Porter elected to oppose Hassan and Himabert in World Leader Race
“By overwhelming majority, Aldous Porter, former governor of Penform, has been elected to lead the Ascis Party. Porter joins the ranks of Hassan, leader of the Polet Party, and Himabert, the current Premier, in the race to be the next leader of our planet.
Over the next three seasons, the Leader race and the Student Exchange with 511820-H2 will take place simultaneously due to the delay that pushed the Exchange back a full cycle. The success or failure of the Exchange, a political maneuver championed by Himabert, is expected to have a significant effect on the outcome of the election.
Hassan is a staunch opponent of the current administration’s plan to support reintegrating 511820-H2 into the Universal Government, and he has publicly disagreed with the student exchange. Porter has not stated his position, but he plans to base his campaign out of his wife’s family home in Chesport, a town that neighbors Newford, the host site for the Exchange.”
Jake REDACTED: Freewrite #1
We have fifteen of you mandatory freewrites, so I’m going to get you out of the way as soon as possible so Coach doesn’t have any more reasons to sideline me.
I’ve just had a weird night. Weird isn’t the word. I’m not sure what is.
First off, my dad was acting like himself when I left for my meet. That used to be okay, but his self has gone downhill since mom left. During dinner, he and Sarah were nonstop about the nukes, they way they get when they’re excited about things. And he said, “What do you think Jake?”
And I said, “About what?”
“The Exchange students staying in a residential facility instead of with host families.”
And I explained I wasn’t thinking about it at all, that I had to focus on shaving 10 seconds off my time if I was going to stay team lead. And then Dad and Sarah looked at each other like they do when they agree about something, and I don’t look at anyone because mom isn’t here anymore.
“It’s too bad you care more about chasing a bunch of other guys around a track than about momentous historical events taking place right in front of you,” Sarah said, because that’s the kind of stuff my sister says. She means it, too. It’s not just an act she puts on for our dad.
But I don’t put on an act for dad either, so I made a rude gesture that I won’t tell you about here in case Coach ever reads this.
And then Billy pinged that he was here, so I was out before she could say anything back.
I won’t bore you with the rundown of the meet, but suffice to say, it’s definitely my season, and Clive is a nuke.
After I showered off, I met off with Billy and Bryn. It’s getting a cold out at night, and I had to wait in it for a bit because Bryn was taking her time making room for me to crawl in the back of Billy’s hover. I don’t mind waiting on Bryn though. She’s got a long sheet of thick, golden brown hair and eyes that are nearly the same color. If I were an artist, I’d paint her portrait and I’d only need two shades of paint for it. I’m a runner though, so I chase after her instead.
I leaned forward between the seats, my hand on the shoulder of hers, my fingers brushing that thick golden brown hair, and asked, “Where are we going?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Billy said.
And I said, “It had better not be Clive’s party.” But of course, it was.
“Come on, Jake,” Bryne twisted sideways in the seat to look back at me, which I didn’t mind nearly as much as our destination. “He’s not that bad.”
The thing is though, he is that bad. You might not believe me, because he’s going to be writing everything in his journal that you want to hear, and you’re going to think, “What an upstanding young man.” That’s what adults always think about Clive. But we don’t get along for two reasons. The first being that he’s a great runner and knows it—the second being that he isn’t better than me and doesn’t know it.
But Billy and Bryn think he’s “not that bad”, so we pulled onto his street, and the hover locked into an open space, and I followed Bryn’s long golden hair and legs into Clive’s house.
The cloud of MLW in his house was so thick I could almost see it, but I grabbed a mint-flavored straw from the bucket by the door anyway and took a long, deep drag. Some people swear it works even without the straws, but if I can’t taste it, I don’t mellow. And I needed to mellow before I saw Clive again. I went through a half dozen of those straws in about two minutes flat, hoping it would kick in before he saw us.
Unfortunately, Clive’s eyes lit on Bryn and he was next to us so quick it made me grateful Coach had never seen how fast he could move when she was around.
“Close run, Jake, real close,” he touched his straw to mine. “If I hadn’t twisted my ankle in practice, it might have gone the other way.”
If you’re thinking that doesn’t make him sound enough like a nuke, let me point out that he isn’t talking about the meet we just had. He’s talking about our last run of last cycle. As in, he’s still talking about it.
Fortunately he didn’t make me talk back. He’s on student government with Bryn and Billy, so they moved right onto that, and I started scanning the room for someone better to talk to. If you weren’t clear on how much I hate Clive, this should make my point: I spotted my ex-girlfriend heading out onto the back porch; I remembered that the last time we spoke she told me she hoped I choked on my sneakers; and I still called out to her, “Hey, Chloe! Wait for me.”
She sent me a rancid look, but she waited.
I followed her out onto the patio where I was glad to see there was a decent crowd so she couldn’t rip my head off without at least a few witnesses. “It’s good to see you, Chlo. How’s it going?” I said, feeling grateful and generous, despite the look on her face that still said she smelled something rotten.
“Oh, you know,” she said.
That’s the reason we broke up. She always thought I knew and I never did.
“Oh yeah, sure,” I said, and then I offered, “You’re looking good.” It was true, it’s always true, but I only said it because I couldn’t think of anything else to say.
But then she said, “Don’t even.”
So I said, confused, “Don’t even what?”
“Stop overestimating me, Chloe. I don’t know. I never know,” I said.
Just kidding. I actually said, “Oh, yeah, sure,” again, and took a deep drag on my MLW stick, my eyes sliding toward the door.
But she wasn’t done. “You broke up with me, Jake,” she said.
Don’t ask me how we got from me giving her a compliment to her rehashing the way we ended, but man did it make Clive look downright appealing.
“So if you’re finally realizing you made a mistake . . .”
I looked back at her in time to see that she was looking really satisfied with what was happening here.
“. . . it’s way too late.”
So there was a long silence after that, because I had no idea what to say. Lots of things occurred to me, but they were pretty rancid and I try not to be that guy. Instead I said, “Nice catching up with you, Chlo.” And went back inside.
Clive was still harassing people at the door, and Billy was talking to some other student government people, but Bryn was in the kitchen, and she was watching me. I like that, the way she always has an eye on me the way Billy has on her. Sometimes I think I’m the only one who notices something, that there’s no one to share in the joke. Then she catches my eye and I know she got it, too.
“Good talk?” she asked when I got closer.
I shook my head and leaned against the counter she was sitting on, “Chloe’s insane.”
“Chloe’s nice.” She rested her arm on my shoulder, and her current of hair was cool and silky against my cheek.
“To you.” I reached up and tug the citrus flavored MLW stick away from her.
“What are you talking about just now?”
“Giving it another try.” I exhaled the words. They tasted like tangerines, and she laughed.
You’re probably thinking two things. One, that I’m really lousy for being into my friend’s girl. That’s true, I’ll give you that one.
But you’re probably also thinking that I’ve built this up way too much, that my random encounter with an ex girlfriend wasn’t that weird. But that’s where you’re wrong. Sure, if the night had ended there, I probably wouldn’t be bothered to write about it. We’ve had a hundred just like this. Even the next part, when the party started to flame out and Bryn convinced us to drive up to the hills to watch the sunrises over the canyon—it’s all pretty standard issue.
But on our way there, we pulled up next to Sophie Brooks at a traffic signal.
“This is your night, Jake,” Billy said, because Sophie is another one of my exes, but she’s different. I don’t mind seeing her, and we even try to talk her into coming with us, but she can’t. She’s going somewhere else.
We all knew it was to her last Exchange meeting, but she didn’t want to say so in front of Bryn. I guess you guys on the Exchange committee only needed one beautiful, athletic, civic-minded overachiever, because Bryn ended up on the alternate list. She had to go to the meetings, too, for the first several cycles after the winners were announced, but now I guess the committee figured they had the guest list pretty much locked down. Sophie was going; Bryn was staying.
When the light changed, Sophie went left, and we went straight, and Bryn got quiet. And when the hover locked into place near the top of the canyon, we got out to hike the last stretch, but she lagged behind.
“Too much MLW?” I called back to her, and she made a gesture I could read clearly across the distance.
“It’s not the MLW.” Billy said next to me. “It’s the Exchange.”
I just nodded, because yeah, obviously, but what was there to say? Sorry your girl is down that she isn’t getting away from you for three whole cycles. Can I have her?
When we got to the rock crop that lined the edge of the bluff, we sat down to wait for her. It wasn’t long before we heard the sound of gravel crunching underfoot and felt Bryn fitting herself into the space between us. This close, I could smell the tangerine smoke that lingered in her hair. She curled one arm through mine, the other through Billy’s. We watched the sunrise like that, first watery gold light and then weak warmth. I felt Bryn exhale, and I squeezed her arm with mine, trying to let her know that I understood all about being left behind.
But by now I guess you know.
After we went straight, and Sophie Brooks turned right, her hover lost its track somehow. It flipped three times and caught fire.
Bryn isn’t going to be left behind after all.
Hadley REDACTED: Prompt #1 Response
Prompt: How did you feel when you learned your town was chosen to be one of the Host locations for the Exchange?
I’m exempt from doing this, so WHY DID I OPEN YOU?
I have no idea.
Maybe I really do have a self-destructive side.
But if I don’t fill you out, I can’t tell you that I think the Exchange is stupid. And you’ll never know that I think we have enough of our own problems without inviting 511820-H2 to make them worse. And I couldn’t ask you: The purpose of these Exchanges are to learn from each other, right? But what’s 511820-H2 going to teach us exactly? How to destroy our whole planet?
And if I didn’t fill you out, I couldn’t tell you about Sophie.
My sister’s journal would’ve been full of how prepared she was for the Exchange. Not excited, because my sister didn’t get excited. She just got ready. Of course, her prompt would’ve been different because she’d actually been chosen to be an Exchange student, so I’m not sure exactly what she’d have said. I do know that she’d have already filled it out though, and that right now, she would’ve been packing for her trip to 511820-H2, or at some special meeting for people who are going to rule the world one day, or at a party that everyone at school would go to because it was for her, regardless of whether or not they wanted a bunch of nukes from 511820-H2 on our planet.
But Sophie’s dead, so she isn’t doing any of that.
And I’m exempt from writing you.
Dorwen REDACTED: Freewrite #1
The news about Sophie was brutal, and I’m no stranger to bad news. I guess I should tell you—I’ve had a thing for the girl. I know that sounds crazy, but you probably know what she looked like; she was gorgeous. Not just for her species, for any girl. And she was going to be staying in my house.
In my room.
In my bed.
My mom is still crying, and I want to, but I’ve also been thinking about how this is going to mess things up. Is the Exchange going to be cancelled? Delayed again? What am I going to do if it is? What happens if they delay it so many times I graduate and can’t go? This makes me sound really bad, doesn’t it? You have to understand though. After I made the list, we lived with my grandparents in these epically miserable conditions where they alternated between giving us the silent treatment and screaming at us for an entire year, and then we nearly had to live with them for another year when the Exchange was delayed. Luckily our housing application finally went through, and we moved into this tiny, two bedroom apartment where we share a bathroom, but I’m still in the same school district and we don’t worry too much about being murdered in our beds.
But what if it’s all been for nothing?
I’ve been in my bedroom since I heard the news, trying to find out more information from the Feeds. There’s a guy named Coleman from Newford they broadcast on our waves now; he’s pro-Exchange, which is cool. He’s always positive and upbeat, and most importantly, almost always broadcasting. I don’t know what he looks like, but in my mind, he’s young-ish, doesn’t have a family yet. He’s working his way up, has big plans for his career in broadcasting. He’s like me, only a few years older. I like to picture him interviewing me when I’m competing in the U-Sports track, and I’ll tell him that I listened to him back when no one knew who I was.
He’s not upbeat today though, and it makes him sound older. It kills me, listening to him talk about Sophie. You can tell he knew her, maybe thought she was beautiful, too. She was another part of the dream. We’d get together and she’d be in the stands next to my mom when I won my first U-Sport Track competition.
Then Coleman says that Sophie’s alternate has already been notified and that so far the Exchange doesn’t look like it’ll be affected, and I feel better. I let my dream girl go, because at least the dream is still alive.
Jake REDACTED: Freewrite #2
I’m surprised as you are that I’m already writing again. The Exchange hasn’t even started and I’m filling you up. But Sophie’s death won’t let me go, and I don’t know what to do but write about it.
Probably because there isn’t anyone I can talk to about it.
When I got home after track practice tonight, I nearly didn’t come in. The windows were dark, and dad’s hover was gone, and I didn’t feel like eating dinner alone. I turned around, took two steps in the direction of Billy’s street, and then remembered he’s with Bryn. He’s always with Bryn lately. Not that I’ve noticed.
So then I go inside, but for the first time maybe ever, I was scared to be alone. I mean, I’m sure I used to be scared of the dark or being alone when I was really young, but I don’t remember it. I flipped on all the lights, but they kept dimming to power saver mode because no one was in the rooms. I’m not sure which is spookier, the darkness or the glowing blue lowlights that changes the furniture (what mom left us of it anyway) into dark, hulking, unrecognizable shapes.
I took my dinner up to my room, but then I didn’t eat it, which is literally unheard of for me. I just stared at it while I wondered if Sophie had been scared to die. I don’t know if I believe them when they said she didn’t have time to feel a thing. Maybe she was knocked unconscious by the crash, but maybe she felt every lick of flames.
I wonder what you know about her. If you knew her, you probably liked her. Most adults did. But you probably didn’t know her. Adults never do. For example, you probably think she was nice, but she really wasn’t. She wasn’t not nice, but she wasn’t nice for the sake of being nice, if you know what I mean. And she was really sarcastic. Even the way she said good morning was abrasive. But she was so good looking it didn’t matter. I’d take the sandpaper side of her tongue any day so long as I got to look at her.
I know it’s wrong, and I hope you don’t have a daughter our age and judge me for this, but I wish it had happened to almost anyone else, that another girl’s hover had veered off the road, lost its track, and flipped until it caught fire. I’ve ridden with Sophie enough to know she didn’t see it coming. She’d been smoking with one hand (see, I bet you didn’t know she smoked) and putting on lipstick in the mirror with the other. I hope she died instantly, that all she had a chance to think about was nicotine and her reflection.
The Educators called an assembly yesterday so we could hear what had happened together. I think I’ll always be able to see the image they put up on the holoscreen, the one everyone had to stare at because it filled the wall. Most girls wouldn’t have looked good at ten times their normal size, but Sophie did. Her unsmiling gray eyes stared right at us from her solemn face. That’s something not many people noticed about her. If you caught her off guard, which was hard to do, she almost never looked happy. I’m not saying she was sad, just that she didn’t act happy for the sake of acting happy. She was just herself. And that picture is one of the few of her off guard self.
If not for her lipstick, it could have been a black and white image. Her lips were what got me the first time I saw her; bright red and gleaming, standing out against her winter skin and dark hair. They made her sneers and smiles more pronounced. They left cherry bows where they kissed. I can still hear her low, mocking laugh in my head, and the way her voice was always dry and amused, even when she was dumping me, saying, “I’ve lost more important things than you to Bryne.”
I’ve been trying to hear more of her voice, but nothing else I can remember still sounds like her. It just sounds like my memory of her, which I know is never going to live up to the real thing.
Maybe I should stop writing about her. She’d be nerved to know I’ve said as much as I have, scratched the surface of her secrets for you. And even though I just got home from track, and I still haven’t eaten, I think I need to go for a run.
Have you ever noticed that it’s hard to feel things sitting still? That’s how it is for me anyway. I have to be in motion, pushing my body until the pain moves back to my muscles where it belongs.