The Genius Experiment, страница 1
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Copyright © 2018 by Zero Point Ventures, LLC.
Illustrations by Beverly Johnson
Cover design by Gail Doobinin
Cover art by James Lancett
Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact [email protected] Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
JIMMY Patterson Books / Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
1290 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10104
First ebook edition: October 2018
JIMMY Patterson Books is an imprint of Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The Little, Brown name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc. The JIMMY Patterson Books® name and logo are trademarks of JBP Business, LLC.
The publisher is not responsible for websites (or their content) that are not owned by the publisher.
The Hachette Speakers Bureau provides a wide range of authors for speaking events. To find out more, go to hachettespeakersbureau.com or call (866) 376-6591.
WHAT WOULD MAX DO?
SEE THE FUTURE!
DO IT YOURSELF! HOW TO MAKE QUINCY’S SLIME
THINK LIKE AN EINSTEIN!
BE THE CHANGE!
HOW BIG IS YOUR IMAGINATION?
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
JIMMY PATTERSON BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS
JAMES PATTERSON BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS
To the children who will inherit this earth and make it a far better place than we did.
—JP and CG
The stench of horse manure woke Max Einstein with a jolt.
Even though she was shivering, she threw off her blanket and hopped out of bed. Actually, it wasn’t really a bed. More like a lumpy, water-stained mattress with frayed seams. But that didn’t matter. Ideas could come wherever they wanted.
She raced down the dark hall. The floorboards—bare planks laid across rough beams—creaked and wobbled with every step. Her red hair, of course, was a bouncing tangle of wild curls. It was always a bouncing tangle of wild curls.
Max rapped her knuckles on a lopsided door hanging off rusty hinges.
“Mr. Kennedy?” She knocked again. “Mr. Kennedy?”
“What the…” came a sleepy mumble. “Max? Are you okay?”
Max took that question as permission to enter Mr. Kennedy’s apartment. She practically burst through his wonky door.
“I’m fine, Mr. Kennedy. In fact, I’m better than fine! I’ve got something great here! At least I think it’s something great. Anyway, it’s really, really cool. This idea could change everything. It could save our world. It’s what Mr. Albert Einstein would’ve called an ‘aha’ moment.”
“Yes, Mr. Kennedy?”
“It’s six o’clock in the morning, girl.”
“Is it? Sorry about the inconvenient hour. But you never know when a brainstorm will strike, do you?”
“No. Not with you, anyway…”
Max was wearing a floppy trench coat over her shabby sweater. Lately, she’d been sleeping in the sweater under a scratchy horse blanket because her so-called bedroom was, just like Mr. Kennedy’s, extremely cold.
The tall and sturdy black man, his hair flecked with patches of white, creaked out of bed and rubbed some of the sleep out of his eyes. He slid his bare feet into shoes he had fashioned out of cardboard and old newspapers.
“Hang on,” he said. “Need to put on my bedroom slippers here…”
“Because the floor’s so cold,” said Max.
“You needed to improvise those bedroom slippers because the floor’s cold every morning. Correct?”
“Maxine—we’re sleeping, uninvited, above a horse stable. Of course the floors are cold. And, in case you haven’t noticed, the place doesn’t smell so good, either.”
Max, Mr. Kennedy, and about a half-dozen other homeless people were what New York City called “squatters.” That meant they were living rent-free in the vacant floors above a horse stable. The first two floors of the building housed a parking garage for Central Park carriages and stalls for the horses that pulled them. The top three floors? As far as the owner of the building knew, they were vacant.
“Winter is coming, Mr. Kennedy. We have no central heating system.”
“Nope. We sure don’t. You know why? Because we don’t pay rent, Max!”
“Be that as it may, in the coming weeks, these floors will only become colder. Soon, we could all freeze to death. Even if we were to board up all the windows—”
“That’s not gonna happen,” said Mr. Kennedy. “We need the ventilation. All that horse manure downstairs, stinking up the place…”
“Exactly! That’s precisely what I wanted to talk to you about. That’s my big idea. Horse manure!”
“It’s simple, really, Mr. Ken
She pulled a thick stub of chalk out her baggy sweater pocket and started sketching on the wall, turning it into her blackboard.
“Please hear me out, sir. Try to see what I see.”
Max, who enjoyed drawing in a beat-up sketchbook she rescued from a Dumpster, chalked in a lump of circles radiating stink marks. She labeled it “manure/biofuel.”
“To stay warm this winter, all we have to do is arrange a meeting with Mr. Sammy Monk.”
“The owner of this building?” said Mr. Kennedy, skeptically. “The landlord who doesn’t even know we’re here? That Mr. Sammy Monk?”
“Yes, sir,” said Max, totally engrossed in the diagram she was drafting on the wall. “We need to convince him to let us have all of his horse manure.”
Mr. Kennedy stood up. “All of his manure? Now why on earth would we want that, Max? It’s manure!”
“Well, once we have access to the manure, I will design and engineer a green gas mill for the upstairs apartments.”
“A green what mill?”
“Gas, sir. We can rig up an anaerobic digester that will turn the horse manure into biogas, which we can then combust to generate electricity and heat.”
“You want to burn horse manure gas?”
“Exactly! Anaerobic digestion is a series of biological processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material, such as horse manure, in the absence of oxygen, which is what ‘anaerobic’ means. That’s the solution to our heating and power problems.”
“You sure you’re just twelve years old?”
“Yes. As far as I know.”
Mr. Kennedy gave Max a look that she, unfortunately, was used to seeing. The look said she was crazy. Nuts. Off her rocker. But Max never let “the look” upset her. It was like Albert Einstein said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.”
Not that Mr. Kennedy had a mediocre mind. Max just wasn’t doing a good enough job explaining her bold new breakthrough idea. Sometimes, the ideas came into her head so fast they came out of her mouth in a mumbled jumble.
“All we need, Mr. Kennedy, is an airtight container—something between the size of an oil drum and a tanker truck.” She sketched a boxy cube fenced in by a pen of steel posts. “Heavy plastic would be best, of course. And it would be good if it had a cage of galvanized iron bars surrounding it. Then we just have to measure and cut three different pipes—one for feeding in the manure, one for the gas outlet, and one for displaced liquid fertilizer. We would insert these conduits into the tank through a universal seal, hook up the appropriate plumbing, and we’d be good to go.”
Mr. Kennedy stroked his stubbly chin and admired Max’s detailed design of the device sketched on the flaking wall.
“A brilliant idea, Max,” he said. “Like always.”
Max allowed herself a small, proud smile.
“Thank you, Mr. Kennedy.”
“What’s that, sir?”
“Well, that container there. The cube. That’s what? Ten feet by ten feet by ten feet?”
“And you say you need a cage of bars around it. You also mentioned three pipes. And plumbing. Then I figure you’re going to need a furnace to burn the horse manure gas, turn it into heat.”
Max nodded. “And a generator. To spin our own electricity.”
“Right. Won’t that cost a whole lot of money?”
Max lowered her chalk. “I suppose so.”
“And have you ever noticed the one thing most people squatting in this building don’t have?”
Max pursed her lips. “Money?”
Max tucked the stubby chalk back into her sweater pocket and dusted off her pale, cold hands.
“Point taken, Mr. Kennedy. As usual, I need to be more practical. I’ll get back to you with a better plan. I’ll get back to you before winter comes.”
“Great. But, Max?”
Mr. Kennedy climbed back into his lumpy bed and pulled up the blanket.
“Just don’t get back to me before seven o’clock, okay?”
Max glanced at her watch.
It was only 6:17 a.m. She, unlike Mr. Kennedy, was an early riser. Always had been, probably always would be. The morning, especially that quiet space between dreaming and total wakefulness, was when most of her massive ideas floated through her drowsy brain. The ideas helped tamp down the sadness that could come in those same quiet times. A sadness that all orphans probably shared. Made more intense because Max had no idea who either of her parents were.
Max creaked her way back up the hall to her room as quietly as she could. She could hear Mr. Kennedy already snoring behind her.
Max had decorated her own sleeping space in the stables building the same way she had decorated all the rooms she had ever temporarily lived in: by propping open her battered old suitcase on its side to turn it into a display case for all things Albert Einstein. Books by and about the famous scientist were lined along the bottom like a bookshelf. Both lids were filled with her collection of Einstein photographs and quotes. She even had an Einstein bobblehead doll she’d found, once upon a time, in a museum store dumpster. She used it as a bookend.
Max couldn’t remember where the suitcase came from. She’d just always had it. It was older than her rumpled knit sweater, and that thing was an antique.
The oldest photograph in her collection, the one that someone other than Max (she didn’t know who) had pasted inside the suitcase lid so long ago that its edges were curling, showed the great professor lost in thought. He had a bushy mustache and long, unkempt hair. His hands were clasped together, almost as if in prayer. His eyes were gazing up toward infinity.
That photograph was Max’s oldest memory. And since she never knew her own parents, at an early age, Max found herself talking to the kind, grandfatherly man at bedtime. He was a very good listener. She became curious as to who the mystery man might be, and that’s how her lifelong infatuation with all things Einstein began. Like how he was born in Germany but had to leave his home before the Second World War. And how he was so busy thinking of big, amazing ideas, he sometimes forgot to pay attention to his job at the patent office. They had a lot in common.
Next to the photograph was Max’s absolute favorite Einstein quote: “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”
“Unless, of course, you don’t have the money to make the things you dream up come true,” Max muttered.
Mr. Kennedy was right.
She couldn’t afford to build her green gas mill. And she couldn’t ask Mr. Sammy Monk for his horse manure or anything else because Mr. Sammy Monk couldn’t know anybody was living in the abandoned floors of his horse stable. She’d just have to imagine a different solution to the squatters’ heating dilemma. One that didn’t cost a dime and could be created out of someone else’s discarded scraps.
Max turned to her computer, which she had built herself from found parts. It was amazing what some people in New York City tossed to the curb on garbage pickup days. Max had been able to solder together (with a perfectly good soldering iron someone had thrown out) enough discarded circuit boards, unwanted wiring, abandoned processors, rejected keyboards, and one slightly blemished retina screen from a cast-off MacBook Pro to create a machine that whirred even faster than her mind.
She also had free wi-fi, thanks to the Link NYC public hot spot system. She could even recharge her computer’s batteries (discovered abandoned behind one of the city’s glossy Apple stores) at the kiosk just down the block from the stables. (Reliable wi-fi was one of the main reasons Max had selected her current accommodations. Easy access to a top-flight school was the other.)
Max clicked open a browser and went back to the internet page she had bookmarked the night before.
The story broke Max’s heart.
Because Max’s heart, like her hero Dr. Einstein’s, was huge.
Max was packing her bookbag for school when she heard a commotion down on the street.
She dropped her backpack and raced to the nearest dirt-smeared window to peer through a hole in the glass.
She saw two police cars. Their roof bar lights were swirling. Even from four stories up, Max could hear snatches of orders crackling out of the cruiser’s dashboard radio: “Squatters… eviction… arrest… trespassing…”
Then she saw two officers, a man and a woman, escorting Mrs. Rabinowitz—a sweet widow who lived on the third floor—out of the building and toward their police car. Mrs. Rabinowitz’s frumpy housecoat was flapping in the breeze, exposing her knee-high stockings.
“There’re more squatters upstairs,” said the female cop. “We may need backup.”
“On it,” said a cop, casually leaning up against one of the cruisers with a radio mic in his hand. He seemed to be the man in charge. “Yeah, this is Alpha Three Five Oh,” he said matter-of-factly into his microphone. “One suspect in custody. More in building. Request backup.”
Max had heard enough.
She raced down four flights of steep, switchback staircases and into the bright morning light.
“Excuse me, officers,” she said, holding up a hand to shield her eyes from the sun. “Might I have a word?”
“What? Who are you, kid?” asked the cop who seemed to be in charge.
“Maxine Einstein, sir.”
“Like the egghead Einstein? The E equals M-C squared guy?”
Max didn’t answer. Instead, she tried to keep the conversation focused and on point. She had learned long ago that it was hard to achieve your desired scientific outcome if you let your mind wander into trivialities.