chapter 1

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  Standing between Hercules and Lafayette, I stared intently at the neon greenish yellow flower sprouting in the concrete.

  This was our job for today.

  This was the only way little towns like ours, the town of Quill, made money. The little flower we watched so meticulously was called a Virus. They were named that after seeing how quickly they grow and how large they come in quantity. These flowers were the most commonly eaten by the animals. Because to herbivores, it was the sweetest plant. To omnivores, it was all in one. To carnivores, it was a weeks worth of meat and it could constantly be consumed.

  The Articles paid for these flowers to be harvested faster than they could grow. An abundance tended to grow around Quill. But we had to be careful. Sometimes well camouflaged reptiles, like the now mutated alligator, could grow these flowers on their heads to lure in prey.

  "I'll go check."Hercules mumbled, glancing back at Cato who held the special container of Viruses in his hands.

  Herc stepped forward carefully before reaching out with his sword and prodding with pressure at the threshold around the dainty yet precarious flower.

  Nothing happened. Lafayette walked over with the clippers in hand. Instantly, being exposed to metal, the Virus became Viral. A bushel of the toxic flower quickly grew in, which is why there were three people.

  I prepared my clippers as Herc and Lafayette began clippng away.(That's not a typo.)

  Cato stood next to us patiently, holding out the open container to catch falling Viruses before they could fall to the ground. "This is a big batch."Hercules voiced, attempting to cut faster as he noticed the bushel growing in size.

  "We'll probably pull in more than Jefferson this time."The thought of sweet victory over that crooked Southerner made me warm and tingly all over.

  The others stared oddly at me, but with a knowing gaze. I spoke of Thomas Jefferson on a daily basis more than anything else. I always rambled on about how I was going to ruin his life. The way he dressed. The way he spoke. His crooked beliefs. Anything that could possibly connect to him. I hated Jefferson with a burning passion.

  "Hurry up and cut, Alex. We can't be out here long. We don't want to end up like.."Hercules trailed off before sighing shakily and gazing down at the hedge.

  I knew what he was going to say. Many of our friends died from animal attacks. The Luminaes were more common in this area, meaning that we had a good 10 minutes to get back to town. They already knew we were out here. All they needed was to find us. I nodded in understanding and uprooted the bushel with help from the others.

  There was a familiar growl.

  We bolted, the bushel carelessly slung over Lafayette's shoulder as we raced to the platinum gates of Quill. Cato knocked vigorously at the gates, waiting for them to be open. The ground began to shake and there were loud THUMPs that could be made out coming from behind us. I feigned indifference, noting that Luminaes could smell fear on top of being able to sense heat signatures.

  The gates cracked open enough for us to slip through. None of us looked back as they slammed close and a hollow object collided with the gates, letting out a deafening wail before running off.

  Angelica and Phillip came running towards us. She examined my face and body before doing the same to the other men. Phillip gazed up at me. I bent down to pick him up, and instead he handed me a sealed envelope.


  I smiled down at my 9 year old son."Thank you, mi vida. Only for a few hours, please go to Chamber's house. I'll pick you up as soon as I'm done."I said, referring to the town's radioactive mutated "golem".

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