A Few Things Ill Considered

The Bottleneck Years

by H.E. Taylor

Chapter 88 Table of Contents Chapter 90

Chapter 89

The Beating, June 24, 2060

I hadn’t spoken to Jon for 7 weeks. Quite frankly, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I didn’t know what his long term reaction would be to my asking about Mai Ling, but I suspected it wouldn’t be good.

I called Haverfield at the designated time and was informed that Jon was in hospital. They wouldn’t say why.

I called Bergmann, but he wasn’t in his office and I didn’t have a personal number. I left a message and began to prepare for the last class of the day, an introduction to Liebig’s Law of the Minimum in Ecology 110.

Pete Wilson, who was tag-teaming the course with me, dropped in and we chatted about the students and my trip North. He had a paper coming out on the ecological aspects of globalization and deglobalization which he wanted to talk about also. Mostly I think he wanted to reassure himself that I really was going to cover the class.

I wandered into the lecture hall doing a good imitation of the absent minded professor and things went downhill from there. Somehow nothing worked right. The wall screen was pale and looked terrible. The microbug display needed refreshing. I forgot to introduce the issue of trade until a student asked. And so it went. I muddled through.

By the time I was nearing home, I still hadn’t heard from Bergmann and I was starting to worry. What the hell was going on down east?

Edie was tired. She said she was at the stage when everything hurt, and tried to laugh it off. I kissed her on the nose, shooed her out of the kitchen and finished preparing a lovely summer meal — wok vegetables with a bit of chicken and noodles on the side.

Bergmann called after supper. I took the call in the library and shut the door. He apologized for his tardiness. “I got caught in a lockdown and they were jamming all signals. I didn’t even know you had called until I was released half an hour ago.”

I sympathized at the inconvenience, but didn’t really care. I wanted to know about Jon. “What happened to Jon?”

“He was assaulted. He has been in isolation, but apparently it happened in the exercise yard. It took a couple of minutes for the guards to secure the area. His attackers did a lot of damage. He might lose an eye.”

“How long ago?”

“Ten days ago.”

“Ten days! And he’s still in hospital!”

“He was beaten up pretty badly. He has a broken arm, that damaged eye, partial loss of hearing in the left ear and multiple contusions.”

“Can I talk to him?”

“Not for some time. The officials are suddenly being very cagey, being sticklers for every rule and making up new ones to suit their agenda which seems to be to keep him as isolated as possible.”

“Are they torturing him?”

“I don’t think so, but I couldn’t swear to it.”

I paused for a second not sure what else to ask him. “Well, thanks for your efforts.”

He looked at me and grinned. “Oh don’t worry. You’ll get my bill.”


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 April 22, 2014