May 21, 2022

I, Science

The science magazine of Imperial College

Artist’s composition of the two brown dwarfs, in the foreground Oph 98B in purple, in the background Oph 98A in red.

Artist’s composition of the two brown dwarfs, in the foreground Oph 98B in purple, in the background Oph 98A in red. Oph 98A is the more massive and therefore more luminous and hotter of the two. The two objects are surrounded by the molecular cloud in which they were formed. © University of Bern, Illustration: Thibaut Roger.

The Spectrum Wars

Fotis Kounelis's story, submitted for the 2021 Sci-fi Writing competition, shows us how the future of science can be interpreted using the prompt 'Spectrum'

By Fotis Kounelis

She walked alone inside the big house, watching the moving photograph of her family hanging on the wall. The same movement repeated eternally. Her husband on the left, herself on the right and her little boy in between holding the hands of his parents, swinging a few centimetres above the ground. Every time she saw this picture, she wanted to throw it away. To stop remembering. Each time, though, the only thing she could do was caress the faces with her fingertips.

It was the last photo they had taken as a family, before the Red Planet ruined everything by taking her husband to war, twenty years ago. Fifteen years later, her son was called to do his duty in the same war. Here she is now after five years of loneliness, wandering inside the house, living only through her memories.

Most days, she would wake up and live through the day without remembering or feeling. On those days, she could see no difference between her and the gynoid which helped her with the house chores. Moving around without feeling, without thinking, just doing what she had to until yet another day came to an end. However, there were also days like today.

She went downstairs to the kitchen. The gynoid was there and had inserted her middle finger into the niche over the oven, applying the correct settings to cook food.

“Hello madam, how can I help you?” The gynoid asked as she listened to her entering the room.

The gynoid’s voice was flat, dead, and somewhat adenoidal, sounding like it was coming from the back of its nose. There were multiple times she thought about replacing the gynoid with an android which would look and sound like her son, but she knew deep down the insanity of this deed.

“I am ok, Alica. How is cooking going?”

“Everything is ready, madam. I have programmed the oven to finish in exactly forty-five minutes.”

“Thank you, that is enough for now. Please go to the living room and inhibit your functionalities until I summon you again.”

“Sure madam,” Alica replied and walked from the kitchen to the living room, sat on the corner of a couch and went to sleep.

After watching Alica, she sat on a chair and touched the kitchen table. A hole opened in the middle of the table.

“Replay the last message of my son,” she mumbled.

The only message she received from him while he was at war. The war the Red Planet had started. The war which took away her whole family. She was trying to feel anger for this war, but she could no longer feel anger.

It had all started many years ago when a transparent sphere was placed all over the sun. Its purpose was to reduce the sunlight which enveloped the planets closest to the sun and at the same time enhance the sunlight reaching the furthest ones. In addition to this atmosphere creator, the sphere would allow all seven remaining planets orbiting around the sun to be inhabited. And it did work. People colonised the other planets, making new societies and electing their governments.

Inevitably, there were aspects which could affect people which the scientists could not predict. Due to the high temperature and the extreme sunlight close to the sun, this transparent sphere started working as a spectrum, releasing a different colour to each planet. At first, the colour had no effects. However, a few years later, scientists found that peoples’ behaviour was changing. People on the Red Planet became angry, dangerous, and powerful. The Red Planet’s government soon realized their power compared to the others and started a war with their easier opponents, the Purple Planet of the Spiritualists. Not long after the attack on the Purple Planet, the remaining planets allied to stop the war. That was then. Many years had passed without the war coming to an end.

Her thoughts were suddenly stopped by a voice coming from a hologram jumping on the table. It was her son with a gun in his hands, sitting on a chair, sending her the message.

“Hey mom, I am doing fine, don’t worry about me. There are rumours that the war will come to an end soon. Not long before I am back with you and in your arms again. Love you and take care until I come home.”

Her eyes started filling up with tears poured down her right cheek. The hologram disappeared. A flat, dead male voice from the base of the table sounded.

“This message was sent on 19/11/14569. No new messages.”