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 us with everything the citizens of Tower 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 ninety-nine 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 called nightmares.
The thought sends a chill rushing through my veins. In all my sixteen years of life, I’ve not 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 that 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. The event is televised 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.
A thrilling, futuristic sci-fi novel set in a unique and thought-provoking world, from author Shannon Duffy.
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 from the Terrorscape—a nightmare machine used to punish all Noncompliants—and 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?
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Awakenings Excerpt Tour:
April 2nd Reading Teen
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April 5th Once Upon A Twilight
April 6th Hypable
I write middle grand and young adult books. I’m the author of the YA Paranormal romance SPECTRAL and the MG Fantasy Adventure series, GABRIEL STONE AND THE DIVINITY OF VALTA (Feb/12) and It’s sequel, GABRIEL STONE AND THE WRATH OF THE SOLARIANS (FEB/14). Look for my YA Cyberpunk, AWAKENING coming April 7th with Entangled Publishing.
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