Read One (One Universe) Online

Authors: LeighAnn Kopans

Tags: #Young Adult, #Sci-Fi & Fantasy

One (One Universe)

BOOK: One (One Universe)
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Praise for One

One
balances a fully imagined, super world with deep, well-crafted characters and took me on a heart pounding, heartbreakingly authentic journey I hated to see end.

~Trisha Leigh, author of
The Last Year
series

§

“Exciting, edgy, romantic and beautifully written,
One
is a book from an incredible new writing talent that will leave you longing for more!”

~Emma Pass, author of
Acid
(Random House 2013) and the upcoming
The Fearless
(Random House 2014)

§

“I opened
One
and didn’t put it down. On the surface it’s a fast-paced superhero story combined with all the wonderful and terrible aspects of teenage life, but beneath that is the story of a girl who only wants to be more than she is. It’s a fun adventure cloaking a simple but powerful truth of the human condition.”

~Francesca Zappia, author of the upcoming
Ask Again Later
(Greenwillow/HarperCollins 2014)

ONE

Leigh Ann Kopans

 

Copyright 2013 by Leigh Ann Kopans

Cover art and design by Nathalia Suellen

Developmental Editing: Jamie Grey

Copy Editing: Becca Weston

 

ISBN-13: 978-1490304045

ISBN-10: 1490304045

 

All rights reserved.

 

This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real.

 

 

For anyone who’s ever felt like only half of what they are supposed to be.

 

 

Two things of opposite natures seem to depend

On one another, as a man depends

On a woman, day on night, the imagined

 

On the real. This is the origin of change.

Winter and spring, cold copulars, embrace

And forth the particulars of rapture come.

 

Wallace Stevens, Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction IV

ONE

M
ost nights, and some mornings before sunrise, I sneak to the back of the shed, and I practice. I push myself off the ground, telling my body to go weightless, and hover. An inch, two, six, a foot. I stay there for seconds, then minutes.

I can’t generate enough tension between my body and the air to take a step — can’t even make myself drift. I’d give anything just to be able to float along like a freaking ghost.

I’m a One — a half-superpowered freak. It’s the same sad story for all of us. Every superpower is made up of at least two distinct abilities. A kid can only fly if she can make her body light and then somehow propel herself forward.

Two powers. Not one.

Every One puts up with getting teased at Superior High, waiting for their second ability to show up. While they do, that One power starts to fade. There are still shimmers of it, but after a while, the kid quits trying and the One fizzles into nothingness. Then their disappointed Super parents ship them off to Nelson “Normal” High, like mine did.

Here’s my secret – I never quit trying.

This morning, standing in our weedy backyard surrounded by a chorus of crickets, behind the ancient shed with chipping red paint, I go weightless. It happens so fast that I feel like I’m being pushed upward. My heart jumps.

Maybe…

I try to move, try to resist the air or push it away from me, and…nothing. I’ve been practicing so much that I’ve gotten fast at going light. So I’m a speedy floater. Great.

I could hover here forever, until my muscles strain, then burn, then ache, then tremble, weeping and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. I’d just end up collapsing on the grass.

Nevertheless, I smile when I have to will some weight into my body to keep from floating above the shed. I definitely cleared three feet this time. Four years of hard work, and I can float an extra two feet.

Maybe by the time I’m eighty, I can say “hi” to the folks taking hot air balloon rides at the Nebraska State Fair.

I’ve watched all the old-school cartoons about misfit superhero kids that just need to work on developing their powers in order to totally rule. But I’m not a freaking X-Man. I know I can’t work on my One power hard enough for it to become something better, something more. And it’s not like I can magically give myself a Second.

I know. I know.

But my body whispers to me. It tells me I can fly, if only I’m brave enough, strong enough, determined enough.

I sigh and trudge back to the house, being careful to dry the dew from my shoes before heading in to get ready for my first day at Normal.

 

Dad slows the car as Nelson High comes into view. It’s about a third of the size of Superior High, and the building’s face is shot through with mossy cracks, dull with years of dirt the groundskeepers didn’t bother to power wash before the first day. It’s a strange contrast to the slick solar panels that blanket the roof, glinting silver-blue and reflecting the sky full of white, fluffy clouds. Most people think these older-model panels are hideous, but I always love it when a building’s roof looks like an extension of the sky.

I can’t take my eyes off the school, but I can feel Dad looking at me from the driver’s seat.

“Dad.” I pat his knee, a little awkwardly. “I’m just going to school. A different one, but still just school. I’ll be fine. Maybe better. You know…than I was.”

Dad eyes me. He doesn’t believe me, but he’s going to pretend he does.

I clear my throat. “You could have let me drive myself.”

“What if you didn’t get a pass? Or couldn’t find a spot? Best to figure out the lay of the land…”

“The lay of the land” is one of the phrases Dad uses when he’s worried. To be honest, I’m worried myself.

It’s been ten years since my One power — going weightless — showed up. Seven years since Mom and Dad started to worry in whispered voices that I’d never get a Second, like the other kids. Only one year since I’d pretty masterfully failed at Superior High. One year since we all knew I would always float instead of fly — knew I would only ever be a One.

I was worried sophomore year at Superior would suck anyway, what with the fliers and the speeders and the teleporters rubbing their superpowers in my face just by being there. This way, maybe it doesn’t have to.

“Did your hair for the first day, Merry Berry?” Dad flips an end of my hair with his finger. He’s lucky I’m feeling slightly optimistic this morning, or I might mess his up right back. It looks flawless for work at the Hub, as usual.

I don’t answer.

“Well,” he says, “you look beautiful.”

I humor him with a shake of my head and a smile.

All my features are slight, like my stature: a pixie nose, near-translucent skin with not even a freckle to decorate my cheeks, sparse eyebrows.

But my hair is the worst. The longer I let it grow, the more it tapers from thick brunette into dull, baby-fine ends, so I keep it short, at my shoulders. At least it waves instead of lying stick-straight. It’s as wispy as the clouds on a clear day.

“I know Mom gave you a new lock. Did you clear out your smartcuff from last year?”

I roll my eyes and push up my sleeve to show him that, yes, the three-inch-wide, flexible tablet that holds all the information I need to get through the day (besides acting as a phone, GPS, and universal ID) has been wiped clean of all the stuff I needed at Superior. I don’t tell him that I spent days hacking it to change the ID status from “Merrin Grey: One” to “Merrin Grey: Normal.”

I pop the handle open and crack the door before we’re even fully stopped. The football field, which peeks out from behind the school, has a fresh frame of bright white lines and a state-of-the-art looking scoreboard. I imagine the classrooms and locker rooms feature an according disparity. Great.

“Three-thirty, Dad. Okay?” I scoot myself out of the seat and onto the sidewalk. I let the door fall shut before he can answer. Not because I’m trying to be rude, but because I think if I hear Dad’s voice now, I might cry and mess up the first mascara I’ve worn for about 10 months.

I’m not really upset about transferring from Superior High to Nelson.

I’m not. I’m not.

 

No one really says it out loud, but everyone knows Supers and Normals hate each other — too much decades-old bad blood. Supers say the Normals were jealous of them, and that’s what caused tensions in the first place. Normals say they didn’t know anything about Supers or whether they could be trusted.

I can see that. The way the Supers treated me — a sad, powerless kid — at SHS, I figure maybe the Supers scared the crap out of Normals sixty years ago. Super-strength or teleporting or being able to shoot fire could be terrifying if it was used as a threat.

Being a One is the worst — we’re caught exactly in between Super and Normal, between stuck-up and terrified. Supers assume we’re jealous, and Normals assume we’re full of ourselves.

But here, I’m the new kid. No one knows anything about me. And no one has to. I take a deep breath through my nose, trying to ease the pit in my stomach.

I’m feeling a little too light this morning.

The wind feels like it might blow me away today. My loose, tissue-thin shirt hangs off my bony shoulders, blows against the curve of my back, and I know that everyone can tell how thin I am in the tank top underneath. My cuffed denim shorts go down to my knees, and because Mom picked them up in the girl’s department, they fit snugly to my legs. That’s fine since I learned that baggy pants only made me look ridiculous and even tinier.

I look down at the ground and take a deep breath. Heavy. Be heavy. My eye catches the one thing that can make me smile: my blue plaid Chucks. My brothers, Michael and Max, gave them to me for my sixteenth birthday last month. They thought I would like them, and they were absolutely right. Awesome kids, no matter how jealous I am of their insanely rare water-walking skills.

With any luck, this year will just be the boring prelude to where I really belong: occupying one of the spots in the Biotech Hub’s summer internship program. I can do anything if it leads to that. I breathe deeply, hoping the air pressure in my lungs will make me heavier, and take my first steps toward a normal year at Nelson High.

 

I’m guessing there are 300 students in the whole school, which means everyone here knows everyone else. I let out a slow sigh of relief when I realize none of the students milling through the halls look at me. Either no one notices me, or no one cares. Or, since it’s the first day and I’m new, I’ll pass for a freshman.

I find the administrative office easily enough. I have to pound on the ancient touchscreen installed there to get my schedule, and when I finally manage to download it onto my cuff, it takes another torturous several minutes of waiting for the map of the school to appear. Through the thick, translucent office wall, something catches my eye. A tall, middle-aged man with glasses and black hair slicked back from his forehead pushes out the door. I swear the faint scent of licorice wafts out after him. He looks just like my organic chemistry professor from Superior High.

Maybe not everything about Normal High will be awful and unfamiliar after all.

I wave my wrist under the ID scanner in a variety of positions, but it just won’t register. It’s all I can do not to growl at it. Finally, it beeps its recognition, and I push out through the door as the stilted robotic voice croaks, “Good morning, sophomore Merrin Grey.”

The hallway teems with students, but I think I see him. Yes. The black hair and those thick-rimmed glasses. That’s got to be him. He’s talking to a petite woman in a navy suit at the end of the hallway, leaning close to her ear, his eyes darting around at the students. They both nod at each other and start to walk down the hall, away from me. She motions toward a door.

As I get closer, I see the placard next to it reads “Principal Lee.” I push through the crowd, but just as they reach the door, some clumsy kid rams into my shoulder, spinning me around. I don’t even care enough to be embarrassed or yell at the jerk because, when I look up, the door’s closing behind them.

I pinch my lips together, cursing under my breath. Mr. Hoffman is the one who came and dragged me out of the first horrific day of freshman biology, gave me a test, checked it over in about three minutes, and walked me to his class full of AP organic chemistry seniors without another word. While the other freshmen were trying to impress each other with their superpowers, I was staying behind in his classroom while he graded assignments, building models and generally kicking Orgo’s ass. By the end of the year, I was working from a college textbook.

Mr. Hoffman’s the one who made me think I could score a spot in the Biotech Hub’s summer internship. Only five kids get to go every year, and I don’t think a One has ever landed a chance.

BOOK: One (One Universe)
13.62Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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