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The year is 2034 and a bacterial epidemic is sweeping the nation. When seventeen-year-old Trinity Jane Nicklefire is diagnosed with Chronic, the last thing she expects is to be rounded up in the middle of the night and transported by Army trucks to an American concentration camp patrolled by drones. Who is behind this disease and can Trinity survive long enough to find a cure?

The Sting Girl

by Valerie Brook

Copyright © 2016 Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

Published by Kickit Press/kickitpress.com 

Cover and Layout Copyright © 2016 by Kickit Press 

Cover Art Copyright: dendiz/Shutterstock.com 

This is a work of fiction. Name, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual events or locals or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction, in whole or in part in any form. 

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Early Spring, 2034

ON TUESDAY THE NATIONAL news announced it was a World War again, by Thursday all the Chronics had been rounded up from their San Francisco homes and apartments, and sometime in the middle of a pitch black Saturday night Trinity Jane Nickelfire finally stumbled from a monster-green Army transport truck and was herded by drones into a medical camp by bright, blinding lights.

Now, she now lay like a broken China doll on a damp patch of dirt, shivering under a piss-brown tarp, trying to keep her twitching muscles from jumping out of her skin.

The tarp crinkled like birthday wrapping paper. 

It was annoying. 

When she’d finally fallen asleep, she’d even had a stupid birthday dream where her mom and dad were singing in a sunny yellow kitchen and everybody was all excited, the lemon poppy-seed cake had seventeen candles, and then bam! the cake blew up and her parents ran around screaming with blood spurting from their flesh-peeled faces. 

Bacterial nightmares were a drag.

When you woke up you really quick had to count ten good things that you knew were true. When you were done counting, the lies in the nightmare would already be fading away.

Because for one, she’d never had real parents, so they weren’t going to lose their faces.

And secondly, she couldn’t eat sugar anymore. So any kind of cake was like broccoli and she didn’t miss it.

Not when sugar made her symptoms worse.

Trinity realized suddenly her neuro twitch had stopped. She held her breath under the tarp. Even the low-grade buzzing vibrations under her skin were gone. 

It was always a freaking miracle when her infected body went still.

She almost smiled. But it was too much work.

A coughing fit punctured the night. That same phlegmy lung-hacker from inside the Army-green blowup tent had started up with his whoop again. Damn mucous-filled stranger, laying there inside that sea of metallic folding cots with the other parchment-paper faced people gripping their woolen blankets under the glow of blue service lights (that made everyone look like they were wearing black mascara)—hack, hack, hack. 

The terrified whispers. The uncontrolled moans. The psst escape of stinky cabbage farts—then hack, hack, hack.

But really it was the cabbage farts that had been too much. Who could breathe?

Within the first hour, Trinity had dropped out of her cot and crawled secretly along the modular plastic floor of the Army tent on her hands and knees. 

Just to find fresh air somewhere. 

The hexagonal floor pieces had been snapped together like a jigsaw puzzle and the little drainage holes had pinched circular imprints into her palms. Trinity had slunk past one row of pot-bellied cots and then another. The tall folks with their feet dangling. Cold blue toes. 

Her bony knees spiked with pain through moss-green drawstring pants—the identical bottoms they’d all been issued with white T-shirt tops.

Trinity had thought the spherical nurse drones would track her movement at the canvass exit flaps, but for some reason their ocular sensors didn’t sense her. 

The nurse drones had panels that could open, and all kinds of medical gadgets could extend on mechanical probes. Each drone had a different numeric identifier and a barcode. They floated down the rows, smooth white basketballs with a big red plus sign, monitoring their human horde. 

While Trinity had crawled secretly away. 

Technology was stupid. 

The tracking frequency of Trinity’s V2 identity chip must have been malfunctioning. She’d investigated the surgical implant, permanently flush to the skin on her wrist. Tapped the touch screen, but it had just glared darkly at her with a singular white pixel. That was unusual. In fact, the device had never blinked with a single white square before.

She should have made a break for it then. Run like hell and escaped. But who could run? She hadn’t even felt like her legs could stand. 

Instead, she had collapsed under this piss-brown tarp just outside the Army tent—and now the fresh air probed through the holes in the plastic with airy fingers. 

Fragrant and clean and wild, blowing in from somewhere that couldn’t possibly be another city, the intoxicating, honey-sweet breeze could have been funneled right through the perfume section of an elite consortium.

You know what? 

It smelled gorgeous.

Where the hell had the military stashed her, anyway? She’d never been in a targeted group before—not through any of the world wars in her brief stint of life so far. She wasn’t Muslim, she wasn’t Anti-Technology, she was just plain old Latina. 

And inside the cultural melting pot of The City, Latina was still cool. 

Trinity ground her teeth. It was having an incurable disease that wasn’t cool.

It was having to fear your own government that wasn’t cool.

For most of Trinity’s life the domestic terrorist attacks had been cranking up to an insane level. Finally, the defense conglomerates had run for President under the state of emergency Save Our Sovereignty campaigns, and the question had been fervently debated—how do we save the country? 

The pundits squawked while domestic terrorists blew more stuff up. Bye-bye Golden Gate Bridge. There was a national vote. The defense corporations officially merged into one corporation and the new Universal One became the first elected Corporate President.

Save Our Sovereignty had become the final answer. 

The end to capitalism would allow the release of scientific patents that had been keep secret for centuries. New technology would save us from the terrorists who had sacked Washington. The state. (Because Washington D.C. would have been too much).

Reality changed overnight. 

It was like a science fiction movie except it wasn’t a movie.

Nanobots in the sky to fix global warming, made-to-order cloned organs, a new monetary system with scannable human implants (everybody has to have one), and these UFO flying disc things that all along had existed.

Free energy boxes called the Free-E Device hit the shelves. Google already had the hover car.

But Chronic disease.

It was poking a dangerous hole right through all the political lies.

Trinity never should have told the doctors anything. And she should have kept trying to hide her symptoms from her foster mother. She’d punched her ticket to this quarantine camp (Oh excuse me, I mean medical facility) with that fateful blood draw. But how was she supposed to know World War Whatever was just around the corner? That the rumors about Chronic disease being a U.S. biological weapon against its own people were going to get all mainstream and in everybody’s face?

The muscles in her forearm started twisting like angry snakes again.

The bacterial infections under her skin were winning their own world war—hijacking her nerves. Her immune system lost the battle a little more every day. 

She was dying, but she couldn’t die. It was like your own body turned into a torture chamber and you couldn’t get out.

But she was still trying to stay positive. Out here in the night. But the nightmare feelings started pulling her down like an anchor to the bottom of a drowning sea.

That stranger’s hacking cough. Hack, hack, hack.

Just stop coughing.

Please stop coughing.

I hate you when you cough.

She’d had enough of that sound. Trinity yanked the tarp off her body. The cold spring sky goose-bumped her skin. The moon hung sickly, a clawing fingernail losing its grip on reality. The weak stars were swollen, bloated eyes. 

She would try running anyway, after all. 

Maybe find the perimeter and sneak out and hitchhike her way back to San Francisco and live on the streets.

Hack, hack, hack the cougher laughed. I’m sick, sick, sick and so are you.

Screw running, Trinity thought. Screw all the healthy people who can still run. Vertigo swooped down on her, like she was dropping through the ground continually, without end.

She hated that symptom.

Trinity took as deep a breath as she could, and then just went ahead and screamed—screw you Universal One you’re trying to take over the world you lying sacks of shit you created this disease to weaken your own people—as loud as she could. 

It was totally exhausting.

If her V2 was still malfunctioning, she would be undetectable and off the grid as long as she was unseen and quiet. But nothing would call a drone on a her ass faster than a good ol’ domestic terrorist diatribe.

The low mechanical whir of a Three-Point Tactical shot up within twelve inches of her nose, its mirrored black helmet head on a long, telescoping neck. The shoulders and retractable arms were Herculean. It was the creepiest robot ever made. A marriage between a grey alien and an African mamba snake. No legs. It flew like lightening and was weaponized. 

Trinity jerked and the tarp under her back crinkled like a giant potato chip bag.

A red laser sliced across Trinity’s eyes in a microsecond, reading her retinas for identification with a bright stab of pain. (After Universal One came into power, everybody had one month to get their retinas scanned at the DMV. The wait lines were horrific.) The drone’s handcuff lashed out and gripped Trinity’s upper arm like amputation might be a frequent side effect. She was yanked up to her feet.

It was too cold outside, anyway. 

And she shouldn’t be laying on the dirt while she was fighting an infection. 

Maybe solitary confinement would be warmer. Quieter, too. She’d spent the last year and a half lying in bed, anyway. 

At least when she was alone it wouldn’t smell like one hundred other people’s digestive issues.

* * *

Solitary smelled blank, if blank can be a smell.

It was too quiet and that made the tinnitus in her ears worse. Like hearing nonstop dual tones. And the glaring blueish-white lights inside the ceiling panels never went off. Even when she closed her eyes—blue. 

An indestructible camera observed her with a shiny glass lens in a corner. Even during the night when she had those screaming nightmares where people blew up, and the panic and anxiety coiled around her ribs like a constricting snake trying to swallow her for days on end, the camera just watched.

Like a one-eyed voyeur.

The claustrophobic white walls were cubical, the temperature was neutral, and she lived under a scratchy wool blanket on a spongy plastic floor mat with a metal ration food bowl and water cup as her only friends. They were filled twice a day. When shoved through a slat in the wall onto a conveyor belt they both said shmmmm.

A black-and-white instruction panel bolted on the wall next to the conveyor belt kindly informed in twelve languages: return vessels to receptacle. no exceptions. 

Corporate One’s logo—a little blue rectangle with the left side missing, just like a backward, block letter C—emblazoned nearly everything. Like somebody in marketing couldn’t figure out this wasn’t the best place to advertise the brand.

A hole in the ground vaporized her bodily functions. 

That was kinda cool. Every house should have one.

[END EXCERPT]

Copyright © 2016 Valerie Brook. All rights reserved.

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