Well, here we are, January 31st, which means signed paperbacks! The lucky winners will receive an email from me before the end of the weekend, and hopefully the paperbacks should be in the mail within a few days.
Speaking of paperbacks, I guess I haven't mentioned that all my paper books are enrolled in the Amazon Match Book program. The cool thing about Match Book is that when you buy a paper book enrolled in the program, you get a discount on the e-book as well (when you buy through Amazon). And although many prefer one or the other, there are many readers who like to have a paper book on the shelf, while also having all the advantages of e-books, such as bringing your entire library when travelling.
I like to give my readers a good deal. In fact, I even received a review once that said something like "I got the book because it was cheap, and what a surprise!" Yeah, that. So that's why my discount is 100%. That's right - when you buy one of my paperbacks through amazon, you get the e-book for free! Some might say that's ridiculous, but I don't see it that way. After all, you just bought my book! It's not like it costs me anything to give you options! And I like to make my readers happy!
All right, so let's move on to RIFT, shall we? As the story continues, we learn more about the society of Covenant, and in this scene we learn a bit more of what it really means to be chosen for Service; how it changes everything. One of the differences between citizens and non-citizens is the euthanasia laws. Non- citizens aren't allowed to live past the age of fifty. Citizens on the other hand, are allowed to live for as long as they like (there's is an element of choice there that will be explored more in depth later). And we learn that life for citizens can be much longer than we think of as natural today, which of course has to do with technology, given that RIFT takes place hundreds of years in the future.
Well, I guess that's enough introduction for you on a Friday night. Here's scene 5 of RIFT:
RIFT - scene 5
Sue found a vacant seat by the window, and sat down. After a minute or so, Laurie came and sat down next to her.
"So, you know how far north we're going?" He asked. Sue shook her head.
"No idea. Never been north of Stonehaven." She said. Sonehaven lay inland, north west of Charlestown, and was the town everyone went to for trading goods that were hard to come by at home. She had gone there with her father once, while mother and little Georg stayed at home. Thinking of her little brother always choked her up, and she turned and stared out the window. They were going faster than she'd expected. The train hovering inches above the tracks; the smoothness of the ride was amazing. Not like riding the steam cars back home. She'd done that once too.
"It's magnetic." Laurie said. She turned back and looked at him. Curly dark hair, wide lips and nose, and originally the prankster among them, he'd changed after his sister was chosen. More serious, Sue thought.
"We have no idea what to expect, do we?" she said. He half- smiled back.
"Guess we don't." He leaned forward to see better. "We haven't heard from Liz since last Initiation Day. Not one word."
They both stared out for what seemed forever, and Sue felt herself doze off, as daylight receeded. The train suddenly slowed, and they emerged from a tunnel. In the distance they could see the capitol, Legacy, in all its splendor. Lights everywhere; no shortage of electricity there. And soon the train stopped on the platform. This was clearly separate from the civilian platforms, as there were officers everywhere, herding groups of Initiates around. Black, white and green armbands still separated the Initiates, while the officers wore the grey uniforms she was familiar with from back home.
Their cart was Guardian only, but she knew Dave, Chas, Felicia and the others from Charlestown were on the same train. Now though, their ways parted. She saw a group with green armbands boarding another train; no familiar faces though.
"There go the Wardens." Laurie said quietly. The Wardens were something of a secret society, especially since there were so few from Charlestown. Initiates from Charelstown generally went to the Guardians or the Corpus, with a few now and to the Students. Student Initiates usually never returned. They stayed on to become Scholars, those who after having served their seven years and earned their citizenship, chose to stay in the Service. While the Students were treated well enough to keep a majority even after the seven years, the Corpus spent their Initiates and spewed out what was left. Usually that wasn't much; if they even made it through their seven years, they returned with disabled bodies and broken minds, though their citizen pensions could easily feed a family for the rest of their lives.
The Guardians had a high casualty rate, but those few who chose to return to their hometown did so with fanfare; the pride of the town. Every time one did, it was cause for celebration. The rumors said the Wardens mostly stayed in the West, even further than the miner towns and wildlife preserves. But no one ever knew. So, since the Corpus was absolute horror, the Wardens were a mystery, and the few that were chosen for the Students were always from the advanced class, whenever they had discussed the prospect of Service they had implicitly discussed service with the Guardians.
Sue saw Chas and Felicia pass right outside their window, and waved at her. Felicia noticed, and waved back, while Chas seemed to be lost in thought. They would be taken to the Legacy Academy or the Covenant University, which both produced scholars. Sue didn't really know the difference between the two, and right now she didn't care. She just hoped her friends would fare well.
"I was worried for Vince there for a second." Laurie said. Sue smiled.
"We all were. I was so certain he'd be chosen. He'll be fine back home." She said.
"Yeah, better than the Corpus." Laurie said, as he sat back, ignoring the window, and staring up at the ceiling. The train started moving again. Slowly at first, but soon it was moving at top speed again.
"Still going north." Sue murmured, as sleep seemed to pull at her again.
She was almost out when the doors to their cart slid open, and a man clad in Guardian Black entered.
"Listen up." He said, loud enough to wake those who'd dozed off. Laurie sat up straighter, and Sue craned to see better. The man was lean and tall, and when Sue looked closer she saw he couldn't be more than twenty five or so, the trimmed beard that made him look older.
"In an hour you will enter Camp Sharpe, where you will begin your training. In the meantime, you are to read this information sheet." He produced a stack of paper, and started passing it out.
"You can all read - the Guardians have no need for illiterates - so I suggest you pay attention to everything this sheet tells you. On arrival we expect you to know this by heart." He let the Initiates pass the sheets along, and turned back. Just before the sliding door, he stopped and faced them again.
"Initiates, in an hour the toughest part of your lives is about to begin. For some it will be the final part. No matter how well prepared you think you are, make no mistake; the coming days and weeks will test you. Everyone has a limit, and we intend to find yours. One day, you might find these trials will save the lives of yourself and those around you." Sue found herself absorbing the advice, and although his words were disturbing, they also made her eager. She had felt that way since hearing her name being called by First Guardian Ivanov, and as the train took them north, the feeling grew stronger. The Guardian hadn't finished though.
"One more piece of advice for you. I know many of you are friends. You've gone to school together, grown up together, played together, in Holstonhead, Morrow, Fort Winter, Stonehaven, Charlestown or wherever.
I want you to forget all that. Forget your hometown and everyone there. Forget your best friend from kindergarten. Forget your boyfriend or girlfriend or whatever. It's all history, and you are about to be reborn as Guardians. And let me tell you, a Guardian is sworn to service. To the State. Not to your pals or your birth family or your town. The State.
You may at some point find yourselves torn between loyalties, in training or in actual combat. It may be hard to abandon someone you played with as a child, or the person you first kissed, to die in some godforsaken ditch up north. Or to carry out punishment on someone you knew back when you were kids for having disobeyed the tranquility laws. But if that's what it takes to fulfill your obligations- to serve - then I want you to remember something: Most of you will die in the Service. Almost everyone you knew in that place you've always called home will die within just a few decades. In fifty years even your baby sister or little cousin Vinny will be dead, while you may live on for a century, if not more, if you survive your three years of Service.
In fifty years, when your hometown doesn't feel like home anymore, you will have new friends, you will have a new family, who are not subject to the euthanasia laws, who understand what you've been through. You will be part of the Covenant, having earned your privileges and your status." He stood quiet for a moment, before leaving through the sliding doors, letting the Initiates absorb what he had told them. Sue and Laurie looked at each other, and Sue felt an urge to protest. But she didn't.
Instead she looked at the sheet of paper, and started to read. It was all basic instructions; how to salute a superior, a chart for arranging her clothes and personal items in her locker, fire instructions, the different alerts that might occur, and some basic information on what to expect on their first day at Camp Sharpe.
She didn't speak to Laurie for the rest of the ride, and wondered if it was because they were both busy studying the sheets, or if it was because of what the Guardian had said. She knew Laurie would always be her friend, and wanted to dismiss what the man had said, but something in the back of her head wondered if it wasn't a lot of truth to it as well. After all, many of the Initiates right here in this cart would die, and soon. And there was no doubt that the euthanasia laws were merciless: on your fiftieth birthday you were given the choice of how to go, most took the pill, and that was that. In a few years her neighbor, who had shown up for Initiation Day in the town square, would be gone. The baker across the street had taken the pill last year, and next year it was his wife's turn.
Sue felt the train decelerate, and as it slowed to a crawl, they entered a tunnel. Seconds turned to minutes and after what felt like an eternity, the train exited the tunnel and stopped on a platform bathed in light. It was late evening outside, and darkness had descended. Behind the platform stood two black towers, with moving flood lights, and as the lights moved around she saw parts of Camp Sharpe, where she would spend the next weeks in training. On the platform stood Guardians, a row of them a few paces apart. From what she had read on the info sheet, these were Senior Guardians, who would each take a small group to their quarters, and later act as instructors. After sticking her head out for Dave, she thought it would be best to be as anonymous as possible, and not draw attention to her. She looked up at the Covenant flag on top of the main house in front of the platform, flapping in the wind. The white circle with another white round dot just above and to the right, on a black background speckled with small dots. The Earth, the Moon and the stars. And just as Earth had turned a new chapter, centuries ago, she felt the flag signified a new chapter in her life.