Desiree Six (because she was born on a Friday) believes in everything the Protectorate stands for. She likes the safety and security of having her entire life planned out—her career, her mate, even the date of her death. She doesn't even think to question when Darian, her childhood friend and neighbor, is convicted of murdering his parents. They had seemed like such a loving family. But if he was convicted, then he must have done it.
Then Darian shows up in her room late one night. He has escaped the Terrorscape—a nightmare machine used to punish all Noncompliants—and he needs Desiree's help. What he tells her rocks her world to its core and makes her doubt everything she's ever been told. With this new information, will Desiree and Darian be able to escape the Protectorate before it's too late?
|Publisher:||Entangled Publishing, LLC|
|File size:||3 MB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Shannon Duffy is a middle grade and young adult author. Born and raised in the scenic province of Newfoundland, she currently lives in beautiful Ontario. She also spends as much time as possible in Florida, which is her home away from home. If she's not hanging out with her family, she's writing or reading, working out, shopping, or trolling a beach somewhere tropical. Visit her at http://www.shannonduffylit.com.
Read an Excerpt
By Shannon Duffy, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Shannon Duffy
All rights reserved.
My nails bite into the edge of the sofa. I know my parents are stealing glances at me from the couch beside me, but I pretend not to notice, not to flinch. I keep my eyes locked onto the port screen.
There was a massive power shortage in Tower province last night — one that allowed a convict to escape from Olympus Jail. Normally, a jailbreak would be bad enough, but this wasn't just any convict. This was Darian One Sterling.
A murderer. And my childhood friend.
The newscaster scowls as Darian's picture flashes in an emergency announcement.
"Desiree," Dad says. He opens and closes his mouth, then shakes his head. I can tell my parents are worried I'll pity Darian because of our childhood friendship. But I don't. Going against The Protectorate wasn't just a violation. It was plain dumb. The Protectorate provides the citizens of Tower with everything we could need.
Darian's infraction, breaking into a head Protectorate office and stealing government files, is a serious crime. It would have led to at least five years in jail. But when his parents attempted to turn him in, Darian murdered them in cold blood. That's a crime punishable with life in the Terrorscape, where you experience the worst nightmares imaginable.
"He used to be such a good boy," Mom mumbles.
I know what she's thinking. She says it all the time about the convicts. The Protectorate guarantees, within a 99 percent accuracy rate, that every citizen will feel like he or she is a valuable part of society. Anyone who doesn't is just trouble.
Dad leans in toward the port screen, gazing at Darian's jail photo. Darian's dark hair has been buzzed short, and his crystal-blue eyes pierce the screen. "He isn't good anymore," Dad says, stealing another glance at me as if for a reaction.
I blow my hair out of my eyes with a huff, then turn to face Dad. "They'll find him," I say. "It's just a matter of time." Mom squints, studying my features. "Can you turn it off, please," I say, then yawn dramatically. "I'm going to bed." I smile and kiss them both on the cheek before I leave the room.
I don't really have to fake sleepiness because I'm actually exhausted. When the power outage occurred last night, the Dreamscape shut down. The whole province of Tower woke up in the middle of the night, so I didn't get my usual eight hours of sleep.
Without the Dreamscape, we can't sleep.
My parents remind me all the time about stories their parents told them, of how things were in the Manic Age. The time before our bodies were upgraded to sync with the amazing invention called the Dreamscape. Thirty-eight years ago, people actually had to fall asleep on their own and, sometimes, they would toss and turn for hours. My grandparents said when sleep, in its mercy, did come, it often brought with it horrible images I've heard people used to call nightmares.
The thought sends a chill rushing through my veins. In all my sixteen years of life, I've never experienced a single nightmare. The Protectorate manages our dreams — and our lives — to perfection.
Until last night when the power went out.
One power outage isn't really cause for concern, I remind myself.
I head across our flat toward my bedroom, my shoes clicking against the steel floor. Here in Emerson district, as in all of the six districts of Tower, The Protectorate ensures all homes are made with the finest steel walls and floors, and equipped with air- purifying systems. Viruses and ailments can't spread as easily in such an environment. Just another way they protect us — and another reason why Darian is so painfully ungrateful.
I scurry toward my large, steel bedroom door and press my face against its cool surface a moment. Darian got what he deserved. He's not the Darian of my childhood — the one who played jacks with me on the sidewalk, despite being a year older. Nor is he the Darian who stood up for me when Asher bullied me and called me Carrot Top until I cried. I'd tried telling Asher my hair was auburn and not like a carrot at all, but that just made him laugh harder. Darian shoved him down, threw sand in his face, and told him to leave me alone. At the time, I thought it was heroic, but now I realize it was a sign of the violence brewing inside him.
With a sigh, I push the door open and head toward my bed. I pass my drawing easel with barely a glance. Not even the bluest shades of azure and cobalt mixed with swirls of ivory on my current seascape can pull me away tonight. Slipping out of my shoes, I plunk down on my mattress, too tired to bother changing. I lie on my back and slip under the crisp, cool white sheets.
Even if I did feel bad for Darian, I wouldn't admit it. Siding with anyone who violates The Protectorate would make me Noncompliant. That would make me almost as corrupt as him. To side with those who violate The Protectorate is strictly forbidden and punishable by a week in the Terrorscape. Like always, whenever someone is jailed, the first five minutes of their time in the Terrorscape is televised nightly for all to witness. The thought of it makes me shudder. And the shame it would bring on my family is the stuff I believe nightmares are truly made of.
No, I'm not Noncompliant.
My parents have nothing to worry about.
I take a deep breath as I stretch both my arms behind my head and reach for the Dreamscape, eager for sleep. Its accordion-style Syncro-Drifter hums as I pull it out from the headboard of my bed until the spherical surface attachment stops and hovers inches above my face.
With a yawn, I hold the inside of my right wrist against the red, blinking scanner on the side of the Syncro-Drifter's metal surface. It emits a tinkling sound, then flashes green as it syncs with the sensor beneath my skin.
"Relax, Desiree Six Haven," the Dreamscape's lilting voice says to me, chiming out its usual welcome. "The Dreamscape will begin its dream sequence in two minutes."
Already I feel its soothing rhythm pulsing through me.
Still, a slight ripple of anxiety twists my insides as the Dreamscape starts pulling me under. Tonight I'll dream the same thing I've dreamed about since I turned sixteen nine months ago.
The face of my future mate.
Guilt rips through me for letting myself be nervous. With all The Protectorate does for us I shouldn't be anxious. They've done everything in their power to relieve the population of painful emotions. If anything, I should feel more grateful.
Images twirl behind my closed lids. It's the beginning of every Dreamscape sequence. A set of hands, palms facing up, appears before me with the words "The Protectorate" floating above them.
"The Protectorate," a woman's voice whispers, misty and soothing, as if reading the words. "Here to keep you safe and guide you through life without worry. We are the helping hands of society. Come — rest your mind with us." The hands spread out, rise up slightly, then disappear.
In their place an image of a snowy owl — the logo of The Protectorate — appears, fluffs its white downy feathers, and releases a low hoot. All my life I've grown to expect the image of the beautiful creature and the lulling sound it makes before the dream sequence begins. It's always soothed me.
But tonight as I drift off to sleep, I remember that soon I'll see Asher, my childhood bully's face, in my dreams. Since he is my life-mate, we'll be bound together at the age of eighteen. Every night, at the end of every dream, he holds out our binding necklace to me, wearing the same familiar smirk I've grown to resent.
In some ways, I wish we'd known who our binding mate was going to be from birth. Maybe then Asher wouldn't have been so mean to me. But at least now I have just over one year to get used to the idea. I know this year of dreaming of my mate is The Protectorate's way to better prepare me for our binding. I also know this should be enough and that it should make me happy.
It doesn't.CHAPTER 2
"Good morning, Desiree Six Haven."
The Dreamscape shuts down, and I blink my eyes open. Every day since I turned fifteen, it wakes me at seven a.m. so I can be ready for nursing school at nine. Apparently, I was born a nurturer. On my fifth birthday, I received a cake, a card, and a pronouncement of my future vocation.
And unlike in the Manic Age when people wasted an extra three years in school, we get to skip ahead to prepare us for an early start as a contributing member of society.
But today there'll be no nursing school. Instead, I'll be attending the pre-binding formal for all the sixes born in my year of birth.
The white blinds stir, lifting automatically to reveal a gray sky. Sunlight tries to peek through the scuttling sea of thick clouds.
Mom rushes into the room, tea in one hand, my new dress slung over the other. A part of me wishes she would slosh the tea all over it. Maybe then I could avoid going altogether. The moment I think it, my stomach twists with guilt again — a familiar feeling since Asher started coming to me in my dreams. I don't like this new me so much — the me who's unsure and worried.
Mom places the mug on my nightstand. I sigh and slide out from beneath the sheets, resigning myself to her doting.
"Good morning, Desiree," Mom squeals, looking like her face is about to break from smiling so big. "Today is such a special day!" She spins in a slow circle holding the ivory satin dress close to her body. Her light brown hair sways against her shoulders. "I remember the day I went before The Protectorate with your dad for our pre-binding formal." I hear the smile in her voice as she hangs my dress on a wardrobe hook on the wall. With a sweeping hand motion, she ushers me to the shower.
Mom turns her back and I quickly undress and hop in. She continues telling me about her formal as the shower sequence begins and I tilt my head back to let the warm water run over my face. The red digital numbers displayed on the shower door say I have exactly five minutes before it shuts off. Mom's words soothe my tense muscles. I love hearing the stories of how she met my dad. How love can truly be.
"Your dad was so nervous he dropped my binding necklace right before the official." She laughs as she slides the dangling emblem back and forth on its chain. On it is the letter G for Griffin, my dad's name. He, of course, wears hers, the letter V for Verity. It's a sign of eternal love, as they were both born on the same day.
And destined to die on the same day.
I can't help but think about that as I step out of the shower and raise my arms high into the air for the drying sequence. As part of The Protectorate's restructuring solution for the overpopulation in the Manic Age, they implemented the numbered law. Although I know the law and understand how they created it, it isn't something I usually like to dwell on.
Mom steps just outside the bathroom door as the stainless steel cylindrical rod ejects from the ceiling with a whirr. It glides inches in front of me, up and down my body. Its warm air blows against me, drying me in seconds.
I snatch a towel from the rack and quickly wrap it around me, then eye my reflection in the mirror. I wonder how I'll look at the formal. My parents saved money all of my life for the pre-binding and binding formals. They wanted to make sure we could go to the ceremonies dressed in the nicest clothes. Because they're both laborers and work at a factory, it wasn't so easy.
Mom scurries back in, and I admire the lavender silk dress draped over her slim frame. "You look beautiful, Mom."
"You know I'll look younger than your father today, right?" She smirks. It's a running joke in our family about who looks younger.
"Of course," I answer, laughing.
She and Dad, like all citizens of Tower, have been bound together with another born on the same day, same year. And the number representing the day of the week you're born on becomes your middle name. My mind immediately drifts to Darian One Sterling. He was born on Sunday, the first day of the week.
Nobody wants to be born a One. One's have the shortest lifespan. They must turn themselves in to The Protectorate for termination at age twenty-five. If I were ever going to feel sympathy for Darian, it would be because of that. Knowing he'd die the youngest of all the citizens is probably what made Darian go mad.
I run my fingers over the inside of my right wrist, tracing the tattooed black swirl of the number six that sits above my sensor. Each consecutive day of the week a child is born, they are permitted to live an extra five years. Because I'm a Six I'll live to be fifty — if no tragedy hits me before that, of course. The luckiest child is born on a Saturday. Seven's live until the ripe old age of fifty-five.
An old saying from the past still rings true in our time.
Lucky number seven.
I plop down on the chair facing the vanity. "Lights," I command. Instantly, the bulbs that surround the mirror cast a glow around my face. Mom slips up behind me and brushes my hair. After she blows it dry, she curls it in loose waves so that it looks like a cascading river of autumn leaves.
I shift uncomfortably in my seat and try to find the courage to ask the question burning a hole in my brain.
"Asher is the correct choice, right, Mom? I mean, they don't make mistakes, do they?" I bite my lip and wait for her answer. I know The Protectorate is incapable of a mistake, but I just have to say the words.
A look of horror crosses Mom's face, and I know in an instant it was a mistake to ask. Even though the mirror, which doubles as a port screen, is turned off, The Protectorate could technically listen in through the device. But, there'd only be cause for that if they suspected us of Noncompliance. Still, just knowing that they could be listening is cause enough for Mom's concern. The other is that my question suggests The Protectorate is fallible. I know they aren't and I realize my question only comes from shaky nerves on such an important day, but Mom won't accept anything less than complete solidarity.
She spins me around in my chair in one sharp movement. "Don't you ever say that again, Desiree!" She cups my shoulders, squeezes and shakes them. She leans down, her face an inch in front of mine, and whispers, "Do you hear me?"
I nod, wide-eyed. I know better.
"The Protectorate chooses for us so that we don't have to worry about making mistakes." Mom releases my shoulders and spins me back around. She begins idly playing with my hair, tousling the curls in the back.
"I shouldn't have to remind you that when your grandparents and great-grandparents were growing up during the Manic Age, countless people not only made poor mate choices, but many also were miserable with their career choices. Some were too confused to even choose one at all." Mom frowns and shakes her head. "Instead, many lined the streets begging for money or food." She places a hand on my shoulder. "But not anymore."
I nod, wishing I could take back my question — and my insecurities. I know that when my parents were almost two years old, The Protectorate inserted the sensors beneath every citizen's wrist, implemented new laws and guidelines, then slowly restored order in Tower.
Mom's voice grows tight. "I think we should play your official pre-binding welcome from The Protectorate. I was going to wait until you were all ready to go out the door, but you're just about done now anyway." She clears her throat. "Screen please," she says, loudly. "Play the pre-binding welcome file." Instantly, the mirror blurs to black and our image disappears. A woman sitting at a table appears in the mirror. Her dark hair is pulled back neatly in a bun. She smiles and pats the owl logo stitched above her heart on her gray turtleneck.
"Good day, Tower citizen, and congratulations on this, your pre-binding day," she says.
Mom squeezes my shoulders behind me and I can practically feel her smiling through the back of my head.
The woman continues. "In the Manic Age, citizens struggled as a result of choosing poorly-fitted mates. Three out of four people got divorced. But with the testing The Protectorate performs on newborns, they not only know what career each and every citizen is best suited for, but who your ideal binding mate is." She smiles and clasps her hands together. "As such, you no longer need to worry about making wrong choices."
Excerpted from Awakening by Shannon Duffy, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2015 Shannon Duffy. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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