Chapter 7

Written by: Suraya Dewing

 

A terrifying shiver shot down Bogart’s spine.  

Shark Eyes fiercely jabbed the nozzle into Bogart’s neck. “Don’t dare try anything.”

“I guess you didn’t find it.” Bogart tried to sound casual as he nodded curtly at the upturned furniture and wildly scattered papers. “What you were looking for.”

Another painfully sharp jab. “Just shut up.”

Bogart compressed his lips.

“Move.” Shark Eyes ordered, pointing to the door. The gun shone dully.

Bogart slumped his hands into his brown corduroy trousers. “Hands where I can see them,” Shark Eyes growled.

Bogart clapped his hands to his side. Shark Eyes stabbed Bogart's back with the gun. His fawn trench coat flap was open to hide the gun from prying eyes. They stepped into the dimly lit passage. Bare light bulbs sat in old fashioned, dirty mounts casting eerie shadows over the threadbare carpet. 

A young couple emerged from a room and sauntered towards them. Shark Eyes tensed. Bogart thought about making a scene but, as if reading Bogart's mind, Shark Eye jabbed him again.

“Evenin’,” the man greeted possessively pulling the young girl to him. She girl giggled coyly.

The lift was open, and they stepped in. It clattered noisily down the shaft to the bottom floor. Cars were still racing around the track on the screen as they walked past the preoccupied receptionist and out into the night. Across the road, Beer Belly lounged casually against the hood. He opened the door.

“Get in,” Shark Eyes ordered. 

Bogart sank into the seat. He held back a yelp as the springs bit into him. Shark Eyes grinned humourlessly.

The seat in front sank under the weight of Beer Belly as he climbed in.

With a screech of wheels, the old Pontiac disappearded into the night.

***

They left the dilapidated suburb behind them as they drove toward the city. One epoch to another Bogart thought wryly. 

Although his companions seemed to belong to the debauched part of town, the city flashed welcoming neon lights over them.  Apartment buildings and office blocks stretched into the darkened starless sky. Shopping malls, disguised behind last century facades, buzzed with sleepless people.

Loose metal rattled under the tyres as Beer Belly pulled sharply into an unlit siding. The door creaked open and the seat sighed a groaning sigh as Beer Belly got out. Across the road was a high-rise with an entrance that sank steeply into a cavernous ground floor. 

Beer Belly opened the back door and a rush of smog caught in Bogart’s throat making him cough. Shark Eyes stabbed the gun into Bogart’s ribs. They slid across the crusty vinyl out and into the night. 

They entered the building by a side door where a lift waited. It rattled open and they entered it.

With mounting foreboding, Bogart listened to the sound of the lift gliding down a deep shaft and tried to imagine how many floors they passed. He estimated ten when it stopped with a bump. The door slid open and the two men frog marched him down a long, twisting series of corridors. 

A musty smell filled the air despite the laboured whirring of air conditioners. Light bulbs hung from string at intervals above them. Finally, after what seemed like a marathon, they stopped in front of a heavy metal door. It slid open to reveal Penny’s stricken face looking at them through a Perspex board over which calculations sprawled.

Shark Eyes and Beer Belly unceremoniously shoved Bogart into the room.

General Grojean and Driscol stepped forward. “Your goods,” Shark Eyes opened his hand to reveal a flash but immediately closed it as Driscol reached for it.  “Payment?”

Driscol casually waved a wad of money at him. “When we get to the lift.”

The tone of his voice alarmed Penny. She looked nervously at Hubert who quickly returned to his workings on the Perspex board.

The three men left the room and silence filled the room. There was a muffled sound of gun shots. The three at the board anxiously looked at each other. 

Professor Long concentrated on his equations, ignoring Professor Carrion who watched them closely from the corner. 

“You can start on calculating the connections to the satellite.” He smiled tightly at Bogart.

Bogart took up a position beside Hubert and studied the workings on the Perspex board. He noticed a mistake and was about to point it out when Penny fiercely slapped his hand away.

“Glad you could join us,” Hubert said sending Bogart a conspiratorial wink. 

***

The US was in an uproar. A brash President stood on the podium in front of the White House.

He held his forefinger and thumb in a circle and pushed it out in front of himself…a lumbering giant. Beside him stood a model of a satellite with solar panels forming two wings. 

“This country,” he declared, “is on its way to the best economic super charge … ever.”

A dreamy look settled on his plastic face. 

“Imagine if we controlled the climate.” He looked from one reporter to another. “Imagine,” he roared, “if there was no such thing at climate change.” 

He looked up to the sky and pointed to a black cloud above.

Lightning cut through the cloud and a deluge dropped onto him, causing his wax-like hair to fall in straggly strands over his dull blue eyes. 

A large group of military appeared through the gloom, bearing M4 Carbine weapons. 

***

Professor Long studied to co-ordinates Hubert had memorised – 35786:47.9:183.5. 

Bogart took up a position next to Hubert and also studied the workings. 

It was a small matter to work out the co-ordinates for the Mars mining venture after their work on the station on the Moon.

But these ones were definitely out of whack. 

Carrion pointed to Professor Long’s workings.

“These don’t look right,” she said.

Professor Long grinned indulgently. “You were never my brightest student...”

She blanched.