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First pages

1

Gertie

Sometimes Gertrude Penn thought her entire life could be defined by numbers.

Born in Section 5, moved to 3rd at the age of seventeen, where she worked in data entry typing endless numbers into her computer. She supposed that most of the people in her office felt the same.

“Are you coming out tonight?” Came a voice as a slim body plopped down in the chair next to her. Gertie looked up startled, and pulled out her earbuds, making faint music sound through the office. She quickly hit the pause button and the noise stopped.

She turned to the leggy blond beside her. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“I said, are you coming out tonight?”

Gertie leaned back in her chair, trying to hide her annoyance at being interrupted in her work for such a trivial question. Kay Barnett was the closest thing she had to a friend in the office, or rather in 3rd, and it would not do to upset her. Kay glanced down at the stack of paper in front of Gertie, her green eyes focused on the columns of handwritten numbers, as though trying to make sense of them. “God, do you even understand what any of it means?”

Gertie shook her head. “Not really, but that’s the beauty of data entry. I don’t have to understand what these mean, I just have to put the information into the computer.” She yawned and rubbed at her black eyes, wiping away the gritting feeling she got when she stared at the pages in front of her for too long. “I can’t come out tonight. I have dinner with my parents.”

“Your parents?” Kay was idly looking around the office, only half listening to Gertie while eying their co-workers.

“Yes. You know I go and see them on Fridays.”

Kay leaned back in her chair. “You’re so boring, Gertie, really. They want us to go out and mingle. You know that it’s required, right? You used to come out with us.” She sounded like a petulant child, upset that she wasn’t getting her way.

Gertie sighed and fidgeted with the pile of papers in front of her. She had gone out the first few weekends that she moved from 5th to 3rd. It had seemed exciting back then, but she soon learned that she felt nothing but awkward while out at the bars, where it seemed that the primary goal was random hookups between co-workers. Gertie wasn’t interested in that. She was only interested in doing her work as quickly as possible. “I know it’s required, I just can’t come tonight.”

Kay stood up, smoothing her black pencil skirt over her curvy hips, her full lips compressed into a tight line. “Okay, well, you better come out next weekend. If you don’t someone might report you.”

The warning lingered between them. Gertie didn’t think that Kay would be the one to report her. But it was possible that someone else in the office had mentioned it to her friend. She’d seen a few of the men eying her, had heard them murmur words like “prude” under their breath, but loud enough that she knew they’d wanted her to hear.

“I’ll let you get back to work.” Kay muttered and moved back to her desk, her hips swaying.

“Thank you,” Gertie put her earbuds back in, and hit play again. Music blared, drowning out the sounds of the office. Not that there was ever much noise. Working in the data entry level was quiet work. Each morning they were brought a stack of papers, and they were expected to complete that stack before they could go home. The faster typers could request more pages if they finished before the end of the day. Most of the fast typers left early. Gertie almost always requested more pages. She couldn’t afford not to.

The government employees that worked in data entry got paid based on number of pages. The more pages completed in a week, the more money they made. And the only reason she’d left school early and taken this job in the first place was for the money. It was rare for someone from 5th to be offered a job in the government offices in 3rd. They mostly worked as hard laborers, builders, farmers, eking out a living while the people in 1st and 2nd were overpaid for doing very little.

Gertie’s fingers flew over the keyboard, never glancing away from the handwritten numbers in front of her. She was ninety percent sure that in a different office someone else was painstakingly copying numbers from a computer screen to the pages, only to be sent to her department to be input again. Part of the Chancellor’s plan to combat the rising unemployment rates.

But who was she to question it? This job had given her a way to help her family far more than she would have had she stayed in 5th and joined them on the farms.

Her teacher, Mrs. Baggs, had recommended her for the position. She’d noticed that Gertie had excelled in typing, far beyond the other students, and had thought it was a shame for her to waste her life working alongside her family at a thankless job that would get her nowhere.

Gertie had resigned herself to being one of the multitudes of farmers the rose well before dawn to board buses bound for the land outside the city. But when the offer came for her to move to Section 3 and make more money than she would ever hope to as a farmer, she’d taken it. For her family’s sake, more than her own.

Sure, it meant that she’d had to move away from their cozy two bedroom apartment and into the much more sterile government housing in 3rd. And she’d had to agree to what she considered insane terms to be able to take the job, the requirement that government employees go out together on the weekends was just one of them. But the benefits far outweighed any drawbacks.

She glanced at the time on her computer. She would be finished with her work three hours before the end of day. Had it been Monday thru Thursday she would have requested more pages. But today she stacked her pages neatly, pushed back her chair and hurried to her manager’s office. She paused outside, taking a deep breath before tapping on the open door.

Mr. Lott looked up, a smile on his round face. “Ah, Miss Penn. Go ahead and close the door.” She did as requested and stood in front of his desk. “I take it you have finished your pages today?”

She held out the stack for him to take. “Yes, Mr. Lott.”

He flipped through it, as if checking her work, though she knew he had as little idea of what the numbers meant as she did. “Would you like more pages today?”

She clasped her hands in front of her and tried not to shift her weight, the black heels that were a part of her required work wear made her feet ache. “No, sir, not today.”

“Ah, taking an early day, are we? Getting ready for going out tonight?” His brown eyes traveled up and down her body, making her cringe inwardly, though her face remained impassive. It was something she had learned to master in the months that she had worked for Mr. Lott.

“No, sir, I’m going to go visit my family.”

He sighed and dropped the stack onto his desk, before standing and coming around to lean against it, considering her. “You’re a very pretty girl, you know that, Gertrude?”

She looked down at her feet. “Thank you, sir.”

“Yes, very pretty, but you seem to be a bit resistant to some of the rules here. You know that when you came to work for us you agreed to certain terms.” He pushed away from the desk and moved closer to her. It took everything she had to not back up a step, she knew from experience that he didn’t respond well when she did that. He brought his hands up and rested them on her shoulders. “If you don’t abide by the terms, then we will have a problem, do you understand?”

She nodded, squeezing her hands together tighter, staring fixedly at the grey carpet. “Yes, sir. I’ve already made plans with Kay- with Miss Barnett for next week.”

His hands were massaging her shoulders, gently. “Good. That’s good. I’ll be sure to join you. Remind me of how old you are, Gertrude?”

She suppressed a shiver of revulsion, and answered, “Seventeen, Mr. Lott.”

His thumbs were making small circles on her shoulders. “Excellent.”

A knock sounded at the door, and he dropped his hands and stepped away from her, before calling out. “Come in.”

Kay smiled prettily as she swept into the office, feigning surprise when she saw that he was not alone. “Oh, Gertie, are you done, too? Excellent! I thought we might go shopping this afternoon. I am in desperate need of something to wear tonight.” She passed her pages to Mr. Lott. “I’m sure you’ll find everything in order, sir.”

He took her pages and nodded, dazzled by her smile. Kay linked her arm through Gertie’s and tugged her in the direction of the door. “Fabulous. We’ll just be going, then if there is nothing else that you need?”

He waved them out, already picking up his phone to call to payroll to give Gertie and Kay’s page numbers for the day. “Ugh,” Kay said, when they were far enough away from his open office door that they wouldn’t be overheard. “How many times do I have to tell you to wait for me to go in with you? That man is so unpleasant.”

Gertie dropped into her chair, shaking. She took a moment to collect herself, resting her head in her hands, before changing into a pair of black flats and stuffing her heels into her shoulder bag. Kay did no such thing. She was as comfortable in heels as Gertie was in sneakers.

“I don’t know how you can stand it,” Gertie stood and pulled on her black trench coat. “How do you let him talk to you like that?”

Kay rolled her green eyes. “I don’t, that’s the point. You need to be more confident.” Kay pulled on her own maroon coat.

“They don’t teach a lot of confidence in 5th.” Kay had been born in Section 3. As far as Gertie knew she’d never even visited any of the lower districts, so she didn’t fully understand what it meant to be raised in them.

Kay patted her arm, soothingly. “Poor Gertie, we’ll get you some confidence.”

As they walked through the long line of cubicles, other employees looked up to see who had been lucky enough to finish so early. Gertie tried not to look apologetic as she followed in Kay’s wake.

They made their way to the elevator and took it down three floors to the payroll office, where the woman behind the counter scanned their bracelets and added their weekly pay to their accounts after telling them their total.

When Kay’s bracelet was scanned, a loud beeping issued from the computer. The woman behind the counter tapped at her keyboard before saying, “It appears that you only went to the gym three times this week, Miss Barnett. Would you like to pay the fine? Or would you like to come back later to collect your pay?”

Kay bit her bright pink lip. “Damn. I really can’t afford the fine.” She thought for a moment. “I’ll come back.” The woman behind the counter nodded. Gertie had stepped away from the window when the computer had started beeping, giving Kay the illusion of privacy. Kay turned from the window, and ran her fingers through her platinum blond hair. “Well, I guess shopping will have to wait. I hate that rule. It's not like I’m going to get fat from missing one workout.”

Gertie nodded. The rule in question was one of Chancellor Duncan’s Healthy Lifestyle Initiatives. Every government employee who worked at a desk was required to log at least four forty-five minute workouts a week or they were fined at the end of the work week.

Truthfully, Gertie didn’t mind that initiative so much. She had very little to do when she wasn’t working, aside from visiting her family. She didn’t like watching TV, it made her brain feel slow and sluggish. She never felt comfortable going out with her colleagues, and so when she was finished with work she would go to the gym on the 7th floor, scan her bracelet and log at least an hour each evening, before making her way home. On the weekends, she spent at least 2 hours every day in the small gym in her apartment building.

She enjoyed the ache in her muscles, and was reminded of how she’d felt after helping her father and mother at their jobs after school.

Kay smacked a kiss on her cheek, leaving a pink smear. “I’ll see you on Monday. Tell your mom and dad I say hi.” And then she was gone, hurrying down the hall. Gertie watched her go, brushing a stray honey blond strand from her face, before wiping at the lipstick.

The back of her neck tingled, and she felt someone’s gaze on her. She turned to look at the woman in the payroll office. Her brown eyes were on her computer, and the hall was empty, but Gertie couldn’t shake the feeling that someone was watching her.

Sighing, she hiked her bag higher on her shoulder and left the building.

2

Gertie

On her way home, she stopped at the market and bought far too many groceries. The man at the checkout counter gave her a doubtful look as he scanned her bracelet for payment, before carefully asking if she needed help out to her car. She declined.

Laden with bags she made her way back to her government appointed apartment. It was small by the standards of others in 3rd, but was still bigger than her parents’ place in 5th. She dropped her shopping bags in the kitchen and shoved any food that wouldn’t keep in the refrigerator.

She made her way to the bathroom, stripping clothes off as she went, dropping them in the washing machine, tucked in the hall closet, as she passed it. She showered quickly, washing the makeup from her face and the product from her hair.

Her bathroom was probably her favorite thing about her apartment. It had a full-sized tub and the water was always hot. In 5th, they’d only had a standing shower and they’d had to wait for ages for the water to warm up. And they’d had such a small amount of it that by the time it heated up, it was already cooling down. She’d taken more showers in cold water than warm.

She lingered under the spray letting the warm water wash away the feeling of Mr. Lott’s fingers on her. She felt unclean even though he’d only touched the fabric of her shirt.

A loud thump from her living room had Gertie lunging for a towel, her heart pounding. Pulling the fabric tight around her, she searched in the cabinets for anything that could be used as a weapon, but only came up with a bottle of hair spray. Well, at the very least she could spray it in their eyes to buy her time to run for help.

She left the water in the shower running, as she cautiously opened the door, holding the can of hair product in front of her in one hand, the other clutching the top of the towel to keep it in place. As she passed the open door to her bedroom she glanced in to see it was empty, then continued down the hall. She reached the end of the hall, her heart fairly beating out of her chest, making it hard for her to take a full breath.

She closed her eyes briefly, trying to steady her nerves. That’s right, you little idiot, close your eyes so the intruder can easily sneak up on you. Her eyes flew open at the thought.

Hair spray wavering in front of her, Gertie stepped into the living room.

It was empty.

She checked behind the couch and in the closet, but there was no one else in her apartment. One of the bags of dry goods in the kitchen had fallen off the counter.

A shaky laugh forced its way from her lips. She immediately felt better and a little ridiculous. Of course, there was a perfectly reasonable explanation for the noise she’d heard. She wasn’t used to living alone, even after months of it.

Gertie put her still wet hair into two braids and then dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt before heading back to the kitchen and pulling ingredients out of the fridge and cupboards. She spent the next hour prepping countless meals packaging them into handy to go containers and freezer safe dishes. She stored a small number of them in her own fridge, but most of them went into bags for her to bring to her family.

The last thing she packed were chocolate chip cookies. She split them into two different packages as she always did, evenly distributing them. But this time she was off by one. She recounted. “Hmm, I could have sworn I made thirty-six.”

The hair on the back of her neck rose, and she had the uncomfortable feeling that she was being watched again. She glanced around saw that the apartment was empty, but still said out loud, “is anyone there?” and then laughed nervously to herself. She shrugged dropped the last cookie into one of the packages and then put them in her bags.

Ten minutes later she had pulled on her sneakers and an olive green jacket and was making her way to the 5th district, lugging far more food than was comfortable. She passed by buildings plastered with posters of Chancellor Duncan, smiling down at her in a way that made her unpleasant, like she did after she had to interact with Mr. Lott or one of the other managers in her office.

His picture was everywhere these days, seeming sincere, but somehow feeling slimy like one of the hawkers on the streets in 5th and 6th, who swears up and down that his goods were not pilfered, but one hundred percent legal. You knew he was lying, but couldn’t really call him on it. She supposed that was the way with all elected officials.

But then, elected officials were so new for their country that Gertie couldn’t be sure.

Their county had been a monarchy for the better part of five hundred years, ruled by the St. Clares. The monarchs and their nobles had been blessed by God with “powers”. Gertie had always hated that word, and she shook her head as she thought it.

They’d had unnatural abilities that the lower class hadn’t, and they’d taken those talents as a sign that they were meant to lead. Why else would God have given them these gifts?

But seventeen years ago, just after Gertie was born, the lower classes had rebelled against the monarchs.

Back then Gertie’s grandfather had worked in the gardens around the palace in 1st. When she was younger he told her stories about the royals in hushed whispers. “The king,” he’d say. “Well, I could take him or leave him. But his daughter, the Princess Katherine, was lovely. She used to come out to the gardens while I worked. She’d get down on her hands and knees and help me weed. She said that being around plants helped to calm her mind. I suppose that had something to do with her ability. She could make anything grow in the harshest of conditions.” And here his face would become distant as he remembered that the princess had been executed along with all members of the royal family.

The lower classes had deposed the monarchy and replaced it with a democracy of sorts. But from what Gertie’s grandpa told her, things hadn’t changed much. The sections still existed, the people in Sections 3 through 6 were underpaid. The people in 1st and 2nd, still spent much of their time doing nothing. The only difference was that now the people could say that they had voted for the person who ruled them. The Chancellor had sworn up and down that he would do away with the sections, but then quickly backtracked, saying it would cause too much disruption, and they would have to approach the change slowly.

Gertie was sweating by the time she got to the first checkpoint between 3rd and 4th. The guards waved her by after scanning her bracelet. She came through this way often enough that they knew her face and knew she wouldn’t cause trouble in their section.

The first time she’d passed through, laden with groceries for her family, they’d made her wait for nearly an hour while they went through each of her bags, checking to make she wasn’t carrying any dangerous substances.

Her shoulders were aching when she reached the checkpoint between 4th and 5th and the sun was low on the horizon. A quick glance at the clock on her bracelet told her she would reach her parents’ house just as they were returning from the farms that bordered half of the city.

Gertie took a deep breath when she’d passed through the second checkpoint, feeling as though she were coming home. She supposed that most of her colleagues and others who lived in 3rd would find 5th uncomfortable at best and terrifying at worst, mostly because they were unfamiliar with hard laborers. They viewed the residents here as lower than them, jealous of the comforts in the higher districts, and so a threat to them and what they had.

The people in 5th were noticeably more exhausted. They had no initiatives here that required them to go out on the weekends, or to exercise. Their work was their exercise and they weren’t the people that the government wanted making connections.

Gertie saw familiar and smiling faces as she walked. She waved at shop owners as she passed, feeling slightly guilty that she hadn’t purchased her plethora of groceries from them. She would transfer some funds to her mother’s bracelet before she left for the night so that they could buy whatever they needed from the grocers in 5th.

The building that her parents lived in was a dilapidated six story walkup close to the checkpoint. Thankfully, her parents didn’t live on the top floor. She struggled up two flights of stairs. Her muscles breathed a sigh of relief as she dropped her bags outside their door. She tapped her bracelet on the pad next to the lock, heard it click and the door slid open. She dragged rather than carried the food inside.

As she went to press the button to close the door she swore she felt someone brush by her, but her eyes told her there was no one there.

3

Vail

Vail Denholm had never been so bored in his life. The girl he was tailing was extraordinarily ordinary. She did nothing but work, go to the gym and visit her family.

He watched as she began unpacking her bags, placing some of the items in the freezer and the fridge, and putting others on the stove to heat, presumably for dinner.

He wedged himself into a corner, trying to keep her in sight, but still be out of the way when her family came. So far, the only good thing about tailing her is that she was an excellent cook and didn’t seem to notice when food went missing.

And she was determined, that much was clear. Not many girls her age would walk through two districts carrying five bags of food. He’d had to stop himself from helping her as she struggled along, but that would have blown his cover and the Office would not have liked that.

So instead he’d just followed her, admiring the view from behind.

He’d nearly given himself away by knocking over one of the bags of food she left on the counter in the kitchen. He’d only been trying to get a peek at the contents, the whole thing had toppled over.

When she’d emerged from the bathroom wielding a can of hairspray like a weapon he’d admired her bravery, though what she thought an aerosol can would do against an intruder was beyond him.

He’d wedged himself in the corner and watched as she moved through the living room, trying to ignore that she was only in a towel and the water that dripped from her hair to bead on her skin.

He shook the memory from his brain, and instead focused on her fully clothed form as she moved around the kitchen.

The front door opened and an older man came in, wearing dirty coveralls and work boots. Dirt covered his hands, and there was a smudge of it on his wrinkled cheek. Vail could tell he’d washed his hands, but the soil had clung to them, staining his skin.

“Hello?” he called from the front door, uncertainly.

“Papa?” Gertie asked, peeking her head out of the kitchen.

“Oh, Gertrude!” He came farther into the apartment. She came out of the kitchen to greet him. “What are you doing here, my girl? I’m dirty.” He warned as she went to give him a hug. Despite his age, he was a mountain of a man, and he dwarfed his granddaughter as he wrapped his arms around her.

“I just couldn’t stay away.” She ignored his warning and kissed his wrinkled cheek, right where the smear of dirt lingered. “I have something for you.”

“For me?” He followed her into the kitchen and she pushed a plastic sack full of jelly beans at him. His face lit up.

“Gertrude, you shouldn’t have.”

She turned back to the stove and used a wooden spoon to stir something simmering in a pot. “I should and I will keep on bringing you sweets for as long as I can.”

The front door opened again and two more people joined them, a man and woman in their early forties. They were similarly dressed like Gertie’s granddad, in coveralls and work boots caked in dried mud.

Vail watched them from his spot on in the corner as they greeted each other. This family didn’t make sense. Not just that they actually liked each other and seemed to genuinely enjoy each other’s company, but they just didn’t look related.

He tilted his head, trying to get a better look at Gertie as she hugged her mother. They were almost complete opposites. Gertie was shorter with a slim frame, had hair the color of honey and black eyes. Her skin was pale with a sprinkling of freckles over her nose and cheeks, no doubt a byproduct from her time in the fields. She was well muscled from her required work outs in the gym, but nothing compared to either of her parents, who were tall and broad, not overweight but solid. Years of labor had hardened their bodies in a way that Gertie wasn’t. Her mother had clear olive skin, black hair and greenish brown eyes, while her father had brown hair, blue eyes and tan skin.

They just didn’t look like they were related.

He shook his head, and caught Gertie’s granddad seemingly staring at him. Vail froze, even though he knew it was impossible for the old man to be looking at him. More likely he was just staring into space and happened to be looking in his direction. The old man blinked and looked back at his family, and Vail let out the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

“Gertrude has brought enough food for a whole army,” he commented before reaching into the plastic bag on the counter and picking out a red jelly bean.

Gertie was still stirring the liquid in the pot, making steam rise from it. “I just want to be sure that you have enough. I put some casseroles in the freezer and made some sandwiches and salads and stuff for lunches, so you won’t need to worry about that for next week.” She stopped stirring and turned to a cutting board where she chopped some kind of green herb before sprinkling it into the pot. “I won’t be able to come next weekend.”

Her mother nodded in a knowing manner. “Has that guard at the checkpoint you told me about finally asked you out?”

“Now, Marla, she’s too young for that.” Her father interjected. He was riffling through the almost empty bags.

“Psh, I was her age when you and I met.” Her mother grinned at Mr. Penn. “She is old enough.”

Face flaming, Gertie flapped her hands at her father shooing him away from the groceries. She dug through a bag and passed him what he had apparently been searching for. “I brought cookies. This package is for you. The other is not, so leave it.”

Vail shifted to ease the pressure on his feet. He wished briefly that he could sit down. But the lumpy looking cushions on the faded floral couch would show the imprint from his body and he was already on edge because the old man kept glancing in his direction.

He tried to ignore the grumbling in his stomach as they sat around the table to eat. They talked about boring, inane things. Who was dating who. Who’d passed away since they’d last seen each other. How the crops on the farms were doing. An irrigation pipe had burst on Monday.

Vail only half listened, stifling a yawn. His stomach let out a particularly loud growl.

“Did you say something?” Her grandad asked. Vail glanced up and was startled to see he was looking directly at the corner where Vail stood, his arms crossed over his chest.

“What, Papa?” Gertrude asked, drawing the old man’s attention back to her. He smiled and patted her hand.

“Nothing, my girl, I just thought I heard something.” Her returning smile dropped from her face as all of their bracelets started beeping, loud and insistent. Her father got up, turned on the TV and then returned to the table. Vail knew it wouldn’t matter which channel was on, when the Chancellor wanted to make a statement all the channels aired it.

The screen flickered to life and they were greeted by Chancellor Duncan, standing behind a podium. The harsh lights of the cameras glinted off of his grey hair. His navy suit and red tie were impeccable, fitted to his broad-shouldered frame. No doubt he’d had a team of tailors working on it.

Behind him to his left was his wife, the First Lady. She kept her hands folded demurely in front of her, her brown eyes looking down, almost as though she were afraid of the camera. Her black hair was twisted up into a bun at the back of her head. The cream colored dress was a startling contrast to the dark blue of the Chancellor’s suit.

On the other side of the Chancellor stood his son, a younger version of his father. Brown hair, blue eyes, broad shouldered.

Vail curled his lip in disgust. This whole family was a fake, a lie. They presented a united front to the world, but Vail knew better. They had intercepted information that things were not serene in the house of the Duncans.

The Chancellor beamed at the camera, raising his hands to quiet the crowd around him that clapped and cheered. Vail wondered how they had assembled such a large crowd so quickly. They were probably a combination of servants and government workers pulled from their jobs to bulk up the audience.

The throng quieted. “Thank you, everybody. So great to be with you. Thank you.” He glanced down at the podium and shuffled some notes around and then looked back at the camera, his blue eyes sharp. “Thank you. I stand before you today because a tragedy, a great tragedy has occurred. This morning, early this morning there was an huge explosion in one of factories in Brisco. Our agents investigated the explosion and they determined that it was caused by the Extras.” The crowd gasped. “The loss of life was immense, larger than any attack on government facilities by the Extras in the last seventeen years. Men, women, children and even little innocent babies lost their lives.” The crowd began to murmur. The Chancellor waited, his blue eyes focused on the camera. Vail’s eyes narrowed. He was lying.

Gertie cocked her head to one side, eyebrows lowered over her black eyes. “I didn’t hear about an explosion in Brisco.” Her mother shushed her. Gertie ignored her. “But no one was talking about it in the office today. Wouldn’t it have been on the news this morning?”

“It’s on the news now, Gertie. Now, hush.” Interjected her father, his eyes never leaving the screen.

The Chancellor continued. “We’ve been fighting this war against the Extras for longer than any wars we’ve ever fought as a nation. We have not used the real abilities that we have. We’ve been restrained. We have to get rid of the Extras. Have to get rid of the Extras. We have no choice.” The crowd erupted with applause. The Chancellor’s wife and son clapped along with the spectators. He waited until they quieted.

“They have to be eradicated just off the face of the Earth. This is evil. This is evil. And you know, I can understand the other side. We can all understand the other side. There can be wars between people, between nations, there can be wars. You can understand how that happens. This is something nobody can even understand. This is a level of evil that we haven’t seen. And we’re going to go to it, and we’re going to do a phenomenal job. But we’re going to end it. It’s time. It’s time right now to end it.” He glanced down at the podium again.

“Keeping that in mind, we need to make adjustments, sacrifices in our country, in our government. And don’t get me wrong our nation is great, it’s the greatest, but we need to make changes to keep it safe. So, with that in mind, I am proposing that we reduce the number of voters in the country to make the decision-making process easier and more simple, to eradicate the probability of voter fraud. And this is something that we know happens, we know it does. So with all of this in mind, the recent Extras attacks, the voter fraud, I am putting a bill before the quorum that will limit voters to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sections.” The crowd let out an audible gasp again, and the Chancellor held out his hands.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Mariah Esterly Lives in the Pacific Northwest where she grumbles about the rain in fall, winter and spring and complains that it is too hot in the summer. She is cohost of the Peripheral Show podcast (available on iTunes) where she and her friends get together and talk about spooky and strange occurrences in our world. She spends much of her time reading, being kissed by her puppers, Boomer, eating popcorn and watching far too much Great British Bakeoff.

Q. What books are you reading now?
A.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, Earth's End (Air Awakens, #3) by Elise Kova, The DarkAngel Trilogy by Meredith Ann Pierce and I am almost always reading one of the books from The Court Of Thorns and Roses Series by the queen Sarah J. Maas.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
You can learn more about me on my website: www.mariahesterly.com You can like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mariahesterlyauthor/ If you like pictures of dogs and food follow me on instagram: @timorousbeasti Check out my podcast: Peripheral available on iTunes

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