Christianity, and indeed all religion, is declared intolerant, hate filled, and the root of all war. Thus the new world government, which calls itself the World Peace Alliance, decrees that every Christian must deny his or her allegiance to Christ or face penalties that may include imprisonment and death.
Some true believes lead double lives, pretending to be one thing while believing another. Others find hiding places—empty husks of old stores or hotels or underground caves—where they can worship God without facing mortal danger.
Trust dies as well. Friends and family become betrayers. Huge rewards are offered to those who will turn in Christians for “re-education.”
Enter the future and discover what it would be like to be the only Christian in your school.
Patrick “Patch” Johnson: A teen who makes a terrible mistake. How can he stand firm for Jesus when everyone else thinks he’s crazy?
Amber: Patch’s friend, who wants to find freedom from fear.
Erin: She hopes to cure Patch of the “disease” called Christianity.
Molly: A shy, overweight girl afraid to speak out until she meets Patch.
Granger: A basketball player who sometimes wonders if there’s more to life than food, fun, and girls.
Marty: The class bully and loudmouth. Not afraid of anyone or anything except Claudia.
Claudia: “The Claw” controls others by using secrets as weapons.
Trevor: A new student, a teen with deep discernment and the ability to see past people’s masks.
Nancy: The do-gooder and volunteer at New Peace Clinic. All she cares about is making good grades and fitting in.
Gary: A rough guy sporting a vivid collection of tattoos, the leader of the Tattooed Rats.
Tiffany: With her bubbly personality and good looks, she’s more cheerleader than Christian.
Cindy: A sad girl who wants people to like her and who is willing to fit in at any cost.
Stan: Handsome and always able to quote the right Bible verse, he heads the most popular group of believers.
“Grandma” June: An elderly woman who shares her faith through acts of kindness.
Grant: Patch’s uncle, so devastated by grief he wants his nephew to suffer too.
Cheryl McCry: Devoted to the destruction of Christians and a powerful force in the World Peace Alliance one-world regulatory system.
Linda Strong: The teacher who seeks a reward by being the first to turn Patch in to the WPA.
Dr. Reed “Dr. Max” Maxwell: A creative physician looking for new ways to prevent the spread of Christianity.
Ben Wattington: An art teacher and friend to Ms. Strong
Patrick Johnson squirmed and sat up, sweating. He scratched his scalp. Serious bed head.
What had awakened him? There it was again. The smack-smack of gunfire. Dazed, he scanned the store for Mom, Dad, Jenny. Oh, yeah. They were at church below. He should go to them, try to help. But he could barely move. His mother had allowed him to stay curled in his thin sleeping bag during the service. He promised her he’d read his Bible, but he’d been too sore to sit up.
Patch, tall at fifteen, was hurting. Doctors had told him he had an ulcer of the duodena (a word he had trouble saying). It felt like acid burning away the lining of his small intestine. Worrying about the problem only made it worse. He knew he should pray more. Trust God . . . Right. So far that hadn’t worked too well.
Avoiding stress would help. Bullets probably weren’t good.
He wondered if anyone else was listening. People were running now, shouting. He heard the fear in their voices. He should do something, find his family.
Quickly gobbling a cracker lessened the stabbing inside, but Patch
still felt sick. He hoped he wouldn’t throw up like last time. Pulling himself stiffly to a sales counter, he stood, moaning.
Dizziness swept over him.
For six weeks, several families had shared floor space in the emptied-out store, Gotcha Gear. The storage room lay several feet behind him. Patch stumbled toward the door. More shots. Screams, then silence. He was afraid for his parents, for Jenny.
Should he try to find his family. Or save himself? If he could make it to the door he could get to the hallways behind the empty storefronts at the ParkWay Mall. Escape.
He heard a baby’s cry. Jenny? He yanked a sweatshirt over his head, pulled on his jeans, grabbed an old pair of Nike soccer shoes and a windbreaker. Then he popped a few hard mints into his cheek. Breakfast.
Time to get outta here. Nothing he could do to help, not against guns.
No room for the bulky Bible. He stuffed his mini-digicam into a deep pocket of his jacket, snapped on his watch, and took his tube of ChapStick.
The steady clomp of boots echoed in the walkways. Get out now. He kept low and leaped for the steel door handle, leaving his family behind.
amber was wary as soon as the smiling man came to the door. What business would her parents have with this guy? Yellow teeth made his grin grimy. He wore a dark officer’s uniform with a badge that read:
Inquiries & Investigations
Part of the World Peace Alliance
Always watching out for us, she thought.
“Mom! Dad! Some guy here for you.” This could be exciting.
“Thanks, Amber,” her dad called. “Be right down.” Amber watched her father, Gerald Lane, pale when he came down the stairs and saw the stranger stepping inside. The officer ignored his outstretched hand. Her father lowered it, trembling.
“Can I help you?” he said. Amber had never seen her dad like this. Usually he joked. Now he looked scared.
“Time to leave, sir,” the man said. “Come immediately and there won’t be any more trouble.”
Amber saw her mom pause at the top of the stairs, then turn silently and head down the hall. Amber didn’t get it until the officer pointed up.
“Tell your wife to get her coat and purse.”
“She’s out,” her father said.
Amber couldn’t believe it. Her father had lied? “No she’s not,” she said.
“Be quiet, Amber,” her father said.
The man shook his head. “Come here.” Amber took a step, then hesitated. The officer closed the distance, reached behind her, then yanked her wrist up between the shoulder blades. He looked meaningfully at her father. “Think you can find Mrs. Lane?”
Amber tried to pull away.
“Leave her alone,” her father said. “I’ll get my wife.” The man relaxed his grip.
“Crystal?” her father called.
Her mom came slowly down the stairs, glaring at Amber.
“This man wants to talk with us.” Her parents shared a quick look.
“What about Amber?” her mother said.
“The girl stays for now,” the officer said. “Someone will place her later.”
Crystal Lane reached for her daughter, held her, weeping. What was happening?
“Find Grandma,” her mother whispered.
Amber was confused. “Find who?”
The officer shoved her mom toward the door. “The van’s waiting.”
“Mom. Dad. What’s going on? What have you done?”
They looked at her. “It’ll be okay,” her dad said.
I doubt that.
Another officer met Mrs. Lane at the door and escorted her to the van. The WPA officer pulled an eighteen-inch silver rod from a sheath at his hip and smacked Mr. Lane’s shoulder. Sparks spit and he fell. Amber stooped to take his hand but the man kicked her away. She stood in shock and watched as they threw her unconscious father into the van, shut the door, and drove away.
What had her mom meant? “Grandma’s dead.”
brandon leiber dug first-person shooter games, pulling the trigger and wiping out the enemy. But he’d never imagined the pain of a bullet spray to his own chest. Now his breath leaked out as he faltered on all fours, woozy.
He fought the blackness. His dad, Grant, leaned over, his short gray hair matted with sweat.
“You okay, Dad?” Brandon slurred. His arms gave out and he collapsed.
“Quiet, Brandon.” His dad held his hands, then drew him into his arms. “Gonna be okay.” He patted Brandon’s back. “God help us . . . please . . .” He slumped, holding his son.
hurry. keep moving,” Katy LaCaze said.
Beth walked along the sidewalk, scuffing. No questions, no talking. Her mom had warned her that someday she’d have to run.
She was prepared. Sort of. She had a small backpack with an MP3 player, a comb, and some soap. She wished she had more tunes.
Becoming a believer in Jesus hadn’t been easy. Turning everything over to him was even tougher. Beth had thought being a Christian would be better than this. Hiding, running, praying for one more day. That was all there was to life. If not for Mom, Beth would have turned herself in long ago.
She’d seen the commercials for loyalty rewards. They flashed on street screens, in stores. It would be simple. She would be given a new family, food, time for music—and dance, her one love—if she’d only stop running. But that meant she’d never see her mother again. She’d have to turn her in. There were no rewards for silence. Mere compliance wasn’t enough.
But whenever she saw her mom, Beth balked.
It helped that Uncle Wade sent text blocks of Scripture. She picked them up on her phone. Dangerous communication. If anyone found out, she could be imprisoned. Forsake your faith and live. Don’t and die. Simple as that.
“Living for Jesus is exciting,” Uncle Wade always said.
More like terrifying. Beth longed for the bliss of boredom.
grandma” june! Who else could Amber’s mom have meant? A back-fence neighbor, June treated Amber like her own granddaughter, giving her presents on holidays and baking her stuff for no reason at all. They weren’t related, just connected at the heart.
“I’m always here if you want to talk,” she often said.
Guess it’s time to take you up on th