Maddy, Corbyn, and Aaeden (Team SoNaR) embark on a dangerous scientific quest to seek out a renewable energy source that will save the world. Through a series of complicated riddles, clues, and ciphers, they must work together to find the secret that will save humanity—oh, and stop an evil corporation from undermining their efforts while doing so! It’s a challenge that will threaten not only their friendship, but their lives.
Age Rating: 13+
Cold Secrets by Aaron Tate is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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The head of Energy Innovations & Solutions, Inc., the world’s leading energy research company, looked out his window.
Decades of his life’s work were about to become reality…if everything went according to plan.
Despite all he and his team had accomplished, he couldn’t help but wonder if it was all for naught. Would the world’s academics buy into his company’s claims?
Would they refuse to accept their potential benefits to humankind?
Would they embrace them as the solution to sustaining our planet forever?
Or would they publicly shun them as pseudoscience?
He had no idea. After all these years, he was still terrified of what might happen once the details of his discovery were made public.
There were many influential individuals that wanted him to fail, and he knew they would stop at nothing to see to it that he did. Despite the dangers, he pressed on.
Turning from the window, the head of the company sighed.
Pushing away all of the questions invading his mind, he knew one thing for sure: for better or for worse, his company’s discovery was about to change the face of the planet forever.
Madyson (Maddy) Rutherford’s alarm went off right on time. It was early Monday morning on the final week of her freshman year of high school.
Dreading the next three days, Maddy buried her head in her pillow. Try as she might, she couldn’t tune out the incessant beeping filling her room. She rolled over and sighed.
Final exams were already done. Maddy knew the final three days of the school year were going to be jam-packed with nothing more than meaningless time-fillers.
As one of the top students in her grade, the thought of sitting through three days of pure tedium made her want to hurl. Nonetheless, Maddy dragged herself out of bed and got ready for school.
She grabbed a quick bite and left on her bike.
A native of Jakarta, Indonesia, Maddy was a naturally attractive girl who never covered her light brown complexion with make-up.
Despite suffering from an overwhelming fear of heights, her appearance and interests suggested that she was a tomboy at heart.
At 5’4” and with a slim build, Maddy was most comfortable pulling her shoulder-length brunette hair into a ponytail and throwing on jeans and a t-shirt.
To pass time, Maddy played baseball with her two best friends, geocached for hidden treasures around the world, read in the shade of her favorite oak tree.
She conducted physics experiments and solved ciphers that she came across. Maddy was what many considered a typical nerd, a title she took great pride in.
Maddy arrived at her high school and locked her bike up. She walked to her Algebra class and found her usual seat up front.
When class started, she pretended to take notes on a dry film that demonstrated how to convert from English to metric units. Already expert at this skill, Maddy quickly grew bored.
Tuning out the film, she began to daydream about how the life she knew and mostly loved had come to be.
Maddy’s birth name was Sari Dewi Kurniawan. Immediately given up by her birth mother, she spent her first six months in an orphanage.
With an uncertain future, fortune smiled down on her one day: a newlywed couple that was incapable of having children of their own arrived from Colorado Springs, Colorado to adopt her.
Once the adoption was finalized, Sari’s parents legally changed her name to Madyson Rutherford: Madyson in honor of her great-great-grandmother on her mother’s side, Rutherford as her paternal surname.
Unfortunately, Maddy’s young life soon took a tragic turn. Only weeks after the adoption, Maddy’s parents were involved in a car accident while driving to Denver.
According to police reports, winter weather had been the predominant factor in the crash that instantly killed both of her parents.
After her parents were laid to rest, it was determined through their last will and testament that Maddy’s nearest living relative was to be named her new legal guardian.
Based on this stipulation, Janet Rutherford, Maddy’s great-aunt, was forced by the courts into parenthood.
Begrudgingly accepting her new role in life, Aunt Janet became very bitter and did just enough to keep her great-niece fed and clothed.
Beyond that, Aunt Janet did nothing more for the “parasite” that had invaded her life and her home.
As Maddy grew older, she began to question if she had other relatives that were alive.
She’d once heard she had a grandfather somewhere that was an important scientist, but she didn’t know much beyond that.
Whenever she would bring the subject up, Aunt Janet would instantly grow sour and refuse to discuss the matter further.
Maddy couldn’t understand why this topic brought about such a response but she was too afraid to dig deeper. As time passed, Maddy and Aunt Janet spoke to each other less and less.
Because of their strained relationship, Aunt Janet and Maddy avoided each other as much as possible.
The only time they endured each other’s company regularly was when Janet’s caretaker, Mr. Zhang, prepared dinner for them both.
As a result, in order to keep loneliness from setting in, Maddy spent most of her time with her two best friends, identical twins Corbyn and Aaden Franklin.
Maddy, Corbyn, and Aaden were unique in how they spent their time together.
Instead of always engaging in typical teen activities, the trio often preferred conducting science experiments, decoding ciphers, and reading.
They’d hold contests to see which one would be the first to solve the next great brain teaser.
The three enjoyed working together through mental challenges so much that they jokingly referred to themselves as the biggest nerds in Colorado.
This inside joke led the trio to nickname themselves Science Nerds Rule, a name that fit the three perfectly.
To make the name more efficient, Science Nerds Rule became S.N.R., an acronym that sounds like sonar when read.
Thus, Team SoNaR was born, and the rest was history.
Smiling to herself, Maddy was brought back to reality by her Algebra teacher.
“All right, folks. Place your notes on my desk on your way out. And don’t forget yearbooks are still on sale in the office. See you tomorrow.”
Maddy suffered through two more ninety-minute block classes before finally making it to lunch. She looked around for an open seat and waited patiently for Corbyn and Aaden to join her.
Although identical, it was easy for Maddy to tell the twin natives of Colorado Springs apart.
Despite their matching height of 5’6”, red hair, freckled skin, skinny bodies, and gangly arms, the brothers had many unique differences.
Like Maddy, Corbyn preferred wearing jeans and t-shirts.
His short hair was combed down straight and spiked in the front, he wore glasses, and he was often clumsy when agility seemed to be most needed.
A natural-born leader, Corbyn loved solving challenging brainteasers. In school, his favorite subject was biology.
In contrast, Aaden wore khakis and polo shirts with his sneakers. When he wasn’t wearing his favorite baseball cap, his hair was parted neatly to the right.
Though brave on most accounts, he refused to swim with his friends due to a debilitating hydrophobia.
He was a master chess player, an expert at general trivia, a lover of theater, and a fan of classic novels.
His favorite subject was astronomy, largely due to a pattern of moles on his back that closely resembled the Big Dipper.
“Sorry.” Corbyn sat across from Maddy. “Got hung up in English. Exciting classes today, huh?”
Maddy rolled her eyes.
Aaden sat next to Maddy. “I fell asleep in Civics. I think I drooled on my desk a little. Pretty hard to care much right now.”
“At least we can look forward to our meeting tonight.” Corbyn always anticipated the next SoNaR gathering.
Maddy nodded. “Mr. Zhang will make us dinner so don’t eat before. I found a new cipher I want you guys to look at.”
Aaden smiled. “I bet you five bucks I solve it before Corbyn does.”
Corbyn took a bite of his bologna sandwich and snorted. “When was the last time you solved a cipher before I did?”
Aaden smiled wickedly. “Just been saving my talents for tonight is all.”
Corbyn playfully kicked at his twin’s shins. “We’ll see.”
Maddy laughed. The constant competitiveness between her two best friends was entertaining. For the rest of lunch, Team SoNaR planned out that night’s gathering.
Once lunch was over, they departed to their final classes: Maddy to Science, Corbyn to Algebra, and Aaden to Language Arts.
Maddy stood up to go. “I’ll see you guys tonight. Be at my aunt’s house at 5:30.”
“Sounds good.” Aaden threw his trash away and headed out.
Before she left, Maddy turned back around. “Oh, and Corbyn?”
“Yeah?” he replied through a mouthful of food.
“Enjoy the video on metric conversions. It’s Oscar worthy.”
Corbyn smirked. “Someone’s gotta know how to measure in centimeters.”
Maddy walked to her next class; her mind wandering, as it often did, to her mysterious grandfather.
Does he even know who I am? Or that I’m even alive? Where does he live? What kind of a person is he? What type of research does he do?
Why won’t Aunt Janet let me see him? Is it because she likes to torture me? Or is there a bigger reason?
Knowing it was unlikely she’d ever receive answers to her questions, Maddy walked somberly into class and took her seat.
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Isaac Rutherford sat down behind his office desk and sighed. As the current CEO of Energy Innovations & Solutions, Inc., he was tired and worn.
More than fifty years spent striving to accomplish a lifelong goal would do that to a man. Isaac knew big things were on the horizon for his research company, and for that he was excited.
But he also knew that far too many things could still derail his life’s work.
Taking a deep breath, he calmly stared out his window and reminisced about the day fifty years ago that changed the course of his life….
Sitting on a metal chair behind the podium from which he would soon be speaking, a much younger and far more energetic Isaac watched as a bead of nervous sweat fell to the floor.
It dissipated into the carpet.
Given his fear of public speaking, he wished he could disappear just as easily.
He knew the significance of the day’s events topped anything he’d ever been involved with, and he was terrified by the prospect.
A thin man of short stature, Isaac Rutherford had a head of sandy-blonde hair already showing signs of thinning, a pointed nose, gawky arms and legs, and a white lab coat that was nearly worn through.
Despite his awkward appearance, Isaac was one of the most capable scientific minds around.
That was why, only eight years prior to that day, the CEO of EIS, Inc. at the time chose him to lead the team that would end up with arguably the world’s most important discovery to date.
As a thirty-two-year-old chemistry prodigy, Isaac had spent his entire career on a project that would be presented, in part, to the world that day.
It was amazing to him how, over the course of eight short years, he and his team had come across a scientific breakthrough that had the potential to change the face of the planet forever.
Although exciting, the possible ramifications of the discovery—wars, shifts in economic dominance, governmental conspiracies—were also intensely frightening.
Questions about what the future might hold never left his mind.
But now was not the time for his head to be clouded in doubt.
Before Isaac could worry any longer, Dr. Thomas Goodall, the current CEO of EIS, Inc., stepped up to the podium. He looked around the room and smiled broadly.
Staring eagerly back at him were hundreds of scientists, members of academia, and media representatives. There was no turning back now.
Thomas roared into the microphone.
“To our esteemed colleagues, I say welcome! We are gathered together today to learn about a breakthrough in the scientific community that has the potential to change the world in ways unimaginable.”
A few audience members clapped politely.
Thomas smiled broadly. “We at EIS, Incorporated are thrilled to present today on our company’s recent breakthrough.
“I would like to begin by introducing the exceptional team of scientists seated behind me that have been involved in this project since day one.
“Behind and to my right is the project manager and team leader, Dr. Isaac Rutherford, PhD Chemistry.”
More applause left Isaac somewhat red-faced.
“To my left are Dr. Samson and Dr. Thomas, both extraordinary chemists in their own right.”
Both men stood to be recognized. Then came three of the world’s top physicists: Dr. Gonzales, Dr. Young, and Dr. Chang. Isaac Rutherford’s nerves were now completely shot.
It was time to take deep, relaxing breaths before he got called up to—
“But of course,” the CEO gestured for Isaac to approach, “I am not the expert on today’s presentation. I’d like to invite Dr. Rutherford to present in my stead.”
During the welcoming applause, Isaac stood and dabbed his brow. After the applause died down, he steadied himself on the podium, looked around, and began his talk.
“Good afternoon,” he said nervously. “I can’t put into words how excited I am to be given the chance to speak to you all today.
“You’ve been invited here to bear witness to a discovery that will, quite literally, change the face of the planet one day.”
Excited murmurs passed through the audience like a wave.
“Although I am forbidden for security reasons from going into full detail about our findings…
“Let me assure you that the impact of this new technology will be felt in every sector of, and by every individual on, our future planet.”
More murmurs. Isaac had hooked the crowd.
“My team and I have attempted to achieve what many believe is unachievable.
“Although numerous researchers from around the world have unsuccessfully attempted to accomplish what our company has been working on…
“We at EIS, Incorporated are proud to lay stake to the claim that we are the first…and the only…research facility to achieve what was once deemed impossible.
“We have found a way to harness and exploit one of the greatest power sources in the entire universe.”
Hands from audience members shot up. Isaac held up his hand.
“Before we take any questions, I would like to explain what this company’s plans are moving forward.
“Laboratory tests suggest that our breakthrough will one day lead to new technologies that we can’t yet begin to fathom.
“Unfortunately, at this point in time, the world’s infrastructure is simply not yet ready to support the commercialization of our innovation.
“EIS has therefore elected to safely lock up our discovery for the next five decades.
“This will give our scientists adequate time to develop a plan to implement our discovery throughout the world only after the planet is ready to receive it.”
People in the auditorium shifted in their seats. Isaac knew he had reached a crucial part of his presentation; he could easily lose his momentum.
“Let me assure you that our reasoning behind this difficult decision is quite sound.
“Since it will take decades to properly design, develop, and build the necessary technologies to support our discovery, that will be our company’s new focus.
“Doing so will adequately prepare the world for a massive transition to come. In the meantime, we feel it is appropriate to share with the world today that a monumental discovery has been made.
“Our hope is that, in making today’s announcement, we can all begin to prepare for the changes that are to come.”
Was that dissention in the room Isaac was picking up on? It was time to wrap up his talk and turn the podium back over to Dr. Goodall.
Isaac explained that EIS had a plan in place to determine who would be chosen to inherit the company and its top-secret idea decades down the road.
The candidate would have to be able to successfully oversee the implementation of the breakthrough into the real world.
To determine who was truly capable of taking on such a responsibility, EIS would put potential candidates through a series of tests.
“The tests combine to make up a quest that will challenge even the brightest minds on the planet.
“Specifically, this quest will measure a person’s knowledge of the natural sciences, his or her ability to work cooperatively with others, his or her mental cognition…
“And most importantly, his or her innovative problem-solving skills.”
The crowd’s restlessness grew. Isaac continued, explaining that although the true nature of the tests had yet to be determined, they would not be easily completed.
Should a candidate successfully complete the quest, one very important item would be made clear:
That individual will have earned the right to lead the company, and the world, into a whole new era of science and technology.
It was now getting difficult to hold off the wave of questions. Isaac pressed on, knowing that his talk would soon wrap up.
He announced that, should the future potential candidate succeed with the quest, he or she would inherit both the company and its top secret idea.
However, should the candidate fail, the secret would remain sealed until the rightful heir appeared.
“In other words,” Isaac said above the growing whispers, “only the best and the brightest will be selected to take our world into a whole new era.
“To that person, I say good luck; you will need it. I will now hand the podium back to Dr. Goodall to take questions. Good day.”
Isaac walked back to his seat and sat down. He exhaled. As lead scientist for the company that had discovered a potentially world-changing idea, he felt triumphant.
It was now up to the CEO to handle the barrage of questions.
What Isaac didn’t know at the time was that, as questions from scientists, media representatives, and members of academia rained down…
The world’s youngest oil entrepreneur, Charles Douglas Bronson, was also in attendance.
Throughout the presentation, Charles vowed that he would devote his life to preventing the release of this supposed breakthrough at all costs.
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