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CHAPTER 1

WEEKS AND WEEKS FROM NOW

Penny was woken by a ghost. First, its voice, crackling over the base’s intercom, echoing into her bedroom. She reached for Mason with her only arm, but knew he wasn’t there because they weren’t allowed to sleep in each other’s rooms.

“The child,” the voice said. “And the mother, please.”

Penny couldn’t breathe.

A man.

This voice.

She shot up in bed and held the covers to her chest and listened to the seconds of silence before the alarm started to blare. She knew this voice though she had only heard it a few times before—that night weeks and weeks ago—the camp ground and the thick dampness of death. Clint had warned her this man could be back. He had died, yes. There was no doubt. But wealthy people had the means to cheat every rule and law of man and nature and they had the technology to recreate things that were lost. Plants. Animals. People.

“Come out peacefully,” this man said.

Prince’s voice churned her stomach. How was he speaking beyond the grave, through our base’s intercom? Was he even real?

In Penny’s clutched hand, wrapped inside the sheet, was Mason’s t-shirt she slept with every night. The smell of him had faded inside the thin tissue cotton, but it was still there, with her. Penny slid her legs off the bed and winced at the alarm’s endless howling. The concrete cooling the bottoms of her feet reminded her that they were very far from home.

Her door opened. Dixon stood in his bullet deflecting mag-vest, holding a rifle. “They found us.”

Penny nodded.

“Is that him…?” Dixon asked.

Penny nodded again, head lowered this time.

Mason slid past his brother and into the room to her bed. “Pen.”

She was already shaking.

Mason held her and said, “You need to stay inside. They probably won’t let us fight anyway, if it comes to that.”

“Don’t go out there,” Penny pleaded.

One Nation troops ran down the hallway, one of them tugging on Dixon’s shoulder. “All of us, on the main gate!”

“Mason…” Dixon called.

Mason looked to his brother and then down to the floor, eyes closed. To Penny, he held her tighter and said, “Stay with your mom and Sam. No two can get inside this place.”

“Okay,” Penny said. “Where are you…?”

“Just the gate. We’re going to guard the gate.”

“Please…” Penny cried, tears welling.

“Put your arm on,” he said, nodding at the charging station mounted to the wall.

“Mason!” Dixon yelled with his attention drawn to the shouting down the hall. “C’mon!”

Mason kissed Penny and stood and ran. Penny stared at the empty doorway with the alarm blaring, taking in the doorframe like an empty painting. She couldn’t move. Men yelled and women commanded, “Check the charge on your mag-vest! It ain’t deflecting any bullets with no charge!”

Time slowed to a low drone as Penny reached over her nightstand for her mechanical arm. Then the ghost echoed again. “The mistake you made, Ms. Van Best, was running from the authorities. You’ve made this so much harder on yourself than you needed to.”

“My gods,” Penny whispered.

“You are now the property of the United States of America. You forfeited your rights when you attacked agents of their military. Gray Altar. You have no rights.”

Jill stood at the doorway. “Don’t listen to him. Get dressed, quick.”

“Mom?”

Jill rushed to her and knelt. “We’ve got to get to the bunker. We’ll be safe there.” Penny’s jeans were already in her hands. “C’mon. Sam’s getting ready too.”

Penny stood and slid on her jeans, struggling to lift them with one hand. Her mother tugged them up and buttoned them, making her feel like a child.

“Where’s your shirt?” Jill asked.

“I can get it,” Penny hissed. “Mason’s not going out there, is he?”

“No, I hope not,” Jill said at the doorway now, squinting down the hall. “We need to hurry. The baby’s down there already.”

Then her mom was gone.

After pulling on her shirt, Penny sat on the bed and lifted the titanium prosthetic arm that One Nation engineers had made her. It almost gravitated to the metal socket fused to her shoulder.

She remembered the day she had stepped into the robotics laboratory on base, still foggy on pain killers from the amputation, to see a smiling team of technicians holding up a human-like appendage that matched her remaining arm. Everytwo was there to see her reaction—mom and Clint—Sam, Dixon, and Mason—even some of the men and women that came to save her family. Penny stepped up to the technician holding her new arm and touched the synthetic skin that was molded and airbrushed exactly like her own.

“We used Sam’s left arm as a model, you know, so you’d be identical again,” the technician said. “Once we connect it to you, it’ll be like you never lost yours. Kinda.”

“Kinda,” Penny chuckled, looking back at her family and Mason.

They chuckled with her, mostly uncomfortable, she remembered.

It had looked real enough. Fake fingernails and manicured cuticles. The technician turned it for her to see every side.

Penny had lowered her hand from the synthetic arm and looked around the laboratory at the other robotic limbs and machines displayed in varying stages of development. Exoskeleton legs hung from hydraulic lifts. Several large four-legged WarWalkers stood at the end of the room, their turrets pointed down and rocket launchers empty like honeycombs.

Penny had held the metal joint that was fused to her shoulder, gently touching the circular port that prosthetics could be locked into as if they were part of her. This was the flesh that three of his bullets pierced—this was the piece he took from me. I’m as cold as the building that encases us.

“Do you want us to connect it?” the technician asked. “Are you okay?”

Penny fought the feeling of faintness.

She remembered Clint stepping up catch her if she fell.

“No. I’m okay.” Penny squeezed the titanium port hardwired to her shoulder. “I’m fine.”

“We can do this next week,” Jill said. “There’s no rush.”

“I’m good,” Penny said as she surveyed the room. The technician still held the fake arm that looked so real it could have been the same one she carried for sixteen years. There was even a tiny freckle on the wrist—a freckle she knew her old arm didn’t have, but Sam’s left arm did. Penny looked to her sister for the skeptical expression that she knew would be there. Instead, Sam offered a sympathetic smile and said, “It looks amazing.”

Penny nodded. Everytwo’s relief was tangible. But, Penny thought, how could they think I would want to go back now? She had been damaged, maybe even mutilated in some people’s definition. The physical bond between her and her sister was broken forever. Penny knew she would never look the same, she would never feel the same, and, maybe just as importantly, people would never look at her the same way again. Yet, it was the damage they couldn’t see that mattered most. In Penny’s eyes, she had become a killer. She had murdered Emmett Prince in self-defense, but it was still killing. She and Sam did that together. They had murdered a man who would haunt her forever.

“Can I…” Penny said. “Can I try that one?” And she pointed to a stainless steel table with several mechanical arms displayed. They were raw, just simple metal frames with hydraulic joints and thickly cabled forearms.

“Those? They’re for military bots,” one of the technicians said.

“Let her try one on,” Clint had said.

 

Was that over a month ago? Or more? Penny couldn’t remember, so much of it was blurred by pain medication and physical therapy—the hours of training and becoming one with the machine. Sitting on the edge of her bed, lifting the titanium arm, it was becoming routine to align its circular joint with the metal socket of her shoulder. As the two connections moved closer, the magnetism pulled stronger until it clanked her solid metal arm to her body. A few seconds later, with a little concentration, Penny moved the elbow joint back and forth. She stood, making the wrist crank along with her elbow. The claw attached to the wrist opened its four hinges and grabbed a boot, nearly crushing it. Penny hadn’t even attempted tying laces. She slipped both on, already tied.

The base’s alarm stopped mid-blare. Now she could hear the panic, the scrambling of troops and people yelling for equipment.

“Ah, don’t do that,” the ghost said over the intercom. “Ha.”

Whatever that was, she didn’t know.

“Pen!” Sam said from the door. She shared the same expression of dread Penny had. “Is that… him?”

Penny didn’t know what to say.

Sam stepped inside. “Mom wants us downstairs, in the bunker.”

“Are they outside? Mason and…?” Penny asked.

“I dunno,” Sam said. “Nobody is right now, I think.”

Jill’s echo came from within the depths of the base. “Girls! Now!”

Penny grabbed her laptop from the small desk in the small room. She unplugged her phone and pocketed the charger. “They’re trying to shut us down, aren’t they?”
Sam smiled. “They’re desperate.”

Overhead, the intercom speakers squealed. Prince’s voice broke in mid-sentence, “…and as property, we are here to take care of you, as caretakers. We only want the best for you and your family, Ms. Van Best. You attacked us first. You can be absolved of that if you cooperate.”

Both girls stared at the speaker above their heads.

“You’ve been very clever, all of you. People believe in One Nation. But they deserve the truth—and they deserve the future that you and the child can give them.”

“Fuck him,” Penny said, her titanium arm’s claw closing to a pointed fist. “He’s probably broadcasting this.”

The voice above them continued. “If you cease all activities and surrender, you and your family will have all of your rights restored. No more hiding. No more deception. No more videos.”

“Yeah, they’re desperate,” Penny agreed. “I’m not hiding in some hole. Not if that’s really him.”

“Pen…”

With no alarm or antagonizing man on the intercom, the base fall quiet. The clomp of boots and click of rifles, but little else.

Penny set her laptop down and slid past her sister, into the hall, aware of the silence and how death preferred a quiet space to preform. Her pocket started vibrating. She took out her phone to see a text from Mason: We’re all fighting if they breach the drone shield.

She showed her phone to Sam, making her eyes widen.

“Girls! What are you doing?” Jill yelled from down the hall. She was holding their baby sister. “C’mon!”

Neither of them looked back.
“I can’t let him go out there alone,” Penny said to Sam.

When her sister reached to her and held her titanium arm by the wrist, she only felt the sentiment of the gesture. When Penny chose this arm, she chose a life of resistance—a life of independence. Her phone vibrated again.
Mason: Gray Altar gunships are dropping troops.

When Sam saw the message, Penny knew there was no going back.

The baby started to cry.

Jill swaddled it close, rocking as tears filled her eyes. “Girls!”

CHAPTER 2

WEEKS AND WEEKS AGO

Not a day went by that Sam didn’t wish her arm was taken that night. And she dwelled on the thought that, for some reason, the man they called Prince had chosen Penny for some unknown reason. Poor Penny. Sam was the one that begged to be different, pushing her twin away at every opportunity. She had been the worst sister imaginable—punishing Penny for no good reason. If anytwo deserved to be crippled, it was her.

There was a relief in understanding why they weren’t naturally inclined to be like each other. For all they knew, she and Penny were the only non-mutated Sets in the world. At least part of her selfishness could be blamed on genetic manipulation. The few One Nation doctors and geneticists were very proud of that accomplishment.

Sam sat in her new bedroom, a small stainless steel and concrete dorm that resembled a prison cell. Windowless. Cold. Clint and her mother had encouraged her to “pretty the place up” with pastel and charcoal drawings from her sketchbook, but that did little to make the compound more like home. It didn’t help that there was no internet and cell phone service was all internal. One Nation’s base was invisible to the outside world. At least they had given her a new laptop with photo and video editing software.

Sam clicked through a few photos she was working on—interiors of the base’s library and media center, the massive cafeteria and hydroponic gardens lit by ultraviolet lamps. She lingered on a picture of Dixon, guitar in hand, laughing with his brother. Even after all they’d been through, she still liked him. Sighing, she shut the laptop and stood.

It was 10 in the morning.

Sam knew Penny would be in physical therapy and any support she could give her would be appreciated. Watching what her sister could do with her new arm was also kind of fun.

On the wall hung the magnetic armor vest that the One Nation commanders gave her. Sam lifted it out of its charging station and slipped it on, feeling the electricity surge around her once it was clasped closed. The size and shape of a life vest, the name mag-vest suited the bullet-deflecting armor. It was a little large on her small frame, but she could maneuver easily. She grabbed her gun, also issued by the men and women who ran the base, a squat assault rifle that was silenced like all the other weapons she had ever fired.

Heading to the door, Sam walked past the spot she had cleared for the blank canvases she asked for, but things like that were nearly impossible to get. Isolation was their only weapon.

Walking the long gray halls was always lonely, no matter who was around. One Nation was a world of singularity unlike anywhere else in the world. No two judged her for wanting to be different. And, as sad as it was, there were more twins here who had lost siblings than she knew existed. Yet more victims of the man they called Prince. Somehow he had managed to murder one twin from so many Sets. There were names for him. The Gray Stalker. The Set-Breaker. The Prince.

At each corridor’s end, the guards still saluted her as they did on the night she and her family arrived. Sam walked past the technology center’s tinted windows where teams worked on the organization’s media presence—a covert brand of resistance to the corrupt government and private military. She slowed to look at the projected image they were all analyzing, but walked on when they caught her spying. One of them waved. Sam nodded and rattled her rifle in the air in solidarity.

The massive security doors to the main entrance were open when she reached them, letting in a wide band of sunlight. Smells of pollen and new growth tickled her nose. The shadows of rotor propelled drones swirled in the light. Above them, the circling drones looked like a slow-churning hurricane of black metal, each of them linked together to cloak the base and form a protective shield. Mesmerized, Sam stared at it as she stepped onto the grass.

The only civilization for miles was an old truck stop and dinner but there was no way for anything to detect the base no matter how much noise they made. Miles of private property separated them from the world along with a high chain linked fence. Clint has made the mistake of telling the boys about the diner who almost immediately told her and Penny. It was a place they daydreamed about walking to like normal teenagers. Split a basket of french fries and pitch of soda. They knew that was out of the question.

Several guards stood in the safety of the opening, watching the training session in the field. They both nodded at her and smiled.

“Your sister’s getting good,” one of them said.

“Focus, Penny!” Clint called from the treeline, pointing a baseball bat at her sister. “Keep your eyes on your target! The ball will do the rest!”

Mason and Dixon were beside him, both wearing baseball gloves. Dixon raised his in a wave to Sam as she walked closer to her sister. Two technicians stood close by, both typing on tablets and watching Penny.

Penny stood by herself, aware of Sam’s arrival, but not bothering to look over. Sam could tell her sister was frustrated. Fifty yards in front of her sat a broken down sedan with every tire flat and the windshield smashed. Penny stared to breath heavier and hunched, extending her metal arm out and back with slow intent. Sam knew not to get too close.

“Wrecking ball!” the other guard called.

The first guard smacked him on the shoulder.

Penny blushed as she smiled and started to pivot like a discus thrower, speeding up and spinning twice before hammering her arm down to release a metal ball from the center of her claw. It rocketed at the wrecked car like a cannon ball, but Penny kept her arm aimed at it, forcing the softball-sized sphere to arc up and over the car’s roof.

“Yes!” Clint called.

“Woooo!” Mason hollered.

The metal ball shot straight up in the air as if Penny were commanding it with her mind, but it was the magnetic force of her arm that turned the simple metal ball into a controllable weapon. They watched the ball rise to the height of the spiraling drone shield until it slowed to a stop. Penny kept her arm aimed as she strained to concentrate. Sam inched toward her, setting her rifle down in the grass, saying, “You got it. You got it.”

Mason and Dixon followed their father as he backed up. Penny finally smiled. Nodded.

Sam looked at the ragged scar on her sister’s scalp, a ripped river of pain where black stitches still ran like wildly drawn X’s.

Penny’s metal claw flexed open as she concentrated and let the ball drop at the same speed it had risen. It fell and smashed through the roof of the car with a boom. The guards applauded.

“Perfect,” Clint called. “Now…”

But before he could instruct her, Penny retracted her metal arm with her open claw pointed at the car, pulling the ball back to her. Its heft punched the driver’s side door open as it flew back to her to settle inside the round pocket of her metal palm. Now she turned to Sam.

“They’re calling you Wrecking Ball,” Sam said.

Penny shook her head. “Like that old song?”

Sam picked up her rifle. “I’d download it if we had access to the fucking internet.”

Penny dusted off her metal arm. “One reason to be grateful we don’t,” she said, holding the wrist of her metal arm with her natural hand. “That song’s annoying.”

Sam stepped closer, placing at her shoulder, the metal socket and irritated skin around it. “That getting better?”
Penny ran her eyes down the length of her prosthetic, from the shoulder joint to her claw. “Hurts less.”
Sam put her arm around her sister’s shoulder and hugged her. “You amaze me.”

Mason jogged to them with this brother lagging behind. “That was awesome.”

Penny’s typical bashfulness was replaced with a stiff jawed nod. “Yeah, I guess it kinda was.” She slipped out from Sam’s arm.

Mason hugged her, kissing her on the cheek. “I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that thing.”

“You take that off in bed, I hope,” Dixon joked as he approached.

“Dude. C’mon,” Mason said.

The technicians knelt by Penny’s side and inspected her arm, opening a curved panel on her bicep to access its internal components. All it took was the simple turn of an allen wrench to tweak whatever calculation they needed to make her prosthetic perform perfectly. “Great control, Penny. How’s the pain management?”
“Better,” she said.

“A few more weeks and you won’t feel a thing,” he said.

Clint leaned on his baseball bat like a cane. “I think it’s time we showed y’all something.”

The boys were quick to give him quizzical looks, both saying, “What?”

Clint looked down at the bat and the dirt that he was spinning a divot into with it. One technician nodded at the other and they walked back toward the base.

“Something we’re been working on, for a while I guess,” Clint said. “C’mon. Inside.”

Sam watched Dixon’s attention meander away from the conversation. He was the daydreamer of the two, always drifting. He scanned the treeline for movement, lifting the scope of this rifle to his eye to get a better view. She had all but given up on trying to date him. And it was a mystery how Mason liked Penny despite his brother and Sam having no chemistry. That went against everything she’d ever learned about Set relationships. The mutual attraction of all four of them should have either bloomed naturally or not happened at all. Sometimes Sam felt like she was the only person witnessing some of the most important happenings in the world—like she was the only two noticing these tiny shifts that would ripple through culture and change the world forever. Of course, as usual, she was the two that was left out.

“I hope…,” Clint said, but didn’t finish and started to walk to the base. “You’ll see.”

Jill was waiting for them inside as the massive gate closed behind them. The sound of concrete scraping concrete rumbled until the parted doors slammed shut. Darkness blanketed the open room. In the dim, Jill cradled the baby as if it were the most precious thing in the world because they all knew if probably was. Mason was the first to approach her, making Sam wonder if his attentiveness was a show for Penny.

“You name this poor thing yet?” he asked Jill.

She gently peeled back the blanket that covered the baby’s brow. “We’ve got a few names we’re mulling over. Nothing solid yet.” Jill looked to Clint. “We doing this now?”

Clint nodded. “They’re ready.”

“Ready for what?” Sam asked as she took off her heavy mag-vest.

Clint cycled his stare from one twin to the next. “This way.”

 

Sam hadn’t seen the RV since the night they arrived a month ago. She figured it had been hidden away so it wouldn’t remind everytwo about the violence that had taken place. When Clint brought them into the machine shop lined with jeeps and militarized pickup trucks, she realized the opposite was true. The RV was being given very special attention. The first thing she noticed was the side panel that had been removed. Behind where it had been was a laptop with a larger external hard drive attached to it. Everything was expertly secured with clasps and bolts. Cords snaked out from the laptop in every direction.

The vintage RV wasn’t what it seemed.

Sam and Penny shot Mason and Dixon baffled faces.

Always defensive, Dixon held up his hands. “Don’t look at us.”

“I hope y’all aren’t going to hate me,” Clint said.

“I don’t get it,” Mason said. “Were you…?”

“This is our security camera, right?” Dixon asked as he leaned down and inspected the inside of the panel.

Jill remained quiet, avoiding Sam’s eyes.

“Maybe like…” Clint said, removing his ball cap. “A lot of cameras.”

Penny and Sam turned to each other, grimacing.

“I noticed that camera,” Clint pointed to the small half sphere that poked out of the RV, pointed at the side door. “And the one inside, over the dash, but…”

“There’s more?” Penny asked, her face becoming more horrified.

“There’s…” Clint could barely look at them. “A few others. Nothing personal was recorded and all of you can look through what we captured.”

“What?” Penny almost yelled. Her claw tensed to a pointed fist. “Why did you do this? This is our lives. Our privacy.”

“Penny,” Jill said. “It wasn’t just Clint’s decision.”

“What?” Sam said as she stepped into the RV. “Are there cameras in the back?”

Jill said nothing and covered the baby’s head.

“Yes,” Clint said.

Sam rewound her brain to all the private things she had done in the few days they were on the road—things she never wanted Penny to see, things she done at night she’d never want on tape. “What the fuck?”

“No one has seen the footage yet,” Clint assured them. “Only one of the media people here. She’s a social engineer. She wants to meet with all y’all.”

“This is… I don’t even know what to…” Penny looked like she might tear sometwo in half. Sam watched her through the back window as she turned to Jill. “Did you know?”

Jill nodded. “We had no choice. This footage, it’s the only real weapon we have.”

“She’s right,” Clint said. “All these trucks. Our armor. Your fancy arm. None of it stands a chance against Gray Altar. They can come in here anytime and kill us all.”

“And a bunch of home movies does?” Mason said, looking to Penny. “Did you film us? Me and Penny?”

“Like I said, I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve watched the battle footage of that night, the last night. We even hacked some of the drones that Gray Altar was using. We’ve got that footage too.”

Sam stepped out of the RV and next to Mason. “You have us killing Prince? Me and Penny shooting him?”

Everybody looked at each other, shocked, elated, saddened.

“Yes,” Clint said. “I’m not sure if you want to see it.”

“I do,” Sam said. “I definitely do.”

Jill held the baby tight. “Honey, I don’t think you do.”

Sam, without looking, held Mason’s hand tight. “Show me.”

 

A One Nation operative met them in front of the media center as if scripted. He handed both Sets of twins lunch on steel trays—each of their favorite sandwiches accompanied by their their favorite potato chips and fruit. “You like kiwis, right Penny?”

“Ah, yeah,” she said, taking her tray.

“This feels like a set-up,” Dixon said, unfolding the wax paper of one of his sandwiches.

“Alix is going to explain everything,” Clint said as the door slid open to the media center.

The same team that Sam passed earlier watched them enter the large room. As they were led through the room, she wondered what One Nation’s motive could be. Were they making sure she and Penny weren’t spies? Had they record everything as insurance against a security breach?

Penny turned to her and whispered, “This is insane. They were watching us? Like, studying us?”

“No one was watching anything,” Jill said, stressing the one like some Singulars like to do. “I haven’t even seen the tapes.”

Sam glared back at her. “You could have told us.”
“No,” Jill said softly. “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t have.”

At the end of the room, a door opened into a private editing room with multiple screens and a long console of switches and dials. A woman with salt and pepper hair greeted them with handshakes, smiling and saying, “I’m Alix. I’m the communications director here. You’ve probably seen me around the base, definitely in here if you’ve been hanging out using the computers.”

Clint stood close to her. “These are my sons, Mason and Dixon. And you know Jill and her daughters.”

Alix nodded at Sam and then Penny. “Heroes. Both of you. Defending yourself against a Gray Altar assault and killing Emmett Prince. That was… astonishing. Really. We’re all honored to have you here.”

Sam tried not to roll her eyes. This was something she’d heard so many times before. In her mind, they weren’t heroes at all, just two girls who were caught up in one of the most important discovery in twenty years.

Alix turned to Mason and Dixon. “And you two, everytwo would be dead if you hadn’t taken out so many mercenaries that night.” Alix, though she was older, used the modern plural vernacular created by Sets. It was awkward hearing a Singular speak this way and it made Sam suspicious—was this woman trying too hard to get on their good side?

“Let’s sit,” she said. “What we’re going to discuss might sound weird and you’ll probably be upset at first. I want to say that up front.”

“Because you filmed us,” Penny said. “Secretly. Recorded. Us.”

“Penny,” Jill said. “Blame me and Clint, not her or One Nation. It was our choice.”

“Please, have a seat. All of you,” Alix said as she took the chair at the editing console. “When I explain it all, I think you’ll be relieved.”

Sam watched Mason sit next to her sister. His love for her had only grown since that night, but Sam had come to terms with this. Penny needed all the support she could get.

Alix leaned in once they were all seated. “I want you to know that I joined One Nation three years ago. I was a tenured professor at Duke. I left my life behind when I walked through those doors and I’ve never looked back because our mission here is vital to restoring balance to the nation.”

Clint nodded and watched his sons’ reactions.

“I’m not going to get all preachy and I don’t want to make this about me. It’s about your future and the country you deserve, not one run by corrupt politicians and a private military. Penny, you paid a high price, one of the highest prices, for the policies that are in place.”

Penny scoffed. “You guys aren’t recording this now, are you? There’s no cameras in here, right?”

Alix breathed deep and shook her head. “No. I understand why you’re upset. I would be too.”

“Pissed is the word,” Penny said.

“Pen, please,” Jill huffed.

Mason put his arm around Penny’s shoulder, leaning on the cold metal of her arm. Sam noticed Penny had her open claw aimed almost directly at Alix as if a simple gesture could send her wrecking ball straight into the woman’s face.

“I’ve only watched a little bit of the footage. No two else has at all. We want all of you to approve it before we release it.”

All four twins turned to each other in disbelief.

“What?” Sam said.

Alix picked up a steaming mug from a holder in the console and steeped the teabag inside it. “I know. It sounds crazy, but what we want to do is this. With your permission and help, we want to slowly release footage of all of you, from the beginning of the trip all the way to the end, the battle and the baby’s birth.”

The four teenagers shifted glances at two another. Sam was speechless.

“Online?” Penny said, her mouth open as if she had more words to say but couldn’t form them.

“Yes,” Alix said.

“Why?” Dixon scoffed, looking at his brother. “Who cares about us?”

“That’s it. The world doesn’t know who you are yet,” Alix said, sipping her tea. “If we do this right, telling your story and Jill’s at the same time, if we do that and lead up to the baby’s birth, then Gray Altar will have no authority or power over the child. Or you. You’ll all be free. All we have to do is make people care.”

“A lot of people,” Jill added.

“It’s the best way,” Clint said. “The public already knows Gray Altar is corrupt. They have more congressmen in their pocket than any political party and they act with immunity abroad. All the people need to see is how Gray Altar wants to control the cure and profit off it. People won’t stand for that.”

“Then why can’t you just tell them?” Penny asked, shifting her weight and wincing at the lingering pain of her missing arm. “We don’t have to be part of it.”


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Justin Sirois is a writer and game maker living in Baltimore, Maryland. His most recent books include So Say the Waiters, MLKNG SCKLS, Falcons on the Floor, and The Last Book of Baghdad written with Iraqi refugee Haneen Alshujairy as well as The Heads and CATHOLE. Justin has received five individual Maryland State Art Council grants and a Baker "b" grant in 2011.

Q. What is the inspiration for the story?
A.
Current political trends and events, for sure. Two Girls is an allegory for a new generation who is struggling for acceptance. It's also about a corrupt private military that profits off exploitation and control.
Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
A.
On SeveredBooks.com -- that's where I have a lot of my other work including So Say the Waiters. It's s series about an app that lets people schedule their own kidnapping. For fun. ;)
Q. Where did the idea for this book come from?
A.
Out of an urgency to tell a story about an America in crisis.

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