Title: THE WILD
Genre: YA Post-Pandemic / Light Science Fiction
Word Count: 90,000
Sixteen-year-old Lucas Dawson must run away from the only life he’s ever known or face having the memories of his childhood erased by the Regime. They have decided that, as a Regime soldier, he will aid the Worldwide Union more effectively if he’s not “encumbered by family ties.” At least this way he can make a new life for himself on the run, with no weapons or provisions, completely alone, out in the Wild. Yeah, it’s a win-win.
Once he escapes, he vows to do everything in his power to take down the Regime. Of course, the vow of a weaponless, homeless, sixteen-year-old doesn’t count for much. But Lucas is one of the Regime’s highly trained Super Soldiers. They’ve altered him in ways that may make him feel like a freak, but do give him an edge in the Wild: enhanced eyesight and hearing as well as unusual strength. Finding the beautiful, haunted Cara and her cousin Ben won’t make it easy to keep his vow. Like Lucas, Cara struggles with what the Regime had planned for her. She wants them to live together like a family and forget all about the Regime. And he is totally untrained for the way she makes him feel.
When they are discovered by Regime soldiers, they must run for their lives. They come upon Evan, a Resistance fighter recovering from smallpox, who tells them of a plan to destroy the Regime. This is Lucas' chance to join others in fighting the Regime since Evan's pox scars will keep him from completing his mission. But if he takes Evan's place it means he may never see Cara and Ben again. Maybe it’s for the best. Maybe Cara would be happier with a normal human instead of a Regime lab rat anyway. Evan sure is eager for Lucas to go and he's made no secret of his attraction to Cara. But Lucas can't decide if his vow is worth the risk of losing them when they’ve become his whole world.
THE WILD won the Mid-South SCBWI YA Fiction Contest at the September 2011 conference.
For my sixteenth birthday my parents staged my death. The stakes were higher since I was so old. Sometimes the Under Tens had sudden “fatal” accidents, but my parents couldn’t bear to push me out into the Wild before I was tagged. So, they hoped for things to change, but tried to prepare me in case they didn’t. And well, things didn’t get better. They got worse.
One little green pill under my tongue and I was puking my guts all over the field at Regiment training. Rank, I know, but kind of funny watching the officers running around trying to figure out what to do with me. I don’t think anyone had ever been sick at training before, except for normal stuff, like exhaustion or heat stroke or injuries.
I spent the next morning, my real birthday and my fake deathday, at home dumping water in the stainless steel toilet and making retching noises for the monitors. My first “sick” day ever. When Mom got home from her half day at the clinic, I made a final trip to the toilet, my throat raw from my supreme acting. It was show time. No turning back now.
“Oh Lucas, I was hoping you’d be better for your birthday,” my mom said. “I requested cupcakes.”
Nice touch. I raised my eyebrows, impressed.
She gave me a sad smile and held up crossed fingers.
I took the herbs from her and lay down on the hover board, glancing around my bedroom one last time.