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       Tremor, p.1

           Patrick Carman
 
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Tremor


  Epigraph

  No problem can be solved by the same consciousness that caused it in the first place.

  —Albert Einstein

  Contents

  Epigraph

  Part One: October Road

  1 - Leaving on a Jet Plane

  2 - Bowling Ball Spin Cycle

  3 - The Looney Bin

  4 - Supermax

  5 - October Road

  Part Two: Prison Bound

  6 - Hey, Dad, How’s It Hangin’?

  7 - Cell Block D

  8 - She’s a Little Unpredictable, This Girl

  9 - Trust Me, Grandma

  10 - Wanna Play Asteroids?

  11 - Sasquatch

  Part Three: State of Chance

  12 - Departing Is Such Sweet Sorrow

  13 - Buckshot and Fishtail

  14 - Personally, I Like the Javelin

  15 - Doctor Doom!

  16 - Universal Donor

  17 - Now You Must Run

  18 - The Last Light of Day

  About the Author

  Praise for Pulse

  Books by Patrick Carman

  Back Ads

  Credits

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  part one

  OCTOBER ROAD

  Chapter 1

  Leaving on a Jet Plane

  Long before Faith Daniels and Dylan Gilmore found each other on the ragged edges of the broken world outside, a woman was lying on her bed alone, thinking about leaving the one she loved. The thought was like one she’d had a long time before, and it surprised her, because, really, in all the intervening years, the idea had never crossed her mind again.

  What would become of me if I left this place and these people behind?

  But once the idea was in there, bouncing off the tender walls of her mind like a bee trapped in a cloth sack, she knew her time with these people was coming to an end. She concluded without a hint of emotion that it was the pregnancy. That was the thing that had led her to this bouncing bee of an idea. It was a course of action that would do more than just sting if she followed its pull on her imagination. It would, in due time, spill some serious blood.

  Oddly enough, it was the exact same thought some ten years earlier that had led her to Hotspur Chance in the first place. It was during a time in her life when she was two essential things at once: ruthlessly intelligent and disastrously unwise. She did not see eye to eye with her parents about what the future held, not only for them, but for all people. And when she debated with coworkers, she wielded her ideas with cunning and vigor. Eventually, no one wanted to argue with her, and after a time she became something of a loner. Clutching a ticket in her hand, trying to imagine what it would be like to fly through the air, her brilliance and her lack of experience were about to get her into some real trouble.

  There were still a small number of airplanes flying between airports in those days, and she had found herself singing a very old, melancholy song as she fled from the place of her birth, away from her parents. The song was about a girl, or so she imagined, who was leaving on a jet plane and was hoping that the one she loved would still be there if she ever returned.

  It was a love song, she knew, and not having a person to leave behind had made her feel sorry for herself. For all her intellectual power, she had failed to attract the right person at the right time. Love was like a velvet-lined box locked with an unsolvable combination. It had completely eluded her, this all-important aspect of adult life, producing a sort of simmering sadness she couldn’t shake.

  She wiped her tears in the nearly empty airport and tried to focus on the fact that in a world gone mad, at least she had been chosen, and not by just anyone, but chosen by the man who had envisioned the States and, by all accounts, was well on his way to saving the planet. He was not waiting at the gate when she arrived, as she’d hoped he would be. Someone else was there. He was about her age, with dark hair and a big, awkward smile.

  “I’m so glad you decided to join us, really I am. You’re going to be so pleased.”

  They exchanged pleasantries and names, and he escorted her to a white van, the kind that usually picked up those who wanted to enter the Western State. More and more people were streaming into the States, simply leaving everything behind, not turning back. And there was no room inside the States for a U-Haul full of personal belongings. It was part of the deal with the States: come as you are, bring your Tablet, leave everything else. Her own parents had talked of leaving, and it struck her as she stood outside on the cracked pavement that she might never see them again. She could return home and find that they, too, had abandoned the outside world without her.

  The white van deposited them in the desert, where the young man with the gleaming smile opened her door, touching her elbow softly as he pointed toward a low-slung building sitting all alone. The desert heat took her breath away, like stepping into a sauna, and she hoped the building had air-conditioning. She would never forget how white the van looked against the endless, sandy wasteland as it pulled away and left her behind.

  “There are no rules in there. You can’t imagine what he’s like, what he’s accomplished.”

  “I don’t know. My imagination is pretty big,” she said.

  “Not this big.”

  And it turned out that he was right. Hotspur Chance, the man who had solved the global climate problem and invented the States, had turned his attention to human biology and the mind. When someone as brilliant as Chance started meddling with DNA, the results were bound to be astounding.

  Chance had heard the prevailing idea that humans use only 10 percent of their brains. He knew this claim was patently false, because any part of the brain that isn’t used quickly dies. People use only 10 percent of their brain’s potential. Not so with Hotspur Chance. He used 90 percent of his brain’s potential and was said to help others do the same. And it wasn’t through mind-enhancing drugs or rewiring or shock therapy. He simply knew how to unlock astounding levels of human potential in certain individuals.

  “I was hoping you would take me up on my invitation. I’m very pleased you’ve decided to join us. Come, sit down.”

  Those were Hotspur Chance’s first words when she arrived. In hindsight, they were eerily similar to the greeting she’d gotten from the man who’d picked her up at the airport. Chance’s mention of the invitation reminded her of how she had come to be standing there in the first place. She had taken an unusual test on her Tablet, one that everyone was being asked to take, and apparently her results were promising. The test involved looking at objects on what appeared to be a static picture of a table. There was a green apple, a red ball, a Coin, a knife, a picture. The test had asked her to move those objects with her mind, and while she had assumed it was a trick, she had been successful. She had even sent the knife flying up in the air, turning, and stabbing into the wood of the table.

  “How about we see if you can do it for real, shall we?”

  Hotspur Chance seemed to read her mind, to understand what she was thinking. Or maybe it was just obvious, given that he was sitting behind the very table from the test and the same objects awaited her. What else would she be thinking about?

  “Think about the object you want to move,” Hotspur said. “Look at it. Now control it.”

  Besides his prematurely gray hair cut very close to his head, Hotspur Chance didn’t look a day over thirty-five. Everyone knew he was at least sixty, but the skin on his face was tight and crisp, his eyes bright and youthful. He assumed that Meredith was distracted, so he narrowed his instruction.

  “Think about the apple,” he went on. “Look at it.”

  It wasn’t what she would have called a proper introduction, and looking around the room at the faces staring at her, she began to
wonder why she’d come at all. There was another woman in the room. She was tall, with severe, striking eyes that seemed to be saying something.

  Why are you looking at me? He told you to look at the apple. Look at it.

  She glanced at the young man who had picked her up at the airport, appreciated his warm smile, and turned her attention to the work at hand. It was then that she noticed the one difference about the objects before her: the apple in the test she’d already taken had been green. This one was red.

  “Move the apple,” Hotspur Chance said. “Bring it under your mind’s control.”

  That was how it had begun, all those years ago, as the apple wobbled and rolled and fell off the table.

  “It’s too bad,” the woman with the severe eyes said. “Not what we hoped for.”

  “It’s enough,” said the dark-haired young man with the winning smile.

  As time went on the isolation bothered her, but the experiments didn’t. In fact, she rather liked the attention as her powers grew more profound. In time she mastered the movement of larger objects with her mind: barrels of water, a motorcycle, even a car. They never spoke of the red apple, and it never really crossed her mind that the only other red objects she ever saw during her time there were attached to Hotspur himself. He wore a red lab coat over a pressed white shirt and red tie, but somehow the color never came up.

  The training was enough to distract her from the slow and nearly unnoticeable descent into what could only be described later as worship. She came to see Hotspur Chance as everyone else did, as something more than a man. Nearly a decade later, as the world outside continued to empty into the States, she had the first inkling that she may have stumbled into a cult of the most dangerous kind.

  “The States aren’t exactly what I imagined them to be,” Hotspur confessed. “We may need to make some, how shall we say, alterations.”

  Hotspur filled their minds with ideas she knew were wrong. But it wasn’t long before she had fallen in love with the dark-haired young man, and he was the one to assure her that everything Hotspur was telling them would all make sense in the end. Hotspur Chance had saved the world and given them these remarkable powers. He fed them, clothed them, kept them safe. He knew what was best.

  And so she hung on. She grew more powerful in the ways in which she could. She tried to withstand Hotspur’s overpowering will. She hoped certain events would never come to pass, terrible things that these people were plotting. Until one day she woke up pregnant and the buzzing bee of an old idea got stuck in her head once more.

  What would become of me if I left this place and these people behind?

  She had a man to leave now; and kissing him as he slept, she imaged him kissing her back, smiling for her, saying that he’d wait for her. She stepped outside and sang the old song in her head, but she knew there were no more planes to catch. Those days were gone. And this turned out to be all right, because she didn’t need an airplane to put some miles behind her. By then she could fly away all by herself.

  The man she left behind was Andre Quinn.

  The steely-eyed woman who would take her place was Gretchen.

  The children who would be born in her absence were the twins, Wade and Clara Quinn.

  This woman who flew away was Meredith. Seventeen years later, she would become the rogue leader of a nearly hopeless resistance.

  And the baby she was carrying grew into a young man who had not one but two pulses. His name was Dylan Gilmore, and though he asked many times, Meredith never told him who his father was.

  A time was coming when Dylan would need to know.

  Chapter 2

  Bowling Ball Spin Cycle

  Faith Daniels was standing in the middle of a large, empty meat locker when the first red bowling ball lifted off the floor and began turning from side to side. The holes where her fingers and thumb would have gone if she were actually bowling looked like a round nose and two vacant eyes boring down on her from thirty feet away. Faith steadied her nerves, shifting her weight from side to side as she focused her mind, and ran her hand through the air in front of her.

  “Let’s see if a little noise throws you off,” she whispered, not loud enough for the five drifters standing behind the floating balls of urethane to hear what she was saying. She hadn’t touched all the empty hooks hanging down into the room, but she’d made them dance like chimes in a hot summer wind.

  Four more red bowling balls rose up in the air, surrounding her from every side in the soft light and the clanging metal hooks.

  Each of the balls weighed ten pounds or more, and they suddenly moved as if they’d been shot from five cannons, fired into the center of the room.

  Faith had only recently mastered red objects, a color that presented serious problems for second pulses when they were new to the craft of moving objects with their minds. First pulses, like the drifters in the room with her, didn’t have any trouble at all with the color red. It was one of the ways that Meredith, the leader of the drifters rebellion, had known Faith had two pulses even before Faith knew it herself. Meredith had never forgotten how easy it had been to move the red apple so many years ago when she’d first met Hotspur Chance. It had told him Meredith would never have a second pulse. Not so with Faith Daniels. Faith could deflect anything and everything that came her way. She was invincible.

  Everything inside Faith screamed Move! But she knew moving wouldn’t solve anything. These drifters were among the most experienced fighters in the rebellion. They knew how to zero in on a target whether it was moving or not. The best way to deal with red, Faith knew, was to stay still. She closed her eyes, balled up her fists, and held her breath. When the five bowling balls surrounded her in the middle of the meat locker all at once, she felt them nudging her, but only barely. She turned them away like marbles bouncing on pavement, returning fire at twice the speed. The drifters, all of whom were in mortal danger with no second pulse to protect them, dived for the floor as the balls ricocheted off metal walls and slammed into fluorescent lights overhead.

  “Take it easy!” one of the drifters yelled.

  Faith gathered all the bowling balls and lined them up like train cars, setting them in motion. They moved so fast it was like watching a ring of fire encircling the wide perimeter of the space. The drifters tried to take control of something—anything—but found that Faith was far too powerful to overcome in a confined space. She picked up all of the five drifters, one by one, and hung them on meat hooks by their long trench coats.

  “Don’t overdo it, Faith. I mean it.”

  Meredith’s voice over the loudspeaker had the tone and quality of a drill sergeant. It was unmistakable.

  Faith appeared not to be listening as the bowling balls changed course.

  “Faith,” Meredith said. “I know red makes you angry. You have to control your rage. Understand?”

  The bowling balls hovered several feet over the heads of the drifters. They were wearing football helmets, which they’d procured from the sporting goods store in a nearby deserted mall. The meat hooks clanged louder and louder as Faith made the balls spin in place and began lowering them toward the people who had thrown them.

  “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Meredith said.

  The doors to the meat locker burst open, a streak of bright light bathing the room. Faith unlatched two of the long hooks, carrying one in each hand as she walked out into the light. As soon as she reached the opening, the real onslaught began. Dylan and a troop of drifters had recently raided a Sears down the street, where thirty or more washers and dryers had been lined up. For a person with the pulse, they were a very nicely sized object for throwing. The appliances were the equivalent of a softball for a normal person and even felt about that big in Dylan’s mind as he threw one after another, raining down metal on Faith as she dodged out of the doorway. She used the bowling balls like antiaircraft fire, slamming them into washers and dryers as they came near her. Shards of metal flew past her on all sides, and anything t
hat made it through was slashed and chopped by the meat hooks she carried. Faith was out of control and loving every second of it, taking everything Dylan threw at her and shoving it right back down his throat.

  A drifter was standing off to the side of the training area, and when he decided to pick up a truck tire and throw it in Faith’s general direction, Faith turned on him. The tire flipped through the air, and Faith sent a bowling ball through the hole, slamming it into a concrete pillar the drifter was hiding behind. Had it connected with its target, the drifter might not have lived.

  “Enough!” Meredith yelled. She was standing on a grated platform overhead, staring down over a paint-chipped rail.

  All the washers and dryers and bowling balls fell to the floor at once, and with a brush of her arm, Meredith cleared away the mess. It was as if a giant broom had swept across the floor and pushed everything away.

  “Too bad you don’t have a second pulse,” Faith said, staring up at her as she dropped the metal hooks with a loud clang. “You’d be one badass mother—”

  “Let’s reset and try the storm simulation,” Meredith interrupted. “And this time, how about we dispense with the theatrics?”

  “But it’s easier to concentrate if I put them on hooks,” Faith complained. “Otherwise they’re harder to contain.”

  A huge, bald-headed drifter of Samoan descent walked by, holding a red bowling ball. His name was Semana, and he was wearing a football helmet that did nothing to hide his wide, black eyebrows. His head, which was unusually large, barely fit inside the protective gear.

  “I don’t mind hanging,” he said through the guard on the helmet. “Just don’t hit me with my own bowling ball. That would be crossing the line.”

  The training session was reset as Meredith watched. Up high it was relatively safe from any flying object she couldn’t see in time to deflect. They’d been at this for nearly four months, almost entirely focused on getting Faith as far along as possible in the short time they had. She was remarkable, but Meredith was still having trouble containing Faith’s reckless outbursts. Half a dozen drifters had been injured in sessions where Faith went too far, too fast. They were like sparring partners in a boxing match with an invincible opponent. They never complained, but hanging them up on meat hooks? It was just one in a string of such events that worried Meredith.

 
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