Authors: Shaunta Grimes
“Shaunta Grimes delivers. Unforgettable characters and a story you'll not want to put down.”
âC. C. Hunter,
New York Times
bestselling author of the Shadow Falls series
“GrippingÂ .Â .Â . heart-wrenching and exhilarating,
will leave you desperate for more.”
âEmily McKay, author of
“A unique dystopian world, a fierce and loveable main character, a group of Freaks that might change the world, written in simple and lovely proseÂ .Â .Â . Once you enter Clover's world, you won't want to leave.”
Books, Bones & Buffy
is not a book you want to miss.”
The Demon Librarian
“Really compellingÂ .Â .Â . A unique dystopian novel.”
Feed Your Fiction Addiction
Titles by Shaunta Grimes
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
Copyright Â© 2014 by Shaunta Grimes.
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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-62437-1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Rebel nation / Shaunta Grimes.âBerkley trade paperback edition
ISBN 978-0-425-26812-4 (paperback)
1. Time travelâFiction. I. Title.
Berkley trade paperback edition / July 2014
Cover illustration by Blake Morrow.
Cover design by Diana Kolsky.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
who works so hard so I can dream so big.
Big, big thanks to:
Michelle Vega and Kimberly Lionetti, for believing in me and my books. Also, everyone at Penguin for helping make my dreams come true.
Melanie Harvey and Brian Rowe, for being my first line of defense against embarrassing myself. I couldn't do any of this without either of you.
My circle of friends, for encouragement and ideas and Writer's Nights Out and just being as awesome as humanly possible. This book ended up being a lot about the family you choose, and that is what you guys are to me.
Also to the family I was born with: Jill, Russel, Alison, Kevin, Austin, Kyle, Patrick, and Ryan, as always, for being my own pack of Freaks.
My brother Kyle, especially, for being my first reader.
My dad, for making sure I grew up surrounded by books and for telling me a long time ago that I could be a writer if I wanted to.
Adrienne, Nicholas, and Ruby, who inspire me every day.
And Kevin, who is my rock.
It is not strangeÂ .Â .Â . that such an exuberance of enterprise should cause some individuals to mistake change for progress and the invasion of the rights of others for national prowess and glory.
THIRD ANNUAL ADDRESS TO CONGRESS, DECEMBER 6, 1852
WALLED CITY OF RENO, NEVADA
The Kill Room smelled of mildew. The walls and floors
never dried completely, and in late summer it was hot enough that steam rose from the concrete and seeped through the holes in the Gun Room walls. Both rooms were windowless and airless. The Gun Room sat on top of the Kill Room, like a doughnut resting on the rim of a coffee mug.
The execution building sat near the center of the walled portion of the city. Sixteen years ago, James Donovan had helped build the walls that surrounded the core of Reno and protected every one of Nevada's survivors from a return of the virus that took everyone else.
James cleared his mind and didn't let himself think about his own discomfort. Not about his skin prickling against his heavy canvas uniform. Not about the way his rifle dug into his shoulder, slowly rubbing a permanent groove into his muscle.
The door to the Gun Room opened and James looked up at one of his teammates as he entered.
“We have two this afternoon,” Cole told him.
Their crew was him and Cole, plus Christian, Ross, and Mason. They lived in a cluster in the barracks. The Waverly-Stead Company had decided, when they privatized the criminal justice system nearly fifteen years ago, that a tight-knit group worked together more efficiently than an execution squad chosen by random lottery. James set his rifle into the rack beside his chair, situated in front of a six-foot-tall block wall. Two long slits in the wall, one at eye level to a sitting man and one at gun level, let the Kill Room's mildew stench into the Gun Room. The narrow holes also ensured that in their last minutes, convicts didn't see who brought their death.
In truth, the crew didn't know, either. They were issued one identical shell per job. Only two of the five were live, to help the executioners sleep at night.
Not that James had trouble sleeping. He put his trust in the Time Mariners and Messengers who traveled two years into the future in their steam-powered submarine through a portal deep in Lake Tahoe. They brought irrefutable proof of capital crimes back to a time before those crimes had been committed.
The convicts were collected from their home cities and brought to Renoâthe only execution center in the continental United States.
Convicts often begged for someone to believe that they were innocent. James didn't let the begging get to him. It was human nature. Especially for those who would commit a crime of passion, something they wouldn't even consider until moments before they'd gone too far.
James took the file Cole offered and found two sheets of paper inside: dispatch flyers issued by the Waverly-Stead Company, based on the information brought back from the future.
The first featured a picture of a middle-aged Hispanic man next to one of a plain-faced girl who couldn't have been much older than twenty. If he wasn't stopped, in two months Mario Chavez of Dallas would find the girl with another man and kill her with his bare hands.
The picture on the second dispatch flyer gave James pause. He looked up at Cole before he read the details. The door to the Gun Room opened again.
“A girl?” James set the papers at his feet, where he could see them. Next to the girl's picture was one of her father. She was sixteen. The man looked young. Too young to have a child that age. They were local, which only added to his surprise.
Cole shrugged and they both turned toward the door. Ross, Mason, and Christian came in, each with a rifle over his shoulder. Cole gave them their files as they passed on their way to their chairs.
“A girl?” James repeated. Because the observation bore repeating. A girl was so unusual. Every now and then, they executed a woman who would kill her child. Or one who would take her own kind of justice against a cheating husband or the woman he'd cheat with.
It was strange, James admitted, that often the cheating hadn't even happened yet, and sometimes an execution was carried out before a dead baby was even conceived. He didn't let himself think about that too deeply.
He had never heard of a girl this young being executed.
It was uncomfortably strange now, considering that his own son had recently tried to outrun a dispatch. James filled his lungs and exhaled slowly. He could not think of West today. Not on a kill day.
Maybe the girl on the flyer struck a nerve because she was so young. As young as West's sister. Clover probably even knew this girl. In fact, James was sure she did. Reno only had one primary school.
Maybe they were friends. That thought twisted James's guts in a way that he wasn't used to. He held the paper a little farther from his face and at an angle for a better look.
Cassidy Anne Golightly, age 16.
Clover had to know her. They'd both just finished what passed for high school these days. At sixteen a kid went to work, or on to higher education. His Clover had been accepted into the Waverly-Stead Academy, and now that West wasâJames looked up through the eye hole into the Kill Room and forced his mind to steady.
Now that West was gone, Clover was at the Academy, right where she belonged.
He had no idea whether this convict had been accepted into the Academy or assigned to work. What he did know was that, if left unchecked, she'd be convicted of murdering her father. She would bludgeon him with a tire iron.
James looked at the girl again. She wasn't like Clover. No, this one was mean enough to kill a grown man with a hand tool. She had a hard set to her face and an empty, hollow look to her wide pale eyes.
“She's cute,” Mason whispered. “Hardly seems the type.”
Cute? James took in her high forehead, her reddish hair pulled back from it in a ponytail. Her pug nose turned up enough that he could almost see into her nostrils.
This was Mason's idea of cute? This girlâno, this convictâlooked like exactly what she was. Hard and unfeeling. Wrong in the head. The city would be better off without her. Her father would most definitely be better off without her.
Bridget Kingston was at the Academy with Clover. She was still alive, as far as James knew, even though she was with West on the date that he was supposed to kill her.
James shook his head, once, hard enough to shake away thoughts of his son. He slept like a baby every night, and he would tonight, even if Cassidy Anne Golightly stared him in the face as he pulled the trigger. Even if he knew for sure he had a live bullet.
Even if he had to drink himself into a coma to do it.
A bell rang. James sat up in his chair. His body knew exactly the posture he needed to complete his job. Back straight, legs slightly opened, and feet firmly planted.
The lights in the Gun Room dimmed just as those in the Kill Room came up. They buzzed, flickered slightly, then filled the area with a greenish glow. James lifted his gun to his shoulder and peered through the eye-level hole in the wall. He'd trained for months to learn to aim properly, to make sure that he could hit the red X taped over a convict's heart every time.
He put his gun down and rubbed his palms on his thighs. Cole shot him a look but didn't say anything. James picked it up again and willed an iron sheath around thoughts of his children. His hands never shook. He'd be damned if they would start today.
Two guards walked Mario Chavez into the Kill Room. Most convicts dug in their heels and made a lot of noise. Chavez walked on his own. He stood with his back against the wood post planted in the center of the room and didn't move as he was tied down.
The Kill Room was round with a concave floor that gave the impression, looking down from above, that James was shooting from the rim of a seamless concrete bowl. The curved floor allowed the cleaning crew to wash blood down a drain in the center of the room between jobs.
James took his eyes off Chavez and looked at the dispatch flyer, lying near his feet, with the picture of Brandy Norton staring back up at him. What was she doing with a man like Chavez? He was easily old enough to be her father.
“Mario Chavez.” The warden's voice boomed up from below. He stood out of the line of sight of the gunmen, including James, but his voice was distinctive. Heavy and deep. “You have been convicted of the murder of Brandy Norton.”
The warden gave the future date of the crime that Chavez would not have the chance to commit. The convict's face burned red and his chest heaved, like he was having trouble breathing, but even now he didn't say a word.
The warden went on, without giving Chavez time to speak even if he wanted to. “Without brisk and definitive justice, our cityâand all American citiesâwill decline back into chaos. By federal order, you have been sentenced to death. May God have mercy on your soul.”
Chavez stared directly at the long, narrow eye hole. He didn't scream that he was innocent, like so many did. James acknowledged a grudging sense of respect for the man. They were just two sides of the same coin, weren't they?
Ned Waverly dove through that portal in Lake Tahoe sixteen years ago and tipped the balance toward justice. He brought back the suppressant early enough to save millions around the world who would have died. And he figured out how to get the news two years ahead of time so that violent crimes became a thing of the past.
It felt sometimes, when James was lying alone in his bed at night, like the whole world had turned as upside down as it had been sixteen years ago when everyone was dying.
In those moments, he could hear his wife's pain in her shallow breathing, see the open sores that stole her from him. He could feel the terrible mix of shame and determination that filled him when he fed her a mix of applesauce and an overdose of painkillers.
James had worked as an executioner for three years. He'd been in this Gun Room three dozen times. It was possible he didn't belong here today, just weeks after his son's death, but this was his job.
He had to believe that his work had meaning. That he was doing something, every day, to make the city safer, stronger, better. Everything he'd done for the last sixteen years, he'd done to prove to himself and to the ghost of Jane that he was something more than her murderer.
Because of his work, Brandy Norton would finish growing up, maybe get married, have a couple of kids. Chavez would have been executed, even in the old days. This way he didn't take his victim with him.
Another bell. James lifted his gun. The muzzle aimed unwaveringly at the red X taped on the convict's white shirt. He held his finger over the trigger. And he breathed, listening either for the shot bell or for the door to open again.
Last-minute pardons didn't happen often. In three years, James had witnessed only one. That one reminded James that the system worked. Only those who deserved to die ended up in the Kill Room through the last bell.
Chavez's bell rang, and the Gun Room exploded with the sound of all five rifles releasing at once. James could never stop himself from trying to figure out if he had one of the live bullets. Like always, he couldn't tell.
James exhaled and lowered his gun. He looked to his left, at Cole. “One down.”
Cole grunted and settled back in his chair. A few minutes later the guards came and removed Chavez's body. Then the cleaning crew entered to turn the hoses on and shower away his blood. James didn't watch. He never did.
“What do you think makes a girl kill her own father?” Ross asked from James's other side. “I mean, Jesus Christ. A tire iron?”
“Doesn't matter,” James said.
“We're the hammer.” Cole leaned forward, so he could see Ross around James. “Someone else is the arm. Just shut up and do your damned job.”
James listened to the water, washing clean the Kill Room for Cassidy Golightly's date with the post.
Her flyer was at his feet, next to Chavez's. The more James studied it, the more certain he was that something wasn't right with her. He couldn't let the question of why she would kill her own father stick in his head. If it wasn't her father, it would have been someone else. She just had that look about her.
James looked away from her picture. Why did Ross have to have such a bleeding heart anyway? Maybe execution wasn't the right placement for him. Too damned soft.
Sure, the girl might have some kind of asshole of a father. One who made home brew in his bathroom and drank too much of it, maybe. Or one who couldn't control his temper and slapped her around some.
Maybe her father was totally absent, leaving his girl to be raised by her brother. Leaving his boy to grow resentful of the extra responsibility and end up with more anger than he could contain inside himself.
James straightened his shoulders and pushed that thought back down. The bell rang again and startled him. Realizing that his mind had wandered so far was upsetting. He lifted his rifle without comment when he caught Cole looking at him.