Because I wanted CICADA: Book 1 of The CICADA Series (A Stone Age World Novel)–Coming August 31st, 2015–to move quickly, there was at least one chapter that didn’t make the cut. Yet this chapter does provide a little insight into the Cicada complex (the focus of the story) and one of the characters. So, I give it to you for your reading pleasure.
1 Day Before Event
He reviewed his End of the World Checklist once more: only two more items to mark off before Dr. Raymond Sampson could drive his overstuffed car to the sanctuary known as Cicada and wait for the apocalypse, coming tomorrow.
He flashed his card at the security door entrance, and it beeped open. “Hi, Winnie.” He blushed and shot past her straight for his office, his overweight body pushed as fast as it would go.
It was his asshole boss. He had hoped to sidle past the jerk’s office without being noticed, especially since school was out. Only a few professors were in now, just those teaching one summer class or doing grant work, like he would have been. No such luck. “Yes sir.” He backed up to the door and cracked it open only slightly.
“I need to see your upcoming grant proposals for the next school year. They were due on my desk for approval yesterday. Did you forget?”
Ray was a certified genius, with a photographic memory. Of course he hadn’t forgotten. “No sir, just a little behind on this. I’ll have them to you by the end of the week.”
“Have them on my desk before you leave today. Close the door behind you.” The man never even looked up.
“Yes sir.” He pulled the door shut, and raced away, before the dickhead could say something else. Oh, he hated that man.
Just then he beamed as he realized that by tomorrow, none of this would matter. Mr. I-Want-It-Now would have his come-uppance along with the rest of the university. Just call me Dr. Schadenfreude, he thought as he chortled.
He slipped through his door, locked it, and proceeded to his next-to-last task.
Ray needed his portable drive and composition notebook; the damned Cicada Protocol burned up his home-office hard drive before he could save its data. He backed up daily on the cloud and on one of two portable drives, swapping out the portables every day between his office and home. Big Brother was probably watching the cloud, though, so grabbing the portable at his office was safer.
After snatching that and the composition notebook where he kept all of his initial ideas and notes, he sat in his desk chair one last time and reflected on what was about to happen.
It would be the end of the world as they knew it. He’d just received the Cicada Protocol telling him it was time to bug out of town, before the sun turned off all the world’s lights. What a stroke of luck it was to have snagged money from the Cicada Foundation. He’d never have thought he would receive it since he was a civil engineer and his work didn’t exactly fit in the paradigm of apocalyptic sciences. But he had a creative flair for grant writing—no doubt why his stupid boss was after him to write more grants.
He had heard about the foundation’s work from a friend, Doctor Stoneridge, who had built some amazing stuff before his mysterious disappearance several months ago. Ray dusted off an idea he had from his notes for creating a structure which would get stronger when more pressure was applied to it. Maybe it was more science fiction than science, but it was a cool idea. He dressed it up, adding support research gathered by a few of his students who needed the extra credit and voila, he received the grant: over two million bucks for over two years of research.
He never solved the final pieces, but made some great strides in nanotechnology and polymer development, now owned by the Cicada Foundation. Still, it wasn’t enough. He would have been done with Cicada in September—until this end of the world thing happened, or was about to happen.
Ray was grateful to be one of the few scientists being called up to find solutions at Cicada, which could well end up being one of the only safe places around in a few months. He didn’t need any prodding there, as he knew the evil that lurked in men’s hearts. It was visible daily in the greed of the university culture. Gobs of government money incentivizing universities to raise tuitions to the moon, indebting future generations… It was a vicious and broken system that needed a complete reboot, and it was about to get one. He’d much rather spend his time tackling scientific problems within the safe confines of a hardened—complex. It occurred to him then, perhaps he would work on making it even stronger.
He glanced at the time. It was getting late and he had one last piece of business to attend to, the one that would be the hardest. He turned off the lights and walked away from his office of fifteen years, breezing past his boss’s door without being noticed. As he approached the front desk, his heart started to beat faster; sweat dampened his arm pits, and his stomach performed a slow roll.
His last task was to say goodbye to Winnie. He couldn’t tell her where he was going without breaking Cicada’s rules; only immediate family, of which he had none, was welcome. Plus, he knew Winnie didn’t really care for him. She’d told him that much when he revealed his feelings for her. It didn’t matter; she was always friendly to him and acted like she cared, even if she really didn’t.
“I’m going to be gone for a while, Winnie,” he explained.
“Where are you going? Hopefully, it’s a vacation—someplace on the beach.” She tilted her head up, closed her eyes, and relished her mental picture, which he was sure didn’t include him.
“No, it’s not. But while I’m gone, promise me two things.”
“Okay, Ray,” she said, still radiating a perfect smile at him.
“Promise me you’ll read this and put it into practice starting today.” He held out a stack of printed pages, stapled in one corner, titled The Solar Apocalypse Survival Guide. “I’m serious. This will save your life.”
“Sure, Ray.” Winnie took the guide and glanced at it only briefly—she wasn’t going to read it. But he could always hope. “What’s the second?”
“Don’t hate me after you know…”
“After I know what?” She scrunched her face, as if she’d bitten into a lemon.
The phone rang and she plugged in her microphone, waiting for Ray to finish so that she could answer.
“You’ll find out I didn’t tell you something in a day or two…”
The phone rang again, and she poised her finger over the answer button.
“… it’s not my fault. Anyway, I’ve always loved you.” He gave her a big grin and then turned and left, afraid of her reaction and of having already said too much.
She kept her finger poised over the button through one more ring, trying to understand what he meant, and why he added the last sentiment. With a shrug she turned her attention to the phone and answered cheerily, “Good afternoon, College of Engineering, how may I assist you today?”
From the front seat of his Prius, Ray punched the “Open” latch on the door of the microwave resting on the back seat right next to Reggie. He had taken it from his home at the last minute, hoping what he read in The Guide was true. Into its protective chamber he tossed his cell phone and the portable hard drive. He looked at the other unimportant electronic devices in there alongside a digital watch, his most prized possession from Winnie, then clicked the door closed.
He tapped Reggie’s terrarium and then, facing forward, slowly pressed the accelerator. The hybrid’s quiet as it leaped forward was a daily marvel to Ray. Then another thought hit him. By tomorrow all cars, including his, would be silenced permanently.
He punched the gas.
He looked up to the rear view mirror. “Are you ready for our trip to Cicada, Reggie?” he said joyfully to his pet rattlesnake. It just hissed at him.