Book One in the CUSA series
(C) 2017 Adam Cole
Published by Nuncici Press, an imprint of Adam Cole Works LLC
“How you get round it?” Rosa asked her.
“Wait,” she said. She reached down and grabbed a little box off of the squawking thing. It was attached with a funny piece of coiled rubber. She talked into it, quiet, so Rosa couldn’t really hear.
The box squawked back at her, and Rosa caught a little of it. Whoever was squawking told Chassis they didn’t know about the collapse.
“It must be a recent one,” she said. “They go out all the time, now. They’re finally beginning to fall apart.”
“How you get round it?” Rosa asked her again.
“We go up this ramp and down the other one,” said Chassis. She was looking around more intently now, like she was trying to see through the dark. She moved the big wheel at her chest to the right, and the bus pulled over and started turning around. She took them back up the way they’d come and then wheeled the bus onto the ramp.
“What you used to do?” Rosa asked to get back to the conversation.
“Everything.” “Like what?”
“When I was just a little older than you, I got my first job. I used to monitor websites for illegal activity. You know what websites are?”
Rosa nodded her head, even though she didn’t.
“Then I made deliveries in the boondocks.”
“I delivered things for people like those that live in the shacks on the I-285.”
“Oh,” Rosa said. “Like what?”
She smiled. “And I was a swimming instructor. You swim?”
Rosa shook her head.
“No, of course you don’t,” said Chassis, shaking her head at herself. “I forget sometimes about pools.” She went on. “I drove my first bus when I was twenty-three. Took it all the way to Chicago— ” Her voice died. She was looking ahead at the road. There wasn’t any ramp back down. Just trees. She cussed again.
“What is it?”
“There’s no return access ramp,” she said. “Now I have to figure out where…wait a minute.” She talked into her radio again and waited. The radio squawked back at her, and she nodded. Then she smiled. “Okay,” she said. “I know where we are. That’s fine. That will even save us some time.”
“What?” Rosa asked, curious.
“I know a good route we can take,” she said, and she started moving the bus to the right, down the road into the darkness.
“Is it all like this?” Rosa asked. It looked even darker through the windows than it did along the highway, if that was possible.
“No,” Chassis said, cocking her head. “There’s some cities out here.”
“Cities?” Rosa said. “In the US?”
“Sure,” Chassis said, moving her hands up and down the steering wheel. “Richmond is still pretty big. Charlotte. Wheeling. They even have electricity.”
Chassis laughed hard. “What they teach you in that game you play now?”
Rosa shrugged. “We learn about the President, how great he is, how he gonna take care of us…”
“Yeah, yeah,” Chassis said, like she’d heard it all before. Rosa raised her eyebrows. She was surprised that Chassis wasn’t more respectful. “What else?”
“We learn about what we need to do to get a job, who we need to talk to, how we get around, how we stay safe…”
“Don’t you learn any history?”
“Sure,” Rosa said. “We learn about the Dow and the Great Correction and how the President saved us.”
Chassis chewed her lip. “Huh,” she said. “So they don’t teach you any history.”
“What you mean?” Rosa demanded.
“You know why the whites left?”
Rosa was quiet for a minute. Then she admitted, “No.”
Chassis waited like she wanted her to ask. Rosa wanted to know, but she didn’t want to sound any dumber than she felt. So she kept quiet. Finally, Chassis said, “You know what the Correction was?”
Rosa shrugged. She thought she did.
Then Chassis started rattling off facts like she was an AVE and Rosa was buying. “Back in the old days people didn’t have tattoos, and the credit companies weren’t part of the government, so you could get into a lot more trouble with your number and nobody would mess with you. One time millions of people made a stupid mistake with their money at the same time and the economy collapsed.”
Rosa didn’t understand every word Chassis was saying, but she was really interested in the story anyway, since nobody had ever bothered to tell her true facts about history.
Chassis went on. “Things got better for a while, but then they went bad again. Up and down, a bunch of falls, each one worse than the last. They take all of them together and call them the Correction. That would have been bad enough.
“But out west, the Colorado River had dried up because of the heat, and everyone left Las Vegas, pushing into the East Coast and West Coast. Right about then the ocean levels were getting high enough that when a bad bunch of storms hit the East Coast, all the major cities out there got flooded. New York, Baltimore, DC. The levels never did come down again, and everybody was just stuck.”
Chassis could have been making up a rhyme. She was looking left and right into the darkness, checking the invisible road, bouncing up and down on her seat. And all the while her story just flowed out of her.
“The people with all the number got out, you know? They fled to higher ground. That was happening anyway, though. After Iran took Mexico in, a lot of Mexican Catholics fled north, into the big dry cities where their families were.
“So when the government became a Corporation and changed USA into CUSA, it was mostly darker people living there.
“Then they built the levies around DC, and the walls around the Southern Protectorate, the Northern Protectorate, the Texas Protectorate…you know them all, right?”
Rosa nodded. Yes, she knew all the Protectorates. She was glad she knew something, anyway.
“Well, Richmond and those other cities got left out. Charlotte almost made it, but they had a coup and the President didn’t want to waste his number protecting it anymore. So now it’s one of those Unincorporated States.
“They got electric power,” Chassis said, getting back to that subject. “Though you can’t rely on it out there like you can in CUSA. There are lots of blackouts and things, especially when someone tries to take over as Governor, but it’s not as bad as out in the country where they make do with candles or garbage.”
“Do the Young Guns protect them too?” Rosa asked.
“The Young Guns?” Chassis said really loud. “CUSA’s not going to use its troops and its number protecting a million little backwards White States, even if they are all gathered in one big place. No, they’re just out there, like the little towns in the woods.”
Before Chassis could go any further, Rosa heard a noise from the back of the bus. Chassis looked into her mirror. Rosa couldn’t believe the noise, because she recognized the voice. It was her father. He was screaming at Firoz.
Rosa couldn’t see what Firoz was doing because her father was in the way, hanging over the seat. She quickly ran back there to see what was going on.
“Nobody said you could do that here!” he yelled, his accusing finger pointing down.
Firoz didn’t answer him. He just looked out with large eyes. Rosa looked down at his arm and saw the needle hanging from it.
More about Motherless Child
When Rosa’s mother loses her job with the Corporate United States, her family must flee or be killed in an employee purge. Taking the dangerous bus trip across the Unincorporated States, they are ambushed by bandits. Hopelessly separated from her family, Rosa is rescued by the people of Ascension, a small backwoods Virgilna town with a terrible secret.
Seventeen years in the making, Cole’s book about a girl trapped between two Americas serves as a reminder of what the United States has become, and what it still could be.
Adam Cole is an author and music educator in Atlanta, GA. He has written numerous books and stories for children, as well as a number of adult and non-fiction titles including The Girl With the Bow and Seven Ways the World Can End.
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