Part II – Autonomic Failure
“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” Carl Jung
Henry did not appear concerned about what had happened to Grif. Perhaps he thought it was unimportant in the scheme of things, which it probably was. HNO4 as a drug trial had failed, it had been closed down, and now they were just having to deal with some of the consequences. Actually Henry liked the boy, he had spent a lot of time watching him. He hoped things worked out for Grif, but he couldn't do anything to influence the outcome.
“It's just one thing on top of another,” he was telling Kado. “Everything is turning to shit.”
“A nice turn of phrase Henry.”
“Yes, well it is. It's almost unmanageable now. The X-Corp project ICEX looks like it’s going ahead, and Madison and his Project Weatherman might also get off the ground. No pun intended there.”
Henry chuckled at his own little joke, but deep down he knew it wasn't funny. This was the end. He doubted Madison would achieve what he hoped and ICEX wouldn't work either. No, he was glad most of his life was memories. He’d lived, he'd leave those memories behind. No regrets. Just sad that all these young people who were here with him would only have very short lives. At least, he told himself, humanity would survive. Just not on this planet.
“Where does that leave us?”
“There's no real choices. Send Madison's nephew to try and locate him. If we know what he's planning, maybe we will have some leverage with X-Corp.”
“I'll get on to it.” Kado was not completely behind Henry, he had ideas of his own.
For a start it would be useful to find Joel's family, that could be a card to play with Madison. Then depending what was going to happen there, he could either go with the idea of Project Weatherman or with ICEX. He personally favoured Madison, but was philosophical about the possible outcomes. No, perhaps resigned to accept failure was more on the mark. Maybe it amounts to the same in the end, philosophical or resigned.
“What we gonna do?” Jack asked.
“I can't stand sitting around doing nothing,” Joel told them.
“We need to talk to Kado.”
Mark wasn't only thinking about Jack's question, or even about Grif, although he felt very close to Grif. He probably liked Grif about equal with Joel – is that even possible – to like, fall in love with two guys at the same time? The main thing on his mind was where was his brother.
“Who needs to talk to me?” Kado marched into the room. His large presence dominating the space.
“What's happening?” Jack asked.
“And where is Steve?” Mark chimed in.
“Can we see Grif?” Joel added.
“Woah! Hold on a minute. Sit down. I guess we need to talk.”
The boys each found a seat, Jack was on the bed, Mark and Joel on one of the brightly coloured inflatable little bubble chairs.
“You can't see Grif and anyway he's not conscious. Soon as he comes round, I'll let you all know. Steve has gone to Neón de Luces, I sent him to look for your family, Joel.”
“I could have done that. Fuck, it's my family,” Joel was annoyed.
“First off, I didn't know you remembered. Second, I need you to find your uncle.”
There was a silence in the bedroom. Mark stood up and moved across the room to look out through the only window. The small dark grey metallic frame made a cadre for the even darker blackness outside. Nothing was visible except the droplets of rain that splattered on the glass and glistened from the reflected light as they slid downwards.
He had wanted to see Steve. Kado had said they would meet up when he got the boys back here. Now he wasn't here. Mark felt betrayed – What was so urgent?
“What's wrong with Grif?” Jack broke the silence.
“He has a nervous system disorder.” Kado wanted to avoid going into all the details, but he had to tell them something.
“A nervous system disorder?” Jack looked puzzled. He didn't know whether to believe Kado or not. It didn't sound right. “A nervous system disorder that sends you unconscious?”
“Some types are temporary, but many worsen over time. When they affect your breathing or heart function these disorders can be life-threatening. Some autonomic nervous system disorders get better when an underlying disease is treated. Often, however, there is no cure.”
“So what you're saying. What you're saying is... he might never get better, and he could die?”
“What disease?” Joel wanted to know.
“Strictly speaking, it's not a disease, but the pollution. It effects us all, only Grif had been vaccinated with a new drug... and, well, it seems to have, in his case, side effects.”
It was always best Kado knew, to tell half truths rather than outright lies. They were more believable and made you sound convincing. Plus, you were less likely to trip yourself up.
“You need to go find your uncle.” Kado wanted to move on, there was nothing much else to say about Grif's state of health. He'd get better, or he wouldn't. “So in the morning you leave for Morro Bay.”
“And what do I do if I find him?”
“You tell me how far advanced he is with his project. I'm giving you a sat phone, you get back to me as soon as you know. And it's pretty damned urgent. You can take Mark and Jack with you. All boys together!” He smirked.
“I wanna wait here for Steve,” Mark told him.
“You do what I fucking tell you.” Now it was Kado's turn to get angry. He wasn't having some little kid telling him what to do.
“You said Steve would be here when I got back with the others,” Mark whined.
“That's not fair. You lied.”
“Mark, shut the fuck up! Unless you want some of what your daddy used to dish out.”
Mark didn't say anymore, but at that moment he hated Kado. He also remembered how he'd smacked his brother across the face, so he bit his lip and just glared daggers at him.
That had no effect on the big man, he ignored Mark, turned and left the room. It was Joel who attempted to comfort the boy, but Mark wasn't having any of it. He shrugged off Joel's arm, turning his glare on his new found boyfriend.
Jack was watching all this. “Chill out man. It's Kado who's the arsehole, not Joel.”
Mark plonked himself back down in the cushion seat and buried his head in his arms. He knew Jack was right, but he just felt so angry, angry and frustrated, because he knew he couldn't do anything other than what Kado wanted.
Andre came rushing into the X-Corp office that they were using as their project room. They could have chosen more or less any of the empty offices, but this one was nice because it was large with huge glass panels that looked out over the city streets.
“I finally found out what they're planning. It's absolutely fucking crazy.”
“Hold on a minute Andre,” Eve needed to calm things down, even if she suspected everything was not quite right, she still wasn't ready to throw it all away. “Just tell us slowly and clearly.”
Neither Mark nor Evan spoke, they just looked from Andre to Eve and waited feeling apprehensive about what he might be about to announce. They too, did not feel entirely comfortable about the work life balance, or about the future. Ever since most of the building had emptied out of staff they had been wondering what was going on. When Jane Spenser, she was a senior management secretary – who had worked there for years – said that it was the beginning of the end, that was when the two of them started considering options.
“ICEX it's called. Some insane idea. They want to freeze the oceans!”
Eve had heard the project name, but had no idea what is was about, for Mark and Evan this was all new. Andre went on to explain that the idea now was to prevent Professor Madison’s imminent cloud seeding, that is to sabotage that project, so ICEX would become the only available choice.
“I also heard they sent Howard and Emret to Morro Bay,” Andre finished explaining.
“So where does that leave us?” Evan wanted to know.
“In an empty building waiting to see who launches first and what happens after.” Mark had a sad look on his face, a sort of resignation – What will be will be.
“Thing is,” Eve added. “Which side is the government on?”
“I've got access via this hacked account. What I mean is I have a password that will let us into level two security. I haven't used it, because... well, because every access is monitored. Once we use it, they will know who, where, and what was accessed. The who I don't care about, but the where, well like you just said, we're practically the only people in this empty building.”
“We need to know what we are looking for and what we do after, if we find it. You did good Andre.” Eve knew they would have to act quickly.
Steve felt odd going to some address he'd been given to find Joel's family, who he didn't even have a name for. He only knew that a Professor Madison was Joel's mother's brother and she would be with her son, Joel's little brother Charlie. He had a photo, but how old was that? He had no idea if she went by the name of Madison or if, as he thought was pretty normal, she used Joel's father's name which he didn't know. Why did he get into these shit situations?
The car parked itself outside a non-descript tall apartment block, one like hundreds of others in the city. Grey concrete facade, tiny square windows, grim and unwelcoming. Looking out from the open door he was trying to decide if he should get out or not. Steve kept wondering what he would say if he found them. The question also crossed his mind as to what he would do if he didn't, Kado had given no other instructions, nowhere else to look.
With no real alternatives, he forced himself out into the street and dashed across to the entrance. The large door, inset into the front of the building, barely offered any protection from the rain. The faint green glow of the keypad highlighted the number keys which would open the door or call an occupant. Steve shielded the keyboard to keep off the rain and so he could see the little screen more easily. He punched in the apartment number and waited.
Nothing happened. Shit, I never thought about them being out. Steve considered what his choices were. He was getting wet standing outside. Trying to get out of the rain in what little shelter the meagre porch offered, he pushed up against the door. It buzzed and clicked. It was open.
He pushed through into the dimly lit hall. 206, must be the second floor. He found the stairs, the state of the building gave him no confidence in using the elevator. Climbing the dimly illuminated stairwell, he again wondered what, if anything would happen when he knocked on the door.
It was at the end of the corridor, on the left. He hesitated a moment before wrapping the door twice with his knuckles. It seemed ages before his knock was answered and the door opened, just a tiny bit, held in place by a chain.
A young boy starred at him through the crack.
“Charlie?” Steve ventured uncertainly.
The boy looked him up and down, before replying. “How do you know my name?”