"The Great Lakes," Simon repeated. "You didn't know the Basel bankers owned the lakes?"
"No, but it sure explains a lot. It also gives me an idea."
"Yeah. What do you know about the Chicago River?"
"Only that it's a cesspool. Why?"
"Well, about two hundred years ago," she said, "the Army Corp of Engineers flipped it on its ass. They dredged the crap out of it, built a canal and then some locks. The scheme was sold to the public as a solution to Chicago's sanitation problem, but the shipping companies had a better use for it. They hauled freight up the St. Lawrence Seaway, through the lakes, then out through the locks on the Chicago River to the canal leading to the Des Plaines River, and from there all the way down to New Orleans and into the Gulf of Mexico."
"Okay," Ferd said, "you've got my interest. What's your idea?"
"It's the locks. Even though the container freight is transferred from the lake fleet to the river ships at the Daley Transshipment Center, tankers still have to go through the locks. They're demand-driven; a part of the just-in-time supply chain infrastructure those "Morons in Business Attire' are always crowing about. They're also a choke point of monumental proportions. If those locks were to get stuck open, the tankers couldn't leave the lake, and their inland shipping route would be toast. It's not like they can reroute those tankers through the Atlantic Hurricane Vortex. You saw what happened to the wildcat freighter that tried to buck those winds last year."
"Hold it, hold it," Simon said, aghast. "Are you nuts? Sure, that'd hobble the shipping industry for a bit, but what else would it do? Look, I live in Nebraska. We used to get our drinking water from the Ogallala Aquifer before Obama's Folly fouled it with Canadian shale tar. You foul Lake Michigan with the swill in the Chicago River, and we're all going to die of thirst out here. No, I think you should lay off messing with those locks. The world is too fragile to go messing with it like that. Besides, who knows what else might happen?"
"Alphon, would," Ferd said matter-of-factly. "I think we should ask him what he thinks. Hold on, I'll see if I can loop him back in."
After several rings, a woman's voice came on. "Hello?"
"Who is this?" he asked her.
"I'm Cinquetta Mills. Freelance reporter," she said. "Who are you?"
When Eshana recognized the woman's voice, she blurted out, "Hey, you're the one who realized it was Quince trapped in that pod, aren't you?"
"Yeah. Look. This phone, or whatever it is, was on the ground. Phoebe Butler must have had it when she was--." She suddenly broke off, leaving the line momentarily filled with an indistinct hubbub. "Who are you people?"
"Friends of theirs, Ms. Mills," Ferd said. "We're the Hacker Collective, and we need to speak to him."