Authors: K. D. McAdams
The Seamus Chronicles
K. D. McAdams
Copyright © 2015 by K. D. McAdams
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are figments of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is purely coincidental.
Interior design: K. D. McAdams
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The Seamus Chronicles
It has been a little more than seven months since the apocalypse. The specter of the killer cold has been held at bay but I’m afraid of what else those who unleashed it on our planet are capable of.
Our small but growing group of survivors has fallen into a comfortable, even pleasant routine. Except for me. I am aware that there are secrets, but I have no proof and no way to uncover them. My instincts tell me the secrets are related to the “killer cold” virus that destroyed most of the human race. My brain tells me that there is no way I could have instincts to catch that type of secret.
Life at NASA Ames Research Center is just what a soon-to-be-seventeen year-old physics genius would want. I roll out of bed around ten, make my way to the lab and conduct physics experiments. At night I spend time with my family and our new friends. Except for the fact that my mom and dad are here, it feels much like I had imagined college would.
In addition to Mom and Dad, the other “adult” here is Jane Crenshaw. She and her daughter Cassandra, who is twenty but I consider a kid, worked at Ames before the apocalypse hit. In what still seems like a shady set of coincidences, the Crenshaw’s met up with mom in California while the virus ravaged the rest of the planet. Because of that meeting, the five of us—Dad, me, my sister Grace, my brother Liam, and our friend Sofie Lange—traveled here from New Hampshire. After what we went through on the cross-country road trip and how well she fits in, Sofie has become a part of the family. Joining us a little later in the trip was Remmie, who we picked up in Wyoming even though he is from Colorado. His parents succumbed to the virus; for unknown reasons he was spared.
Just after my dark energy reactor went live Dad took the girls to San Francisco for the day and then left to retrieve two scientists, Randy and William, who had been in the vaccination program and survived. One was in Louisiana, the other in Texas. On their way back the three men found a set of twins, Derek and Alex, in New Mexico. Finding the twins was another surprise but yet more proof that there are people who survived without the vaccine.
At seven years old. Derek and Alex were old enough to understand their parents’ deaths. They did not stay in the house with corpses. Dad found them leaving a store with a grocery cart full of food. Both boys insisted they were okay and could take care of themselves. There was no way dad would leave survivors, let alone two children, but it had taken some persuading to get them to go with strangers.
Dad has never spoken of what else occurred on that trip, but it seems to have affected him. Shortly after arriving home, he told mom and Jane that he would not be driving anywhere else to rescue scientists. Within days he was studying flight manuals and eventually taxiing around the runway in a single-engine Cessna that was here at Moffett Field. Learning to fly became an obsession with him and I soon saw that perhaps some of my drive was inherited from him.
We have plenty of food and water, we get to sleep in nice beds and generally there is little conflict. I should be happy. Instead, the Crenshaws’ work has me scared and confused. This may be how it was before the apocalypse, but I don’t think so. Speaking from experience, obsession is one thing and this is something else. Their approach gives the distinct impression that they are working for their lives. When I push to understand, they shrug it off as a drive to understand and learn. If that were true, implementation, one of my specialties, would not be such a priority.
My dark energy reactor, the obsession of most of my teen years, is done and functioning. I no longer want to doggedly pursue anything. But the truth is that without the Crenshaws’ help, my reactor never would have been completed. I give them my work and attention in an effort to repay my debt. In a strange way I have grown to like them and I want to help. Just not at the expense of things that interest me.
I know they want to go to space but that is not a goal I share. At some point my debt will be repaid and I can pursue things that interest me. In five months with the Crenshaws I have learned more than I would have in a lifetime of schooling.
Cassandra is a fellow child prodigy so we have that, and the weird feelings it creates, in common. She had the bonus of a mom with access to government labs and her own following in certain high-profile circles. A year ago I would have been insanely jealous of the “special” opportunity she had been given. Today I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be a typical American teenager.
I walk over to the coffee machine to pour another cup. Out the window I see Grace and Sofie playing with Remmie, Derek and Alex. It must be “recess” time. In the real world Remmie would still be too young for school, but in the post-apocalypse world boredom is a real problem. Not so much for Remmie and the twins, but for the two young women with them.
I never thought of my older sister as a young woman. Even at eighteen she was a girl to me. But after what we have survived she’s matured in reality and in my mind. Sofie has been mature since the day we met her in the Wal-Mart parking lot. I haven’t spent as much time with Sofie lately as I would like. Between my experiments and her helping with kids, food, water and cleaning, we never seem to be free at the same time. Odd since our passing discussions always cover how boring it is here, but we’re always busy.
“Seamus, have you completed the tests on that vectoring controller?” Jane is in some kind of a rush, as usual. Never one to simply enter a room, she storms in like a tornado.
“No. I thought I would start it tonight. It should take about eight hours to reach a baseline before it starts yielding good data. I kind of want to watch the test play out. It might be fun to see,” I reply and there is partial truth in my answer.
When we were working on the reactor, Jane insisted on working a nine-to-five schedule. The last few months she has been insisting that we put in twelve-hour days. Sure, she and Cassandra were driven and successful NASA physicists, but that was before the apocalypse. Now they are survivors, like the rest of my family and me.
Mom keeps telling me not to fight it. “Remember what they did for you and us,” she reminds me.
It still gnaws at me the way Mom seems to side with them. It’s not even the big things—those I can understand. It’s the little things. Cassandra and Jane skip most of the inventory sessions where we check the food we have. They never help with unloading the truck when Dad and Liam come back from a provision trip, and they barely even clean up after themselves. I hate to think that Mom knows something we don’t but it sure seems that way.
Neither Crenshaw is a medical doctor nor do they know the first thing about growing or catching food. They are useless scientists doing random experiments about space travel. I realize that I’m a useless scientist as well, but at least my work generates electricity for us.
“Seamus!” Jane is trying to snap me back to the task at hand. “I would really like the experiment to be done today.”
“Why?” I feel like Remmie for a second. Thinking about the three-year-old we found on the swing set in Wyoming distracts me even further.
I sense a speech coming. She is about to tell me how important our work is. We have to keep going with scientific study and the growth of knowledge. If we give up, if we even take one day off, future generations may suffer ignorance.
“You know what?” she says. “You’re right, it doesn’t need to be done right now. Go outside and relax. Would you run the test first thing in the morning for me though?” She’s so fake and sickeningly sweet that I want to barf.
“Great, see ya,” I say and I’m out the door. I wonder if she expected more of a discussion from me?
As I walk down the hall I think about how oddly she treats me. While there are no tests for it, evidence shows that I am intellectually superior to her. In fact, over a wide range of topics, I have proven to be intellectually superior to all of the scientists here with us. Yet Jane is the only one who treats me like I’m twelve.
When I get out the door, I see Mom getting ready next to her bike. For fitness and fuel conservation reasons, we’ve taken to riding bikes around campus. I actually prefer walking places but I know Mom loves to ride in the warm California sun.
“Hi Seamus. What are you doing out of the lab?” Mom is glad to see me, but she makes me feel like I cut school.
“We decided to knock off early, I wasn’t really being productive,” I say, and it’s basically an honest answer. “Where are you headed?”
“I’m heading off to check on some plants I spotted at the end of the runway. Will you come with me?” she asks. She’s got a notebook, scissors and a few plastic containers in her basket.
“Sure.” I’m going to go with her and I’m going to make sure we talk about Jane and Cassandra. I didn’t realize it this morning, but I guess today is the day that things are going to change. I’m going to resolve my suspicions and then I’m going to start spending time on the things I want to do. Probably not what Mom’s expecting from my company.
The bike ride takes a while, but it is nice to feel the warm sun and get my blood pumping. At the end of the runway there are some plants that have gone to seed. In New Hampshire, where we used to live, plants start blooming in March, not going to seed, so Mom is interested in this California winter growth specimen. She has been focusing her intellect on gardening and growing food. Not only does she enjoy it, but also it is immensely helpful to the rest of us.
“Mom, why do you always side with Jane?” I expected it to be more difficult to confront my Mother.
“I don’t think we want to talk about Jane.” She’s kneeling over a plant but not collecting seeds or taking any action. I can see that her eyes are closed.
“So before, when the world was normal, you told me I could talk to you about anything. Now that we’ve survived the apocalypse, you want me to keep things bottled up inside?” Even I didn’t realize this was my issue before the words were out of my mouth.
“Seamus,” she pauses and breathes deeply. “I did what it took to keep my family alive.”
“I don’t even know what that means!” I plead. “You got us in the vaccination program. Before everything went down, you had never met Jane. That’s what you keep telling us. If it’s true, we owe her nothing, but you keep taking her side.” My voice cracks on the edge of tears.
“How can you think I would lie to you?” She can’t look at me.
“Because you did, about the vaccine. You didn’t even tell Dad?” I did not expect things to work out like this.
“If I told anyone they would have taken you out of the program and killed me.” She is regaining her composure. “Jane was never a part of it. I swear to you that I didn’t meet her until after everyone got sick. She’s never lied to us.”
“Remember when I overloaded the transformer and it exploded?” This happened when I was ten. I wouldn’t exactly call it a mistake, but the experiment I was working on certainly did not go as I expected.
“Yes. Your father sure had to dance his way out of that fix with the insurance company. If those repair costs had come out of our pockets you
wouldn’t be allowed in the lab.” Mom has a slight smile at the memory.
“Well, no one ever asked me if I was responsible for it.” I’m sure they assumed, but I had never offered commentary. “But you took away lab privileges for a week for lying. Even though I never said anything untruthful. You called it a lie of omission.”
“Fine. Do you want to hear that in order to get Jane to share the rest of the vaccine with us, to keep us alive, I had to promise you would help them until their project was complete?” She is angry and sad.
“If that’s the truth.” I’m surprised at how cold I feel.
“It is the truth. Do you think it’s a coincidence that Jane has maintained control of the vaccine? She swore to me that she would use it to kill us off one by one if you don’t help her,” Mom says, and I realize she is afraid.
“Then let’s stop taking the vaccine.” I could have understood a deal like this in the past, but in the present, deference to Jane is still puzzling.
“And die from the killer cold? I made the deal when it was obvious that life as we knew it was coming to an end. I thought for sure she would reconsider once the dust settled and we became focused on survival.” She is shaking her head.
“We need to force her hand,” I insist. “Now that she knows us, there’s no way she would follow through on her threat to kill someone over a pet project. I’m going to stop working with her today.” I am decisive and confident.
“Not yet. I think she would surprise you with her ruthlessness and there is no one here I am ready to lose over a science experiment.” Mom’s face has turned to stone.
“Then when?” I don’t feel like this is something to be left open-ended.
“When I figure out what she is so busy working on.” Mom has hardened her gaze, sadness and grief turning to steely resolve.
“Ha! I can tell you what she’s working on, but it’s the why that is so puzzling.” I feel like together, Mom and I can get to the bottom of the secrets I perceive.
“If we knew what all the scientists who were supposed to survive were experts in, I feel like we could piece it together,” Mom says. She is thinking of a puzzle she’s been trying to solve for a while.
“I’m afraid it’s related to the virus.” I can’t look at Mom when I make this speculation out loud. “Every time I ask about their drive, they seem to look at the calendar.”