Subversion (One Bright Future #2)
by Melinda Friesen
Publisher: Rebelight Publishing
Publication Date: August 31, 2016
“I surrender my days, my efforts, myself to the OneEarth Bank . . .”
After fleeing slavery, Rielle James burns with the desire to topple OneEarth Bank and end its enslavement of young people as Contracts. When she learns that her friend Nathan has been sold to a logging company where Contracts die or vanish without a trace, she assumes a false identity and becomes a slave again to help him escape.
Her act of subversion uncovers the horrific truth behind the OneEarth Bank’s role in Contract disappearances and its link to a global pandemic.
Can Rielle and Nathan escape and expose the truth before it’s too late?
#1, from chapter three
A flash of light catches my attention. An illuminated orb glows alongside the bus, casting a bright circle on the pavement whizzing past. I squint to focus, and another beam appears behind the first one, matching the bus’s speed. I sit up taller and peer out the windows on the other side of the bus. Two more lights over there.
Through the front windshield, red and blue lights flash in the distance. The guard at the front with the glasses leans over and says something to the driver.
Beside my window, the second light dips, hovers and then swerves into the beam of the first orb. I can finally see what it is—a craft about the size of a Frisbee. Propellers spin inside wide, flat black wings and the tree-like One Earth Bank symbol is stamped on the fuselage. The rotors tilt as it changes directions.
A drone. What’s going on?
The bus slows as it approaches the red and blue flashing lights. Bank Security cruisers. They’re blocking the road. Their revolving lights send red and blue rays skating around the interior of the bus.
Confused, anxious glances dart between Contracts.
My heart speeds. Bank Security. Do they know I’m on this bus? No. That can’t be. They think I’m dead . . . don’t they? Uncle Rex said that was the “official story.” What if they found out I escaped, and they set a trap?
The bus stops, circled by four drones. Bank Security officers position themselves around the bus holding guns at their shoulders. The driver opens the door, and a Bank Security officer steps aboard.
“What’s going on?” the driver asks.
“Just a routine check-stop. We need everyone off the bus.”
My hands tremble, and I clutch them into fists.
The Bank Security officer steps off the bus again. The driver flicks on the interior lights, blinding me for a moment, and then rises from his seat. The guard with the glasses marches to the back of the bus and stands against the back door beside my seat. I look up at him. He stares down at me, his eyes narrowing, and then he looks back to the driver at the front. A droplet of sweat trickles down his temple.
I bite my cheek. Why did he look at me that way? Unless . . . unless he knows they’re after me. What am I going to do? I peer through the grimy window and scan the area for any means of escape. Between the drones and the officers, every inch of the bus is surrounded.
The driver pulls out a night stick from behind his seat. “We’re going to file off the bus in an orderly manner.” He claps the baton against his palm. “Any wrong move will be dealt with swiftly.” He waves at the Contracts in the front seats. They stand and slowly, carefully make their way off the bus.
Outside, officers herd them into a line. The middle of the bus empties. I stand on weak legs but before I can move into the aisle, Officer Glasses slaps his hand on my shoulder and pushes me back down onto my seat. “You get off last,” he hisses through clenched teeth.
The boy in the seat opposite mine appraises Glasses and me through the black hair dangling in front of his dark eyes.
“Move!” Glasses shouts at him. He shuffles toward the front and glances over his shoulder at me before descending the stairs.
Glasses leans over me, his cheeks flushed and sweat beading on his forehead, and shouts, “Get up Contract!”
Now he wants me to stand?
The driver eyes us.
“I got this one,” Glasses calls to the driver. The driver descends the stairs. Then just Glasses and I remain on the bus. He grabs my arm and yanks me to my feet. He leans in closely, so closely that I can smell his stale breath. “It’s good to see you, Rielle James.”
#2, from chapter nine
We walk through the front door and descend the steps to join a large group of young men in brown work shirts and pants. They are milling around the black column at the center of the compound. Some are still jogging in from the long dormitory on the other side of the clearing.
Men and women in navy blue outfits meander up the path to join us. I recognize Susan from the office. Dek puffs on a cigarette at the back of the crowd. A woman about his age joins him. His wife? Terrence stands away from the rest of the group, watching the Contracts. I scan the crowd for Nathan, standing on tip-toe to get a better view. I can’t find him among the clumps of guys in brown. Spying a guy with sandy-blond hair, I’m momentarily hopeful, but he’s too short to be Nathan.
A silvery-blue glow explodes from the black column. The OneEarth Bank icon, a symbol with stark branches stretching upward and jagged roots pushing downward, rotates inside two spinning silver rings. The lights flash on tree boughs that encroach on the clearing, washing them to dead white. The milling group stills. Conversations hush, and everyone turns toward the hologram.
The female voice blares through the speakers so loudly that it echoes off the surrounding buildings. I clench my hands into fists, resisting the urge to cover my ears. “One Earth Bank greets you and welcomes you to a new day of prosperity.”
Towering images flash frame by frame over the pillar. New homes under construction. Workers smiling for the camera. “The economy has never been stronger, thanks to OneEarth Bank. Our bright future has arrived,” the voiceover shouts. The imagery shifts to a factory production line. “Business is booming and everyone has an important part to play. Young people from Resistor families who could have become a blemish on society have found hope, acceptance and belonging through our Community Service Contract Program.”
A young man smiles and waves. “If it weren’t for OneEarth Bank, I’d probably be on the streets, but now I’m learning some great skills and making new friends!”
My mouth drops open. The lies! I glance around at the Contracts who stare at the image with blank expressions. Are they buying this?
Above the pillar, the presentation zooms into a map of central Africa with bulbous red dots popping up all over it. “The Corpium virus is devastating Africa, but OneEarth Bank is investing resources into vaccine development. We cannot prosper while our citizens suffer. OneEarth Bank cares about you.”
The OneEarth Bank symbol returns and the voice says, “Raise your hands for the Surrender of Days.” Simultaneously, everyone lifts their hands to shoulder height, palms out.
The voice continues and other voices beside me chant with her, “I surrender my days, my efforts, myself.”
My mouth falls farther open and my hands dangle at my sides. Pam elbows me and throws me a scolding glance.
I slowly lift my hands like the others as the voices chant, “To the OneEarth Bank who unites us, strengthens us and provides all we need. We are not many, but one.”
I feel wrong for raising my hands, wrong for even processing the words in my head. I stand in stunned silence with a shiver that has nothing to do with the morning breeze. They want us to pledge ourselves to a bank?
The chanting continues. “We surrender all we have and all we are to the OneEarth Bank. One world. One currency. One bright future.”
The Bank symbol spins before us for a moment longer, then cuts out leaving a dense, heavy silence.
The Bank is forcing their slaves to pledge all they have left: their days.
#3, from chapter fourteen
Outside, I ensure the coast is clear before I jog into the forest. About thirty feet in, I turn north toward the restricted area and walk through the woods parallel to the path, skirting trees and ferns. Just outside the northernmost point of the camp, I reach the infirmary. Thistles jut out of the ground around its foundation. I tuck myself under the eaves and peer around the side into the distance. The restricted sign shouts its warning, and a chain link gate guards the narrow roadway beyond. A fence pushes through the underbrush on either side of the gate and disappears into the woods.
I stick to the edge of the clearing in front of the infirmary, dashing from tree to tree for concealment. I hike up the slope, estimating the minutes I have left before the drones come out. I climb the hill until I see dim light reflected off a fence just ahead. Squatting behind a fern, I strain my eyes to peer at what’s beyond. More trees.
I follow the fence farther. Still nothing. No buildings. No guards. Just more damned trees. I hop over ferns and climb over moss-covered fallen trees. An unnaturally straight outcropping creates a silhouette on my right. I jog along the fence line to get a better look. I inch closer to the chain-link barrier and then drop to my haunches beneath evergreen boughs. I peer between the wires. A cracked concrete structure juts out from the underbrush and cuts into the sloping side of the mountain. Saplings sprout beside rusted steel doors leading who-knows-where. Judging by the decayed concrete, the structure has been around far longer than the logging camp. But it can’t be all that’s up here. There has to be more hidden by the forest. I’ll have to get over the fence—
A bird squawks and dives. My heart jumps into my throat. I throw my hand over my racing heart.
Something scuffles in the woods behind me. I slowly stand, listening. I peer into the dark, beyond the ferns, and a breeze raises goose bumps on my arms. Something rustles and thumps like footfalls, closer this time. A stick snaps.
I lunge behind a thick fir tree and press myself against it. I pull in a deep breath, hold it and listen. More footsteps.
I need an excuse for being here . . . I’m just taking a walk.
Up here? Why?
I saw a rabbit and I followed it.
No, that story’s been done. If I’m very, very quiet, they’ll go away. They’ll assume they saw an animal. I hold my body tense and listen.
Did they leave? I venture a slow, careful peek around the tree. Beneath the canopy of branches, it may as well be midnight. Nobody seems to be out there, but I can’t see much other than fern fronds waving in the wind.
Was I just hearing things?
A figure steps out from behind a tree, and my heart leaps into my throat.
Link to Tour Schedule:
OTHER BOOKS IN THE SERIES:
"One world. One currency. One bright future."
That's the promise made by OneEarth Bank after a global economic collapse--but only for those who accept the insertion of a commerce chip.
When Rielle's parents refuse to comply, government officials tear her family apart. As punishment for her parent's crimes, Rielle is forced into a Community Service Contract--a legalized form of slavery--and sold to a wealthy, abusive banker.
The Banker's secrets hold the key to Rielle's freedom, but will she risk prison or even death to escape and search for her family?
Melinda Friesen writes novels for teens and short stories. Her contest winning short stories have appeared in various periodical and an anthology. Enslavement, book one in the One Bright Future series, is her first novel.
· Two (2) winners will received a physical copy of Subversion by Melinda Friesen (US/Canada)
· Five (5) winners will receive a digital copy of Subversion by Melinda Friesen (INT)