Broken sky, p.1
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       Broken Sky, p.1

         Part #1 of The Broken Trilogy series by L. A. Weatherly
 
Broken Sky


  About this book

  Welcome to a “PERFECT” world.

  Where war is ILLEGAL, where HARMONY rules.

  And where your date of birth marks your DESTINY.

  But nothing is perfect.

  And in a world this BROKEN, who can Amity TRUST?

  Set in a daring and distorted echo of 1940s America, BROKEN SKY is an exhilarating epic of deception, heartbreak and rebellion.

  Praise for L. A. WEATHERLY

  “Truly gripping.” Malorie Blackman

  “Thrilling and romantic.” Ruth Warburton

  “Will have you thrilled, scared and heartbroken.” Teri Terry

  “Heart-stopping.” Mizz

  “Wonderful, original.” The Sun

  “Packed with suspense and drama.” The Daily Mail

  Contents

  Praise for L. A. Weatherly

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Ralph Waldo Emerson Quote

  Prologue

  Extract from My Vision by John Gunnison

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  Chapter Forty-two

  Chapter Forty-three

  Book Two of The Broken Trilogy: Darkness Follows

  Acknowledgements

  About the Author

  L. A. Weatherly’s ANGEL trilogy

  More Usborne Fiction

  Copyright

  For my husband.

  Of all the ways to lose a person, death is the kindest.

  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

  Prologue

  The rain beat down.

  I stood half-hidden in a doorway with my hands jammed in my coat pockets, staring out at the gloomy city street. The glow from the street lamps daubed at the shadows. In the downpour, the light itself looked streaked with damp. Distantly, I was aware of the emptiness in my stomach – a hollowed-out feeling, as if someone had gouged away my insides. It was two days since I’d eaten, not that it mattered. If I could just get what I needed, I’d be fine.

  A light went on in the diner opposite. Five a.m. I could see a bleached-blonde waitress tying on her apron, and silver stools with red leatherette seats. My hands tightened in my pockets. It all seemed so ordinary.

  I was desperate to get in there and see a newspaper, but forced myself to wait until other people had drifted in: a postman, a woman who wore sensible shoes like a nurse, a few more. Then, my heart beating hard, I flipped up my coat collar and left the safety of the doorway. My boots splashed in the puddles as I jogged across the street, shattering reflected light with each footfall.

  My boots. They were regulation boots, nothing like the pretty shoes that most women wore. I prayed no one would notice and stepped into the diner.

  The sudden warmth and dryness was an embrace. Conscious of how bedraggled I looked, I slipped onto the seat at the end of the counter – the one nearest the door, in case I needed to run.

  The waitress came over. Her upswept hair was in stylized curls. “Help you?” she said cheerfully, swiping at the counter with a damp rag. Betty, read her name tag, with a symbol beside the letters that looked like a lashing tail. I tore my gaze from it.

  “Just coffee, please,” I said.

  Six months ago I wouldn’t have known what the symbol meant. Now I knew it was the glyph for Leo, the lion. People didn’t have to display their birth signs yet…but plenty were.

  Don’t think about it. Just find out what’s going on.

  The coffee came in a large white mug. I stirred in a dollop of cream and cast a sideways glance down the counter. The postman sat munching bacon and eggs with a copy of The Angeles Advent propped in front of him. I could just see the date at the top: March 17th, 1941 AC.

  March 17th. I’d been on the run for four days.

  His gaze crawled back and forth across the sports section. After an eternity, he picked up the paper, slowly shook it out, and refolded it to another page.

  My fingers gripped the mug.

  “Is that the only paper?” I asked Betty when she came to refill my coffee.

  “Yes, sorry,” she said. “Morton comes in every morning to read it. Cheap so-and-so; you’d think he could buy his own once in a while.”

  She didn’t bother to lower her voice. Without looking up, Morton waved his mug at her. “More coffee, less talk, you dizzy dame.”

  Betty refilled his coffee and then leaned her hip against the counter. “Any news on Wildcat?” she asked him brightly.

  My knuckles turned white. I stared down at my coffee, letting my bobbed dark hair fall forward around my face. The door’s only a few feet away, I told myself frantically. I can escape if I need to—

  Morton squinted up at her. “Who?”

  “Wildcat. You know. That World for Peace scandal. Come on, half the country’s talking about it! You been living under a rock?”

  He grunted and took a slurp of coffee. “I’m reading about last night’s game.”

  “Well, is she still on the run?”

  “Don’t you have someone else you can bother?”

  “Oh, but you’re so sweet I just can’t help myself.” Betty shot me a dimpled smile, inviting me to laugh with her. I smiled weakly back and hoped I wouldn’t throw up.

  “She’s still on the run,” called over the nurse. She got up and started pulling on her coat. It fitted snugly at the waist, with broad shoulder pads. “Or she was last night. I heard on the telio.”

  Betty shook her head and scooped up the change the nurse had left on the counter. “Shocking, isn’t it? Gee, we’re supposed to be able to trust those pilots. If they’re crooked, who knows what else is going on?”

  “She’s as low-down as they come, all right,” agreed the nurse. A golden crab brooch glinted on her lapel. “They’re talking about trying her for treason when she’s caught.”

  “Really? I thought it was just murder!”

  “Yes, but it’s treason too, isn’t it? Anyway, she’ll be up for the death penalty. Good riddance.”

  The coffee tasted like bile now. I choked more of it down. After the nurse left, Betty switched on the battered wooden telio that sat on a shelf. A black-and-white daisy whined into view as dance music filled the air.

  I gazed tensely at the telio’s small round screen with its curlicue speakers to either side. This wasn’t one of the times of day when the daisy disappeared and a programme came on. I wished it was. The music reminded me too much of Collie…of how I’d danced in his arms that night, with candles flickering around us like fireflies.


  Was he still alive? My throat tightened. I ducked my head against the memory.

  Finally Morton left, and Betty passed the folded paper across. My fingers itched to open it. Somehow I waited until she’d turned away.

  Please, it’s got to be in here by now. I took a sip of coffee as if I hadn’t a care in the world…and then flipped to the front page.

  My own face stared back at me.

  Ice slammed through my veins. WILDCAT STILL AT LARGE! screamed the headline.

  They’d released my photo. They’d actually released my photo. Around me was the low buzz of conversation; the rise and fall of music; forks clinking against plates. Trying to look casual, I refolded the paper and glanced towards the door.

  The way was clear. My fingers felt thick and clumsy as I tucked the paper inside my coat. Stay calm, Amity. I put a few coins on the counter and slid off the stool. Keeping my head down, I started for the door – but hadn’t gone two steps when it swung open.

  A pair of policemen came in. The taller one took off his hat and shook the rain from it.

  He had a newspaper under one arm.

  Without pausing, I veered for the restrooms. Behind me I could hear the policemen sitting down, calling for coffee.

  The Ladies’ was a haven of black and white tiles. I locked the door behind me and slumped shakily against it.

  The window. I leaped across the small room the moment I saw it, but it was painted shut. I yanked at it in frustration; it didn’t budge. The only way out would be to break the panes – but they’d hear that in the diner, surely?

  My heart felt like it was trying to escape from my chest. I unlocked the bathroom door and opened it a fraction. I pressed one eye to the crack. The policemen were sitting at the counter; Betty was pouring coffee for them.

  “Just a quick cup,” I heard the tall one say. “Take the edge off that damp, right, Vince?”

  His newspaper lay on the counter. My gaze flew to the black-and-white image of my face. Would the waitress notice it? But no, she’d already turned away.

  “Keep your shirt on, I’m coming,” she called to another customer.

  I swallowed and eased the door shut; bolted it again. I’d have to wait them out – slip away once they’d gone. I hesitated…and then pulled the crumpled paper out from under my coat.

  Amity Vancour, an 18-year-old Western Seaboard pilot, has been known as “Wildcat” by the press since her daring escape four days ago, following the murder of a Central States pilot during a regulation Peacefight. Her case has caused international furore, leading to the unprecedented step of the World for Peace waiving its anonymity policy for Peacefighter pilots and releasing her name and photograph.

  “I’m delighted that the WfP has seen reason,” stated John Gunnison, leader of the Central States. “Vancour must be captured – and will be. I have seen it in the stars.”

  I’d devoured stories about Gunnison for months now; it was very strange to read one where he mentioned me. An astrology chart accompanied the article, supposedly predicting my downfall. How could people believe that stuff? Especially here in the Western Seaboard, where we weren’t even under Gunnison’s rule.

  At least the story didn’t mention Ma and Hal. The last thing my family needed was the press sniffing around; they were in enough danger already. Stay safe, I begged them silently. I’m sorry if any of this is my fault. But going over and over it in my head…I still didn’t see what else I could have done.

  The photo was the official one from after my induction ceremony. It showed a girl with sleek dark hair falling to her jawbone; light brown eyes under stark eyebrows; a strong-boned, oval face. I wore a serious expression even though I’d been wildly happy.

  Just a few months ago, Collie had studied that photo in my bedroom back on the base. “Wish I’d been there,” he’d said as he gently touched the frame.

  “You’re here now,” I’d answered, and he’d grinned and wrapped his arms around me.

  “Yeah, and guess what? You’re never getting rid of me, Amity Louise.”

  I pushed aside my longing, my fear for him and rifled through the paper. There had to be something in here by Milt. He’d promised to write it all down exactly like I’d told him.

  When I found the small story on page nine, it knocked the breath from me.

  “No,” I whispered, clutching the paper. I read the words again, willing them to be a mistake. “No.”

  I started as the doorknob rattled.

  “Hello?” called a woman. A knock rapped. “Is anybody in there?”

  My gaze flew to the thin silver bolt locking the door. Faintly, I heard the waitress’s voice: “Is there a problem, ma’am?”

  The woman sounded peevish. “Well, I don’t know. I didn’t see anyone come in here, but the door’s locked.”

  “No, that girl went in,” called out someone else. “The one sitting at the counter drinking coffee, about ten minutes ago.”

  A high-heeled stride and then a different knock, rat-a-tat-tatting at the wood. “Hon? You all right?”

  My throat was sand. “I’m fine,” I managed, lifting my voice. “I’m sorry, I…I don’t feel very well.”

  “Well, you can’t stay in there all morning,” grumbled the woman.

  “I’ll just be a moment.” I’d folded the paper again; I pinched my fingers up and down its crease. I could still hear them standing outside, only a few feet away, murmuring together.

  I dropped to my knees and pressed my cheek against the tiles. Through the thin slit under the door, I saw two pairs of women’s shoes…and two pairs of scuffed black men’s ones, heading this way.

  I scrambled up just as an authoritative knock pounded. “Miss? You all right?”

  I felt electric with fear. I took a step back and glanced at the window. “I’ll be fine,” I called. My voice sounded reedy. “Please, just…leave me in peace for a minute.”

  “Hon, if there’s something wrong, you can—” The waitress broke off. “Oh!” she gasped. “Officer, your paper! That girl on the front page!”

  I shoved my own newspaper down my denims and yanked off my coat. In an excited babble outside I heard: “That’s her, that’s the girl in the bathroom! All she ordered was coffee, but I could tell she was hungry—”

  “Open up!” shouted one of the policemen, beating on the door. It rattled on its hinges. “You’re under arrest, Vancour!”

  With my coat wrapped around my fist, I punched the window. It didn’t give. I punched again and again, frantic now, and then jumped up onto the radiator to kick at the glass with my boot.

  It shattered, falling to the alleyway in discordant tinkles.

  “She’s getting away!” screamed the waitress.

  “Stand back!” Gunshots echoed through the tiny room; one of the tiles on the wall exploded.

  The wooden window frame was still in place. I beat at it wildly with my foot, my hands. Just as the door swung open, the frame gave way with a splintering crack and I propelled myself out the window, taking the rest of the glass with me.

  “Stop!”

  I landed on a scattered mess of wood, glass, trash from the alleyway. Pain – my hand was bleeding – I lunged to my feet and ran, pausing only to push over a trio of garbage cans and send them rolling in my wake. Panting, I veered out onto the sidewalk, my boots thudding against the concrete.

  The clatter of trash cans from behind me. “Stop that girl! Stop her!”

  Rain muffled the words. It was coming down in solid sheets now, the sidewalk busy with early-morning commuters hunched into their trench coats, jostling past each other with streaming umbrellas. There was a grey knit cap in my coat pocket. As I wove through the river of people I pulled my coat back on and yanked the cap onto my head.

  I slowed to a brisk walk, keeping my hands in my pockets, face down. My pulse beat against my skull; with each step I expected a hand on my shoulder. When I came to an intersection my instincts shrieked at me to turn. Instead I crossed the street and kept going
straight. Finally I risked a glance back. The policemen were standing on the corner, staring up and down the cross street. One spoke urgently into a talky; I could see its long antenna.

  I let out a trembling breath and kept walking, fists clenched in my pockets. My right hand throbbed. It was slick with blood.

  By the time I heard distant sirens, I was over ten blocks away. I kept going until I couldn’t hear them any more, until the only noises were the mundane ones of the city. The elevated train was up ahead. No one paid attention when I paused under its bridge. People passed by as the trains rumbled above, shaking the ground at our feet.

  A shard of glass glinted from the fleshy part of my thumb. I gritted my teeth and pulled it free, then found a handkerchief in my pocket and wrapped it tightly around the wound.

  The whole time, my thoughts were tumbling, screaming.

  I knew that I had not misread the story on page nine. But I pulled out the paper and read it again anyway:

  JOURNALIST KILLED IN AUTO CRASH

  Milton Fraser, 28, was found dead yesterday evening after he apparently lost control of his auto and broke through a safety rail, crashing over fifty feet into a canyon…

  I swallowed hard as another train rattled overhead and the trash whispered against my ankles in the breeze. They’d killed Milt, an ordinary journalist who they shouldn’t even have known about. How deep, how broad, did this whole thing go?

  Collie.

  My sore hand clenched its bandage. Suddenly I felt short of breath. He had to still be alive; he had to be. And I had to get back to him, somehow – we both had to escape if we could—

  With the rain still drizzling down, I started to run.

  FROM MY VISION BY JOHN GUNNISON, REQUIRED READING FOR EVERY CENTRAL STATES SCHOOLCHILD:

  …it is my duty – no, my destiny – to make your life happy and harmonious. How? By using the ancient tool of astrology. The power of the stars allows me to find Harmony’s true way and make good decisions for you and your family.

  HARMONY is the key. Everything I do, I do for the sake of Harmony and for you…

  Chapter One

  The preflight routine was automatic. My hands moved across the plane’s control panel, flicking levers as I studied the dials. Undercarriage down, flaps up, throttle half-inch open. I checked the temperature gauge and then primed the engine, working the handle quickly in and out.

 
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