Friday, August 28, 2009

Season One, Episode Twenty-Nine: Operation Cirrus

Markus first measured up the notes with his nose. No funny smells. He turned the box around, and tried to make the dollar notes slide sideward. No such luck. He rattled the box around. He heard the distant noise of an engine. A quick look through the gaps in the wooden barn door showed him a farmer driving some kind of tractor contraption. Markus kept his eyes on the machine as it approached his hiding place. Instead of turning on to the space in front of the barn, the farmer kept to the road.
Markus didn’t look at the box again until the noise had gone. He crouched and pulled the top layer of the box off. The dollar notes were glued to the top. Underneath Markus found notebooks and newspaper and magazine clippings.
Some of the articles were dated 1956 and 1958. Markus went back into the car and switched on the overhead lights to read. Almost without exception, the articles came from the science pages of the newspapers. They dealt with clouds, warfare and the Soviet threat. A bunch of scientists had done tests in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Borneo, the Malay Peninsula, the Philippines. Markus didn’t understand what all the mumbo jumbo was about so he first looked at the pictures. None of them were press photos of the year. Just portraits of men standing around in front of planes, buildings, tables full of test tubes.
The jungle picture was interesting. It showed four men in tropical outfits, shorts, Australian-type cowboy hats but without the corks, standing in front of a bunch of palm trees. Touristy really. But according to the caption, these people had risked their lives and limbs to study cloud formation and rain deep inside the jungles of present-day Malaysia, as part of Operation Cirrus. The caption named them as, from left to right, Lassiter, Hu, Bentley and Veramus. The Three Elders plus one.
Markus stared at his father’s picture. He leaned backward and switched off the light.

The wind was blowing hard around the tall buildings. Like most plazas, this one had a fancy piece of art smack in the middle. They were blocks of colored glass, set up like walls where the public could pass between as if inside narrow alleys.
The professor clutched his briefcase to his chest as he took position in one of the colored alleys. Just as he was throwing a look at his watch, Camry came up in front. As the professor stepped back, he noticed Camry’s driver was standing behind him, blocking his only other exit.
‘Beautiful, this Lego stuff, isn’t it?’ Camry sneered. ‘Why don’t you come in the car with me and explain what you’re doing here and not in your lab?’

Markus switched the light back on to read the article. The British and U.S. governments had sent in the scientists to collect information about the weather in the Malay jungles. Rain, monsoon, clouds and cloud patterns, anything that touched on the weather was to be collected and to be passed on to their governments. The aim was to influence the weather so as to make it more amenable to the cultivation of profitable plants. Markus was halfway the newspaper article when he thought he heard a scraping sound.
He looked up and stared right into Riot’s eyes. The man stood next to the car with a gun pointing at his head.

NEXT: Markus finds out the truth in the final episode of Season One before September 15.

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