If you ask him now, Adam can’t remember a time when he didn’t want to be a Mountie (aside from the Summer of 1980, when he was fairly certain he wanted to be a Jedi with a cybernetic hand). Blithely unaware of the organisation’s chequered past and worse precursor, the popular perception of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, coupled with his family’s devout Catholicism, laid much of his moral foundation growing up.

Born in Ottawa in 1971, the son of a Québecois mathematics professor and an Ontarian stock trader, he spent much of his early childhood in Toronto as a function of his parents collaborating on the CATS project for the TMX. With his grandparents hundreds of miles away, he was increasingly raised by a combination of nannies and, more importantly, Dudley Do-Right, Klondike Kat, and the Lone Ranger.

Whenever he visited Ottawa to see his Anglo grandparents (his mother’s parents having passed before his birth), they would take him to Parliament Hill where he’d see RCMP personnel, resplendent in their Red Serge, defending the democratic bedrock of the nation. Such trips only reinforced his mental image of the profession.

Then, in the early 80s, his mother accepted a tenure track post at uOttowa and his father left the TMX to take up a software engineering role at SHL Systemhouse. Growing up surrounded by technology, with a moral compass inherited from the best pastiches of law enforcement ever committed to cellulose, the teenage Adam became fascinated with the possible abuses of that technology.

Driven by what his parents told him of the computerisation of the stock exchange in the 70s, Adam predicted that illegal application of computer systems would be the next great societal challenge. And that the best way to combat it would be for law enforcement to be trained in computing science.

It came as little surprise, then, when an 18-year-old Adam enrolled to major in Computer Information Systems (with a minor in Psychology, to allow for exploration of aberrant human behaviour) at the University of Ottawa. He excelled in his studies, his background familiarity augmented handily by a natural gift for problem-solving.

He opted to take a summer class in his Freshman year, with a view to reduce his major’s Sophomore year workload and freeing up time to enrol as a Special Student on extra-curricular courses which piqued his interest (mostly relating to criminology).

After two years immersed in nascent computer technology, Adam wanted to spend the following summer away from University, reconnecting with his faith. After an initial plan to visit Rome with his grandfather fell through due to the latter’s ailing health, the opportunity to make a lone pilgrimage on the Chemin de Compostelle presented itself and Adam leapt at the chance.

It was on that trail he met, and fell for, a country girl from the South of France named Gaëlle. Smart, witty, beautiful, and only slightly amused by his Québecois French accent, she had him at ‘salut’, and ever thereafter. Certain promises were made, and he introduced her to high-tech means of maintaining their correspondence long-distance while they continued their university studies apart (something he got rather excitable about called ‘EFNet’).

He graduated the following year, writing his honours dissertation on ‘The Security of Securities: Computer-Governed Stock Transactions’. He spent the month following graduation polishing it into an article submitted to ACM TOCS.

In the summer of ‘92 he reunited with Gaëlle in Nantes, and was formally introduced to her sister and ward, Christelle. It was Christelle whose permission he sought to ask for Gaëlle’s hand - something which in equal parts amused and bemused his would-be belle-soeur. That permission obtained, he took a knee before Gaëlle beside the Fontaine Wallace, nestled within the Jardin des Plantes, and proposed. She gleefully accepted.

On his return to Canada, he began his RCMP Cadet Training in Regina, Saskatchewan. By now, communication with his wife-to-be and sister was a far less taxing prospect, with the growth of email and the introduction of MIME extensions. This, combined with an engagement gift from his father, allowed him to email her a 0.18MP image of him in his own dress uniform. For years she would joke that it was the only time she ever saw him wear it.

The following Summer, on August 1st, he and Gaëlle married at a small, intimate wedding in Nantes. His parents and Anglophone grandmother flew in for the ceremonies and celebrations, his grandfather having passed away over the winter. The couple wound up with two sets of wedding photographs as a result of the nature of their nuptials: one set from the ceremony, with Adam in a suit, and one set staged by his graduating Cadet class on the happy couple’s return to Canada, in full dress.

With Christelle still a ward of Gaëlle, coupled with the sisters’ relative antipathy towards their extended family in France, there was never any question of the younger sister staying behind. Instead, both Gaëlle and Christelle returned to Canada with Adam and his family, and the newlyweds moved into a modest townhouse. Gaëlle began her immigration paperwork immediately, wanting to begin working as soon as she could.

The following eight years were comparatively uneventful, something for which Adam and Gaëlle were most grateful, allowing them to make up for lost time apart. Gaëlle received her indefinite leave to remain, and began studying a nursing degree at her husband’s Alma Mater. Adam’s career in the RCMP progressed, and he transferred from general service in the National Division to the specialist Technological Crime Branch when it was established.

Adam’s own sister, Katherine, five years his junior, graduated from RMC in 1998 with a BMASc and was commissioned into the Maritime Command of the Canadian Armed Forces, and assigned to the frigate HMCS Ottawa. A few years later, Christelle went to study History at UQO, finding a Francophone institution marginally less xenophobic than the alternatives.

Christelle’s departure from their little home marked a watershed for the happy couple, as it meant they could finally look to start their own family, nine years after they married. They resolved to begin trying the following summer. Of course, the following summer would turn out to be the worst possible time to start a family.

It did not take long, after Captain Trips first struck, for order to break down - even in the relatively staid and sedentary city of Ottawa. When the riots began to threaten Parliament Hill and 24 Sussex, all branches of law enforcement, including special divisions of the RCMP, were deployed to retake the streets.

Gaëlle’s heightened awareness of just how dangerous this superflu was led to the quick decision for Christelle and Adam’s parents to leave the city and head to the family cabin in Buckingham. There was no such escape for she and Adam, both public servants required to do their jobs, wait it out, and pray - but at least it would give their family a chance.

As the pandemic continued, with communications and civilisation collapsing around them, Gaëlle and Adam actually allowed themselves to start believing they might just get through it after all. The grim calculus was that the more people who succumbed, the less likely they were to encounter someone infectious about their duties - at least in Adam’s case in Gaëlle’s, the odds were far worse, however you sliced it.

And then, on Canada Day, Adam began showing symptoms. He deteriorated rapidly, despite the best, heartbroken efforts of his wife. Their shared faith denied them even the possibility of an early, sweet release from the plague’s torment. Adam died in agony on July 3rd.

And woke up in a (blessedly) shallow grave on July 4th.

With the benefit of hindsight, his wife’s response to the apparent miracle of his survival was almost comical. On his return to the house, covered in mud and muck, she reacted as though he heralded the zombie apocalypse. Vases were thrown. Table lamps. Knives. A particularly fine example of 19th century cabinet joinery. It was only after he finally cornered her long enough to speak that she calmed enough to listen.

The pair do not talk about that day, or what happened afterwards. They simply thanked God for the miracle and resolved to leave the city as soon as possible. With the collapse of all semblance of government, there was no reason to remain, and what few survivors there were had taken to increasingly violent looting. And while both still held that most people were inherently good, they were sadly aware that, in a crisis, those most likely to survive were least likely to share that world view.

Adam at least had his service issue side-arm - a Sig Sauer 226R - and security access to the Leikin Drive HQ Building. Finding it deserted, save for the corpses of those who had succumbed to the plague on duty, he stocked up on whatever he felt would improve their odds of survival. A pair of SBA vests, a standard issue Remington 870, a bolt-action rifle, a S&W 3953 for Gaëlle’s daintier grip, and whatever survival equipment and rations he could lay hands on.

Syphoning gas from the truck of a dead neighbour, they loaded up Gaëlle’s city runabout - smaller than Adam’s work SUV, but with far better mileage - and headed out to join their family at the cabin. Unfortunately, no miracle awaited them there, only shared heartbreak as they buried the two generations of their family who had made it to safety only to succumb shortly after their escape.

They remained at the cabin for a few days, harvesting whatever was good from Adam’s father’s vegetable patch, and hoping in vain that they might hear something from Katherine. But as the days marched on, they came to the conclusion - largely driven by Adam - that they had to head south. Canada in winter was only habitable due to its infrastructure - without that infrastructure, even with the benefit of accessible lumber, there could be no quality of life here, and he’d wager even money they would starve by December.

Again syphoning gas, this time from their father’s car, the pair began the drive south. Adam figured that aiming for the southernmost extremities of the midwest, or maybe Texas, would make the most sense.

On July 14th, or thereabouts, the couple reached Nashville. There had been a few close calls en route. One was, in Adam’s opinion, too close, when Gaëlle had insisted they stop so she could give medical assistance to some survivors who had overturned their Winnebago, only for the entire group to be set upon by looters. Gaëlle and Adam had escaped - they didn’t know if the Winnebago driver or his daughter survived.

Adam had become increasingly concerned by dreams Gaëlle recounted to them on their journey. Unsure if they were post-traumatic stress-related, or possibly a hallucination brought on by something else, he did his best to reassure her that she shouldn’t worry about them. It wasn’t the destination he had in mind, and he wasn’t convinced anything awaited them there which wouldn’t await them further south. In part, he could admit with hindsight, this was a knee-jerk reaction to the realisation that he had been wrong his entire life.

Adam had foreseen the coming storm. He had foreseen an End of Days, where monsters in metaphorical black hats sundered essential utilities with the click of a mouse, disabled atomic plant failsafes with a keystroke, blithely bypassed the safeguards which protected the world from nuclear armageddon with a few lines of aberrant code. And he had prepared and trained all his adult life to fend off that apocalypse.

It was admirable. It was just the wrong apocalypse.

His opinion on his wife’s dreams changed when, as they continued their journey south, the pair happened upon a group of looters larger than any they had encountered before. Dozens, they saw, firing hails of bullets into the sky as they burned people alive, trussed up to billboards. Forced to abandon their vehicle - and any supplies they were wearing and couldn’t carry in their backpacks, the couple fled. By whatever miracle, they managed to hide from these monsters in a crawl space under a 7Eleven, even as Gaëlle’s little hatchback blazed away.

They didn’t dare emerge from their hideyhole for a day after the yelling and shooting stopped. When they did, they were alone, surrounded by burned-out wrecks and the husks of the possé’s victims. Reasoning that heading deeper into this Mad Max wasteland was the worst possible idea, Adam finally relented and agreed to follow Gaëlle’s visions instead.

They made their way on foot for days - weeks - to the end of July. And then, as if by providence, they came upon a flat-bed truck, all but fully gassed, with no owner in sight. Making their way carefully, avoiding anything which looked remotely likely to be other survivors, it took them over another week to finally reach the place in Gaëlle’s visions. A little township called Boulder, Colorado.