|Chapter 75||Table of Contents||Chapter 77|
A Better World, November 12, 2059
We settled in the back of a small electric cab. The driver slid open a slot in the plasteel barrier partitioning the passenger area. Peter gave him the UN offices as a destination and then turned to me.
"Right then. Why don't you tell me all about it?"
"Have you looked at the sunbug proposal?"
"Yeah, I glanced at it. It's too bad it's only theoretical."
"I have a practical implementation."
"What! Are you sure?"
"I didn't do the work. My brother Matt did. But here's the thing." I paused and steadied myself in the lurching cab. "Matt was killed in mysterious circumstances and I suspect the energy corps were involved."
"Well, what do you expect me to do?"
"I don't know."
Peter watched me struggle to articulate my feelings.
"I want to use the sunbugs, but...I have a family and I'm afraid for them."
"Have you considered incorporating to capitalize on this opportunity?"
"No. I don't care about that. I..."
"Then put it in the public domain, anonymously."
The way he said it was like a flippant remark, but it struck home. It was an option that had never occurred to me. Why hadn't I seen it? It gave me a way forward. I sat back with a sigh. I felt like an immense weight had been lifted from my shoulders. Suddenly I was sleepy.
"You'd better drop me off."
Peter rapped on the divider and asked the driver to pull over. I gave the driver two hundred credits to cover the trip and got out. I didn't have a clue where I was. I started walking away from the highway, through a light frieze of bush into a residential district. I felt wonderful --- relieved and hopeful for the first time in a long time.
It was six o'clock by the time I got back to Jon's. He wasn't home yet. I had a simple meal of bread and cheese. I moved into the frontroom and sat on the couch. My feet were still sore from my long walk. I was bending over, taking my shoes off, when a female voice spoke.
"Did the eco-cops interview you yet?"
I snapped up in surprise. A beautiful and svelte dark-haired woman dressed only in panties and a brassiere walked into the frontroom from the darkened bedroom. She didn't wait for an answer. "I thought I heard you come in and was very disappointed when you didn't come and join me." She had an affected pout on her face. "After last night...."
"I'm not Jon."
For a second she froze, then suddenly a flash of anger blazed in her eyes and she slapped me hard in the face with her open hand. On the second swing I caught her wrist and pushed her back. She was a tiny woman, maybe 55 kg and 170 cm. It was not until I pushed her away that she actually realized I was not Jon, I think.
"Who are you?"
"Luc. Jon's brother."
She turned on her heel and stomped back into the bedroom.
I was sitting there, one shoe on, one shoe off, wondering what to do when Jon opened the front door and walked in.
"How was your day?"
"I just had a run-in with your girlfriend."
The dark-haired woman appeared at the bedroom door adjusting a sweater on one arm and shoulder.
"When you told me your brother was coming, you should have mentioned he looked just like you."
She marched toward the front door a coat over her arm, and Jon said, "Suzanne, they picked up Connor."
She stopped dead and looked back. "The weak link."
Without another word, she turned and was gone.
Jon pushed the door shut and locked it. He came back into the front room and sat down with a sigh in the easy chair opposite me.
"Why would the eco-cops be after you?" I asked.
"What did she tell you?"
Jon looked at me and laughed. He knew I was pulling a Matt, but he didn't know how much Suzanne had told me. With a deep breath he got up and paced over to the window where he peered down into the street.
"You think they'll arrive any time now?"
Jon nodded, looking out the window.
"Because of Carillon?"
For about two minutes nothing was said.
Then Jon started talking in a quiet voice. "They have two transmitters. On this side of the world, the primary is in Zurich and the backup in a small town just north of here. They communicate through the Ottawa office. About six months ago, they sent an update through the secondary transmitter cause the primary was down for repairs."
He stayed at the window staring out. "When I saw that update, I realized I had all I needed to send my own updates. Suzanne worked with me. And Connor at the transmitter, though he was doing it just to get into Suzie's pants."
"What updates did you send?"
Jon shrugged. "The goal was to freeze out China."
He turned to look at me. "The AU is an enduring threat to North America. Only by bringing them down can we truly be safe."
I felt like I had been slapped in the face again. How could my brother believe this racist crap?
"This is why you're killing millions of people?" I asked somewhat incredulously.
He stared at me defiantly. "I'll survive."
A wave of anger flashed through me. "The lifeboat is sinking and instead of fixing it, you're trying to be king rat?"
I had to get out. I was so angry. I was tired and I had been planning on staying the night, but I had to get out. "Look. I've got to go."
"That might be best."
He watched me put on my coat and shoes, but did not say anything.
I stopped at the door and looked back. Neither of us spoke, but the eye contact was intense --- scorn, anger, disbelief, fear and fury in dismembering glances.
I stumbled out onto the street. I had nowhere to go but the train station. There was an LRT line half a kilometer away. I headed in that direction.
The next train west left in two hours. I was in a timeless buzz. Everything took forever to play out. My brother was an ecological criminal. I didn't know how to deal with that. I still don't.
The 22:00 train arrived and I boarded. Because of the time zone difference, I would gain an hour and arrive at Centre City about midnight.
I sat in the train staring into the night. My brother had gone from risking his life for innocents to condemning the greater part of those innocents to death by storm and starvation, all because he thought he was making a better world.
There were no two ways around that. I shuddered to think what the future might bring.
Excerpted from _The Bottleneck Years_ by H.E. Taylor
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A Gentle Introduction.
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Last modified January 21, 2014