|Chapter 15||Table of Contents||Chapter 17|
Carman, Sept. 25, 2055
Matt had been on the west coast for two months. Jon was in Ottawa with the Senator. I was happy with Olivia. Our life was never dull. Doc Y, as Jim Yablonski was affectionately known around campus, and I were collaborating on a new paper on photosynthesis. Except for dad’s death, which was a shock, my life was unfolding more or less as I thought it should.
Then I met Carman.
I had got up early one Saturday morning, as I sometimes do when I’m chewing on a problem. I appreciate the opportunity to think without distraction that quiet hour brings. The chemistry was plaguing me. There is so much going on in a plant cell during photosynthesis.
I noticed there was a car parked out front, which was unusual. Then I heard a funny noise from the kitchen. It sounded just like the recirculating pump on the ground heat exchange system we had trouble with a couple years before, so I got up to investigate. The noise was coming from the back door, not the basement.
I opened the door and interrupted a ConSec guy drilling beside the lock. A dozen ConSec guards in full body armour, stood guns at the ready.
The officer in charge didn’t hesitate. “Go! Go! Go!” he yelled.
ConSec invaded the house, guns drawn. I was grabbed, spun around, my hands bound behind my back. It all happened so fast.
Pushed against the wall, I turned my head sideways and said to the officer, “I think you have the wrong address.”
He was a thin greasy looking character. “I think you are Luc Fontaine. Is that not so?”
I fought to bite back a smile. He acted like he was a tough guy in some private film noir of his imagination. I struggled to hide my reaction, and managed to say, “That’s me” with a straight face. “What’s this about?”
He ignored my question. “Is there anyone else in the house?”
“In the bedroom.”
The inspector nodded at one of his men and three bruisers hurried past me. To another, he said, “Secure the premises.” Four more of the oversized muscle boys took off, two of them carrying a trunk-like case between them.
In seconds Olivia was dragged into the kitchen wearing only her night gown. “Luc, what is this about?” she whispered.
“I don’t know.”
One of the cops returned and said to the inspector, “All clear.”
He turned to us. “Okay. You’re going to get dressed and go for a little ride.”
We were escorted into separate rooms, given clean clothes and then hustled into a paddy wagon with no windows. We drove through the night for almost an hour. Olivia was strong and silent, waiting to see what was going to happen.
When the vehicle stopped, I heard the driver and someone else get out. Two doors slammed and then nothing was audible for 5, maybe 10 minutes.
“That box was a fogger,” said Olivia.
“A microbug fogger. They spread a mist of microbugs that settle on everything.”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve seen them before.”
Someone fumbled with the door. It opened to reveal a short inoffensive looking guy. He could have passed for an accountant, going bald. He was the quintessential little grey man — a faceless bureaucrat in a grey business suit.
“Luc, Olivia would you like some breakfast?”
He pulled the door open wide and gestured toward a small table set in the middle of a large dark room. A single spotlight shone down. The room was not just large, it was huge. I guessed we were in the middle of a darkened hangar on some military base. The floor was polished concrete. The walls were lost in the darkness and I didn’t hear any echoes.
“Who are you?” I asked the little guy as he held Olivia’s chair back for her.
“You can call me Carman.” He gestured toward the covered plates and started pouring coffee from a carafe.
“What’s going on?” demanded Olivia.
“Let’s eat before talking,” said Carman. “I’m not used to being up at this hour.”
Olivia looked at me and shrugged.
“Is it drugged?” I asked.
“No. Do you want to trade plates?”
“Why the muscle?” asked Olivia.
“I needed to convince you of my sincerity,” said Carman.
It was an odd meal. Carman ate enthusiastically. Olivia picked at her plate. I had no appetite, so I appropriated the carafe and drank coffee with the odd chaser of orange juice.
“Are you going to eat that?” Carman pointed at my plate.
“No.” I pushed it toward him.
He half rose and picked up a strip of bacon with his fingers. He sat back munching the strip with satisfaction. Olivia and I looked at each other without expression, both of us wondering — who was this weird little shit and what did he want with us?
Carman filched another strip of bacon, ate half of it and put the rest aside. “‘Happy is the man who knows when he has enough,’ as the Chinese say.” He had a sip of coffee and then asked me, “What is F3?”
“In what context?”
“Try something more down to earth.”
“Me and my brothers?”
“What about the F3 Consortium?”
“Never heard of it.”
Carman looked at me hard for about 5 seconds, then glanced at Olivia and reached for something on the floor. He lifted an old fashioned leather briefcase with a round top onto his lap, opened it and pulled out a Billiebot.
“Matt,” I said.
Carman was watching me like a hawk.
“Take a look at who makes it,” he said. “On the back.”
I picked up the toy. The logo on the back read, “F3 Consortium.”
“I don’t know anything about this. When I last saw Matt, he didn’t mention any F3 Consortium. Henry said he made a couple hundred of them out on the west coast.”
“I only know him as Henry.”
“I think I would like my solicitor to be present before we proceed,” said Olivia.
“I can have you declared enemies of the state and put away indefinitely without representation,” said Carman.
Olivia and I looked at each other.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Where is Matt?”
“In Vancouver,” I replied.
Carman shook his head and looked at Olivia. “How do you now he’s not Matt?”
Olivia was shocked by the idea.
“Matt has a birthmark on his thigh,” I said.
“Take off your pants.”
“That’s English. Humour me.”
I stood up and dropped my pants, then turned so they both could see where Matt had his birthmark. “Satisfied?”
Olivia didn’t react. Carman said, “So either you are not Matt or you have had the mark removed.”
I sighed and put on my pants again.
I held my hand up for Carman to see. “My other brother Jon has a scar on his little finger.”
“What exactly do you want?”
“Let me know if you hear from Matt.” Carman reached down into his briefcase and put a small electronic gadget on the table in front of me. “Any time, any place, all you have to do is press that button.”
In a slightly elevated voice, Carman said, “Sergeant, you can take them home now.” He stood up, put the Billiebot back in his case and started walking into the dark. When he was about five meters away, he stopped and looked back with a disarming smile. “We’ll be watching,” he said and disappeared into the darkness.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
For further information see:
A Gentle Introduction.
Last modified November 27, 2012