A drop of water falls towards the sand and vaporizes before it hits the ground. Eduardo reaches for his flask and takes another swig. He checks his watch. It’s almost high sun and  the temperature is close to 120℉ where he stands. “Just keep working,” he tells himself.

Eduardo moved to the Sahara all the way from Mexico, leaving his family behind. He is part of a new generation of educated workers who have grown more valuable than the mega-farms of the southwest viewed their ancestors who had submitted to manual work in the fields that brought meager wages to millions of unskilled labourers and their families back home.

The situation in Africa is vastly different.

A solar revolution is under way and those who, like Eduardo, foresaw an impending shortage of specific installation and maintenance skills to service the exponential industry demands have secured contracts all over the world. With his current assignment in Africa however, he is now an ocean away from his loved ones and the furnace-like conditions he must accustom his body to brings with it an extra dimension of personal and financial risk. But not from the obvious sources that come to mind.

A vehicle approaches in the distance. Eduardo signals to his co-worker Anita to draw her attention to the Land Rover cresting the sand dune to the east. She waves to him in acknowledgement and heads for the back of their converted army truck. Eduardo pulls out his radio and gets on the secure channel.

“UV. Station 27. Confirm. UV. Station 27. Confirm. Over.” Eduardo observes the unknown vehicle attempting to maneuver around the buried perimeter fence as he awaits a response from base camp. The intruders appear to have an intimate knowledge of their installation’s defenses.

“Negative, Station 27. I repeat. Negative, Station 27. Is the perimeter secure? Over.”

Anita logs in to the security network and locks the tracking satellite on to the UV. She analyzes its seemingly erratic movements and recognizes a pattern.

The vehicle is systematically testing the trip sensors by feeling the edges out with a small prod mimicking the heat signature of a desert scorpion. Since the fencing emits an electrical charge commensurate with the perceived intensity of the threat, the intruder is safe from any resulting surge. Once the probe detects a lack of response it can then increase its heat signature to determine the size of the hole.

“Perimeter check in progress. Over.” Eduardo pulls an automatic rifle from his tool case and straps it across his chest. He joins Anita at the truck, keeping a close watch on the horizon for any surprises. “How does it look, Anita?”

The digital map of the solar complex shows all relay points intact, except for a small breach to the west— a good 10 kilometre trek for the suspicious Land Rover.

“At their current speed they will reach the hole in 30 minutes max. I’ve never seen such a sophisticated probing system. Look at the spike trail.” Anita points to a trail of mini attacks on the grid. “We need the copter. The ground crew won’t get here in time.”  She swivels her chair to the next computer and runs a diagnostic on the west-side failure.

Eduardo reports to base camp. “Station 27 to base. Station 27 to base. Request code alpha 4 charlie. I repeat. Request code alpha 4 charlie. Over.”

A beam of sweat rolls off Eduardo’s brow into his eyes. The sting of the salt on his cornea feels especially sharp today. After three long days of solid 12-hour shifts his eyewear is being pushed to the limit as is his tolerance for the heat.

The dispatcher’s voice comes on the radio: “Roger that station 27. Code alpha 4 charlie acknowledged. Over.”

Anita and Eduardo take a deep breath and sit tight.

… to be continued in Sahara Heat.