Part III – Potential
“Do not let the memories of your past limit the potential of your future. There are no limits to what you can achieve on your journey through life, except in your mind.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart.
Everything comes to an end; your life, the planet, everybody’s life, and all stories have to reach their conclusion. Sometimes things are left open, there is the possibility of a continuation, but not here. It failed: Project Weatherman was a unique idea – stop the rain by suspending the water in the clouds, control geographically where it falls, but it didn't work out as planned.
The rain stopped, the sky looked black, ominous and threatening. You might expect that at any minute the heavens would open with a torrential downpour. Which is exactly what happened – uncontrollably.
The rain stopped that night, after Joel had got off the sat phone to Kado.
There was a brief alarm that sounded in the building, the lights went out and came back on. Professor Madison came to their room to give them the news, and to get them out of there.
“I hate to have to tell you this,” he was standing in front of Joel, Jack and Mark. “Unfortunately we've lost geographic control. There will be one almighty flood in the next five or six hours. All power, everywhere is out. We are running on backup, but it won't last long. Everywhere else is mostly blacked out.”
“Everywhere else?” Joel questioned.
“The rest of the planet.”
“We're fucked!” Mark exclaimed.
The professor coughed. “Not quite how I would put it and not completely correct.”
“Plan B,” Jack was looking intently at Professor Madison.
“Exactly. No time to really explain in detail, but we will get you to the launch station and from there the pod will take you to the fourth and final escape ship.”
“And then what?” Joel asked.
“Then you get to live out the rest of your lives onboard. There will be a lot of things that need doing. You will after all be preparing to found a new planet with human life, to construct a new civilisation, a new beginning.”
“A new beginning we never get to see,” Jack added.
“You might never get to see it, but it will be your creation, and isn't it a whole lot better than the mess you're leaving behind?”
“When we get to this pod thing, what do we do?” Joel wanted to know.
“Joseph will give you the access codes. Then everything is automatic.”
“And what about my mom and Charlie?”
“Yeah, and Steve?” Mark couldn't leave his brother behind.
“If they get here in time, but if they haven't already left, then there is a pod at Mount Columbus.”
“I'm gonna call Kado and see if they've left.”
Professor Madison left them with Joseph who handed Joel a set of two codes and the pod location, he told them a vehicle was waiting , they should probably leave soon.
Joel picked up the sat phone hoping to make contact with Kado before they all left.
He picked up immediately. “What's going on, the rain has stopped, has it worked?”
“No, it failed. Everywhere is blacked out and a flood is expected in the next five to six hours. Where are you?”
“About a third of the way.”
“And mum, Charlie and Steve are with you?”
“Not Steve, he decided to stay with Grif.”
“Is there anyway to contact him?”
“You could try the control room at Mount Columbus, but I don't know if it will work. If there is no power and they are running on backup. Try messaging.”
“Okay. How long till you arrive?”
“Around five hours or so.”
Joel hung up, there was no point saying that was cutting things fine, he would have already realised that.
Steve was sitting in the chair next to Grif when the alarm went off. He had no idea what it meant other than the power went down then almost immediately came back on, but a lot dimmer. They were in the medical bay with emergency lighting only. The place seemed to glow an eerie pale yellow, accentuated by its emptiness. He thought that maybe they were the last forgotten two, that everyone else had left.
Except that idea was broken when a young looking orderly came in to give him a message.
“This came through the control room for you,” he handed Steve the paper.
“Thanks.” He didn’t know who had sent him a message, but guessed it must be Kado.
“We're evacuating.” He looked at Steve with the obvious question that didn't need saying.
“Okay, I'm staying here.”
The young man gave him a smile. “Good luck.”
“Yeah thanks, you too.”
Once more it was just the two of them, and looking at Grif, the thought crossed his mind that maybe this was the end. However, a movement of Grif's arm, like a twitch of a muscle, forced Steve to concentrate harder on the young man lying in bed. Did he move? Then there it was again, a muscular twitching in his arm. Steve lent over and took hold of Grif's hand. A couple of seconds later he felt life in that hand, he turned to stare at Grif. His eyelids fluttered and opened.
“Grif!” Steve called his name softly. “Grif, can you hear me?”
The body on the bed stirred as if in some kind of acknowledgement. Grif stared back at him, eyes wide open now.
“Yes.” The faint word escaped his lips.
Steve quickly moved to get some water. He helped him to sit up and placed the plastic cup and straw next to Grif's lips. They had told him that if ever he comes round he would need liquid. Grif moved his lips to cover the straw and suck in the first drink in days, he felt very groggy.
After some time with Steve holding the cup for Grif to drink, he finally spoke.
The inevitable question which Steve fielded by explaining the events that had taken place whilst he had been lying there unconscious. As he finished, he remembered the note handed to him, he unfolded it and read the message.
Plan B is an escape pod
Coordinates are 404018, 1114624
Get there and launch
Well, that was clear enough, whatever it meant, but he'd need to see if Grif could stand up and walk, that was not a sure thing.
“The good news is it's stopped raining,” Eve told them as the door opened.
“That means Project Weatherman was successful then,” Mark was looking for confirmation.
“Well we are about to find out as soon as we locate the facility.”
“It's north, north-west, exactly 2.97 miles,” Evan held the GPS in the palm of his hand.
“Let's go,” Andre smiled, “should be there in an hour.”
They grabbed the couple of bags they'd brought with them and set off. It was remarkable that the incessant rain had finally stopped, but the gloom was ever present with a ceiling of dark and threatening clouds.
It was easy going and they made good progress in just under fifty minutes they were there.
“This is it,” Evan said, double checking the GPS.
“It's just a park, with a couple of buildings. Nothing here looks like a control centre,” Mark looked around.
“I guess we take a look in there,” Andre pointed to the closest building, which was no bigger than a large hut and looked about as substantial.
Eve pushed open the door and walked in. Looking around there was nothing much on the inside. Andre flicked the light switch, nothing happened.
“Then what is that glow,” Mark was looking across to the back where a wooden balustrade seemed to indicate stairs.
“Perhaps there is a basement to this place. Let's check it out.” Eve lead the way to what was a set of wooden stairs. They followed her down but the stairs just finished at a door which the faint green light was outlining.
Andre pulled a torch from the bag he was carrying, switched it on and pointed the beam forwards.
“Here take this,” he handed the torch to Eve.
“There’s a touch pad, number display,” she reached forward, touched the small screen and the number pad lit up with the same faint green glow that surrounded the door.
“The access codes you downloaded. Let's try them.”
Eve keyed in the first code as Evan read it out. “Six, seven, nine, nine, eight, five, nine.”
There was a click and the screen lit up with the word spelled in green letters – PROCEED.
“Looks like we're in.” At least something was working out, Eve thought.
“Doesn't look anything like the facility we were expecting,” Andre was a little concerned.
A long dimly lit tunnel led them further down at a slight gradient until a second door barred their passage. This time a gentle push was all that was needed to enter into a brightly lit room, which had one small door on the far side. There was a screen set into one wall and a number of bench seats, but otherwise is was clinically white.
The four of them stopped in the middle of the room. There was no sound other than their own breathing and an almost indiscernible humming. The screen displayed what Mark at first thought was a clock, well it was, but it was counting down – 03:12:55, 54, 53, 52. He watched the numbers changing.
“Where are we?” Andre voiced the question on everybody's lips.
“The same keypad is on the other door,” Eve moved to get close. “Give me the second access code.”
Evan read out the numbers, ”six, seven, four, four, three, two, one.”
The door clicked and Eve pulled it open.
“It's a vehicle, some kind of transport,” she told them. “It looks quite large, probably could hold about ten or a dozen people.”
“So we've found a bunker with an underground railway?” Andre was rather despondent.
“I think it might be more than an underground railway. It's certainly got power.”
“Hold it a minute! Did you hear that?” Mark asked.
“Sounds like we've got company.” Evan added.
Footsteps echoed along the passageway they had just come from.