by Christine Manzari
Being a Sophisticate of the Program seems like it’d be a pretty sweet deal: a little genetic alteration and anyone can be smarter, faster, and stronger. It’s a dream come true. All you have to give up is your freedom.
Cleo is a Sophisticate and she has a bright future in the Program. But she has a secret. When she gets upset, bad things happen. Explosive things. Things she can’t control.
When her secret is discovered, she’s sent to the Academy to train in the military branch of the Program. She’s destined to be a human weapon in the war that’s been going on since Wormwood occurred nearly 30 years ago. She soon learns that although her ability is unique, there are others like her — other Sophisticates with lethal skills and odd code names like Archerfish and Mimic Octopus.
Immersed in a dangerous game of supernatural powers and dubious motives, Cleo doesn’t know who to trust. Ozzy, the annoyingly attractive cadet who has perfect aim in weapons class and deviant lips behind closed doors, begs her not to use her powers. He’s the golden boy of the Program, but can she trust him? Or will she find herself a target, caught in his crosshairs?
“Late on your first day?”
I turned to find the dark haired boy still leaning against the wall. The top button of his shirt was undone and his tie was slung over his shoulder. He wasn’t wearing his jacket and his shirt sleeves were rolled up, revealing his tan, muscular forearms. His tousled hair hung across his forehead, nearly falling into his eyes, and it appeared he hadn’t bothered to shave this morning.
“You’re late, too,” I pointed out. I also wanted to point out that his uniform was far from uniform or acceptable according to St. Ignatius policy.
The boy shook his head and then ran his hand back through his messy curls, trying to tame them into submission. “Not late. Sick.”
“Sorry to hear that,” I said, because I couldn’t think of any better response. It was obvious the boy wasn’t sick, he was skipping class. “Look, I really have to go. It was nice meeting you.”
“But we haven’t met,” he responded.
“What?” I asked, confused.
“We haven’t actually met yet,” he explained, pushing away from the wall. “Name’s Ozzy,” he said, holding out his hand.
I looked at his hand. “Is it contagious?”
He tilted his head causing the unruly curls to tumble back across his forehead. “I don’t follow.”
“Your sickness, I don’t want to catch anything.”
“Right,” he said, a wide grin dimpling across his face as he pulled his hand back and returned it to his pocket. “Well then, I should let you get to class I suppose.” He turned and walked down the hallway, the opposite direction from my classroom. “It was nice meeting you, Clementine,” he called back over his shoulder.
“I never told you my name,” I said calmly, even though I was a little unnerved that he knew my name.
“You didn’t have to.”
“Apparently, I do,” I retorted. “I don’t answer to Clementine.”
Ozzy chuckled without turning around. “See you around, Cleo.”
The first thing Christine does when she’s getting ready to read a book is to crack the spine in at least five places. She wholeheartedly believes there is no place as comfy as the pages of a well-worn book. She’s addicted to buying books, reading books, and writing books. Books, books, books. She also has a weakness for adventure, inappropriate humor, and coke (the caffeine-laden bubbly kind). Christine is from Forest Hill, Maryland where she lives with her husband, three kids, and her library of ugly spine books.
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