Originally posted to /r/WritingPrompts.
Prompt by /u/Zaquarxys:
The sun is shining for the first time in a long time.
For the first time in twelve years, the sun shone on the reinforcing struts of Aditya 2.
This was very bad.
Shilpa checked the time on her phone again. 11:39. Still technically morning.
“We’ll get through this,” Anit said. He placed a hand on Shilpa’s pregnant stomach.
Shilpa met her husband’s eyes, but said nothing in response.
It was summer in Jodhpur, and the electricity was off for the second day in a row. When the debris punched a hole through Aditya 2’s solar array, it had knocked out the microwave transmitter that beamed power back to the receiving station on Earth.
Failover power stations had kicked in, but they were overloaded within minutes due to high demand. The backups had been designed without properly accounting for the shift in future risk due to ongoing population growth and climate change. What had been in the ninety-nine-point-ninth percentile a decade ago was in the ninety-ninth percentile now. The black swans were waddling their way into the pond.
Shilpa had managed to get two coolers set up in the flat now. The old-fashioned kind, that worked by evaporation. It wasn’t helping much.
“We’re going to need more ice,” Anit said.
“Of course we are.”
“I can go to the store. Try to see if they still have any.”
Shilpa rubbed her temples. “I’ll go.”
“It’s fine. Stay here. Try to keep calm.”
“I’m a grown woman, Anit,” she said. “I can go to the store without your help.”
“I— that isn’t what I meant.”
The heat was getting to both of them, she reminded herself. Mundane conversations were degenerating into arguments.
She took a deep breath.
“I’ll go,” she reiterated.
Traffic was a disaster. Traffic was always a disaster, but this was an exceptional case. One of the major roads across the city had to be closed because the tarmac was melting. When Shilpa was a girl, that had been the sort of thing she only saw in the news headlines. These days, it seemed to happen with some regularity. There were reports that the government was trying to resurface old roads with a new formulation that absorbed less heat and had a higher melting point, but it would take years for that to be rolled out even to the high-priority routes.
It didn’t help that the self-driving network was choking under the load. The power outage had incapacitated the ground stations, forcing cars to fall back to satellite internet.
The car arrived at her destination. The screen read: Your account will be charged ₹14,630 for this trip.
Demand pricing. Fine. Whatever.
The store was out of ice. No surprise there. They were out of most preserved foods already, too. The street food was still available outside, at least.
Standing in the store lot, Shilpa tried to hail a ride back to her flat.
Unable to contact server, the phone showed.
The sun shone bright overhead.
This was very bad.
My idea here was to see if I could twist this prompt so that “the sun is shining for the first time in a long time” was a negative outcome. The first concept I came up with involved the failure of an energy-collecting Dyson sphere or Dyson swarm. I wanted to make this more plausible, so the idea mutated into a space-based solar power station (a la SimCity) falling victim to Kessler syndrome. The thought is that the solar panels are normally facing the sun; if the “back side” of the station is illuminated by the sun, something has gone horribly wrong.
I didn’t realize when writing this that real-life India is actually already planning to launch a spacecraft named Aditya. It is a solar probe, rather than a solar power station.
The melting roads are a real thing, by the way.