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First pages


"No lunch again today, dear?" Miss Cherry asked kindly.

"I wasn't hungry." Marjoram tried to ignore the other students eating their lunches. She sat alone and read a book instead, as she had done on many days lately. Children who complained about having no food were taken away from their parents. Besides, books were more interesting than food, and school was the only place with a library full of books she could read.

Her stomach growled so loudly she was certain the teacher would hear it. Frozen in fear, Marj pretended to keep reading.

The teacher said nothing further, but as she walked past the desk, Miss Cherry slipped an apple next to Marj's book.

Starring at the piece of fruit for a moment, Marj fought back unwanted tears. This wasn't the first lunch the kind teacher had given up something from her own meal in order to feed Marj. And a piece of fruit was major. Even when her folks had more money, before her mom had been downsized out of a job, they had survived mostly on textured protein and nutritional shakes. She couldn't remember the last time she's seen a piece of fruit or a fresh vegetable. Back when she'd been a kid, she supposed.

Setting aside her book, Marj slowly ate the apple, including the core and left only the seeds. She might have eaten the seeds as well, but she knew they were poisonous. Now, if you had a peach, you could crack the hard pit open and eat the seed inside. Peach seeds were kind of bitter tasting but perfectly edible. Apple consumed all too soon, she carefully placed the seeds in their proper recycling bin, and returned to her book.

When classes finished for the day, Marj tucked her tattered old school books into her cloth satchel and placed a thin breathing mask over her face before leaving the building. Her mask wasn't one of the fancy ones with the chemical filters rich people owned, but it still cut some of the fumes from the city.

If the light outside was dim, Marjoram didn't notice it. She'd been born in New Liberty, and the sprawling city with its overpopulation and its blanket of smog was all she knew. Everything was muted shades of brown and gray, buildings, sidewalk, street, and the small dirt patches between things. No other colors existed unless they came from the clothing of other pedestrians. Nothing grew in this environment except the structures of mankind.

The streets were crowded with other people walking. You had to keep your eyes open and pay attention while traveling the streets or you would run into other people. It was the height of rudeness to touch another citizen without permission.

Halfway home, Marj paused in her journey when she saw a Screen with no queue waiting to use it. For the most part, technology was only for the super ‑rich. Her home was heated with steam from the city steam lines. No one she knew had air conditioning. When the summer days grew hot, one opened the windows and used a mask inside the house. The only music she heard was at school because normal people couldn't afford music devices. No one at all had Screens in their homes. The public compys on the street were the only ones available. Even rich folks didn't have a compy in their house.

All it took to use a public Screen was to place a palm on the surface of it. Screens worked by touch, there were no keyboards. Keyboards and such went out of fashion before Marjoram was born because they were a waste of precious resources.

Light flashed as the Screen scanned her hand. Her citizen number and photograph appeared briefly on the large, flat monitor before it took her to the main menu. Everyone who lived in New Liberty was given a citizen number on the day they were born. Parents taught their children to memorize it before they even learned to read. If you didn't have a number, you weren't a person. No one in any official capacity cared about your name.

It made sense, she supposed. In a city sprawled across sixty ‑two thousand square miles, which had a population of over a billion, names weren't specific enough. In her school alone, there were over a dozen Marjorams.

It didn't take long for Marj to get where she wanted from the main menu. There was a shortcut to the section she liked best at the bottom right of the front page. Puzzles and brain teasers were the best part of the Screen. Though she enjoyed school, it didn't require much brain power on her part. Memorizing the rules of the city was easy, as were the lengthy recycling bins rules. School had taught her to read, which she adored, but only taught the simplest of mathematics. She yearned for ways to challenge her brain, and the puzzle section of the Screen could be tough enough to offer a challenge.

Pressing the tab at the bottom right corner, Marj was immediately taken to a new puzzle. This one was logic rather than math, but she liked those too.

"You sit on one side of a moving water barrier with a carnivore, an herbivore, and a Bellis perennis. Using only a small floatation device which can hold yourself, and one other item, how do you get all three across without damaging the resources?"

Though she had never seen an animal other than the small gray birds flitting through the city, she knew that carnivore meant an animal that ate other animals. It seemed weird. She couldn't imagine a Greyling swooping up other birds and eating them. Now an herbivore, that was like a Greyling. Those birds hung out at garbage bins looking for plant matter. They would eat anything, no matter how rotten. Bellis Perennis was easy to identify. Marj's mother was named Daisy, and she'd once looked up the flower on a Screen to see what it was.

So, she had a flower, a flower eater, and an eater of flower eaters to get across a moving water barrier. The only body of water she'd ever seen was out by Liberty Park. The ocean was there, stretching out as far as she could see. Her father had taken her to visit when she had turned ten, so she could see the big lady statue and the last tree.

Having read about the last tree in school, Marj had longed to see it with her own eyes. It was called a sycamore, and it was so tall and so old, even after viewing it she had trouble wrapping her brain around the idea. The few branches on the old tree were high in the sky. Her dad explained that the lower branches had been removed long ago to keep people from plucking the leaves off as souvenirs.

It wasn't actually the last tree in the world, though it was the only one she'd ever seen. It was the last tree in New Liberty. In other parts of the country, she knew there were trees and agricultural farms which grew the food everyone in the city survived on.

She sometimes wished she'd been born to a farm instead of a city. It was nearly impossible for anyone to emigrate from one to the other. After all, everyone would live on a farm if they had a choice. There were growing things, animals, and she'd heard the people went around with no masks to filter the air at all.

Carnivore, herbivore, herb; that was the puzzle. Marj imagined a tiny ocean, and a door to float on to reach the other side. A moment's thought, and she realized the logic puzzle was easy to solve. One tricky part, and then smooth sailing, so to speak. First, she would take the herbivore over, then the carnivore. On the return trip after dropping the carnivore off, she would take the herbivore back to the beginning shore with her, leaving the carnivore alone on the far shore. Once at her starting place, she'd leave the herbivore and take the plant. The carnivore wouldn't eat the plant as she went back for the herbivore. The only hard part had been realizing one of the items had to make a return trip in order to keep them all from eating each other.

Quickly typing in her answer, Marj laughed as the Screen told her she'd gotten it correct. Then a new window popped open on the compy, and her mirth abruptly ended.


You are invited to run the trials

at Crucible Station. Should you wish to

run the trials, accept this invitation and

transport for you will be arranged.

Please remember running the trials

is your right. No one has the right

to deny you this if it is what you choose.


This wasn't the first time she had received an invitation to the trials. Rushing to push the "decline" option, she jammed her index finger against the monitor hard enough it hurt. She hurried away from the Screen, keeping her head down and trying to look inconspicuous. After walking briskly for two blocks, she paused to look around her. No one seemed to be paying any attention to a skinny girl in old clothes walking home from school. Closing her eyes, she listened carefully. The normal hustle and bustle of the city surrounded her. A Greyling chirped nearby. Someone pulled a heavy transport trolley on squeaking wheels. Footsteps and cloth rustled as a thousand people headed home after a busy shift at work, or school, or job hunting. The rickshaw drivers whistled as they pulled carts with passengers wealthy enough not to walk on their own two feet.

What she did not hear was the rattle and hum of a governor's vehicle. The vehicles were noisy, stinky, and rare. Marj had only seen two in her fourteen years of life.

Reassured no one would suddenly appear to take her away, she continued on her way.

Mom was at home, as she always was now she had no job. Early in the morning, after Marj left for school, Daisy would go find an open Screen and look for work. Employment was harder and harder to find.

Marj's father, Hawk, worked third shift at a nutritional drink distribution center. She only saw him on weekends, and only for a few hours then. When she and her mom sat down for dinner, Marj wondered if she should ask her mother about the trials. School taught her the governors didn't simply steal you off the streets if you received an invitation but having your own mother reassure you was different somehow.

Dinner was simple and cheap but filling. A textured vegetable protein shaped into a ball the size of her fist swimming in chicken flavored soy broth wasn't Marj's favorite meal, she'd eaten it too often to enjoy it. It was enough to quiet her rumbling belly, and that was good enough. She'd finished most of it before growing brave enough to talk to her mother.

"I got an invitation today. At the Screen."

"You what?" Daisy's spoon hit the bowl with a clatter as she stared in shock at her daughter.

Marj's eyes were drawn to the sound, and she noticed her mother's protein ball was much smaller than her own. It wasn't the first time she'd seen this. Money must be very tight indeed if her mother was sacrificing her own meal to make certain Marj had enough.

"I got an the trials. I've gotten them a few times before."

There was a moment of silence before her mother managed to speak. "And what did you decide?"

"I said no, of course. Frack it, Mom, I'm not crazy. I don't want to be taken away from you and Dad."

"You will watch your language in this house, young lady."

"Come on, Mom. Everyone says frack. Even my teachers. It doesn't even mean anything. It's just a nonsense word."

"Smart enough to get an invite, but not smart enough to know your own vocabulary, I see."

"Don't tell me it actually means something?" Marj had always wondered about this but been too shy about it to ask a teacher or type the word on a Screen.

"Fracking was an unstable mining practice back at the beginning of the last century," her mother explained. "Some people equate the practice with the end times of the old ways. More and more resources were being used up, and companies were going to extreme measures to continue to source them."

"I didn't know that."

"When your grandmother went to school they were still being taught old ways history. They'd stopped before I learned, but my mom used to tell me things. I suppose I should have taught you the same, but there always seemed to be other things more important than extra schooling."

Like working, and then looking for a job, and trying to make ends meet so they didn't all starve. Marj didn't blame her mother for not being focused on teaching her things the school didn't. It was why she loved the library at school and the Screens. You could look nearly anything up if you took the time and had the curiosity.

"Mom, the governors wouldn't come and take me away just because I got an invite, would they."

"No. Never. Everything I ever read about The Project made it clear they only want willing volunteers. Why didn't you accept the invitation, sweetie?" The fear had faded from her mother's face. Now she only looked concerned.

"I would have had to leave you and Dad. I don't want us to be split up. I like it here with you."

"By the power of the sun, girl, it's because you don't know anything better." Her mother sighed. "As much as I hate the thought of losing you, we should talk about this. Very few people are smart enough to get an invitation. If you accept, you'd be taken care of. You wouldn't go hungry. You wouldn't have to wear such threadbare clothes. You would get a real job, either with The Project or out at one of the farms learning agriculture. It's better than anything here in the city."

"I don't care." Her voice had grown rough with emotion. "I want to stay here with my family. I don't even know what The Project is."

"No one does. Even grandmother didn't know. It's something to save humanity, make things better for us, but no one I ever talked to knew exactly what it was."

"That's because people who go for the trials never come home. For all we know," Marj said, picking up her spoon and brandishing it, "We're eating them right now!"

"Don't be so morbid." Daisy laughed, and then they both went back to their meals until the bowls were clean.

"Look, sweetie, if you don't want to take the trials, Dad and I were talking about another option for us. We weren't going to worry you with it, but if you're smart enough to get an invitation, then you are smart enough to hear what we're thinking."

"What's is it? New job?"

"Yes, sort of. We haven't decided yet, but we think it might be the best thing to do."

"Well, come on, tell me."

"The wind farms are hiring. Your dad and I could both get jobs out there and we could keep the family together. You could probably get a job too. They don't really have school out there. Not as many rules to learn as there are in the city."

"The wind farms? Are you fracking me?"

"Language, sweetie. I know it's a bit of a shock, but there's no need for such language."

"But the wind farms are horrible. Everything I've read about them is nasty."

"Your father and I know it isn't ideal, but we are fast running out of options. We will have to make a decision soon, while the wind farms still have openings available."

Marj knew this was a polite fiction on her mother's part. There were always job openings on the massive wind turbines farms out west. It was hard work in a desolate area of the country. People got jobs there keeping the big machines in working order. It was dangerous work, but that wasn't the only problem. People who grew up in cities, hemmed in by concrete walls and blanketed by smog so thick that you rarely saw the sky did not handle open spaces well. The land of the wind farms was wide ‑open desert. Nothing existed there but sand, wind, open sky, and the giant machines the workers serviced. Suicide was the top killer of workers moving there from the city. Some people became so frightened by the open space they simply could not handle it.

Remembering her visit to the last tree and the ocean with her dad, Marj shivered. While Hawk had enjoyed seeing the big sycamore with her, he'd grown nervous at the beach. Until this moment, she hadn't understood why. While she had felt invigorated looking out at the great expanse of water and sky, her father had been afraid.

"We can't move to a wind farm. Dad could never handle it."

Her mother looked surprised by her perceptiveness for a moment, but then her expression changed to resolve. "We may not have a choice. We aren't making it. Your father and I have tried not to worry you, but we aren't even close to having enough money to get by in the city."

"You'll get another job. It's just a matter of time."

"There are no jobs. Not for someone my age. Not anymore. Even with the reproduction cap which limits us all to one child, New Liberty's population grew by five hundred thousand last year alone. I'm not going to get another job. When you are old enough, you might not get one either. It's very competitive. We have to find another way."

"Then we have to find another way that won't make Dad kill himself!" she shouted. Leaving her bowl on the table, Marj stomped off to her tiny bedroom, slammed the door, and fell flat on the bed.

Only then did she let herself cry.


School dragged on and on. It was a low energy day, so half of the lights were turned out to save electricity. Marjoram didn't usually mind low energy days; the low lighting hid the dreariness of the old building which held the school. It made it harder to read her books, but it made the school rooms seem almost pretty.

Today the dim light was a problem. She hadn't slept well the night before. Though her parents tried to hide how serious their financial situation was, only an idiot could skip so many meals and not know things were grim. Marj was no idiot. The entire family had been pretending to each other that nothing was wrong and their lives would improve soon. Her mom would get a job. Maybe her dad would get a promotion. In her conversation with her mother, they had both stopped pretending.

Nothing was going to change for the better. Resources on earth were in shorter and shorter supply. Her mother was right; there weren't enough jobs to go around. Options were few.

She'd watched as classmates had disappeared because their families had moved west to become slaves to the air turbines. Others had moved south to do the same thing at the giant water purifiers at the Texacan sea. Both places were hell to live in, hot, arid, and desolate. The work was physically demanding, yet the workers did not get fed any better than the folks in her city. This morning, Marj left early for school so she could stop at a Screen and look some facts up about the wind farms. The average life of a person who became a turbine employee was ten years. The water farms were even worse.

If her family went west, even if her father could handle the agoraphobia, they'd all be dead in ten years. Why would her parents even consider such a thing?

Because they were desperate. That was the realization that had so adversely affected her sleep the night before. Her parents were growing so desperate, ten years with enough food to manage was looking better than an eternity of starving. They were also worried about her. Marj was a growing teen and needed more nourishment because of it. As it was, she was so skinny all her ribs stuck out.

The current classroom lesson she was busily ignoring while she fretted over her family's troubles was "Life is Hope!" It was a popular lesson at the school; one they covered at least four times a month. It was also easy to tune out when one had something more important to think about. Marj had the material memorized years ago.

As if able to read her thoughts, Miss Cherry chose that exact moment to call on her.

"Marjoram, name one of the three main principles of Life is Hope, please."

"Every day brings new opportunities," Marj readily repeated with scarcely a thought.

Except it wasn't true. Opportunities to improve one's life used to be they were nonexistent. Why would school teach this in the first place? Why were students forced to memorize and repeat nonsense no sensible person would believe?

Curious, she looked around at her classmates. They waved hands in the air, hoping to be called on, hoping to be recognized. They gave answers with hope in their voices and smiles on their faces. Couldn't any of them see the entire lesson was ridiculous crap? How could a single one of them, even for a moment, fall for this?

Her hand twitched where it rested on her desk. The muscles in her arm tightened slightly. Marj wanted to raise her hand. She wanted to ask the teacher why anyone believed these stupid platitudes.

Once again, Miss Cherry demonstrated an eerie ability to know what was going on in Marjoram's mind. Perhaps something in Marj's facial expression or body language gave away her frustration with the lesson. The teacher took one look at Marj and shook her head slightly.

Marj forced her arm to relax. She wanted to understand why they taught such nonsense, but the teacher had been kind to her. That very day, at lunchtime, Miss Cherry had slipped her a few soybutter crackers. If the teacher didn't want Marj asking questions, then she would hold her tongue.

Perhaps on the way home, she could look up "Life is Hope" on a Screen.

She managed to stay awake for the rest of the day, through boring lessons on city rules she had long ago memorized. While trying to seem like she was paying attention, her mind wandered wildly. Maybe her family would all die out west or down south at the water farms. Why did school teach nothing but rules and laws over and over? She studied advanced mathematics on her own through books and the Screen, as she did with science. Why weren't these subjects covered in class? Maybe she should study history on her own as well. What were daisies really? She understood they were the reproductive organ of a certain plant, but what was it for? Daisies weren't used for medicine, and you couldn't eat them, she knew that much. She lived in a city where every single thing had a purpose or a use. There were no daisies in the city, but she knew they used to grow here, a long time ago. What had they been for?

The quiet buzzer signaling the end of the day was a relief. Marj didn't think she could have sat there one more moment. School seemed a waste of time. Never anything new, just the same old lessons over and over. Maybe she should stop coming. Marj wouldn't be the first person who decided not to complete her course study. It would make it harder to get a job, but it didn't look like she was going to find employment when she graduated in two years anyway. How did the governors expect people to survive?

Gathering up her things and putting them into her satchel, Marj was about to don her facemask when the teacher called her over.

"Marjoram, can you stay for a few minutes?"

"Yes, Miss."

"Your parents won't worry?"

"No, Miss. I usually take some Screen time on my way home. Mom won't worry unless I'm very late."

"Only your mother? Where's your father?"

"He works nights."

"Well, then, as long as no one will be worried, I think we'd better have a talk." Miss Cherry waved Marj to a chair near her desk in the front of the dimly lit classroom.

"What did you want to speak to me about?" Marj was used to pretending at school. Pretending she didn't have everything memorized already, pretending to pay attention...pretending she hadn't already figured out the teacher wanted to talk about Marj's reaction in the "Life is Hope" lesson.

Pretending she was like everyone else.

"I've been wanting to speak to you for some time now, Marjoram. I know school isn't challenging you, and you study things on your own time, which I admire."

"I love to learn new things."

"I know you do. You're smart. School isn't challenging, so you challenge yourself. You are a remarkable young woman."

"Thank you, Miss." It should have felt good, she supposed, to be praised like this, but it only made her feel uncomfortable. Teachers didn't single students out as a rule. Everyone was treated exactly the same.

"I know you are exceptionally intelligent and you are fairly content to suffer through classes you have long outgrown. Even so, I've kept an eye on you. I knew it was only a matter of time."

"A matter of time for what?"

"For you to start questioning what we teach at the school."

For a moment, Marj said nothing. It had never occurred to her that any teacher could be so perceptive. Teachers all behaved in exactly the same way, every day of every year she'd been a student. They taught the governors' lessons, the same ones every year, just as the governors mandated. They never counseled students or got involved in their personal problems. The most any of them would do was to slip a hungry child something to eat, and most would not do that. Miss Cherry was exceptionally kind.

"How did you know I was questioning the lesson?" Marj had finally found her voice.

"Teachers go through rigorous training. Not only in how to teach lessons but in psychology, sociology, even things such as reading body language. I was taught to recognize the signs of dissent in my students, just as I was taught to recognize which ones were truly intelligent."

"I always thought being a teacher was an easy job. You know, teaching the same old same old day after day."

"The lessons are only a small part of what we do."

"But the lessons are stupid." Marj's eyes widened and her heartbeat thundered in her chest. She'd never spoken to a teacher with such disrespect, but the questions she had been biting back for years seemed to want to tumble out all at once. "I don't understand why we learn the same rules over and over! I knew them all by the time I finished second grade."

"I'm sure you did." Miss Cherry chuckled for a moment. "Honestly, I'm surprised it's taken you this long to question things. You are very patient, my dear."

"But why? Why are we still learning what I knew in second grade?"

"It's a common human failing. We believe other people are much like we are. Marjoram, I know that you have all the laws and rules memorized, but you are the only student in your class that does. We'll be lucky if we get a seventy ‑five percent retention rate in the other students by the time you graduate in two years."

"That can't be correct."

"It is correct. You, my dear, are far more intelligent than your classmates. There are over two thousand city laws and over four thousand recycling rules. You knew them by second grade when most citizens never get them all memorized."

"The laws and rules are necessary for our continued survival." The fact that there were adults who did not know them all by heart astonished Marj.

"Yes, they are. It's why we teach them. Even so, every Friday your classmate Oriole brings a piece of fruit to school for lunch, and every Friday I have to stop him from throwing the seeds in with biodegradable waste for fertilizer."

"How horrible! Seeds are precious. Only .005% of all seeds have a chance of germination, and of those few fruit trees, only a fraction are hearty enough to reach maturity."

"Where did you learn that?" Miss Cherry smiled at her fondly.

"A book. Third grade, I think...Botanical Threats of the Twenty ‑second Century."

"So, knowing the rules wasn't enough to content you. You wanted to know why we have each one."

"Yes. That's it exactly."

"Understandable. A few years ago, I had a student named Thistle who did the same. Smart girl. Left School to take the trials."

"She left her family?"

"Her parents were dead. She lived with an aunt, and I always believed it was an unhappy situation for her. The trials for Crucible Station gave her a better alternative."

That would make a difference, Marj thought. If she had no family, she might be tempted to take the trials herself.

"Now, then." Miss Cherry leaned forward in her seat and studied Marjoram. Her voice sounded soft, but her eyes looked serious. "Why don't you tell me what you wanted to say in class earlier?"

So intent was her teacher's expression, for a second Marj was frightened of her. Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, she dismissed the idea almost as soon as she had it. Intense Miss Cherry might be, but this was the same kind teacher who slipped her food whenever she could.

"It was the "Life is Hope" lesson. It's simply ridiculous. Put a smile on your face and never give up hope. Tomorrow will be better. While we live, we can improve our station in life. It's stupid. Life in the city is not getting better, it's getting worse. People are hungry, there aren't enough jobs...people are having to go to the wind farms or the water farms just so they don't starve to death. Mindless platitudes aren't going to make anything better."

"I thought as much. Listen, I'm going to tell you some things we do not discuss with the students at large. However, if you are smart enough to question "Life is Hope," then you are smart enough to hear why it exists. I must caution you that this is not a subject I want you talking about with your classmates. If you have questions about this, if you have questions about anything, you are always welcome to stay after school and speak with me. Have I made myself clear?"

"Yes, Miss."

"During your extracurricular studies, did you learn anything about the riots of 2084?"

"No, Miss."

"I'm not surprised. The information is difficult to find, even for someone of your intellect. I know about the riots because I was there. I was just a little girl, but you don't forget something like that. You never forget it. Back in my parents' day, things were better. Oh, life wasn't easy. People had to work hard, but there was enough food to get by. Then the seeds lost their viability. The scientists studied the problem and found our world had too many toxins, in the air, in the water, in the soil itself. The DNA of the plants had been damaged by both toxins and deliberate manipulation of the genes."

"That's why we save all seeds. I read about it on the Screen, but it said nothing about riots."

"Practically overnight, food became much scarcer. It took time for botanists to find the hearty plant species, and plant more of them. Much of our food now is derived from soy proteins, because the soy plants are less damaged. But before they worked it out, people were starving. They were frightened and they lost hope. Once they lost hope, I think they figured they had nothing left to lose. Citizens caused a riot which lasted two months. Every shop which sold food was looted. People killed each other in the street over a loaf of bread or a bunch of beets."

"A beet?" Though Marj didn't want to interrupt the story, the unfamiliar word surprised her so much she blurted out the question without thinking.

"A vegetable. Dark red and so sweet they used to make sugar out of them in olden times. Oh, but they were delicious. I miss beets."

"They're gone?"

"I'm afraid so. The plants became too damaged to grow at all."

"But surely they saved some of the seeds from when they weren't damaged? I've read about the places they store olden time seeds...the seed banks."

"As far as I know the seed banks still exist. But there is an error in your logic. Can you find it?"

It took Marj only a moment to identify the problem. "The toxins. The toxins remain in the soil and water. If we plant the viable olden time's seeds, the same damage will happen to the plants."

"Exactly. The toxins are in higher concentrations now than they were when I was a girl. With fewer plants and an even larger population, our world is in worse shape. When I was a very young girl, we didn't have to wear masks outside unless it was a dismal air quality day."

Marj couldn't imagine going outside without her mask on. Only the insane did so. "What does any of this have to do with the "Life is Hope" lesson?"

"After the riots were quelled, many people were dead. Many resources and buildings destroyed. New Liberty was born from the ashes. Buildings were rebuilt after the city incorporated, and the laws and rules were made. The riots happened because people lost hope, more than any other reason. The founders of New Liberty wanted to keep it from happening again. By teaching citizens there is always hope while we live, they guard against further riots."

"But it doesn't actually do anything. It doesn't change anything. Life in New Liberty is getting harder and harder, and having hope doesn't fix that."

"No, in itself it does not fix anything. But you speak as if you have no hope for a better tomorrow."

"I don't." In her mind, she could clearly see her father's reaction to the vastness of the ocean. She could hear her mother telling her they might have to move west. "Why should I have hope?"

"The people in the riots lost hope, but we survived. We continue to survive. How can we know what tomorrow brings? Scientists continue to work on our issues. Soon they may have a breakthrough as they did with the soy plants long ago. Even now, they work on The Project."


About me

Julianne Q Johnson writes in a little Indiana house when her two cats, two ferrets, and one fiancé will let her. Her favorite stories to write are modern-day, realistic worlds with a supernatural or paranormal element. She enjoys taking otherwise ordinary characters and giving them a paranormal gift or putting them in fantastical situations to see how they will handle it. Julianne loves cheap coffee and expensive chocolate.

Q. Where can readers find out more about you?
I have a website at and a Facebook Author Page at I announce free dates, sales, and giveaways. Both places have place to sign up for my newsletter and get a free book.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
In most of my books I have quite a bit of humor. Crucible Station is a book filled with hardship and hope, but it does not have that same sense of humor that I most enjoy writing.
Q. Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp?
While there are several themes in Crucible Station, the most important one is to never give up. Whatever dream you have, keep trying for it. To quote the awesome movie, Galaxy Quest- Never give up, never surrender!