Published by: Blaze Publishing
Publication date: September 20th 2016
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
After a financial collapse devastates the United States, the new government imposes a tax on the nation’s most valuable resource—the children.
Surrendered at age ten—after her parents could no longer afford her exorbitant fees—Vee Delancourt has spent six hard years at the Mills, alongside her twin, Oliver. With just a year to freedom, they do what they can to stay off the Master’s radar. But when Vee discovers unspeakable things happening to the younger girls in service, she has no choice but to take a stand—a decision that lands her on the run and outside the fence for the first time since the System robbed her of her liberty.
Vee knows the Master will stop at nothing to prove he holds ultimate authority over the Surrendered. But when he makes a threat that goes beyond what even she considers possible, she accepts the aid of an unlikely group of allies. Problem is, with opposing factions gunning for the one thing that might save them all, Vee must find a way to turn oppression and desperation into hope and determination—or risk failing all the children and the brother she left behind.
Here's a video of the 1st chapter reading by the author: https://youtu.be/ZY_tGuxPLyI
A sinking feeling washes over me. “We’re going to Meadowood.”He responds without opening his eyes, “I want answers.”
I start to argue that this will be a fool’s errand, but in truth, I want the same answers he does. “Do you think the man who rescued Oliver was with the Southies?”
“I don’t know who else it could’ve been.” He sits up and stretches. “It must’ve been them, and I want to know why they changed the plan without informing us. The Master and his Regulators got to the rooftop very quickly after I fired that shot. I have to wonder if someone told them we were there.”
“You think the Southies took Oliver to get the combination and then set the Regulators on us? Why would they do that?”
He rubs his face. “It doesn’t make any sense. But something’s not adding up.”
I ponder this, thinking about my brother’s strange plea. “I know you think I’m insane, but I can’t help but feel like Oliver knew someone was going to take him; I swear it felt like he was speaking to me when he said not to interfere. But that doesn’t make any sense, either. He’s been behind the fence for years.”
Cason yawns and tries to shake off the effects of the Papaver. “I don’t think you’re crazy; his message did seem odd for someone who was about to hang for a crime he didn’t commit. I don’t know, but hopefully he’ll be at Meadowood and you can ask him yourself.”
My mood elevates as I realize I may only be hours away from a reunion with my brother. The pain in my arm forgotten, I try to concentrate only on this knowledge, confident we’ll have our answers soon enough. “I didn’t get a chance to thank you for earlier. You could’ve just turned me over to the Master and walked away, but you didn’t. I’m grateful for that.”
I feel a little embarrassed as soon as the words leave my mouth. Normally I’m not one to share my feelings, but the Papaver Flower makes me breathless and lightheaded and loosens my tongue.
He reaches for me, careful not to jostle my splinted wrist, and pulls my face to his. “I’m probably going to ruin that sentiment by telling you the Master would never have let me go anyway, but know this—” he runs the pad of his thumb along my lower lip and meets my eyes “—if everyone else in the entire world leaves you to fend for yourself, if your father, your mother, your brother disappoint you, if God himself decides you aren’t worthy . . . you’ll still be able to count on me. I’ve got your back, Vera.”
What if the Master takes out his anger over our escape on Cason?
I freeze. The Master witnessed firsthand how much I care for Cason, and it’s not outside the realm of possibility that he may use him to punish me for running. Just like they used Oliver.
I look over to see Ramsey sitting quietly with her back against the stone wall. She’s retreated within herself again, her eyes glazed and unfocused on the dirt floor at her feet. The doubts bombard me. If I attempt to save myself, I put Cason at risk. If I don’t, I put Ramsey at risk. It’s almost too much to expect me to choose between two lives. One thing’s for sure. Someone has to die.
Through our rebellions and shows of defiance, we’ve weakened the power that the System holds over the community. Beginning with Ramsey’s killing of the Overseer, my escape and then Oliver’s, and with word spreading quickly of John William’s rerouting of the Drudgers back to their families and to underground locations, we have no doubt made people question: If just a few teenagers and a Farm owner could cause such trouble, what might happen if a more organized effort occurred?
In order to set things back to the way they were, to take back their position at the top of the food chain, the System needs a body to show what will happen to those who revolt. I know they won’t stop until they have one to give.
My whole life I’ve had to fight for myself. I’ve fought hunger and hatred and terror and despair. I’ve fought for any freedoms I could get and for any joy I could garner. I’ve fought for my own sanity. But most of all, I’ve fought to hold onto hope. Because somewhere deep inside me I know that without hope, there’s nothing. Ramsey’s right. I use my anger as a mechanism to keep me fighting. It’s what has always made me strong. But now . . . I literally feel the fight leave me. I know that I’ve reached the end of my battle.
If they want a body, they’ll get one. But it won’t be Ramsey’s. And it sure as hell won’t be Cason’s.
“Ramsey, snap out of it.”
The hand he places on my arm has a comforting effect. “I can’t begin to imagine why she’d do that to you and your brother. Or why she’d feel any different about doing it to Jane. All I can say for sure is that The Tax changes people—loss changes people. Maybe knowing she was going to have to surrender you and Oliver was her undoing, and in response she put up imaginary barriers to protect herself from the harsh reality of it.”
My guffaw is unladylike to say the least. “I didn’t know you were a psychologist, Doctor Hale.”
Throwing his hands up in mock defense, he laughs with me. “Just saying. We all handle grief in different ways. And what do you know about psychology, having been behind the fence all these years?”
“You’d be surprised how much you learn about the mind and behavior behind the fence.” When his smile falters, I add, “Actually, my parents took great pains to ensure Oliver and I were educated early. We couldn’t afford to go to school, but I don’t remember a single day before my surrender that wasn’t full of history, arithmetic, and all manner of science experiments.” What once was a fond memory now makes me scowl. “But that all stopped once we were turned over to the System. You’d think the Commander would want to educate those in his care, so that when they’re returned to society they can be productive members.”
The nerve in Cason’s jaw tics. “The Commander cares nothing for the rebuilding of society. His only concern lies in padding his pockets with the coin he receives from The Tax. He thinks it’s in his best interest to operate the System with oppression, because he’s afraid if the people feel hope, they’ll be more likely to rebel. And a rebellion might put an end to the gambit he has going.” He balls his hands into fists at his sides. “He just hasn’t yet realized that sometimes desperation actually breeds determination, not fear.”
His speech stirs a fire from within me, and I meet his eyes squarely. “And a determined spirit can change the course of history.”
He nods, watching me closely. “If society would realize there are more of us than there are of them . . . If they could somehow regain the pride that was lost during the Black Forty, they’d realize this country still belongs to the people and not to the System.”
Author Bio:With over 20 years’ experience in the legal and medical fields, Case Maynard decided to trade in her briefs and reports to write the stories that have been floating around in her head since childhood. She lives with her two teenagers and husband in South Georgia, while maintaining a long-distance liaison with her oldest daughter and partner in crime in Alaska. When not writing, she enjoys reading as often as possible, binge watching anything good on Netflix, and all things NCAA football (Go Noles!). You can learn more about Case and her stories on her website.
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