Just when you thought high school was over…
When Allie Thompson graduated, she thought she put high school behind her. But when a series of violent outbreaks by teens sends panic surging through the nation, high school is right where Allie finds herself again. Remolded into what the government calls The Academie, what was once the public school system is now the permanent home of everyone under the age of 22.
After a year away at college and a lifetime as a model student, Allie doesn’t take well to The Academie’s militaristic nature or its 16 foot perimeter fences. Remembering all she’s left behind, including the boyfriend she’s now years away from seeing again, Allie plummets into depression. But when strange things begin to happen and her brother disappears, Allie realizes she must unravel the mystery that is The Academie—before it’s too late.
- Genre: Dystopian Science Fiction/New Adult
- Audience: Young Adult
- Length: 289 pages
- Key themes: self-reliance, the elusiveness of truth, friendship
- Key aspects: action-adventure, mystery, romance
- Accolades: Amazon Bestseller, ABNA Quarterfinalist
- Location/setting: modern parallel timeline; Ohio
- Content: PG
- Available formats: paperback, kindle ebook
- Publisher: Tenterhook Books, LLC
- Print ISBN-10: 146369282X ISBN-13: 978-1463692827
- Amazon ASIN: B005CF7NA
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“A sweet love story.” —Publisher’s Weekly
“This author has a ingenious imagination and writes with a deft hand.” -Writer’s Digest
“The love scene between Allie and Bryan was well crafted and a real highlight, bringing back memories of the sweetness of first love.” -Writer’s Digest
“Imagine your life…you go to school, finish high school and start college. Only to be told by the government that you now have to go back to school…high school….OMG…this book was so good. It was a page-turner and held my attention the whole way. When I was at work, I was dying to get back to reading because it had such a strong hold on me…” —GoodReads Reviewer
I loved it. I found it really hard to put down. The Academie is sooooo one of my all time favorites now.–Goodreads Reviewer
“I found The Academie to be a bit like Delirium andPandemonium by Lauren Oliver as well as Variant by Robison Wells, I would definitely recommend this book!” –Goodreads Reviewer
Chapter 1: The Day I Hope to Forget
“Looks like a lot of people are already here,” Mom called from the front seat of what used to be my car.
I surrendered my keys this morning. Dad said they planned to sell it. My six-year-old brother, Andy, wouldn’t need it for years, and by the time he did, he’d be headed to where I was now: The Academie.
Five years ago I started high school. Life was normal. I worked hard at school and made Honor Roll. Got a job, saved for college, and picked the best school I could find. Mostly, all I wanted was to get away.
And I did. But not for long.
Two years ago things got nuts. Tommy Bacher of Oakfield, Massachusetts brought a 9mm firearm to school. In a matter of minutes, he took out his Spanish class along with half a cafeteria of students in study hall. Then he took off running. Hours later they found him under the stadium bleachers with a bullet in his head and a note that read: “I hate you all.”
“Tommy’s Crusade”—as the media dubbed it— set off a series of violent outbreaks. Two weeks later, fifteen-year-old Sarah Branstein broke into her step-father’s gun cabinet, loaded his 12-gauge shotgun, and sat waiting for her parents to come home. Her mom was the first unlucky victim, picked off with groceries in her hand and Sarah’s four-year-old half sister, Emma, trailing behind. Sarah’s mom took two shots to the abdomen and lay bleeding to death till her husband came home. When Mr. Branstein walked in, he purportedly found little Emma crying over her mother and Sarah still armed and waiting. She took several shots at her step-father, killing him instantly, before calling the police to tell them what she had done.
Countless similar events followed, creating a media frenzy and widespread panic. I think this was the beginning of the changes to come. Shortly after, I overheard teachers talking about policy adjustments to deal not only with teenage violence but also dropping test scores and general student apathy. I remember Mrs. White saying something about us not being able to solve basic equations and Mr. Moffet claimed we weren’t prepared to take care of ourselves, let alone hold down a job.
Our country’s solution? The Academie: a nationwide compulsory boarding school program designed to replace our current high schools. At least, that was at first. In its first year, two things happened: student success increased, and violent crimes outside The Academie failed to decrease. The result: even though I’d already graduated, I was being sent back to high school—imprisoned more like it. Me and every other adult under age 23.
“Should be nice to see all your old friends again.” Mom turned in her seat to smile at me, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the world outside my window. I was starting to lose it. I’d already told her a dozen times that I didn’t care about seeing anyone from high school again. She wasn’t listening.
As huge supporters of The Academie, my parents ignored anything I said against it. I guess they believed I’d jump on board with it all once I was part of it—like my sixteen-year-old brother, Matt, had done.
I was certain they were wrong.
When Dad stopped the car, I started to feel really sick. He and Mom exited gaily, and Mom opened my door as Dad went to the trunk to grab my things.
“Come on, Allie,” Mom sang from the doorway.
I sat there, paralyzed. It felt as though they’d brought me to the threshold to hell. I can’t do it. I can’t go back in there. Especially now…like this.
“Come on, Allie.” Her tone had changed, and I could tell she was losing her patience.
I couldn’t move.
“Alathea Rose! You get out of that car this instant!”
Does she know I’m nineteen?
Does she know this is still my car?
“Allie,” Dad said, now standing beside her, “What kind of an example are you setting for your brother?”
Andy shifted uncomfortably beside me.
I wanted to move to comfort him, but instead, I just sat there, trying to make sense of it all. Was this really happening?
“Fine!” Mom snapped. “I’ll go get an officer, and they can get you out!”
She knew me too well. There was no way I was going to let them make a spectacle of me. I grabbed the trash bag she kept in the car to keep her vehicle tidy and pulled myself from the car.
“What’s that for?” Mom asked, motioning to the bag.
“I’m taking it for when I vomit.”
She rolled her eyes.
Dad had set the small bag of personal items The Academie allowed me to have on the ground. My stomach churned as I grabbed them. It all seemed so final. And somehow, they were okay with it. We should have been hugging, but I was having trouble even looking at them.
A gentle hand pulled my sleeve. I turned to find Andy, his little boy eyes filling with tears. I set the bag back on the ground and bent down so we could be eye-level. “It’s going to be okay,” I said, rubbing his head.
He put his arms tightly around my neck, and I felt his body shake as the tears heaved through him. That’s when I lost it. It’s going to be okay, I told myself.
We stayed like that for I don’t know how long. I wanted it to last forever. It was what I needed: his soft little body safe in my arms where all the meanness of the world could never touch us.
“The kids are lining up, Allie,” Mom said impatiently.
Kids, I thought. She was part of the problem.
My head ached and my face felt puffy as I stood again and attempted to wipe the tears away.
Mom swooped in and gave me a hug, and Dad followed her lead. Their hugs were hurried, stiff and uncomfortable, but in their defense, they had ever been the cuddly type.
If Bryan were here, he would have given me a proper cuddle.
“Could you at least take care of the flowers Bryan gave me?” I asked Mom.
“They are cut flowers, Allie. They won’t last another week.”
“You could dry them out.”
“Honey, they aren’t going to be any good.”
My body felt heavy. It was an effort to pick up my small bag.
“Say hello to Matthew,” Mom said. My eyes were on the ground, but I could hear the smile in her tone. It cut through me, deepening my anger and sorrow. How could they have become part of something I so despised so much?
I took one glance back at Andy, wishing I could run back to that hug, or better: grab him up and run us both away from here. He gave me a little wave, and tears welled in my own eyes as I waved back.
Then I turned, took a deep breath and one last look around at the outside world, and walked toward my future home.
Chapter 2: Ruby
The sinking feeling in my stomach renewed itself. The ancient stone building looked the same as I remembered, but the sixteen-foot barbed-wire prison fences around the perimeter and guard shack by the drive reminded me that this was no longer Grant High School: Home of the Angry Bees.
A line had formed at the school entrance, and I looked ahead to see what the hold-up was. But given my size, I couldn’t see anything.
“What are we waiting for?” I asked the girl ahead of me.
She turned and I could see I wasn’t the only one who’d been taking this hard. Her eyes were swollen and her voice was tight as she answered. “I think they’re collecting papers.”
I started to rummage in my bag. Weeks ago I’d been given extensive paperwork to complete and was told to bring a copy of my social security card and birth certificate.
The girl in front of me sniffed. I wanted to say something, but I kept quiet. Sometimes you just need to be alone to cry.
I watched as she tried to wipe the tears away, and I reached into my bag again, rummaging about until I came upon a pack of tissues. “Here,” I said, holding them out to her.
“Thanks,” she answered, accepting the pack. She wiped her face and blew her nose. “Sorry…I’m just…”
“No, it’s fine. Really, I understand.”
“I have a daughter, Charlotte,” she answered.
“Oh,” I said, surprised.
“How old is she?” It seemed like a nice enough way to make conversation. Apparently, it was not the right thing to say.
Tears started down her cheeks. “Five days.”
She brushed a red curl from her face.
I was still shaking my head in disbelief. Then I realized my mouth was open. “I can’t believe that. Couldn’t they give you some sort of a waiver?”
She shook her head. “I asked. I even provided research—proof of why it was better for Charlotte if I stayed with her for at least the first few weeks.” She wiped an eye. “I was denied. If they make exceptions for one, they’ll have to make exceptions for all,” she said in a mocking tone.
“They’re bastards,” I said as the line moved forward.
She appeared as relieved as I was to find someone who was not an Academie supporter. They were surprisingly rare. “I’m Ruby,” she said, trying to pull herself together.
“Allie,” I replied.
I stuck my hand into my pocket and pulled out the itinerary I’d crammed into it this morning. I smoothed the paper just enough to see where we were headed.
9:00 a.m. New Student Orientation—Gymnasium
As we reached the door, we were met by Academie personnel in full military regalia. Welcome home, I thought.
“Papers,” one officer said, as two others relieved us of our personal affects. There was no doubt that our bags would be searched before being taken who knows where. My picture of Bryan is as good as gone…
Reluctantly, I followed the mass of people heading for the gymnasium. Ruby walked alongside me. We moved along slowly, as others quickly bustled by.
As I expected, the gymnasium was packed. How The Academie planned to join my class of about five hundred as well as the two classes above mine with the current enrollment of high school students was beyond me. They claimed they had it under control.
Groups were scattered here and there throughout the bleachers. People seemed to have found each other and reformed their old cliques. It should have felt like a reunion, but all I could think was: I thought this part of my life was over.
“I’m thinking about a seat up there,” I told Ruby as I pointed to the top left side of the bleachers.
She nodded. “I’ll follow you.”
We climbed to the top and sat down. A man of medium stature, dimpled skin, and graying hair cleared his throat at the podium, and I reluctantly turned to listen.
“Welcome, new students.” Not him again. I recognized the guy from my brother, Matt’s orientation. He’d frustrated me then by not giving out any useful information. “As you may already know, I am Major Robert Gray of Academie facility #214.” He paused and looked around. “Life here will probably be very different for you than how you have come to know it so far…”
I can’t listen to this. How am I going to survive the next three years? How will I keep from going insane?
I glanced around the room. A few familiar faces caught my eye. There were a surprising number I didn’t recognize. Then again, there were a surprising number I didn’t recognize at graduation.
I glanced to the doors. The ones on the far side—which used to lead outside—had been closed off. I turned to look back at where we’d come in. Armed guards lined the gym entry.
After what seemed an eternity, Major Dimpled stopped babbling and we were dismissed. Ruby and I stood along with the rest of the auditorium, and given the fact that we were in the back, it quickly became clear we wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.
“So, that was enlightening,” Ruby said sarcastically. Her eyes were still swollen and her face blotchy from crying, but the tears seemed to have subsided for now.
“I zoned out. Anything interesting?”
“Not really. Did you hear the part about the student survey?”
“Supposedly, 98% of students claim to love The Academie and think it’s one of the best things that’s happened to them.” She rolled her eyes.
“You’re kidding?” I shook my head. “That can’t be true.” I thought they must be lying, but then I thought about my friends back at college. Several actually looked forward to joining The Academie. And the one time I’d visited my brother, Matt, his loyalties were too obvious. Traitor.
“Yeah, I don’t think I’ll be among that 98%,” Ruby said as she stood. “It looks like the crowd is clearing. I guess we better head to Medical.”
“Oh no! Is that next?” I pulled out my itinerary again.
10:00 a.m. Health Evaluation—Medical Bay
I had forgotten all about it. I’d seen it on the schedule when it arrived in the mail and lashed out at my parents about it.
“I don’t understand why we have to go through this when I just had an exam and a bunch of shots a year ago to start college. Why can’t The Academie just look over those records?”
“Tell me about it,” Ruby said. “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been to the doctor in the last nine months. Tell me those records aren’t current.” She shook her head.
“How are they going to get all of us through there now anyway?” I asked. “There must be fifteen hundred people here.”
As if on cue, Major Dimpled was back at the podium. “There are a lot of you to get through the medical bay and a long line has already formed as a result. I encourage you to take a seat here, and we will let you know when the line has shortened.”
Ruby and I looked at each other, annoyed, and sat back down.
“So, how long ago did you graduate?” I asked.
“Two years ago.”
“A year ago.”
“Yeah. Westfield, down by Dayton,” I said.
“Oh, right. Yeah, a friend of mine thought about going there. I went to Brandon University. That’s where I met my daughter’s father. I was planning to go back to school after the baby was born. My mom said she’d watch Charlotte. But then, well, you know, we found out about the new Academie age guidelines.”
I wanted to ask if her daughter’s father was here too, but judging by the fact that she was sitting alone when I met her, I was guessing that’d be a ‘no.’
“I was going to transfer to Brandon, actually,” I said. “I had my acceptance and everything. Then I found out that I had to come here instead.”
“Sounds like you were almost as thrilled as I was.” Her eyebrows rose with a half smile.
“Oh yeah, thrilled. I thought I had it bad though; I’m so sorry for you.”
“She was a surprise; you know, Charlotte. At first I panicked. Here I was, with over half my college education still ahead of me and a baby on the way. It wasn’t the way I’d planned things.
“Oh, and the father freaked when I told him. That was it. It was over. He didn’t want to have anything to do with me—let alone her. I couldn’t believe it.
“At first I was so upset; I felt so alone. And then, as she continued to grow and the due date got closer, I felt different. And I knew somehow that it all was going to be okay, that I’d figure something out—a way to raise her and finish college to create a future for both of us.”
I smiled. I’d always thought I was a strong person, but listening to her, I wondered if I really was. She seemed to exude a strength I could only hope that others saw in me.
“Of course, it helped that my parents were really supportive. My dad was pretty quiet about it at first, and I thought maybe he was really disappointed in me. But my mom, she was concerned, but she was so happy to know that she had a grandchild on the way. It may have helped that Derek—the father—was such a jerk. I think Mom felt bad for me and that made her want to help me even more. She said she’d be there to help with whatever I needed. And she was. And now, she’s out there, taking care of my little girl.” Her eyes refilled, and I knew that soon the silent tears would be drifting down her cheeks again.
I didn’t know what to say except, “I hate this place.”
She managed a small smile that seemed to say, ‘thank you.’
“So how do they all seem to be okay with it?” I asked, looking at the droves of people waiting to be herded off to the medical bay.
“I really don’t know,” she answered, looking around. She pulled out another tissue and wiped a stray tear. “So, why do you hate it so much?”
It was a valid question. Her reason was obvious, but mine couldn’t be. “Well, what’s not to hate? Having my rights taken away, being sent back to this hell-hole I never thought I’d have to step foot in again, being stuck here until I’m twenty-two? I thought graduating meant I was done with high school.” I sighed before adding, “Oh yeah, and they brainwashed my younger brother.”
It was the first time I’d said or even thought it, but as I did, I knew it was how I really felt. The Academie took my wonderful, perfect brother and messed with his head so he didn’t care about anything he used to anymore. He certainly didn’t seem to care about me.
“What do you mean?”
“I came to visit him—months ago already, but it wasn’t that long after he’d been here, and he was a totally different person.” Disgust filled me as I realized the truth: “He was a jerk.”
“Wow. So I guess you’re not excited to see him now then, huh?”
“No. Well—I don’t know. I miss him, but I don’t want to see him like that again.” I was surprised at my own words—not just the revelation they brought me but because I was opening up so much with someone I’d just met. But I felt comfortable with Ruby. Somehow, I felt safe telling her things.
I thought about telling her about Bryan, but it was too complicated to explain, and something I certainly didn’t want to share with all of these people around. If anyone found out, he and his parents could be serious trouble.
Major Dimpled interrupted over the loud speaker again. “The line seems to have died down, so you are welcome to proceed to the medical bay at this time.”
We hope you enjoyed this sample. You can find the rest of The Armageddon Factor in paperback and ebook via Amazon.
Chapter 3: Streptencoholitis
As expected, the line for the medical bay was still long. “So what were you studying in college?” I asked Ruby as we joined the herd.
“Really? Oh man, I could have used your help a few months ago.”
She smiled. “What about you?
“Oh, I have no idea. I keep trying things out, but nothing seems right. Maybe I’m too picky. I’d just like to find something I enjoy.”
“No, I agree. If we’re going to be doing it for the rest of our lives, we better like it, right?”
“Exactly!” It was like she was reading my mind. If making friends were always this easy, I’d have a million of them by now.
The line stepped forward, and we moved along with it. I suddenly felt this eerie reminder of my last conversation with my grandma and a show I’d seen once on the History Channel. The program included clips of old black and white films showing lines of prisoners slowly moving forward to meet their demise in gas chambers. I wondered why they didn’t resist or run away, but many, they said, had no idea what was inside the building they were about to enter…
These thoughts entered by mind and just as quickly I brushed them away. Certainly what I was experiencing was nothing like that. I silently apologized to the deceased and their families.
“So do you have any idea where we’re supposed to be going next?” I asked, shifting my mind back to present things.
“Lunch, I think.”
“Great, I’m starving.” I couldn’t believe it, given the amount of food I’d eaten at my “last meal” breakfast with my parents and little brother, Andy, but my stomach was now feeling raw and empty.
“You’re not the only one. I thought my appetite would die down after Charlotte was born, but if that’s true, it hasn’t yet. I guess when you are breastfeeding the appetite continues, but I was only able to breastfeed for the first three days. They wanted to get her used to the formula right away, but since I’ve heard that the baby gets most of their immunities through breast milk, I wanted to help Charlotte out as much as I could…” She trailed off, but her eyes didn’t tear up as much this time. I was impressed.
“So, will your parents bring her here to visit you soon?”
“Yeah, my mom said that she’ll get over here with her as soon as she can get them to schedule a visit. Visits aren’t easy to get, as I’m sure you found out with your brother.”
“Oh yeah, they made it as hard on me as possible.”
“Step forward please!” a nurse ordered. I hadn’t been paying attention and suddenly, we were next in line.
There were several stations open with different doctors and nurses. The nurse ushered Ruby and I in different directions.
“Good luck,” I said, stepping forward to meet the nurse frantically waving me in.
“You too. How ‘bout we meet at lunch?”
“Sounds good.” I took a deep breath and followed the nurse into an examining room.
“Here’s your next victim,” the nurse said to a bearded man and a woman with bleach blond hair—both dressed in white coats—as she dropped me off. The drop-off nurse smiled in a not-so-friendly kind of way as she left. Victim. Very funny.
The bearded man and bleach blond both stood, tapping on tablet PCs they held on their arms like doctor’s charts. The room was small, supplied with the usual cabinets, countertop, and sink found in most examining rooms, but unlike most, it had a door on the wall opposite where I came in.
“Where does that go?” I asked as I entered.
“That’s none of your concern,” the bearded man replied without looking up.
“Well, it’s a little creepy when you are about to examine me. Is anyone going to come in through there?”
“No, you have nothing to worry about.” He answered automatically, still looking at his computer rather than at me.
“Your name, Miss?” the woman asked, and I understood then that she was the assistant. Figures, I thought.
I watched as she wrote it in with her stylus. “Yes, I have you here. Age 19? Six-four-three-seven Park Lane?”
“Allergy to penicillin? How do you know that?” She looked up from her computer so she could peer over her glasses at me.
“My mother is very allergic to it, so we’re guessing that I may be too.”
“Just because your mother is, doesn’t mean that you are,” she said in a know-it-all kind of a tone.
“Well I’d rather not find out the hard way if you don’t mind,” I snapped back.
“Alathea, have a seat,” the doctor said, still without looking up from his tablet.
I looked around the room, chose one of the wheelie chairs, and plopped myself down.
“On the table, please,” he clarified, looking up at me at last. His eyes were brown, but much darker than Bryan’s, edged with deep lines and thick brows that seemed bent in a permanent scowl.
I hated the stupid table. I had too many bad memories on those things. Why couldn’t they just do what they needed to do with me where I was?
Apparently, I hesitated a bit too long for Dr. Beard’s liking. “Young lady!” he said impatiently. “We are on a tight schedule.”
Bryan’s eyes could never look so mean, I thought, glaring back. Reluctantly, I got up from the chair, took the step over to the table, and hopped up. Even at nineteen, it was too high for me to get on without jumping or using the small step they usually pull out for children.
“Have you been sick or needed to visit a doctor for any reason in the last year?” Dr. Beard asked.
“When was your last menstrual cycle?”
“Why does that matter?”
“Just answer the question,” Bleach blond snipped.
“I don’t know. A few weeks ago, I guess.”
“Can you be more specific?” Beard asked, looking over his dark-rimmed glasses. Looking over your glasses must be something they teach you in medical school, I thought.
“No, I can’t. I really don’t keep track.”
“Well, you should,” Blondie said, rolling her eyes.
I rolled mine too.
“Okay,” Beard said. He stepped up to the table and set his tablet down behind me. “Arms up.” I reluctantly raised them. “We need to check your lymph nodes to make sure that you are nice and healthy,” he said, feeling the insides of my armpits. He did the same a little too close to things I didn’t want him near on the inside of my legs, then placed his hands around my throat and up behind my ears.
“Alright, that’s fine. Now I just need to listen to your heart and lungs.” He placed the stethoscope in his ears and the other end inside my shirt, on my chest. It was cold and uncomfortable, and I flinched in response. He looked up at me briefly, then down again.
After a moment of silence, he said, “Sounds good.” Then he moved the cold thing over slightly. “Breathe in.”
I took a deep breath.
I let it all out.
I repeated a few more times and then he moved to my back.
“Hhheeeh,” my lungs said as I took another deep breath. I was becoming a pro now.
“Hwooooh,” my lungs replied, relaxing.
“Everything checks out. I’ll just have Nurse Edwards take your blood pressure and give you your inoculations, and you’ll be on your way.”
“Inoculations? But I just had a bunch for college. Are you sure I need them?”
“Yes, we’ve checked your record. These are different, and ones that everyone needs in order to become a student here.”
I knew this was going to be the case, but I had to at least try to get out of it.
Dr. Beard left and Nurse Blondie pulled the blood pressure cuff from its holder in the wall. A few seconds later, it was wrapped around my arm, giving the uncomfortable sensation that tells you that your hand would really like its blood back.
“A little high,” she said, not a moment too soon. I thought my hand was going to turn blue if she’d gone any longer. Did she say it was high? What did they expect? It was my first day at this place and I was in a medical office being examined. Of course it’s going to be high.
“Okay Alathea,” she said, looking over my chart on her tablet again, “it looks like you just need the one vaccination.”
“What’s it for?”
“It’s a combination of inoculations.”
“What’s it protecting me from?”
“Lots of things.”
She looked at me harshly, and I could tell that she wasn’t used to getting this kind of resistance. “Streptencoholitis.”
I swear she just made that up. “What?”
“It’s a common, but serious virus that often spreads in closed environments such as this.”
Whatever. Let’s just get this over with. I pulled up my sleeve, thankful it was a short one so my shirt could stay on. This was one of the few examinations where I’d been able to stay fully clothed, and I was hoping to keep it that way.
She walked out of the office and returned a moment later, syringe in hand. A young man, also in a white coat, followed her for what I assumed to be insurance purposes.
I turned to look the other way as she prepared to plunge the needle in. A few rooms down, I imagined Ruby looking right at it as they administered her vaccine. She seemed so much braver than me.
I felt the needle hit my skin. And then, the sensation of falling.