A first chapter from The Car of the Future and Other Stories.
|Clark, a tall, clean-cut young man with dark hair, is passing out flyers at the Student Environmental Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on a crowded pathway between exhibits. There are twenty students from universities all over the world helping him.
Clark dialed a number on his cell phone, “Hey, Rebecca, looks like we’re going to have a good turnout for the presentation, five-hundred or more. You sure you’ll make it on time for the demonstration?”
Rebecca, Clark’s sister, is eighteen and lying on the beach on her stomach in a bikini with her legs up in the air while holding a glass of wine. There’s a sexy Latino man in his twenties lying next to her who is kissing her cheek and ears. In the background, a group of musicians dressed in carnival costumes play Brazilian Jazz.
“Sure Clark, don’t worry, it’s ready to roll! There won’t be any problems.”
“You sound far away, Rebecca, are you sure everything’s O.K.?”
“Never been better.”
“And you’ll be here to demonstrate the car, won’t you? I don’t think it can handle any more of those 200 lb college athletes?”
“Yes, Clark, I’ll be there. What time does it start?”
“7:30 pm sharp, see you then.”
Jennifer Tatoka, a young Japanese woman, came up to Clark and said, "What-you-gonna-do-big-man-on-campus, show us a car that floats?"
“That’s exactly what I’m going to do. I hope to change the course of history–if we can by-pass the next 50 years of fighting over oil, we might just prevent World War III. A group of us at Cal tech have designed a car that doesn’t need oil; why don’t you come by and see it…. Hey, don’t I know you from somewhere?”
“Did you go to the round-table discussion on the World Bank’s impact on the environment?”
“Your Jennifer Taka... Taka.... you did that presentation using the Tsunami Software that predicts increased levels of war and unrest through the world as our supply of oil runs out.”
“Jennifer Tatoki.” as she extended her hand.
“You’re just what I need. If I give you fifteen minutes, can you give the same presentation tonight at 7:30? We’ve got about five-hundred people coming?”
“Well . . . sure, alright.”
“Clark stood on the stage at the podium and wore a red and black plaid flannel shirt with his sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Students filled hundreds of plush seats in the large circular arena. Spotlight illuminating Clark and chatter filled the air.
“Thank you for coming to this emergency transportation meeting. I promise you, I won’t waste your time.
“I don’t have to tell you that the world’s supply of oil will run out in the second half of the 21st Century–oil has been the cause of most of the conflicts in the Middle East including the 1991-1992 Gulf War, and the 2003 United States War in Iraq. More recently, it has been the cause of the United States invasion of Venezuela. And it may ignite World War III as prices soar and the China, India, and the Eastern countries scramble to get their share of the dwindling resources before the West gobbles it all up. In addition, cars and oil are polluting our cities and environment, killing millions of people every year with lung diseases and auto accidents. And you all know that emissions from automobiles are breaking down the ozone layer and causing global warming.”
A young women in blue jeans and a red and white striped T-shirt shouted from the audience, “Come on Clark, we’ve heard this before, what’s new?”
“I’m going to show you proof that oil was the real motivation for the United States invasion of Venezuela and for their continued fighting in the country and in the Middle East. Using some “Yankee ingenuity”, my sister Rebecca was able to video a secret conference headed by the Vice President and attended by top level executives from United States oil companies and an assortment of congressmen. Rebecca, roll’em.”
A crowded room in the basement of a government compound faded into view. Several dozen people were huddled around conference tables under hanging “pool-hall” lamps. The room appeared bright in many places with dark shadows in the corners. The Vice-President stood in front of a small podium.
“I asked you here today because the President and I are aware of the crisis you all are facing. As you know, I’m an oil man myself. Our supplies of affordable crude are getting desperately low–as many of you have told me over the last several months. The Arabs make one excuse after another for raising prices. Soon, they’ll be able to charge anything they damn well please . . . and this will plunge this great country into a depression if not ruin the United States economy for decades to come. I’m going to go around the room and let you talk. You can say your name and company if you want. Those of you who have asked for anonymity can wear the face masks I’ve passed out.” Several people wore horrible black pointed hoods that covered their entire head with only slits for the eyes and nose. “Of course, I know all of your voices, but the others here may not.”
“Well your right, Mr. Vice President. When we go to the Arabs, they screw us around . . . they won’t commit to a price for more than six months. Valesquez in Mexico can cut off our supply if he doesn’t like our politics. Then we don’t know what we’ll have to pay or what country we’ll have to deal with. Modest sources are available from Canada and Kozinski in Russia speaks with a forked tongue–he says one thing to the President and then does something else when he deals with us. Besides, we need a pipeline to get the oil from Russia and the Stans (Kazakhstan and other countries ending with “stan’’ in Asia Minor) to a warm port for shipment. If it goes through Afghanistan, chances are it will be blown it up.
“And of course you know the environmentalists want to stop us whenever we try to develop our own supply in the United States. As I see it, we’ll pay three to four times the current price for a barrel of oil in a year or two . . . and ten times as much in five years.”
“Thank you Tom.”
One of the men wearing a black hood said, “Mr. President, the only way we’re going to get the oil we need is to take it. I’d start with Mexico then move my way down through Latin America and wouldn’t stop until I got to Kazakhstan.
There was laughter, then applause with lots of “yeas”, “yea, you said it”, and finally a standing ovation from the audience.
Ralph, a heavy set man sitting near the back of the room said, “We’ve got too many radicals in this country that don’t know their gas tank from a hole in the ground. They want to stop us anywhere we dig for oil. Yet, they keep driving their big cars, SUV's and motor homes . . . where do they think the oil comes from that they use in their vehicles, anyway.”
The Vice President said, “Who’s behind these environmentalists anyway?”
Ralph added, “You know, it’s the dregs of the hippie generation of the 60’s, “free love and love of nature”. Of course, Al Gore and a few key liberal Democratic senators are the rallying point for their cause. They’re the ones that block our congressional bills for drilling on the North Slope every time.”
A Security guard stepped through the two swinging doors at the side of the room and motioned to the Vice President. “Our special guest has arrived, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the President of the United States,” another round of applause.
The President began, “The first lady said to me this morning, ‘Go get those environmentalists, Harry. I just love sunbathing on the White House lawn and if we had a sandy beach with the ocean waves crashing on it right here, I’d be in Seventh Heaven’,” laughter, then clapping.
The honorable senator from Georgia said, “Be careful Mr. President about what you say to us, they’ll try to get you for colluding with the oil and defense industries.”
“Naw, they’ll never get me, I’ll deny every word of it. And if they question me, I’ll say, ‘Ah don’t recall.” Tremendous laughter and applause.
“I wanted to let you know today that the Vice President, myself, and our entire staff are with you and support you. We know that it’s impossible to stay in business and make a profit if every time the environmentalists see an ice cube melting or an endangered salamander, new laws are passed to restrict your drilling and manufacturing.
“We’re going to protect you with tariffs from imports from other countries. I’m going to issue an executive order allowing drilling on the North Slope in Alaska and the coastal waters surrounding the United States, a solid round of applause.
One executive near the back of the room began scribbling on a piece of paper. Then he stood up, “Mr. President, I’ve just written out a check for ten million dollars addressed to the “Reelection Committee for the President of the United States.” Shouting and hooting from the attendees. Another executive stood up, “I’ve just written one for twenty million dollars” Several other executives joined in the fun and wrote checks of their own.
When the video ended and the lights came on in the auditorium in Rio, a loud standing ovation erupted from the students that went on for several minutes. Then the crowded chanted, “Rebecca . . . Rebecca . . . Rebecca.”
Clark continued, “I have two more presentations to show you. The next one is from Jennifer Tatoki from the University of Tokyo. She’s an economist who is using Tsunami, the world event prediction software to tell us what may happen over the next 50 years on earth. This software, by the way, is used by most large companies to foresee the future before making major investments or developing new markets. It’s shown to be 92% accurate.”
Jennifer showed and described a bar chart on the screen with input for the factors of depleting resources (oil), increasing populations, expanding consumption (oil), and increasing production such as automobiles. She then showed a graph extrapolating the chances of war through time over the next 5, 10, 20, 30, and 50 years. The curve gradually went upwards increasing almost vertically at 2080. Jennifer explained that the graph predicted increasing chances of war, economic depression, massive loss of jobs, and man-made disasters as the world neared the end of the 21st century and ran out of oil.” There was a round of applause.
“Thank you Jennifer, well done. Now I’m going to show you a treat . . . our answer, or one possible answer from the students at Cal tech of Pasadena, California, to the inevitable catastrophes of the second-half of the 21st Century. I need two volunteers from the audience to prove this demonstration is not a gimmick. Yes, mam, please state your name.”
“Sarah McLeish, physics graduate student from the University of Glasgow.”
“Armando Sanchez, chemistry PhD. candidate from the University of Madrid.”
“Please come up here on stage. When the object you’ll see hovers above the stage, I want you to check for wires or any other mechanism holding it in place.”
The rear doors to the auditorium opened . . . the theme from 2001 space odyssey played and the colors of the rainbow swirled throughout the room. Suddenly, the spot-lights focused on a vehicle that looked like a cross between a Delorean and a flying saucer. It floated into the room with Rebecca behind the wheel. It climbed near the ceiling of the auditorium and then circled around the arena faster and faster and finally rested above the stage near Clark, Sarah, and Armando. The music stopped and normal lighting returned.
Sarah and Armando checked for wires and other hidden mechanisms holding the vehicle off the ground. They signal they couldn’t find any. A wave of applause continued and continued for several minutes . . . .
“Thank you, thank you. . . This car doesn’t use gasoline, helium, hydrogen, electricity, or lard, a huge outpouring of laughter. We’ve developed a mechanism that creates a field to reduce the gravitational pull to that of about one-third of that on the surface of the moon. This car floats on a cushion of air . . . and is surrounded by a bubble of air to prevent collisions.”
To demonstrate his point, Clark moved to the rear right corner of the stage and ran full tilt towards the car. He bounced off of it and fell to the floor as if he’d run into a giant pillow. He then brushed himself off and returned to the podium. Another round of loud and continuous applause.
Rebecca manipulated the controls on the car and began to rise off the stage. She circled the room several more times and then exited through the rear doors. Another Standing ovation followed.
“Please, please, that’s enough . . . it’s much too early to get carried away with self-indulgence. Our project has only begun. This prototype isn’t ready yet to be a commuter car for a family of four, laughter. It’s only an example of what’s possible. The patent on our model or others like it could be snapped up by the auto industry and made as dead as the electric cars at the end of the 20th century. Today, with modern technology, anything is possible–from cars that run on solar energy, to cars that run on water, air, or even fly like a bird with wings that flap like our ancestor’s imagined.
“Here’s my invitation to you . . . The governments and companies around the world, including the United States of America, intend to make a profit on every last drop of oil, a limited resource on this planet. They’ll control the design of the auto mobile and manipulate markets to reap in their money. Jennifer Tatoki clearly demonstrated that this will plunge us into continuous war, destruction, and economic disaster for at least the next 50 years.
“Here’s what I propose to you. We are facing a world created by 19th and 20th Century man based on greed, limited resources, and limited vision. You and I are in a new era of technology and vision where anything and everything is possible. I propose that the students of this world, design, build, market, and sell “cars of the future”. I propose that we side step the wars, economic disaster, and world destruction that will follow the fight over depleting resources. Let us make a contribution from our generation to the future of the world based on the infinite possibilities available today. Let’s bring love, peace, friendship, and cooperation to all peoples and all lands.” Loud and continuous applause.
“Please, Please . . . this is no time to get carried away with ourselves. What I am proposing is not easy–nations and corporations will do everything they can to stop us. They will send their best minds to develop strategies to keep the wealth and profits they have been coveting, their lawyers to foil us, their best secret agents to sabotage or kill us, and their armies, if necessary, to destroy us.”
“Rebecca, my sister, is the youngest person ever to graduate with a Master of Science Degree in Computer Science from Cal tech. Clark smiled and hesitated, “Rebecca and I and our classmates at Cal tech are firmly committed to this project. For three short years ago our mother was taken from us . . . . yes killed in an auto accident. Someone ran a red light. She asked me a few weeks before her death, ”Why not design a car that doesn’t have fender benders or accidents. That’s why Rebecca and I are committed to that vision. We ask you to join us.”
“We will adjourn now and reconvene again on Friday evening at 7:30 pm. Those of you who are committed to creating a new future are invited to join us. We will form work groups, committees, and began the long journey to a new future.”
Several people yell out, “I’ll do it, I’ll help.” Another standing ovation that went on for several more minutes. Clark quickly left the stage.