A Few Things Ill Considered

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 86 Table of Contents Chapter 88

Chapter 87

The Chinese Girlfriend, April 15, 2060

At the end of an Ecology 110 lecture the other day, Carman unobtrusively entered the back of the room and sat down. I was going through the history of DNA reading devices from Sanger and the discovery of Polymerase Chain Reaction [PCR] through the first microarrays to the terahertz readers and cascades of today.

I finished up by mentioning I would be away for most of the summer trimester on my trip North to document EF1.

After the class, Carman walked up to me. “As informative as ever, doctor.”

“I didn’t think I would be seeing you again,” I said.

He stood beside me and watched the last students leave. “Oh I get around,” he said. “And something has come up.”

“What might that be?”

“The next time you are talking to Jon, would you ask him what happened to Mai Ling?”

“Who?”

“Mai Ling.”

I stared at him. “I’ve never heard of her. The only female friend of his I met in Ottawa was Suzanne.”

Carman smiled. “She’s a piece of work, isn’t she?” He waited for a response from me and when it wasn’t forthcoming, continued, “Before Suzanne, there was Mai Ling.”

I shook my head. “I don’t know.”

A flicker of exasperation crossed Carman’s face. “Just ask him,” he said, “You might shake something loose.”

Then he shrugged and walked away. Students for the next class started to come in. I stuck my padd in my briefcase and got out of there.

The next Wednesday, when I called Jon, we talked about Edie, then eventually I got around to asking, “Who was Mai Ling?”

He stared at me for about 15 seconds. “Who told you?”

“ConSec.”

He nodded.

“Who was she?”

“She was the daughter of a consular official. A student researching Canadian politics, which is how I ran into her. She quite forthrightly told me she was supposed to make herself indispensable to me. That was on our first date. We both played the situation for what it was. Took advantage.”

“What happened to her?”

“I don’t know.”

“What happened? Tell me.”

“One day she was gone. I tried to contact her family. They were gone. Their apartment was empty. It was like they never existed.” He paused and got a distant look in his eyes. “I suppose spies are not supposed to enjoy their work. They aren’t supposed to fall in love.”

“What did this have to do with Carillon?”

Jon looked like I had just slapped him with a wet fish. He had been dreaming aloud and didn’t appreciate falling out of his cloud.

“Nothing. Mai Ling was personal. Carillon was political.”

“I thought nothing was personal to spies.”

Jon frowned and started to answer. There was a crackle and suddenly I was looking at a blue screen. Our time had run out. I cleared the connection and headed for home, walking.


Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor

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Last modified April 8, 2014

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