Authors: Charity Tinnin
Punish the guilty or save the innocent? He can’t do both.
As a liquidator, it’s Noah State’s job to carry out justice for the Elite—which is why they send him to Metro Area Four. There’s evidence of a resistance movement and chatter about a dangerous uprising. Noah’s orders? Stop it at any cost.
Failure means death. But Noah’s haunted by the blood spilled in his past and certain God has condemned him for it. Shedding more isn’t an option.
Then he meets Maddison James, a hospital apprentice with revolutionary leanings, and glimpses a future he thought was lost. A future within reach if they can survive his brother’s interference, a resistance more threatening than anyone imagined, and one unforgivable choice.
(State v. Seforé - Book One)
Copyright © 2014 by Charity Tinnin
First Edition: March 2014
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information, e-mail
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
quotation in chapter six is taken from
by Homer, Translated by Samuel Butler, Barnes & Noble Books, 1993.
Cover and Interior Design by
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
In a dystopian future, Noah State, a guilt-ridden government enforcer, tries to save the resistance he’s been tasked with eliminating.
This book would not exist without you.
You taught me how to read and write and showed me how to fall in love with both.
I am grateful every day.
oah had known
he wouldn’t live to see twenty-one. And until this moment, he’d considered himself prepared. Turns out, facing death wasn’t the same as contemplating it.
If it weren’t illegal, he might’ve sent up a silent prayer. Not that he was religious or anything. But desperate times and all … His heart beat a crazy rhythm that rivaled any of the top-ten pop hits on the airwaves. It echoed in his ears.
Sweat beaded on his forehead as though he were still outside in Coastal South West’s hot desert air. The metal chair back dug into his ribs. He allowed himself to straighten but not fidget. He might be dead in a couple of hours, but he would go out on his own terms, and those terms allowed for no evident traces of fear or weakness. He wouldn’t display a hint. Not to them, not to their cameras.
His gaze landed on the wall opposite him. Six-inch letters hung at eye level.
It is a fact of nature that the fittest will always survive, but if those with the highest intelligence and best abilities seek to serve and protect, society will also survive. This is the Elite’s privilege and burden: to carry the weight of Patrisia on their shoulders.
He fought to keep his face impassive. The propaganda might fool some of Patrisia’s more gullible citizens, but he knew the Elite protected Potentate Marcioni and themselves alone. His resolve to be different was no doubt what led to this moment.
“Noah State? Harrow will see you now.” The dark-haired receptionist held the door open to his right.
He stood, his palms sweating. Were these the last steps he would take? He cleared his throat. “Thank you.”
She nodded and led him forward, wafting rose water with every step. The perfume invaded his senses, a failed cover-up for the faint smell of curry and garlic seeping out of her pores. Her own enhanced senses had to tell her it wasn’t working. Why bother?
She motioned to an open room complete with vidwall, table, and six chairs. Five of the chairs faced him. His knees threatened to give out, but he locked the traitorous joints and forced himself to take in the other details.
Darkened windows lined one side of the room. A camera was mounted in the far left corner facing the door, another in the near right facing the table. Several compads and one empty glass lay on the table.
“That’ll be all, Marcy.”
Noah spun. Regional Liquidator Doug Harrow stepped into the doorway, his arms clasped behind his back. His eyes, almost the color of desert khaki, studied Noah through a squint. Everything about his appearance screamed military, from the bald head and lines around his eyes to his trim physique. Had he served before Potentate, then President, Marcioni disbanded the Pentagon and armed forces?
“Have a seat, Noah.” Doug Harrow’s gravelly tone registered just above a whisper. Calm confidence seeped out of the man. Noah sat and hid his trembling hands under the table.
“You can relax, kid. This isn’t a tribunal.”
Noah allowed himself one small sigh. He might live to see tomorrow? Then why had he been summoned? Nothing good came from a one-on-one visit with a regional liquidator.
Harrow sat opposite Noah and leaned back against one arm of the chair. “You’ve finished your second year as a liquidator.”
Harrow slid a compad from the table into his hands. “Six months in Coastal South East, almost a year in Coastal North West, and the last several months under my authority. Your caseload is light for a free agent, even for one fresh out of the Academy. You’ve closed eighteen inquires, but you have only five liquidations on your record. Care to explain?”
Noah’s hands curled into fists. Explain that he didn’t consider death a just punishment for petty crime? No, thank you, he liked continuing to breathe. “I prefer to be exact with my rulings, sir.”
“Hmm.” Harrow tapped a callused finger on the table. “We left the justice system behind for a reason, kid. Punishments that fit the crime weren’t effective deterrents. Fear is more useful. When we all understand that there are no second chances, we give our choices more weight. You’re doing no one any favors with your do-overs—not the criminals and not their next victims.”
A bullet straight to his heart. The assault reactivated pain in the fresh wound. Blonde, cherubic faces flashed before Noah’s eyes. But no, not a flashback. The vidwall’s surface displayed their faces. The girls were orphans now because Noah gave a thief a second chance. A second chance the man had used to rob another convenience store—and kill the thirty-year-old female clerk with three little girls at home.
“You didn’t do these girls or their mother any good.” Harrow leaned forward but didn’t raise his voice. “It’s past time you got with the program, kid. Followed in your brother’s footsteps. He’s got a liquidation count to be proud of.”
The vidwall’s contents shifted to Daniel’s profile. The numbers turned Noah’s stomach. Eighty cases and seventy-six liquidations. The numbers would’ve been equal had Noah not stepped in those four times. Too late for the others. Always too late where Daniel was concerned. Not that Daniel cared. Not that anyone cared.
“If it were up to me, you would be facing a tribunal today. We have enough trouble on our hands without having to babysit liquidators who’ve taken our time and resources but think they’re too good for our system.” Harrow’s eyes drilled into Noah’s for the space of ten heartbeats. “Lucky for you the Council has made a unique request.” He sighed and keyed a sequence into the compad. “I’ll let Regional Liquidator McCray explain.”
Lawson McCray appeared on the vidwall, his shoulders filling the frame. If Harrow was a military sniper, calm and cool under pressure, McCray was a blustering general with a sandy blond buzz cut and a five o’clock shadow. A smoking cigar lay in an ashtray between McCray and the camera. “You fill him in?”
Harrow shook his head. “Your turf, your details.”
McCray narrowed his eyes, dissecting Noah with his stare. “Yeah, we all know how I feel about this objective on my turf.…”
A noose tightened around Noah’s neck. He might as well be at a tribunal.
“Nevertheless, the Council has already handed down the order,” Harrow said.
McCray cursed. “Okay, State, let’s hope those enhanced ears of yours are at a hundred percent today ’cause I’m not going to repeat myself. I don’t want you and your old-fashioned ideals in Coastal South East. I don’t think you’ll succeed at the objective either, but then I guess I get to kill you.” He took a long drag of the cigar. “So, maybe there are some perks to this arrangement….”
Harrow cleared his throat, and McCray scowled again. “In the last three months, a terrorist group has made its way onto my radar. My stationary liquidators have questioned and liquidated anyone we considered connected to the activity. But, if anything, the activity has multiplied. Clearly, I’ve been assigned a group of idiots for liquidators. I’m in favor of purging the region, but the Council is worried about bad press. How maintaining power could be misconstrued as bad press, I have no clue. Anyway, the Council has ordered an undercover investigation.”
Noah’s pulse quickened. An actual investigation? That he could do. Maybe he had earned a reprieve.
McCray rolled his eyes. “The Council suspects the terrorists are a vast network—a group of well-sourced obsessive-compulsives. I think it’s a bunch of crackpots who’ve been lucky, but nobody’s seen fit to ask my opinion. The Council’s called for a Hail Mary before taking drastic measures. Since they like you and your meticulous record, seems you’re the man for the job.”
Where was his vidcom? Pocket. Noah reached back, opened it up, and began making notes, his fingers flying across the keyboard. “Where will I be stationed?”
McCray let out a puff of smoke and typed on a compad with one hand. “Metro Area Four in Coastal South East. You should have the details now.”
Noah’s vidcom vibrated. He opened the downloaded file and began reading. Cover: Noah Jackson Seforé. Age: Twenty. Description: 5’11”, Brown Hair, Green Eyes. Occupation: CNA at MA-4 Hospital D. Background—
“Hey, I’m not done with you yet. You can study the fascinating details later.” McCray leaned closer to the camera. “Let me make this abundantly clear. Your objective is to uncover, join, and then liquidate these terrorists. Every last one of them. By, let’s say, mid-February. Five months should be more than enough time for a wonder boy like yourself, right?” McCray smirked. “Oh, and Doug might’ve let you get away with slapping criminals on the wrist, but I don’t work that way. If you fail to uncover the group, I liquidate you. If you fail to gain their trust and identify every party involved, I liquidate you. If you don’t liquidate every single one of those scumbags … well, you get the idea.”
Wet cement dripped into Noah’s veins, clogging his brain, his lungs, his limbs. No reprieve then. “Yes, sir.”
“Study up, State.” He disconnected, and the vidwall went black.
Noah swiveled to face Harrow. “Study up?”
“You have CNA training to complete. It’s all in your file.”
Noah glanced at his vidcom again. Sure enough, there it was. Private training tomorrow at 7 in the morning. “They suspect some of the hospital employees?”
Harrow nodded “Rumors tend to spread quicker there than anywhere else. Plus, it hasn’t been targeted.”
Targeted? Noah scanned the file. “Hacks.”
“Someone found a back door into the government networks. Embarrassed McCray, but the man’s a sleeping bear. Once riled … Well, you know the saying. He’s taken these attacks very personally. Some of the Elite’s best programmers are working on potential entry sites, but it’ll be your job to locate the group responsible before they stage another attack.”
Noah took his time looking over the illegal video, audio, and text messages. He clicked on the file behind one text message reading “Back to Democracy.” The message had been online for five minutes before detected. The suspect initiated the hack at a public information booth in Metro Area Six. He opened another file, finding a hack from a grocery store mainframe in MA-3. One in MA-2. The final hack took place in MA-5 at a computer in the Regional Classification Office.
No wonder McCray was foaming at the mouth—somebody in his region pointed out the areas he hadn’t secured. Whoever instigated these security breaches was intelligent, well sourced, and aware of the identities and routines of the stationary liquidators. Instinct told Noah the hacks were likely the work of one very detailed individual. One person who could slip in and out of most places without being flagged. Not to say that the individual was acting alone—someone was funding the hacks. He’d just have to figure out who it was … and who it wasn’t. He might have only five months to live, but that was enough time to minimize the collateral damage. After all, it was what he did best.
“I’d recommend you channel your brother, kid.” Harrow rose and pushed his chair under the table. “You’re all out of second chances.”
Better make the most of this one.