In the seventh chapter of Deadline, the After the End Times team gets down to business to figure out what they’re going to do next. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Deadline.
Wow, Shaun really can be grating sometimes, but I feel like this is intentional. I have to remind myself that this man is so consumed by grief that he’s always close to a full meltdown. The last chapter revealed that Shaun is holding on to the hope of finding out who killed his sister, and that it’s the only thing keeping him going. To an extent, I know what this sort of rage feels like, but I also want to acknowledge that he’s an asshole to everyone around him. Well, not universally, as I think his conversation with Maggie in the opening of chapter seven is a sign that he’s trying. But he’s missing his other half. He can’t do the sympathetic friend thing without George.
I wanted to say something, but there was nothing to say. I sat frozen, my fingers twitching slightly on the folder I still held. I wanted to reach for her. I wanted to take her hand. Only I knew it wasn’t her hand I wanted – the hand I wanted had been reduced to ash and chips of bone before being scattered down the length of California Highway 1 – and so I didn’t move.
God, it’s just so hard to read. Shaun is barely holding it together. He’s letting his obsession with solving the mystery around his sister and Tate’s conspiracy take over his life. What’s going to happen to him when he finally finds an answer? Is he even going to have something to live for anymore?
Well, that moment is a long way off. These characters have a lot they’ve got to deal with, and Shaun sets out to understand the recent past before he moves on. A lot of the questions he brings up – Did someone find out Kelly’s clone was the dead body? How did the terrorists time the outbreak so perfectly despite needing significant time to set it up? Who the fuck is behind this? – aren’t answered, though they give him an idea of what he needs to ask Dr. Kelly.
The group is still fairly hostile to Kelly, though I can’t blame them. (Well, Maggie is obviously in pain about Dave’s death, so I don’t think her plan to murder Kelly and bury her in the woods is very appropriate.) To be fair to Kelly, though, she’s been through an ordeal herself. Dr. Wynne drugged her when he evacuated her from the CDC, and she knew that her life was in danger the whole time. Then she starts explaining how the whole clone thing even happened, and lord, this really is a giant mess, isn’t it? There’s a bureaucracy for cloning. You can only clone yourself! That’s how they get around moral and religious questions. Through a complicated system of switching the bodies and DNA samples, Dr. Kelly got a clone of herself without anyone else finding out. And then Dr. Wynne hired an assassination team to take her out. Jesus, how the hell does Dr. Wynne know “professional people” who can do this sort of thing? Okay, that’s not really important right now. But that brings Shaun up to speed.
I’m struggling to come up with some sort of explanation, then, for the reason this whole nightmare even started. Dr. Kelly’s research never actually determined the importance of reservoir conditions. But someone must have figured this out, right? Why else would they target folks with reservoir conditions? So, after Shaun sets up the elaborate cover story his team needs to use about where they were when their building exploded and Dave died, he sits down with Dr. Kelly to figure out his next move. Honestly, I was stumped. I didn’t even know where they could start! Kelly’s folder of information meant no sense to me. They’ve got a group of professional terrorists following them in a dedicated campaign to exterminate them, so they have to really stay underground. And this fictional universe is working against them! They have to stick to small towns and avoid being recognized, and it doesn’t help that they’re a massive online news organization, either.
What I hadn’t considered is that other organizations and scientists were working on their own projects or experiments to examine the point of reservoir conditions. I was confused at first as to why Shaun wanted to visit another lab. But if he can get more data to either confirm or contradict the data he and Kelly already have, then perhaps the team can get a better picture of what’s going on. Honestly, it’s a start. Yeah, it’s also a very small one, but I don’t see what else they can do until they can stay undetected for a while. But we do get the framing device for the next part of this book: Kelly and Shaun are going on a roadtrip to visit a less-than-ethical scientist in Portland who once did “unethical experiments involving the manipulation of the viral structure of Kellis-Amberlee.” Oh. Sweet. Well, this should be good.
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