Challenge #01994-E170: Look Up

in fiction •  last year 

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One of the last astronomers left on the planet after the Great Protectionism Act (the one that isolated the entire populous from anyone or anything beyond their home planet) goes on a quest to shut off all non-emergency service related power on the planet in order to show the people the beauty and worth of the the night sky. -- Anon Guest

With every great rise of knowledge and understanding, there is an equal and opposite fall into wilful ignorance. This is one of those latter, dark ages. The last planetarium was closing forever. She was to confess her crimes before her execution. Because the new administration did not appreciate science in any form. Obedience was key, and Aelria was highly disobedient.

Tonight, she was not sleeping. Tonight, she was hacking the municipal power board. So that the city's power would fail at the appointed time. The time she was about due to die. Aelria was careful. Instead of an entire power failure, the city would keep all emergency services. Hospitals and emergency services would keep running, but for two hours, the city would go dark.

Tomorrow... she would die. Quickly, and cleanly, and to the cheers of thousands who didn't know who she was or why she was a heretic against the current order. Some would hear her last words, but she would be forgotten inside of a week. A rare few would remember, though. But all would feel the impact of what she had done.

Aelria ran the stolen laptop through the defunct tech grinder. It, its charger, and all of its accessories. She'd only needed it for this one thing. She had packed away the important stuff inside a time capsule and buried it where it was most likely to be found after a century. Inside, she had put all the important textbooks and a carefully-typed letter rendered in all written languages. A life pod for learning. In a century, despots like the current one would be forgotten, and people would be asking interesting questions again. Or so she hoped.

When they came for her, they found her flat empty of evidence. She was ready. She faced her imprisonment, mock trial, and impending execution with stoicism worthy of a hero. Her death would be televised at eight in the evening. So that the children could watch and learn the current rule wasn't futzing about.

Thus, when they gave her the chance to say her last words, she had a show for them. This world loved a show. "Look beyond your wall of light," she said. "The universe persists, whether or not you believe in it. Look outside. Look up. You will see the magnificent truth."

And then the lights went out.

All over the city. All through this ignorant realm. The curtain fell as it had for Bruno, Copernicus, and Gallileo. Aelria sat in her last chair and waited for the panic to ebb. The cameras, running on battery power, streamed to everyone with a laptop or a phone.

"Look outside," she said, "Look up." And someone shot her from behind.

The despot's justice would not be subverted with a mere power failure.

All around the shrunken world, people followed Aelria's plea. Mostly because there was nothing else to do. Some were terrified by the revelation they saw. Some were awestruck and dumbfounded. A precious few were excited and curious. Those few were smart enough to keep their curiosity out of sight, and find other like minds in the swirl of conspiracy theories. They began secret gatherings to rediscover science and seeking the answers.

Nerds never die out. They just go stealth.

Wherever there is oppression, oppositions rise to combat it. Underground railroads. Underground dance clubs. And now... Underground Schools. The forces of ignorance could only begin to quash them, because ignorance carries within it the seeds of its own defeat. Starting with needing smart people to sort out its mess.

[Image (c) Can Stock Photo / dbvirago]

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