but there are other unknowns. Most of them have to do with the fact that there’s a limit to how much we can do to a frame before Rudra becomes unable to animate it, and our lack of knowledge about how he’s altering it. Look at how it seems to flow as he directs it. He isn’t just propelling it. There are changes being worked upon it, and we aren’t sure how those might affect, for example, the tensile strength of the concrete. We don’t want to build a twenty-story suit only for it to trip, shatter, and kill him.”

A metal rod is in the stone figure’s hands, plucked from a pile of materials that had been left beside its original resting place. The rod bends in its hands, despite being as thick around as its wrists.

“He still isn’t very useful. This is still nothing compared to a nuclear weapon,” Ananya says, and she marvels internally at how the world has gone down such a path that she could be saying these things as a reassurance. Even as that, though, it fails. Her father shakes his head, and she tries again. “It isn’t very good even to help out with construction. Maybe as a symbol, but you don’t need to send him out to battle to do that.”

“They’re going to keep looking.” He frowns and glances away. “When somebody hands you a tool that you don’t recognize, you don’t set it down and forget about it. You find something that it’s useful for, and if that doesn’t work then…” He pauses. “Then you give up, if you have any sense. But sometimes you make a situation that it’s useful for. I didn’t join the Army and spend most of your life in far-off places so that my country could make a child soldier out of you.”

“I just make electricity,” she says, and for the first time it seems like another blessing that she would had to try so hard to devise a military utility for her abilities. She mentions nothing of those plans, of course, though they still lurk at the back of her head, waiting while she tries to be useful in other ways.

Her statement doesn’t seem to comfort him very much, and she can understand why. “He could be my son as easily as you are my daughter. Any of you could be my children.”

“I don’t want that to happen,” Ananya says, unsure whether she’s lying, or by how much. “But if India does need us…”

His hand clenches at his side, nearly—but not quite—forming a fist before it relaxes. “I won’t let it come to that.”

Sharp as Sword Blades, ch. 11: Ayaan Yadav

Monitoring: Ayaan Yadav
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

3:15 p.m. India Standard Time
Friday, August 15th, 2014
9:45 Coordinated Universal Time
Friday, August 15th, 2014

Fast forward—

Ayaan isn’t bitter at the turn that his career has taken. Annoyed, sure, but not bitter. Ayaan doesn’t consider himself to be overly selfless–you have to help yourself before you help others, after all –but it would take a spectacular amount of selfishness and lack of perspective to be resentful of his present circumstances. He’s isn’t masking up to fight crime anymore, but he’s still doing good, and now he’s got nice company to do it with. At the worst, he’s back where he started before he got powers, and that isn’t too bad. And it goes a lot more smoothly than it did at the factory.

Continue reading

Awful Shadow, ch. 3: Aadhya Verma

Monitoring: Aadhya Verma
Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India

3:25 p.m. India Standard Time
Saturday, May 10th, 2014
9:55 Coordinated Universal Time
Saturday, May 10th, 2014

Fast forward–

There are two hundred and thirty-three shopping malls in Amedebad. Obviously, they were not all created equal, but even at two or three new malls a week, and return trips to the malls that she really likes, she hasn’t exhausted the good ones yet. Her favorite so far is AlphaOne, but she’s taking it slow, only visiting every other week, to make sure that she doesn’t become unwelcome here. The food court alone has some dishes that are to die for. Continue reading

Not Too Small, ch. 8: Ananya Sharma

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. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 11: Ananya Sharma

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

Rewind—

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. Continue reading

Big Change, ch. 5: Ananya Sharma

Monitoring: Ananya Sharma
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India

9:45 p.m. India Standard Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013
16:15 Coordinated Universal Time
Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Rewind—

This morning, Ananya thought that she would go into business someday, or maybe a sport of some kind. Her future was vague as far as the details went: she would attend university, get good grades, and go to whichever company was most determined to recruit her, at least as long as it was run by Indians and properly supported local workers. Or maybe she would do well on a rifle shooting team and become a professional, like Anjali Bhagwat. If that didn’t happen, then it was still a sure thing that she would at least find a good company to work for, so beyond that there was no reason to think about backup plans.

Then, on the way home from school, her plans for the future were irreparably destroyed. There was no doubt in her mind about the knowledge which had lit up within her on the bus. If it was not divine revelation then it was close enough that the difference had to be academic. No sooner had she gotten home than she consulted one of her books and ran off again to the local Mahesh Hardware Store for supplies. Continue reading