Canaan Strattor rolled Lin Onomi off his arm and onto the pillow. She sighed wistfully before snugging the blankets against her chest and sinking into sleep.
Canaan traced the curve of her spine to her dimpled bare ass before rolling off the bed. Grabbing her phone from the nightstand, he padded from the small bedroom and headed for the living area. The size of the place, the cheapness of the decor, and the stench of other people packed into the apartment complex set his teeth on edge.
Evidence of the environmental crisis stretched like a hellscape in front of him—skyscraper mountains, barren canals instead of teeming rivers, and landscapes of concrete and asphalt. Even the artificial plants were created from synthetic chemicals.
Nature had not been respected or let be, but corrupted and hacked into chunks traded for Judas money.
This world was rushing toward the point of no return where not even the most drastic steps would save it. But they weren’t there yet. Canaan would prevent mankind from crossing that final tipping point, whether they liked it or not.
Pressing the home button, he waited for the phone to demand a passcode. He quickly typed in the four digits Lin used to open her phone then thumbed through the screens until he found the video icon she recorded of the portal today.
Branch called the portal Toran. He was such a nerd.
A nerd Canaan planned to exploit. Switching his hold on the phone, he rolled his arm and opened the data transfer app on his watch. Two seconds later, the file pinged its destination. Canaan counted to thirty. A generous head start for his people to open the file and begin reviewing it. Naturally, he had already briefed his team on the results. He just wanted to confirm that they shared his concerns after watching it.
“We received the file and are viewing it now.” Canaan’s lead scientist answered the video call on the third ring.
Sloppy. The man was getting sloppy. Canaan may have him replaced or, better yet, drop his family from the list.
“The data your contact recorded matches ours. The portal is stable.” The scientist smoothed his crown of gray hair and straightened. His smile faltered as he looked into the camera and gulped. “Is something wrong?”
Canaan’s lips quirked. Fear was a powerful motivator—everyone knew his displeasure could cost them their lives. “Eli was not happy to see his dead mother.”
The man rewound the video, this time focusing on Elias Branch’s reaction. “I concur. He seems to view the whole thing as a failure and doesn’t see the potential in his work.”
But Eli wouldn’t. Still, the scientist’s quick grasp of the situation meant Canaan would keep him on the list, for now. “My thoughts exactly.”
“But for us, the experiment was a success, and the portal is the most stable it’s ever been. We should be able to double, maybe even triple our crossings.”
“That is good news.” The sooner the team was assembled, the quicker the plan to save the planet could begin. “How many people have crossed over today?”
“None, sir.” Another audible gulp.
The fear was becoming tedious, but not as tedious as the team’s consistent failures. Everyone knew the fate of Earth and humanity depended on their success. Why were they not performing? A muscle ticked in Canaan’s jaw. “And why is that?”
“Because Branch hasn’t left. He keeps running diagnostics and attempting to tweak the program.”
Canaan’s eyebrows rose. “Is he changing the program?”
That was not acceptable. That portal was finally stable. It would remain that way. But he needed Eli alive.
“He keeps sending drones.”
“Drones?” Canaan swore. Drones could ruin everything.
“They don’t last long, sir. And haven’t seen anything of note.” The scientist chuckled. “The environment is rather hostile toward them.”
“How many drones?”
“Ten.” The scientist shrugged. “From the video of his lab, he has two left. If we had known of his plans, we could have sabotaged the lot before the test.”
“Yes, yes.” Canaan rolled his shoulders to dispel the tension. That was twice Eli didn’t play his part in the script. Two times too many. “It’s time Eli was properly motivated. Kill his dear godmother.”