Authors: Elana Johnson
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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First Simon Pulse hardcover edition June 2011
Copyright © 2011 by Elana Johnson
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Designed by Mike Rosamilia
The text of this book was set in Berling LT.
Manufactured in the United States of America
2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Possession / Elana Johnson. — 1st Simon Pulse hardcover ed.
Summary: In a world where Thinkers control the population and Rules are not meant to be broken, fifteen-year-old Violet Schoenfeld must make a choice to control or be controlled after learning truths about her “dead” sister and “missing” father.
[1. Science fiction. 2. Rules (Philosophy)—Fiction. 3. Brainwashing—Fiction.
4. Insurgency—Fiction. 5. Missing persons—Fiction.] I. Title.
PZ7.J64053Pos 2011 [Fic]—dc22 2010034675
ISBN 978-1-4424-2391-6 (eBook)
To my family. I would choose you
over anyone and anything.
Good girls don’t walk with boys. Even if they’re good boys—and Zenn is the best. He strolled next to me, all military with his hands clasped behind his back, wearing the black uniform of a Forces recruit. The green stripes on his shirtsleeves flashed with silver tech lights, probably recording everything. Probably? Who am I kidding? Those damn stripes were definitely recording everything.
Walking through the park in the evening is not technically against the rules. Good people do it all the time. But walking through the park with a boy could get me in trouble.
When darkness fell, another rule would be broken.
The whir of a hovercopter echoed high above the trees.
In this park, the saplings stood an inch or two taller than me. Some trees in the City of Water are ancient—at least a century old. But the forest is off-limits, and even I know better than to break that rule.
The filthy charcoal shade of the sky matched the impurities I’d filtered from the lake in class today. I imagined the color to be similar to the factory walls where my dad worked, but I had never been there and hadn’t seen him for years, so I couldn’t say for sure.
People don’t return from the Badlands.
“Vi, I’m glad you finally answered my e-comm,” Zenn said, his voice smooth, just like his skin and the perfectly fluid way he walked.
“You know my mom.” I didn’t have to elaborate. Not with Zenn. “I told her I was coming whether she said yes or not.” I tried to hide how desperate I’d been to see him, how happy his e-comm invitation had made me. He could’ve asked me to the moon and I would’ve gladly gone. And taken whatever punishment followed.
I’d left school during the afternoon break. The Special Forces compound is a two-hour walk south of the City of Water. I’d crossed the border and trekked for half a mile in the Fire Region just to see him. Crossing borders is also against the rules, but Zenn was worth every step.
I watched the hovercopters circle closer, comfortable in the silence with Zenn. Sometimes it said more than we did.
The sidewalks had stopped functioning thirty minutes ago, clearly curfew for this park. As one hovercopter dipped nearer, it took every ounce of courage I had to keep from reaching out, grabbing Zenn’s hand, and running.
Before, I might have done it. But there was something different about him. Something that made me think he wouldn’t run with me this time.
Another quick glance confirmed it. His eyes. They held no sparkle. No life. Maybe the Forces worked him too hard.
My sweet, wonderful Zenn. I hoped he was okay here. His eyes worried me.
“Well, now that you’re here, I’ve got something for you,” he said, smiling.
I angled my body toward him. Zenn’s e-comm had said he had a surprise for me—surely something he’d tinkered with until it was absolutely perfect. Like he was.
“The Forces have kept me busy,” Zenn continued, reaching into his pocket. He didn’t seem concerned about the circling hovercopters, but he wasn’t always living one breath away from getting arrested. “But we might not get to see each other again for a while. Your birthday is in a couple weeks, and you’re my—”
“You down there!” An electronic voice cut through Zenn’s throaty tone. I flinched and took a half step behind Zenn. A one-manned tech-craft, the hovercopter was invented especially for ruining lives. No one ever escapes from one. Not even me.
On the bottom rudder, a red rose winked through the twilight. My breath shuddered through my chest—I’d been caught by this hovercopter before. Maybe since Zenn was a Forces recruit and had invited me here, I wouldn’t get in trouble.
Yeah, right. Fairness isn’t something the Director cares about.
“Cards!” the mechanical voice shouted. Zenn pulled out his lime green activity card and held it straight up. An electric arm grew from the side of the police vehicle and flew down to scan the bar code on the back of Zenn’s card.
I slowly retrieved my own ID. No one in the Goodgrounds can so much as step onto the sidewalk without an electronic record of their activity.
My card was blue for the City of Water. I raised it halfway as the arm jangled at me, trying to get a better angle to scan the bar code. Then I’d be busted for being out of bounds—after dark.
Zenn watched me with a wary eye. “Vi. Don’t give them a real reason to lock you up.” He stepped close enough for his
body heat to permeate my senses. Touching was against the rules, but he’d broken that one lots of times.
I smiled, even though he was right. Lock Up is not a fun place. The stench alone is enough to set rule-breakers straight. Still, I almost threw my activity card into the brambles where no one would ever find it.
Zenn’s face stopped me, his mouth drawn into a fine line. My bar code would be attached to his—we were in the park after dark (
)—and if I got into serious trouble, he might not be able to advance in the Special Forces. And I couldn’t have that weighing on my conscience.
I rolled my eyes at Zenn, something he didn’t see because of my oversize straw hat—another rule, one I actually followed. The scanner beeped, and a horrible squeal erupted from the hovercopter.
“What have you done now?” Zenn’s voice carried a hint of laughter amidst the exasperation.
“Nothing,” I answered. “I’ve done nothing this time.” I’d been good for two months.
time?” he asked.
“Violet Schoenfeld, stay where you are!” the mechanical voice boomed. “The Green demands a hearing.”
“Vi! The Green? Seriously, what have you done?”
“Can I have my present now?”
* * *
Everyone knows the Green is just a fancy name for the Thinkers. They’re the ones who broadcast the transmissions and categorize the people. The ones who do the thinking so regular people won’t have to.
Zenn would join Them when he finished training with the Special Forces. He’d wanted to be a Greenie for as long as I’d known him, but that didn’t stop our friendship. This arrest might—SF agents didn’t hang out with criminals.