Chapter two Earth year 2195 Matt had read everything written on the subject of ozone since that

caut ious, but telling paper by Rowland and Molina that appeared in Nature in 1974. Rowland and Molina had pointed out that the ozone layer was being destroyed by t he chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from spray cans. Actually their second paper was even more accurate and more damning, but the large companies, that had so much t o lose, if there were a ban on the use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), had fought hard and dirty in the war of the CFCs. In the early nineteen-eighties legislat ion was finally passed to prohibit the use of CFCs, but much of the damage had a lready been done. It would be years before the full impact of the CFCs was know n. The polar caps had started melting back in the twenty-first century, but it was so insidious that most tossed it off as non-significant. Then, in the m iddle of the last century, the speed of the meltdown had increased rapidly and t he race was on. A complete meltdown of the polar ice caps would still take some years, but the oceans had already claimed all the low-lying territories and isl ands around the world. Few countries had gone unscathed. The world was in for some hard surprises over the next few years. Matthew thought sadly of the imminent end of a world that he knew mankin d had helped to kill. Matt was pleased that he would at least have a hand in saving a small nu mber of people from earth before the end. He eagerly awaited the next piece of information from the crew of the Exchelcia 1 space probe. The preliminary infor mation had been so exciting, but that was almost a year ago. Since then new inf ormation had arrived on a regular basis every two weeks. It was like putting a puzzle together without a picture to guide them. The data looked good and the s pace probe had sent a mini shuttle back to earth with specimens. It wasn’t sche duled to arrive for another seven years. Even with their new technology Matt th ought how difficult it must have been for these astronauts to have taken this fi rst deep space mission. He couldn’t imagine the kind of men and women it took t o make such a journey – especially for those who stayed out there on a strange p lanet. Those men and women would continue to run tests on the atmosphere, moons , seasonal variations, and orbital vagaries. Before this group could return to Earth they would have a better understanding of the system, one or more smaller biospheres built and hopefully they would have gathered enough information to de termine where the larger biospheres should be placed on the planet’s surface. T he colonist’s would be facing enough of a challenge without having to deal with a lack of shelter. Matt suddenly became aware of a change in the chopper’s vibration. He l ooked out of the window and realized that they were landing. Randy touched the chopper down in Denver, and Matthew prepared to hop out and go to the laboratory immediately. "Hey Matt." He looked up at Randy and was surprised to find a look of concern. "See ya round, Randy." He hesitated for a minute then continued. "Listen Randy wha t I said back there... well I didn t really mean what I said. You know us scien tists. We re into doom and gloom." He held out his hand, and Randy gripped it tightly. "It s OK, Doc. I guess I knew for a long time that things were’nt going well. , but you know how it is, if you can t change it then sit back and enjoy the ride." Randy shrugged and grinned foolishly. "I intend to have one hell of a ride before it s over." Matthew stood behind the safety shield and watched as Randy suddenly lif ted the chopper out of sight. He felt sad to think how many Randys were going t o be lost in their "prime". At that moment, Matthew hated being part of the sci






ence scene. He would be happier not knowing what was in store for the world. " Hell, I can t do anything to stop it so what s the point of knowing?" He took the stairs two at a time. His assistant, Milly Witticker, who h ad been on the roof to meet the chopper, tried to keep up, but even with a light load, she could only trail after Matt entering the lab in time to see him comin g from behind the mainframe. He had dropped everything in the middle of the flo or and was attaching his minicomputer directly to the mainframe to dump the data he had collected in the field. Milly put the gear onto the benches that lined the wall nearest the door and tried to get Matthew s attention. "Listen Matt...."She stopped when she sa w that he wasn t even aware that she had entered the lab. She raised her voice. "Matthew Connors...Earth to Matthew Connors…." Matt looked up, and Milly s form took shape in front of him. He stopped for a moment, confused as to why she was standing in front of him as if to bar him from the computer. Milly had to laugh at the confused look on his face, his wonderful, hand some, sad, face. She wanted to reach out and kiss away the worry lines that app eared whenever he scowled, as he was now. He also tugged on his beard whenever he was confused. "Matt, please stop just for a minute and listen to me." She could see his body start to relax as he mentally came back to the re ality of the room and her voice. He looked sheepish now as he realized he had d one it again. "Yes. You re doing it again." She smiled to take the sting out of her words. "Matt you promised that from now on you would come back from the field, give me your mini computer, and then you would go and sleep for a few hours whil e the data was dumping." She raised her hand as she saw him about to interrupt. "And... I promised that I would come and wake you as soon as the last data was printing out." She didn t wait for his reply, but gently pushed him toward the d oor. He made the funniest face; shame, guilt and pleading for forgiveness and understanding all vied for the main hold on his features, but none won out. "I m sorry Milly." That s all he said as he dejectedly left the lab in the direct ion of the suite they had set up for him. He knew Milly had been right when she made him promise to rest. A few years ago he had made a big mistake when he ha d returned after almost three days without sleep. He had linked the computers i ncorrectly and if Milly hadn t been dogging his heels they never would have noti ced until it was too late. All the data would have been erased and lost forever . Milly had all she could do not to throw her arms around him and comfort him. He was so like a little boy at times. He was always full of wonder at the universe and full of anguish at what was happening to their world. She had see n how deeply he cared about people and how much it hurt him to know that so many would be destroyed. Milly didn t know what these new findings would show, but she could gues s just from Matt s body language. He was usually so determined to keep a positi ve attitude that many people had no idea how serious Matt thought things had bec ome. Today he was tired, but Milly could also see that he was depressed. The timbre of his voice had dropped, and the words came out slowly almos t as if it was too difficult for him to speak. She remembered how hard he had t aken it when the science community had voted him onto the personnel assignment c ommittee. That was the committee who decided who could go and who stayed behind — to face the end. It tore Matt apart that he had to help choose those who would be rescued and those who wouldn t. He had cried in her arms just before he left on this l ast fact-finding trip. He d actually begged her forgiveness for not being able to choose her. Milly was devastated, but she understood. She was a scientist a nd a realist. Matt, she knew, was a romantic. She had to chuckle at that thought. He was so brilliant, but he couldn t wall off his emotional side like so many other scientists did –like she did, m
















ost of the time. No, Matt felt everything, and he took everything to heart. He hurt for everyone who would have to face the suffering. He had wanted to save the world, and all he could save was a handful of people. No use worrying about it. I can t do anything to stop it, so get on wit h it. With that thought, Milly started over to the computer. She double-checked the computer link, and when she was sure everything w as as it was supposed to be, she started to dump the data to the mainframe. It would take a while since they had opted for extra safety features rather than sp eed. All the data would first be downloaded rapidly into the main frame languag e and stored as bytes in a hidden file that could be retrieved if necessary. Th en these bytes would be brought into the latest scientific computer language of the day - vector-One. Once stored in this language, the mainframe would upload the specific program that would reread and reformat the data into usable informa tion. The final step would be the printout of charts that would show the data i n various configurations, all geared to show how fast ozone levels were being de pleted and if there was any increase in the melt-down process of the polar ice c aps. All the data would be coordinated in such a way that prediction tables c ould be generated. First the computer had to pull in all the information from t he sites around the world and coordinate the data so that it was stored in the c orrect vector. It was the combining of this final vector data that would genera te the predictions. These prediction tables were the culmination of years of wo rk, and they would be the determining factor in whether the scientific community accepted or rejected Matthew s theories. The computer could do everything now, so all they had to do was wait and see. Milly looked over the printout to be sure that all was going well. Every thing seemed to be under control, and the computer had already started to downlo ad the prediction tables. She turned away, not wanting to see them just yet. Instead, she decided it was time to go and get Matt. She knocked softly on the door, but there was no answer. She poked her head around the door expecting to see Matt sprawled ou t on the bed. He wasn t there. She stepped into the small suite and closed the door behind her. She walked into the small sitting room and fond him. Matt had been so wound up that when he stepped into the shower he was st ill figuring data in his head, but gradually the hot water had soothed his nerve s, and he had calmed down. He stood under the water for a good ten minutes, nee ding to feel the warmth penetrate his sore muscles. He ached everywhere from th e lack of sleep and tension. When he finally stepped out of the shower he felt better. He felt relaxed. His briefcase was on still on the floor in the sitting room, where he’d dropped it, so he bent down to pick it up. Just one more look at his preliminar y calculations wouldn t hurt, he d thought. He d sat for a few minutes, plannin g to get up and go into the sleeping area, but he fell asleep while sitting on t he floor, with nothing, but a towel draped over him. He hadn t even dried off. Milly smiled lovingly at the sight. He had a beautiful body, strong and muscular, but he was so young, and he carried the world on his shoulders. She locked the door and tiptoed over to where he lay on the floor. She needed to ho ld him, to have him make love to her. Matthew wasn t sure if he was in love with Milly, but she had taken the place of his family when he had come to Denver three years ago. She didn t ask much of him, just friendship and an occasional evening of incredible sex. He ch uckled at the thought. Milly was forty-two, divorced, and she had three kids. Although she wasn t genetically engineered, she had achieved a fairly high statu s in the field of Ozonics, and he had been thrilled to get her as his assistant. Her children had been engineered and were geniuses in their own fields. Like most though, they were bigoted snobs and rarely saw their mother. She was lonely. So was he. That seemed to be enough for them to fall into a wonderful relaxed relationship.











Milly woke up, startled to find herself next to Matt, both of them naked . Then she smiled to herself as she remembered what had happened. Matt was sti ll asleep so she got up quietly, replaced his lost towel, and dressed. Then she made some coffee and sat on the couch watching Matt sleep. He was so wonderful in so many ways that Milly was hard pressed to find any faults. She loved him deeply, more than she had ever loved any other man. He was her one and only. S he accepted the idea that Matt might not be in love with her. He was still her best friend and comforter. Milly thought back over her life. She had never had a friend like Matt. She’d fallen in love with her history professor when she was only a freshman i n college. They had married after only six months of dating and regrets set in almost as fast. Milly had been disappointed by marriage. Her new husband was not a roma ntic. He wanted her to accept the fact that she was inferior to him. His deman ds wore her love down and the only reason she had remained with him was his conn ections. She’d suffered abuse as a child because she’d been born without genetic engineering. Now she wanted to spare her future children from suffering the sam e fate. With her husband’s connections, Milly knew she could get her children i nto the genetics game. That was her main mission at that time in her life. Milly managed to stay with the marriage through two pregnancies. , but, by the time her second child was six months old, she’d had it with her husband’s pompous, mean attitude. She took her sons and headed out on her own. Life had been hard enough, but her husband managed to make it worse by f ighting for custody of the boys. He won the battle when the boys were four and five years old. That was the hardest moment of her life. It didn’t get any bet ter as the boys grew up under their father’s influence. Their father had managed to turn them against her through the years so t hat by the time they were ten and eleven the boys had completely lost respect fo r her as a mother and as a person. They didn’t want to be seen with her, and th eir visits were painful for everyone. Milly was devastated. For a while she kept trying to make it work, but she finally had to give up. The boys seemed happy without her, so she tried to make her life busy with her work. She kept moving around from lab to lab in ord er to keep on the leading edge of research. Finally, four years ago, she had landed her current job in the National Ozonics Center in Denver. The work was fascinating and three years ago she had met Matt. He had changed her life completely by becoming her best friend and lo ver. She looked at him now and wondered how she would cope when he left for t he Ronin Galaxy? She involuntarily shuddered at the thought. Better not to let her mind wander down that path. She had no time to waste on self-pity. It was getting late so, even though she knew that Matt needed more sleep , she bent over and shook his shoulder. Matt finally opened his eyes and saw Mi lly fully dressed sitting on the couch with a cup of coffee. He blinked once, b ut she was still there. "Hummm. I just had the most erotic dream about you," h e said as he stretched like a cat. Milly laughed. His towel was on the move. "You d better do something about that towel," she quipped as she got up and left the room. He looked down and was mortified to see the small towel he had draped ov er his body earlier, sitting in the air, covering nothing of consequence, but th e shaft that held it up. He jumped up and stalked over to the closet to retriev e some clothes. He took his time so that he could get his arousal under control . It was no time to be fooling around. He thought about that for a few minutes and then realized that it probably was just the time to fool around. They woul dn t have any time once he started planning for his talk in Geneva. He stepped into the bed-sitting area, and Milly looked up. She had the look of the proverbial “cat that swallowed the canary”. "OK, so what gives?"



Milly couldn t contain her laughter. She was amazed that he was actuall y blushing. She didn t know any other man who blushed about anything. God, how she loved him. She stepped over to him, tiptoed so that she could kiss his che ek and whispered. "It wasn t a dream." Then she turned and walked out. Matthew continued to dress as he remembered what he d thought was a drea m. He was pleased that he had given her so much pleasure. He grinned cheerfull y as he made his way back to the lab. At twenty-four, Matthew was still an innocent in many ways. Yet he seem ed to have an innate understanding of women. When Milly commented on this he al ways told her it was his mother who had given him an understanding of women s ne eds. His father had taught him to accept women as true partners, but to appreci ate that they were superior to men in many ways. He had also instilled in Matth ew the old fashioned idea that man had all the responsibility when it came to se x. "Man has both the physical and emotional power so he must learn to use it wi sely or not at all," was the theory that his father had lived by and he expected Matthew to do the same. He did.





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