Authors: Gary Paulsen
By day they slept to avoid patrols and at night they went into the burned-out city and searched for food. In the early-morning hours when it was light enough, Cody practiced his newfound vocation. Before long he knew how to make a lockpick out of almost anything and there wasn’t a locked room or building anywhere that could keep him out.
But that was before. Before he and Franklin had had a run-in with a CCR foot soldier looking for military holdouts. The soldier shot first and asked questions later.
Franklin was left in a pool of blood and Cody was put on a transport plane heading for a prison camp in the southwest.
The memories made Cody set his jaw. Those things had happened more than a year ago. Since that time, he’d learned a lot, learned how to play their game. The guards trusted him now and had practically given him the run of the camp—which was exactly what Cody wanted.
The Beet Fields:
Memories of a Sixteenth Summer
The Boy Who Owned the School
The Brian Books:
Caught by the Sea
Father Water, Mother Woods:
Essays on Fishing and Hunting in the North Woods
Guts: The True Stories Behind
and the Brian Books
Harris and Me
My Life in Dog Years
The Night the White Deer Died
Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers
Sarny: A Life Remembered
The Schernoff Discoveries
The Transall Saga
The Tucket Adventures, Books One through Five
The Voyage of the
The Winter Room
Picture books, illustrated by Ruth Wright Paulsen:
an imprint of
Random House Children’s Books
a division of
Random House, Inc.
New York, New York 10036
Copyright © 2000 by Gary Paulsen
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. For information address Delacorte Press, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036.
The trademarks Laurel-leaf Library
are registered in the
U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.
ourteen-year-old Cody Pierce stopped hoeing the rectangular patch of dirt the camp guards called a vegetable garden. Nothing really edible grew in it anyway and the weeds could wait.
Something was up. He could feel it. The tower guards were standing at full attention and those on the ground were edging toward the main buildings.
The camp commander, Colonel Sidoron, burst through the door of his office, buttoning
the shirt of his green army fatigues. An aide ran along beside him holding up a mirror. Sidoron looked in it quickly, ran his hand through his short black beard and then brushed the aide aside.
The lanky white-blond boy in the vegetable garden leaned on his hoe, watching the bustle through gray eyes.
A U.S. Army utility vehicle with a CCR flag painted over the white star on the door boiled down the dirt road toward the prison camp. It was followed by a transport truck and another utility vehicle.
Two guards ran to open the wooden gates. The three vehicles sped into the compound and stopped in a cloud of dust near the porch, where the commander stood waiting.
Sidoron threw out his chest and tried to act the part of a dignified leader as he made his way to the back of the transport truck, but his hurried step gave him away. He barked an order and the tailgate was immediately lowered. A soldier grabbed a small, compact woman by the hair and dragged her out of the back of the truck.
Cody could see that she was young and that she was badly wounded. Her long brown hair was matted with dried blood. There was caked blood on her face. One arm hung limply by her side.
The commander asked her a question that Cody couldn’t make out. Apparently he didn’t like her answer. He backhanded the prisoner so hard she fell against the truck.
The woman didn’t cry out. Instead she slowly rose and faced her attacker in silence. The commander barked another order and the soldiers pushed the prisoner up the steps to the interrogation room.
Cody untied the dirty red bandanna from around his forehead, shook his unkempt shoulder-length hair and wiped his grimy face with the back of his hand.
He thought about the woman. While he admired her spirit, he knew that it was only a matter of time until they broke her. He’d been in this camp for eighteen months, ever since Los Angeles had fallen in 2056, and he’d seen plenty of hard cases reduced to quivering idiots before the CCR—the
Confederation of Consolidated Republics—was through.
Still, he’d made it his business to stay on top of things and he wondered what it was about this particular woman that had them all so excited.
“Don’t get too curious, kid. These guys don’t play around.”
Cody shifted his gaze. Luther Swift was carrying a bucket filled with human excrement in each hand. It was his job to dump the makeshift toilets used in the barracks every morning and evening. In between he dug temporary latrines and covered them up again when they were full.
Luther was a nuclear scientist. He had been a fairly handsome man until the CCR gouged out his right eye because he refused to reveal the location of a nuclear research laboratory. In the end they got their information.
“You know me, Luther,” Cody said, trying not to move his lips too much. “I mind my own business.”
It was against the rules for prisoners to talk to each other, so Luther walked on. Quietly
he muttered, “See to it that you keep it that way. I don’t much feel like picking up your pieces today.”
Cody started hoeing again. He thought about his life in the old days before the takeover and wondered if there was anyone he knew still alive on the outside.
The CCR had control of more than three-fourths of the United States and its members considered themselves intellectually and physically superior to all Americans. After all, it was their stockpile of nuclear and chemical weapons that made all this possible. By concentrating their efforts into misleading the people of the United States into believing that their motives were harmless, the CCR had been able to buy property and plant spies in strategic places until everything was ready for the takeover.
The first missile took out Washington, D.C., and most of Virginia. The President, Congress and the Pentagon simply ceased to exist. Without leadership, the states began to panic and one by one to fall.
The United States government had made
it easy for them. Years before, the military had been cut back to a mere skeleton of what it had been during the cold war and the CIA had practically been disbanded. Never in their wildest dreams had the country’s leaders considered the newly formed nation of the CCR a threat.
Bombings and mass murder had wiped out whole cities. Except for small rebel holdouts, the CCR had succeeded in reducing the citizens of what used to be the most powerful nation in the world to little more than slaves of the new republic.
Sidoron’s prison camp was not unlike hundreds of others across the nation. There were twenty barracks inside the compound. One housed the commander’s office and special quarters. The cooks, medical personnel and laundry were behind the office. Two buildings were for the guards, and the rest held prisoners.
Most of the inmates were civilians like Luther whom the CCR had left alive because they might have something valuable to contribute to the new world order. Others had
been allowed to live to serve as laborers for the cause, but they never seemed to last long. The soldiers were permitted to shoot and torture them at their own discretion.
Then there were the children. One whole barracks was devoted to American children of all races. Not that they didn’t shoot children too. But a few of the lucky ones were involved in a cleansing experiment much like the one Hitler had tried with the youth of Germany. They had been taken from their parents and forced to attend daily classes designed to brainwash them into the correct attitude about the new government.