Author: Raymond Lamar Gilstrap PM
Welcome to Paradise. Emotions are illegal here. Every morning, all citizens must inhale the Purge, a gas that keeps them impassive. Liam Cato upholds the laws and Charlotte Tatum breaks them. This is their story. THE SEQUEL, EMPATHY, IS COMING SOON!Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Romance - Chapters: 43 - Words: 142,323 - Reviews: 222 - Favs: 79 - Follows: 76 - Updated: 12-19-12 - Published: 03-12-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3004503
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Many of you have been PM-ing me about when Liam and Charlotte are going to meet. I hate to admit that they don't meet until the last third of the book so I'm afraid you all will have to hold out just a little while longer. Their meeting is coming soon, I promise. This is the first book of a trilogy and I can assure you that Liam and Charlotte will be spending a lot of time together in book two, which will be entitled Empathy. Please continue to read and review despite your cravings for Charlotte and Liam to finally come together!
It's all I'm thinking about as I lie in bed trying to sleep. I'm consumed with figuring out how it fits into the greater picture of the investigation. The Purge prevents me from punching the nearest wall in frustration.
The effect the gas has of me has admittedly weakened as of late. I don't know why and it worries me. Not tremendously. Not enough that I will react unfavorably. But the notion is still there buried beneath everything else, biding its time. Waiting. If I don't solve Emerson's murder case soon, then I'm unsure if I can keep my qualms hidden. If I uncover them, then what? What is it like to feel complete anxiety? What's it like to experience fear? I don't know, nor do I want to know. I am free of anxiety. I am fearless. Or am I? Everyday's an internal struggle, a war within.
I consider the main difference between a rebel and myself because we absolutely have nothing in common. It's pointless for me to even think about this but my body requires something to occupy the time until I'm able to drift off into repose.
The rebels, the ones who have eluded capture so far, struggle externally to conceal emotions from everyone else. They keep their faces as blank as possible when they long to grin or frown or cry. I, and others like me who are dedicated to the ideals of the Core, make great efforts to suppress our emotions on the inside. We don't allow them to make it to the point when they are out of control. We never tread the line between inner and outer conflict. With the Purge, we have no reason to mask ourselves.
I find myself removing a slip of paper from one of the drawers on my nightstand. I glance at the clock while doing so. It's midnight, the witching hour people used to call it, a time of night when something sinister usually occurs. I don't believe in such superstitions but something sinister is playing upon my mind right now, compelling me to dwell on trivial matters.
By the moonlight slithering into my bedroom, I peruse my Dr. Cato's writing, the first time I've looked at it since her arrest. I can't fathom why I kept this but it's a prime example about how the revolutionaries "feel", and advances my mental thesis concerning internal and external emotional strife.
I reread several lines and find myself analyzing them.
I mimic others for a living—real people, not characters so that's the difference between a movie star and myself. Mimicry—the trait in which caterpillars and butterflies employ for survival. Earlier in the prose, letter, or whatever this is, Dr. Cato mentions she is a caterpillar and then proceeds to make other references to the insect. The comparison is logical despite the disagreeable context. Masking her emotions is how she blended in with society, transforming her true self into a false representation of what is supposed to be right.
Each time, I immerse myself fully into preparing for the same role. There is a script but I don't learn most of it until I arrive on set. I also have to do everything in one take so that there's no room for errors. If I miss a line or make any other small mistake, the entire movie is ruined. There are no reshoots because the government won't allow it. Here, she likens herself to an actress. The term "actor" itself is derived from a Greek word meaning "interpreter". Actors interpret dramatized characters, where she interpreted real people. Mimicry was her method and there was no room for errors. But eventually, she slipped up and made a fatal error, one that landed her in prison.
Her error was presenting a package to a shadowy figure. What was in that envelope and how is it connected to Project Lightning? Dr. Cato wouldn't have mentioned that to me if it weren't essential to everything. Perhaps Project Lightning was the reason for her "awakening" as she called it.
I toss the page in my hands aside and summon forth every rich detail about the day I visited that northern ruins facility with my father. I watch the images play out before my mind's eye, jumbled but cohesive just the same. Nothing about that visit produces any satisfactory results, other than marking the first time Project Lightning was mentioned around me.
I climb out of bed suddenly and resort to the Internet for answers. I microwave a snack while I wait to access the agency's server. It's frozen macaroni and cheese. If I had a favorite food, this would be it.
"You now have access to the network, Agent Cato," the cool, female voice greets me. "Choose a path of navigation."
"Intelligence database," I speak clearly, pulling my bowl of food out of the microwave. It's hot so I allow it to cool on the countertop next to the stove.
I walk over to the couch and sit down before the viewscreen. The database loads and I make my request, "Pull any files concerning Project Lightning."
The computer sifts through the database quickly, flashing various digital files across the screen in rapid succession. I wait, the computer taking a little longer than usual to find something on Project Lightning. Then, I receive an error message, followed by—
"All files concerning Project Lightning are classified and heavily encrypted."
"Override the encryption," I say at once. "Code 55-2R7."
The computer does as it's told. More flashes that remind me of the glitches in the BioLife recordings, before a second error message.
"It's appears that an override is ineffective," the computer tells me.
"Who authorized the encryption?"
"Programmers within the Core."
The government doesn't want many people to know about Project Lightning, not even White Agents. Why the secrecy? Our leaders might hide the goings on inside of the Core but everything else on the island is normally common knowledge. Billboards, the media, word of mouth, every piece of news is released to the public—unless the government doesn't deem it necessary for the public to know. Like with the second assassination on a Parliament representative. The government only conceals information to maintain perfection.
"Urgent vid call coming through," the computer alerts me without warning.
"Senior Agent Jackson Ramos with the White Agency."
"Patch him through."
The viewscreen erases my computer desktop and replaces it with an image of Ramos sitting before the desk in his office back at HQ. He looks the same as always—apathetic.
"Agent Cato, you're awake." It's not a question; it's a statement. Obviously I'm awake or I wouldn't be able to converse with him.
"Sir." I address him simply.
"We have found Emerson's killer." He gets straight to the point and reveals the reason for his late-night phone call.
His words are unexpected, like dreams I don't care to have.
"On what evidence?"
"That's irrelevant," Ramos tells me. "I'm sending you her personal file right now."
Ramos disappears from the screen. A moment later, a file pops up, displaying information that scanners can provide from vectors and fingerprints. I read the information—her name, date of birth, etc.—but it's not until I view a picture of her that I realize that I know this girl.
"We're sending in a team to apprehend her at her residence right now," Ramos' voice still emanates from the viewscreen although I can no longer since his rugged visage. "They will await your arrival before going in."
Disbelief strikes me like a chord, the second time I've experienced such incredulity on a large scale in less than a week. The first occurred when I was sent to arrest Dr. Cato—my mother. Now, this girl. I can't believe it. I never suspected she was capable of something like this. Maybe that's why she intrigued me, because I knew deep down inside that she was a criminal although I didn't want to admit it. I was blinded by the notion that she could have made a brilliant White Agent. I obviously misread her.
"Will Agent Bailey be joining me?" I ask Ramos, my voice mimicking a toad's.
"No," Ramos responds flatly. "A patrol car will pick you up momentarily."
I find it that odd that Sophia, my partner, won't be escorting me to apprehend Emerson's killer. But it's nothing compared to how I feel about the girl on the viewscreen. What do I feel exactly? I don't not know. I try to convince myself that she's just enough criminal but it's not working. Those hazel eyes . . . .
"ETA?" I ask Ramos, unable to pull my eyes from the viewscreen.
"Five minutes. Ramos out."
The vidphone disconnects. More out of obligation than want, I turn off the viewscreen. I hurry to change into my uniform, as numbness spreads throughout my body. Why didn't Ramos inform me of the evidence that was discovered linking the suspect to the crime scene? It's usually protocol to thoroughly discuss intel with the arresting officer. As a superior agent, Ramos is allowed to bend regulations as he sees fit, but why withhold the evidence from me? Next to Sophia, I'm one of the most dedicated agents under his command.
The patrol car arrives on schedule. So much for my late-night snack. As I slide into the passenger's seat and exchange a silent greeting with the driver, I beg the Purge for the strength to carry out my assigned task. All the while, the girl's face torments me. It no longer brings peace to my troubled mind, it only adds to the chaos.