"He said something before he lost consciousness."
"Tell me," Victor said, struggling to breathe. "What did he say?"
"It was weird. He made a claw with his other hand and started to reach across his chest. Then it fell, and he struggled to say something. All he got out was one word: resin. Do you know what he meant?"
"Not really. Look, do what you can to keep him comfortable. I'll tell mom."
Resin? Victor's mind raced. He split his attention between making a flurry of hastily thought out changes to the control systems to work around the loss of that crane, and getting his mother on the phone. When she finally answered, he closed his eyes and tried to block out the memory of what he'd just seen.
"What is it, Victor? You never call me from work."
"I think dad's dying. There was--" he hesitated, "--an accident. His arm was ripped open and he's lost consciousness. Emergency's been alerted, but they have their hands full. Buck told me he said something: resin. Any idea what that meant?"
Katrina looked out the vid at him for a long moment before speaking. "Resin. Yes, that means something, and I've told you about it several times, but you've always been too bullheaded to listen. That's what your father has been suffering from."
"Resin? How can he be suffering from resin? That's not a disease, it's building material."
"That's right, it's building material. And because he doesn't have proper protection, it's in his lungs, embedded in his skin, and coating his entire digestive system. That's why it itches so badly."
"Resin," he repeated dumbly.
god's sake, Victor, didn't you see what happened to the Golden State
Barrage, to that Hyperloop tube in Louisiana? Alphon Quince says that--."
"Quince?" he shot back, outraged. "He's a terrorist! He was responsible for--."
Katrina spoke right over him. "He was responsible for telling the world what really destroyed the Barrage. Victor, you may not be ready to believe this, but Quince is a hero. If it weren't for him, nobody would know that the Basel bankers have conspired with business and governments to worsen this climate disaster so they could profit from it! The same microbes that ate the resin in the Barrage and the HyperLoop have been eating the resin in your father's body."
The memory of Rolff's hole-ridden flesh swam before Victor's eyes, and he broke down crying. "Oh, my god," he muttered, "there's resin in all of the joints." He glanced around the room, mapping out what he knew about the politics of all the people who'd gone, including Natalie. "That's what all of this has been about."
"Half the crew's gone, including my boss. Whoever it was that compromised the systems made an announcement before I got here, and they stopped work. Natalie refused a direct order from the Administrator."
"That was Eshana Thandri," she said evenly. "I just heard."