Zack Bergeron had seen Hank when he entered the office after the media scrum. He had looked worn out, but not defeated. The media should have finished him. The latest headlines and soundbites were supposed to bury Hank and his precious Globotherm Geosystems forever. It hadn't.
Norm Waxman from the Department of Environmental Initiatives was to meet Zack in this underground parking lot at 9:30 pm, 3 minutes from now. Why an underground lot? Why not a coffee shop, or in a pub over a pint? Norm Waxman always went for style. Cloak and dagger, Humphrey Bogart—style. Zack figured Norm would likely show up in a trench coat and a fedora.
There was a bench by the elevator door and Zack headed for it, thinking he'd wait for Norm there. He passed one pillar, then a second and smelled cigarette smoke. Out from behind the third pillar stepped Norm Waxman, exhaling a grey cloud into the dim air. Zack stopped.
"Hello Norm. Nice hat," Zack said. "What have you got for me that warrants all this cloak and dagger nonsense?"
Norm took another drag on his cigarette. Exhaling, he spoke, “More truth and more mystery. First, the numbers are undeniable. Too many other people have verified the conclusions. Emissions are definitely down. My comrades in DEI are publicly making a show of finding fault with the equipment, but the latest numbers from China are being released tomorrow and they show the same results as the GGI numbers. Your boss dropped another bomb today when he said the ozone layer is healthier than it’s been in decades.”
“Ozone layer? How is that significant?”
“In and of itself, it isn’t that significant. DEI sponsored environmental scientists were quick to explain that a decrease in greenhouse gases may account for increased ozone in the upper atmosphere. I didn’t let it go public.”
Zack nodded. “It would have been an admission that emissions were down.”
“And we’re not quite ready for that yet. The real problem, though, is that reduced greenhouse gases cannot possibly account for increased ozone. There is only one explanation that can. Violent electrical storms are a near-daily occurrence around here. Globally, electrical activity has increased thirty percent over the past twenty years. Electricity produces ozone. Simple as that.”
Zack thought he heard the latch of the stairway door click closed. He paused. Nothing. Zack turned his attention back to Norm. It wasn’t making sense. “So what? I don’t understand what ozone and thunderstorms have to do with global warming and I certainly don’t understand why all the intrique.”
“It cuts right to the heart of why DEI is feeling pressure to, shall I say, obfuscate?” Norm was enjoying being the source of mystery. He would play this for all he could get.
Zack heard the garage door opening upstairs.
Norm pulled an envelope out of his jacket. He handed it to Zack. “Here. This is a memo from the Dept. of Science. To Barry Jones, head of DEI. In a nutshell, it’s about the end of the universe as we know it. No more black holes.”
At the same time a car came around the corner, there was a muffled, “Bang,” and a trickle of blood ran down the corner of Norm’s mouth. Norm’s eyes glazed over and he fell to the floor, dead. Zack looked up as the stairwell door banged shut and the car screeched to a halt. The door was flung open and the driver yelled, “Get in!”
The driver yelled again, “No time! Get in, hurry!”
Zack tucked the envelope into his pocket and got into the car. He closed the door and they sped away.
“John Hammersmith, Canadian Science Monitor,” said the driver.
“Zack Bergeron. You’re a journalist?”
“Editor. Did Norm tell you about the end of the universe?”
“It’s true, you know. But it’s not what you think. The universe isn’t ending, just our understanding of it. Turns out there never were any black holes.”