Teal is available as a free CC-licensed science fiction novel. You can read more about the project here.
Subj: Still here
Do not ask how I am able to write this. I would rather not say anything specific, as I am in violation of more laws than I would like to consider at the moment. Thanks to my exploitation of several unforeseen technicalities in the tRansLucian cHarter, I have managed to get myself moved from the prison on eNsis to a minimum-security facility back on oRionis. Here I am at least allowed access to a terminal, and over the course of the last 12 hours I have been able to write an encryption protocol that should allow me to send you short messages without being caught.
Or at least that is my hope. If you do not hear from me again, assume the encryption protocol was not as good as I thought.
Roughly 36 hours have passed since my last message, putting us at just over 130 hours until my, shall we say, “termination.” 130 – that sounds like a long time, does it not? I like the sound of it much better than “five-and-a-half days.”
Or maybe I am just deluding myself. Oh well.
I have been wanting to apologize for how cryptic and mysterious my last message must have sounded. I had written parts of the letter previously, but I was forced to finish it prematurely when I found out just how imminent my capture was. Fortunately, since I have now managed to secure another method of contacting you, I can clarify several things.
First, you are probably starting to feel the full effect of your poison by now. I hope you are well enough to remain at home. I must advise against seeking any medical help from your human “doctors.” They will not be able to do anything for you, and their intervention will probably do more harm than good. Please, cRonus, trust me – I think there is a way to help you. I will talk about this more in my next letter since I am still working out specifics.
(Although now that you have heard about my dream, perhaps you can anticipate the gist of it…)
Second, I hope you have not forgotten that the date of tHe cLosing quickly approaches. Time is short, and if you are able you must make sure everything is in place. We cannot afford to make any mistakes this close to the deadline. Please, double-check with each of your contacts and reassure them that the plan will work. They need to have faith.
Lastly, I have more to say about your son – the child in the dream. I have reason to believe-
Someone is coming. I must go. I will write again.
“I think I’ve found something!”
We’d been googling for nearly three hours, wildly combing the internet for anything related to sudden green explosions. Everything from spontaneous human combustion to UFOs to crop circles had turned up, none of it particularly useful, and I found myself becoming frustrated. You’d think it would be easy to isolate legitimate information on green explosive blasts, but apparently not.
“What, Eddie? Please say it’s not another story about little green aliens.”
“Nope. This is way better. You won’t believe what I’ve found.”
I set down Eddie’s laptop then climbed to my feet and stretched. The moogle clock on the wall (a gift from Eddie – he loved everything Final Fantasy) pointed at VII and XII, meaning mom would be home any minute.
And just as well, because I was starving. Mom had left a note on the fridge telling us not to eat because she’d be cooking chicken enchiladas for dinner.
I couldn’t wait, and neither could Eddie – after all, the only home-cooked meals he’d ever had were the ones he ate at my house.
“Okay,” I replied, turning down the stereo. “What am I never going to believe?”
He gestured at the desktop monitor, where an overhead image – probably from satellite – lay across the screen. It took me a moment to place the location.
“That’s the high school.”
“Yep. Notice anything strange?”
“…No. It looks normal to me.”
Eddie pointed in turn at the five buildings that comprised the school.
“Look closer. These look like anything to you? Any kind of symbol?”
“…Nope, still nothing.”
Eddie smiled and cracked his knuckles. I hated this gesture, since it meant he discovered something he considered obvious. Next he would act amazed that I had yet to figure it out.
“Cheer up,” he replied, “and check this out.”
He pointed at the left-most building in the image.
“See this big tree next to the west building? The one you tied Dexter Johnston to last year?”
I smiled and nodded. That was a fond memory.
“Four of the school’s buildings have big trees like this around them. Count them.”
“Let’s see… 1… 3… 7… 2… and 0. The last building doesn’t have any.”
Eddie grinned and held out his hands, as if this was supposed to mean something. I remained completely lost.
“Eddie, I don’t understand.”
“What’s the address of the school?”
“I don’t kn–”
“13720 Franklin Drive. 1-3-7-2-0.”
“Okay, so the number of trees match the address. Who cares?”
“I thought the same thing,” Eddie said, “until I found this article.”
He switched to another window on the computer. This one appeared to be a scan of an old Franklin Daily article – that’s the local newspaper – and the headline read Biology Lab Coming to Franklin Drive.
I began to read.
Biology Lab Coming to Franklin Drive
Thursday, 3 May 1979
On Wednesday, Genetitech Inc. broke ground on their new 90,000 sq. foot facility on Franklin Drive. This state-of-the-art five building complex is expected to take 9 months to build and will employ nearly 150 people.
“This will be a one-of-a-kind structure,” Dr. Augustus Beck, president of Genetitech, commented during an exclusive Franklin Daily phone interview. “The central laboratory alone will have more computing power than the entire U.S. Department of Defense currently possesses, and we hope to use that computing power to unravel the mystery of DNA sequencing.”
DNA sequencing, for those who don’t know, is a proposed method for determining the exact series of molecules that comprise a strand of DNA. (DNA has recently been shown to be a sort of blueprint for the human body.)
“DNA sequencing is about decoding what makes humans human,” Dr. Beck explained to us. “If we could sequence the actual molecules that comprise human DNA, we’d be able to fix every genetic disorder, every weakness, every problem mankind has ever faced. We’d know as much about ourselves as God does.”
While this may sound amazing, not everyone is excited about the prospect of a DNA sequencing lab coming to Franklin.
“If Mr. Beck thinks he can decode the mind of God, he’s just plain wrong,” one Franklin resident told us.
“As sure as I’m sitting here, that building will be struck by lightning,” commented another.
When we relayed these comments to Dr. Beck, he laughed. “People have always feared science,” he told us. “This is no different. Thirty years from now, when DNA sequencing has solved every human ailment, people will look back on this laboratory as the legitimate start of mankind’s quest for immortality. We’ll be seen as heroes.”
Questions and comments regarding Genetitech Inc. and the new complex can be sent to 135 N 127 W, New York, New York 10027.
“Well here we are thirty years later and still no immortality. I guess this Dr. Beck guy was wrong.”
“Not necessarily wrong,” Eddie replied. “Just overly optimistic. We weren’t able to decode the entire human genome until 2003, and there are still some DNA mysteries we need to solve. But that’s beside the point.”
“So wait – you’re saying that our high school building started out as a biology lab? That explains some of the weird architectural features.”
“It does. Getting back to my original point: do you now get why the numbers 1-3-7-2-0 were used?”
I shook my head.
“It took me awhile to crack it,” Eddie said, eyes glowing, “but those numbers exactly correspond to the four letters – the four molecules, or nucleotides – that comprise DNA: A, C, G, and T. 1st letter of the alphabet, 3rd letter, 7th letter, and 20th.”
I took a moment to count out each letter on my fingers…
…and it looked like he was right.
“Cool discovery,” I replied. “So it’s not a coincidence that those numbers are also the school’s address?”
“Well, it wasn’t originally that way. Back in 1979, when Genetitech started work on those five buildings, that part of town was at the distant end of Franklin Drive – almost outside the city limits. Technically the street number is closer to 11000, but Beck insisted on the address 13720. He seems to have been a nut for symbolism.”
“So what does this have to do with the explosions at the school?”
“Hold on, Teal – I’m getting there. As it turns out, the buildings were finished according to schedule, but they were never actually used by Genetitech.”
“Never. See, this is where things get weird. Nine months after groundbreaking, Genetitech held a big ceremony announcing the opening of the lab… but no one in town was ever hired by the company, and it doesn’t look like anyone ever moved to Franklin as an employee of Genetitech. Four years passed without any news or job postings or anything, and then bam – in February 1984 Genetitech suddenly announces bankruptcy. As far as I can tell, the buildings were never used for actual lab work.”
“But why would Genetitech spend all that time and money on five huge buildings if they weren’t intending to use them?”
“Who knows? Some suspected that Dr. Beck over-stretched his financial bounds, others thought angry townspeople might have sabotaged something. But the story gets weirder.”
I was a little bored, but this was the best lead we’d had all day. I motioned for Eddie to continue.
He grinned and started typing madly on the computer.
“It’ll take me a minute to find it again… but from what I’ve pieced together, during the four years between the lab’s opening ceremony and Genetitech’s bankruptcy, a number of people reported seeing lights on at the buildings during the night, and an occasional flash of energy or loud sound during the day.”
Now we were getting somewhere.
“A number of people? How many?”
“Not a lot, but enough to lend credibility to their stories. Like I said, back then no one actually lived out by these buildings – remember, too far away from the city – but occasionally someone would drive past and later report a strange ‘boom’ or flash of light.”
“But I thought no one actually worked there…?”
“Well, no one was ever employed there – not even on Genetitech’s official paperwork, which was released as part of the bankruptcy. But that doesn’t eliminate the possibility that construction workers, or under-the-table employees – or this Dr. Beck guy himself – made use of the buildings.”
“When you say ‘made use of the buildings’, what exactly do you mean?”
“Who knows?” Eddie replied, the pace of his pitter-pattering fingers escalating. “All we have is scattered rumors from various people, since there’s obviously no official information on – wait! A-ha!”
He raised his fist triumphantly as a new window flashed onto his screen. It looked like another Franklin Daily article.
Eddie turned to face me.
“Two days before Genetitech formally declared bankruptcy, a group of residents living near the edge of Franklin Drive reported a minor earthquake. Thing is, there’s no major fault line for a hundred miles in any direction. The odds of a real earthquake occurring on that day in that exact place are pretty much impossible.”
He gestured at the article on his screen.
“For some reason, this article – originally published in Franklin Daily – doesn’t exist on their site anymore, and I was only able to find it by hacking a series of emergency backup databases at the local library.”
We grinned simultaneously.
“Anyway, I don’t know if the article just got lost or if someone is trying to hide it, but I think you’ll find this one especially interesting.”
I leaned in and began to read.
Citizens Disagree about Possible Earthquake
Saturday, 14 May 1983
At approximately 5:13 a.m. Friday morning, at least 10 Franklin residents reported feeling two minor vibrations of some sort.
“It was absolutely an earthquake,” 64-year-old Saffron Millard told us. “I had just woken up when the entire house started to shake. It even knocked two dishes off my table.”
Other residents shared similar stories, but perhaps none is as strange as Michael Olsen’s, a farmer who claimed to be driving at the time of the incident.
“It was almost quarter-past-five Friday mornin’ and I was driving past those empty Geneti-whatever buildings looking for a steer that had gotten lose durin’ the night. Just as I passed the buildings, a monster green explosion shook me half to death. I thought for sure somethin’ had blown up.
“So I stopped the car and jumped out, tryin’ to get a better look at the buildings – you know, see if anythin’ had happened – when another explosion shook me to my knees. Green balls of light – there must’ve been fifty of ’em – came flying out of the middle buildin’ and disappeared into the sky. I ain’t never seen anythin’ like it.”
Though interesting, no others reported any kind of green lights or explosions from the Genetitech complex. In an exclusive phone call with Genetitech, the company’s spokesman noted that such comments were “preposterous” and “totally unfounded.”
My eyes drifted off the end of the article.
“Eddie… green balls of light? This can’t be a coincidence.”
“I agree. And check it out – that farmer said the green balls of light came from the central building.”
“In other words, the same building that got hit today.”
“Yep. And check the time and date of the earthquake. See anything strange?”
My eyes floated back onto the article. 5:13 a.m. on May 14th.
“5:13 on May 14th? What’s strange about that?”
“Actually, the article was published on Saturday, May 14th. But it said the earthquake occurred on Friday, May 13th. 5:13 am, on a Friday the 13th – the 13th day of the 5th month.”
Downstairs, the front door opened and closed. Mom was home.
“So 5:13 on 5-13? That’s an odd coincidence.”
“Teal, think about it! What’s today’s date?”
My eyes drifted to the bottom corner of the computer screen.
“…Holy crap. Friday the 13th.”
Eddie nodded solemnly.
“Friday May 13th, just like the day of that supposed earthquake. I’m not much for superstition, but the odds of that being a coincidence are–”
My bedroom door suddenly banged open and mom plowed in, her hand clutching something rolled up and shiny.
“Hey mom, how’s – uh, are you okay?”
She looked terrified. Her face was ashen, her lips smashed into a tight red line.
“No, I am not okay. Have you seen your father?”
I shook my head.
“Isn’t he on his business trip until next week?”
“That’s what I need to find out. Did he call?”
“God! I don’t need this today!”
She spun around and flew from the room. Moments later we heard her feet pound down the stairs as she screamed for my younger siblings.
“What was that about?” Eddie asked. “I’ve never seen your mom act weird like that.”
I didn’t have a response, but something inside felt deeply wrong. I didn’t know if it was the bizarre day at school, or encounters with two different creepy men, or this stuff we’d been reading on the internet, or maybe seeing mom so nervous.
“Listen, Eddie. Chill here a minute. I’m going to see what this is about.”
He nodded and I turned to leave the room.
But as I turned, the ringing of the house phone interrupted everything. I quickly searched for the cordless phone I knew lay hidden somewhere in my sheets, but by the time I’d found it the ringing had stopped. Mom must have gotten to it first.
“Who was it?” Eddie asked.
I fished through the caller ID menu.
“University Hospital? That’s 80, maybe 90 miles away. Who do you know there?”
“No one I can think of.”
We waited, neither of us speaking, until a blood-curdling scream echoed from downstairs.
“WHAT?” The voice was mom’s. “No! I’m leaving immediately!”
I ran out the bedroom door and half leapt, half fell down the stairs. Limping slightly, I spun around the banister then sprinted to the kitchen.
Mom stood there, her face white, tears beading at the corners of her eyes.
“Teal, please send Eddie home. We’re going to the hospital.”
“What? Who? Is it dad?”
She slid into a jacket as her teardrops turned to streams.
Then she softly nodded.