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CHOSEN

A Paranormal, Sci-Fi, Dystopian Novel

 SAMPLE – PREVIEW

 

Book One
of the Chosen Series

 

ADVANCED REVIEW COPY

UNCORRECTED PROOF

 

By A. BERNETTE


 

ADVANCED REVIEW COPY

UNCORRECTED PROOF

Title: CHOSEN

Author: A. Bernette

Publication Date: July 29, 2016

Formats: Paperback and eBook

Classification – Science Fiction, Fiction, Paranormal, Dystopian, Young Adult, Visionary and Metaphysical, Futuristic Fiction, Genetic Engineering Science Fiction

Word Count: Apx 91,500

Official release on 7/29/2016

Paperback: ISBN-13: 978-0692743607

ISBN-10: 069274360X

Trim: 5.5 x 8.5

Page Length: Apx. 330

Paperback Price: $14.95 USD

eBook: ASIN – B01H7TAQXW

eBook Price: $1.99 Pre-order


Copyright © 2016 A. Bernette
Published by Wonder Works Services, LLC Atlanta, GA

All rights reserved by A. Bernette

Twitter @AuthorBernette
www.Facebook.com/AuthorBernette

Amazon.com/Author/Bernette

www.Bernette.net

 



 

Common Terms Used in Series

ARC:  Antarctic Research Center

SEP Agents/Officers:  Security, Enforcement, and Protection Agents or Officers

PDU:  Personal Disposal Units

ROC Room:  Research, Observation, and Control Room

RePM or RePM Division:  Relocation and Population Management Division

Southern Allegiance:  South America

Northern Allegiance:  North America

Northern Liberty:  Europe

Southern Liberty:  Africa

Eastern Way:  Asia and India

New South City:  Atlanta, Georgia

 


 

 

Chapter One

Crossroads

 

 

Location: Unnamed
Time: Unmeasured

 

 

“WE ARE AT a crossroads. If something drastic doesn’t happen and happen soon, we will not be able to continue,” Kean said moving slowly across the space in front of Yin, San, and Cho.

“What we need to win this battle has yet to be retrieved and the Chosen don’t seem completely up to the task. Everything else is happening is to ensure that things are right when we finally get there. If they don’t get to the end, all we have done up until now is a waste,” he warned his three Earth Council members.

They were absent sensation in the empty space of nothingness. No heat, no cold, and no discomfort. It simply was, without justification or explanation for being. There was no depth or parameters by which to perceive any measure of space or time. This is where they existed, in their refuge from what was once their home, but was no more.

If they wanted to have a life outside of the void, it would have to be Earth or they would be forced to wait, possibly thousands of years longer. Yin, San, and Cho sat uncomfortably in this void, under the studious gaze of Master Councilman Kean who was scrupulously estimating every possibility.

Kean had been selected to oversee the midlife projects including those on planet XM-471, also known as Earth. Before they’d come into the space that has no name he already knew what they would communicate to him and he’d forbidden them to speak it into the vibratory force.

His almond shaped amber eyes with golden flecks reminded his team of a lion, strong and fierce especially when needed. Dark grey hair crowned his head where much darker hair had finally given way, but he still had the vigor of his youth. He considered each member of his team one by one, gathering their thoughts as if picking them out of a muddled soup.

Their thoughts, ideas, and solutions on the problem they faced were all jumbled, floating about in one large kettle set on high heat. It was the problem they’d been trying to solve since they had initially been sent to XM-471.

That was before the humans even began truly measuring time themselves or even had the concept of it. It was when Kean and his kind had lost something critical to remaining viable on planet XM-471. He now second guessed the Council’s decision to do the program as they had done it.

Success required such a specific combination available only from their people, the humans, and something that had only been possible in the last human generation. But that was a decision already made, and now the four of them, along with the rest of their surviving people, had to live with it.

“I am unimpressed with the prognosis, with what has happened to date, and even with the prospects for the plan as it stands. Time and time again I’ve seen the senseless slaughter of the innocents. The metallic taste of blood is still etched in my memory from where it seeped into grassy battlefields, forever staining the land like a curse. I have watched the burning carcasses tied on stakes. Those charred bodies that once contained the screams that wracked their dying bodies,” Kean shook his head, but the memories never left. What he’d seen was unforgettable and it was the reason he was nearly out of hope for XM-471.

But he continued, for the benefit of those looking to him to lead them to final home and the three before him who hadn’t been involved in the mission as long as he had. “I’ve heard the sound of body clapping against body as they rolled down dirt embankments to shallow unmarked mass graves. We all know too well how the scent of rotting flesh could fill the air for miles.” He let the image hang on the emptiness of the space, allowing their silence fill the void.

If he let himself think about it he could still sniff the scent of death around him. He’d witnessed the sorrow and mourning of those left behind, searching for a token or a memento among the dead and decaying bodies before covering them or burning them, and in those moments he’d wept with them.

Kean spoke again, this time without the drama of reminding them of the wretchedness he’d seen in humanity.

“They’ve had chances to change, chances to prove they could be good stewards of the planet and nurture it, together. But time and time again I’ve had to conclude that this species is too immature and stubborn, and it could be many more millennia before they will be mature enough to participate as an ally or hold a place as a member of the Master Council of the Unseens,” Kean said with a shake of his head.

“They are making progress – at least now,” Cho spoke up hesitantly.

“Unfortunately, we don’t have millennia. We cannot continue living in the void, borrowing temporary homes of our allies as our population dwindles to nothing. Now…it has to be now,” Kean said before his thoughts passed beyond that moment.

Looking in on XM-471 now, with its beautiful greens and blues, it floated like a beautiful giant ball – brilliant and bright.  It once held so much promise. He wished he were wrong but he was sure he had been right in his assessment. They needed the current plan to be successful. Otherwise, if the human species was successful in making their home planet uninhabitable, the subject XM-471 would be no more.

Earth, as it was called, would be classified as no longer viable as a possible home until the planet healed and allowed new life to begin again. Until then it would be among the ranks of the other young fading stars that were stuck in an endless rotation waiting to sustain life.

Kean reflected on his rocky tenure and the number of other young systems he’d studied and tried valiantly to guide, only to see them lay waste to themselves. None had made it even as far as Earth.

When Earth made a major shift towards industrialization nearly two hundred fifty years before, Yin had been assigned to the Earth Council. She was the youngest and newest member of the Council. She still held onto the hope that the Chosen eight and their Keepers, a group they’d been designing and cultivating for generations, could find success where others had failed. Yin believed that with the eight and the aid of the Loyalists, Earth could be saved from itself.

Yin looked out the side of her eye at her fellow Council members, San and Cho. They were all reluctant to look directly into the golden eyes of Master Councilman Kean. They could feel his disappointment crawl along their nearly non-existent skin and then slip through underneath, where it would linger.

Failure would be devastating, leaving them and their fellow beings caught in the void while a search continued for a new home. They were the last chance for Earth, the final Council group that would be assigned to the planet. If they could not save Earth, the planet would be abandoned as unsalvageable and the allies would move on.

 


 

Chapter Two

Serum

 

 

University of Southern Allegiance in Santoria, Southern Allegiance

Year 2149

 

 

  1. CLAUDIA LIMA prepared the last dose for the final pair of the Chosen. Within the month she would head to Antarctica to administer the specially formulated serum during the thirty-ninth week, as she’d done for the others. It had taken her nearly twenty years of research to come up with a combination that met the Council’s requirements after the failed initial experiment.

The Chosen had to have the vibrational energy of the continents infused into their DNA along with the proper levels of testosterone to accompany the serum initially approved, but that she’d adapted later for their needs.

At the time, the request had sent her reeling, at a loss for how to do what was asked. However, as years passed and she progressed in her research she’d found the solution, as she had eventually done with the unique use of quartz. The Council had given her the idea but she still had to make it a reality.

Years of research and trial and error had led her to identify a key crystal that naturally formed on each continent. She’d broken them down to their chemical elements and integrated them into the serum. The children would forever hold the vibration of their birth continent and together, the vibrations of the earth.

It was a breakthrough that had taken longer than the Council had hoped, but before then the science and technology hadn’t even been available. The solution came quickly once they were. Despite having found the answer, the work and administration of the serum hadn’t been without it’s setbacks and Dr. Lima was concerned with the shortcomings in the current program.

Ren had been the first, and after his injection and reaction, she’d been forced to revisit the delicate balance of all the chemicals and crystals used. He didn’t have the benefit of the quartz crystal in his serum like the others. Alexis was her second charge and she’d only added a small amount of the quartz and green chrysoprase.

Looking back she probably could have added more but she didn’t want to have a repeat of the violent reaction experienced during Ren’s birth. Not even Kim knew how close she’d come to dying during the seizure she’d had after he was born.

She’d given one last push and the serum that flowed through both of them caused the seizure that rendered her unconscious and unresponsive while Ren fought more than any newborn should have had to. When Kim woke a few minutes later Ren was still crying but she had no memory of anything after the last push. She took him to nurse, never knowing how close she’d come to death.

Marco’s had been uneventful and his mother had agreed to it for health purposes. She’d served during the wave of the flu that was going around at the time and saw the lives it claimed. If a shot during pregnancy could protect her son, she would do it. Dr. Lima smiled at the memory of Teresa before her thoughts turned to the one mother who hadn’t made it. She quickly pushed that memory aside. The child had survived and was still thriving, healthier than most who came through the line of Descendants.

There were still the last two children and she needed to remain focused on the present. She shook her head and filled the vials with the serum, placing them delicately into her small silver box lined with soft thick foam. She placed the box inside of a black portfolio size briefcase which she then placed into her medical bag.

She’d done what the Council had asked and as she was committed to do as a Loyalists. They all had to do their part for the mission to be a success. She’d given her entire career to designing the formula and identifying the parents who would bear the children chosen to heal the world of its corruption and abuse. After this, she would be nearly done and could perhaps find more time for her real job at the university.

Her private lab was funded by an unnamed group of other Loyalists and held the serums administered to the prior six infants. The first ones were already toddlers. After the twins were born her last job connected to the administration would be to clear the data from the systems so the children could not be found or identified later. As she wrote her daily report, she let herself play with the idea of being done with this phase of her life.

The research she’d begun as a doctoral student of twenty-five had taken her to nearly forty-five years old and brought her in contact with amazing people, including the three Keepers under her guidance. Sometimes, she thought it funny that she’d been chosen to be their guide even though she wasn’t that much older than any of them.

She considered her daydream of being done despite knowing the Council wanted more from her after this. She was still only in her forties. She still had plenty of time to live.


 

Chapter Three

Birth

 

 

Antarctic Research Center
Year 2149

 

 

ZURA WHIPPED HER chair around, almost causing herself to fall out. “What the hell?!” A few of the individual twists escaped the black hair she’d neatly tucked into a bun that morning. What she’d seen was a flash of bright gold, like a small burst of brilliant sunlight, coming from behind. It had caught her eye, startling her. The room seemed to be brighter now as the walls pushed out ever so slightly from whatever energetic force she’d just seen and felt.

She couldn’t imagine what the source of the disturbance might be. Something else was in there despite the fact that she was alone in the research and observation center until that point. Johan was leading the engineers and not many people wanted to risk interrupting her these days, unless they had a good reason.

Zura scanned the room briefly before her eyes were drawn to the spot. She could see it – the thing that initially appeared as a flash of gold. Steadying herself to stand up from her seat and she placed her weight on her swollen feet and ankles. Upon closer inspection, it was actually a glowing and pulsing ball of golden light. She’d heard of these strange energetic anomalies before, these orbs, but had never seen one herself. They came in the form of a sphere – pure energy, and the only thing that they could carry was pure energy and vibration. This light carried sound, a message for her.

She waddled quickly across the floor, not wanting it to disappear. As she reached for the light the orb sensed Zura’s energy approaching, and began to vibrate, releasing the message.

“The two are one, daughter and son. Protect and nurture them in their gifts and abilities. They are special and unique, but do not fear, their purpose will be clear. You are all here to help save the world.”

As the words ended, the ball of light immediately vanished into thin air, not a trace of its glow remaining. Zura stretched her fingers out to touch where it had been. She could feel intense energy in her fingertips and the warmth went through her hands. The vibration and heat continued to burrow into her hands and up her arms, sending shivers through her body.

The intensity of the pulsations grew stronger and centered around her abdomen, before giving her a tingling sensation and disappearing. Then the remaining energy in the air was gone, evaporating as the light had. Zura reached down and felt her stomach. She stood there as time stood still, cradling her womb and the twins she carried inside of her. Fear and shock continued to resonate through her body as she grappled with trying to understand what she’d seen, heard, and felt.

The beeping sound from her watch brought Zura back from her daze. She stopped the beeping and swayed towards her chair. It was Johan but he would have to wait. She plopped back into her seat with a thud and tried to quickly jot down what she’d just heard. It had all happened so fast, but she’d gotten the idea. After scribbling down the message she checked to see if the recording system had picked up the strange occurrence.

At the same time, she wondered what it meant, whether to get Johan and tell him, and if he would believe her even if she did. Silently she watched the playback. The sound had gone out completely but she could still see the flash of energy.

What she’d seen as a bright golden ball showed up like a bright orb on the screen, looking like something was wrong with the video quality, but that was all. It wasn’t anything identifiable or provable. It wouldn’t hold up to Johan’s scientific inquiry. She would have to keep it to herself.

 

 

Two Months Later

 

“Aaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhh!” An ear piercing scream escaped Zura’s parched chapped lips. Sweat glistened on her forehead and tiny beads slowly followed the path to her neck. Curled tendrils formed across along her hairline from the moisture. After hours of labor her tears had all but run out and now she was just trying to hold on through the next painful contraction.

She stared up at the white blocked ceiling, looking for her focus spot. The tiny greyish colored blemish in the otherwise perfectly smooth white ceiling. Bright bulbs meant to aid the staff in seeing gave Zura the feeling of an uncomfortable interrogation room.

As she searched for the elusive spot, she faded between being with everyone else in the room and zoning out. The only other thought running through her head repetitively was possibly killing Johan for his part in her present condition. He stood in the corner silently, rocking as if in shock, unsure of what to do and safely out of her reach.

She could smack him right now for shutting down while she endured the last of humanity’s unjustifiable burdens. Zura felt like she might have been hallucinating as she looked over at him once again and he was still standing there. She hadn’t just knocked him down along with that stupid look on his face like she’d imagined. The trick on her mind pissed her off even more.

As she screamed in the sanitized room attended by the staff doctor, a small private white aircraft slowly entered the strangely quiet hangar and stopped, hovering over the yellow plus sign painted on the grey cement floor. Mave, with her dark hair pulled into a high pony-tail, waited in the hangar for the craft, just inside of the small room to the side. She peered out of the tinted window as the door to the aircraft slowly lowered, dropping stairs to the floor.

When the stairs hit the floor, Dr. Claudia Lima jumped out carrying a bulky black case with a red medical sign. Mave had barely let them off the craft before yelling at them to hurry. She and the two doctors following her were all running behind Mave who’d come out of the office when Dr. Lima appeared in the doorway of the plane. She’d been waiting for more than thirty minutes.

She wasn’t her usual patient self. Patience wasn’t a luxury any of them could afford at that moment.

It was happening and if they didn’t get there fast, there would be death on their hands. What they were about to do couldn’t be proven to work successfully, not in humans at least. The official results had always been mixed, causing skepticism and abandonment.

What they were using wasn’t part of any official program. It had never been officially tested or sanctioned and in fact, outside of a small circle, didn’t exist. Still it was the only chance they had to give the improved treatment to the two children struggling to be born early.

Mave sprinted ahead of the group, her boots hitting the smooth concrete floor of the hangar, light and quick. Dr. Lima and the others struggled to keep up, their bags jostling beside them. They were soon at the entrance to the building where everything seemed to stand still, waiting for a miracle. Mave looked back to make sure she had everyone.

“Hurry! Only take what you need for the surgery!” she yelled behind her as she pressed her wrist against the scanner to open the door. The four were through, dropping their bags on the inside. They didn’t need any extra weight slowing them down as they made it to the medical center. The door closed behind them trapping the freezing cold air in the hangar.

Mave rushed through a confusing labyrinth of intricate honeycomb style tunnels. Different pastel colors of each honeycomb section blurred together as they went from one honeycomb to the next through the connecting hallways. Dr. Lima and her team, lighter without their luggage, followed close as Mave barked at them to keep up. Sprinting ahead, Mave hoped it wasn’t too late. As they got closer, another sharp scream pierced the tunnel they were in.

The stainless steel door with a single rectangular window slammed against the wall as Mave rushed into the birthing room. Soft meditative music meant to inspire a Zen-like state played uselessly through the speaker system. Zura lay on the water supported bed, her head thrown back into the plush down pillow. Her screams and cries sprayed like knives slicing through the intended peacefulness of the room, muting the music.

Zura could taste the beads of sweat that formed above her lip and seeped into the corners of her mouth. She’d only read of births like this happening before modern medicine. It was because of her stubbornness that she was living through what must have been the last original torture of womanhood.

“God damnit! What the hell took you so long? I am dying here. I am literally… dying… here!” Zura’s eyes narrowed and then went wide again as she went through another contraction. After it passed, she had just enough time to spew venom at Mave and the other three as they slinked into the room behind her.

“Well, we are here now. So shut up and let us help,” Mave said as she checked Zura’s vitals on the screen and then felt Zura’s full lumpy abdomen. The babies were restless. She listened for the heartbeats of the twins inside of her. They were struggling just as hard as Zura to be freed from the one world they’d known but they couldn’t come out just yet.

“Claudia, your team needs to prep the serum and get it ready to inject. I’ll pull up the view of the twins. Zura, just lay there as best as you can. Dr. Lima brought a local anesthetic with her. It’ll help with some of the pain, but you’ll still have to fight through it. I’m sorry,” Mave said, squeezing Zura’s hand.

Zura gripping the silicone wrapped support bars on either side of her, stared at the hand Mave held and the sky blue silicone beneath her hand. She then shot a look over at Johan and caught a glimpse of his terrified blue eyes looking back at her.

The team was working as fast as they could. What had felt like a spacious birthing room now felt cramped as the half dozen people moved around the equipment and bed. Mave gave Zura a small red pill and then sprayed Zura’s stomach with the anesthetic. Tiny pinpricks stung all over her skin as it soaked in. Fifteen seconds later it turned to a dull sensation covering an eight inch diameter area on her abdomen.

“It takes three minutes for the combination to work. Then we can administer the serum,” Dr. Lima said trying to reassure an anxious Zura.

She grabbed Zura’s hand briefly before continuing to prep the double shot of serum. She’d done the procedure several times before, but never with twins.

Mave looked across the room at Johan. He was still in the same spot that Zura swore she’d kicked his behind in, twice. Leaning against the wall in the corner motionless but conscious, as if he’d been turned into petrified wood. His eyes were blank and his mouth partly open as he took in what felt like chaos. Zura couldn’t see straight enough to notice him now.

“Get over here Johan. Hold your wife’s hand and stop standing in the corner like you are a used up box of tissues. You aren’t the one about to push out two frickin’ babies, are you!?” Johan snapped out of his trance and rushed over to Zura’s bedside. He took one of her hands and held it. At that moment her grip tightened around his, squeezing hard as she let out another blood curdling scream.

They were hoping for a miracle with this serum. It was officially designed for premature infants and it was meant to serve as an intrauterine immune system booster and metabolizer. The addition to the basic serum was controversial and some had disagreed that it was necessary or that it should even be used, given the potential risks.

However, Zura and Johan, being stuck in Antarctica, asked for it even with the risks. The benefits would give their twins the best chance for health and survival. That and Zura’s faith that what Mave told her was going to be true had convinced them. The additional modification was added to the serum after the serum had passed inspection.

The only people who knew about it were Zura, Johan, Mave and Dr. Claudia Lima. It was a special chemical that processed through the blood and attached to the bodies’ natural antibodies and was. Over time it would restrict the host’s DNA like a mutation whenever it learned how to fight an attacker, and then alter the genetics for future use. It was an internal weapon against illness, disease, and degeneration.

The more recent testing on mice yielded very promising results after several modifications to levels of testosterone and the bonding process to the DNA. This was the last of the doses to be given. After the twins were born, the eight Chosen children would have received the serum. This time, unlike the generation before, it had to work.

The long-term effects couldn’t be known yet and with only six other humans injected there wasn’t much empirical evidence. What they had seen from the six who’d received it had been mostly positive, so far. It had only been a couple of years, but that was all the data they had to go on. It would have to be enough.

Zura looked at Mave, her face wrenched in pain and fear. She was second guessing their decision. She wrestled with whether they were doing the right thing, if it would even work, or if she was killing her babies with it. She began sobbing, with no tears and unable to speak, the pain of the contractions had stolen her voice. She’d put them in this situation and she had to ensure their survival in any way she could.

“We don’t have much time. The serum only works when the babies are in the womb and have at least a few minutes for the serum to work through their system,” Dr. Lima said.

“We are cutting this really close. These babies are already in position to come out.” Mave looked at her watch and waited as a few more seconds went by.

The ideal situation would have been to wait until the babies were fully developed at thirty-nine weeks, but for Zura and the twins, the ideal wasn’t an option. The twins were coming six weeks early. They could only hope that there would at least be those few minutes after the serum was injected for it to process in their bodies before they left the dark cramped safety of Zura’s womb.

“Okay. Go now!” Mave yelled. It was finally time to begin administering the serum.

Dr. Lima and her team watched the infants on the monitor. They would inject the one closest to coming out with the serum first. Just as they were about to place the needle, they paused as Zura let out another scream. A few more of those and they would be out of time.

The cries of new life sounded through the halls as tears streamed down Zura and Johan’s cheeks. The sound of Mave’s long sigh was eclipsed by the twins. Dr. Lima smiled as she wiped her brow. They’d done it.

The screams given from Stella’s strong lungs overtook the light whimpering of her brother Stephen. She reached for him instinctively as his eyes searched for her. He struggled with the overwhelming stress, lights, and being dragged by Stella into the strange place.

Both lying against Zura’s chest, Stella found his hand and wrapped hers around it.

 

 


 

Chapter Four

Undercurrents

 

 

Rift Valley in Southern
Year: 2165

 

 

“Do you feel that?” Delia shouted out to her mother, Marie. She jumped up from where she sat against the white headboard of her extra-long twin bed. The headboard banged lightly against the wall, partly from her and partly from the tremor. She looked at her off-white walls. Was that hairline crack there before? The royal blue and white bedspread lay rumpled underneath her.

For the past hour, she’d been putting information into a small tablet she used to enter data at least once a month for the past six months. Still carrying it, she strode into the living room unable to ignore the persistent shaking.

“Of course I do. It’s almost over,” Marie said coming into the living room. Delia stood there looking out the window at the buildings surrounding theirs and thinking of all the people living around them. The old buildings made from stone and cement were now painted brilliant shades of purples, blues, greens, yellows, and clay reds dotted the city.

Direct sunlight rarely graced their unit because of the buildings that surrounded them that partially blocked it from view. Her neighborhood was filled with tall residences, apartments, and condos, all overflowing with people. The purple high-rise across the street from her had a finger wide crack that ran along the side. Although the crack had begun when the building settled naturally, she’d noticed it continue to spread over the ten plus years they’d lived there.

Her building was newer, with windows that stretched from her waist all the way to the aqua blue coffered ceilings, framed in eggshell white. From those windows near the top of the skyscraper, she had an enviable view of the city’s aging but colorful skyline.

She was high enough to see the rooftops of most of the buildings around them. The hills in the distance were even visible from where she stood. She saw the same hills that hid the site of one of the larger pump holes, built years before, despite the overwhelming citizen protests that in the end hadn’t mattered.

She loved the Rift Valley with the mountains and hills that greeted the rising sun and the colors that had made her home so attractive to millions of people. If she got up early she could go to the hills and look east to catch the sunrise. Dotted with trees, grass, and dirt they were filled with the beautiful green she loved. It was a luxury in the city to have the trees and grass anywhere in view.

“They’re getting more frequent,” Delia said to her mother who sat down on the orange sofa and turned on the news.

“I don’t remember it being like this other years, at least not as long as we’ve lived here,” Marie said.

“I was thinking the same thing,” Delia said as she sat down next to Marie.

“Every time I look at the news coming in, they keep talking about these tremors and small quakes. They keep saying it’s just the season,” said Marie.

She scanned the channels until she found a woman in the media blue uniform and an artificial tan talking about the tremors before turning it over to the local newsperson. Marie waited expectantly to hear what was being reported for the city this time.

Marie was struggling to remain patient with all that was going on. Delia looked over at her as she pulled at her chin. She could feel her mother’s worry and could tell her mother was thinking hard about something.

“I thought last year things were worse than normal, but this is even more than last year.” Delia was trying to separate her mother’s discomfort from her own.

“No, it’s not normal. It’s gotten worse and it’s not getting better,” Marie said looking out the window and back to the screen.

The local newswoman from the northern part of Southern Liberty appeared and started reporting on the tremors happening as being normal. A perfect white smile greeted the billion plus viewers before she began.

With practiced confidence she said, “Citizens of Southern Liberty, please know that there’s nothing to worry about. According to some of our best scientists, this type of seemingly increased seismic activity happens every so often. Sometimes it takes a few generations, sometimes less, but don’t be concerned about the small tremors. We have it on authority from those in the highest branches of government that all is well.”

Her big brown eyes and long dark lashes batted at the camera as she smiled again. She turned to her cohost who then moved on to other news about productivity being down because of a forced shut down of some of the active emissions pumps, including one in Southern Liberty. Delia shook her head as the reporter spoke about how negatively it was impacting the economy and the long-term impact on employment if it continued.

Marie snapped the news off, shaking her head back and forth in disbelief. She began pacing around the spacious kitchen and living room before stopping in the kitchen – she needed some tea. She pressed a button on the refrigerator before taking out her favorite ceramic mug with drawings of green creeping vines on it.

She rolled the cup in her palms waiting for the water to heat up. The lemon ginseng tea would help calm her for now. As Marie poured the hot water into her cup she felt the vibrations rolling beneath her feet again, just as Delia felt them under hers.

“I don’t think we are going to get any better answers, at least not from where we’re supposed to be looking,” said Marie as her eyes followed the small circles forming at the top of her tea as the tremor went through her to the water.

“What do you mean?” Delia asked, now curious about what her mother might not be telling her.

“You know exactly what I mean Delia. We hear what they are saying but what we really need to hear is what they aren’t saying.”

“Do you think we are going to have an earthquake like the ones they’ve had on the coasts of Southern Allegiance?” Delia asked with deep concern.

“I don’t know, Delia. I keep thinking that the one we heard about may just be one of many others we haven’t heard about. I just don’t have a good feeling about what we are being told or about any of the information reported. It really makes me wonder how many others haven’t even made the main news. What I do know is that we keep getting more tremors like the ones we are getting now and more of these small quakes. Eventually it will lead to something bigger, it’s just a matter of time. I just hope we aren’t here when it happens,” Marie said.

“Where would we go?” Delia wondered aloud. “We don’t have family anywhere else.”

“That’s a good question Delia, but I don’t want you to worry about that right now,” Marie said. She let her eyes fall back to the tea cup where the water had now settled. She placed the tea pod inside the mug avoiding Delia’s eyes that were filled with questions.

Delia could feel her mother’s discomfort. She wanted to ask the questions that sat at the tip of her tongue, pressing against the back of her lips, longing to be spoken but thought better of it. Something else was already weighing on her, and Delia never wanted to be an extra burden or cause her more stress.

“How do we find out what’s really going on?” Delia asked.

The moment the question came out another tremor, much stronger than the others shook their apartment. The cup of tea Marie had now placed on the table to steep shook, spilling over the sides, and Delia could hear something fall off the shelf somewhere at the back of their unit.

“Are we supposed to just sit here and wait for this to get worse?” Delia stood up and asked her mom. “I’m sorry Mom. I didn’t mean it like that. They are evacuating us but still feeding us these lies? They keep reporting it like it’s all separate and isolated. It’s not just here. It’s happening in other places too. Everywhere that’s along a ridge or one of those tectonic plates is getting more of these. They may only register as between twos and fours on their Richter scale but still someone should be talking about it. No one is! I think they’re full of bull,” Delia said, her voice rising.

“Watch your tone, Delia,” Marie said out of habit.

Delia shook her head. She wouldn’t argue with her mom, but she couldn’t be sorry about how she felt.

“I know it doesn’t make much sense but I still need you to try and respect that we are under the World Consensus. We will know the things we need to know, the things that are important, when the time is right. In the meantime there may be other things you can figure out just because it makes sense. I can’t answer it for you. At the same time, I don’t want you stirring anything up or asking the wrong people questions. You understand that Delia? You can’t afford to be considered as disloyal,” Marie said grabbing her arms to make sure she understood.

“Okay. I got it – as always,” Delia said backing away, trying not to show any more of her resentment at the whole situation.

“Delia, one more thing. Whatever happens, no matter what happens, keep asking questions. Keep searching for the truth. It is there. It’s not always popular to go after it, but look around you and you will find out the truth.”

Delia grabbed the door handle. “It seems pretty pointless asking questions mom, when no one is willing to give you an answer.”

“I love you Delia,” Marie called out as Delia pulled the door open.

She walked out the door, tempted to slam it but instead closing it softly, her tablet still in her hand.

 

***

 

Lyn heard the familiar ‘knock knock knock’ on the door and knew immediately who it was. Delia stood just outside the sterile looking white door marked with the silver numbers 32-11 in script. She leaned against the silvery metal frame with a look of frustration written all over her face, waiting for Lyn.

“Hey Lyn, what do you think about all those tremors we just had?” Delia asked as soon as she saw Lyn’s face around the edge of the cracked door. Delia sauntered in and sat down on the simple wood-framed sofa.

“I don’t know. It’s more than we had back home,” Lyn said moving away from the door.

“They seem to be coming a lot. I nearly fell on that last one. Of course, I was standing on one leg,” Ms. C chimed in with a shrug.

Ms. C and Lyn had been in the living room practicing their Tai Chi. Their large unit was inspired by their other home in the Eastern Way. What had been traditional art from the Orient lay in Feng Shui inspired groupings and patterns around the few small tables.

A large bust of a man who’d been called Buddha sat in the corner of the living room near a plant that had clearly been well cultivated and loved. Ms. C had brought it with them from the Eastern Way. She’d gotten bold and even painted a large yin yang symbol on the wall opposite the door. She called it her inspirational centerpiece.

Ms. C and Lyn had just relocated from the Eastern Way Region a year earlier. Lyn’s father was an executive at one of the larger corporations manufacturing recyclable clothing and had been relocated to expand the business in the Southern Liberty Region. He divided his time between the Eastern Way and Southern Liberty. He was back in their home region now and Lyn and Ms. C would be joining him there for the evacuation.

Lyn spoke softly to Delia, “It wasn’t that bad though right? I mean you get these all the time here, right?” Lyn asked looking for reassurance.

“No, we didn’t used to. You haven’t been here long, but this is not normal,” Delia paused. “And here we go again. It’s like a slow but continuous ripple,” she said.

“It is happening more often, and not just here,” Ms. C said to Delia and Lyn.

“We are going out for a walk, mom,” Lyn said before walking towards the door.

“See you Ms. C,” Delia said following Lyn out the door.

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