Read Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy) Online

Authors: Andreas Christensen

Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy) (2 page)

BOOK: Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy)
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“I’d like to have a look around,” Maria said. “We’ve still got a good hour before dark, and I’d like to see what lies inland. We’ll be on our way by daybreak, so this is really the only chance I’ll have.” Dean frowned, but Maria didn’t let him voice his objections.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back before dark,” she said. Karin stepped forward and spoke, to her surprise.

“I’ll come with you,” the Swede said.

“All right,” Dean said with a shrug of defeat, “but make sure you’re back in time. We don’t know what’s out there, and finding you in the dark would be a bitch.” Karin picked up her small backpack, while Maria got a signal flare and a gun.

“See you soon,” Maria said, before they walked away from the campsite.

Chapter 2
 

Kenneth
TAYlor

 

Kenneth sat in a rickety chair by his makeshift desk, peering at his tablet. He had read Thomas’s report three times already. He needed to discuss this with Tina, but as far as he could tell, its contents were encouraging. Thomas and his team had succeeded in destroying the factory and the storage facility, and there would be no more poison gas on Aurora for months, if not years. Of course, given time, such capabilities could be rebuilt, but not anytime soon. Now they had to decide how to use that opportunity. Tina was out by the southern defenses, though, making a round of inspections, so all of that would have to wait until she returned, tomorrow or the next day.

He laid down his tablet and turned toward his two guests. The only person he missed, besides Tina, was Maria, who had gone north to explore the Arizona. She had turned out to be a competent biologist, able to transfer her knowledge based on Earthly biology to their new surroundings. He suspected some of the more experienced scientists had a harder time of it, more set in their old ways.

Geena, who was sitting across the table from him, was the closest thing to a doctor they had, and though he wished they had a real doctor, Geena was learning quickly, surpassing her teachers. Kim, who had extensive field experience from Navy medevac teams in North Africa had taught her so much that Kenneth made a mental note to make sure she took on new apprentices. They needed more people with medical know-how at the Stronghold, and he feared they would be needed even more now that winter was coming to an end. The fighting had already picked up in the foothills, given the warmer climate, and they will likely suffer more casualties. Hopefully, before next winter, the war would finally be over.

His second guest sat off to the side, keeping his silence for now. Rajiv’s arrival from Dehlia and his account of his people’s escape from Earth had given them all hope, but nothing more. Still, he enjoyed their talks and found Rajiv’s perspectives valuable and insightful. Since the Dehlian’s new settlement had grown so much since their ships first landed on Dehlia, more than a hundred years before the Exodus reached Aurora, Kenneth was sure he and all the new Aurorans could learn a great deal from their experiences. The Indira Federation, descendants of Indians, Japanese, Koreans, and British, among others, had eventually expanded to other planets and even outside its home system. It was an incredible feat, and speaking with Rajiv helped Kenneth keep tabs on the bigger picture, but Kenneth knew the Dehlian was holding something back. He just couldn’t tell what it was. What Kenneth did know was that they could learn a great deal from him, and he was grateful for his presence.

In previous discussions about the kids who’d taken off their masks, Rajiv had said he’d never seen anything like this before. Back on Dehlia, the composition of the atmosphere was close enough to that of Earth to be breathable, and while the first generation had worn facemasks, just like on Aurora, the Dehlians had eventually developed vaccines that enabled them to breathe freely. None of the organisms they had found had had much effect on humans, except for one strain of fungus that they now had proper treatment for. Rajiv had taken great interest in the development with the three youths, since, as he saw it, the parasite was a life form that showed signs of sentience. Kenneth didn’t agree with the sentience theory, but he’d decided the Dehlian’s perspective could prove to be valuable when it came to dealing with this ever-present danger in their atmosphere.

“So, about the kids…” Kenneth said. He turned to Geena who brought out her own tablet and laid it on the table in front of them. All three of them knew she had been studying the kids closely ever since they had lain unconscious those first days after breathing the unfiltered Aurora air, just before they’d all had to evacuate Port Hammer.

“Ben, Lisa, and Drew,” she began as she swiped across the screen on the tablet. Pictures of the three appeared.

“They were all part of the group that the rebels placed on the shuttle New Discovery when the launch facility in Arizona was overrun.” Kenneth had heard the story, although of the three present, only Tina had first-hand knowledge of it. A few weeks ago, she had told him how close the kids had been to being sent back to Earth. Instead, she and Admiral Hamilton had devised a plan that managed to save them, and let them travel to Aurora with the original colonists.

“Benjamin Waters.” An image of Ben appeared. “He was the eldest of them, and the one who seems to be taking on a leadership role, even though I doubt he’s ever been the leadership type. From what I’ve gathered, he’s been having a hard time adjusting to his new life here on Aurora. Back on Earth, he was a boy soldier in the rebel army, seeing things no kid should ever see. I guess you can all imagine that these experiences must have affected him deeply. He seemed to be doing all right though, until his friend Harry was killed.” Everyone knew that soldiers guarding the perimeter around Fort Andrews had shot at them, killing Harry. The official explanation had been that the guards had thought they were being attacked by balders, those fearsome creatures who could kill a man in an instant with their razor-sharp teeth or heavy, clawed paws. It was one of several episodes that had led to an exodus from Fort Andrews, with people joining Tina and her ship builders up in the now burned-out town of Port Hammer.

“Ben has shown some disturbing traits after being infected. Granted, his abilities have been a gift to the cause, and time and again, he and the others have gone up against impossible odds, and come out on top. But how will he cope when the war is over? And more important, will he be able to stay in control of himself?” Geena paused and shook her head.

“We cannot be sure,” Kenneth said, “but I for one am worried about him.” He exhaled heavily, triggering a brief coughing spell,
then continued. “The fact is, we can learn a lot about the psychological issues, but there’s no one here who can actually help him. We had two fully trained doctors on the Exodus, but both are in Fort Andrews. And we have no clinical psychologists.” Kenneth was a professor of psychology, but had no medical training or experience in treating patients. He was a scientist, and though his knowledge had proven valuable in many ways, he still didn’t understand why they selected him and hadn’t thought to bring a clinical psychologist along. They should have known people would have emotional and mental difficulties adjusting and that many would have a hard time coping with having survived while everyone they knew stayed behind to face the end.

“Nobody really knows every effect the parasite will have on them,” Geena said. She swiped again, and an image of Lisa appeared.

“Let’s look at some of the differences. Lisa Hayden, the daughter of General Hayden, who led the uprising back in the late seventies. Though the rebellion failed and the general ate his gun in the end, he managed to save his daughter. Anyway, as you know, the infected kids have shown different symptoms, although strength, agility, and other physical traits are basically the same. Lisa has shown herself to be a ruthless killer, but behind the ruthlessness, there seems to be something else.” Kenneth nodded. It had originally been his idea, based on a hunch that probably came from years of studying traits and behavior in humans placed in difficult circumstances. Geena and Kim had investigated it, and so far the signs seemed to match the theory.

“Although they are all orphans, her situation is different from the others. Her father was a known figure, so we have a better understanding of her background and how that influences her recent behavior. There has been a lot of research on behavioral patterns of military leaders and their families. We know these men and women tend to place high value on family, and their repeated absences and the stresses of their jobs take a great toll on them, as well as their spouses and children. If the children stay the course with school and such, they tend to be strong-willed, usually exhibit high levels of independence, and impose high standards on both themselves and others. On the other hand, the absence and often confidential nature of the whereabouts and duties of one of the parents sometimes result in teenage rebellion or substance abuse. Well, that’s what the numbers tell us, anyway. And if combined with strict discipline from one parent and more relaxed standards from the other, things may turn out badly, sometimes causing psychological conditions such as depression, anxiety, and even more severe conditions in the more extreme cases.”

“Do we know where Lisa stands in all this? She was very young when she boarded the New Discovery,” Kenneth said.

“Well, yes, Mr. President.” Kenneth winced. He hated that president stuff. But he let her continue. “Being cut off from her parents early, and in a stressful situation, it was hard to tell at first. But she has shown herself to fit the profile of those who turn out quite well. In many ways, she is the natural leader of the group, even with Ben being the eldest and the one who takes most of the leadership responsibility upon himself.”

“So how does the parasite affect her? Is she still changing, or has the development stabilized? Can she be trusted, with all these new traits?”

Geena didn’t answer immediately. That last question was one that had puzzled Kenneth lately. Aside from the fact that they were still just kids, having no business whatsoever fighting in a war, he also had the feeling the parasite was changing them into something unreliable, a dangerous weapon that could turn either way, given the situation. He didn’t like it at all. Geena took her time, and when she answered, she didn’t seem as certain as before.

“I’d say she’s still changing. At first, once we saw how the parasite gave them all these new abilities, we thought the abilities would be the same in all of them. Then they started showing different psychological reactions, and we suspected the parasite was slowly taking over their entire beings, body, mind, everything. Recently I’ve started to think it’s not a parasite at all, but rather a form of symbiosis, resulting in a sort of coexistence. The parasite, if we can still call it that, is exhibiting instincts of self-preservation, giving its host a boost to his or her natural traits.”

“What do you mean by natural traits?” Rajiv asked.

“Well, if you’re already fast, it makes you faster. If you’re a fast thinker, it makes you the perfect tactician.” She paused, and Kenneth frowned. Geena continued, speaking more quietly.

“If you’re aggressive, it makes you an unstoppable fighter. But if you’re psychologically unstable… Well, I’m guessing that is something that can be interpreted either way. We know nothing of the possible sentience in the parasite, and if it interprets such instability to be a good thing, it certainly won’t inhibit it…” She paused for a moment, letting it sink in.

“Lisa will be okay, I think. Ben though…”

Kenneth nodded slowly. He had thought as much. “Well, let’s move on to Drew,” he said. Geena swiped again, and the image changed to Drew.

“Drew Simmonds, from Tulsa, Oklahoma. His father was a businessman turned politician, and one of the original rebel leaders, convincing half the national guard of his home state to follow General Hayden’s lead. He spoke warmly of building a ring of satellites in Low Earth Orbit to save more people.”
Not a bad idea
, Kenneth thought.
Had we been able to stay on Earth a bit longer, it might have worked.
But there wasn’t much room for free thinkers back then. He focused on Geena again.

“Drew was lucky,” she continued. “No one knows what happened to his father in the turmoil, but Drew was given a place on the shuttle.”

“So, how does he differ from Lisa and Ben?” Rajiv asked. Geena smiled.

“Ah, yes, that’s a very good question. Actually, again, it has to do with who he is, his character. Drew is different, in so many ways. Physically, he’s not the athletic type, whereas both Lisa and Ben were already quite fit. Since coming into contact with the parasite, Drew has grown much stronger and faster, although not as much as the others. Physically, I’d say he’s the weakest of the three. However, he’s also the strongest. He’s shown a remarkable resilience to the psychological changes. So much so, that I’d say he controls the parasite, not the other way around. I remember Maria told me that her father mentioned him in one of their meetings before he escaped.” Kenneth cocked his head. He hadn’t known Ramon Solis had spoken to Maria about the kids. He peered at Geena as she continued.

“From what he told her, Drew was the one who stopped the others from killing him in the ambush.”

Ramon Solis, Maria’s father, had been one of Governor Havelar’s closest business associates back on Earth, and after coming to Aurora, as factions began to form, he’d sided with his old friend. An altogether different type, he’d tried negotiating, and he had been seen as one who could actually unite the two factions. But events got out of hand, and on the day Admiral Hamilton and his group were massacred on the Trickler, Ramon had been, at least nominally, in charge of Havelar’s army. A few weeks later, Ben, Lisa, and Drew had taken out a military column, leaving Ramon Solis the only one alive. They had captured him and brought him to the Stronghold. Kenneth had spoken to him and found that he liked the man. Kenneth had genuinely believed Ramon would help them end the war, once he understood what kind of man his old friend was turning into. Then, for no reason, Ramon had escaped, only to be killed by wild animals in the woods nearby. Kenneth looked at Geena again, keen on hearing her interpretation.

BOOK: Genesis (The Exodus Trilogy)
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