George Apollonakis was a troubled man.
He sat at his desk, idly clicking his antique ballpoint as he considered the numbers dancing on the display floating in the air before his eyes. A frown played on his heavy Greek brow.
Profits were down. Way, way down. Was he looking at the beginning of the end of the Midas Industries success story? The downward spiral that would reduce the world’s first multi-trillion dollar solar capture dynasty to a family of mere billionaires?
He stood up, stretched and strolled over to the panoramic window. He stepped lightly on a button on the floor and squinted as the darkened glass lightened to reveal the view of Ierapetra stretching out below him. One of the world’s sunniest spots, with more than 3,100 hours of pure sunshine every year, the historic city on the southern coast of Crete was now hidden beneath an umbrella of millions of solar panels shimmering in the heat haze.
Apollonakis glanced at his grandfather, Papou George, frowning down in glorious colour from his portrait on the wall. A remote, mostly absent but all powerful figure rarely seen but always felt throughout his childhood. A man who sacrificed familial warmth on the altar of family wealth to pull triumph from the jaws of the Great Greek Depression of the 2010s.
What would he think of the downward path now showing up on all the company’s profit graphs? Not too kindly, Apollonakis mused. Having emerged from the ruins of a crumbling economy with a monopoly on the technology that would make Crete the world’s biggest growth market, Papou George had not been one to forgive mediocrity easily.
A mere half-century after Europe’s punitive protectionist policies had priced the disgraced Greece out of the economic playground, cutting off the lifeline for the Apollonakis family’s moderately successful agri-business, its founder’s grandson was regularly touted as the world’s richest man, though if truth be known no-one knew just how much he had.
That could be about to change. Across the board, business was taking a hit. And once again, Europe was at the root of the problem - in particular, those trouble-making, sun-starved inhabitants to the north.
Funny that the same Europe that had been the catalyst for the rise of Midas Industries would be the first to relax its trading terms the minute pollution and climate change parked a permanent cloud over the powerhouses of the first industrial revolution. The French wine sector had collapsed, fields of solar panels were abandoned on German mountainsides, rates of Seasonal Affective Disorder had soared in the Baltic, suicide rates tripled even among the stoic Scandinavians, Vitamin D deficiency sky-rocketed in Britain’s colonial communities whose DNA was ill equipped for 360 days of rain a year. Ideal conditions for an enterprising Greek businessman with easy access to the sun and the smarts to secure a watertight patent on technology that went beyond converting solar rays to electricity, to enable sunshine to be captured, contained and transported in a range of forms to whoever was willing and able to pay the price.
But now a dent was appearing in the Midas Industries fortunes. The first chinks its armour. Sales were down across the board. Bookings for holodeck suite holidays fueled by bottled sunshine enriched with ozone extracted from the Libyan Sea were a shocking 23% down from last year. Developments in new wind, wave and refuse-generated energy had eaten into sales of solar power cells. Medical scares about growing cancer cases amongst the S.A.D. crowd treated in solar suites were keeping them away in their droves. And the authentic food movement was chomping away at profits of bottled sun-fed crops.
Overall, he was looking at a 47% drop in revenues. At this rate, the Apollonakis family fortune would be wiped out in a few short years. Something had to be done to stop the rot. Some new application to inject new life into the business.
He knew what he had to do. The one business area that had explored but never developed. It was a bold step, a controversial one, but the only one that could protect profits.
Redirecting the fixed orbit satellites intensifying the sun’s rays on farms in Crete, Rhodes, the Sahara and Nevada, like a giant magnifying glass, would take quite some doing. Not least, it would take some considerable leverage to persuade the scientists - but even they had their price didn’t they? The politicians would be easier. They always were. And once the new tool in man’s oldest game was ready, there should be no shortage of demand. The Water Wars raging in the Middle East and Central Asia; continuing Holy conflict across the globe as the pious killed millions in a race to moral superiority; the scramble for domination of the Poles.
It was just a matter of picking the right side, the highest bidder.
Apollonakis sighed, loosened his tie and shrugged off his shirt. Slipping on UV-blocking sunglasses, he opened a door and stepped out onto the balcony baking in 50 degrees of midday heat. Sweat pricked at his scalp, heat burrowed into his skin, promising painful burns. But he was determined, just one more time, to enjoy the sunshine like he had as a boy – before it became a weapon of mass destruction.