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“Not at all. It’ll do both of us some good if our respective charges can run off a little of their excess energy.” Stacy leaned up against Michael, watching as Maize and Phillip chased each other, one laughing, the other with tail wagging madly. “Maybe they can wear each other out.”

Michael snorted. “That’ll be the day. I think that boy is powered by plutonium.”

“And whose fault would that be, hmm? I just had to go and marry a scientist. I could have held out for a rock star, but no, I wanted the glamour and romance of being a professor’s wife.”

This time, Michael laughed out loud. “Believe me, I count my blessings every day when I remember that you could have held out for a rock star.”

Stacy smiled at him warmly before looking around at the crowd, the sky, the water. Phillip was laughing, his sound blending with the cries of seagulls and the barking of overexcited dogs to form just one more part of the great noise that was the voice of humanity. She had never heard anything so beautiful in her life.

“I think we should all be counting our blessings every day,” she said finally. “Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Life can always get better.” Michael kissed her one more time, his lips lingering lightly against her cheek. “Just you wait and see. This time next year, we won’t be able to imagine looking back on this summer without thinking ‘Oh, you had no idea; just you wait and see.’”

“I hope you’re right,” said Stacy, and kissed him back.

* * *

The annual Fourth of July laser show at the Berkeley Marina was a huge success this year, drawing record crowds. The laser show, which replaced the traditional firework displays as of 2012, has become a showpiece of the year’s calendar, and this year was no different. With designs programmed by the UC Berkeley Computer Science Department…

July 7, 2014: Manhattan, New York

In the month since his report on the so-called Kellis cure had first appeared, Robert Stalnaker had received a level of attention and adulation—and yes, vitriol and hatred—that he had previously only dreamed of. His inbox was packed every morning with people both applauding and condemning his decision to reveal Dr. Alexander Kellis’s scientific violation of the American public. Was he the one who told the Mayday Army to break into Kellis’s lab, doing thousands of dollars of damage and unleashing millions of dollars of research into the open air? No, he was not. He was simply a concerned member of the American free press, doing his job and reporting the news.

The fact that he had essentially fabricated the story had stopped bothering him after the third interview request he received. By the Monday following the Fourth of July, he would have been honestly shocked if someone had asked him about the truth behind his lies. As far as he was concerned, he’d been telling the truth. Maybe it wasn’t the truth that Dr. Kellis had intended, but it was the one he’d created. All Stalnaker did was report it to the world.

Best of all, he hadn’t seen anyone sneezing or coughing in almost two weeks. Whatever craziness Kellis had been cooking up in that lab of his, it did what it was supposed to do. Throw out the Kleenex and cancel that order for chicken soup, can I hear an amen from the congregation?

“Amen,” murmured Stalnaker, pushing open the door to his paper’s New York office. A cool blast of climate-controlled air flowed out into the hall, chasing away the stickiness of the New York summer. He stepped into the room, letting the door swing shut behind him, and waited for the applause that inevitably followed his arrival. He was, after all, the one who had single-handedly increased circulation almost fifteen percent in under a week.

The applause didn’t come. Instead, an uneasy silence fell as people stopped their work and turned to stare. Bemused, he looked around the room and saw his editor bearing down on him with a grim expression on his face and a toothpick bouncing between his lips as he frantically chewed it into splinters. The toothpicks had been intended as an aid when he’d quit smoking the year before. Somehow, they’d just never gone away.

“Stalnaker!” he growled, shoving the toothpick off to one side of his mouth as he demanded, “Where the hell have you been? Don’t you check your e-mail?”

“Not during breakfast,” said Stalnaker, taken aback by his editor’s tone. Don never talked to him like that. Harshly, sure, and sometimes coldly, but never like he’d done something too wrong to be articulated; never like he was a puppy who’d made a mess on the carpet. “Why? Did I miss a political scandal or something while I was having a bagel?”

Don Nutick paused, forcing himself to take a deep, slow breath before he said, “No. You missed the Pennsylvania police department announcing that the ringleaders of the Mayday Army were taken into custody Friday afternoon.”

“What?” Stalnaker stared at him, suddenly fully alert. “You’re telling me they actually caught the guys? How the hell did they manage that?”

“One of their own decided to rat them out. Said that it wasn’t right for them to get away with what they’d done.” Don shook his head. “They’re not releasing the guy’s name yet. Still, whoever managed to get an exclusive interview with him, why I bet that person could write his or her own ticket. Maybe even convince a sympathetic editor not to fire his ass over faking a report that’s getting the paper threatened with a lawsuit.”


“I told you you needed to check your e-mail more.”