Chapter 2

Written by: Joe Labrum



The early afternoon shower that left the plaza scattered with puddles passed to the north. Penny pushed out through the heavy wire-meshed glass doors of the Atmospheric Sciences Building with Hubert at her heels. He wasn’t following her. It was more like she instinctively knew a secure place where they could examine the stuff, and Hubert was on the same wavelength. They often thought alike, finishing each other’s sentences. Now they were moving together as if in tandem both knowing the destination was a hole-in-the-wall espresso bar off campus. A place where they could disappear into a quiet booth and study the stolen emails.  And consider the possibilities.

Dante’s had been where students gathered for almost as long as the University existed. It was tucked away in an alley off the “Ave”, as “University Avenue” was called, just a block West of the main campus on the opposite side of the sprawling schools of Astrophysics and Atmospheric Sciences. The place was dark and raucous and smelled of dark roasted coffee and weed.  You could get high by just being there. Hubert knew they would be able to find plenty of theories of what was going on. Especially if the one they called “Legend” showed up. The problem with Legg was that he had an answer for everything and what he didn’t know he made up.

Lawrence “The Legend” Bogart, wearing his signature shades, green blazer and brown leather beret, sat in a corner playing mellow jazz on a baritone saxophone accompanied by a piano and stand-up bass.  Sometimes there were more and sometimes Larry played alone. Entertainment at Dante’s was casual. Musicians dropped in and jammed open-mic style. They played for tips, but mostly for fun. Music was always light-hearted and easy to listen to. And the volume was low enough to allow conversation. The pair made themselves comfortable in an out-of-the-way booth. Penny ordered a double-tall caramel macchiato with soy, but Hubert just wanted a twelve-ounce drip coffee. His order was a waste of a good barista’s talent. 

The important business of ordering drinks out of the way, they settled in and spread the papers out on the table. Conscious of the fact that they were dealing with sensitive material, quite likely classified, the two paid close attention to the people around them while at the same time trying not to look paranoid. This was, after all, a student hangout where papers were often spread on the tables with students in lively discussion about their content.  Hubert and Penny didn’t attract attention by their behaviour although Penny seemed to get noticed wherever she went and that annoyed her. When Harold Weisfenning, a weird kind of guy who fancied himself God’s gift to women, looked her way with obvious amorous intent she did everything she could to avoid eye contact. Harold didn’t seem to recognize the snub. Or, perhaps, he was motivated by a challenge and couldn’t let it pass. He started walking toward their booth.

Hubert saw Harold coming out of the corner of his eye and shuffled the papers into a neat stack while pretending not to see him approach. The “Legend” Bogart finished his set and arrived at the couple’s booth at the same time.

“Who’s your friend?” the Legend asked Penny sarcastically nodding towards the intruder.

“I have no idea,” she chuckled turning toward the unshaven, tee shirt clad Harold now standing next to her. “I think he’s a street person who hangs out here for lack of a place to go. He caught me looking at the bar for my drink and took it as an invitation, I guess.”

“Buzz off, my friend,” Larry ordered, and the scruffy delusional playboy dragged himself back to the bar where he was greeted with high-fives and laughter.

With the demented Weisfenning gone it was safe to get back the professor’s emails. Bogart, without invitation, helped himself to the stack of paper.

“Does this have something to do with what you were asking me about?” Larry asked.

“I don’t know. I was hoping you could help.  Have you heard anything about subversive activity? That’s what I think this is about.”

“Well, I did overhear a couple of grunts talking in a bar a week or so ago. They were drunk and I heard one of them say something about a Ground 29. Their commander jumped up from the booth where he was sitting with a hooker and hustled them out. I haven’t seen them since.” 

“Did you get any idea of where or what it is?” Hubert pressed.

All the while Hubert and Penny shuffled feverishly through their share of the emails searching for reference to Ground 29, and they were finding plenty. But no specific information to place it. Not even what country let alone what state or region. Every mention of Ground 29 included a mention of a Climate Exchanger but no clue as to what that device was to do. It quickly became obvious that the Climate Exchanger was a critical piece. But in order to find out anything about it they would first need to find Ground 29.

Finally, Hubert found it, buried in a message: 35786;47.9;183.5. It was the email Hubert had seen in the Professor’s lab that contained the mention of the Climate Exchanger. The reference looked familiar but he couldn’t place it.

“Penny, does this mean anything to you?” he asked pointing to the  triple set of numbers.

“Looks like coordinates… a satellite location? If I’m right that would be altitude; latitude; and longitude,” Penny answered feeling lucky she studied astronomy. “I think those coordinates are somewhere around Calgary.”

“But that location would be where the satellite was at a particular time. Isn’t that right? Unless it is stationary …” wondered Hubert.

“Correct, and thirty-five thousand kilometres up would indicate a geosynchronous orbit. Could this be the location of Ground 29?”




I think the increased word count is paying off. This is going to be a story with real meat on its bones if it continues in this way. Well done Joe. I'd love to grab a coffee at Dante's!
I agree with Donna. Writers can now spread wings and be more creative rather than writing a condensed version of what they really want to say. Joe has written a chapter that is filled with great detail and interesting dialogue. This chapter is alive and colorful and I can't wait to read the next chapter which I am sure will be just as good.
That is a terrific chapter Joe. I could smell the coffee. The student cafe is beautifully described with lots of bustle and coming and going. Loved it!
Thanks I really appreciate the feedback and kind words. I was a bit nervous about writing a longer chapter but found it really improved the experience and end product. I think we should unshackle the authors going forward by allowing 1,000 words on all future chapters regardless of the length of the previous chapters.