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The Co2lector – A short story by Andrew Dana Hudson

Futurist and science fiction writer Andrew Dana Hudson debuts Carbon Punk, OpenAir's new original short fiction series that will imagine possible carbon removal futures through the experiences of the people who might live in them. The Co2lector envisions a not-too-distant future in which the way we get CO2 from distributed capture points to permanent sequestration sites is solved not by pipelines, but instead by the right incentives, creative use of emerging tech, hardheaded entrepreneurship, hacking and a whole lot of hustle.

Being a sunvalet was a lot like being a regular valet, Raf figured, just a hundred times harder. It wasn’t just that parking was an aggressively dwindling commodity these days; or that the microcons and gourmet pop-ups that hired the company that hired him were by definition too shoestring to reserve a lot; or that he had to memorize the battery capacity and charge rate and autopilot specs of a hundred, highly niche vehicle makes; or that the average customer was demanding and stingy, ‘gridless’ types prone to min/maxing obsessions, wanting their car to soak up energy every minute they weren’t going through a tunnel.

No, what made it so hard was that the sun was an evil, slippery adversary. It kept moving, kept swiveling the shadows of the spindle-thin infill-towers that crammed into what used to be Reno’s vast and generous parking lots. Raf would think he’d found a sliver of sunlight that would stay put, only to discover an hour later that he’d misjudged the angles, or that a rogue cloudbank or wildfire plume had spilled out of the Sierras and fizzled a full charge. That would come out of his tips, most times. In a world powered by photons, every little little bit counts.

Raf had no intention of staying a sunvalet forever. It was a gig-of-the-moment, a timepass, a favor to a friend. Mostly he covered shifts for his pal Lexacrow. Lex had crippling viral anxiety and wouldn’t leave his house if neopox or megarona or whatever else was spiking in Nevada or any adjacent state. Raf’s abuela kept telling him the valet gig was a good way to network and gladhand into a real job. She believed this because she was of a generation that grew up before algos did 99% of corporate hiring. It was a numbers game these days, and yessirring had nothing to do with it. But still Raf tried to keep an open mind, an eye for opportunity. Which is why he didn’t flinch when, one hot morning, a guy in a plasticy suit and cringy AR glasses handed him a twenty and said, “I’ll be all day. There’s another in it for you if you empty the tank.”

Raf had no idea what the guy he meant. Gas cars had tanks, but he hadn’t seen one of those actually on the road since he was a kid. He saluted anyway and took the guy’s money and valet key. The guy disappeared into the esports betting convention Raf was working.

The car was a custom job, fabbed photovoltaic chassis molded into something vaguely the shape of an antique hotrod. Where the front trunk should have been, instead stuck out a boxy, air-conditioner looking apparatus the size of a cat carrier. There were tanks, too: scuba-looking ones sticking out of the back trunk, hitched in with hoses that ran the length of the car, attached to the floor with thick staples.

So Raf took off driving, directing the autopilot toward the sunnier side of town while he poked at the dashboard to figure out just how to “empty the tank.” Thankfully it was right there in the UI, which had clearly been reworked to include new metrics. The tanks in back contained CO2, and they were indeed almost full. Raf had slept through most of high school chemistry, but he still knew that meant carbon dioxide, the molecule that the whole world seemed desperate to get out of the air. A helpful diagram showed air passing through the gizmo in front, soaking into a container of something called “sorbent” before flowing—cleansed of some carbon—into the car’s aircon. Every so often the machine would flush the CO2 out of the sorbent and into the hoses that fed the tanks.

With deflation spiking, an extra $20 would go a long way toward helping him take out that girl who worked the mahjong tables at the Eldorado. So Raf tapped the flashing button that said “Ready to Drop Off?” Nothing happened.

Whatever system this UI had been designed to plug into was not fully set up yet. Disappointed, he wheeled into an open, sunlit parking spot. He was about to get out, ride his scooter back to the convention center, when his abuela’s voice rang in his head. “Hustle, mijo,” he imagined her saying, “you’ve got to get on that grind.” So instead he stayed in the charging vehicle and got on his phone.

After a few minutes of chatting up his search engine about where to empty the tanks, he felt well down a rabbit hole of policy and engineering esoterica that seemed way above his paygrade. Then he watched a video on “Top Twelve Ways YOU Can Dispose of Carbon Waste—and PROFIT!”

This was a whole new world for Raf. In his NPR-honed news awareness, buzzwords like ‘climate repair’ and ‘geoengineering’ were the domain of governments, UN treaties, and the occasional rogue billionaire. It had never occurred to him that someone like him, a 19-year-old nobody, could actually do something about the air pollution that was said to be behind the haboonados that whipped in from the desert, the rising seas that caused millions to flee the coastal housing crash, and the Cat 6 hurricanes that filled up Reno’s hotels every October with Carribean refugees. The stuff that made his older family members shake their heads with solastalgia over the long-gone climate of their youth.

Raf watched the video again. This time he stopped at number four: greenhouses. Apparently, to help their plants grow, they pumped CO2 in—more than was already clogging up the atmosphere—and they’d buy the stuff from pretty much whoever showed up. He had a buddy, Wash, who worked out at the cannabis farms in the Sparse Indian Colony, where they grew the extra powerful CRISPER shit the state still hadn’t deregulated. The morning rush was pretty much over at that esports con, and the driver had said he’d be in there all day. So Raf plugged in the address and headed north.

Forty minutes later Raf was backing the hotrod up to a big cylindrical CO2 tank that sat between two round-roofed greenhouses, each full of primo, psychotropic indica-kale. Wash rode in the back, talking about the DIY carbon removal economy.

“Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of these little VDAC rigs before. That’s Vehicular Direct Air Capture, right? Mostly though, people have fridge-sized ones hooked up to their rooftop solar. Whenever they run a little hot during the day, they route the surplus power into the DisposeAir or the MechaTree—those are the big home capture brands. It’s a lot like a gaming PC, though. Cheaper to assemble yourself from parts. Anyway, federal procurement rates mean it’s usually a better deal to run the rig and sell the carbon than it is to dump extra electrons onto the grid for duckbelly pennies.”

The jargon was going over Raf’s head, so, once Wash had gotten out and hooked up the gas transfer, the sunvalet tried to get down to brass tacks.

“Okay, but how much is this tank worth, though?”

Wash checked the app he was using to monitor the big tank, plugged figures into his calculator. He showed Raf the sum. It wasn’t much, but it also felt like quite a lot given all the owner of the hotrod had apparently done to earn it was drive his car around. It was, as his abuela would have gushed, passive income.

“Man, rich white people are out here pulling money out of the fuckin’ air,” Raf complained. “How do I get on this shit?”

“They got the investment capital, homie,” Wash said. “They way they always have, the way it’s always been. You’ve got to spend money to make money, you know? These rigs can cost serious cash to set up. Feds pay for the carbon, but the rebates don’t fully cover the cost of the machines that pull it.”

“So the rich get richer, and the poor get fucked. Damn.”

“Tell you what, though, it’s not all free money. The suburban DACkers who dump here are always complaining about what a pain it is to empty their little tanks all the time, since the disposal sites are all a ways out of town. Most of them don’t have the room for chonky boys like this.” Wash slapped the big cylinder affectionately. “Or else their HOAs don’t allow them. These shitasses buy the capture rig, but don’t think about the storage, the transport, the rest. Probably why your hotrod guy was so keen to have you figure it out.”

Something clicked then for Raf, an idea. He was in the car all day anyway, and clearly—based on the nonfunctioning dropoff button on the hotrod’s UI—there were gaps in the system that needed filling. And he had a feeling there could be more money in this beyond just another twenty.

“Say, Wash, the government makes you keep track of who drops their CO2 off here, right? For the credits?”

“Yeah, it’s all on-chain, IRS level shit. USA’s got big international targets to brag about hitting, so that part of the accounting is pretty rigorous.”

“Any chance you could slip me a peek at that ledger?”

Raf took the hotrod back and got the second half of his tip. After that he started going through the ledger, which Wash had let him take pictures of, and he used his breaks and days off to track down local dabblers in the carbon disposal space. He was amazed at how deeply, if unevenly, this distributed form of climate action had penetrated, mostly unseen—all thanks to the slow-working pressures of first-come government procurement, equipment rebates, and commission-driven door-to-door salesmen.

Most of these dabblers were, as Wash had said, white suburbanites, either middle aged single dudes who channeled their therapy-tempered incel energies into home improvement, or older women like his abuela who were keen on “financial ruggedization through layered infrastructural incomes.” Raf would roll up in a polo shirt and some nice-but-not-too-nice vehicle he was valeting, ring the doorbell (trying not to look too brown for the camera), and tell them he admired their raised beds or top-of-the-line rooftop PV so much he’d just had to stop. They’d talk shop, eventually coming around to DAC rigs and the hassle they were to empty, and Raf would say, “you know, I’ve got a guy.”

His guy, of course, was him. When he got the first fateful text to the burner he’d rented, Raf slipped into a landscaper’s jumpsuit, pulled an Aces hat down low over his brow, and drove out in a pickup he was supposed to be parking. He was nervous his client would recognize him and get skeeved out, but the sallow-eyed, work-from-homebody didn’t make him. She was too fixated on making sure he took down her DAC unit’s wallet ID, so she could get the credit when he dropped her carbon off.

Using a dolly he’d borrowed from Wash, Raf wheeled his 200lb auto-compression tank around to the dog-piss smelling back yard. The tank was his first investment into this side hustle, scored on the cheap from a Circus Circus fire sale but still a big hit to his now non-existent savings. It took longer than he’d expected to fill it up off the client’s rig, but when he was done he had fresh cash in his Venmo, with promise of a second payment once the carbon was dropped off and the credit hit her wallet. It was more money than the scraps he got as a sunvalet, for more interesting, less finicky work. Raf felt great about the self-made turn his life had taken.

“Thing is,” Wash said, the third time Raf showed up to empty his tank, “we’re only allowed to take so many tons a month. The CO2 we pump will end up back in the air, see, so we’re neutrals, not proper negatives. I’ve been letting you jump the line because of that brunch beamer situation you hooked up, but we’re almost full up. Next time you’ll have to wait your turn like everybody else.”

“So what do I do?” Raf said. “I’ve got clients, man! If I don’t show when they need me, they’re not going to text again.”

“You’ll just have to start hauling to some other disposal sites. There are other greenhouses, but your best bet is probably to find the folks angling for 500-year certificates.”

“Okay, what are they like?”

Wash scratched his sun-peeled nose. “Far as I can tell, either really boring or really, really weird.”

Raf soon agreed with Wash’s assessment. After dropping a few hours learning to navigate inscrutable and clunky government databases, he found a registry of carbon disposal sites sortable by zip code. Some were listed like ‘BLM Tract 94.11 Test Reservoir B,’ while others had punny startup names such as ‘Fyrm,’ ‘ClimSafe,’ ‘Carbun Inn/The 0v3n,’ ‘The Store Age, a Forever Management Company,’ or, more ominously, ‘Black Paper.’

The names didn’t exactly inspire confidence that he could bring his tank in and get the nice, clean, federally monitored transactions he was used to with Wash. Raf had visions of rolling up to discover the address was just some scammer’s P.O. box, or else locked behind some huge turret-guarded fence. That was the hazard of being a small retail player trying to interface with a big B2B scene. So he started calling around, seeing who was actually willing to take his clients’ gas.

This turned out to be an education beyond his viral video crash course. Removing CO2 from the atmosphere was plenty complicated, but what to do with it once captured was in some ways the trickier part of the puzzle. Once upon a time all that C had been neatly buried underground in the form of hydrocarbons like oil and coal, put there by biogeologic processes that unfolded over eons. Digging up all that energy-rich goop had been a chaotic, often brutal, multicentury project. Now the world was trying to get the byproduct of hydrocarbon combustion—CO2—out of the air even faster than it had emitted it.

But where to put it? The coal barons and oil megacorps hadn’t exactly been fastidious about leaving clean, secure reservoirs behind as they carved up the earth. Plus, CO2 was just a more annoying substance to deal with. Not combustible, thankfully, but still poisonous, and usually an invisible gas. It was a molecule sitting at near enough its lowest energetic state, so turning CO2 into anything useful took inputs of power.

Plants did this, using sunlight to drive photosynthesis to turn atmospheric carbon into stems, leaves, trunks, and roots. Growing trees was a decent carbon storage option, but forests tended to either be competing for space in verdant areas or for water in deserts like Nevada. And plants, left to their own devices, also died and decomposed, eventually releasing most of their carbon back into the air. Thus everyone in the climate repair business was trying to figure out how to either pump captured CO2 underground and make it stay there, or else bite the energy bullet and turn it into durable, sellable products.

So, in for-better-or-worse American fashion, the landscape was littered with companies and nonprofits taking tentative amounts of carbon dioxide—and somewhat less tentative amounts of federal money—and experimenting with different ways of getting rid of it. The BLM sites were mostly pumping it into former fracking wells. Fyrm and ClimSafe both had proprietary storage techniques that involved burying treated lumber and speeding up rock mineralization, respectively. Carbun Inn/The 0v3n was actually a weird artist commune that made CO2-impregnated ceramics. The person at The Store Age who answered Raf’s cold call was confused as to why they were still on the federal registry; they had pivoted to consulting, advising on how to set up institutional board structures that could maintain their stability over climate-relevant timeframes. Black Paper sold books—fire-proof, rot-proof books they claimed would hold their carbon for at least a thousand years.

And so on, with some of the pitches sounding to Raf promising and others dubious, but each, in their own way, an exciting example of just how many ideas people had about repairing the climate. Raf had spent the entirety of his young life generally aware that he had been born into an environmentally worse-off planet than his parents and grandparents had inherited. There was something rebellious, countercultural, even gleefully fuck-you about deciding that he was going to buck that multi-generational trend, that he was going to help clean up the mess and fix it.

So Raf started feeling pretty good about how things were going. He had a stable of clients who texted him on the regular, and a handful of dropoff points around Reno doing certified negatives. And he was making money doing it. The current bounty on atmospheric carbon was running high. That meant just enough funding sloshing around each tonnage of transactions for Raf to take a modest cut without his clients, the DACkers, feeling too squeezed. There was something psychological there, he thought. The “freeness” of the money they were making, even before their rig was paid off, made them generous with Raf for taking the hassle out of the whole affair, even if he cut their margins pretty slim. In the end, this side hustle was soon eclipsing his sunvalet gigs in terms of both time spent and income gained.

All this kept Raf busier than he’d ever been in the short time since he’d finished high school, as well as glued to his constantly buzzing burner. So perhaps it was no surprise when, the day after his twentieth birthday, his abuela sat him down and ordered him to stop dealing drugs.

“I didn’t raise you to be some low-level plug, mijo,” she said sternly. “Please tell me you are at least peddling something designer. Like coloxofloxen, or maybe GHB12.”

“You’ve got it all wrong,” Raf protested, and he laid out his recent works.

He was sure his abuela would be proud, but instead she swooned with heartbreak.

“No, Rafael, no! You are telling me you have been illicitly using those gaudy cars you park as transport for your side hustle, when you could be writing your own vehicle off as a legitimate business expense? Have I taught you nothing?”

Raf knew he should have known better. Having never made much money before, taxes were not something that had ever particularly concerned him. But to his abuela, nothing was more sacred than maximizing one’s tax writeoff. He swiftly prostrated, apologized, and, cowed, agreed to give his abuela 15% to be his accountant.

This was the catalyst for Raf to finally quit the sunvalet gig and started moving C full time. As his abuela pointed out, the head start on capital his suburban customers possessed could be significantly dented by taking advantage of government incentives too esoteric for the average retail investor to make sense of. Raf had once dated a UNR sophomore who wouldn’t stop describing things as “neoneoliberal.” Now he was starting to see what she meant, about all the angle shooting that had to be done if one wanted to be included in the so-called “just transition.” This policy package had, like most bills that passed the terminally fucked legislative branch, been means-tested to oblivion and generally ripped to pieces by a million technocratic ants trying to shrink and/or inflate various numbers to meet the fiscal responsibility notions of America’s nonagenarian ruling class.

But with his abuela’s help, those papercraft puzzle boxes full of money opened up for him. Raf registered as a business, leased a truck, bought a bigger tank, and fabbed himself a sharp carbon-gray uniform with a logo generated by what he felt was a very with-it yet respectable prompt. “The Co2lector Co.” he named his new, official venture, a pun that went down easier with the “2” stylized a bit like a backwards capital-L. He was on his way.

He even commissioned and practiced with a hand-held pitchdeck he could use to talk up the nosy neighbors of his clients and sell them on investing in their own DAC rig, which he could of course help them select, assemble, and program for a very minimal fee. Why not, he figured, seed the suburbs with more business?

A part of him balked at helping these well-to-do white people make more easy money, get more of a leg up on those without capital to sling around. Raf was not blind to the election yard signs that peppered the xeriscaped developments, most of them with the block-lettered names of politicians that wanted to violently expel his family from the state. But business was business, and this business, in particular, did something that went beyond delivering commodities to a market.

Each kilo of carbon pulled out of the air translated into an ever-so-slightly cooler world for everyone on the planet. That meant better lives for Pakistani flood refugees, heatwave-stricken Chinese factory workers, Central American megadrought migrants, and “queer coastal elites” who’d otherwise have their backs against the dyke wall. Climate repair was a global public good of the kind that those same politicians were very reluctant to pay for. And here Raf was, recruiting their voter base into the project.

Only a couple of these neighbors bit, and only for very modest starter rigs he’d probably be tapping maybe once a month. Pitching the whole process, not just his part in it, was good experience, however. It got Raf wondering if maybe he was thinking too small, playing in the kiddie pool end of carbon transport. Looking over his books a few months after going legit, he saw that he was actually overequipped for the dinky pocket-change jobs that had seemed like such a big deal back when he was making it up as he went along. He was ready to find new business, bigger clients who were pulling down more C. Heck, maybe he should take a page from those Store Age people and pivot to consulting.

This is what he told Jessamyn, the mahjong girl from the Eldorado, when he finally worked up the nerve to take her out on his new company credit card. He figured the spiel would make him sound impressive, like someone bemused that the world couldn’t find a big enough challenge to throw at him.

To his surprise, however, Jessamyn nodded knowingly.

“It’s like my job,” she said. “I don’t mind working the tables for the dime-point retirees and the snowbunny tourists, but I’m really just at that to keep my accreditation. I make most of my money from private games with way higher stakes.” She sipped at her daiquiri. “You need to land a whale.”

Raf pondered this nonstop in the weeks after that first date. Jessamyn was right, he decided. He’d been able to carve out a niche because at-home carbon removal was new and no one had quite figured out how to stitch together the transport piece yet. He’d gotten in early, and as such hadn’t had much competition. But that wouldn’t last. He’d already peeped another tank-loaded truck pulling away from the Sparse greenhouse. “Ask Us About Home CO2 Hauling—CHEAP and FAST!” had been stenciled in QR letters on the side. Wash told him apologetically that a trio of Filipina sisters had started showing up doing much the same work Raf did.

Soon he wouldn’t have his pick of clients, and his leisurely turnaround times would have to get shorter, his self-set prices would have to get lower. When he thought about life after that, it looked a little bit too much like life had been before, when he’d been a sunvalet scampering for twenty dollar tips. He needed to jump gears, achieve escape velocity, boost himself into a higher scale-strata with even more money flying around the metaphorical mahjong table.

If he was going to level up his business—and everything he’d ever been told about being a business owner told him this was an endless imperative—he needed to level up his clients. So Raf started researching the biggest DACkers in Nevada.

Most were folks who’d bought up land for solar during the Sun Rush of the previous decade, but had never gotten through permitting hell to become actual utilities. In theory anyone with a solar panel could sell electrons to the grid, but in practice it was more complicated. If you had too much solar, the algo that disbursed energy to homes, businesses, batteries, and state projects could become accidentally dependent on you. Which meant they needed to know that you weren’t going to shut off one day without warning, causing a brownout or a rundry or a nasty price spike. Hence the elaborate permitting process. Not every agrivoltaic rancher with a big empty lot, a herd of goats, and a dream could hack through that bureaucracy, and so many of them turned to direct air capture as a way to turn photons into dollars. It was either that or mine weird metacoins for sale on the dark web, and no one knew when the next crypto crash was going to hit. One nice thing about carbon: there’d be plenty to go around for a couple decades to come.

Problem was, all these dedicated DAC plants pretty much had their transport figured out. A few even did the storage right there on site, but mostly they emptied their CO2 tanks into automated semi-trucks that came on a robotically regular schedule. These hauled the skytrash across the state line to the underground reservoirs in California. Raf didn’t fully get why the big permanent storage facilities were mostly all in Cali, or way up in Idaho, when Nevada had plenty of empty desert—something to do with geology, combined with the left coast’s outsized climate ambitions. Maybe Raf could offer these DACkers a sort of reverse top-off once in a while, but for the most part they were out of his league.

What Raf needed was to take his pitchdeck and convince some fresh player with a lot of electrons to burn to move into the carbon removal space, and in doing so land an exclusive transport contract. At a loss, he went to his abuela and sought her counsel.

“Mijo, business is a dark forest,” she said sagely. “To see the way ahead, one must rise above the fog and venture across the astral plane. I will show you.”

So Raf lay back on the sofa while his abuela rummaged in a shoebox of precious family mementos. He had been running himself ragged keeping up with his clients, and it felt good to just close his eyes. Eventually his abuela produced an ancient iPod Nano and a pair of wired headphones. She tucked the buds into his ears and rickety binaural beats filled his brain. Speaking loudly so he could hear her over the music, she led Raf through a guided meditation she had learned in her youth, working as a stylist on an influencer’s MLM tour.

Despite the couch buttons pressing into his shoulder blades, Raf let himself relax, and he imagined himself drifting up into the stratosphere. He felt the vicious, unfiltered, irradiating heat of the sun, his old adversary from his valet days, and in some ways the adversary of the whole world, the source of the heat that caused so much suffering. And yet, from up here, he could see that the sun was not the slippery trickster he had once cursed. It stood stock-solid in space, the billion-year energy source of all life. It was the Earth below which roiled with imbalances. He thought of his own balance sheets, the small business loans he had taken to upgrade his truck. Floating at the edge of space, he understood keenly that the whole planet had incurred an immense carbon debt, not red but black with invisible soot. No jubilee was forthcoming—it must be worked off. And then what? Then the skin of the world would heal and the sun would gentle its gaze, an adversary no more, but rather a giving god appropriately worshiped, as it had been by desert and mountain peoples like Raf for many millennia. Raf looked down and saw Reno, its patchwork of gray roads, brown earth, and rooftops golden-sheened with solar glass. It would only get more gold, he thought, a city of gold, enriched by the glint of the sun.

Raf sat bolt upright, iPod Nano flying off his chest. He had fallen asleep of course. His abuela had left to putter in the kitchen.

“Eldorado,” he said. “I’m going to Eldorado.”

It made perfect sense, as soon as he thought of it. Casinos had some of the biggest  HVAC systems in town. They moved massive amounts of air to maintain an undistracting temperature equilibrium, and they liked to get that air as clean and oxygen-rich as possible to keep the gamblers happy and rolling. Moving air was half the job a DAC system did, already accomplished. Just slot some sorbent in there, and you’d be pulling carbon with minimal investment. If it worked on the tiny scale of a car, it would work even better for a whole casino.

Casinos also had wide roofs covered in PV solar—especially since taking over the warehouses left empty by the Fall of Amazon and mixed-using their hotel towers to get those sweet, sweet rezoning subsidies. While heat avoidance behaviors meant casinos were pretty busy during peak generation hours, Jessamyn had told him about the recent industry turn away from easily spoofable digital slots toward exotic table games. This meant that most days they ran a trickling energy surplus. It was honestly strange that no one had talked them into trying out the DAC game, but Raf figured that’s what he was for.

Raf started hanging out at the Eldorado, visiting Jessamyn in the pits of exotic table games. He placed one dollar double-spin roulette bets and played penny-ante Arizona hold ‘em while he tried to get into the mind of his whale. In the end he decided his pitch was all about volatility.

People’s energy needs and sunlight were both quite variable metrics, the hourly shifting lines of electricity use and energy production never quite aligning. Weather could blow through and spoil your generation when you were counting it, but just as often customers might not show up when you were expecting they would, thanks to culture or politics or, again, the weather. You could lowball it, but you could also bust. Kinetic storage and hydrogen peaker plants helped with the former, but DAC helped with the latter. A DAC rig could be turned on automatically when batteries were full and electrons plentiful, which was a good way to smooth out the economically inconvenient intermittency that came with a photon-powered world. It was a small edge, but casinos, better than anyone, understood that small edges added up.

Raf spent a full week fine tuning his slides and practicing them in front of everyone he could cajole into playing along: his abuela, Jessamyn, Wash, even Lexacrow. Then, at long last, he made an appointment with the Eldorado’s facilities manager. The next day he was escorted by security through the maze that was a casino’s back rooms, to a windowless office, and there he offered his services.

In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a big contract. Yes, it was big to Raf, a real scaling up of his business, big enough that that same night he celebrated with champagne, ordered by Jessamyn since he was technically too young to drink. But a DAC rig on one casino, moving dozens of tons a month—that was tiny compared to hundreds of gigatons, the Lake Michigan-sized lump of carbon they had to pull out of the atmosphere to repair the climate.

Still, Raf got emotional watching the little bubbles of CO2 rise through the glass and fizz into the air. One day those bubbles might be back in his truck, or one of his trucks, in the fleet he’d soon need if the other casinos in Reno went the same way. It was a small comfort in a world so wild and out of balance, but as Raf had learned to appreciate as a sunvalet, every little bit counts.

The End

Andrew Dana Hudson Andrew Dana Hudson is a sustainability researcher, futurist, and the author of Our Shared Storm: A Novel of Five Climate Futures. Find more of his work at www.andrewdanahudson.com and follow his newsletter at solarshades.club.