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Authors: K.M. Malloy

G-157

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G-157

 

 

 

 

By

K.M. Malloy

Copyright
2012
©
by K.M. Malloy

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the author and publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

Author’s Note:

This book is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and dialogue are drawn from the author’s imagination and used fictitiously unless otherwise noted. Any resemblance to actual events or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

 

This book is dedicated to my dad,

who taug
ht me to chase after my dreams,

and to my mom,

who
always believed I could catch them.

 

Acknowledgments

 

Writing is a lonely job, but along the way I’ve learned that it takes ma
ny great minds to make a story come to life
, and I’d like to thank the following for their efforts in the creation of this work:

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for reading my stories throughout the years. Thank you for your encouragement when they were good, and your honesty when they weren’t.

Thank you, Grandma, for teaching me the love of reading and the magic of a great story.

Thank you, Poppop, for teaching me to always be curious and to question everything.

Thank you, Bev, for teaching me that imagination is not to be left in childhood.

Thank you, Daniel, for all of your support and encouragement both as a fellow writer and as a friend.

Thank you, Ryan, for taking a chance on a girl you met scribbling in a notebook during band practice. Four years later I’m still scribbling, and the music plays on.

And thank you to all of my friends and family not mentioned here who always supported my crazy dream.

I couldn’t have done this without all of you.

 

 

 

 

G-157

 

Prologue

 

“And our society will never be great until our cities are great. Today the frontier of imagination and innovation is inside those cities and not beyond their borders. New experiments are already going on.”

             
-President Lyndon B. Johnson May 22, 1964-

 

In 1964, President Johnson challenged the nation to rise up against poverty and racism to create a Great Society that would become the beacon of enlightenment to guide the rest of the world. His vision promised peace and equality, with education and healthcare for every inhabitant regardless of economic status, race, or gender.

In 1971, frustrated by the country’s lack of belief and progress in accomplishing their leader’s vision, the Great Society Extremists urged Johnson to diverge from the United States in order to form a new nation in which they would be free to create a country that would bring his dream to fruition in its totality. In 1979, after almost a decade of debate and negotiations, an agreement was reached between the States and the Extremists in the Secession Trade Treaty. Sections of
Wyoming, Montana, Iowa, and the Dakotas seceded from the Union to join as one as the United Community of Johnson. In exchange for the land that would become their new country, lumber, coal, cattle, and agriculture were to be supplied to the States from the United Community to repay the debt for the land, and ensure the persistence of peace between the two nations. L.B.J. resigned as president of the United States, and took his place as Leader of the United Community to embark upon the greatest social reform movement the world has ever known.

John’s Town was one of the first in the creation of the Great Society cities.

 

 

Chapter One

 

 

 

Monday March 8, 2010

 

John’s Town, UCJ (formerly Superior, Montana, USA)

 

Population: 407

 

 

 

Aire’s damp shoes squished quickly along the sidewalk, eager to complete her errand before the rain returned. She could feel her too short bangs, the victims from her mother’s butchered attempt at a trim, tapping against her forehead as the cold began to freeze the moisture in them. She squeezed the tiny picket of icicles forming over her brow, ignoring her little brother’s pleas for her to slow down as she led him into John’s Town business district.

Most cities in the Un
ited Community were small, self-
sustaining pockets like hers. There were a few larger metropolitan areas that operated the industrial machinery needed for manufacturing and shipping of the goods into the States. Mostly there were the podunks like John’s Town that merely sustained themselves and produced
little for the Trade A
greement. Lumber was the main contribution from John’s Town to the Community and the States, but on this day the lumber yard would be closed due to the frequent downpours, as would the cherry orchards and potato fields that
her parents
worked in. The few that were lucky enough to find employment in the two dozen stores and three restaurants in the business district would no doubt be reading books or cleaning the same counter tops over and over again to ward off the
boredom of the slow day, and Aire was anxious to finish her errand so she could curl up with her own book out of the wet and cold.

She pulled her coat tighter across her chest when they reached Washington and Bourbon, the official start of the business district. Usually the district resembled an ant colony after the quarterly credit evaluation as people bustled about the shops, buying yarn and new books and ordering parts from the catalogue at the Mail and General Delivery office
with their credit allowances
. But today the rain had washed the citizens away from the streets
and into their homes
, and the district lay quiet and deserted, save for the Freeman children and the single rider heading west on Washington. She paused on the corner to wait for Mike Hadley to pass by before crossing, the back of his ATV loaded with groceries. He brought the bike to a stop in the middle of the street and greeted her with a smile.

“Hey, Aire,” he said. “What are you doing out in this weather?”

“Running errands.

Her brother caught up to her side and doubled over to clutch his knees as he sucked in deep gulps of air. “What about you?”

“Same,” Mike said, motioning to the paper bags in the back basket of the quad.

“Cool. Did you find a job yet?”

“No, not yet,” Mike said as he shook his head. “I’m still working on the community service team, but I’m first on the list for the next job that opens up.”

“Right on,” Aire said, shifting back and forth on her feet. She looked up to the thickening black clouds
looming overhead, her hands itched
in her pocket as she inched across the sidewalk. “Are you on service today?”

“No, but t
omorrow I’ll be on trash collection duty.”

Aire crinkled her nose.
Trash collection
. She was graduating next year and it was expected that she’d join
the
community service
team
until a job opened up. Those were John’s Town expectations though. She expected to escape
before then, to disappear into the States and find
a truly
meaningful
career
to center her life around
, something in the sciences, biology or engineering perhaps
.
Anything but trash picking and running a cash register or waiting tables would suite her just fine.
 

“That sounds really terrible,” she said.

“No it doesn’t,” he said, his dark brows furrowing together. “No task is any better or worse than another.”

“I’m pretty sure working in the bookstore or credit management office is better than handling smelly trash.”

“Aiirree,” her brother said, his head lolling back in exasperation. “Can you please stop being rude again? This is like the bazillionth time this week.”

“Mitch, I am not being rude.
” she
glared
down at the boy. “I’m just saying I don’t think I would like to pick up stinky diapers and rotten food.”

“Rude,” Mitch said, crossing his scrawny arms over his chest.

“It’s okay,” Mike smiled. “You’re sister is still young. She’ll be happy to join the service when she graduates next year.”

“Maybe.
” Aire
pursed
her lips as she tried to stop the crimson from traveling up her cheeks. “Well, let’s get going
,
Mitch. I really don’t want to get rained on again.”

“Why? The rain can’t mess up your ugly hair anyway,” Mitch said. “Do those things even count as bangs?
My
hair is longer than that
.”

Mike snorted and lowered his head to suppress a laugh
. She glared down at the boy
and pointed her finger at him.

“I’m going to ugly on your face
in about five seconds if you don’t zip it
,” she said, her left eyebrow cocked high. The boy stared back at her, a quizzical look replacing the one of triumph he’d had over embarrassing his sister.

“What does that even mean?” Mitch asked.

“It means that’s not funny,” she said.

“No, it wasn’t funny,” Mitch said. “It was hil-“

A
tenebrous
boom from the sky cut the boy short as thunder shook the nearby store windows. Mitch jumped at the bone rattling thunder, his small hands wrapping around Aire’s wrist as he huddled himself against her side.

“Baby,” she teased as she patted the boy’s head and looked back at Mike. “We really gotta go.”

“Me, too,” he said. “Don’t want
the rain to ruin the groceries. Do you two want a ride?”

“No thanks, don’t want to hold you up.”

“Are you sure? I’d be happy to help.”

And he would be happy to help. Mike Hadley was always the first one on the scene whenever there were fences that needing mending, houses needing painting, or errands that needed running for the few remaining elderly residents. Whenever someone needed help, Mike was always right there to lend a hand, and Aire felt as though John’s Town couldn’t function properly without him.

Aire smiled and shook her head. “Nah, we’ll be okay.”

“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t offer,” Mike smiled back. “See ya around.”

“See ya.
G
ood luck with the job,” Aire said.

Mike nodded and started the ignition. The back tires of the quad sashayed back and forth across the slick pavement as he continued on Washington, the deep rumble of the engine competing with the increasing
roar and crack of the
thunder
to be heard
. Aire took her brother’s hand and picked up her brisk pace, dragging the boy behind her as they resumed their trek. Again she ignored his whining to slow down as she barreled across the block to their destination, smiling when they reached the Mail and General Delivery Office on the corner of Main and Bourbon.

The brass bell on the worn wooden door chimed as Aire pulled it open and hurried the boy inside. Three tattering black chairs sat empty in the corner of the office that she’d always thought of as the Book Nook. The General Delivery was usually so packed after the quarterly credit evaluation that it
could take an entire afternoon of waiting in line before placing an order. As a child she’d pick a book off the shelf or bring one of her own and curl up in the Book Nook happily lost in a whole new adventure while she waited for her parents to place their orders for things the stores of John’s Town didn’t carry
; motorcycle helmets, musical instruments, specialty foods.
That was back when Mr. Polanski ran the General
Delivery,
back before the Army took him.

She’d been much younger then, only about six or seven. Mitch hadn’t even existed yet, and she had just begun to read. She didn’t remember much, but she knew it was in the summer time when Mr. Polanski had been taken because there was the sting of sweat in her eyes and her skinny legs kept sticking to the chair as she read in the Book Nook. She remembered the expressions on people’s faces becoming more and more queer as they left the front counter after placing their orders. Her mother had been agitated that they were stuck in line behind Mrs. Amos, the sole employee of the Book Cellar.

Mr. Polanski conjured a weak smile when the old woman pulled out her long list of new titles she wanted to order for the book store. “Afternoon,” he said in his melodic voice. “Will you be needing two orders forms this time?”

“At least. Maybe three.”

Aire smiled when she saw her mother roll her eyes.

“Alright. Alright then,” Mr. Polanski said, pulling out a stack of order forms. “What have you got?”

“First is Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.”

“Herman Melville,” Mr. Polanski said as he jotted down the name. “Melville. Melville…”

“Next is Pride and Pr-“

“Melville. Melville. Melville.” Mr. Polanski had stopped writing, his eyes casting a vacant look upon the order form. “Melville. Melville. Melville.”

“Yes, we have that one, Paul. Next is-“

“Melville. Melville. Melville. Melville. Melville…”

Mrs. Amos shifted, her eyes looking away from Mr. Polanski as she wrung her hands together. “Next is-“

“Melville! Melville. Melville. Mel-“ Mr. Polanski’s eyes darted to Mrs. Amos, a bewildered sheen glazing over them. “You said Melville. What’s next?”

And that was all it took for Mr. Polanski to be recruited by the Army. The next day Aire was roaming through the streets, trying in vain to find something interesting to do, when she crossed in front of the General Delivery. There was a
CLOSED
sign in the window, but it wasn’t Sunday. Mr. Polanski was gone, and Aire remembered running home crying to her mother that they had taken him.

Mrs. Jacobs ran the place now. Aire smiled when the older woman came bustling from the back room to greet them, her blond curls bobbing with each step. Mr. Polanski had created the Book Nook,
and though she missed him, she couldn’t help but feel that
Mrs. Jacobs brought it to life.

“Well
,
if it isn’t my two favorite little rascals,” Mrs. Jacobs said, her large teeth gleaning from her even larger mouth.

“Hi, Mrs. Jacobs,” Mitch said, standing on his tiptoes to look over the counter. “Do you have any cookies today?”

“You’re in luck,” the woman said as she reached under the counter. “I just pulled some out of the warmer for an afternoon snack. I’d be happy to share with you though.”

“Thanks,” Mitch said, his eyes widening as she pulled out the plate.

“You’re welcome,” she said as she handed him a cookie nearly as big as the boy’s face. “I almost didn’t make any today on account of the rain. I said to myself,

self, now why would you make cookies on such a rain cloudy day? You know no one will come in on account of all those puddles. No one likes puddles enough to stomp through them for half an hour just to get here, except for little children of course. Any cookies you make today will just go to waste anyway.

Good thing I made them though or else poor Mitch would have been walking
home with an empty tummy thinking about how much he wished he could have had a cookie during his visit today. Mighty good I ignored myself and made some anyway, for just in case, you know?
Mighty good.
Very good self.”

Aire nodded back at the woman, trying to catch her own breath from Mrs. Jacobs’s vivacious speech. “That is good,” she said.

“True, true,” Mrs. Jacobs said. “Aire would you like one?”

“No thank you.”

“Are you sure? You’re all skin and bones. How on earth will you grow any taller if you don’t fatten up a bit? No room for you to grow in that tiny body, no room at all.”

“I had a big lunch,” Aire said.

“Well, they’re there if you want one,” Mrs. Jacobs said, motioning to the plate on the counter. “What brings you in on this terrible rain cloudy day?”

“Mom made me bring Mitch to order a new tailpipe for his bike.”

“Yeah, well you wanted guitar strings
,
too,” Mitch said, twitching the corner of his upper lip into his snotty look that irritated Aire to no end.

“Let me get you the new book then,” Mrs. Jacobs said, stooping low to look behind the counter. “This one has all the brand new equipment I haven’t put into the main catalogue yet. Here you are,” she said, handing the book to the boy. She brought out another larger catalogue and placed it with a plop onto the counter. “And the main book for you
,
honey.”

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