‘Tensile’ looked the most intriguing. I opened it. Many files came into view. The PDF titled new campaign was the first to be opened. Photos of lush forests, lawns, and gardens popped up with slogans. One read: Never settle for second best. Another read: Even nature can be improved. Still another promoted the Amazing Ash tree. Additional files contained scientific details. There were chemical names, diagrams, and a detailed description of CRISPR technology.
I clicked on the file named ‘Nag’ expecting to see that to be an acronym for a chemical. Instead, multiple files about Dr. Cora Nelson filled the screen. I scanned through a few and found most were potentially damaging to her reputation. Some even referred to her as an environmental terrorist. Is this why she wanted SD card?
The doorknob jostled. I jumped out of the chair and turned the laptop towards the wall. “Brian, leave that alone,” said a muffled female voice. “But I want to see,” said child’s voice.
I slumped to the chair and sighed. Soft footsteps shuffled on the carpet moving away from the door. My ears throbbed in time with my pulse. While I worked to calm myself, I inserted an empty flash drive into the computer and copied all the files from SD card.
The copying left under a half hour to occupy the cubicle. That was enough time for one more folder before packing up. ‘Brat’ was the next folder I opened. There were fewer files, but this was the first to have a video. In fact, there were at least three. I hit play for the first one and it felt like déjà vu.
A chainsaw roared in the distance. Shaky footage panned around a dark SUV and towards a clump of trees in the distance. There were few a vehicles nearby and people milling about.
A voice whispered, “They can’t get a sample from the ‘miracle’ trees. They’ve tried for the past three days. The chainsaws overheat before they can even be nicked. Someone talked of getting a laser.”
I grabbed my phone and began scrolling through the history. I tapped the video titled: Miracle Trees Are Indestructible. Instead of playing, I saw a message stating this video is private.
A thump on the door made me jump. “Sir, no music, videos, or phone conversations. You need to turn it off.” It was the voice of the librarian. I immediately shut the video off and cracked the door open.
“Sorry,” I hoarsely whispered. She grunted and limped away.
After pulling the door shut, I packed everything up. I placed the SD card back in its case and deposited it back into my pocket. The flash drive was placed into a different one. The computer was now charged and could be used for two or three hours after settling in at home.
As I walked past the librarian on my way out, she shook her head and pursed her lips. I shrugged. She raised an eyebrow and waggled a finger at me. Nice to see that I’ve made a friend, I chuckled to myself.
As I approached Betsy, I could see a shadow on the pavement leaning against the driver’s door. It was a man slumped over. I swung the shoulder strap of the laptop case across my body to free both of my hands. Still some distance away, I shouted, “Hey, you. Are you okay?”
The man raised his head and looked at me. It was Alex. He had been roughed up and his eye blackened. “I need my backpack.”