2446-89: Stassi’s Diary
Copyright © 2016 by Sophie Davis Books
Talented (Talented Saga #1)
Caged (Talented Saga #2)
Hunted (Talented Saga #3)
Captivated (A Talented Novella) (Talented Saga #3.5)
Created (Talented Saga #4)
Exiled: Kenly’s Story (Talented Saga #5)
Unforgettable (Talented Saga #6)
Inescapable (Talented Saga #7)
Undeniable (Talented Saga #8) …Coming Winter 2017
Pawn (Nightmares Trilogy #1)
Sacrifice (Nightmares Trilogy #2) …Coming soon
Checkmate (Nightmares Trilogy #3) …Coming soon
Fragile Façade (Blind Barriers Trilogy #1)
Platinum Prey (Blind Barriers Trilogy #2)
Vacant Voices (Blind Barriers Trilogy #3) …Coming Winter 2016
2446-89: Stassi’s Diary (Timewaves #0.5)
The Syndicate (Timewaves Series #1)
Atlic (Timewaves Series #2)
Table of Contents
For all of our amazing readers—we appreciate your support more than we can say. And because you all are so awesome, click to continue Stassi’s story with your complimentary copy of The Syndicate (Timewaves #1)!
TODAY HAS BEEN the strangest day of my life. I know, that sounds like the dramatic ramblings of a seventeen-year-old girl, but it’s the absolute truth. Years from now, when I look back at this diary entry, I won’t need these handwritten words to remind me of what happened today. It was a fateful turn of events, absolute happenstance, which started me down this path towards what, at this moment, is a very uncertain future. For thirteen years I have lived in a work camp approximately sixty miles outside of Knoxville, Tennessee, surrounded by other girls who, like me, are wards of the government. I have known little of the world outside the camp; just enough to be thankful that I was taken in by the state instead of being left to fend for myself. Life could have been a lot worse, particularly for a girl like me—an orphan with no education and no employment prospects on her horizon.
As of today, at least one of those is no longer true.
Yes, I am still an orphan. I may never know the parents who abandoned me at the age of four. And yes, by most people’s standards, I am uneducated, though I have done my best given the resources at my disposal. That might change though, if the promises made to me today are fulfilled; I’ve been told there is to be a lot of learning in my new future. That future is no longer quite as bleak as I once thought, because I have been offered a job.
For the first time, I am looking ahead to the next phase of my life, instead of focusing on a past I cannot change. Ironic, considering how little I know about my new employer and the position I’ve been offered…which is precisely nothing at all.
CALLING DAY: A time of reckoning for the fifteen work camp girls, including myself, who turned seventeen that year. It was our first chance to make a favorable impression on representatives from both local and global corporations. They used the camp as a labor pool for hiring cheap, unskilled workers for menial jobs. Which, of course, made my greatest hope—to be given any position where I could actually use my brain—the longest of all long-shots.
Thus far, that lump of gray matter had gone to waste; working the camp’s agricultural fields wasn’t exactly mentally taxing. Maybe I just wanted to justify spending all of my yearly credits on new books for my Qube—my coveted tablet device—but that could only happen if my ability to read and write was a desirable trait in the eyes of these company men. Since I was one of the very few who had those skills, the stereotypes of work camp girls were perpetuated year after year; we were not known for our intellect and were almost never hired for our minds.
Despite my highest aspirations, once I joined the line to be examined by the company men, I just prayed that one of them would give me a placement. Any placement. Grunt labor wasn’t appealing, but even hauling rubble in Nashville was preferable to staying in these dismal living quarters another year.
Two staff members—Navine, my dorm matron, and Escra, a field matron—were standing in a huddle with the corporate representatives, making polite conversation. The women’s simple, albeit clean, dresses were a stark contrast to the men’s polished loafers and tailored business attire. My own dirty, threadbare uniform belonged in an entirely different world.
“What’s going on? Why haven’t we started yet?” Trista, my bunkmate, whispered. We were standing together at the end of the line, Trista wedged between me and a haughty girl called Andaline.
Navine had been very clear when giving instructions for Calling Day: we were to be seen and not heard. Talking to the representatives was strictly prohibited. Talking amongst ourselves was strictly prohibited. And, of course, talking to the staff was strictly prohibited. Basically, speaking was forbidden for any reason whatsoever. If you randomly burst into flames, you were to burn silently. The only exception to this rule was if the company men asked us questions.
I was never great with rules.
“Don’t know,” I muttered to Trista, careful not to move my lips more than necessary.
“Is that a…,” Andaline blurted loudly, forgetting herself and pointing to the sky.
The soft whirring of a helo-transport instantly caught everyone’s attention. Despite Navine’s warnings, all of the girls in line began whispering excitedly.
A helo-transport was about as normal as a dinosaur around these parts. The company men typically arrived in personal transpo vehicles that were undeniably nice, but nothing on the level of a helo; those were a mark of status and wealth well beyond men charged with hiring grunt labor. Seeing one in person was the most interesting thing that had happened at the work camp since the day Martra, a former dorm matron, was fired for distributing Dragon Dust to the girls in her care.
Then, as if a helo-sighting wasn’t sensational enough, Head Matron herself emerged from the Admin Block. A stuffy, stout woman who dressed in the finest of clothes despite her surroundings, Head Matron was entirely hands-off when it came to us girls. Spotting her out of the Admin Block was an exceedingly rare occurrence. Instead, she preferred doling out duties to her subordinates from the comfort of climate-controlled temperatures while reaping the rewards of both their labor and ours. The occupants of the helo-transport had to be incredibly important.
Head Matron made a quick stop at the group of company men before hurrying toward the field where the helo was touching down. It was the first time I’d ever seen her enter the fields where the other girls and I spent nearly every waking hour.
Navine and Escra broke apart from the company men and hustled over to where we stood. Navine started at the far end of the line, while Escra made a bee-line to me. Using a handkerchief, the field matron roughly wiped the dirt and dust from my face. Grabbing hold of my chin, Escra twisted my head forcefully back and forth, examining my cheeks for lingering filth. For a brief, humiliating moment, I thought she might lick the hanky and try again.
“That will have to do for now,” Escra said, clucking her tongue disapprovingly. Lips pursed, she grabbed hold of the bottom of my tunic and yanked it down to smooth the fabric. “Stand up straight, girl. No slouching.” To emphasize the point, Escra placed her hands on my shoulders and pushed them back, forcing my spine to curve inward.
When she moved on to Trista, I released the breath I was holding and allowed my gaze to wander to the field. Three men disembarked from the helo, all dressed casually in shorts and sandals. Their tanned skin suggested they spent as much time in the sun as I did. One man, the oldest of the trio, wore an expensive-looking watch on his wrist, the diamond face catching the light and making colorful spots dance on the dusty field. It was a peculiar contrast to his casual outfit but marked him as one of the world’s elite. Diamond watches were a luxury that very few citizens of our destroyed world, even those considered wealthy, could afford.
I watched with hidden amusement as Head Matron finally caught up to the group in the field. She visibly fawned over the newcomers, going so far as to curtsy to the older gentleman. Had I not been worried about being berated for insolence in front of so many prospective employers, I would have outright laughed at her antics. Trista snickered, though quickly turned it into a cough when both Escra and Navine shot daggers her way.
Trista waited until their attention was elsewhere, then leaned closer to me.
“Why do they suddenly care what we look like? Clean isn’t a requirement for wiping toilets, working the mines, or hauling chunks of rubble.”
I shrugged my shoulders in response, eyes still keenly focused on the helo occupants. The group exited the fields, the men seemingly unconcerned with the layer of pollen already coating their bare legs. Head Matron kept up a constant stream of babble to the older man, the one evidently in charge, but he appeared to be ignoring her prattle.
Instead, his shrewd emerald gaze was sweeping the line of seventeens. When his eyes found mine, I inhaled sharply at the endless well of intensity within his stare. Although I was uncomfortable under the scrutiny, I also felt a little relieved. This man, though clearly more important than the others, radiated a warmth unmatched among the other prospective employers.
Several of the company men started toward the newcomers, as though to welcome them, but the green-eyed man waved off their greetings. Seeing the arrogant corporate representatives in their high-priced suits dismissed as though they were mere peons was a welcome change—it was precisely how they treated us work camp girls.
“It is just such an honor to have you here,” Head Matron gushed. “All of our girls are—”
“Hello, ladies,” the older man said, interrupting her midsentence. “My name is Cyrus Atlic. It is a pleasure to meet you all.”
The greeting was shocking for a myriad of reasons.
For one, he’d called us ‘ladies’—an odd moniker for a ragtag group of orphans living in dirt fields. Then there was the fact he’d addressed us at all. Company men didn’t speak to us unless questioning our abilities. And even then, not one of the men actually offered an introduction. To them, we might as well have been cattle.
No one ever introduced themselves to livestock, let alone said it was nice to meet a cow.
Ignoring the stunned stares from everyone present, Mr. Atlic moved confidently to the far end of the line. When he reached the girl who stood there, a bully named Lanida, Mr. Atlic further astounded the group of onlookers by extending his hand. Lanida looked confused by the gesture and didn’t accept the handshake until prompted by the girl standing beside her. Mr. Atlic spoke to her briefly, his voice soft and the words unintelligible from where I stood, then shook her hand again before moving on to the next girl.
As he continued down the line, I watched each exchange with undisguised interest. Mr. Atlic was the most fascinating company man to set foot on work camp soil in the many years I’d been here. Unlike his counterparts, Mr. Atlic appeared laid-back and genuine. For one thing, he didn’t grope us to test muscle strength; that alone made him a winner in my book. Even more intriguing, Mr. Atlic appeared legitimately interested in what each girl had to say. To say that real interest in us was a rarity was akin to saying the world had suffered a minor setback during the Epic War—a massive understatement.
My eyes remained on Mr. Atlic as he moved closer to me, never seeming rushed as he moved from girl to girl. Before I knew it, he’d finished talking to Andaline. Ignoring the dirt smudge that transferred from her skin to his, he said, “It was nice to meet you, Andaline.”
He remembered her name, I thought, amazed.
“Hello, I’m Cyrus Atlic, and you are?” He’d moved on and was extending his hand towards Trista. I held my breath as my bunkmate smiled up at his weathered features.
“Trista 2446-3, sir,” she replied.
Mr. Atlic smiled wistfully. “Trista is such a beautiful name. Now, Trista, tell me, have you spent much time outside of the camp?”
Trista shook her head.
“No, sir,” she admitted. “My parents brought me here as a baby, and I’ve only left on camp excursions. I’m a decent cook, though. And I know I don’t look like much, but I’m quite strong. Really, sir, I am.”
I suppressed a smile. Trista was a string bean, but the girl could lift more than most men twice her size.
Chuckling, Mr. Atlic turned to one of his companions, a younger guy who managed to appear both bored and fascinated by the unfamiliar setting of the work camp. I wondered if this was the first time he’d left his ivory tower. Then I wondered where precisely that tower was located.
“Did you hear that, Bazzle?” Mr. Atlic asked the guy. “I think Trista might just give you a run for your money in the weight room.” He turned back to Trista and winked. “It was nice to meet you, Trista.”
After one final handshake, it was my turn with Mr. Atlic. I caught the dejected expression on Trista’s face but had little time to do more than offer a sympathetic smile. Apparently, she’d been thinking this man was her key to a better life, just as we all did.
“Last but not least,” Mr. Atlic said, his hand outstretched towards me.
“I-it’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Atlic,” I said, willing some confidence into my voice.
“Please, call me Cyrus,” he replied, that emerald gaze locking intently on me. For a moment, the man merely studied my face as he held my hand in his. An expression I couldn’t identify flashed across his features before he spoke again. “What’s your name?”
“Stassi 2446-89,” I responded automatically.
The numbers were my identifiers, given to all wards of the state. 2446 was the year of my birth, or at least the year the authorities believed I was born. After I was found wandering the streets of Knoxville, the police conducted a search for my parents. Not only were they unable to locate anyone who was missing a child, but the official databases held no trace of my existence at all. And so, my age had been approximated and I was sent to live with the other orphans and parental surrenders. The last two digits meant that I was the eighty-ninth child born in 2446 to be entered into the Southern work camp system.
“Pleased to meet you, Stassi,” Mr. Atlic said.
I paused, absorbing the words as he spoke them directly to me. It was the first time anyone had been pleased to meet me. Yes, he’d used some form of the same greeting with each of the other girls, but that didn’t make the sentiment any less poignant.
Remembering myself, I smiled tentatively, feeling my cheeks flush.
“It is very nice to meet you as well, Mr.—Cyrus.”
“Are you seventeen?” he asked.
“So this is your first Calling Day,” he mused. Then, leaning in as though we were co-conspirators in a great caper, he lowered his voice and added, “I can tell by all of the startled looks that I’m not following the protocols as they were explained to you. So, please, forgive my rudeness.”
The two men behind Mr. Atlic laughed loudly. Something told me that their boss rarely followed society’s rules.
“Now, Stassi, do you have any special skills? Do you cook like your friend Trista?” Mr. Atlic asked.
Swallowing over the lump in my throat, I shook my head regretfully.
“No, sir. I can boil water, but that’s about the extent of it. I do know a fair amount about plants and flowers and farming, though.”
Those jewel-toned eyes weighed me thoughtfully. He was about to conclude our conversation, I could just feel it. Only desperation could explain why the next words flew from my mouth.
“I have a Qube,” I blurted out. “It’s a really old model that’s not connected to much of anything, but I can get books. I mean, I read. I read every day. And I’ve taught myself some mathematics, though just the basics: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, some fractions—that sort of stuff. But I’m a quick learner. I love to learn.”
Trista reached over and squeezed my hand, sensing my despair. I briefly tore my eyes from Mr. Atlic to give her a grateful smile. ‘Friend’ was too strong a descriptor for our relationship, but she was the closest thing I had to a confidante and ally; we’d been bunkmates for over a decade. Trista and I watched out for one another, neither of us caring to take part in the drug use, backstabbing, and fighting that the other girls thrived on.
“What sort of books do you like to read?” Mr. Atlic asked.
I expected him to be startled that I was literate, but he took my admission in stride. Which was probably why I started rambling again without giving any thought to the words tumbling out of my mouth.
“Fiction mostly. The Brothers Grimm, Lewis Carroll, Ernest Hemingway, Sasha Peters, and Rob Thomas are some of my favorite authors.” Then, realizing my love for escapism probably wouldn’t help me get a job, I quickly pressed on. “Lots of non-fiction, too. I’ve read lots of science primers, including Webbers’ Guide to AI, and books on plants, history, and pre-War culture.”
What I’d told Mr. Atlic was true—I did love to learn. But that wasn’t the true reason I’d read so much non-fiction. Since the Epic War, owning physical books was a luxury only the wealthiest of the wealthy could afford. But there were still digital copies of several hundred titles that I could rent and sync to my Qube. Trista was one of the few other girls at the camp with a Qube and we routinely swapped books. Her tastes tended towards titles like The Joy of Cooking and Indigenous Night Blooming Flowers of the Southeast—not exactly what I’d call entertaining material, but I took what I could get. In this moment, I appreciated her mundane tastes and was going to milk my knowledge of boring subjects for all it was worth.
Was I overdoing it for Mr. Atlic? Maybe a little.
But there was one simple fact about Calling Day that held true year after year: this was a competition. The other fourteen girls were not my friends, they were my adversaries. Not all of us would be selected for employment, so I needed to stand out from the horde. I needed to cram as much flattering information about myself as possible in the two minutes I held Mr. Atlic’s attention. Yes, my main goal was to receive any job offer that would allow me to leave the camp. But it was obvious that Mr. Atlic wasn’t like the other employers. Without even knowing what positions he had open, I knew I wanted to work for him.
“That’s wonderful,” Mr. Atlic replied. “Knowledge is the universal currency.” He extended his hand, a sure signal the meeting was at an end. “It was nice to meet you, Stassi. I wish you all the best.”
With that abrupt dismissal, he turned and walked away. My heart sank. I’d been hoping he’d want to further discuss the books I’d read. Or maybe I’d been hoping he would pronounce he’d found what he was looking for, then fling me over his shoulder and spirit me away to the helo. Either way, it felt as though he was taking my hopes and dreams for a life outside the camps with him.
“Jasmine, I’d like a moment to confer with my colleagues, if you don’t mind?” he called to Head Matron.
Several girls, including Trista, snickered loudly. None of us had known Head Matron’s first name since she rarely interacted with us. Even when she did, we were only permitted to call her ‘Head Matron’ or ‘ma’am’. Jasmine seemed a little too exotic for this stalwart woman; her tight bun of dishwater blonde hair was streaked with gray and her dull hazel eyes seemed to get lost in the folds of skin beneath them. Then again, having ‘mean’ in her name, as he pronounced it, was beyond fitting for her.
“Oh, of course, Mr. Atlic. Take all the time you need. The other men don’t mind waiting,” Head Matron said sweetly, without bothering to check with the corporate representatives before speaking for them.
Nonetheless, it seemed to be true. The other company men didn’t appear bothered in the least by Mr. Atlic’s request.
Who is he? I wondered for the millionth time since the helo touched down.
Mr. Atlic and his companions formed a small huddle several yards from where we stood. Lip-reading was not a skill I’d mastered, so I had no clue what they were talking about. Trista craned her neck, turning one ear towards the trio as if she had superhuman hearing and could actually make out the conversation.
“Jasmine?” Mr. Atlic called after several agonizing minutes. With only a wave of his hand, Head Matron scurried over to join the men.
Again, the group spoke in hushed tones. Still in our line-up formation, all of the seventeens waited with bated breath for some sort of announcement. One that never came. Instead, Head Matron gestured towards the Admin Block and the group began walking away.
“Thank you all for your time,” Mr. Atlic called over his shoulder with a polite wave.
I exchanged bewildered looks with Trista as the other seventeens began whispering to each other. What was going on? Were none of us up to his standards? What type of worker was Mr. Atlic looking for?
Though it suddenly seemed a dim prospect, I eyed the group of company men still standing in a huddle. There were just as many hushed conversations happening among them. Evidently, they all knew who Mr. Atlic was but seemed as confused by his presence and the abrupt departure as we were.
“Shall we continue?” Escra asked uncertainly, to no one in particular. She eyed the two other camp employees assigned to Calling Day, Navine and an infirmary worker named Cryla.
“I’ll ask,” Navine replied. Navine was by far the kindest matron working at our camp, but also one of the most stringent on the rules. It wasn’t surprising that she felt the need to ask Head Matron for permission before continuing Calling Day.
“Excuse me for just a moment,” Navine said to the company men. “I just want to ensure we may proceed.”
She scurried down the dusty dirt path to the Admin Block while her fellow employees, the company men, and all of us girls watched.
“Who do you think he works for?” Trista asked me.
I shrugged. “Himself, if I had to guess. He has a boss-vibe to him.”
“Are you two stupid?” Andaline interjected. “Cyrus Atlic? Honestly, you must know who he is. Everyone knows who he is.”
“If you want to show off how worldly you are, just tell us already,” Trista retorted.
“Quiet, girls. No talking,” Escra snapped, clapping her hands together once very loudly.
No one spoke after that. Well, at least none of us girls. The company men continued to whisper amongst themselves. Navine returned shortly thereafter, furiously chewing on her lower lip. It seemed as though she was to be the bearer of bad news.
“I apologize for the inconvenience,” Navine said to the company men. “We were not aware that Mr. Atlic would be joining us today, so Calling Day will have to run a little differently this year. Mr. Atlic wishes to speak to a few of the girls further, so several will be unavailable for immediate acquisition. If you wish to wait until he’s finished, of course you may. Or we can reschedule. I leave that to your discretion.”
I held my breath. This was great news. Crossing my fingers at my sides, I silently prayed I was one of the girls Mr. Atlic wanted to speak with in private. This was my chance.
Navine turned to address the line of seventeens, her expression unreadable.
“Joselyn, Andaline, Mena, and Trista, please come with me.”
My heart sank through my feet and into the hard, dry earth beneath my shoes. Any prospect of working for Mr. Atlic disappeared like dust in the wind. He didn’t pick me. Now, the best I could hope for was that one of the remaining men would find me suitable for some brainless task, ensuring I stayed at the bottom of society’s ladder.
Mustering a smile, I turned to Trista. “Congratulations. I really am happy for you.”
I meant it, too. Trista was the only other girl I knew of in the camp who worked to better herself. If it wasn’t me Mr. Atlic was whisking off, then I was glad it was her.
“You still have a chance to get out of here today. Ten chances, by the look of it,” Trista told me, squeezing my hand sympathetically as she nodded towards the company men. Her excitement was palpable, but she tried to keep her expression neutral for my sake. “Good luck, Stassi.”
“Now, Trista,” Navine called sternly. “Mr. Atlic is a busy man and we cannot keep him waiting.”
Sparing me a final sad smile, Trista ran to join the other girls already congregated around Navine. I watched them descend down the path towards the Admin Block, sorrow turning my thoughts bleak and despondent.
“Are the rest of these still available?” one of the company men asked Escra. He flicked a speck of dirt from the sleeve of his suitcoat, then began tapping his shiny loafer impatiently. With Mr. Atlic gone, the company men no longer hid their annoyance. Not one of them wanted to stay at the work camp longer than was absolutely necessary. Calling Day was lucrative for them—the camps were the best place to find employees to fill their least desirable job openings—but it was painfully apparent that this was not a duty they enjoyed.
“Of course,” Escra said quickly. “We have eleven sturdy girls for you to examine. Let’s begin, shall we?”
With that, the true humiliation began. Each of the ten companies had sent two representatives to Calling Day. The largest and most prosperous was Revival Corp., who specialized in rebuilding communities destroyed by the Epic War. These planned communities were gated, suburban havens. In addition to the state-of-the-art home intruder systems that each house boasted, guards continuously patrolled the grounds. Grocery stores, clothing boutiques, hospitals—they were all included inside the perimeter of these exclusive areas. This ensured that residents never had to venture through impoverished towns full of scavengers—more commonly referred to as scaves—and other undesirables to purchase everyday needs. Revival Corp. used the camps for both building laborers and grunt workers to maintain golf courses, replenish the supply of koi in man-made ponds, and pick up litter in their elite communities.
This information was not provided by the camp staff, though it would seem smart for them to tell us who was coming and what they needed. Instead, I’d researched the most frequent Calling Day companies on my Qube to gain the insight myself.
Being the most influential of the lot, the Revival Corp. representatives would be given first crack at Mr. Atlic’s rejects, which included me. To save time, all twenty representatives moved as one down the line, studying and inspecting each of us in turn.
Escra acted as their tour guide, listing off our strengths for them to consider as she stood by each girl in turn. The men didn’t speak to us directly but rather listened to Escra’s pitch, gave us a once-over, then asked her any specific questions they had regarding our individual abilities and health. Only when a question was posed that Escra couldn’t answer were we permitted to speak.
The most common request the men had was for us to turn around so that the group could get the full three-hundred-sixty-degree view. Another frequent demand was to produce our hands for examination. One man from a mining company asked several girls to remove their shoes, while another from a lamp factory inquired about foreign language proficiencies.
“Garna 2446-132 speaks both German and Arabic, in addition to English. She was a late arrival to the camp, and her birth parents were fluent in all three languages,” Escra told the lamp-maker. She was clearly hoping he would jump at the chance to acquire Garna, who had a reputation for being surly and impertinent.
“Then she is not for me,” the lamp-maker declared. “Do you have a deaf girl, perhaps? We have many trade secrets in my company, and we do not want silly little girls blabbing to their friends.”
“No, I am so sorry,” Escra replied apologetically. Then she brightened, an idea suddenly popping into her head. “But we do have a very quiet girl. She is a loner who would be perfect if you’re seeking discretion.”
I knew even before Escra pointed to me that I was the one she was talking about. Loners at the camps were rare, since they tended to fall victim to the larger cliques. The quiet, shy girls who tried to go it alone quickly changed their tune after a couple of run-ins with the cliques. It was why Trista and I stuck together, despite not having enough in common to cultivate a true friendship.
Hurrying down to where I stood, Escra ushered the men over.
“This is Stassi 2446-89,” she began. “As you can see, she is tall at five-foot seven-inches. She has been at this camp for thirteen years and is very obedient. Like I said previously, she is quiet. She is a proficient worker who knows her place.”
I gritted my teeth, willing myself not to cry tears of mortification. I’d known tough times and had lived through a wide range of emotions that those hard experiences brought with them. But I’d never experienced the depth of shame that I did in that moment.
“Let me touch her hands,” a tall man with a hooked nose demanded, stepping forward.
I held out my hands, palms facing up. The man ran his silky smooth fingers over the rough callouses on my skin, then flipped my hands and examined my nails.
“Very clean,” he commented, noting the lack of grime beneath my nails. His gaze shifted to my face, surprise widening his eyes. “Pretty, too. Very pretty, in fact. Does she have any special skills? Can she dance? Or play a musical instrument? The piano or harpsicord, perchance?”
“No, I am afraid not,” Escra said uncertainly.
These were odd questions, if only because those weren’t skills one would expect to find in a work camp. I shifted from foot to foot uneasily. What type of position required dancing or playing the piano? And what was a harpsicord?
“No problem. I believe this one told Mr. Atlic that she is a quick learner. We have people to teach her these skills.” The hook-nosed man turned back to me. “Open your mouth, girl. I want to make sure you have all of your teeth.”
“I do, sir,” I said, flashing a quick smile but refusing to open my mouth wider. They might treat us as cattle, but I wasn’t a fracking horse.
“Yes, she will do nicely, I believe. I overheard her speaking with Mr. Atlic, so I know she is eloquent—a rare quality among camp hires. Escra, I’d like to make an offer and to have this one taken off the market now.”
My heart skipped a beat. Someone wanted me. This should have been good news but it certainly didn’t feel like it. Not when the man looking to employ me made my skin crawl. I couldn’t pinpoint what it was, but he emitted a sleaziness that made me feel certain that whatever position the tall man had in mind for me was unsavory. I forced a smile, swallowing the bile that rose in my throat.
Another man stepped forward, this one short and red-faced, a Revival Corp. emblem on his suit pocket. “Move aside, Bellamy. I have the right of first refusal,” he said, clearly affronted by hooked-nose’s offer. The Revival Corp. man grabbed ahold of my bicep and squeezed. I stared at the ground, willing the humiliation to end.
This is how it works. If you want a better life, a life outside of the camp, you have to deal with it, I told myself.
“Well-developed muscle tone for someone so skinny,” the Revival Corp. man commented, nodding his head approvingly. Then, he turned to Escra. “Has she ever broken a bone? What about back pain? Is she prone to colds or pneumonia?”
“No, no, and no,” Escra replied. “In fact, Stassi is remarkably healthy. Several years ago, we had an outbreak of Pantera virus and Stassi was the only girl who didn’t get sick. She worked the fields alone for nearly a week, while still managing to far exceed all of her quotas.”
This started a wave of whispers that rippled through the company men. Even the ones who’d held little to no interest in me prior to Escra’s declaration wanted to inspect me closer.
“I am prepared to make a sizable offer,” Bellamy insisted to Escra. “I am sure Head Matron and I can reach a figure that suits all parties involved in this transaction.”
Except for me, I thought. I would not receive a single credit in the deal. That was how it worked; the corporations paid the work camps for the privilege of hiring us away. Once hired, they would pay us just enough to live in squalor and eat ration bars. And yet, that life was preferable to remaining in the camp. Working for one of these companies would at least allow me to be free and have some semblance of independence.
Much to my chagrin, the men began to argue with one another over who would ‘acquire’ me. Apparently, my stellar immune system was my greatest selling-point—who knew? Only Bellamy was interested in my appearance, which he continued to openly scrutinize as the company men bickered. He muttered things about my blonde hair, blue eyes, lightly tanned skin, and even my body—like, “With a little more weight, she might even have some curves.” It made me wish Escra hadn’t cleaned me up for Mr. Atlic’s inspection. My skin felt as though a nest of spiders was scurrying across it every time Bellamy eyed me appraisingly.
“I am twice as strong as 89,” Sterla spoke up from the middle of the line. She was a particularly brawny and vicious clique leader, and ‘89’ was the way she and her cronies referred to me. “I am healthy, too. I don’t never get sick, aside from the Pantera. But I recovered good.”
“Sterla,” Escra snapped, her tone even sharper than normal. “You know better than to speak out of turn.”
“Escra, please, go fetch Head Matron. Tell her I am interested in this one,” Bellamy pointed to me, “for our Perfection training. She’ll understand what that means and will surely allow me to supersede these other claims.”
More bickering broke out as the other company men disputed his rights. Watching them fight over me should have been satisfying, since all I’d wanted was to leave the camp. But it wasn’t. It was sickening.
“I am so sorry,” Navine’s voice suddenly called, sounding out of breath as she hurried back up the path from the Admin Block. She clutched at a stitch in her side. “I need Stassi. Mr. Atlic wants to speak with her immediately.”
“He already passed,” Bellamy declared angrily. He gave Navine a snide look. “Does this mean she isn’t available?”
“Not right now,” the dorm matron replied. “I do apologize, but I will know more after Mr. Atlic has his private audience with Stassi.” Navine gestured for me to follow her. “Hurry, child.”
Elation overcame all of the mortification, shame, and sadness that had settled in my bones. I didn’t care that I was a second-round pick. Mr. Atlic wanted to talk to me. Despite not knowing who he was or what he was hiring for, I knew without a trace of doubt that working for Mr. Atlic would be far, far preferable to Bellamy or any of the other men.
“What’s going on?” I asked Navine quietly. “Did Mr. Atlic not like the others?”
“I really do not know, Stassi. One of his associates merely asked Head Matron to fetch you.” Navine wasn’t being short with me, not exactly. If anything, she seemed nervous and edgy, but I detected an undercurrent of excitement, too.
Though Navine was always careful to keep a physical distance with us girls, she also cared about the work camp more than any other employee. In fact, she was the one who’d taught me to read. Navine had spent the hour before lights-out with Trista and me for several years, patiently explaining the markings on her own Qube that were utterly foreign to me at the time. Given her kindness, I knew she would be my best fount of knowledge about Mr. Atlic; if she had any information on him, she might just be willing to share it with me.
“Navine, who is Mr. Atlic? Who does he represent? What is he looking for?” Already halfway down the dirt path, I was running out of time and my questions burst forth in a jumble. I had to forcibly stop myself before posing every query that was flying through my mind.
“Mr. Atlic represents himself,” Navine said carefully. “And I do not know what he is looking for. He has attended Calling Day once or twice in the past, but he is not a regular. It seems he only comes when he has a specific vacancy to fill, though he never shares what the position entails. I truly am sorry, Stassi. I wish I could tell you more that might help with your interview.”
Before I could ask anything else, we arrived at the clearing in front of the blocks. To the right were the Dorm Blocks and the Cafeteria Block and to the left were the Admin Blocks. I’d only gone left at the split one time. I had gone to the main office to request that my locket’s chain be kept in my safe box, for when I left the camp. I’d realized early on that keeping the locket on the delicate, gold chain was just asking for another camp girl to snatch it off of my neck. I’d slipped a short, sturdy scrap of pleather through the locket’s loop and asked that the chain be stowed away. Even then, I’d only gone inside of the concrete structure marked with a “2”, where the admins who oversaw the day-to-day activities of the camp worked.
This time, we entered Admin Block 1, home to Head Matron. It was my first visit to her quarters and stepping inside was like journeying through a portal to a land rife with opulence. Plush rugs with detailed patterns covered the floor, sparkling light fixtures hung from the ceiling, and furnishings made of real wood—a precious commodity in our time—were scattered throughout. Navine must have understood the culture shock and taken pity, because she allowed me time to simply stand and stare at my new surroundings. I’d heard of such lavishness but thought it no longer existed outside of the stories the older generations told. In the world outside of the camps, even the upper echelons of society valued utility over beauty. A commodity’s price tag was directly proportional to how functional it was to the user, not whether it was shinier and more aesthetically pleasing than its competitor.
“This is Head Matron’s reception room,” Navine explained quietly.
“Is your residence like this?” I asked. The matrons had their own Dorm Blocks, separate from ours, and we were strictly forbidden from entering them.
“I wish,” Navine replied dryly. “Come on, this way.”
Still gaping at the reception area, I followed Navine through a set of painted glass doors on the far side of the room. From there, we navigated our way through two more rooms filled with plush leather loveseats, brocaded sofas, china cabinets, crystal and gold chandeliers, and a chaise lounge beside a fireplace that looked utterly perfect for reading on a chilly evening. Finally, just when my senses couldn’t take any more, we entered a room lined with dark wooden shelves. The deep green carpet sank beneath my feet and made me feel as though I was walking on pillows—a stark contrast to the hard, pressed dirt and concrete floors I was accustomed to. In the middle of the large space, Trista and Andaline were sitting at a table made of the largest piece of wood I’d ever seen.
“Wait here,” Navine directed, pointing to a vacant chair at the table. “They will call you soon.” With that, she turned and left.
“Oh, they asked for you, too?” Trista whispered, her smile not quite reaching her eyes. Evidently, I was no longer a pseudo-friend but direct competition. “I thought Mr. Atlic had already narrowed it down.”
“What do you mean?” I whispered back, though my attention wasn’t on Trista. Gazing around the room, checking out the oddities on the shelves, my eyes landed on the mantle above the fireplace. Lined atop the main focal point in the room, like the precious treasure they were, were four leather-bound books. I longed to leap up and examine them more closely, to hold a part of history in my hands and feel the cracked leather beneath my fingers. Unfortunately, I knew better than to give in to that longing. If I was caught touching Head Matron’s belongings, especially something as valuable as a book, she might go historic on me and cut off my hands. Or, more likely, she’d make me unemployable and the remainder of my time at the work camp would feel even more like hell on earth. Both scenarios were ones I wanted to avoid.
Balling my hands tightly in my lap, I stared wistfully at the books. One day, I promised myself. One day I will own at least one real, paper book.
“—she was really crying, it was so sad,” Trista was saying. “Stassi, are you even listening?”
“Huh?” I asked dumbly, drawing my eyes away from the battered leather covers.
“Joselyn,” Trista repeated. “She was dismissed immediately after her interview. I felt so bad for her.”
Trista’s excited expression didn’t match her tone or her words. The field was being narrowed, but she was still in the race. Then again, so was I.
“Have you spoken to Mr. Atlic yet?” I asked quietly.
“I did,” Trista said triumphantly. “He was very interested in my culinary abilities, and I was asked to stay.”
If Mr. Atlic was looking for a cook, I was totally screwed. Why hadn’t I simply listed off all those weird culinary phrases from Trista’s books—why yes, Mr. Atlic, I can “mise en place” with the best of them, and just wait until you taste my “a la carte”!—instead of telling him I could barely boil water? Yep, I was definitely screwed.
“What about you?” I whispered to Andaline. “Have you been in there yet?”
“I have,” Andaline replied proudly. She was a known suck-up, so I wasn’t surprised she was still a prospective hire for Mr. Atlic. “We had a very nice chat and then they asked me to wait here.”
Interesting, I thought, eyeing the other girl.
Andaline had never worked in the Cafeteria Block, so I couldn’t imagine she was capable of doing much more than burning toast. What did she and Trista have in common that made them both contenders for the mystery job?
“What did he ask you about?” I hedged, hoping to figure out what I should highlight during my interview.
“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Andaline sang, offering me a haughty smirk.
“Yes, I would. That’s why I asked,” I replied dryly.
Trista snorted. She might not have been over the moon about my late addition to the roster, but at least we were still allies when it came to girls like Andaline.
“Stacy? Mr. Atlic is ready for you,” Head Matron announced, poking her head out through a heavy oak door with strange symbols carved into the wood.
“It’s Stassi,” I corrected automatically, nearly swallowing my tongue when Head Matron’s beady eyes blazed at my audacity.
Thankfully, Mena pushed past Head Matron at that moment, head down as heaving sobs wracked her petite frame. Mena was one of the girls at camp I avoided at all costs; she had a mean-streak a mile wide. Her favorite pastime was torturing the other girls to the point of tears and screams, then swearing to the matrons that she was the tormented party. It was impossible to enumerate the number of times girls got in trouble just because Mena was bored. And yet, I still felt badly for her as she sprinted for the exit. I’d seen Mena’s faux crying enough to know that these tears were real.
Head Matron glared as she gestured me inside the room, which turned out to be her office. Mr. Atlic sat in one of two armchairs in the corner, a glass-topped table arranged between the seats. His associates leaned against the wall by the door, speaking in hushed tones. They stopped talking as I walked past.
“Stassi, please have a seat.” Mr. Atlic gestured to the empty chair across from him.
Head Matron quietly retreated behind her desk to an obscenely large, throne-like seat where she rested her generous derriere.
“You wanted to see me again, Mr. Atlic?” I asked as I lowered myself into the leather chair. I took a moment to appreciate how it molded perfectly to my body—heaven in chair-form.
“It’s Cyrus,” he reminded me kindly. “And yes, I did. I just have a few questions for you, Stassi.” His gaze traveled south briefly, from my eyes to just below my chin. Since my tunic covered everything from the neck down, I knew he was studying my locket.
“It was a gift from my mother,” I volunteered, cupping the precious item in my hand.
“Your mother?” Mr. Atlic asked, arching an eyebrow. “Is she still alive?”
I shrugged. “I don’t know, sir. Police found me wandering the streets when I was a child. When no one came to claim me, they brought me here. This locket is all I have from my life before the camp. I have only the faintest memory of my mother, but I figure it must have come from her.”
This was more information than I’d shared with another person in years. Inside the work camps, knowledge was power; the more the mean girls knew about you, the more they could hurt you.
“I see,” Mr. Atlic replied carefully. “Well, it is a very beautiful piece.”
“Thank you,” I quietly answered.
Mr. Atlic cleared his throat. “Are you an adventurous girl, Stassi?”
In the reflection of a mirror behind Mr. Atlic’s head, I saw one of his associates elbow the other one. Neither man had been paying attention to our conversation previously, but they’d both just tuned in.
“I haven’t had much opportunity to be,” I answered truthfully. “But I would very much like the opportunity to try new things.”
“And what do you know of history?” Mr. Atlic asked.
“I’ve read many historical fiction novels of various times and a few general books on the subject. It is an area I am keenly interested in learning about,” I replied, once again speaking honestly. “Many of history’s tales are more fantastical than anything made up.”
“I agree wholeheartedly.” Mr. Atlic smiled. “Stassi, I have a very unique position available in my company. The training is rigorous, I warn you. Though there are physical requirements to it, it is far more mentally taxing. You would be forced to learn a great deal of information in a relatively short period of time and then be responsible for applying it. Coming from the work camp, you would be severely behind your classmates in many areas. But, that being said, there is nothing that my people cannot teach you if you are willing to learn and willing to work hard to catch up.”
“What sort of company do you own?” I asked uncertainly.
“We deal in acquisitions, generally,” he replied vaguely. “I’m sorry, I cannot say more at this time. In my line of work, discretion is key. Unfortunately, I cannot explain any further until you accept my offer.”
“Are you offering me a job?” I asked disbelievingly. Surely, he’d misspoken.
Mr. Atlic nodded. “I am.”
“Just like that?” I continued incredulously, the filter between my brain and my mouth disappearing. “No more questions about my abilities? No inquiries about my health? No commentary on my appearance?” I paused, whipping around to look questioningly at his associates behind me, before returning my uncertain gaze to Mr. Atlic. “What’s the catch?”
“Stacy,” Head Matron snapped from behind her desk, her tone as hard as her heart. “Is that any way to show Mr. Atlic how grateful you are for his offer? Custodial work is very desirable for an unskilled, illiterate girl like you.”
Clearly Head Matron had not been listening to our conversation. No part of Mr. Atlic’s questions and brief explanation hinted toward making me a cleaning lady. The job he was offering was definitely more involved, more intellectually stimulating, than menial labor…right? Did Head Matron know something that I didn’t? Was Mr. Atlic looking for an adventurous janitor capable of reading and retaining information?
“I would be a custodian?” I blurted out.
“Not at all,” Mr. Atlic replied with a smirk, before turning his attention to the Head Matron. “It’s Sta-ssi,” he began, stressing the two syllables of my name. Head Matron flushed at the correction. “And Stassi has every right to question the validity of my offer. Doing so only confirms what I gleaned from our brief conversation earlier; she is a smart girl.” He locked my gaze with his emerald eyes. “I won’t lie and say this job is not without risks. In fact, it can be quite dangerous. But, if you’re the type of girl I think you are, you will find the work exhilarating, just as I did before retiring.”
I took a deep breath. “I truly am very grateful for the offer….”
Mr. Atlic’s shoulders slumped, regret flashing in his eyes.
“I really didn’t mean to sound otherwise earlier, honestly,” I continued. “It’s just, well, when you said ‘acquisitions,’ I worried you might mean that I was to be an acquisition. As much as I would like a job, I don’t want to be…um, acquired by your clients.”
Both of Mr. Atlic’s companions roared with laughter, as if this was the funniest thing they’d ever heard.
“Hey boss, guess this is why we don’t hire mainlanders for running duties?” one of the men called. “You aren’t great at selling the job.”
To my utter astonishment, Cyrus Atlic chuckled. He didn’t seem to be the least bit annoyed that his subordinate was making fun of him. He didn’t tell the man to be quiet or yell at him for speaking out of turn. And in that moment, I decided I liked Mr. Atlic. He seemed like the best boss a girl could ask for.
“You’d be an acquirer if you come work for me, not an acquired,” Mr. Atlic assured me.
“Of people?” I hedged, even while worrying that my continued questioning might make him rescind his offer. Still, I didn’t want to go to work camps or labor pools to examine people the way I’d been inspected. I didn’t think I had the stomach for treating people as mere property to be bought and sold.
I was surprised again by the chuckle my question drew.
“No, not at all,” Mr. Atlic replied, then leaned forward. “What do you say, Stassi? Are you willing to take a leap of faith?”
I drew in a deep breath. After doing my best to not appear overeager, it was a relief to let a wide smile spread across my features.
“Yes. Yes, I am,” I answered and then began gushing like a fire hose. “Thank you. Thank you so much, Mr. Atlic. I promise to do my best to learn whatever it is you need for me to know. I swear, you won’t regret this decision. You will be very glad you made it, in fact. I will work hard to live up to this opportunity, I promise. Thank you, Mr. Atlic.”
My new boss held up a hand. “Not so fast. I did forget to mention one catch.”
I held my breath. This is where the other shoe drops, I thought.
“You absolutely cannot call me Mr. Atlic another single time. That is what my clients call me, how those who want something from me address me. If you continue to call me Mr. Atlic, I will think that you want something from me. You have the job, so you no longer want that. And you may want me to pay you, but I don’t give out paychecks, employees earn them.” His tone was light and joking, though I was fairly certain he was very serious about everything he’d just said. “I know I won’t regret my decision to hire you. I just hope you don’t regret your decision to take the job. Though, if you do,” he shrugged, “I’m sure we can find you some custodial position.” He said the last part loudly for the benefit of Head Matron, making me like him even more.
“It’s a deal, Cyrus,” I replied giddily, unable to contain my excitement.
“Why don’t you pack your belongings, then? I’d like to be airborne in thirty minutes. I still have work to do back on the island today.”
I stood to leave but turned back at his words. “The island?”
“Branson Isle. That is where my organization is based and where you will live, for the most part.” Cyrus looked over my head at his two associates. “Baz, would you mind accompanying Stassi to her room? I would like to make sure she leaves the camp with all of her belongings,” Cyrus said pointedly.
“On it, boss.” The man called Bazzle waved to me. Though his commanding presence, towering height, and bristling muscles reminded me of a mercenary I’d once read about, there was also a certain kindness behind his steely gaze that made me feel instantly at ease. “Lead the way, Stassi.”
I eagerly scurried for the door without sparing a glance to the Head Matron I was happily leaving behind.
It took only twenty minutes to find a bag—Navine procured a ratty, canvas tote, with the caveat that the price would be deducted from my final credit count at the camp—and pack my meager belongings. Bazzle and I were standing outside my dorm waiting for Trista. I prayed that this wasn’t goodbye, that she’d be going to Branson Isle, too. We might not be best friends, but I’d certainly be glad to have a familiar face around in such an unfamiliar place.
Bazzle was a chatty guy and kept baiting me into conversation by making vague and intriguing remarks about the island and my new job. Yet, when I tried to get real, concrete information out of him, he clammed up like he was cultivating a pearl. It was maddening to me, but he clearly found it highly entertaining. I was mid-question when an angry voice broke in, drowning me out.
“How dare you! That was my job that you stole!”
I turned to find Trista storming down the path towards the Dorm Blocks. Her cheeks were red with anger, her eyes brimming with unshed tears. She shook one tightly clenched fist in my direction.
“How could you?” Trista demanded.
Bazzle immediately stepped in front of me, shielding me with his muscular frame.
“It’s okay,” I told him, nudging Bazzle aside with my elbow.
Trista stomped a foot in front of me, so upset that she was vibrating.
“I’m really sorry, Trista,” I said honestly. “I didn’t know there was only one position. I didn’t mean to steal it from you.”
“Well, you did. Before you came in, Mr. Atlic was ready to hire me.” The tears started to fall. “The other company men have already made their picks. I’m going to have to stay here another year and risk becoming an Undesirable. And it’s all your fault, Stassi. After all I’ve done for you, this is how you repay me?”
“I’m sorry, Trista,” I repeated, unsure what I could say to make the situation better.
Trista raised her hand. I closed my eyes, anticipating the slap. I had no intention of fighting her. If hitting me would make her feel better, that was fine. She deserved some consolation for another year in the camp.
But the sting never came. Cracking one eye open, I saw Bazzle holding Trista’s wrist. She was sobbing openly, no longer trying to hold it in.
“I guess you don’t need me anymore, huh? Now that you’ve got bigger and better protectors?” Trista hiccupped. “Fine. Forget you.” She spun on her heel and ran inside the dorm.
“You okay?” Bazzle asked.
“She’s just jealous.”
“She was also never an option for the job you were offered,” he said gently. “You didn’t steal anything.”
Though his words were a relief, I knew there was no point in looking for Trista to convey this new detail to her. It wouldn’t matter. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Atlic and the other man start walking towards the helo.
“Real friends are happy for each other when good things happen to them,” Bazzle continued.
“I know that, too,” I told him.
“No, I don’t think you do. Not yet, anyhow. But you will. There are good people on the island. You’ll find ones you fit with. Come on, it’s time to go.”
Still upset over my bitter parting with Trista, I followed Bazzle to the helo. Climbing aboard the luxurious aircraft should have been a triumphant moment. And yet, it wasn’t. Feeling sad that I couldn’t enjoy this sudden happening as much as I wanted to, I vowed to shake off the dark cloud of Trista’s anger.
“So,” I began boldly, once the dusty crops were nothing more than tiny dots on the rural landscape below and it was too late to turn back. “What’s the deal with my new job? What will I be acquiring?”
Cyrus and I were sitting across from each other in the helo’s passenger cabin, with Bazzle and the other associate up front in the lead seats.
“You don’t waste any time do you?” He laughed.
“I’d just like to know what I signed up for,” I replied.
“And I will tell you. You deserve that.” Cyrus took a sip of the scotch he’d received from an automated beverage and snack machine beside the table. “As I said earlier, my business is in acquisitions. I specialize in antiquities mostly, though we can accommodate other requests. My clients come to me with a request for an item lost to the bowels of history and I locate that item using my vast network. Then, you the acquirer—the actual job title is ‘Runner’—will retrieve the item.”
I shook my head, confused. “But if it’s lost, how do you find it?”
Cyrus grinned. “It might be lost in our current time, but I track down the last known location in history.”
“And then trace it from then to now?” I asked.
“Not exactly,” Cyrus hedged, studying my expression for a reaction. “Many items were destroyed entirely during the Epic War. So, I find it’s easier to simply go to the time we’ve located it in and grab the item when we know where it is.”
“As in, I travel through time and steal the mystery item before it can be lost forever?”
In the camp, there had always been rumors of time traveling bandits. But I’d assumed the stories were purely fiction. Even still, some nights when I couldn’t sleep, I’d lie in my bed and dream up tales about these time pirates and their great adventures.
“That is precisely what you will do,” he said evenly. Cyrus leaned forward, elbows resting on the small table between us. “Are you still interested, Stassi? Or should I scrounge up a mop with your name on it?”
“Oh, I’m interested,” I replied, matching his emerald stare. “Very interested.”
My new boss is still sitting across from me, gazing out of the window as I write this. Sure, I’ve considered the fact he might be insane, his description of my new job the mere ramblings of a madman. But I don’t think insanity breeds diamond watches and private helos. What I do know is this: Cyrus Atlic has already been kinder to me than anyone else has ever been before. He saved me from the company men, he scolded the Head Matron on my behalf, and he took me away from the camp. So, I’m going to see this through.
Speaking of Cyrus, he just told me to look out the window, at my new home. I am beyond overwhelmed by my first glimpse of Branson Isle. Even from the sky, I can tell that the vegetation is lush and the flowers bright and fragrant. White sand beaches wrap the island in a warm embrace. The water lapping the shores is so clear that I can see all the way to the ocean floor, where coral reefs are visible.
Already I am in love with my new home. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in all my life. It is hardly possible that I will truly be living in such a place. Maybe Sterla hit me over the head with a shovel and this has all been nothing more than a dream?
If so, I hope never to wake.
Cyrus said this job, being a Runner, is dangerous and challenging. I don’t doubt that it’s true. In fact, I hope that it is. I have waited my entire life to be challenged. I am both terrified and excited by what the future holds for me.
Or, maybe I should say, by what the past holds for me…
Thank you for taking the time to read 2446-89: Stassi’s Diary.
To continue Stassi’s story with The Syndicate (Timewaves #1) click for your complimentary copy!
**2446-89: Stassiâ€™s diary is the prequel novella to The Syndicate (Timewaves Series #1)** Today has been the strangest day of my life. I know, that sounds like the dramatic ramblings of a seventeen-year-old girl, but itâ€™s the absolute truth. Until today, I was an orphan, an uneducated ward of the government with no employment prospects on her horizon. But as of today, at least one of those is no longer true. I may never know the parents who abandoned me at the age of four. And by most peopleâ€™s standards, I will always be more streetwise than book-smart. But I have been offered a job. For the first time in my life, I am looking ahead to the next phase of my life, instead of focusing on a past I cannot change. Ironic, considering how little I know about my new employer and the position Iâ€™ve been offeredâ€¦which is precisely nothing at all.