Authors: Jacob Gowans
OTHER WORKS BY JACOB GOWANS
A Tale of Light and Shadow:
A Tale of
Light and Shadow
by Jacob Gowans
All characters, events, and text
within this novel and series are owned by Jacob Gowans. No part of this
publication may be reproduced, transmitted, or recorded by any electronic or
mechanical means without written permission of the author. For information
regarding permission please contact the author at
by Jacob Gowans 2015
Table of Contents
and Mom and Dad,
and Shannon, Becky, Rosalee, and
And for you.
They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England's foam.
“For the Fallen” by Laurence Binyon
Tuesday, November 11,
BITTER STENCH emanated off Sammy and Jeffie’s clothes and hair. Scents that
would never wash off. Mingled with the smells of death—blood and urine
and other things, worse things—it was all unbearable. On Sammy’s left, a
dying Hybrid moaned, the sound of its last breath rattling in its throat.
Jeffie put a bullet in his head, and the sound stopped. Then she limped to
Sammy and squeezed his gloved hand tightly, and Sammy returned the gesture.
They sat on the floor of a room that had once
been as white as a blank sheet of paper. Now the stains of blood, brain, and
other bits of human that were supposed to stay inside the body covered the
walls, floor, and their zero suits. Sammy wished he could enjoy the quiet a
little longer, but he knew what was coming—who was coming.
“What do you think is happening out there?”
Jeffie asked with a tremor in her voice that told Sammy she was fighting back
tears. “I hope it’s working. I don’t—don’t want it to be for nothing.”
Sammy glanced at the time on his com and licked
his lips, but his tongue was too dry to offer any moisture. “Are you ready?”
Jeffie took a breath that seemed to stretch on
for minutes. She was tired to the core. Sammy could feel it too, deep in his
bones. But they weren’t done yet. The time was almost ripe.
“No, not really,” she answered. “But I can’t
say that, can I?”
So much depends on us.
Jeffie rested her head on his shoulder. Sammy
stroked her hair and kissed her forehead. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m fine … I
“I know you are.”
“I’m ready—really, I’m ready.” She wiped
her eyes and nose. “How much time do we have?”
“How are you so calm?”
Sammy wasn’t calm. He was exhausted, yet some
reservoir of restless energy made him twitchy. He dreaded what was to come, but
deep down sensed his own resolve… and acceptance. He pulled her closer and
How many of these moments do
I have left?
Perhaps none. With his mouth close to her ear, he whispered,
Jeffie hugged him fiercely and began to shake
again. “I don’t want—”
“Shh,” Sammy told her. “I know. It’s okay. You
can go back. You don’t have—”
“I do!” she shouted. “I’m not letting you do
“I can do it by myself. If I just use
“We can’t risk failure. Two of us increases the
Sammy let her go. “I know all that. I’m just
“Then stop saying.” Jeffie regained her
composure quickly. “I’m all right.”
“Are you, though? Remember your promise,
A flash of rage passed through Sammy, but he
suppressed it and let it go. Releasing the rage was like watching a train pass
by and observing the faces inside, frightening, monstrous, and alluring all at
the same time. He was getting better at doing it.
Makes no difference now, does it?
Not true. It makes a
difference to her
. “I remember.”
Sammy checked his watch again.
Then they would finish
it. Finish it all.
And at the end, if everyone did everything
correctly, Jeffie’s fears would be realized. They would die.
Thursday, March 13, 2053
PLEDGE MY loyalty to the flag of the New World Government. And to the welfare
and advancement of mankind, for which it stands, one world, united and
indivisible, with freedom and justice for all.”
“Take your seats,” said Mrs. Hepworth in her
strained, croaking voice, “and set your desk screens to lecture mode. I won’t
tolerate any messaging during class today. Understand, Katie?”
Katie Carpenter blushed as her classmates
glanced at her, some with glee, others with condolence. Just yesterday she had
been written up for messaging her friends during Mrs. Hepworth’s lecture on the
Industrial Revolution. Immediately her desk screen lit up with messages from
her four best friends.
Patel: Heppy hates you more than she hates her anti-wrinkle cream.
Vivian Wu: Why does she single you out?
Courtney Marzban: What a stupid [censored] [censored]!
Linn: Can’t stand that moled cow.
Katie winced at the names they’d called her
teacher, but then hurried to clear the messages before Mrs. Hepworth caught her
and froze her desk. Unfortunately, she wasn’t quick enough. She tried to swipe
them away, but nothing moved. Katie grimaced as she slowly brought her gaze up
from the screen to her teacher’s face. Mrs. Hepworth’s wrinkled, sagging cheeks
turned red as she glared at Katie. The redness highlighted her moles like big
black ants on a red picnic blanket.
“You,” Mrs. Hepworth’s voice sounded more
strained than ever as she stared Katie down. “And you, Miss Patel, and you,
Misses Marzban, Wu, and Linn … all of you will serve detention today and tomorrow
Katie rolled her eyes and looked out the
This place is a prison.
hadn’t done anything wrong. It was her friends who had sent the messages.
Except Mrs. Hepworth is too bitter to see
Courtney’s auburn hair practically glowed from
the sunlight streaming in through the window behind her. The gleam caught
“Sorry,” Courtney mouthed to her.
Katie didn’t respond. Behind Courtney, a flock
of geese flew above the tree line. They went wherever they wanted. No one
stopped them. No one put them in detention.
am less than a goose.
She yawned and rubbed her eyes, then rested her
head and arms on top of her desk while Mrs. Hepworth droned on about how
royalty in England affected the Industrial Revolution. Katie’s eyelids felt heavy.
She hadn’t slept well lately. Dark nightmares haunted her. She wanted to talk
to someone about them, but couldn’t. The school counselor would tell her
parents. Her parents would make her see a therapist. Her friends would think
she was a freak. And if people thought she was a freak, her chances of winning
Prom Queen for the third year in a row were over.
Last night’s dream had been the worst yet.
Katie had taken a bath in blood, human blood. She knew it was human from all
the bodies lying around the basin—faceless corpses that looked like crash
test dummies. Then she’d been transported to a
forest in the dead of night. She walked a
few steps forward, wet leaves squishing underneath her bare feet, sinking
between her toes, the soles of her feet uncomfortably cold.
You can be free
, a voice said in
Katie paused and looked around until she
saw a shadow, so faint and thin she almost didn’t notice it. The shadow
belonged to her, but it didn’t behave as shadows should. It had a
three-dimensional form and the closer it drew the more detail she observed. The
shadow stood next to her, walked alongside her. Every time she moved, it
tried to run away, but the shadow stayed with her step for step. Finally Katie
had no more breath to run. Gasping with her hands on her knees the shadow
stepped in front of her.
Don’t run from your destiny.
“What is my destiny?” she asked breathlessly.
To be the greatest
The Queen of All
“What do you mean?”
You were born to be free, not
in chains. Free yourself in the cave.
Katie took her hands off her knees and stood up
straight. The shadow was exactly her height, looked exactly like her, but all
in black. When it smiled with its black teeth and black eyes, Katie screamed
When her history class ended, Katie grabbed her
bag and walked up the aisle to her teacher’s desk. Mrs. Hepworth pretended not
to notice her until the other students had left the room. “What can I do for
you, Miss Carpenter?” she asked without looking up.
“I don’t deserve detention.”
“Oh, you don’t?”
“No. I didn’t write those things. I tried to
erase them. I can’t control the actions of my friends.”
Katie found Hepworth’s answer-questions
annoying. “Are you serious? Of course I can’t.”
“You are the reigning prom queen, Miss
Carpenter. You started a film club. You are on the varsity basketball squad.
You organize the pep rallies. You have more friends and admirers than some
B-list celebrities. You know that. Everyone knows that. That makes you a
leader. You influence other girls. The way they talk, think, act … all of it
stems from you.”
“I didn’t tell them to say those things!” Katie
Mrs. Hepworth finally looked at her with an
expression of utter loathing. “Was I born yesterday? Miss Carpenter, I became a
teacher because of people like you. People who think they’re superior and
special simply because they have a gift for athletics, a clear complexion,
straight teeth, the right clothes, or a symmetrical face. It’s bad enough to
watch you diminish girls your own age, but to put me down … in my own classroom
I think not
“You’re right,” Katie responded. Her frankness
made Mrs. Hepworth pause. “The things my friends wrote were rude. But I didn’t
write them. I don’t say those things about you. And I don’t treat other girls
Katie’s last two statements weren’t entirely
said rude things about
Mrs. Hepworth to her friends. In fact, she’d said nasty things about all her
teachers at one time or another, even the ones she liked. But those comments
stemmed from frustration, not malice. As for the other girls in her class, she
only despised the girls who despised her. She hadn’t started any gossip wars;
she ended them in brutal fashion.
“Katie, you rule this school like a queen
whether you see it or not. You will serve detention. You will take
responsibility for your influence over your friends.”
“What if I can get my friends to do something
“Like what?” Hepworth fixed Katie with a
“I don’t know. I haven’t thought of anything
“If you want out of detention, you’d better
Katie nodded. She glanced at her teacher, then
quickly looked away. Seeing all those moles on her teacher’s face up close made
“By the end of the school day,” Hepworth added.
Katie hurried to find her friends. They had to
come up with something good. Anyone who received five days of detention or more
was ineligible for prom queen, and Katie had already served two. The two
detentions Hepworth had just assigned would put Katie dangerously close to
Her next class, Home Tech, was her favorite:
sewing, cooking, woodworking, and repairing small appliances. Her parents had
suggested she take it to learn valuable “life skills.” Katie instead signed up
for Intro to Nursing, but got squeamish when told they’d have to volunteer at a
nursing home and change elderly people’s diapers. Her Home Tech teacher, Mr.
Cooley, caught her and her friend, Priyanka, at the door two minutes before the
“Did you bring the knife?” he asked.
Katie nodded and dug in her backpack. “My mom
will kill me if she finds out I borrowed it. She won’t even tell me how much it
“That’s because they’re so expensive.” Mr.
Cooley gasped dramatically when she showed it to him. “Look at this elegant
grip. Balanced shank and cutting point. Perfectly tuned cutting ability.
Pulsing wavelengths render the laser incapable of cutting human flesh, but
slices through any fabric … like butter.”
He turned the device over in his hand, groaning
and admiring it the same way Katie and her friends would a particularly
handsome celebrity. Priyanka glanced at Katie with wide eyes and mouthed, “What
“I’m going to test this out,” Mr. Cooley
continued, “show it to my department head and see if I can fit one into our
budget for next semester.” He lowered his voice. “You’ll pick it up after
school, right? And even though it’s not a weapon, do not show it around. You
could—maybe, potentially, possibly, and
—get in trouble.”
Suddenly Katie was pushed from behind. A
massive figure walked by holding a hat above his head. “Bobby John loves you!”
he called out as he waddled down the hall, laughing hysterically.
Mr. Cooley leaned past Katie and Priyanka
through the doorway so he could yell, “Watch where you’re going, Bobby John!
You almost hurt somebody!”
“Ew,” Priyanka griped, “Bobby John touched me.
He’s so gross!”
Several other kids around Katie and Priyanka
laughed, but this gave Katie an idea. She knew exactly how she could get out of
* * * * *
Saturday, April 26, 2087
the conference room of the fox’s penthouse, the holographic images of several
men and women appeared around a large table. At the head sat the Queen,
glowering at them. They represented some of the most powerful individuals in
the CAG, each deeply ensconced in government, media, or business. For over
three decades, the fox had collected them, a group known only as the Council.
The Queen wore a zero suit as she sat in the
middle of a hologram projected around her body. The zero suit prevented her
body from interacting with the hologram, letting her move freely and undetected
so long as she didn’t break the holographic cylinder the projector cast around
her. To all cameras trained on her, she looked like the fox. The microphone she
used transformed her voice into the fox’s by using sound wave manipulation.
She’d now performed this ruse successfully for over three months.
“You forget an important point,” said Julia
Navarre in her typical terse tone. She served as Chief of Staff to President
Newberry, leader of the CAG. Her focus was on the Chief Operating Officer of
CAG’s largest media group, America Media Network, who had argued that the
public was tiring of war coverage. “Your time spent advocating the cause is far
more effective than anything the President’s administration can do alone. It
has to be together with the three-pronged effort we have long advocated.”
“Polls show our goals are currently not within
reach,” a CFO of a giant banking corporation stated. “Public opinion—”
“Polls are no reason to waiver in our
commitment,” the Chief of Staff responded. “They rise and fall like the tide.
“Ironic, those words coming from a politician,”
said another media mogul down the table.
“Yes, we knew the war would be unpopular,” the
COO of America Media said in a drawling, almost bored voice, “but this data is
detrimental. Despite our efforts, the public believes the war shows no sign of
ending. We need to consider other options in case public support continues to
plummet. Perhaps we could give the enemy a face.”
“That is an intriguing idea,” the Queen agreed.
“People want a villain to hate. Is there someone we could turn over to the
“It won’t matter,” said the man at the other
end of the table. “It certainly won’t stem our dropping support.”
“Such a pessimistic view,” the Queen said in
the fox’s voice. Using her incredible memory, she mimicked the fox’s tones and
mannerisms to perfection. The holograph surrounding her duplicated her
movements. “I do not think the war is likely to last longer than a few months.
Since the attack in San Francisco, we’ve increased clone production, fortified
our factories against insurgent attacks, and have crippling offensive strikes
planned by the end of next month. The war could be over by the end of May, I
“The NWG forces have shown more resiliency than
you initially believed, fox,” the CFO stated flatly. “What makes you think
you’re not underestimating the enemy yet again?”
“Let me remind you,” the Queen responded
plans were not
built on guesses. You know better. What some of you are experiencing, I think,
is unfounded buyer’s remorse. We will win this war if we stay the course. Once
we win, the public will be forgiving as we usher in an era of peace, stability,
and prosperity unlike anything they have ever seen. Newberry will be re-elected
for life, if we wish it. Businesses loyal to our cause will prosper while the
rest fall by the wayside.”