by H.E. Taylor
|Chapter 74||Table of Contents||Chapter 76|
Ottawa, November 7, 2059
Over the next month I watched and waited from my vantage point in UNGETF for some Solar Radiation Management [SRM] scheme to take the place of the sunshield. None was forthcoming. There was talk about restarting the Japanese Group 2 effort, even funding Baumgarten, but there was also opposition. The long and short of it was… no other SRM technique was forthcoming.
Finally I felt compelled to act. I was still worried about the unknown actors involved in Matt’s death, so I decided to talk to Rhamaposa in person. I assumed that with Matt gone, I was no longer a person of interest. ConSec would human-monitor any electronic communication, whereas a casual personal meeting would be filtered through microbug software and might escape notice.
I checked Rhamaposa’s schedule on the UNGETF site. He was in New London, but would fly to Ottawa in a week. I resolved to see him then.
I called Jon to make arrangements to crash at his place. He was not pleased.
“And why are you coming?”
“I’ll tell you when I get there.”
He grimaced in annoyance. The frown lines on his forehead looked like they were becoming permanent fixtures.
“Well I have to warn you, I’m very busy and won’t have time to spend with you. I’ve been working 16 hour days lately.”
“No problem. I won’t bother you at all.”
He grunted. “See you then.”
My train was stopped for three hours in the middle of muskeg and rock in Northern Ontario. One of the high temperature superconducting magnets cracked, the conductor told us. I amused myself by reading. I have a backlist of books to read that keeps getting longer.
After Jon’s annoyance when I called, I expected him to be difficult, awkward at best, but he played the dutiful brother to the hilt. He met me at the station with a wide embrace and a joke. We took a cab to his place. He gave me a key and, with many apologies, left me there. I had just under 6 hours before Peter was due to arrive.
I paced back and forth in the old brownstone apartment, wondering what to do. I could go out for a walk, but I was a little tired. I didn’t want to fall asleep and miss Peter. A sweater lay on the arm of the couch in the front room. I picked it up and opened the closet to hang it up. The closet was half-full of women’s clothing. She was small, a compact woman, whoever she was. Behind a red dress at the end was a rubber strap. With a shock I realized I was looking at bondage gear.
I closed the closet and put the sweater back on the couch. Now I needed to go for a walk. I used Jon’s house system to access the town directory. There was a museum of civilization not far from the airport. I could kill some time there and then go directly to the airport.
My plan was to pick Peter up at the airport and talk to him in the cab to wherever he was going. It seemed straightforward and wouldn’t show up on any schedule.
The first problem was security. Peter was arriving in a VIP section of the airport, so I wouldn’t be able to meet him when he disembarked, as I had originally planned. I tried to get around that by calling him while his plane was landing. I was routed to an automatic system that invited me to leave a message.
I was starting to feel a little antsy. There was one harried airline clerk facing a line of about fifteen people. When I finally got to the head of the line, I asked if they could get a message to Peter on the plane. He didn’t seem to understand. I was in the middle of explaining again, when I realized the clerk expected a bribe. I was a little shocked and put off, but asked where the iris scanner could be found.
“Never could I accept financial consideration in such a form to perform my duty, sir.”
Again I was shocked. He wanted cash, untraceable cash. Euros or UN credits. I wasn’t very good at this corruption thing.
“Do you know if there is an exchange nearby?”
“Just down the way. By the sign, sir.” He pointed.
I was getting desperate. The plane was supposed to land in 15 minutes. I thanked him and set off to get the cash. What was the minimum he would accept I wondered. I opted to hold 400 credits but only offer 100 at first.
I got the money from the automated exchange with no trouble, but when I hurried back to the clerk I had to go to the end of the line again and by the time I reached the front, the guy was gone. A blank-faced young woman stood behind the counter. When I explained what I wanted, she informed me that the plane had already landed.
“They often modify the VIP schedules,” she intimated.
I rocked back on my heels. Now what was I going to do? I was headed toward the public exit nearest to the VIP section when my padd vibrated with a call.
“Peter!” I practically yelled.
“Where are you?”
“In the LRT waiting for it to pull out.”
“Let me give you a ride.”
“Where are you?”
“At the airport. On the main floor. I came to meet you.”
“Okay, I am off the train now. Where exactly are you?”
“At Exit 7. I will head back toward the rail terminus. Don’t move.”
The trains were underground, more like subway cars than an LRT at the terminus. I hurried down the wide stairs and unto the platform just as the train was pulling out of sight around the corner. There was no sign of Peter. I stood there feeling a little shaken, stunned even. What had happened this time? I paced the length of the platform to make sure he wasn’t there and as I was heading back to the stairs, Rhamaposa came out of the washroom.
He took in my distraught state with sangfroid. “What’s bothering you?”
“Nothing. Now. I mean, did you ever have one of those days everything seems to conspire against you?”
He didn’t reply immediately and I could see he was wondering about my state of mind and maybe about me. This was not going the way I wanted. “What is this about Luc?”
“An effective SRM.”
For a second his famed English reserve was punctured. “What!”
“Not here. We need a quiet place.”
He nodded and we turned toward the stairs together.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified January 14, 2014