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The Delivery

It was hot. Nobody could tell him this was natural; it was crazy. Alan glanced at his garden: dying already. This was more like the start of autumn than the start of summer. Nervous in case any of his neighbours had woken early he looked around before hauling the final sack onto his back. He had to be finished and gone before anyone noticed. It had taken all day to get the stuff down into the garage ready to move. Then, after just 4 hours sleep, he was up again to spend the night piling it into his car. It would have been better if the car would fit into the garage where it could have been loaded up at will, but after months of it being used as a workshop that just wasn’t possible. He forced the heavy sack into the car and drove off as quietly as possible, grinning with relief.
Despite the risks his only real fear was that he was in this alone. There was no way to find out yet. All he could do was hope that somewhere in the world someone else was making preparations to carry out a similar delivery. Governments all over the world had decided that what he was doing was illegal, but then they had forced his hand by being too cautious in their own actions. Things should never have been allowed to get this far and it was down to people like him to stop it. They would be out all over the roads, aiming to stop him, but this had to be done. It was the last chance the world had. They were perilously close to the point where humanity was going to fail. The world needed people who were prepared to break the law, to put aside their selfish concerns and take necessary risks for the sake of the planet.
He wasn’t stupid, he’d done his research. The plan was to feed the oceans with iron dust. The plankton in the sea would feed on it and flourish. Their biological processes would draw carbon dioxide out of the air and slow the global warming. If it was too successful and the world cooled too much, all the plankton would die. Once it was all gone the cycle would reset itself. Yes, the reset had failed in the past and caused ice-ages, but then the earth’s orbit had changed at the same time. That is what had caused the real problems. This wasn’t the same at all. This time the human race had forced too much carbon into the air and now it needed to be removed. He was going to help remove it. He paused before turning onto the main road, and took one last look at his home, hoping that he would see it again.
The journey was going to take hours. He couldn’t go to just any old beach: most of them were being monitored and the tides were usually wrong on the ones that weren’t. He had managed to identify one that seemed perfect, however. The tides were good and it was so difficult to access that it was unlikely to be patrolled. They couldn’t cover the whole coastline, no matter what they tried to make people think. Of course there would be helicopters, and probably ships as well, but the map showed plenty of cover near his selected drop off point.
As day broke the roads began to fill with cars. Alan fidgeted growing angrier and more frustrated with each petrol car that passed. How can people still be this stupid? Ok, so they were old cars; the argument was that manufacturing a new one would use as much energy as continuing to drive one of the last petrol ones, but at least it would be cleaner energy!
Forcing himself to focus on his mission, he gradually relaxed and allowed the car to speed up. He hadn’t gone far before he noticed blue lights flashing intently behind him, and heard sirens wailing.
At first he thought that they couldn’t be for him, he had sacrificed so much that it didn’t seem possible for it to end now. The patrol car drew closer, however, until it was right behind him and he could no longer ignore it. Trembling he rolled to a halt in a lay-by where he sat, nauseous, until the policeman came to his door. He wound down his window.
“You don’t mind if I just take a couple of readings from your car, do you?” the policeman asked and, without waiting for an answer, began the now mandatory scan. When they had begun the scans, just a week ago, they had claimed that they were simply looking for explosives, that the scanners were a temporary anti-terrorist response to a new threat. Alan knew, however, that this wasn’t true. There had been nothing about any new threats on the radio. “Could you tell me how fast you were going, Sir?” The policeman interrupted his train of thought.
“No, please, look. I…” The scanner beeped and the man looked down, raising his eyebrows. Alan closed his eyes, fingers reaching for the acceleration paddle, but a larger hand grabbed his and held it still.
“Don’t do that, Sir. We’ll have to chase you if you do and then you really will be in trouble. Now, if you could just give me your signature?”
“Signature?” Alan was confused. The form being shoved under his nose was for a speeding fine. He could see no reference to the contraband in the back. Surely he wasn’t about to be fined for speeding by a government official who knew what he was planning?
“Your signature, Sir, if you don’t mind. You do know what speed you were doing?”
“I’m really sorry, I got distracted.”
“That is how accidents happen sir. Stop driving if you cannot concentrate properly.” Without looking up he printed off a duplicate form which he gave to Alan. “Be more careful Sir. I can’t guarantee that you’ll get away so lightly next time.” With an almost imperceptible wink he returned to his car, talking to his colleague and shaking his head as he put the speed gun on the dash board. Both men laughed as they drove away. They didn’t look back at Alan who was staring dumbly at the form in his hand. Alan had heard the beep, that scanner had identified what he was carrying. The policeman must have known. There was no way he could have missed it. So why had he done nothing about it? Alan rubbed sweaty hands along his trouser legs and started to shake, laughing and crying at the same time: this was it! He finally had his confirmation that he wasn’t alone.
His co-conspirator obviously wasn’t about to take the big risks that came with dumping the iron, but neither was he about to stop anyone that was. This had to mean that it was still going ahead! If there were 2 of them still dedicated to this and if they had met like that, as strangers, then there must be others. The coincidence would be unspeakably huge otherwise. He took 4 or 5 deep breaths, trying to regain control. This was it! He really was part of something big. Even if he did go to jail it would be as a man who helped to change the world, not as just a sad, inadequate loser trying to make a difference on his own. Alan punched the steering wheel howling hysterically.
Of course, he’d always known that there were others. He just didn’t know the right people, that was all. His just wasn’t a world where people who were comfortable breaking the law existed except as a nagging fear. He couldn’t expect to know secret information about things like this. He wasn’t sure, even now, that he wanted to. He just needed to know that they were there, that he wasn’t doing this on his own. Now, he finally did.
Struggling to stay calm, he drove along keeping strictly to the speed limit. He changed the radio station briefly, looking for a slower tempo to moderate his mood, but could only get radio 4 which was broadcasting news. Just more stories about money and a quick reassurance that there was no need to dump anything into the sea. He shook his head. The government wasn’t in control of anything. His jaw clenched as he listened to their puppet, and then snapped the radio off, preferring to drive in silence rather than assault his brain with anymore of that nonsense.
Eventually he turned onto a tiny farm track that led away from the tiny single track road that had led away from yet another tiny road. When he reached the point where the track ended he stopped the car, reclined his seat and sat for a moment, savouring the feeling of having actually got this far. He pulled out a pack of emergency rations, poured the contents into his mouth and swallowed with a grimace. They tasted awful but they would keep him going for these 3 days. Then, hopefully, he would be able to return home. He sipped his water and sat staring at the once beautiful scenery with it’s now brown, dry grasses shaking and brittle in the hot breeze.
He laughed softly. Right now the sea shone and sparkled as blue and unfathomable as ever. It was the only part of the scene in front of him that looked right and he was here to destroy even that. Chuckling sadly, he began to empty his car and trailer. The track didn’t go right up to the edge and the ground was difficult so it would take him days to get everything down to the cliff. Alan was in for 3 days of hard work but began to feel light-hearted as he carried his precious load to the brink of the cliff.
Once he had each bag in position, he took care to hide it so that it couldn’t be seen with a casual glance from any passing helicopter or ship. After a few runs it occurred to him that the same should be said for the car and he drove it back along the track to some bushes. They were fairly sparse but his car was drab and they would hide it and its trailer just as effectively as the rocks hid the sacks. There was nothing he could do about his own visibility except hope that the noise of any approach would give him enough warning to take cover. He now had to walk even further and he was getting tired all ready, but that couldn’t matter now. All that mattered was getting the work done. He wished briefly that he had access to a boat or plane which could get this stuff further out to sea where more of it might be useful. That really wasn’t an option though – customs were all over everything heading out to sea.
His deadline was only hours away by the time he hauled the last sack into the shelter of the rock and finally sat down, exhausted. Tomorrow he would have to throw it all into the sea, but right now he could rest. He didn’t make it back to the car but fell asleep where he was.
He slept more soundly than he ever could have imagined but when the sun rose, he woke quickly. This was it. The feeds on twitter had declared that this was the important date. The original idea had been put together months ago, so they had no specific weather forecast. The instigators had gone through all the historical data though and the prevailing winds and currents on this day seemed most likely to spread the iron filings throughout the sea. Everybody had to do it together. That was important too. If only 1 person did it or if everybody did it at different times the plankton might not bloom evenly or they might not grow quickly enough to overwhelm any natural predators. The timing was doubly important now that the governments had come out against the plan – they would try to clean it up, put an end to this before it even had a chance to take effect.
He opened up a bag and ran his fingers over its contents, wondering what this had been: possibly his old pots and pans, or even his taps. He had ground down anything containing enough iron or steel. He’d assembled the machinery for it himself in his garage and eventually he’d ground down most of that too. The only bits he’d left were the bits he’d need a second lathe to work on. Then he had swept and cleaned his home to gather as much dust as he could. It had been hard work, but he still couldn’t believe that it was this simple. Of course, it wasn’t the solution to all the world’s problems, but it would buy time, and this time people would behave differently. Wouldn’t they?
It was so simple and yet the government was against it. He guessed that was inevitable with a conservative government, the clue was in the name. But then none of the other parties had gone against them; they had all been united for once. He hesitated before tipping the first bag over the cliff. What if they were right? What if it wasn’t a conspiracy but a genuine attempt to prevent more damage? He shook his head violently, it couldn’t be, not after all the damage that had been ignored in the name of big business and government security. This was right, it had to be. He braced himself and pushed. The silvery grey cloud floated through the air, landing with a soft hiss. Once he had started he quickly built momentum and pushed again and again, tearing sack after sack open and dumping it into the sea. Eventually, chest heaving, he had to stop. There were no sacks left, nothing for him to do but stand and watch as the cloud of deliberate pollution spread out in front of him, shimmering in the sunshine.
He gave in to a moment of pure joy before staggering back to the car. He had to get out of there before he could relax. He had to be far away before anyone saw what he’d done and he had to hide the remains of the lathe that were still in his house. He was going to bury it. Not at his home, he wasn’t that stupid, but not too far away. He was going to bury it and then sleep. On Monday, he would go back to work as if nothing had happened. He’d done his bit and now he was sure that he wasn’t alone. That policeman’s wink, he couldn’t have imagined it. Please, please don’t let him have imagined it. He took one last long look at the small patch of clouded ocean that had been his goal and his obsession.
Now he could only wait.


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