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Rose lives alone, in an apartment fit for one. Rounding on 70 years of age, she spends her time painting, going on long walks, and keeping up with her son, Daniel. On this Saturday morning, she was preparing the house as she usually did for one of his visits. Although his stays were brief, she would do what it took to keep him around as long as possible. Pulling a fresh batch of cookies out of the oven, Rose went over talking points in her head. I’ll ask him about that new girlfriend of his, Sasha, I think. And, of course, whatever he’s up to at that job. Maybe I’ll have him explain an app to me as well. Instagram.

After she’d set the cookies out to cool, dusted the shelves lining the walls of her apartment, and adjusted any pictures hanging on the wall, she perched on the window as was her practice, watching the street below her for a sign of her son. It was a cold fall day, most likely the coldest of the year so far, Rose thought to herself. A layer of frost clung to the tips of the grass and leaves she had passed on her morning stroll, and the breath of people walking past turned into clouds of steam. She wondered if Daniel was dressed for the weather.

Minutes passed, and Rose grew impatient. He never was the most considerate son, although she hated to admit it. Hours spent waiting for him over the years had told her that he didn’t care much for her time. The cookies were getting cold after all. But, Rose thought to herself, he was surely too busy with some business venture or corporate meeting to have tea with his elderly mother.

Daniel is a bank manager. Or a financial advisor. Or a loan officer or something like that. He deals with money, that’s the most Rose gleamed from his short explanations. In any case, he was certainly working himself up the corporate ladder, always wearing a new watch or sporting a new haircut when she saw him. She was, of course, happy for his success, but worried he was heading down the wrong path. Fact was, she hadn’t just invited him over to question him about his life, although that was on the agenda, she had a business opportunity for him as well.

A few weeks prior to his visit, Rose had been watching the news when they were doing a show on energy sources, sustainable and not, when she had an idea. She had always been fascinated with chemistry and engineering, and although she never shared this passion with other people, she had been studying. Reading books and papers on quantum and nuclear physics, she had gotten a pretty good idea of the processes and limitations of nuclear fusion. Esteemed as the clean and abundant energy of the future, fusion is the combining of two atoms to make a new one, the process that takes place in our own sun.

In the TV program she was watching, the broadcaster had lamented the inability to maintain high enough pressures to sustain a fusion reaction, the reason scientists have not been able to utilize fusion as an energy source. However, with an impact, pressing a small amount of hydrogen between two diamond hammers, these pressures are possible for a very small amount of time. Upon hearing this, Rose envisioned an oscillating hammer of sorts, which would use the energy created by a quick fusion reaction to swing back in the opposite direction and create the reaction once more. The hammer would build momentum, going back and forth, until one could take some energy from the system, while maintaining the oscillating effect. Fed only by hydrogen and the energy needed to get the hammer going, this would create as much energy as a large dam, or a few hundred windmills.

Excited by the idea, which she thought not only scientifically but economically feasible, Rose got in contact with a small engineering firm who agreed, if she was to pitch some of her own capital, that they could bring her idea to life. It was armed with this proposal, that she wished to involve her son, as someone knowledgeable in business and finances would be needed, in order to handle this lucrative idea.

Knowing that her son cared very much, maybe too much, about making money, Rose was pretty sure he would take up her proposal. Her heart warmed at the prospect of working with her son, and she became all the more excited about her new invention.

Her attention falling back on the street outside of her apartment, Rose spotted Daniel walking up to the front door. She rang him in, and a few moments later, he walked in through her front door.

“Danny! I’m so glad to see you! How are you? Did you have any problem getting here?”

“I’m doing fine, mom, and no I didn’t have a problem finding your apartment for the 50th time,” Daniel said passively. He had tossed his coat onto Rose’s couch and began walking about her apartment. “Do you need me to sort through your mail? Seems like you’ve forgotten how to open a letter.” He was sifting through the bin of promotions and deals that she had sitting on a table next to the door, shaking his head as he found letters from months ago.

“Oh, that would be great honey,” Rose responded, although she knew there was nothing worth reading in the pile. “Would you like a cookie? Milk? Tea?” she asked, heading towards the kitchen.

Daniel said that he would, and they sat down in her living room with a plate of cookies and cups of tea. Rose learned, to her dismay, that Daniel had broken up with Sasha, but she was happy to hear that he had gotten another raise at his job.

Daniel explained Instagram to Rose, tried to convince her that he was dressed fine for the weather, and questioned not for the first time if she was capable of living on her own. “I get around alright, I really am not that old, you know,” she responded somewhat indignantly. “It is sweet that you care so much about your poor mother, though.”

Daniel laughed and said, “I just don’t want to be the one that has to take care of you. There are plenty of retirement homes around that would keep you busy with crafts and baking.”

Rose swirled the last of the tea in her cup. “I don’t want to go to a retirement home, and that’s the last I’ll speak of it. Anyway, speaking of keeping busy, I’ve got an idea that I think you might be interested in.”

Daniel shot her an apprehensive look. “Please don’t tell me this is some sort of bonding time or family vacation; I am so busy right now.”

“No, no, it’s not like that. In fact, it’s a sort of work opportunity for you.”

“Do you even know what I do? I doubt you have any idea who’d want to hire me. And in any case, I’m making more in a year than you’ve probably made in your whole life; I wouldn’t go around telling people where to work if I’d been a teacher for 40 years.”

Rose, surprised at his cold response to her proposition, went on. “You don’t even know what my idea is. It has to do with nuclear energy.”

“You really do need to move into an old person’s home. Nuclear energy? What are you talking about?”

“Listen to me,” Rose said, panic rising in her chest. “If you use a sort of hammer, you can fuse hydrogen to itself, creating energy. I’ve invented a machine that can do this.”

Seeming to not have heard her last statement, Daniel stood up from his chair and moved towards the door. “I think maybe I should go,” he said with a quaver in his voice. “I’m not sure you know what you’re saying.”

“No, wait! I’m going to make billions of dollars with this, I need your help to manage it all!” Rose was standing now too, and she moved to grab Daniel’s hand.

Daniel took a step back and began to laugh. “Billions of dollars? I knew you weren’t the brightest, but this is a new low. You’re not a scientist, not a businesswoman, you’re just a delusional old woman living by herself who’s worked up some half-brained pseudoscience scheme to make money. I’ll have no part in your efforts to ruin your own life.”

Rose’s face darkened, and her hands began to shake. He had no idea what he was talking about. Insulting his own mother like an insolent little twerp. She’d show him what she was really made of. Before she could stop herself, she had thrown what was left of her tea into his face. “Get out of my house! Get out of my life!” she yelled at him.

With that, Daniel left Rose’s apartment in a fury. She watched him storm out of the building, get in his car, and drive off. She proceeded to call the engineering firm once more. She would manage the thing herself.

Over the next few years, as Rose became wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, she often thought of that day she stopped talking to her son. By the time she was 75, however, her son was not but an afterthought, a speck of dust compared to the empire she had created.

Her invention had become commonplace in the energy sector, and the benefits of its low emissions and startup cost were felt all throughout the world: in the Arctic as ice levels began to even out, in underdeveloped countries and communities as they gained access to electricity, and in the homes of everyday consumers, as their energy bills went down. She received many awards, including a Nobel Prize in physics, and was recognized as one of the greatest minds of her time.

All this, and Rose was not satisfied. The same oscillating technology, powered by nuclear fusion, was being put in the first rocket heading to Mars. The rocket was quite big and, with a bit of convincing, Rose was allowed a ticket on. In less than a year’s time, she would be leaving this world behind and starting the first colony on a new planet. There, she and other scientists, doctors, engineers, and billionaires would terraform the planet and create the new utopia that Earth never could be. There was talk of water parks and great ski resorts, and abundance of food and resources, and the best medicine the human race had to offer, all powered by Rose’s machine. Before she would leave Earth, however, Rose spent her days in a many-million-dollar penthouse in New York, once again looking down on the street below, but from much higher up. She would brew rare and expensive teas imported from far away countries and reminisce about the time when she lived as an everyday citizen.

On one such day, her last before the Mars trip, Rose was lounging about in one of her three living rooms, when the phone rang. She picked up the receiver and was met with a tentative voice on the other end.

“Is this Rose Adams?” the voice said.

“This is her. What can I help you with? I’m a very busy woman.” Rose was tapping her foot impatiently on the floor; this person was clearly here to waste her time.

“It’s your son. He’s been killed by a drunk driver. He has you as his emergency contact,” said the voice. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

“Daniel? Well, that’s truly too bad.”

Rose hung up the phone and went over to sit on the couch. She thought about her son for some time, about his jobs and girlfriends, and about the last time she ever saw him. When he left her in her apartment, apparently fed up with her outlandish ideas. She figured that he had lived a pretty good life, as far as lives go, and that it altogether was not such a shame. And, with that, she left for Mars.


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