Peggy Lee began looping rope through the wardrobe door handles. As she paused to undo a tangle, she said quietly – her voice trembling – into the crack between the doors, “I’m sorry, Graham. This is something that has to be done – for your sake, for our sake, for the future of the planet.”
Graham hands – still tied behind his back – were balled into shaking fists. How could he have fallen into this trap? She had been faking the whole damn time. Did she really think an apology whispered into the darkness – as she locked him into a closet – was going to make him feel better? Did she really think that she had him that wrapped around her little finger? No, no, no, Graham thought to himself, I don’t think so.
And then she said something that sent him over the edge.
“If it’s any consolation, I really did – do still – like you.”
He instantly shifted his weight and whacked the doors with one of his knees. Peggy Lee had not yet tightened the ropes. One of the handles broke free and the door smacked her in the face. She screamed in pain. As she tried to shoulder it back, he kicked it again. The blow knocked her to the floor. He fell out of the wardrobe and then struggled to his feet.
He stood stock still, breathing hard against the ball-gag. He shook his head in a vain attempt to get the hood off of his head.
All was silent except for the sound of Peggy Lee crying quietly on the floor beside him.
“So that’s how you want it, eh?” Ian said from across the room.
Graham heard the sound of a metal chair scraping across the floor as Ian got up from the desk. He heard Ian walking slowly over in his direction. He tried to kick in Ian’s direction, and Ian laughed. Graham stepped forward and tried to kick him again.
This time Ian caught Graham’s foot and yanked it high in the air, throwing him back. Graham fell violently, cracking his skull against the bottom edge of the wardrobe. Unconscious for a moment, Graham came to just as Ian kicked him square in the stomach. The air from his lungs surged out against the gag and came out of his nose. Mucus and saliva covered Graham’s face as he struggled to catch his breath.
“How do you like that, lover boy?” Ian said as he pulled Graham up to a sitting position. “You like beating up pretty girls? What kind of sick, army pigs do they have running this joint?”
Ian cuffed Graham upside his head, knocking him back to the ground.
“Stop it,” Peggy Lee said, “it was my fault.”
“You’re bleeding,” Ian said.
“I’ll be all right. Let’s just get him secured and get on with the operation.”
Ian grabbed Graham by the arm. “Come on now, get in the closet. I’ll kick the living shit out of you if you try anything like that again. Got it?”
Ian shoved Graham back into the wardrobe. In just a few seconds, he had tied the handles of the wardrobe closed. “See how easy that was?”
Graham could hear them moving around the room. Then, Peggy Lee said to Ian, “Remember, no one gets killed. You can’t go overboard, okay?”
“I know, I know, no more Tarrytowns. I know the drill.”
Graham knew immediately what Ian was talking about. Tarrytown, New York, was the site of the Center for Combating Global Climate Change. Hundreds of geo-engineers from all over the world worked collaboratively to find new ways to recreate a livable climate. The Center had produced the huge shade canopies that covered large parts of the Great Lakes and LA Climate Shelter Zones and had been responsible for many life-saving improvements to solar-powered air conditioning technologies. Graham had given multiple presentations there on the water production facilities.
Ten years ago, seven militants from a subgroup of the Movement for Earth’s Rebalance had stormed one of the central buildings on the Tarrytown campus. The lab’s scientists had been working for years on “Project Ice Floes,” which involved a new chemical that could raise the freezing point of salt water. The ultimate goal was to create large-scale ice masses around Antarctica. The floes would reflect sunlight and aso counteract the warming trends of nearby ocean currents.
The project had been controversial from the start because it involved dumping massive amounts of a highly classified freezing agent into the Southern Ocean, an action that could harm many aquatic species and threaten the survival of the last remaining population of penguins. But the Center saw the project as the potential silver bullet. The trade-off seemed worth it. What was one more extinction among the many thousands, after all?
The MER militants entered the lab with the aim of destroying everything related to the project. A struggle ensued, however, between the armed men and the scientists. After shooting two of the lab workers, the militants took twenty-seven of the top scientists hostage. The lab was sealed off. The U.S. Army surrounded the building. Negotiations proved unproductive and slow. And then, in the middle of the night, the lab blew up. Fueled by large quantities of flammable liquids, an immense fireball exploded into the night sky, blowing out windows for half a mile in every direction. All of the militants and scientists perished instantly, along with seventeen soldiers who were positioned too close to the blast. No one ever discovered exactly what happened that night inside of the lab.
While successful in terms of accomplishing its primary objective, the action became a public relations disaster for MER. The Movement’s leaders denounced the attack and claimed that they had had nothing to do with it, but no one believed them. The media thrashed MER for weeks, causing many of its supporters to leave the group. Then, one of MER’s leaders was shot and killed at a restaurant in the East Coast Climate Shelter, and the Movement went underground. Since then MER had been relatively quiet. Two years ago, the U.S. government had released an assessment that downgraded the threat presented by MER to “existing, but likely insignificant.”
Clearly the government had been wrong.