Chapter 2: chapter one

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 224
Comments: 2

Chapter One

 

Eighteen Years Later – Present Day

 

Jamie and her brother Ben were the only two people left in the visitor’s gallery of the United States Senate. She peered down at her father. He sat at his desk in the now empty chamber staring at the flag that stood to the left of the rostrum. She was glad she had gone for a run that morning to clear her head. He would need her to be thinking clearly tonight.

How long would her dad sit there, she wondered, his coat draped over the chair and his tie hanging loose around his neck? A picture of his wife and two kids stared back at him from the small Senate desk. Jamie had seen that picture a thousand times in his office. It was a picture from four years ago, the three of them posing on some occasion that Jamie couldn’t remember. Her mom was laughing at something, Ben wore his little league baseball cap, and Jamie had her ballet toe shoes slung over one shoulder. Her dad loved the picture because he said it captured who they really were, but it saddened Jamie every time she saw it. She wished her father hadn’t brought it with him tonight.

Outside of the chamber, in the hall, the click-clack of someone’s high heels on the marble floor punctuated the silence. Not twenty minutes earlier, when the Senate had voted, the chamber was abuzz with frenetic activity, nearly chaotic. Why wouldn’t it be, since that was the most important vote the U.S. Senate had ever taken.

The Vice President stood at the podium. He didn’t need to be there. No one expected this to be a close vote, but he had come to execute his official duty as the President of the Senate, nonetheless. A “Yea” and “Nay” vote would be taken, adding to the drama. Every senator present would individually voice his or her vote. One by one, they sounded off until they had all voted.

“Are there any senators who wish to vote or change their vote?” the Vice President followed the script, decorum to the last. “Seeing none, the ‘Yeas’ are eighty and the ‘Nays’ nineteen. The joint resolution passes.”

Every senator was present for the vote except one, Senator Franklin. He had committed suicide the night before. Jamie couldn’t blame him for not wanting to cast a vote, but suicide? She didn’t understand giving up. That’s what cowards did. Even so, the Senate convened that evening with a moment of silence on his behalf, adding to the somber atmosphere in the room. The Vice President’s face drained of color as he lifted the gavel after the vote. He looked like he might be sick. The crack of the gavel dislodged frozen senators and set off an explosion in the chamber of shouting voices, angry voices. Men and women confronted one another with an urgency that bordered on hysteria. For a moment it looked like there might be a brawl. Jamie was ready to make a quick exit with Ben if the scene turned ugly, but it didn’t. In fact, after the initial outburst, the chamber cleared remarkably fast. Senators scurried from the building like rats from a sinking ship. After all, the Senate had just voted to dissolve the Federal Government of the United States of America.

It was July 4, 2078.

America had lived to the ripe old age of three hundred, two, and died on her birthday. Actually, in the history of the world, America was still an adolescent. She died too young. Some would take offense that the Senate scheduled the vote on Independence Day, but what difference did it make? Dead was dead. Jamie didn’t mourn any more on the anniversary of her mother’s death than any other day. Every day hurt the same. A date was just a date. Just another day. It made no difference if they voted on the fourth or the fifth or the fifteenth. If anything, the irony of taking the vote on Independence Day would play out well in the history books, giving the historians something to talk about.

She wondered, do other teenagers think about these things?

Probably not. Maybe it was because she was the daughter of a history professor turned senator.  

“You think he’ll be okay?” Ben asked.

“I think so, once we get out of D.C.”

“Did he really say you could go to Harvard?”

“Yeah.” Despite everything, Jamie couldn’t help but smile. Her dad had surprised her that morning with an early birthday surprise. He’d arranged for her to go to Harvard.

Ben leaned his head on her shoulder. “What am I going to do without you?”

“I won’t be far, and I think after this, dad will be okay.” Jamie didn’t know if she believed that, but she wanted to with all her heart.

It was getting late, and she couldn’t let her father sit and mourn the death of his country all night, at least not here. It was time to go. She motioned to her brother, and Ben got up and made his way toward the gallery exit. A day shy of eighteen, Jamie was no stranger to taking charge of her family, and Ben had learned to follow her lead. He was ten when their mother died three years earlier, and Jamie looked after him from that moment on. She had to. Her mother was gone, and her father was emotionally unavailable. Maybe, it was because of his stressful job as a U.S. Senator, but it probably had more to do with the results of mixing grief and alcohol. Whatever. They needed a dad, and he wasn’t there for them. Even when he was home, he wasn’t really there.

“He’s not doing it on purpose,” her best friend Raven said one night as Jamie sat on her bed crying. “He’s hurting, and he’s lonely, and he’s under a lot of pressure with all the government stuff he’s gotta deal with. You know he loves you guys.”

No doubt Raven was right, but Ben was hurting too, and he needed the attention of his dad. But Jamie was all he had, so she took care of him. She had earned his trust, which earned her the right to tell him what to do, even though he was a teenager now. Sometimes she overdid it, but she was trying. If he minded her bossiness, he didn’t show it. He was a good kid.

Down on the chamber floor, Jamie quietly approached her father and put a hand on his shoulder. “Time to go.”

Senator Nathan Andrew Corson turned his head and smiled at his daughter with a weary smile, “You’re probably right.”

“It didn’t fail, you know,” Jamie said, “the Great Experiment.” Her father frequently referred to America as the Great Experiment.

“No,” Nate said, “It didn’t fail. It just didn’t last. And now it’s over.” He sighed deeply and wiped a tear from his cheek. “What have I done?”

Jamie didn’t answer. He did what he had to do; he pulled the life support on a dead patient. It was his joint resolution they had voted on that evening. Authoring it was an act of courage, as far as Jamie was concerned, but he didn’t see it that way. The history professor had become a part of history, and he might never get over it.

Jamie looked at Ben, who stood wide-eyed. They had never seen their father look so small and weak, and she felt for him. She drew her athletic frame to its full height, pulling her blond hair into a ponytail with a hairband. Everyone was hurting, but someone had to make a decision.

“Dad, we should go.”

“I know, Peanut.” He stood and slipped a hand into his pocket, a casual pose that he often used to signal confidence. Was it an act for their benefit? Maybe. But if so, she appreciated the effort. As her dad looked around the chamber for the last time, Jamie’s eyes followed his to the chaos in front of them; chairs misplaced and paper strewn about. It was a good picture of her heart right now, but she had to keep herself together. She had a family to look after, and they had plans for a new life.

“We’ll be alright,” she said. “We’ll get out of the city, and we’ll start over. It’ll be okay.”

He nodded and picked up the picture on his desk, tucking it under his arm. As they turned to leave, her father put his arm around Ben, something he hadn’t done nearly enough in the last three years. Jamie smiled at the tender gesture and then steeled herself for the New World that awaited them.

 

•  •  •  •  •

 

“Senator!” a woman’s voice called out.

Halfway down the Capitol steps, Jamie looked at their waiting car and then turned with her father to face the voice calling him.

“Not anymore,” he said.

“Right. Sorry,” replied an Asian woman in a blue and red uniform. Jamie read her name badge – Commander Song of the New World army.

So, this is Commander Song.

The commander opened her mouth to speak again but hesitated.

“It’s alright to call me Nate,” he said. “What can I do for you, Commander?”

Her father’s posture was uncharacteristically stiff toward the woman. Was it due to his general mood at the moment, or was there something more going on? Maybe Jamie was projecting her dislike for the lady onto her father’s body language. She didn’t have a good reason to dislike her, but she did anyway. Was it because the commander was closer to Jamie’s age than her father’s and very attractive? Or was it because they had spent so much time working together? Song was the New World liaison to the U.S. Senate. Her father was the chairman of the Committee on Governmental Affairs, which meant he was the Senate's point man dealing with the New World. As a result, the commander and her father were thrown together in a close working relationship. Commander Song’s name had been spoken frequently at home in recent months, a little too frequently for Jamie’s taste. Now that she’d met her, dark hair, fair skin and all, she was definitely worried.

Or maybe I'm paranoid.

“I wanted to say I’m sorry about all of this.” The Commander’s words were kind, but her stance was all business. The sidearm strapped to her waist and the crisp uniform told Jamie that even if she was sorry, she was New World through and through.  

Her father ran a hand through his thick dark hair as he looked at the New World transports parked around the Capitol, the drones flying overhead, the guards lining the steps, and the New World banners ready to be unfurled on the front of the building.

“Thank you, but I think we are way past that now,” Nate said. Then he added, “What are you doing here, Commander? I mean tonight?”

“My role as liaison to the Senate was temporary, just until the vote. I’ve been assigned to the Capitol reclamation team. We wanted to secure the Capitol building and get started on our project as soon as possible.”

“Your project?”

“The New World has decided that the building will no longer serve to house the legislative branch of government. We have something different in mind.”

“Reclamation is an interesting word,” Jamie said, inserting herself into the conversation. “You have to own something at one time to reclaim it. Native Americans could make that case, maybe, but the New World?” She narrowed her eyes, “I don’t think so.”

“You must be Jamie,” Song said with a smile. “Your father has told me so much about you. And I must say, he was spot on. It’s good to finally meet you.” She turned to Ben. “And that would make you Ben.”

Heard so much about me? Like what?

What was her father doing telling a New World commander about his family?  

“I see. Well . . .” Nate looked back at the waiting car. He obviously wanted to end this conversation, but Commander Song was not through.

“This isn’t our fault, Nate. It was your resolution. We didn’t do this. We’re just here to pick up the pieces.”

Nate, who had started angling himself toward the car, turned back to the commander with a suddenness that surprised Jamie. “You’re kidding, right? My resolution? I had no choice. Once the president signed the London Accords, and we lost control of our nukes . . . I had no choice.”

Jamie could see that Nate was struggling to get his words out through his emotions. “And yes, the New World has their fingerprints all over this,” he said. “You could have helped heal this nation, brought us together, but that's not what you did, is it?”

Jamie knew what her dad was thinking. The New World and the other provinces had acted like looters in a blackout when America was at its weakest, crippling and eventually killing the once-great nation. She couldn’t help but think of how barbarian tribes had carved up the Roman Empire after it had been overrun. History did repeat itself.

Commander Song didn’t respond. Nor did she offer a further apology. Instead, she closed the gap between them with a few steps and lowered her voice just enough to catch their attention. “You need to leave the city,” she said in a flat tone.

Jamie was confused by her statement. Leave the city? Why?

Nate gave a measured response. “We have plans to go north in the fall. I have a teaching job lined up. It’s not much, but we’ll get by.”

“You might not want to wait that long.” The commander kept her gaze fixed on Jamie’s father but showed no emotion on her face. “Just to be on the safe side.”  

“What are you talking about, Elaine?” Nate shot a furtive glance at a nearby soldier. And then in a harsh whisper, “Are you telling me the New World is planning to take action against U.S. government officials? We had an arrangement with the Council. They said they'd protect us. They said we could leave the city.”

As a student of history, Jamie knew that leaders ousted from power were often treated harshly by those who had assumed power. In ancient times, a new king would wipe out the family members of the former king, eliminating at least one set of highly motivated rivals for the throne. That’s why the transition of power in America was so remarkable for more than three centuries.

But this wasn't America anymore. Panic began to grip her chest. It was then that she realized how many New World soldiers had positioned themselves around the Capitol.

So many guns.

She looked to their waiting car and saw the uneasy expression of her father’s chief of staff who was sitting behind the wheel. Commander Song stood like a statue. Her posture and silence told them she had said all she would say.

Jamie felt her father slowly pull her and Ben in front of him as they turned away from Commander Song and descended the steps. It took everything she had to keep her body loose and her gait even. Was the commander trying to warn them? Was she protecting them? If so, why would they be in danger? The New World had won. America was dead. Her father wasn’t a threat.

“Why would the New World keep us from leaving?” she asked. “They said they wouldn't stop us.”

“I don’t know, Peanut. They’re kind of paranoid. Maybe they’re worried we’ll oppose the monarchy somehow.”

Of all the ideas the New World had embraced, Jamie thought, this was the dumbest. She couldn’t envision a monarchy here, even if it were no longer America. The very idea of a monarchy would be laughable to most citizens, but for the well-funded PACs that promoted its virtues, while at the same time highlighting the failures of American democracy. Thanks to the corruption rampant among Washington politicians, they had plenty of material from which to draw. Public support for the ruling political class was at an all-time low. All the New World had to do was offer an alternative. Something that looked new and sounded noble. Something that didn’t involve greedy politicians.

That’s exactly what they did, and voila, after a decade of good PR, a monarchy was starting to sound like a real alternative to a lot of people. But what was the difference between politicians who acted like royalty and an actual king on the throne? Not much.

“I don’t understand why they’d worry about you. I mean, who would listen to you?” Jamie said. “The New World already controls the media.”

“I don’t know. Maybe this is about Ashwill making life hard for me. Maybe it’s personal.”  

Jamie had no use for Creighton Ashwill, the leader of the New World, but whatever was going on, she needed him to keep his promise. Her family had to get out of the city.

As they descended the steps, Jamie watched the blue and red-clad soldiers, guns held at ease. She reached the car as her dad opened the passenger doors and they all piled into the sagging sedan. Jamie slammed the door.

Her father turned to his chief of staff. “We need to get home.”


Submitted: April 01, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Doug Felton. All rights reserved.

Check out Doug Felton's Book


The New World: A Near Future Dystopian Tale

One vote changed everything. One girl made it count.

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Comments

Queenie Maud

This is a great read! I love the speculative nature of the piece, and the characters all seem very intriguing. So far a great set-up and I look forward to reading more!

Mon, April 13th, 2020 1:37am

Author
Reply

Thanks for the review. I appreciate you taking a look at my writing.

Mon, April 13th, 2020 6:59am

monette nicole

I love dystopian stories so I'm really intrigued by the plot and I've always loved the name, Jamie. I'm excited to read more!

Sat, April 25th, 2020 10:41pm

Author
Reply

Thanks. I hope you enjoy it.

Sat, April 25th, 2020 3:45pm

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