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The New Order
By Chris Weitz
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After the unexpected revelation at the end of the first book, Donna and Jefferson are separated. Jefferson returns to NYC and tries to bring a cure to the Sickness back to the Washington Square tribe, while Donna finds herself in England, facing an unimaginable new world. Can the two reunite and prevent an even greater disaster than the Sickness?
This second book in The Young World trilogy will keep you at the edge of your seat.
Table of Contents
A Sneak Peek of The Revival
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THE GODS LEAN out of their machine and wave at us from the sky.
A loudspeaker pronounces, "PUT DOWN YOUR WEAPONS NOW."
The Islanders have been told to defend the lab. They raise their guns and fire, making little pockmarks appear on the gray skin of the beast, around the bold black letters that say US NAVY.
The soldiers duck their heads back in, and the snout of a machine gun swivels down toward us and coughs fire. The kid nearest to me and Donna turns from a person into a chaos of blood and meat.
The rest of the Islanders take off for the safety of the lab. More of them get churned up by another volley from the chopper. Donna and Brainbox and Peter and Theo and Captain and I have hit the ground, prostrate and helpless, like we're worshipping a volcano.
Later, we are disgorged from the belly of the helicopter the moment it lands on the massive rectangular slab that tops the carrier, itself as tall as a midtown office block. Crowds of sailors, arrayed in brightly colored jumpsuits, are anting all around us. As our guards pull us away from one another, words are swamped in the sound belched from the rotors and the engines of the jets crouching everywhere. I barely have a chance to look at Donna before we're rushed off the deck and down into the metal labyrinth of the ship.
I shout her name, but nothing gets out.
I wake up to the buzz and the dim light of the fluorescent panel. There's no clock in my cell and no window to the outside, so I can't say if it's day or night. Now and then I hear, through the hull, the clatter of boots or the braying of a Klaxon, but if there's a schedule, I haven't learned it yet. In this humming metal box, I've lost my circadian rhythm and float around in time like a ship with shattered masts, out of sight of land. I ghost through memories, mind disordered and thinking shot.
Pictures in my head. There's Washington Square, a green postage stamp (remember those?) in the gray circuit board of Manhattan. In the mind's bird's eye, just as it ever was. But as I zoom in, clicking the plus sign on my mental Google Map, wrongs emerge like blotches on the city's complexion. There's a garbage fire. There's a pile of corpses. Cars wrenched out of their courses and abandoned, looking like they've been played with by a giant three-year-old. (Was that God—a giant toddler? Or had he just gifted the earth to a friend's kid, a spoiled little demiurge, and gone off on pressing business in another galaxy?)
Down at street level, behind the makeshift walls enclosing the Square, the tribe would be going about its business, scavenging for food and fuel and wondering whatever happened to me and my little band. And dying.
In some kind of amphibious loading dock, I'm hosed down with a greenish liquid that bubbles and scums and pools at the grates. Frog-marched into a shower by two marines in hazmat suits, their eyes wide with fear of the Sickness. Sopping, I'm held in restraints as medicine is given and blood taken.
A week of quarantine, and I'm thrown in the brig.
Again, I take in my surroundings. A cube of metal painted oily gray, with a brushed-steel toilet and sink occupying one corner and a narrow bunk opposite. A stout metal door with an inset Plexiglas slab, duct-taped blind from the outside.
It's like Beckett but worse. No sun shines on the nothing new.
I can't see out, but I'm pretty sure they can see in, since they keep the lights on, poisoning my sleep. They're watching me, and listening, too, no doubt. I look around for beady camera lenses no bigger than an insect's eye.
And then, the rap of a metal baton on the door, a call of "clear the hatch!" and my interrogator slips in, lifting a folding chair over the threshold. He's out of hazmat, as are the rest of them. Looks like they're satisfied that their cure works as well as ours.
"More?" I say.
"Just a few questions," he says. It's what he always says.
Is there something I don't know that I know? The voice that always drones away inside my head, sometimes like a pesky little brother and sometimes like a strict parent, and sometimes like someone I think of as "myself," recites a sort of ditty, with the insinuating logic of a kid's nonsense verse: There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
"What do you mean by that?" says the interrogator. I didn't realized I had spoken the thought.
"Why haven't we landed? You know there are people dying, right?"
He doesn't answer. But one of my guards in quarantine told me that the Ronald Reagan keeps its massive self just over the edge of the horizon from land, just out of sight of the Island.
"Aren't you going to run out of fuel?"
To my surprise, he actually answers this one. "This is a nuclear-powered ship," he says. "We can stay at sea for twenty years at a time." He smiles. I realize it's his pride in the ship that made him talk.
Maybe, with America gone, it's all he has to call home.
I try another. "Are we the only ones left? Are you the only adults who don't have the Sickness?"
My guess is that the carrier is a little floating city-state in a sea of death. Or maybe there are other ships at sea, a water-bound quarantine that's protected them from the Sickness. Beyond that, how could the adults have survived? The Sickness decimates everything.
No, says the teacher in my head, it does worse than decimate. The word decimate originally referred to the Roman custom of punishing legionnaries. They would select, by lot, one out of every ten soldiers in a legion that had mutinied; and put them to death. Discipline through terror.
What the Sickness did was worse. All the little children, all the adults gone. The Sickness, like an advertiser, respects the teen demographic.
"I thought you might like some extra dessert," he says by way of changing the subject. He holds out a foil-sealed cup of fruit salad. He's been trying to train me with these doggy treats for a week now, like he wants my memory to sit up and beg.
I take the plastic cup. It's still cold from the refrigerator. Even if the ship could stay afloat for twenty years, they couldn't feed everyone aboard, could they? I once saw a documentary about carriers that said the biggest ones had crews of thousands. How long could they survive off the ship's stores? They'd need fresh supplies.
If I can talk to Brainbox, maybe we can figure it out. I bet Box is vacuuming information in, no matter how hard they try to keep him in the dark. Or rather, no matter how hard they try to keep him in the dim. Like the low fluorescent light, the interrogators feed the mind a numbing trickle of illumination, enough for it to think there's nothing more to know.
Back at Plum Island, when the helicopter had done its deus-ex-machina thing, hanging in the sky fat and ungainly as a bumblebee, I had hoped for a lot better. I guess after everything we'd been through, I'd reckoned on a hero's welcome. A slap on the back, an ice-cold Coke, a you've-done-good-son-now-the-nightmare-is-over, a slice of pizza? Instead, questions, like a shitty episode of Law & Order on permanent replay.
"Why did you fire on the helicopter?"
I say, "We didn't fire on the helicopter. They did."
"The Islanders. I mean, the kids who lived on Plum Island."
"You're not one of the kids who lived on Plum Island?"
"No. We're from Washington Square. And Harlem."
"All right, why did the kids who lived on Plum Island fire on us?"
"I don't know. Ask them, if there are any left."
"What about the bodies we found in the lab?"
"That'd be the Old Man—that is to say, the adult, I guess. He was a scientist or something. Biowarfare. And the girl would be Kath. She was… kind of one of us."
"What happened to them?"
"The Old Man killed Kath. He was using us as lab rats. He injected her with something that brought the Sickness on quicker than usual. He did the same thing to me, but he and Brainbox figured out the Cure, and I beat it. Well, you know that, I guess."
"And what happened to the old man?"
"I told you."
"I killed him. Or… Brainbox poisoned his medicine. Then I finished him off."
"I… strangled him."
The Old Man was going to murder us all. I don't think about killing him, not much.
I ask, "Are the others alive?"
His face shows nothing, not even the shadow of an answer he's not giving. "That's enough for now," he says, gets up, and shuts the hatch as the marine with the M4 carbine glares at me.
I return to my bunk, sprawl on my back, and think about Donna. Then I think about thinking about Donna. I've been trying to keep the thinking about her at bay, since I figure nothing good can come of it. I have no way to see her, or talk to her, or touch her. And I have the strangest feeling that things had gotten about as good as they could get, that night on the tugboat Annie before we were taken captive by the Islanders. Almost that it had been too good. That there's an inverse relationship between how beautiful something is and how long it lasts. Sunsets, orgasms, soap bubbles.
Then I reflect on how perverse I am. Then I remember explaining the difference between perverse and perverted to Donna on a cool autumn morning at the Square before It Happened, and what the "imp of the perverse" is. Then I remember Donna called me the imp of the pervert. And again the seawall that keeps Donna out of my head fails, and I am drowning in loneliness, and I begin to rebuild it with melting bricks of ice.
So I think about thinking about thinking about Donna. And as I do, I turn over the cup of fruit salad in my hands. And I see that there's an expiration date stamped onto the bottom. They usually ink it out, along with any other lettering on the sad little packaging, as though they want to starve my eyes. But someone got slapdash, and the black ink underlines the date rather than obscuring it.
The use-by date is—from what I can figure—a month into the future. Which means that it was manufactured after What Happened. How is that possible?
IN BETWEEN ALL the Ask Me Anythings and Up Close and Personals administered by Ed the Interrogator and the medics—suddenly I'm like some fricking celebrity with a bigger entourage than Beyoncé or something—I let myself just float on the feels.
It's as good a way as any to pass the time, I figure. Yeah, it'd be more fun to have some DVDs or whatever, but this is just old-school entertainment. First they had channel surfing and then they had Web browsing and now I just use my memories to pass the time.
I've got to say, it leaves something to be desired.
It's fun enough to go all gooey over Jefferson and remember what happened and how we fell in love and everything, but I wouldn't mind having a magazine or two. I mean, you can only do so much replaying a memory in your mind before you realize that each time you retell it to yourself you're changing the details just a little bit. So after a while, like, say, fifty thousand times conjuring up that first kiss in your head, you realize that all the little substitutions—maybe he held me like that instead of like that, wouldn't it be better to remember our first kiss from a third-person perspective, like in a movie, rather than with his face looming up to me—have added up to a big fake. Like that lame joke my dad used to tell about Paul Revere's original ax, with the ax head replaced and the handle replaced.
This is the thing about solitary confinement: It makes your mind eat your mind. So I'm downright happy when my interrogator arrives.
Me: "Hi, Ed, what's the word?"
I've taken to calling him Ed, because he looks like an Ed. Round-faced, soapy skin with razor burns, and a little paunchy, with the same buzz cut as the rest of them.
Ed: "Good morning."
So it's morning. What should I do today? Maybe a little staring at the wall followed by some nail biting? Then a bit of almost going mental before lunch.
Me: "So, Ed, have you thought about my request? Run it up the flagpole? Is that what you navy guys call it? A flagpole? Or is it a 'vertical banner-attachment interface' or something?"
Ed: "We're considering it."
There's the teensiest note of flirtation in the way he says that. I can tell that Ed is on his best behavior, and definitely a company man, and for that matter that he doesn't give two shits about me per se. But I can also tell that he's ever so slightly perving out on me. I stack it up to a shortage of women in the navy and a dash of creepy power-imbalance fetish. I am, after all, at his beck and call, his own little Princess Leia in the detention wing.
He offers me fruit salad. Which I take, while wishing he had a bit more to offer by way of swag. I suspect the fruit salad is calculated to make me indebted to him in some sort of wanky, pop-psychology way, but, fortunately, I am also cultivating a hearty strain of contempt to counterbalance it. I'm not all defiant and take-nothing-from-your-tormentors. I'm more use-every-angle-you-can. Which doesn't mean I'm, like, flashing my tits (such as they are) at him or anything. I'm just not refusing little morale boosters like peaches in syrup and brand-x Oreos. Anyhow, I've asked him for something cuter to wear than the outfit they gave me, which is a baggy blue camouflage. What would you call the color? Sunset Bruise, maybe? Asphyxia? It reminds me of the Uptowners, with their whole paintball/paramilitary look, and I hate it. I've asked for a bunch of other crap, too—makeup, an iPad, fashion magazines, Ugg boots, newspapers, tampons.
See what I did there? I asked for a bunch of dumb shit that any teen girl might want, like there hadn't been a global apocalypse and nobody had anything better to do than read In Touch or whatever. But in among all the garbazh was something that could actually tell me what the hell is going on, like a newspaper, if they still had those. Hey, it's worth a try. I can tell from Ed's condescending 'tude that he thinks I'm pretty much a waste of gray matter, so I figure I might as well play down to his expectations and see if he slips up.
As for the tampons, well, that one was for real, which is a heck of a thing. See, ever since the Sickness hit, nobody was having babies or periods or anything associated. But, for better or worse, since getting on the USS Solitary Confinement, reboot! The system is up and running again. Which, yay, I guess? Part of me is all I Am Woman, and part of me is kind of pissed that the one perk of the apocalypse is out the window.
Ed: "I can do the, uh… sanitary, uh… supplies." (Ed's as thrown as any dude by Lady Situations.) "As for the rest, well, a lot depends on your cooperation."
It's hard to get your hooks into Ed—he doesn't act like he feels bad for keeping me cooped up, or recognize that simple human decency might require that he tell me a thing or two about what's going on. At the same time, he doesn't do the game-playing, head-tripping thing that interrogators in old movies and TV shows do. Instead there's a sort of fatigued persistence, like a beleaguered substitute teacher running an endless quiz.
Ed: "I still have just a few questions."
Just a few questions. True enough if "a few" means hundreds, thousands, often redundant and occasionally bizarre.
Ed: "Let's go back to the days before the electricity went out. You said that you were on a field trip at the UN on the day that the Conference on the Viral Crisis began."
Me: "Yeah, for, like, fifteen minutes, before they shut down the trip."
Ed has been rounding on this question again and again over the last few days, so much that I can tell it's important. He tries to hide it in a smoke screen of bullshit questions like "what did your diet consist of?" But he's got this ridiculous tell, which is that his leg starts bouncing up and down when he really cares about an answer. Little does he know that I used to watch the World Series of Poker on TV, all those pale, misshapen, bedraggled bros trying to put one over on one another while madly suppressing every emotional indicator their bodies were trying to give out.
So, like any decent poker player in this situation, I keep my hand to myself.
Ed: "Did anyone ever talk about what happened to the president?"
Me: "No, nobody gave a shit about what happened to the president. They were too busy trying to find food. What happened to the president, anyway? Did he make it? If not, who's the president now?"
Ed half sighs, then stops himself and begins the long loop around to the same question, his leg coming to rest.
Ed: "You told me that you and your friends formed a sort of gang? For mutual protection?"
Me: "Not a gang. A tribe. That's what we called it."
Ed: "What's the difference?"
Me: "A gang sounds like it's a bunch of dudes doing something against the law. But there was no law. Or, if there was, we were it."
Ed looks unconvinced.
Me: "Look. Everything has broken down. No authority. No parents, no cops, no schools, no government, no nothing. If you don't band together with other kids, you're just a random, and that means that anybody can prey on you. You ever read Lord of the Flies, Ed? Bunch of fancy-pants English schoolkids stuck on a desert island? Bullying, dancing around the fire, kill the pig, et cetera? It was like that but with automatic weapons."
Ed: "Okay. Tell me more about your 'tribe.' How many people?"
Me: "Two hundred, more or less. Less now, I guess, since people are probably still aging out."
Ed: "From the Sickness."
Me: "Yeah. Or violence, or starvation. But mostly the Sickness. I only made it because of what Brainbox and the Old Man came up with in the lab. How did you guys make it? If you have a cure, Ed, you have to give it to my friends. You have to take it to New York. Kids are dying."
Ed: "Like your friends in Washington Square."
Me: "Yeah, but there's more than us. Thousands. A lot of them are assholes, but still."
Ed: "You mean your tribe has enemies?"
Me: "Sure. There's the Uptowners. There's the Ghosts at the library—they're cannibals. There's—"
Ed: "What do you mean by 'cannibals'?"
Me: "What it sounds like. They eat people. They cook them first, I'll give them that much credit. Smelled pretty tasty, actually, until you found out what it was. My stomach was growling. Kind of makes you think differently about people and animals and… and everything."
Ed doesn't say anything. I shake off my little Existential Horror Moment.
Me: "But, hey, whatever floats your boat, right?"
Ed: "But you say there was no central authority. No one tribe predominated?"
Me: "No. There were a bunch. Some were stronger than others. The Uptowners had plenty of guns. They had a good chunk of the island. The kids from Harlem might take over soon, though. They were making guns? With three-D printers?"
Ed: "Three-D printers."
Me: "Yeah. Melting down LEGOs and using computers to, like, extrude plastic AR-15s. They're really smart. And pissed off, on account of, you know, centuries of oppression and unfairness and stuff?"
Either Ed has a great memory or somebody is recording this, because he never writes anything down, even though I can tell from the way his eyes move that he's intrigued by this little tidbit. His pupils do these abortive little orbits as he fits the pieces of my story together.
Me: "Tell me a little about you, Ed."
But Ed is not feeling communicative. After a few more questions, he gets up and goes back to wherever it is that he spends his coffee breaks, thumbing through copies of Interrogator Monthly or something.
Later comes dinner—I can tell it's dinner because two meals ago it had been powdered eggs and these quadrilateral bacon strips that looked like they were snipped off a spool.
Something's different this time.
The sparrow's-egg-blue plastic plate is perched on a pedestal that turns out to be a book as thick as a brick. It's called On Politics by Alan Ryan. On the back it says that "As an accessible introduction to the nature of political thought, On Politics could scarcely be bettered."
An accessible introduction to the nature of political thought. Just what I always wanted.
I heft the book in my hand and riffle the pages, all eleven hundred or so. I inspect it for pictures. For exclamation points. For anything that might be considered vaguely interesting. I don't know, philosopher dish. Metaphysical dirty laundry. Who wore the toga best? Nothing.
Somebody has already taken a run at reading it, and judging by the wrinkles along the spine, he didn't get past this dude Machiavelli. I remember that he was the "ends justify the means" guy. Except he probably hadn't said that, because all the things people were supposed to have said turned out not to have been said by them, or it turned out they were being ironic. Pretty much no way of getting at the truth. Just like every time "they did a study" proving something, some other "they" did some other study that proved the opposite. That was why I hadn't been nuts about literature the way Jefferson had been. Not that it was so hard to get a handle on, but it turned out what you thought was a handle wasn't a handle after all, or somebody would just point out that there was a better handle. Plus, it was all just stories about imaginary people. What the hell could you get from stories about people who never actually existed? That's why I like the hard, gritty truths of Cosmo and Teen Vogue. Or hamsters eating miniature burritos.
And as far as intellectual pursuits, I preferred medicine. At least you knew you were doing something that was of some good to somebody. Maybe, just maybe, if everything hadn't gone to shit, I would have studied medicine. Mom, who was a nurse, would have pissed herself with joy at that. Of course, since I wasn't, like, a genius, I'd probably have had to take out huge loans and then have been stuck going into plastic surgery or something to pay them back. So, thanks to the Sickness, instead of a future in silicone boob installation and Botox, I'd had a crash course in combat medicine. Broken bones and lacerations and ballistic trauma, cavitation and hydrostatic shock.
I think about SeeThrough and how I managed to stop her sucking chest wound with a square cut out of a plastic bag before the internal bleeding got her. I decide to try to stop thinking about that.
So I nudge my mind back to Jefferson and how we didn't get enough time together. I mean, we had loads of time together. Since we were in first grade. But we didn't have Time Together until it was too late. Only one night on the Annie as she lolled in the swells off Plum Island, before the Islanders slipped over her sides and took us.
The impossibly lovely weirdness of lying next to someone, breathing his spent air, seeing your face in his eyes, and realizing that, after all, your purpose is happiness.
But this line of thought isn't any good, because I have no idea where he is, if he's even alive, if they're at this moment dissecting his body.
I pick up the book again. The front cover shows a picture of a bunch of beardy ancient dudes hanging out in togas.
I thumb my way to the first chapter. Apparently it has something to do with how the Greeks were all sort of chilling in their poleis, which were kind of like cities except also like countries. The Persians, who had a big-ass empire ruled by one guy, Xerxes, who was a major a-hole, wanted to take over all of Greece. They figured it'd be easy, because the Greeks were divided and squabbling over the remote and talking shit over and taking votes and everything, but it turned out that the Greeks actually got their act together and ended up kicking some Persian ass. There was a movie about that before What Happened, with all these buff dudes called the Spartans killing bajillions of Persians and saying badass catchphrases and wearing loincloths and generally being hot and awesome. I remember I appreciated all the glutes and biceps and abbage, but at the same time, I was just a little put off by the fact that all the bad guys had been sneering brown-skinned people with funny accents, while most of the Spartans looked like blond surfer dudes, which seemed kind of unlikely. Whatever.
- Praise for The Young World:
- On Sale
- Jul 21, 2015
- Page Count
- 320 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers