Book 1 Chapter 1:
It was a nice sunny evening, Caitlin Padalecki sat on her porch swing and lifted her young son onto her lap to relax in the warm Texan sun. From here she could enjoy the smell of cookies that drifted to them from the kitchen, where Claire was still working. She wiped a tear from her cheek to avoided looking at the still smoking ruins that had been the second stable and looked down at little Jared who seemed worried.
“Please, Jared, you must remember and forgive me,” Caitlin said to him. “It is like in this story: God made the potato low on grease but high on calicum and many useful vitamins. And the devil took the peel, cut everything in small slices and deep fried it and spiced it with lots and lots of salt. The same is true for the bonds.”
Jared couldn’t understand yet, she knew, and she doubted he would remember her words. She angrily swiped at another tear. What would he think of her?
After nano bots had basically healed cancer and dementia humanity thought it had the upper hand with these diseases. That was when the very last disease hit.
It was called the omega disease.
It left the aggrieved party paralyzed while still fully conscious and able to feel all of the emotions. It was a progressive and degenerative disease and it spread fast. Teenagers, old people, men and women in their prime. The omega diseased stopped for no one But only the young kids till there eighteenth birthday and people older than sixty weren’t affected.
All the fancy nanites, the doctors and the scientist had been so proud of, proved to be useless. That was the world Catlin Padalecki grew up in. The first cases of the omega disease appeared when she was ten. Spreading fast and brutal; her best friend Annett died a painful death at eighteen and Caitlin vowed to herself that she would find a cure for this terrible illness.
Caitlin went to college. Her parent died in a car crash her second year in, leaving her a generously high insurance to bring her safely thru college. She still wanted to become a medical engineer because Caitlin still believed the cure was in the mini bots even if the established research had moved from this field.
When she was twenty two she met James Patrick Stuart at a party of a mutual friend. He was like Caitlin studying at UT Dallas to become a medical engineer and he was almost as brilliant as Caitlin. Together they pushed each other to dig deeper, search harder and work harder. But it took them another two years to become lovers. After they graduated with honors, James and Caitlin got job offers at the University of Texas, to continue their studies.
The omega disease was spreading and even after almost fifteen years of research there still was no cure in sight. Doctors and scientist still debated if it was a virus, a prion or something else altogether. Since the medicine was discovered and used nanites, classic research had regressed almost into nothingness only to have a resurgence now.
Caitlin and James were brilliant minds in the most important field. The numbers of infected grew daily and governments all over the world were becoming more and more desperate since omega started to affect their economies. Sometimes there was a shortage on coffee, the next week it was soap shortage and than you couldn’t get any fruits or vegetables.
Caitlin was 26 when she had a break thru. She and James were in their lab reading latest blood and tissue reports when suddenly it hit Caitlin. She just stopped reading stood up and went to an engineering lab. She locked herself up so no one would bother her and than she went to work.
She was an engineer Damnit!
Why should she find a medical cure when the solution could be technical? By the end of the week she had it finished and showed it to James.
“Caitlin, this is perfect! This could be the cure.”
“Well not a cure exactly but a treatment.” She answered her multicolored eyes sparkled and she pushed her long brown hair back.
“Have you told or shown anybody what you have done?” James asked and a greedy gleam appeared in his eyes.
“No, I mean we are hired as medical researchers and …”
“Exactly, I tell you what we will do. We quit our jobs here. I mean we both know that this research leads to nothing and than we can do our own thing. We get a patent on these … theses …”
“Tapes and we make millions of money.”
“There are millions of people waiting for help.” Caitlin objected, of course she wanted something out of her invention but first and foremost she wanted to help those poor omegas, as the people who had the illness was being called.
“And they should get it,” James was fast to assure his girl friend. “Caitlin, do you have any idea how bad the economy has become in the last four or five years? No more coffee or tobacco, solar cars are becoming a real thing because they don’t get the gas that's supposed to be transported. We have the solution to all these problems, and all I want is a little bit of that cake for us.”
So they did as James had proposed. They got the patent in their names because Caitlin alone couldn’t afford the horrendous fee and they founded Second Life, the company that would distribute the tapes once they were finished. Caitlin and James bought an old Ranch three hours out of Dallas in fucking nowhere, so they could work in peace.
And in the next few weeks and months were busy and hectic and exhilarating.
Caitlin was in the lab finishing the prototype and James was trying to set up appointments with possible investors. Money became tight when the neural interface needed more adjustments to connect it correctly to the brain. But James had always been a genius when it came to interfaces.
Caitlin knew she tended to focus too much to become single minded and nothing could distract her and even other gifted engineers could barley catch on or understand the problem Caitlin was working on.
It was a Friday and James was drinking tea (because coffee had become awfully expensive) in the kitchen when a tired looking Caitlin came in. Her full hair was pulled back in a pony tail and some strand had managed to escape but he eyes shined with excitement.
“I think I got it. Would you like to see it?”
The two went to the lab, there was a white plastic mannequin and all over the body were two inch wide strips. The dark black stripes were a hard contrast on the white plastic of the doll.
“Okay this is how it works: we know the omega disease paralyzes the whole body. What we don’t know is why but with these tapes it doesn’t matter why the muscles fail to receive the brain impulses. With these tapes the impulse goes from the brain over the tapes to the muscles and the patient can walk again.”
“What about sensibility in the fingers?” James asked.
“Subcutaneous hair wires will connect all body parts to the tapes. This is important because the tongue is also a muscle and most often affected and a black ribbon like this on a tongue looks quite strange.
As for the feeling that doesn’t get lost with omega, they can’t move but they still can feel.”
“What about the neural interface?” James came to the point that had provided the most problems.
“Yes that was really tricky. I was able to connect the interface directly to the cerebellum and thanks to the adjustments you put in,” here Caitlin stopped to press a little kiss on James cool lips. “The movement will be fluent and feel natural.”
There was a pause both of them becoming aware what they had archived.
After some moments of silence James cleared his throat and said, “So you put these on every morning and…”
“No, you put them once on and they don’t come off again. Because of the connection to the subcutaneous wires you can’t remove the tapes.”
The next 12 months were a whirlwind of meetings, presentations and interviews. The tapes or bounds were the first treatment that helped all the people who had the omega disease. James loved the attention of the press and all the celebration it brought on. From the first six digit check he bought an apartment in Dallas, so he didn’t have to go back to their reclusive Ranch every time he was in Dallas.
Caitlin also enjoyed the attention she got, there was even a rumor about the Nobel price, but she was always happy to come back home to Ranch to ground herself, to find some peace. So Caitlin and James started to spend more and more time apart. Sometimes it was more than a week before they saw each other again. All t he talking about getting married when everything was finished and done had stopped and Caitlin was grateful for that.
She had made more money in a year than her parents had made in a live time and she decided to spend it on the Ranch. All repairs and additions were done by local craftsman and thanks to her new resources her new lab was modern and up to date. But since it didn’t fit in with the whole Ranch look she decided to build it under the stable that way she could pretend to go to the horses when she really went to the lab. She also insisted that the Ranch was autarky and self sufficient so she got solar panels to provide enough electricity for the house, the Ranch hands and most importantly the lab. After some debating with herself she also got a nice pool and patio in her backyard.
In a perfect world the story would end here but it was two years after Caitlin and to a certain extent James had moved to the Ranch when the trouble started. Or much better to say when the shit hit the fan.
Due to the omega disease the world economy was at an all time low. Supermarkets closed because there was nothing they could sell. Gas stations only opened every other day and than there were thousand of omegas who wanted the tapes. Caitlin had hoped, that with a treatment the economy would go back to normal but the damage made by sudden death due to omega ran too deep.
Caitlin never found out who proposed first James or someone from the government. In the end it didn’t matter. Many people couldn’t afford the tapes so in order to pay for the treatment the new founded National Health Provider asked the patients to work for a certain amount of time for the government and the government would cover the bill. It seemed like a fair trade and many other countries followed world wide with similar programs.
But James and Caitlin fought bitterly over this issue. Caitlin insisted that if someone couldn’t pay for the bounds he or she should get it for free. James told her to grow up, this was business.
That was the day James stopped being Caitlin’s finance, boy friend, friend and lover.
Providing the economy with cheap labor was all it took for a weak government to pressure most omegas in servitude. Some thought: “Well it’s only for two or three years, than I´m healthy and back to my normal life.”
Only the economy is a funny thing, it gets to use to cheap labor, so the contracts started to get longer. Where the first were only for two or three years the National Health Provider soon raised them to six or eight years. But it still wasn’t enough.
Getting free labor dropped the prices and a young healthy worker, or as they were now called more and more alphas could suddenly pay for a large house in a good neighborhood and two or three cars while still putting money away to get two or three kids thru college, because the real assets became not being affected by omega disease.
More problems aroused when after two three years the first omegas were released form their servitude. Many omegas complained about the harsh working conditions, even going so far as suing Nationals Health and the companies they had been rented to, calling their time working for National Health slavery.
Caitlin had withdrawn completely from the work at Second Life, spending all her time at the Ranch and her horses. She couldn’t understand how she hadn’t seen what a cold hearted bastard James was. She even suspected that he had chosen her back in College, so he could get rich.
The thing was that Caitlin felt like there was more to come.
The business reports she still received indicated that the economy needed the cheap labor the bonds provided and the government was under pressure to keep the economy running.
And than “Omega Gate” happened.
To prevent further law suits against companies using omega labor, some company lawyers together with the National Health Provider started to argue about the independence of the omegas free will. It was said that because of the neural interface an omega couldn’t be held responsible for his actions and needed a guardian.
So the Omega Act was brought in It was debated in Congress that omegas may have had a free will but because of the interface the omega could be made to do all a master or alpha ordered.
In a broadcasted hearing James personally showed the congressmen and women that with the right software and a radio transmitter he could move omegas against their will. Caitlin witnessed on the TV how a congress women and omega was forced by James to tap dance.
It was a sure thing and the new law to put all omegas under guardian ship passed in record time. A week later Second Life announced they would provide guardian ship for all omegas.
Caitlin turned off the TV and after she had finished throwing up, she walked to her lab trying to find her error. Caitlin was 30 and had just basically enslaved 40% of the population.
It was the year of the alpha / omega act.