How had Earth become less like Venus and more like Mars? Somehow the proverbial journey 'Out of the frying pan into the fire' didn't happen for earth, despite humanity's vast fossil fuel consumption, and Tadhg was chasing down why. Some things were obvious, including the now-accepted central role of air's carbon in the sudden warming of the earlier climate crisis. Where had so much of air's carbon gone? Plants were curiously darker now and grew faster, almost all of them. O'Ness put down the cup and rubbed his temples. Salmon harvests had inexplicably rebounded vastly, even while harvesting decimated returning spawners. Much of what had been infertile ocean turned greener as plankton grew where little had grown before. So much had changed.
The routine salmon fry surveys started by the boffins before him allowed comparison with his current work. Comparing these showed that sockeye salmon juvenile's spleen became darker about the same time that the seas seemed to become greener. But how could these be correlated, and what caused these? O'Ness pushed the computer mouse away and sighed, got up from his squeaky chair, closed doors and walked through snowy streets, home to wife, kids and dinner.
As he opened home's door, aromas of salmon and potato wafted out, and two children ran up cheering. Later, the meal done, O'Ness pushed back his creaking chair. As he and the kids washed up after the meal, he told them tales of life before, when humanity accelerated right at certain death without blinking, by burning so much fuel that the ice melted. They didn't really follow the carbon-in-air link in that chain yet, but give them time. In their beds, the children fell asleep, and O'Ness returned to pondering.
Geoengineering concepts usually involved shading earth to lessen warming, but as we eat the sun's energy as our food, less sunlight reaching earth would have starved some of the 7 billion people then alive by shading crops, reducing food crop yields. Hence the earth shading concepts were thought shelved. Yet the earth was cooling. Were sulfate aerosols secretly spread in the stratosphere via a contrail conspiracy, shading earth? There was one way to tell; measure current levels of sunlight at the planetary surface. This revealed that the sunlight now reaching through the atmosphere was still as strong as before the cooling.
His wife came up to him.
“I want a divorce.”
Reeling, Tadhg sat down. “Why?”
“You don't really love me, nor do you care about our children.”
“That's not true. Why do you say that?”
“You walk in a daze through this house, never really seeing anyone else, never really looking at us.”
“I've just been preoccupied with work.”
“I've had enough, I want you out.”
“Honey, I work so hard because I love you, Ben and Sally, and I've just had a breakthrough in the work. That's why I've been so preoccupied. Now the hard part of the work starts; nailing down the details and getting the word out. If this works like it should, we'll earn more, and Ben and Sally will live in a world that isn't so cold. I need your support now more than ever. Please, Don't end this now, for our family and for the world.”
“Cut the crap. Pack your stuff and get out by next week. Until then, sleep on the couch. ”
Tadhg was far too upset to sleep, couch or no couch. He went angrily back to campus and stayed awake all night working. He was in top form teaching his first class. He didn't even take it out on the students, much. Then he went to the gym and pulled his back out. Tadhg hobbled through the showering and back to the office.
Leaving the office for the day, Prof. O'Ness hobbled slowly, his back jolting him with pain when his feet slipped suddenly on ice. Where to? He ate on campus in a cafeteria and inquired after rooms to stay in. Finding none, Tadhg returned home, collected a change of clothes and trundled off to a hotel for the night. Latching the hotel room door brought much-needed shelter. Tadhg sighed.
Tadhg returned to the office in the morning and searched listings for a room near campus. Graduate students sharing apartments had rooms available; Tadhg picked one that seemed quiet and not too far from home and campus.
Tadhg gingerly shuffled home again, avoiding back twinges. He met a friend and colleague, Ned, to help move suitcases to the new room. At the old house, his children Ben and Sally looked at him. He sat down with them, briefly explaining the situation that they'd surely heard before, as Ned moved bedding and suitcases to a car.
At a restaurant, later, Tadhg didn't dare drink alcohol; he would teach class in the morning, and also feared numbing what he was still trying to understand, despite the temptation. Ned shared news from the Biochemistry Department.
“They've found that while the darkening of the plants coincided with no apparent nuclear DNA change, it did correlate with a DNA change in the chloroplast.”
To Tadhg, the news was like a balm; the tale of the DNA change calmed him. While recent events didn't make much sense, at least here was an area where sense still seemed useful. Ned dropped Tadhg at the apartment, brought the suitcases and bedding in, then, before driving off, gripped Tadhg's shoulder once, which only twinged Tadhg's sore back a bit.
“Consolidated Fish Feed is purchased, Dr. Inouye.” Phoebe Inouye's agent Sheneilla Overburg had just signed the purchase agreement on a controlling interest in the last major salmon fry feed maker that Phoebe didn't already own.
“Thank you, Ms. Overburg.”
Phoebe thus assembled, in one year, a veiled colossus. By using agents like Overburg and off-shore shell corporations to buy each fish feed company, no one but her knew of her stake in the salmon feed market. So started the stage in which the typical quasi-monopolist would start to squeeze both suppliers and buyers, using the clout of 'market-share' to financially bludgeon in both directions. Inouye, an ichthyologist-turned-businesswoman, was fishing for a different catch. After she acquired control of the fry feed plants, she altered the sockeye feed composition to include more trace iron. But how could this pay off the massive debt Dr. Inouye incurred?
***Sidebar A: Oceanic iron, The Aleutian Eruption and the Following Salmon Onslaught. ***
Oceans are remarkably diffuse in iron, with concentrations so low that even rare vanadium is more prevalent. Iron averages as low as 75 nanomoles per cubic meter in much of the North Pacific, or about 4 kilograms per cubic kilometer of seawater there. The wind has blown 98% of oceanic iron there to the ocean as dust from deserts such as the Gobi, upwind of the North Pacific. The reason iron is so scarce in surface waters is that it easily forms insoluble precipitates that fall like snow to the ocean floor.
Why does this matter? Because phytoplankton use iron as a co-factor in enzymatically transforming nitrogen, including cyanobacteria's nitrogen fixation (from dissolved air's nitrogen gas) – and because nitrogen constrains ocean photosynthesis by phytoplankton in much of the world's oceans. This limiting iron flow historically limits the North Pacific's overall productivity severely, along with other vast HNLC oceanic areas - HNLC stands for 'high nitrogen – low chlorophyll'. This fifth of the oceans has enough fixed dissolved nitrogen to nourish more plankton, yet these areas remain low in planktonic chlorophyll, revealing that plankton lack something besides nitrogen. This puzzled early oceanographers, until iron was found to be the limiting nutrient in most of these areas.
In 2008 an Aleutian island volcano eruption fed plankton downwind, changing blue seas green in the months following the eruption by depositing ash containing iron across the Northeast Pacific Ocean.
This plankton bloom preceded a sudden population explosion in the pink salmon population that returned to land during 2009. And the 2010 sockeye salmon return was also unexpectedly large. Pink salmon return two years after they enter the ocean as young fry, while sockeyes return about three years after they enter the sea. The trace iron that the volcano added to the salmon feeding waters, by causing the plankton blooms, nourished these massive returns of salmon.
Another way to get iron to those ocean pastures might be within the sockeye salmon already heading that way to feed, by loading their spleens with iron stores before they leave shore, within the hatcheries, by feeding iron-enriched feed. Why in sockeye salmon? While pink salmon fry head to sea right after hatching, feeding negligibly in fresh water streams, sockeye salmon fry spend a year feeding in fresh water before venturing to sea. Hatchery sockeye fry might be fed iron during this year. Since iron is so critically rare in the ocean, it makes sense to expect that sockeye salmon fry have adapted to sequester iron in their spleens for adult use. Natural dispersion of these stores, over the three years of sockeye salmon presence in these oceanic pastures, could supply the critical iron, inducing phytoplankton blooms that in turn nourish the same sockeyes and the rest of the sea life, too.
Amidst the entire industrial spending spree, Phoebe had sold long puts on wild salmon delivery futures, promising to sell salmon in the future at prices set today. She thus gambled in her own field, where she had inside knowledge, and now, inside power.
A year later pink salmon returned from ocean pastures rendered fertile by the supply of the one nutrient missing; iron, brought via sockeye spleen. Salmon returned in record numbers to a fish-starved market. But Dr. Inouye's counterparts in the salmon futures market, by agreeing to buy Phoebe's long puts at earlier, then-prevailing high prices, had bet that the salmon supply would continue as tight as before Phoebe's veiled iron supplementation started. Beforehand, too many trawlers chased too few fish, so thinking that this would continue seemed sensible. The 'put' buyers, that Phoebe contracted with, bet with what seemed like an optimistic fool; they lost and she gained by filling those earlier contracts to deliver, at high earlier prices, with what now flooded the market; plentiful and cheap wild salmon.
There had been oddly productive years of salmon returns before, but as peaks in a downward-sloping yield-by-year line. So those who bet once with Phoebe and lost in the futures market, bet again the next year, never knowing that they were dealing with the same person, or that Phoebe held the cards.
The next morning Tadhg hobbled through class, then calculated the influence that the darkening of the plants might have on atmospheric carbon levels and flows. Calculating carbon fixed by the increase in growth in plants darkened worldwide, and in air's carbon fixed subsequently, O'Ness still couldn't explain the steadily dropping air carbon levels. Where had the rest of the air's carbon gone?
He headed back to the new flat, picking up a simple to go meal on the way. Tadhg called home and reached his son Ben.
“How was school, Ben?”
“OK. We studied the same old stuff; multiplication”
“Multiplication? I use that all the time.”
“Yeah, today I used it to look into why it keeps getting colder. It might have to do with plants being darker now.”
“Oh. What was it like before?”
“Plants were mostly greenish, instead of being nearly black. In the country, apart from in winter, everything was green.”
“Why is it different now?”
“We're still finding out, Ben.”
Tadhg talked with Sally too, then slept. In the morning at school he explored publishing a letter jointly with the plant scientists in Biochemistry, and with a climatology boffin as well, on this proposal to account for missing atmospheric carbon via the darkening of the plants.
Plants use chloroplasts to catch light and make sugar and stuff. Chloroplasts are captured remnants of independent bacteria engulfed by early eukaryotes and then integrated within the eukaryotic cells, that thus became the first plants. Chloroplasts retain just a bit of their ancestor's DNA molecules, since most of their free-living ancestor's DNA shifted over to the plant nucleus. The chloroplasts use their DNA in conjunction with the plants' nuclear DNA to form the enzymes with which light is caught and sugar, etc. made. But the light caught is not all the light encountered – much green light bounces off chloroplasts. This is why plants look green. Chloroplasts basically ceased evolving independently after their engulfment by the first plants.
Green light contains about a fifth of the sunlight energy reaching earth's surface. Outside of plants, algae and microbes have evolved to use green light in addition to red and blue light. But these microbes were not the ones that the first plants engulfed, so plants still basically use only red and blue light. They use this light to pump electrons and protons across the insulating cell membrane in the 'Light' reactions, then, in the 'Dark' reactions, use the returning of those protons to power making sugar, etc. from air's carbon dioxide.
A photon flew from the sun. Eight minutes later, half of it's fellow companion photons were absorbed or reflected within earth's atmosphere, but this one made it through. It wobbled with a frequency near 560 terahertz, travelling with a wavelength of 535 nanometers; it was green. It hit a molecule of proteorhodopsin and was absorbed, which knocked a proton across the thylakoid membrane into thylakoid space. This complemented the chlorophyll and carotenoid liberation of protons within thylakoid space. Both sources of protons powered the formation of ATP as the photons returned to the stroma through ATP synthase, mounted in the thylakoid membrane.
Through the happenstance of accidental evolution's stumbling along in the dark, plants hit on sugar-making 'Dark' reactions with notable inefficiencies. When oxygen, instead of carbon dioxide, reacts with 'RuBisCO', an enormous photosynthesis enzyme central to the dark reactions, glyoxylate forms. Mopping that glyoxylate up takes considerable cellular energy. A few microbes, like Chloroflexus, have evolved an alternate enzymatic pathway using oxygen-insensitive enzymes. The pathway avoids glyoxylate buildup, and is characterized by it's 3-hydroxypropionate intermediate, and is hence called the 3-HOP pathway. While the Chloroflexus genus organisms do incidentally produce glyoxylate, they efficiently metabolize it.
Atop a German charcoal-making pile grew a Streptomyces like no other known – in this warm, carbon-rich aerobic environs it alone fixed nitrogen at near-ambient temperatures and thrived, by virtue of an oxygen-tolerant nitrogenase, who's encoding DNA was almost lost with the loss of the organism in a lab mishap.
In nano-injection, DNA is electrostatically stuck to a positively charged microscopic lance, which, jammed into the chloroplast, released that DNA to transform the chloroplast once the electrostatic charge is reversed. This nano-injection and the nitrogenase mentioned above also feature in our story, to which let's now return.
After a few rings, Tadhg heard a mechanical voice announcing “Central Satellite Imaging Service.” Tadhg pressed the extension mentioned in the letter in his hand.
“Hi, Samir, This is Tadhg O'Ness from U.B.C. following up after your recent response.”
“Oh, Hi Tadhg, How can I help?”
“I just wanted to check on your production schedule for the ocean chlorophyll data.”
“Tadhg, It looks like it will be two weeks before we can get to your order.”
“Thanks, Samir, If there are any issues, please do contact me.”
“Will do, Tadhg. Is that it?
“Yes, Samir, and it was good to talk with you in person.”
“Thanks, Tadhg, and likewise. Have a good day.”
Tadhg turned to the mail of the day; a letter from his wife's lawyer. Ugh.
Decades earlier, William Jackson desperately scoured the microbial photosynthesis literature for ways to improve photosynthesis and plant growth, to bind air's troublesome carbon increase. He was obsessed with trying to ameliorate the climate crisis, and why not? He had time, ambition, good intentions and maybe a little psychosis, so it seemed possible to overcome his lack of high academic status or significant capital. As a son of biology department faculty, he had some access to tools and lab materials, and that might be all he needed. He recognized the opportunity; nearly a fifth of sunlight reaching earth went unused by plants - mostly green light. Sure, some green light was utilized, especially lower in the canopy, but much was lost. In plants of that era the 'Light' reactions missed out on much of green light's considerable power, and the 'Dark' reactions were inefficient when leaves were hot. Furthermore, fossil fuel price hikes had boosted nitrogen fertilizer prices worldwide, at a time when over a quarter of the world's population ate due to the crop yields dependent on that artificial nitrogen fertility. William sought to change all that by engineering a viroid to bring three microbial pathways to plants; first, a rhodopsin that powered cell growth with green light; second, the improved oxygen- and heat-tolerant 'Dark' pathway called '3-HOP'; and third, Streptomyces' oxygen-tolerant nitrogenase to fix nitrogen from air for the plant.
William finally nano-injected chloroplasts with the darkening viroid, then introduced the aphids into the growth chamber. Will the darkening spread within the plant? Will the viroid also infect the aphids? Will the aphids spread any viroid to the experimental plants?
There was a knock on William's basement laboratory door, then a crash of splitting wood as men in white coats kicked the door in. They stumbled rapidly through the breach and grabbed William as he turned from the growth chamber. William's hands were torn from the isolation glovebox. In the confusion, the crudely built glovebox fell off the counter. It's light wooden frame broke and the plastic film panels tore. Soil mix and plants tumbled into a heap, and infected aphids flew through the eddies of air. As the men dragged William out the open cellar door, William realized with shock that the aphids were free in the world, and the viroid with them.
Months went by slowly in the asylum for the now-drugged William, but through the window one day he noticed plants outside becoming darker, he thought. Maybe it's just the light that day. Bemused, William wondered groggily whether earth's plants were darkening with proteorhodopsins; whether the engineered nitrogenase and 3-HOP pathways worked.
After a decade, in which the darkening of the plants took hold outside of Williams' window, William was transferred to a less restrictive facility, where he learned through his old college buddy of Tadhg's interest in plant darkening. William wrote O'Ness, and awaited a reply.
At Prof. O'Ness's office, Tadhg's phone rung.
“This is Sally and Ben's principal. Your daughter's gotten into fights again, which this time also involved your son. Unfortunately we've had to suspend both of them for three days.”
“Oh. I guess I should come by and pick them up.”
“There's no need – your wife is coming. I just wanted to let you know.”
“Well, thank you, and sorry for the trouble.”
Tadhg turned back to calculating estimations of the additional carbon fixed through the darkening of the plants. He also wrote colleagues, arguing for further fish spleen studies. Colleague comments came back about how difficult this change in salmon fry iron transport would be. Tadhg invited alternate explanations and pleaded that others look into fish iron flux budgets, especially salmon's. Tadhg had data backing up increased iron transport by sockeye salmon, and was asking others to gather more. Besides, he wasn't arguing that these transformations were easy, or likely, he was arguing that they were done.
Much coastal desert area might be converted by dikes to keep seawater, not out, but in. This could flood extensive desert areas, which could bloom with aquaculture, incidently fixing carbon into sealife and seashell carbonates. Vast windmill farms might ring these coastal deserts, pumping seawater up and over dike after dike, into the deserts. Above each dike would lie a pond; within each pond the seawater would grow saltier via evaporation, - the farthest ponds, as saltpans, would churn out salt by the railcar-load. Before the final ponds an additional band of windmills could split water into hydrogen gas and hydroxide. which could precipitate magnesia in these penultimate ponds. The magnesia produced could become cement of a type that uses MgOH2 instead of CaOH2. Using this cement would avoid the carbon released during conventional cement preparation, an energy-intensive high-temperature process.
Coastal deserts are often beside upwelling zones, where arctic-cold and relatively fertile deep ocean waters are drawn to the surface. With the addition of even more fertility within the dams, this dammed seawater could support vigorous plankton and algae growth. The algae could be food types like kelp, and the abundant plankton might feed edible fish. While the deep ocean's surface is often very unproductive due to lack of nutrients, shallow waters are typically hundreds of times more productive. People could insure such productivity in this seawater-flooded coastal desert aquaculture.
The telephone rang again.
“Doctor O'Ness, It's Central Satellite Imagery Service calling. Would you care for, in addition to the chlorophyll change data covering the sea, data covering the recently diked coastal desert areas?”
“Oh, yes indeed. That'd be wonderful. Thank you. When will this all be available?”
“It'll take a bit longer to include the diked desert data. Probably two weeks from now.”
“That long. Well, I'm eager for the data, and will be waiting. Thanks.”
A week later, Prof. O'Ness stood before the college tenure committee, sweating and quaking a bit.
“Tadhg, you haven't published for years now. The college ratings give us little choice...”
“Samuel, I'm gathering final data for a significant article that ought to be accepted within months.”
“That's all well and good, but if the department's tenured faculty publications per year drops below the number of faculty, the entire department is at risk of being axed. We can't afford to risk that, so we're not granting your tenure request now, but we will put it on hold, and will reactivate it if publications are accepted.”
Tadhg's stomach twisted.
A week later, back at the office, Tadhg dialed the young journal's editor, who answers in person after quite a few rings.
“Betty Travois speaking.”
“Ms. Travois, This is Professor O'Ness again of the University of British Columbia.”
“I'm calling you about a draft article which I emailed to your firm earlier.”
“Professor O'Ness, we've received the piece, but without further data, I'm unwilling to take reviewer's time with it.”
“I understand, and hope to have the data in and analyzed by next week.”
“Good. Let's talk then.” Click.
“Central Satellite Imagery Service. If you know your party's extension...”.
Tadhg gets through Samir.
“Samir, Is there any chance the data on chlorophyll within HNLC areas and diked deserts is ready yet?”
“Tadhg, I'm sorry, It will probably be a week more. There's quite a few projects in the pipeline.”
After hanging up, Tadhg started to wonder about other greenhouse gases that he might be able to get data on more rapidly, like methane. Then Tadgh found Joseph Fosjocki's old article on transforming cattle salivary glands to excrete alpha-galatosidase.
In 1995 livestock emitted seventy eight million tons of methane from within both their guts and manure, from organisms capable of digesting galactose oligosaccharides using the alpha-galactosidase enzyme. These oligosaccharide sugars are built by legumes. The ancestors of mammals somehow lost the ability to digest these eons ago, with climate-scale effects. While methane over a century has 35 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide, over two decades it has 85 times carbon dioxide's effect, according to the 2013 IPCC reports. A mumps-like viroid might be engineered to implant a transgene into cattle salivary gland cells, to secrete alpha-galactosidase in saliva, so oligosaccharide sugars like raffinose and stachyose are digested and utilized by livestock for additional growth, before hindgut microbes can make methane from them.
Two decades earlier, Joey Fosjocki completed the assembly of a mutated mumps virus designed by Joey to induce salivary gland secretion of alpha-galactosidase in cattle, so cattle could start digesting oligosaccharides from legumes directly. Then his lip itched, so he thoughtlessly reached around his face guard and scratched it with the gloved hand he'd been working with. 'I really should get lip balm' he thought, 'on my way home', licking his lip. He ate a late lunch, and finished off other work the rest of the week, then on Friday sneezed all the way home on the subway. By a week after the Monday exposure date, his cheeks ached, and the next week was painful, but soon afterwards he could eat beans without gas. The same fate befell those near him on the subway, and soon the world's people could eat beans without bubbles, and cattle of the world grew more rapidly and passed much, much less methane gas. But Joey's company couldn't sell what the world got for free, whether the world wanted it or not, so the company folded, closing it's doors for good. Joey was out of work.
Tadhg scribbled on the back of yet another envelope, his fingers chilled. The Vancouver cold exceeded the building's heating capacity, which had been designed for a milder climate. Still not enough cooling accounted for, even with gasless cattle and people. What else had changed air's carbon?
Some grain sorghum varieties might replace much rice in tropical paddy fields since they cook like rice and yield more, but there's prejudice for rice over sorghum, which is known as 'poor man's rice'.
Grain sorghum might be developed to use Gluconacetobacter to fix nitrogen inside the plants, as was discovered occurring in Brazil inside the stems of sorghum's close relative, sugarcane.
A reduction in methane release to air might follow from the switch, in many flooded pond fields, or 'paddies', from growing rice to sorghum. When grown in flooded soils, sugarcane induced a more than ten-fold reduction in 'paddy' soil methane release, by altering the redox state in the pond field's rhizosphere. This might reduce 'paddy' methane emission worldwide by 50 billion tons of methane per year, while the grain sorghum's greater yields would increase food yields. We seven billion humans might appreciate that, especially considering that many of us eat today thanks to artificial nitrogen fertilizing, who's energy cost, by releasing carbon, threatens the climate-dependent agriculture it fertilizes.
The short half-life of atmospheric methane and it's enormous impact on global climate within a twenty year period, Tadhg realized, made it particularly likely as a cause of the recent cooling. Tadhg thought slowly as he ate an Indian meal at a nearby restaurant. Then he stopped, looking at the meal. The grain was the newly prominent, yet quite ancient grain sorghum that cooked like rice. Perhaps here was another clue to climatic change. Back at the office, O'Ness scoured Pubmed, then the entire internet for works on altered paddy methane emissions, and found Dwivedi's 1980s article on sorghum's close relative, sugarcane, in paddy fields and it's effects on methane emissions as compared with rice. Luckily the rice-to-sorghum conversion data were quicker to get than the satellite data.
Checking his email, Tadhg came across the satellite data, finally in from the satellite service. O'Ness began a flurry of analysis, plugging satellite data into spreadsheets and programs he'd prepared. The transfer of data went as planned, so soon the cumulative greenhouse gas changes from sockeye's iron shuttling, plant darkening, increased aquaculture via diked deserts, magnesium-based cement substitution, gasless cattle (and people) and sorghum adoptation in ex-rice paddies were tallied. The combined effects succeeded in explaining the cooling of earth.
Tadhg called his wife. O'Ness and his wife set a date to meet with the divorce lawyers.
For a change of pace, Tadhg glanced at the backed-up campus mail. He noticed William's letter from the asylum.
“Dear Professor O'Ness,
I understand that you are estimating the climatic effect of plant darkening. You might be curious to know how this occurred...
Tadhg replied, asking William to go on the record with the aphid viroid work.
Later, Tadhg opened the paper as he ate lunch and found reports of Phoebe Inoue sued for price-fixing with her now-revealed near-monopoly. Overburg had came forward with suspicions of cornering the fish feed market, stimulating an investigation that showed the conglomerate Phoebe hid for so long. Now Tadhg had the agent of the sockeye spleen darkening documented too and a motive for the iron addition. Also in the paper was the tale of the mumps epidemic of some years ago. Joey Fosjocki's work was revealed, and his professional life ended, but for Tadhg, the article added background depth for his article. He worked all night, then sent the results to the journal editor.
Betty liked what she saw and sent the piece out to peer reviewers.
From: Betty Travois, Syndicated Science Publications
To: Prof. Tadhg O'Ness
Subject: Congrats, the last reviewer approved!
Body: Tadhg, your article's been accepted for publication, and will in fact lead a special issue on earth's surprising recent cooling...
After the department tenure ceremony, back in his office, Tadgh discovered his mug. Picking up the leftover black coffee, he glanced at his family photo. His wife gone, the children in limbo, mostly now out of his reach, Tadgh sipped a bitter, cold victory cup.