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Author:Nnedi Okorafor

Zagora had grown up hearing her mother tell the story of the 52-day journey she made across the desert on foot from Timbuktu before Zagora was born and listening to her father sing old songs to the sheep as she rode along on her donkey. Oftentimes, she’d quietly sit, gaze at, and think about the Oracle Solar Complex in the distance that seemed to get bigger every year. The solar farm was as vast as a town and consisted of thousands of apartment-sized mirrors that shifted throughout the day, like the heads of sunflowers, to focus sunlight on a tower in the center. All this got Zagora interested in the sun. There was also that story her mother was always telling her about the day Zagora was born:

    “I’d gone to Zagora to see my doctor, and you got impatient. We pulled over near some palm trees and you came into the world right there. You were born in the sun, but you were smart enough to keep your eyes closed.”

So that’s how Zagora got her name; she was named after the town she was born just outside of. Maybe seeing the sun through her newborn eyelids sparked something powerful in her.

Zagora took the money Izzy gave her and used it to buy a brand new receiver for the device she was tinkering with. Then she had a grand amazing idea. But she wasn’t quite ready to turn that idea into a reality just yet. It took her six years, years of trial and error, learning from the Internet, studying, thinking, and going to school, for her to reach that fateful night in the cave.

It was the hottest day of the year and sixteen-year-old Zagora was standing in the sunshine when she realized how to realize the idea she’d had so long ago. Her parents and two brothers were all in the cave, sitting around the portable air conditioner. Her parents were debating about a forthcoming World Cup game between Morocco and South America, her youngest brother was taking a nap, and her middle brother was doing school work. She took her bag of tools and climbed into a small enclosure that she used as a work space. It was hot in there, but she was used to it. The only book she had was a beaten up old copy of The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind. She loved this book so much and had since she’d started reading it repeatedly three years before.

When she finished creating the new transmitter that fateful day, she positioned the receiver about a half mile away, far from the herd of goats, donkeys sleeping beneath a make-shift tent and, of course, her family. She didn’t know it but the only creature near the receiver was a snoozing jackrabbit. It was a good day to charge her power source battery because the sun was full of rage, blazing hot and bright. When she clicked the “transmit” button on her phone, no one in the area would know that the future had just come to greet the present. Except the jackrabbit who lazily awakened, saw the ghost-like shimmer coming toward it, and went right back to sleep, not feeling a thing as the shimmer passed through it to reach the receiver.

It really was like the sun’s ghost, this payload of energy that was gathered, condensed, and restructured from the day’s intense sunshine. Zagora watched it float across the rocky expanse and then, once it got within range of the receiver, disappear. When she ran to her receiver and took measurements of the amount of energy now in its battery, she threw her head back and laughed. Exactly five megahertz! Enough to power all her family’s appliances for the day. The same number that had been in the battery she’d connected to the transmitter. Not a single megahertz lost in the transfer. Success! Finally. Zagora had just invented directable long-range wireless energy transfer. And because the power was converted from ionizing radiation to non-ionizing radiation before it passed to the receiver, it was completely safe to be around.

She named her invention, “Sahara Solaris,” a name her brother suggested. Solaris was the name of a science fiction book they’d found on the ground at the kasbah, most likely dropped by a tourist. They’d brought it home and taken turns trying to read it to practice their French. Eventually, she grew so bored and frustrated with it that she threw it out of the cave to be later chewed on by the goats. She and her brother had both laughed hard because it had been a windy day and the book had sailed farther than expected before landing right in the middle of a group of goats. “As it should,” Zagora joked. She and her family lived right at the mouth of the Sahara desert and the sun was the whole purpose of the device, so the name was perfect.

After perfecting the Sahara Solaris over the next year and with the help of her school teacher, Zagora managed to get it before the eyes of Oracle’s CEO. That in itself is a long-winding story, involving several key elements:

An overly ambitious and hateful uncle

     Government officials hacking into her computer attempting to steal her Sahara Solaris notes

     Government officials who tried to pay off her parents

     Masked men who tried to kidnap Zagora

     A village of nomads plus the director, actors, and staff of a sci-fi movie that was being filmed nearby all guarding Zagora and her family for three days and three nights before the fateful meeting

Those in power came after every element of her life. The long and the short of it was that it all required some powerful qualities to get to this pivotal meeting. Focus, determination, audacity, and courage were a few of them. Zagora recognized the battle when it came to her and she knew she had to win it. And she was no fool, which was why she arrived at that pivotal meeting with her parents, her school teacher, and the teacher’s best friend who was a lawyer well practiced in community rights. The night before, Zagora had shown all four of them her Sahara Solaris. And thus, when she entered that meeting in the morning with the Oracle Complex’s CEO and her advisors, she knew exactly what to do.

She was seventeen years old. And as she stood before the board, finally, she felt herself steady. Her heartbeat slowed. She was calm. She knew why she was there and what she had to do. She was there to save the world. Zagora had always had big dreams, despite her small means. She imagined herself channeling the activist she and her brother had watched on their phones some years ago, the girl Greta Thunberg who had the nerve to speak with the entitlement of the adult white men Zagora sometimes saw in the market.

Zagora spoke. First, she provided evidence that she had already patented her invention.

“Okay, it belongs to you,” one of the Oracle engineers growled. Impatient and irritated. “Get on with it.”

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