A Few Things Ill Considered

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 83 Table of Contents Chapter 85

Chapter 84

The Sorceror’s Apprentice, January 27, 2060

A couple of days after the December UNGETF meeting, I got a call from Drew Matheson in Yellowknife. He was a field worker slash forester reporting to Group10. Behind him as we talked I could see great swathes of lichen, covering a stand of pine trees. I assumed it was EF1 — it was blue-grey.

He wanted to know if I had investigated the interactions of EF1 and northern pine before I released it.

When I admitted that I hadn’t, he looked more annoyed than surprised. I didn’t blame him. My father would have been appalled.

“Well anyway, you may be interested in this.” He inserted a video stream that opened an aerial view of a forest on my padd. Most of the trees were tinted blue-grey. The video stream switched to a hand held camera as he walked into the forest. The lichen coated everything.

“It’s not killing the trees, but it is stressing them. Is there anything you can suggest?”

I shook my head. “Not at the moment, no.”

Drew closed the picture-in-picture window and paused.

I felt on the spot. I struggled to explain. “I was trying to design the most efficient CO2 grabber I could and that is what I did. I didn’t even model its interaction with the rest of the biosphere.”

“So I see,” said Drew, disapproval stark on his face.

“Look UNGETF has asked me to investigate, so I will be surveying the north this summer.” I paused, wondering what commitment I could make. “I’ll see what I can do, but don’t hold your breath.”

“I’ll let you go then. Give me a call when you’re in the neighbourhood.”

“I’ll do that.”

I felt a little bit like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. EF1 was doing what was needed but, I began to think I should have added a cutoff switch that would kick in when the CO2 levels dropped. It was too late now. The ecology of the north would be changed forever.

I felt dad’s presence keenly as I mulled this. With the high methane levels, CO2 had jumped to over 650 ppm. It was mostly the methane, but the permafrost was melting as well, and it was releasing both methane and CO2.

Christmas was definitely a subdued affair around the Fontaine house that year. I tried to remain cheerful for Anna, but there was little joy in it.

My weekly conversations with Jon did not help, either. He continued to rant his twisted politics at me. I couldn’t help but wonder what had happened to him in Ottawa. I spoke to the lawyer, Bergmann, once in a while, usually when he had questions. His weekly billings gave me some idea of what he was doing. It was a lot of money. Edie helped.

All in all, I had a rough couple of months after Jon’s arrest. Nobody was unkind to me and it wasn’t that I felt all that bad: I just didn’t want to do anything. I sat and thought — a lot. Edie was good and Anna’s innocence helped, but it was something I just had to work through. The best analogy I have heard is that such a shock is like a cut. It takes time for the wound to knit, for the scar tissue to grow, for regular movement to resume.

Matt’s death and Jon’s ignominy were wounds in me that were going to take time to heal. One complicating factor was that Jon’s trial was so far ahead. His crime would be an issue that came up repeatedly.


Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

For further information, see
A Gentle Introduction.

If you want a copy, see
The Deal.

Last modified March 18, 2014

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