Control (The State, #1) by Tom Wright by Tom Wright - Read Online

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Summary

Set in future Austin, TX, the state forces the obedience of its population through a sophisticated drug. The Academics, the police force for the state, enforce order and ensure the drug is administered to the people. While most of the citizens are turned into drones, a token fighting force rebels against the state's military might.

Kara, a soldier of the resistance, is given the daunting task of turning her old friend Matt, a captured Academic, to her side. Orem, the resistance leader, must face his past and make the right choices for the resistance, even if it costs him dearly.

The ideologies of the state and the resistance cannot co-exist. One will triumph and the other will be extinguished. Can Kara and Orem prevail against the state?

Published: Tom Wright on

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Control (The State, #1) - Tom Wright

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Control

Chapter 1

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Taylor swallowed, staring longingly at the water fountain on the wall. Can I finish the mission before it sets in? She shook her head. Not worth figuring out. But where do the Academics get their water?

She straightened, trying to look the part of a Lapaz-drugged worker. Her utilitarian beige uniform made her fit in with the rest of the drones running the neo-engine factory. She shuffled amongst the drones while they went about completing mundane tasks, in their Lapaz-forced obedience.

Taylor tried to keep her face blank, not showing her fear, or her thirst. Her water supply had run out two days before, while she watched the Academics rotate through their guard. Uncertainty kept her pinned in her hiding place in the stairwell, but she figured out the guards’ schedule now. She considered following a woman as she left her guard post, and taking her water, but the risk was not warranted. If a guard’s body was found, the Academics would go on alert, and Taylor’s mission would fail.

The multi-story building in San Marcos was just one of dozens left behind from the old world. Taylor was amazed that the electricity and water still worked, despite an obvious lack of maintenance. The tiled floor of the lobby was chipped and broken in several places, and the glass panes of the revolving front door were covered in spidery cracks. Despite the damage sustained during the gas crises and the neo-engine war, the factory was clean and free from debris. Janitorial drones, identified by their faded blue coveralls, swept and mopped, or washed windows. Taylor heard them vacuuming every now and then. She had a blue jumpsuit stashed in her bag if she needed to impersonate one of the cleaning crew.

The State kept the complement of guards at this factory to a minimum. Smart, she thought. It had taken several months for the resistance to figure out the location. Would’ve been a lot easier if we had more people to follow in and out. The State must keep other factories close by, because it was difficult to power remote locations. The resistance could bring down power lines or disrupt water flow far too easily for the State to work outside the grid. Eliminating this factory would cause a serious shortage of neo-engines, maybe enough to turn the tide to the resistance for a while. If the State couldn’t power their copters, tanks, or trucks, the resistance could quickly gain the upper hand.

Taylor realized she was walking too quickly as she passed a drone. She slowed down, pacing herself next to the drone. Fitting in was easy enough, walking with an aloof air, moving at a slow but steady shuffle. Complacency could get her killed. She suppressed a grim smile. Getting killed is the least of my concerns, she thought. Getting killed before mission-complete, that’s the thing that scares me.

She tried to take her mind off her thirst. Passing another water fountain did not help. She thought back to the day she felt a lump in her stomach. Anger and bitterness crashed into her that day, when the HQ nurse told her that cancer swept through her body, already spread too far for removal. Taylor lashed out at the nurse, asking if he had anything more than a few years training with a first aid kit. She apologized after, but still felt guilty. The cancer wasn’t anyone’s fault, not even hers. She had lived as healthy as anyone could while constantly on the run. That she had made it so long without taking a bullet, or worse, taking Lapaz again, was a miracle. A miracle she did not understand, but would use as best as she could.

A few more months. Painful months. I always felt sorry for the ones sent out, knowing they would not come back. Even though she was ready for the mission a few weeks ago, she waited for several days until Orem showed up. Orem saw every suicide mission off, no exceptions. He spent the day with her, asking her questions, writing down her answers. You’re a hero, he said. We need to remember all of the heroes. We’ll need your strength even after you’re gone.

She remembered that conversation well. She had blushed at Orem’s attention. I’m not a hero. I’m dying anyway.

Have you fought the State this whole time because you’re already dying?

She shook her head. He spoke again. Why do you fight?

I have to. Someone has to stop them. I can’t let them keep hurting people like… Her voice trailed off.

Like they hurt you?

She nodded. He took her hand, holding it in both of his. No matter the circumstances, this is the bravest thing you’ve ever been asked to do.

Taylor focused on the mission again. She glanced at the worker next to her, then stepped behind him as they came to a security door separating her in the lobby from a hallway on the other side. Her hand shook as she bent to show her ID to the scanner, mimicking the motions of the drone ahead. She sucked in her stomach, trying to keep the gun strapped to her abdomen from showing. She nearly winced as the hard lumps in her stomach flared painfully against her taut muscles, pushing into the gun. The Academic standing on the other side of the glass did not give her a second look. Taylor kept her eyes forward, pressing her hand to her side to keep her nerves from showing.

The worker walked with agonizing slowness, but Taylor kept exactly behind him, wondering if the Academic was looking at her now. She waited until both she and the worker turned the corner, then pressed her hands to her stomach, massaging gently. Waves of pain radiated out of her, and she bit her lip to keep from gasping. The Academic down the hall probably would not hear her, but she didn’t want to take the chance. Her throat burned, and she walked briskly to catch up to the drone, still trying to ignore her thirst.

After the first Academic at the security door, she didn’t encounter any other soldiers. Could be a bad thing, she thought. Means there’s nothing here that they care about. The resistance intel only knew the location of the factory, not the floor-plan. She had to make do with what she could figure out on her own. As she walked, still following the worker in case anyone saw her, she peered into empty offices spaced out along the hall. Each held a desk and chair, facing away from the window. A few had computers, but most were empty but for the simple furniture. Why was this guarded? And where are we going?

They reached the end of the hall, where the last office on the right stood with the door open. Okay, time to backtrack. She turned, but a voice caught her attention as it barked out the open doorway.

Take this to the third floor, office 303.

Taylor stopped herself from swearing out loud. An older woman in an Academy dress uniform stepped out of the office. The heavy green pants were the same that their soldiers used in the field, but her top was a starched brown button-down instead of the field soldier t-shirt. She held a manila folder out to the worker in front of her. Taylor kept her face devoid of emotion, although her mind raced. Is anyone else in the office? No time to find out.

The woman reached for her radio as she asked, "Why did they send two