Authors: Jane Redd
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Teen & Young Adult, #Mysteries & Thrillers, #Mystery & Detective, #Romantic, #Romance, #Science Fiction & Dystopian
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
No part of this work may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission of the publisher.
Published by Kindle Press, Seattle, 2016
Amazon, the Amazon logo, Kindle Scout, and Kindle Press are trademarks of
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In loving memory of Estee Wood,
who lost her battle against cancer before this book could be published,
but who gave me valuable feedback on
that I’ll always treasure.
It is unnatural for a majority to rule, for a majority can seldom be organized and united for specific action, and a minority can.
Jezebel, you must not laugh.
My caretaker had warned me about this day, though I didn’t believe her at the time.
Don’t let them see your tears.
I hadn’t cried for years, and even when I was a child I had done it alone, in the dark haven of my bedroom. My heart beat harder with each second as I waited for Sol to come into the classroom. The other students were already scrolling through assignments on their desk consoles, oblivious to the warmth spreading to my cheeks. Their uniformly pale faces, dull eyes, and drab blue-and-gray clothing matched the endless rain outside. We were all the same inside as well—at least we were supposed to be.
You must not show any emotion. Ever. They will find out who you really are.
The door slid open with a whoosh, and I felt Sol’s presence before I actually saw him, my heartbeat changing to match the rhythm of his step. No one else looked up or even seemed to notice as he walked across the room and took his seat next to mine. Lately I noticed everything about him.
His hair was a black mess today, which probably explained why he was so late—he must have overslept and run here in the rain. And he must have crossed the schoolyard with no umbrella, since water droplets trickled from his hair. I didn’t dare meet his eyes because I knew they’d be on me, and it was getting harder to suppress the urge to touch him. He’d passed so close to my desk that I imagined the brush of his hand on my arm. It was all that I was allowed. Imagining.
Jezebel, you are the Carrier, but no one can ever know.
I tugged my gaze from Sol, feeling the heat creeping through my body, knowing that if anyone in this room could read my thoughts, they’d report me at once. If anyone knew I was
that the Harmony implant didn’t work on me, I would be imprisoned . . . or worse.
Sol settled in the desk next to mine and leaned over. I caught his earthy scent, a mixture of rain and leaves.
“Jez,” he whispered.
I had to meet his eyes now, and the way he looked at me made me feel like he could read my soul. His eyes were murky gray, like the early morning sky.
You have no idea what you’re doing to me, Sol,
I wanted to say. Instead, I said, “Yes?”
“Sit by me at assembly?”
“Sure,” I said.
How does he know there will be an assembly today?
I wanted to smile at him, but didn’t—I’d save that reaction for later, once I was alone in my dorm room, remembering every detail of our conversation.
I knew Sol was different the moment he was moved up to our sixteen-year-old A Level class a few months ago. He was younger than the rest of us, barely sixteen, but that wasn’t why I noticed him. He
things. Things about the world Before . . . before the rain started and before the world began to die. Before America and Europe and Africa started to slip into the ocean. But we were forbidden to talk about the Before, and our instructors were forbidden to teach it.
By the third year of nonstop rain, the US government announced that surviving in the weather conditions was far beyond their technological expertise, and that’s when the fortifications began. The Constitution gave way to martial law as entire cities flooded, mountains slid into the oceans, and governing bodies were fractured. By the fifth year of the rains, every able child began training in science and technology.
If we wanted the next generation to survive, and the one after that, we had to create a new world. We were now in the thirty-seventh year of the rain, cut off from any civilization outside of Sawatch, the former mountain range in a place named Colorado that was home to our settlement. Now it was only five hundred feet above the ocean.
The countdown to the beginning of class flashed on our screens:
. I pressed my hand against the upper right corner of the transparent desktop, and my ID transferred. I was logged in. I popped in wireless earbuds just in time to hear an androgynous voice announce, “An assembly has been called. Please exit in an orderly fashion to the assembly hall.”
I glanced over at Sol, and his eyes met mine, as if to ask if I was surprised. It was hard not to smile at him, or laugh, but I’d been trained well. I gave him the barest of nods and saw the satisfaction in his gaze.
How he knew the things he did was a mystery—his brilliance was seemingly effortless. Before he’d advanced, I’d been the top of the class, but now I felt like I was scrambling just to keep up with him.
It took everything I had not to tell him how I felt about him.
I stood from my console; half the students had already filed out of the room.
My roommate, Chalice, stepped in front of me, her hand lifted in greeting before she turned and headed for the door. She wore her hair “Chalice-style.” Instead of a long ponytail or braid, her cropped hair was as black as night, never tamed, with silver streaks throughout—like carefully arranged chaos. I was more average looking, with long brown hair, dark brows over dark brown eyes. The only thing that set me apart was the barest tint of olive coloring in my skin. Chalice was smart, too, usually second only to me and Sol in her scores. She would definitely make it to the University.
The too-large auditorium, oval in shape, had once been a government building. It felt cold as usual, and I suppressed a shiver as I took a seat next to Sol. There were about thirty students in the A Level, and we spread out among the beat-up metal chairs.
The lights dimmed, save for one focused on the stage. With water-powered machines harvesting energy from the rain, we had no shortage of electricity. The school director, Dr. Wells, stepped onto the stage, his freckled face muted into a dull pink from where I sat near the back.
No one spoke, but the tension practically crackled around the room; an assembly more than once a month was unusual. On my right, Sol whispered, “He must have a big announcement.”
I stared ahead, although I sensed every part of Sol next to me.
“Repeat the Covenants with me,” the director ordered.
We all stood, and Sol’s voice washed over me as we spoke together:
“We unite together to honor the Legislature and respect all judgments. It is our duty to preserve our resources and work toward a secure future. We will sacrifice as one with the single goal in mind . . .”
Sol’s arm brushed mine, and the heat crept along my skin. He probably didn’t even notice the contact.
When we finished reciting the Covenants, Dr. Wells held up his hand. “With the Separation in one week, we have been asked to do some recruiting among our numbers. You are the elite class of 2099. The A Level courses groom our future scientists and leaders.”
I looked forward to the Separation of boys and girls at the University—I wouldn’t have to constantly battle my emotions around Sol. Then again I dreaded not being around him, too. I would miss our secretive conversations and always knowing that he’d be there for me to talk to. But while other students would be working on new flavors of processed foods, or developing cement that wouldn’t crack in cold temperatures, I would bury myself in a science lab. I already knew what I had to do—my caretaker had made sure of that.
You will infiltrate the Science Commission and become one of them. That way, when the time comes, you’ll have the security clearance we need.
Joining the A Level had been the first step in the process. A Level students were meant for greater things than raising families—a small sacrifice that would result in finding ways to save humanity. As long as I avoided any profession in the Legislature, I’d be able to hide my Carrier identity.
Civilization cannot last much longer in this rain, Jezebel. We can’t wait for another generation. It must happen through you.
It had been raining for thirty-seven years. When Naomi hadn’t been able to achieve A Level, she passed the role of Carrier onto me.
Wells’s voice echoed through the auditorium, his face taking on a red tinge. “Members of the Legislature are here to begin the recruiting process.”
If all the lights had been on, it would have been impossible to conceal the apprehension on my face.
Do not let the Legislature know who you really are. Avoid them at all costs.
Naomi’s words seemed to echo through my head until I wanted to scream.
They must never know you’re a Carrier.
I had known this as a young child. Every baby had a Harmony implanted in their right shoulder to suppress violent emotions that could lead to a rebellion and ultimately undo all of the Legislature’s carefully constructed programs to save our civilization.
I had been no different.
When I received my Harmony, Naomi removed the stitches and added a small chip into my shoulder—a Carrier key that I could use to start the generators. Built by the government in the second year of the rains, they could give civilization a second chance, but not without catastrophic risks, and that was my job as the Carrier of the key: to get all of the information necessary before taking those risks.
I realized that Sol was speaking to me—whispering. “They haven’t done this in a long time. It’s been at least ten years since the Legislature recruited anyone.”
Words tried to form around my dry mouth. “What does Wells mean by recruiting?
I asked the question, but it was easy enough to guess.
“Specialized training at the University,” Sol said. “You’ll be separated from the rest and undergo rigorous testing. If you pass, you’re recruited.” His gray eyes held mine, and his breath brushed my face.
I absolutely could not go through any testing. Naomi was Taken soon after I reached A Level, but she had warned me plenty about recruiting.
From your first class, you must make your intentions clear. You must excel in your science courses so they’ll steer you toward those vocations.
Naomi’s caretaker had passed the chip to her before surrendering her own life. If there were any other Carriers, Naomi didn’t know them, which meant I was on my own.
Doors slid open behind us, and the recruiters entered the room, their steps almost silent as they walked. They didn’t look any different than other government officials—they all wore the sun badge as a sign of the Solstice—but somehow that made them all the more frightening. Often what looked harmless on the outside was anything but on the inside.