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Authors: Scott Cramer

Colony East

COLONY EAST – THE TOUCAN TRILOGY – BOOK 2

 

 

 

by Scott Cramer

 

Colony East—Toucan Trilogy—Book 2

 

Copyright 2013 Scott Cramer

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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever including Internet usage, without written permission of the author.

 

Cover artist Silviya Yordanova

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Editorial

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Formatting by Polgarus Studio

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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to real people, events, and organizations are used fictitiously. All dialog, names, incidents, and characters are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not construed as real.

Table of Contents

DEDICATION

RETURN TO CASTINE ISLAND

ONE YEAR LATER

AHA-B

SEEDS OF A NEW SOCIETY

DAVID

BOOK 3 OF THE TOUCAN TRILOGY

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DEDICATION

For V, Megumi, J-girl, Harry & Misty-Duck

RETURN TO CASTINE ISLAND

CHAPTER ONE

Awake for two days straight and recovering from the epidemic that had killed most of the world’s adults, Abby felt herself sinking deeper into the mattress of winter jackets she’d piled on the floor.

Fearing that someone might try to enter the house, she roused herself by rolling onto her sunburned arm. Someone had to keep watch. Even though her mother’s house was one of thousands abandoned since the night of the purple moon, Abby knew the mainland was a dangerous place.

She ached to breathe the salty air of Castine Island again. Twenty miles east of Portland, Maine, her island home was about a hundred miles from Boston as the crow flies. She missed her sister, Toucan, while those on the island approaching adolescence were counting on her and her brother, Jordan, to return with antibiotic pills. The pills were the only cure for the deadly bacteria.

The comet had streaked by Earth a year ago. Dust from its long tail had penetrated the atmosphere, turning the sky, sun, and moon purple. The dust also contained germs that attacked the human hormones first produced during puberty. Adults and older teens died within hours. The comet left a planet of children in its wake, with the oldest survivors living with a ticking time bomb of approaching adolescence. Scientists, in quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control, after many delays, had finally developed an antibiotic to defeat the bacteria, and were now in the early days of distributing the pills across the country.

Abby twisted her head to glance at the others in the living room. Moonlight outlined Jordan on the couch with only his shaggy mop of brown curls for a pillow. Her brother always looked agreeable in sleep. Abby’s blood chilled when she recalled just how close he had come to dying. She’d never complain about his stubborn streak again.

Mandy and Timmy, the mainland kids, shared a cushioned chair. Nine-year-old Timmy had survived the past year all on his own. With a cowlick and bright grin, he seemed to bounce from tragedy to tragedy, as if racing from one thrilling roller coaster ride to the next.

Mandy, fourteen, looked so peaceful snuggled next to Timmy, nothing like the tough girl with multiple piercings and choppy blonde hair, whose glare at an adversary was as lethal as the long knife she carried.

Through the window, Abby saw the full moon high in the sky and guessed it was one or two o’clock. It was quiet outside except for dogs barking in the distance and the hum of crickets chirping in the overgrown lawns.

Her nose crinkled from the pungent smoke coming through the broken windowpanes. It smelled like burning rubber and chemicals. A fire must be raging in Boston or maybe somewhere in Cambridge. Another building or city block turning to ash.

She scraped the scaly tip of her tongue against her teeth and tried to swallow. Despite her overpowering thirst, the effort to crawl to the can of beer sitting on the table ten feet away was too great.

They all needed food and water, and Mel was their best bet. Abby’s best friend since the second grade, Mel lived on Pearl Street, two blocks away—at least that was where she used to live. Abby hadn’t seen her in over a year. Before the epidemic, they’d team up and torment Jordan whenever he annoyed them, which was always. Mel was faster and stronger than any boy she knew.

Yesterday Abby had stopped by Mel’s and found laundry hanging in the yard, but it might have belonged to squatters. She had scratched a note on the front door just in case, to let Mel know that she and Jordan were at their mother’s house.

Would Mel share? Many kids hoarded food and water because they believed it was the only way to survive. Abby, on the other hand, believed that caring for every individual made the group stronger. That was how they tried to live on Castine Island. She realized the epidemic changed people, but thought her friend would help them if she could.

Staring upward, Abby felt a deep fatigue set in and began seeing images on the ceiling; she was sailing home and had entered the calm waters of Castine Harbor. She fixed her eyes on the tip of the mile-long jetty that stretched into the mouth of the harbor. It was her favorite place to be alone on the island. She imagined that the noxious smoke from the distant fire was the rich, raw scent of seaweed at low tide. Abby’s eyelids drooped as a sense of peace settled over her like mist on a pond.

~ ~ ~

Abby jolted awake. Feet slapped the pavement outside. Someone was sprinting down Pearl Street. Blinking the grit from her eyes, she sat up, but dizziness slapped her back down. She turned to the window. The moon, dirtied by waves of smoke, hovered just above the rooftops across the street. It would soon be dawn.

The runner came closer. Adrenaline pumped through Abby’s body as he came closer and closer until she thought he was going to charge up the steps and enter the house. Should she wake up the others?

All of a sudden it was silent, except for the drumbeat in her temples. She wondered if the runner had stopped or was moving quietly through the tall grass. She held her breath and listened for creaks or scuffs on wood, anything that would announce he was climbing the steps.

Abby heard more runners approaching. It sounded like a whole pack of kids. Maybe they were chasing the first runner, or some larger group was chasing all of them. The strong chasing the weak was all too common on the mainland.

Once more, she considered waking the others. Not sensing any danger, though, she decided to let them sleep. They were invisible, she told herself. Her mom’s house, plundered long ago, was no different from any of the other houses on the street. Even if they were discovered, they had nothing of value, except half a can of beer.

Abby swallowed hard, remembering Mandy’s motorcycle. She and Mandy had rolled it behind the bushes by the side of the house. The motorcycle was extremely valuable to them because it offered a fast way to scout boats in Boston Harbor and to get the antibiotic pills at the airport. She had to hope they had hidden it well.

“Which way?” a boy shouted. Abby noted that he had a deep voice. He must be her age, if not older.

“That way,” another boy said.

“Wait here,” a girl said.

“She’s gone,” Deep Voice said, this time angrily. “We lost her.”

Abby realized the runner was a girl.

The kids stopped to catch their breath. As they stood there huffing and talking, their voices drifted through the broken window. They must be standing on the street right out front. Sitting up, Abby braced herself as the walls started spinning. She concentrated on the voices.

“Trust me, she’s around here,” the girl said. “She’s hiding. I know it.”

“Or else… ” Abby couldn’t make out the rest of the sentence.

They swore at each other and talked about where they might find the runner. Abby counted four voices: two girls, two boys. They all sounded as if they were thirteen or fourteen. The boy with the man’s voice had to be at least that old.

She still saw no reason to wake the others. Whatever was going on outside wasn’t any of their business. Her priority was to return to the island.

Jordan grunted loudly and thrashed his arms. Chills rippled down Abby’s spine. It wasn’t her brother’s first nightmare of the night, and luckily he settled quickly. Abby held her breath, worried the gang heard the outburst.

“I need a pill now,” Deep Voice bellowed.

“Brad, stop whining,” the girl snapped. “We all need them.”

Still shaking, Abby realized the kids were sick, and who could blame them for being anxious. The illness was horrific: a month of high fever, loss of appetite, hallucinations in the latter stage, and a painful rash that devoured the skin in the final days leading up to death. The antibiotic was the only cure.

“How do we know she even has pills?” the other boy asked.

“Why else would she run,” the girl said.

Abby wanted to shout, go to the airport like everyone else. Boston was a Phase I distribution center, one of a handful of cities across the country receiving the first shipment of the pills. Scientists were handing out the antibiotic at Logan Airport.

“Brad, I don’t get you,” the girl said. “She might have shared them with us.”

“You got a problem with me?” Brad fired back.

“It was stupid what you did,” the girl accused. “They didn’t do anything to you.”

Brad growled, “Don’t look at me like that.”

“What are you going to do? Bash my brains in too?”

“I snapped, okay?” Brad said.

Cringing, Abby crawled to the window and leaned against the wall just below the sill. Cool, smoky air from outside cascaded over her like a polluted waterfall. She did not dare raise her head for fear they’d see movement.

“Let’s split up and meet back here in ten minutes,” the girl suggested.

“She’s probably a mile away by now,” Brad said.

Abby hoped that was true for her sake, and for the nameless runner.

“Hey, what’s that?”

Brad’s voice jarred Abby. He had moved closer to the window. Much closer.

“We’re wasting time,” the other boy said.

Brad wheezed, “Over here.” He was breathing deeply through his mouth.

Brad was now so close that she could have reached out and touched him. Abby heard them chattering back and forth.

“I don’t believe it. A motorcycle.”

“It’s chained.”

“You think it has gas?”

“The cap’s locked.”

“Are you surprised?”

“Do you know how to ride one?”

“How hard can it be?”

“It has a Maine license plate.” Brad spoke in a hushed tone. “They came from Maine to get the pills. They’re inside. They have pills. I know it.”

They stopped talking and turned on a flashlight. Abby’s hand shot to her mouth to stifle her gasp. Batteries were scarce, and only the most violent gangs had them.

Light glinted on the shards of glass in the windowpanes. The beam danced on the ceiling above her, darting back and forth like the eyes of a hungry predator. Then the light snapped off.

Abby knew they’d enter the house at any moment and demand the keys to the padlocked chain on the motorcycle. If it were up to her, she’d let them have it. The motorcycle was not a necessity, not worth sacrificing their lives for. But Mandy lived by another code. She’d fight for it.

The gang would also demand pills. Abby had crushed the last pill they had and pushed the powder down Jordan’s throat. They’d never believe any of that, and then what might happen? Desperate people did unpredictable things, and from what she’d heard it sounded like Brad had already bashed somebody’s brains in.

They were no match for Brad’s gang. Even though it was four against four—if she had counted the voices correctly—she and Jordan were recovering and lucky to have the combined strength of one, and Timmy only weighed fifty pounds soaking wet. That left Mandy. Wielding her knife, Mandy could take on two at once, but that still left two.

Abby wondered if she could reason with them. She’d explain that the line for pills at the airport moved slowly, but at least it moved.

If that failed, she could always try bluffing. A gang with a motorcycle must be particularly vicious, right? She’d convince them that the members of her gang outnumbered them, and that they, the hunter, were about to become the prey. Unfortunately, Abby knew she couldn’t lie to save her life.

Weighed down with doubt, she pressed against the wall, ready to do something that she hoped would frighten them—buying her precious seconds to wake the others.

She shot to her feet, waving her arms wildly and shouting. The shouts came out as pathetic croaks, and a fresh wave of dizziness seized her. She gripped the sill to steady herself.

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