|Chapter 61||Table of Contents||Chapter 63|
Baumgarten, July 2, 2058
I got another late night call from Rhamaposa. He looked terrible --- shaken and drawn out.
"What happened to you?" I asked.
"I did a tour across the Sahel." He shook his head and shuddered.
He grimaced. "Starving cattle. Dead children. What a time to be in a dry country!"
"Where are you now?"
I looked at him in surprise. I wasn't aware that UNGETF had any official contact with the Caliphate.
"The Arab Democratic Union asked me to update them on our projects, but one of the princes dragged me across Africa on this horrid tour." He stopped himself and took a deep breath. "Anyway, that's not why I am calling. Will you see what you can find out about Darklight Wares?"
"Yeah, okay. What are they up to?"
"I'm not sure, but their trademark, embedded in a processor, was the only identifying mark found on a sulphate gondola that fell into the ocean just off Easter Island."
"Oh, indeed. I'll see you at the next meeting."
A web search on Darklight turned up over a million hits; a search on Darklight Wares, nothing. Darklight and various software or geoengineering terms was equally unproductive. I started looking through programmer's forums and quit in disgust. I was going about this the wrong way.
What could not be hidden? I asked myself. I searched the commodities market for sulphur transactions. A company called Kookaburrah Flats in Australia was shipping tons of sulphur to Buka on Bougainville, 50 million tons so far and they had options for 500 million.
A quick look through the Australian business registry showed Kookaburrah was a subsidiary of Solomon Island Enterprises, a space launch company wholly owned by Sam Baumgarten.
That name rang a bell, but I couldn't place it. A web search turned up millions of hits. He was the eccentric Australian billionaire who had been dubbed 'the invisible man' by frustrated reporters. No photos or video of him were known to exist. Everywhere he went, he was careful to be screened.
I started investigating Baumgarten from the point of view of an investor. His holdings included a broad swathe of media, high tech, and medical equipment companies. Kookaburrah had contracted their IT work with a Solomon Island business called DLW, which I assumed was DarkLight Wares.
I started looking for other items geoengineering required. Solomon Island Enterprises had large hydrogen processing facilities for rocketry, which could easily be used for sulphate balloons. What about the gondolas? Who made them? I looked through my DCS files from the Group 2 disaster and found the gondolas were Indian, from a subsidiary of Brahmaputra Research Inc., in which Baumgarten was a partial owner. It suddenly seemed like a small world.
If Baumgarten were of a mind to geoengineer, he had the ways and the means. I packed up the information. It was all circumstantial, but highly indicative I thought, and sent it off to Rhamaposa.
At the next UNGETF meeting, Peter gave us a rundown on Group 5 activities and then said, "There is just one other matter to mention. Last week, a USSA navy vessel snagged a large balloon with a sulphur dispersion gondola just as it crashed into the ocean off the coast of Chile.
"Since then some other information has come to my attention." He looked at me, but did not otherwise indicate me. "The reclusive Australian multibillionaire, Sam Baumgarten, has been funding a private geoengineering project based in the Solomon Islands. He has already pumped 45 million tons of sulphates into the Southern stratosphere and the project is ongoing.
"There are no laws to prevent such behaviour. The Australians have him under a temporary restraining order, but the Solomons are theoretically independent. There are jurisdictional issues."
"Can't the ecocops do anything?" asked Barnes across the table.
"Well yes, but there are really no laws to enforce. No body has licensed or regulated geoengineering. There is a prohibition in the Nagoya Protocol but it is toothless. Several countries have written laws against it, but not Australia and definitely not the Solomons."
At this point, Makeba could no longer contain herself. "What is wrong with you people?!" she exclaimed. "You shouldn't be criminalizing this guy; you should be hiring him!"
A couple of people tittered in nervous laughter.
Rhamaposa stopped dead and stared right at her. "You know, I think you're absolutely right. I'll see what I can do. Meeting adjourned." His hologram winked out.
Just before her hologram disappeared, Makeba looked at me and I saw an unmistakable glint of triumph in her eye.
Rhamaposa had a new friend.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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Last modified October 15, 2013