As promised, here is my favorite part of Hampton Summit... ok, well, maybe not my favorite part, but one of the best for short views ;)
This gives a small taste of the flavor of Mike's writing, and this is the story that starts this whole crazy time-travel adventure. This is what The Hampton Summit is all about!
Eight years from now…
Dr. James A. MacDonald’s claw-like left hand pushed the joy stick on his electric wheelchair, starting his chair gently forward. Its small fat tires rolled across the ballroom floor. When he was a young man, an incurable illness had attacked Dr. MacDonald’s muscles and left his legs limp and useless. As he grew older, his ancient enemy continued its persistent assault on his body. The illness was now attacking his arms and weakening them. It had already caused his fingers to curl up like a bird’s foot.
The band that was providing music before the summit was wrapping up its last number. As the song came to an end, the singer jumped in the air. This was a signal to the others. As his feet reached the floor, the band stopped on cue. As Dr. MacDonald rolled past he nodded to the singer/guitar player and mouthed, “Thank you.”
The band was made up of five young men and a young woman. On the bass drum there was a picture of a mermaid with her hands to her mouth. She was singing. Although they were a rock band, the musicians all wore jackets and ties. The singer and lead guitar player wore a captain’s hat. He hung his guitar from his shoulder with a fuzzy, hot pink strap.
Dr. MacDonald rolled slowly up the long, low ramp to the stage where he was to speak. When he reached the table set up for him he turned his chair to face the audience. The chair’s electric motor made a loud click each time he changed directions.
Dr. MacDonald’s legs and hands might not work any longer, but his mind still did. It was a great mind. The biology professor from the University of New Hampshire was recognized as one of the world’s leading scientists. In fact, he had recently made an astounding discovery, perhaps the greatest scientific advance of all time. He was here today to give that discovery to the world.
Dr. MacDonald scanned the sea of faces sitting in front of him. He had invited all these people to the little seaside town of Hampton, New Hampshire. They had gathered in the ballroom at Oakwood, right across from the beach. If he turned and looked out the ballroom’s front windows Dr. MacDonald would see the Atlantic Ocean. It was a fitting place for this summit, right next to the sea. In two harvests the world would be flooded by an ocean of food. In another few years it would be awash in a tide of cheap, clean bio-fuel.
The ballroom was packed with people. Scientists and researchers attended from important universities around the world. Most countries had sent government officials. Many of the people attending the summit wore their national dress, creating a colorful and diverse audience.
A team of Dr. MacDonald’s students sat on the stage behind him. A row of hotel workers stood against the walls. Some were the wait staff and were going to serve champagne at the end of the summit. The others had snuck away from their posts and into the ballroom to witness history.
FBI agents and police officers were mixed with the hotel workers, but the real security was outside. The United States government was worried about a terrorist attack. What a great target, so many important people from all over the world, gathered together in one place. To prevent an attack, marksmen on the hotel roof scanned the area around the building with binoculars. They examined every car and truck, checking out anything that could carry a weapon or a bomb. So far, so good. There had been no problems.
Dr. MacDonald looked out over the audience and raised his arms as high as he could. It was not very high. His muscles were so weak he could barely get his hands level with his shoulders. He had raised his arms to ask the people who were standing to sit, and to ask people who were talking to stop.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began. This was a signal to the hotel workers. He paused while they closed the ballroom doors. The Hampton Summit was finally underway. “Ladies and Gentlemen, the reason for you being here today has been kept secret. You came because you had faith in my reputation. Thank you for your trust. You will find it was well placed.
“Several years ago, I was working on a new strain of wheat when I discovered an unknown gene in cereal and grain plants. The gene is not normally active, which means in nature it is turned off. I found a way to turn it on. Ladies and Gentlemen, this gene controls plant growth. In the off position, cereals and grains grow at the rate they normally do. If the gene is turned on, plants grow fast and in huge amounts. The gene makes cereals and grains so strong that they are not harmed by drought or cold.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am giving you my discovery to take home with you. You are about to end hunger. Soon, there will be more food than people can eat. It will become so cheap the poor can buy all they want. If they can’t buy it, they can grow their own. All they need is dirt. In two years, a single seed will create a field of food. There will never be another famine.”
The audience was confused and stared at Dr. MacDonald with disbelief. They were not sure what to think. Some guessed Dr. MacDonald was trying to start his speech with a joke. If so, he was not doing it very well. This joke was not funny. Others suspected a hoax. It had happened before. Other scientists had made false claims about amazing discoveries. Some in the audience even wondered if Dr. MacDonald had gone crazy. Perhaps his illness was now attacking his mind.
“There is an energy shortage. It too is going to end,” the scientist continued. “Left over plants can be turned into bio-fuels, clean alternatives for gasoline and heating oil. Energy will become cheap and there will be lots of it - everywhere.”
The audience was becoming unhappy with these outrageous statements. A buzz rose from the crowd. People had stopped paying attention to him and were talking with their neighbors about his crazy claim. Some even stood up to walk out. “I see you do not believe me,” he said into the microphone, raising his voice to speak over the noise. “I have grown some of these plants. I have some seeds with me. They are in this box on the table.” That worked. The audience was curious and grew quiet. People who had stood up to leave sat back in their chairs.
“This discovery is so important I will not let anyone profit from it,” Dr. MacDonald told his audience. “I will give it to the whole world so no one can own it and no one can control it. There is a wireless network in this room. You were all asked to bring a laptop or a tablet, so we are connected. I am going to send the process from my laptop to yours. It will happen with a push of a button and at the speed of light. Once that occurs, my discovery will belong to the world.”
One of Dr. MacDonald’s students stood up and walked to his laptop to help him. She opened a new email message and attached a file named abundance. She stepped back so Dr. MacDonald could use the keyboard.
“Everyone. Please open your email.” He waited as hundreds of people did as he asked. This time, the noise from the audience was the clicking of computer keys. Dr. MacDonald could not resist adding a bit of drama to the moment. He extended the first finger of his right hand as much as he could. It was not very straight; his hands were too weak. He held his bent finger upward so everyone could see it. Everyone watched, waiting for his finger to move downward and touch his keyboard. When that happened, he would send the document.
Dr. MacDonald slowly lowered his finger. His disabled hand shook as it made its way to the keyboard. “Pop! Pop! Pop!” A series of staccato sounds broke out around the room. The audience gasped. “Pop! Pop! Pop!” Some delegates knew that noise. It was small caliber pistols, the weapons favored by assassins. They dove for the floor. “Pop! Pop! Pop!” Police officers and FBI agents unsnapped their holsters and pulled out their guns. The students on stage jumped to their feet as they watched their teacher slump over his wheelchair’s right arm rest. They saw his hand slide away from the computer without touching the keyboard. One of the students screamed, “He’s been hit! He’s been hit!”
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