Author: Ember-Raine Winters
Genre: YA Dystopian
“I never thought one moment could change my life forever. In an instant life as I knew it was over. My new life was the stuff of legends. I just hoped I was strong enough to survive it.”
A series of what were called The Immigration Wars changed the way of life for the former United States. It was thrown into chaos and a dictator came into power.
On the eve of Alexa's sixteenth birthday her world changes forever. Her father is arrested for treason and she finds out her mother is really alive. She and her best friend Jacob must travel across country to meet her so they can free her father from the tyrannical leader of the government. Everything is not as it seems in the resistance and secrets and lies will be revealed along the way.
“Alexa, where are you going?” Dad asked as I picked up my crossbow and strapped my hunting knife to my thigh.
“Hunting, be back before dinner,” I replied just before the large mahogany door slammed behind me.
I went hunting every day and my dad knew that, but he always asked where I was going. I thought it was just him being overprotective. Clearly, there was a reason behind everything he did.
He was my confidant, my teacher, and my friend. In the world we lived in there weren’t any schools like in the old world, so my dad had to teach me everything. He was ex-military before the Immigration wars and taught my best friend Jacob and me everything we needed to know to not only survive, but also defend ourselves. I never understood why we would need to know how to be the perfect soldiers living in our little town in back woods Texas, but I didn’t complain. I loved hunting and shooting. Plus, I was good at it.
Walking through the forest on a hunt has always been somewhat therapeutic for me. I walked through the forest quietly. I always found the sights and sounds intoxicating. The bright yellow sun peeking through the canopy of dense pines. The smell of pine and the sounds of blue jays singing made it feel like home. I walked for miles in the dense underbrush listening intently for any quail, turkeys, or even a rabbit to hunt.
An almost eerie silence fell over the forest. It was unnaturally quite in a place that moments before was teeming with life. I stopped short overwhelmed by the sinking feeling that something was terribly wrong. Listening carefully, I heard a gentle hum that got progressively louder by the second. After a few minutes that stretched into an eternity, the hum became the roar of an engine and darkness fell over the trees. Looking up through the branches, a plane, and close enough to see through the trees. Not good. There were no planes anymore. Not running. Jet fuel cost far too much for even the wealthiest of men, and the only person who had clearance to fly was President Carlyle, anyway. I had never seen his plane fly through our town before, and my gut said that something wasn’t right.
So, I took off at a sprint pumping my arms and legs just as fast as they would take me. I was about four miles from home and even at a dead sprint it took more than twenty minutes zig-zagging through the trees and jumping over roots before I broke the tree line. I zigged past the old oak that Jacob and I used to play in when we were young. The thick branches are a stark contrast to the spindly branches of the pines surrounding it. I ducked beneath a low-hanging branch that I was once able to walk underneath, but my tall five foot nine inch frame would have been decimated at the speed I was running. The burning sting as the branches whipped across my skin was almost bearable, even the oozing blood trickling down my face and arms didn't compare to the cold hard dread I felt deep in my bones as I pushed myself forward.
Once I reached the corn field I stopped dead. An all-consuming fear stole my senses when I saw the plane sitting off to the right of our old ranch style home. I dropped like a brick to my knees and drug in one raspy breath after another. What could be happening? Why would RONA be at my house? I waited a few torturous minutes hiding out behind the tall golden yellow cornstalks analyzing everything looking for clues something, anything that might tell me what they might want.
I stayed hidden in the corn field, slowly and silently, I stalked closer so that I could see the situation at hand. Suddenly the large mahogany door flew off its hinges, and I jumped from my crouched position as it landed in a splintered mass on the front lawn. Carefully, I moved closer to get a better view of the scene before me. My father bloody and bruised was shoved unceremoniously out the front door and landed several feet away just as a man I had never seen before walked casually out the door and strolled down the walk way to stand over his crumpled form. His back arched as the man swiftly kicked him in the ribs and he cried out in agony.
Adrenaline and fear caused my blood to heat like searing hot lava in my veins. The strangled cries of my father were tearing me apart as if the man had ripped my heart from my chest. Raising myself up to standing position, with my head held high, I glared at the man who had treated my father so poorly. I walked slowly like you would approach a wounded animal. Ten yards from the man holding my father, a twig snapped under my feet. Alerting him to my presence. He turned quickly, and I saw his eyes for the first time. They were cold and unfeeling black pits that made him seem even more sinister. I suppressed a shudder as I looked into pure evil. His gun was pointed at me before I had a chance to react. I stood to my full height in a poor attempt to exude confidence. I put my hands up in the air and gathered all my courage.
“What do you want from us?” I asked weakly. My stupid voice betrayed me. I was hoping to sound confident, but I sounded just as scared as I felt. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
I trained my whole life for situations such as this one, but nothing prepared me for the real life or death situation I was in at that moment. The man just stared at me with his gun drawn, a calculating gleam in his eye, and a sneer. I would have given anything to wipe that smug look off his stupid face, but he had a gun and I knew he would be more than willing to use it.
“Well? Why are you here?” I repeated with more confidence this time. The longer I stood there the more the fear was replaced by fury. My father laid on the ground a bloody mess moaning and the guard still had that stupid smirk on his face. Just as I was about to react another man walked out of my house. He was dressed in the same uniform as the idiot in front of me, but he seemed kinder then the other man.
“Miss, your father is being arrested for treason,” he replied and I thought I heard a tone in his voice almost like compassion but I didn’t acknowledge that. The only thing I heard was treason and my whole world came crashing down around me.
“Treason? How is that possible?” I whispered to myself. I looked down at the crumpled heap of my father on the ground next to me and realized that there was so much more to him than I ever knew.
“What do you mean he is being charged with treason? What could he possibly have done to RONA tending a farm in rural Texas?”
“ENOUGH” The cruel eyed man yelled in a thundering voice that I was sure could be heard miles away.
“We are taking this man in for questioning. If you move towards us with that bow I will kill you where you stand.” His voice was deep and cold, so cold, I felt as if I would never be warm again. A shiver ran down my spine and I could feel it coursing through my entire body. The stupid smirk on the cruel man’s face morphed into a full on grin so evil my blood turned to ice in my veins. My expression must have betrayed me, my confidence wavered, and he knew that I was no threat to him or his mission.
The cruel eyed man barked out a laugh. It was an awful sound that grated on my already fried nerves. He walked over to my father carefully, all the while keeping the gun diligently pointed at my head. He grabbed the cuffs roughly and drug him to his feet. Taking one last look at him, I noticed he wouldn’t meet my eyes.
“Dad?” I asked tentatively, and he finally looked at me but there was so much sadness in his eyes it nearly broke my heart.
Just before the man drug him away something changed in him and I saw a new determination in his eyes. He looked at me and mouthed a single word: “Closet” just before he was pushed towards the plane.
Dropping to my knees, I allowed the first tears to cascade down my cheeks as I watched them slowly disappear into the plane.
A memory of my father reading to me as a child played in my head. I was ten years old sitting on my father’s knee in his old chocolate leather recliner. I had an old beat up history book open in my lap. That in itself was dangerous. Books had been banned when Carlyle took control of the government. He read the pages to me, and I learned of freedom and equality for the first time. He told me that America was a much different place then in the world where I was growing up. The Immigration wars and the rise of President Carlyle into power changed everything.
“What happened, Daddy?” I asked. “Why are things so different now?”
“Alexa, sometimes good people put in bad situations do bad things. No one should have absolute power. Do you know why?”
He had drilled this in my head a thousand times since I was eight, so I rolled my eyes at him.
“Absolute power corrupts absolutely, Daddy yes I know,” I groaned, my words dripping with sarcasm as we continued to turn through the brightly colored pages full of beautiful things this country used to have. I remember feeling sad.
“Daddy, do you think things will ever go back to the way they were before,” I asked with childlike innocence.
“I sure hope so sweetheart, I sure hope so,” he muttered and kissed my temple.
“Daddy, tell me about the wars, why did they start again?” I asked and looked up at him with big doe eyes.
“Ok, but after this it’s time for bed. We have to train with Jacob in the morning,” he said with a smile then cleared his throat. “We had been at war for a long time. The Middle East was a mess, and the US decided it was their job to go and help, but this war drained our resources and was detrimental to the economy,” he carefully explained. I remember looking at him in wonderment even though he had told me this story repeatedly. “With the economy and the resources drained the government decided that we needed to stop any further strain. They decided that fixing the problem with illegal Immigration would be the best way to do that. So, they closed our borders which angered a lot of immigrants and others as well. The government had been fighting for years on how to deal with illegal Immigration, and if they had just come to a decision sooner, put up a wall and policed the borders more the illegals may not have had the man power to stage such a hostile takeover, their political action committees and just overall bickering killed our country.” he continued but his expression grew dark almost as if he was lost in a memory. He brushed his caramel colored hair back and covered his bright blue eyes with his palm.
“That’s when the immigrants started the Immigration wars, right Daddy?” I asked beaming at him.
“Yes darling, the immigrants took over the government with the help of Mexico and they almost stayed in power too,” he continued a little warily.
“But, President Carlyle and a group of former special ops soldiers, who were stationed in other countries during the takeover, were able to take control back,” I replied thoughtfully. “Daddy, did you and mommy fight in that war too?” I asked, and he nodded his head slightly, still visibly upset by his memories.
“Yes, but we never thought things would turn out like this,” he replied sadly and tucked a stray hair behind my ear. “Ok that’s enough for one night, now off to bed,” he said and kissed my cheek.
Other than that, I couldn’t think of another reason they would have been at my home. I really couldn’t imagine why the President would send men all the way to Texas because of a couple of old worn out textbooks. There had to be another reason for their visit.
They must rely on each other and their new friends to be successful. But, trust isn't easily given in the resistance and Alexa must find a way to save her father and keep her friends safe while on the run from both the government and the resistance.
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About the Author
Ember Raine Winters is a single mother of 2. Living in Bakersfield California. She has an Associate’s Degree in Political Science and Philosophy from the Local Junior College and she loves to read. Anything she can get her hands on, but mostly Science Fiction and Fantasy. She self-published her first book in March and hopes to publish many more in the future.