Dirty panes scattered a dismal light across the basement floor. It was lucky the French Quarter occupied high ground. Before the rigs ran dry, incandescents would've lit the space, but instead Jorge's men worked to feed the living computers before the light failed. Tourists -- who knew why they came here after the world failed -- and dead-enders occupied the stretchers in manufactured comas.
"It won't work."
Jorge looked away from the stretchers. "It's got to." Old man didn't have a right dying and leaving his only wealth encrypted. It was said some places out west still had power, solar and wind, but why leave his home for the desiccated places climate change had regurgitated. The French Quarter's humidity bred spores so thick they qualified as vegetables, and at least some of the bayous weren't salted.
"Your dad's money was in stocks and bonds. Worthless these days."
"Not all. Not all."
"Don't matter. The fall came quickly, no one could have preserved computational capacity other than us. You could save humanity."
"Daniels, quit your nattering." Jorge was proud of his second-in-command, but sometimes the man needed to seal his trap. Daniels hadn't seen the spiteful look in Jorge's old man as he took the password key to his grave. Jorge tapped his brow. He had the encrypted message encoded in sleepers, waiting for the key.
A boy, a crisscrossed scar like a caterpillar on his cheek, ran into Jorge's office. "Sir, we've got a key." The boy carried an agar plate with the biomolecular input modules.
Jorge pricked his finger before dipping it into the sample. DNA chains, engorged with microscopic xor gates, mixed with his blood, entering his bloodstream as they consumed the sugars and replicated. Finally, Jorge would have the old man's secrets.
The boy's face whitened. "You'll end up like one of them." He pointed at the stretchers."
"No faith." Jorge wiped the sweat from his brow. He was feverish. "Brainstem interfaces allow me to integrate the data in the key, in the origin message, and all will be made clear."
The room oozed and Daniels caught Jorge. He laid his boss on the desk.
Jorge stared at the ceiling, his old man's memories becoming his, losing himself, feeling the old man's horror as their microbes fed on the world's oil. No, this could not have been his fault. He kicked once, memories consuming him, leaving him comatose.