Sunday, July 1, 2012

Book Spotlight: Rhett Stuart's QENETIC

by Rhett Stuart

Reading level: Ages 15 and up
Paperback: 341 pages
Publisher: Missage Media (June 1st, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-0-9829547-2-0
Library of Congress Control Number:  2012937499


hi. my name is doug. i am a mutt of no ordinary intelligence. you see, my dna was improved in a genetic experiment. but when duke threatened to remove my communication implant, i decided it was high time i vacate the lab and hit the road. then i meet jude and olivia. i should have known this girl is a trouble magnet. when i tell them duke is heading up this corporate cult called qenetics with plans to change humankind’s dna— well. they want to stop the guy! no matter that a major flu epidemic is going on in 2026 and duke is a multi-trillionaire! i hope duke doesn’t use any of his mind control stuff to convince them humans need this dna update to keep ahead of artificial intelligence. these humans, they get their logic and conscience and intuition all scrambled up. i’ll just surf the internet for awhile and forget about it. i hope they don’t involve me in this mess.



She gripped the steering wheel and peered up at his bare feet firmly planted on top of her closed sunroof.  Smiling in satisfaction, she glanced back at the road.  The rear of a black van looming in front of her windshield surged her heart with adrenaline.
 “STEVE!!!” She pressed her brake pedal and screamed through her open windows, “HOLD-ON!”    
Her heart pounded with the thrill of another delicious disaster—it would all work out okay in the end.  She confi¬dently held the steering wheel and eyed her options.
“GO LEFT! GO LEFT!  GO…” he yelled back.
But I can’t run into that concrete median curb with those lit¬tle things sticking up, she thought.  
Her daddy’s face flashed before her as she imagined him examining the damaged undercarriage of her new birthday present.  She veered left just a little to show Steve she really was listening, and slammed on the brakes.  
Steve bounced neatly off of her front hood before cart-wheeling down the road at an amazing speed into the oncoming lane.  A small red sports car materialized to finish their act with a sick¬ening thud and…  
Olivia quickly paused her memory stream and stared unseeingly at the Malibu High School Mission Statement hanging on the wall across from her.  
Her thoughts drifted again.  So, day one of my senior year is almost over…  And it had started so wonderfully this morning, surfing with my friends…
 “Olivia, Steve’s gonna do his stunt today at lunch.  You wanna watch?”
“Cool!  But can we talk later?”  She glanced at Arnold over her left shoulder, and then spun her surfboard around and started pumping towards shore.  The surge caught her as she grasped the thruster surfboard and flipped on top, gaining speed as she dropped down the face of the large wave, carving up and down before cutting back over the top of the now foaming sea water.
Of course she wanted to watch Steve car surf through the intersec¬tion on the Pacific Coast Highway near their high school.  After all, Steve wasn’t just anybody; he was one of her surfing buddies.  Hey, I can take some of them down to see him now that I have my new car...
Only when they had gotten there no one else was will¬ing to use their parent’s car.  They had all looked at Olivia leaning against her new birthday present.  So, her mind skipping over potentially negative consequences, she quickly considered it would all be over within a few minutes, her friends would be impressed, and she’d have a little something for her resume.  And—she’d look cute on the YouTube video in her Mini Cooper.  That would be a definite plus.
Then Steve had given her that quick rundown while they drove down the Pacific Coast Highway.  What was it he had said?  It was just after he gave me that penetrating look of his… Oh, yeah, now I remember… 
“Olivia you listening?  Hey, I need eye contact!  Okay… good… now, uh, —look back at the road.  After we do the u-turn on PCH you gotta get up to fifty miles an hour one block before the intersection, then I’ll climb up through the sunroof and you close it.  You just coast through the inter¬section as I stand up and wave.  But please whatever you do, please please don’t….”  
The cool ocean breeze blowing through her open win¬dows and sunroof had elevated her mood.  Steve was with her, and her friends were waiting to watch their stunt.  
Life is so good, she had thought, watching him talk so seri¬ously during such a fun outing.  She happily smiled and nodded her head to let him know she had been listen-ing.  
And it had gone so well until that black van changed into the left lane.  Her left lane.  No good reason for it, other than the slow moving traffic in the right lane.  And the left lane was the one Olivia was supposed to stay in when Steve was standing on her sunroof.  But with the van’s unexpected lane change, well…
Olivia tried again to block the image of Steve flipping over the top of her hood.  
At least it was pretty spectacular and should get decent traffic on YouTube…
“Okay, Olivia—come.” 
The voice interrupting her thoughts brought her flut¬tering back to yet another dilemma.  The principal beck¬oned with his thick hand, waving her towards the open door behind him.  She slowly arose from the cracked vinyl bench, resolved to remain serene and calm.  Her parents sat inside on new maroon leather chairs with tight smiles.  She assured herself they still loved her.  She knew they did.
“Olivia, I’m sure you understand why you need to be suspended for a few weeks. We just can’t tolerate that kind of conduct during school hours.  The District would frown on my letting you off with no consequences.”
She nodded slowly, waiting an appropriate twenty seconds before responding— “It’s what I want to do with my life.”
The principal frowned.  “Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with a boy standing on top of your car?”
She smiled.  “Stunt driving!”
“It’s simply illegal to drive twenty miles over the speed limit with somebody standing on top of your car.  Regard¬less of what you call it.”
“I thought this was a collaborative community to help prepare for our careers.”  Reading the Malibu High Mission Statement outside the office was most helpful!  I wonder why I didn’t notice it until now.
“Honey, stuntwomen don’t make that much, consider¬ing their medical expenses and disabilities,” said her mother.  “And I don’t want you hobbling around in your thirties.”
“Well, the good ones do all right, and how’re we gonna get a start unless we practice somewhere?”
The principal frowned again, but a slight smile threat¬ened the corners of his stern expression. “There are better places than the Pacific Coast Highway!”
Mitigate your circumstances to minimize the punitives.  This situation calls for humility.  “I suppose you are right, I wish I’d thought of that sooner.  It all happened so fast, you know.  I just need to think more critically.  I am sorry for the trouble I’ve caused you all.”
Her father leaned towards the principal with a smile, “How about just making it the rest of this week?”
“Okay, deal!  I am so glad to have this resolved peace¬ably…” The principal slide a paper and pen across his desk towards her parents.  
 “Let me get the door for you…”  Her father walked briskly past her and opened the office door.  They walked through the empty lobby, and into the grey evening fog.  
“Dad, I am sorry!  I…”
Her father motioned with his hands as they walked across the campus towards his car. “Forget it, Olivia, it’s part my fault.  I just haven’t been there for you.  But I must say you have a magnetic personality when it comes to attracting trouble.  Now…  You certainly won’t be driving your new car this week while you’re suspended.”
On Wednesday she peered around the thick wooden door.  Steve lay staring out of the dark window at the late-evening traffic driving past the hospital.  The wall mounted video monitor soundlessly projected blue light into his darkened room.  Her stomach suddenly twisted and she felt ill.  She steadied herself and gave her warmest smile while smoothly squeezing her lithe body through the mostly closed door without touching it.
“How you do’in— Steve?”
“Uh, the facts speak for themselves—.”  
He motioned towards his propped up leg.
“Yeah, I am so sorry you got hurt.  But you did get some nice air!”  She gave her warmest smile again, maybe even warmer than her warmest smile.  “Where should I sign your cast?”
“I can’t believe you hit your brakes for that van!”
Olivia’s smile waned.  She stared in disbelief.  “I didn’t want to hit them!  The right lane was blocked!” 
“There was plenty of room to go around that black van on the left side!”
“There was a car coming at me in that lane!  It was the red one— the one you hit.” 
“The median stupid!  You could have gone up on the median!” said Steve.
“And then hit the concrete curb and those little stick-up things?”
“Olivia, come on!  They’re little flaps that bend over so people can drive over ‘em!”
“Steve, look… I’m really really sorry about what hap¬pened, but you were the one who wanted to do it, I just offered to drive.  I didn’t….”
“Didn’t what— Olivia?”
“Didn’t want to… well… I thought you’d be okay, you know.  I saw that concrete curb coming up, so, well…  I didn’t think my dad would want me to mess up my new car!  So like, well…  Why didn’t you just hang on?”
“Hang onto what?!  You have got to be kidding me!  There is nothing to hang onto when you car surf!  Didn’t want Daddy getting upset about your undercarriage getting scraped up….”  Steve laid his head back against his reclining hospital bed in disgust, and added, “Just offered to drive...  Yeah, you’ll never make it Olivia.  Stuntmen take chances and come out winning.  Losers hurt people Olivia.  Congratulations.  You saved your insurance com¬pany some money.”  
He glared at her.
“Don’t get all aggro on me Steve.  It was an accident.”
“You were trunpunx.”
Olivia’s face flushed red. “I was epic, and I did what you said. You… you totally bailed.  Why didn’t you just land on your feet?”
Steve’s eyes glinted. “You don’t even know Olivia!  You can’t brake hard with somebody up top!  My leg is broken in nine places, I have chipped vertebrae, three broken ribs, and I’m gonna be lying in bed for a looong time.  Your car roof wax isn’t too grippy Olivia.  What’d ya think would happen when you hit your brakes!  You had a person up there!  I…  I cannot fathom why you still do not understand that!”  
His face definitely looked very dark, so she took a deep breath and tried another tactic.  She smiled.  “OK Steve, I’ll have some Xtrak installed up there ‘specially for you.”
“Won’t be a next time with you Olivia!  I’m not stupid.”
Her smile faded under Steve’s glare.  He turned his head towards the window again, watching the car lights go by.  She quietly turned and walked out of the silent room.  Her mom watched her walk across the brightly lit parking lot from inside their BMW.  Olivia eyed her mom’s charcoal black suit and then ignored her as she glumly sat down.  Her mom patted her leg and told the car to start.
“Honey, it isn’t all your fault.  Don’t be so hard on your¬self,” said Rhonda, turning to back up.
“I feel terrible about what happened to Steve. It isn’t about whose fault it is to me, it’s just…  He got hurt really bad, that’s all,” said Olivia.  A lone tear ran down her cheek as she stared out the side window.
Loneliness crept in as the rest of the week passed horri¬bly slow.  An ominous grey stranger, so foreign to her usual busy life, took up residence in her quiet bedroom.  Not any of her friends dropped by to visit while she was suspended, and just gave neutral responses on Facebook.
Must be messaging each other privately, she thought, still undaunted.  She decided to paint a wall mural in her room with some left over paint in the garage.  But the isolation taunted her with loneliness as the week passed depressingly slow.  She didn’t mind skipping her early morning surfing, since it reminded her Steve wouldn’t be out there.  And, her father had also banned surfing as part of her punish¬ment for the week.  
An uneasy inner feeling made her dread returning to school, and Monday exceeded her expectations.  Only Abbie talked to her.  More like blurted to her.
“Olivia, you were like, so totally cool, I mean, it was like awesome!  You should have seen it! And the cop’s face when you went by— price-less!  I was like sooo stoked….  Too bad about Steve though…”
“So, how many came out, anyhow?”
“A few…  Most of them like walked like the whole block to see it.”
“Wish it was like the old days before so many kids were¬n’t out of school with that flu…”
“Thirteen kids died over the summer with it from our school alone,” said Abbie.
“I heard that too!  It’s awful…  Our HealthyOne shots aren’t holding up that well with these new flu strains.”
“Why yah think I’m getting the cold shoulder— Abbie?” asked Olivia, turning her blonde head and green eyes to watch Abbie walking beside her.  
Abbie kept looking straight ahead as she answered.
“Steve got busted up real bad and some don’t think it’s cool.  Airena is like trying to dink your popularity.  You know, more for her—less for you.  Gossip and peer pressure, the usual…  Gossip about you not wanting to dent up the undercarriage on your new Mini Cooper.  I can’t help it if Airena wants ta be a snob.”  Abbie glanced back at her and shrugged, then quickly looked away.     “Look girl, I gotta get to class.”
Olivia cringed and kept walking.  
She aimlessly arrived a few minutes later to Trigonometry and gloomily walked to her seat.  Zack and Arnold were the only ones talking in the unusually quiet classroom.  Airena sat between them in a tan miniskirt, listening in rapt attention, displaying a deep interest with her golden lipsticked mouth slightly gapping in a wondering smile as she turned her head back and forth towards each boy as they talked.
“The big mama was fully mackin' some gnarly grinders this morning.”
“Yeah, I seen you catch a gnarly five-footer.  Styling man, styling.”
Airena’s eye caught Olivia and her jaw snapped shut.  Her face briefly grew slack before she turned back to Zack with a small impressed smile again.
“I bailed to not get locked in the washing machine.”
“Nice wipe-out!  I thought you’d pearl the nose of your stick, I was watch’n for a little mullering.”
“Sorry to disappoint.”
“Let’s go scrut some grunts off campus.  You got lunch next period?”
 “Five-foot isn’t exactly gnarly, guys!”  Olivia tried to make her voice friendly and confident, but it twanged with nervousness.  The boys slowly turned their heads towards her.  Airena looked away.  
“Mind if I go to lunch with you guys?” Olivia added.  
They silently looked towards Airena as she deeply sighed while examining her fluorescent fingernails.
“Uh, why…  Sure Olivia!  Wanna surf on top of my car, stunt lady?  I’ll even put some Zogs on for ya,” said Zack.
Airena snickered but Arnold smiled pleasantly.  Olivia put her head down, looking blankly at the math assignment that came up on her smart pad.  
Airena said, “Her daddy works for the multi-trillionaire who altered our DNA so she thinks she can do whatever she wants to us and get away with it.”
Olivia’s face flushed. “My dad worked for Duke Jersey’s company for years before the HealthyOne Shot was invented— Airena!” She took a deep breath and looked down at her smartpad again.
At the end of the class Zack simply said, “Latronic Olivia.”  Airena gave her a distinctly dirty look and followed Zack out. 
She knew. She was on the outside now.  
Tuesday morning held promise of clean waves with a strong offshore wind.  She religiously left her house at 5:30 am, her six-foot thruster surfboard sticking out of the sunroof beside her.  Her old surfing crowd was already in the beachside lot when she pulled in.  She eagerly pulled on her pink drysuit as her friends changed nearby.  Nobody looked her way or acknowledged her.  Except Arnold.  He yelled hello as he jogged past in an orange trimmed drysuit, adding over his beefy shoulder, “Some seriously heavy waves are going off out here Olivia!”
Olivia walked past Airena and a few other girls braving the brisk cool breeze to support their boyfriends.  Airena haughtily turned her back to Olivia and the other girls followed her example.  Except Abbie.  She hurried to catch up with Olivia walking across the sand.
Abbie walked with her until they were out of earshot, and then quietly told her, “You the one, girl.  But watch out.  The guys are a little aggro this morning.  Zack’s been like talking down about you.”  
She lightly patted Olivia on the shoulder and walked back to join the other girls.
Olivia ran out in the surf, quickly duck diving through the heavy oncoming waves.  A large wave caught her inside of it and rolled her to the sandy ocean floor.  She came up spitting salt water as Zack bailed off his surfboard by her.
“Don’t be such a paddlepuss, Olivia.”  Zack paddled back out beside her.  His muscled arms rippled through his yellow trimmed drysuit while duck diving the waves beside her.  “What you doing out here girl?  Ain’t cha clucked of big waves? A gremmie like you oughta stay out of this dangerous surf.”
“Actually,” said Olivia, “I’m quite amped to finally be out here.  I’ve been cooped up way too long.”
“Not as long as Steve!”
“I know.  I feel terrible about it.”
“Good!  Just letting you know,” said Zack.  “The guys are doing a party wave together and you’re not invited.  Nobody wants to swallow the chowder.”  
He stared at her.  
Olivia ignored him and got into the lineup of boys lounging on their surfboards waiting for the next good wave.  She looked around but unfortunately there weren’t any other girls that morning.  Zack paddled up behind her in the lineup.
A large incoming set came with one large promising swell, and all the boys started paddling.  Zack is dropping in on me, how rude!  Uh oh, they are doing the party wave now, better stay out of it.  She waited for the next wave and, after catching it alone, ended up last behind Arnold in the lineup.  Zack floated on the other side of Arnold and gave her a stern meaningful look.  
Arnold laid his head on his surfboard and smiled at her.  “I am so stoked, these waves are surreal!  Wanna join us?  You can surf next to me at the end.  Forget Zack.”
“Sure!” She gave him a smile, feeling the adrenaline rush of yet another exciting challenge.  When the next large wave loomed up, they all caught it together, dropping down the wave face.  Zack glared at her, turned towards her above a surprised Arnold, and cut over the nose of her surfboard.  All within six seconds.  Her board dug into the water and did a tail shift.  She got air, going feet over head, her surfboard somersaulting as it followed the pull of her leg leash.  She hit the side of the wave on her back and got locked in the surge, tumbling around and around in the washing machine motion of the heavy wave before finally coming up, gasping and spitting.  
Zack already stood in the waist-deep water near her.  
“Did ja like eating it girl?  Might need a little Chinese wax job on your stick there.”
“You are so rude,” said Olivia.
“Try telling that to Stevie!  You know why he isn’t out here? —Your little mess up.”
“It’s not your business.  Arnold invited me.”
“Well, I had already uninvited you.  I told you before, no dropping in on our lineup.”
“I was waiting my turn and Arnold invited me on the party wave.”
“You’re a snaking junk yard dog— Olivia.”
She slowly paddled out behind Zack, still undaunted.  The strong breeze died as her excitement of an early morning surf with friends evaporated and gloom crept in.  She gazed up at the grey sky.  Life is just something to get through sometimes.   Another large set of waves showed promise, but the wind was gradually shifting into an onshore direction, first gentle and then stronger.  
Arnold looked at his watch.  “Seven am guys; this is the last party wave.”  They started paddling together, but Olivia stayed back, not wanting another confrontation.
The wave rose uncertainly and she yelled, “Wave may dump you guys!” as they rose in unison onto the decks of their surfboards, catching the drop down the large wave.  The wave quickly blew out in the face of a now strong onshore wind and gripped them in its watery fist with a deafening roar.  Olivia watched in pure delight as they got locked into the collapsing wave—surfboards, heads, and feet churning over and over.  
She waited a few minutes before catching a smaller wave in.  Life IS good.
She sloshed through the surf and walked across the sand with her surfboard tucked under her arm towards the parking lot. Her former friends sat together on round, black stools next to a grey, lidless trashcan.  Zack sat on his board with his forehead resting on his knees and arms wrapped around his bent legs.   Arnold was explaining, “Zack straddled his rail.” 
They all looked at her.  
She caught Airena’s eye and bent her own gaze down to the grey sand.  When she looked back up Airena was stiffly walking straight towards her, intently staring.  She stopped in front of Olivia and blocked her way.  Olivia felt weak, her eyes fixed on the girl’s hostile face.  
Airena leaned forward until she was inches away, and hissed— “Kooky girl needs to stay out of the heavy waves or more people are gonna get hurt.”
Olivia froze, startled over Airena’s unexpected intensity, and silently watched her walk back.  The other teenagers still sat on their stools; half laughing towards Olivia as Airena sauntered back, patting Zack on the head.  
Airena walked up to her circle of friends sitting on the round black stools.  Turning to give Olivia one last dirty look, she sat down on the open grey trashcan.  
Airena shrieked as her legs flipped up and her arms involuntarily jerked up over her head.  She sank down into the trashcan until just her calves and hands wildly thrashed out of the top.  Airena’s scream faded as a roar of laughter burst from her friends.
The humor abruptly hit Olivia and she resisted an impulsive smile.  She turned her head and jogged to her car, concentrating on keeping a straight face.  She glanced over as she left the parking lot.  Airena had been pulled out, surrounded by piles of trash on the sand, and Abbie was picking off a few pieces of fast-food wrappers that had stuck to her shorts.
Olivia drove home in high spirits.  She finished her quick shower and hurriedly opened the bathroom door.  Her little sister stood in the hallway clutching her stuffed horse.  She gave Olivia a hug around her legs, leaning her head back to look up.  
“Olivia, I love you!  Always and forever,” she said in her usual it’s-morning-and-I-love-the-world voice.
“I love you too, Trinity,” said Olivia, hugging her back.  
But the hug ended up being a long one, so she patted Trinity on the shoulder and graciously escaped to get dressed in tan, khaki shorts and a white blouse.  She headed out several minutes later for school, but couldn’t dislodge the feeling that things were permanently different now.   
Abbie caught up beside her after first period in the outdoor hallway.
“Olivia, I think that is about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen!  Airena was furious!”
“Airena sure put on a show.” Olivia allowed a restrained smile.
“I wish I wasn’t such a hodad with the other girls.  Those waves were cranking this morning! —People know Zack.  Don’t pay any attention to him.”
“Thanks for your support.” Olivia turned towards Abbie with tearful eyes.  Abbie smiled and gave her a quick hug, and then walked away.  
The rest of her first week back was awful.  Her usual friends did a marvelous job of ignoring her.  Usually she ran into several of them throughout the day, but now she rarely saw any of them.  And when she did, she felt invisible, as if she no longer took up any space at all.  She confronted a few of her closest friends, but they denied any problems between them.  “Don’t know what you are talking about Olivia.  We aren’t ignoring you, Love.”  
But they were, and their denials made her feel like she was going a little crazy.  
“Abbie, it’s like I’ve got the UB2 African flu; everybody is shunning me,” said Olivia, sitting across from Abbie at In-N-Out Burger several days later.
“Olivia, I still like you!  It’s just, well, you’ve like gotten a bad rap lately.  I still need my friends too!  I just don’t want to catch any flack for your accident.”
“Abbie, if Airena is doing it to me she’ll do it to you.  Just takes the right situation and there you go— No friends.”
“Olivia, look...  I just can’t like do anything about this.  It isn’t a battle I feel I ought to be involved in, but, you are still my friend.”
“Yeah, a friend who won’t spend time with me except video messaging.”
They finished their lunch in an awkward silence.  After giving Abbie a ride back to school, they gave each other a short hug.  Abbie quickly walked away without looking back.  Olivia watched her yellow jumper suit disappear into the stream of kids on the sidewalk, and walked alone to her next class.
Her friendships had evaporated, and her despondency wasn’t hard to miss.
Her father stepped out of his home office. “Hey, we need to talk.  I’ve been waiting for a good time.”  He wore his favorite t-shirt from Hawaii and well-worn blue jeans.
“Okay, I guess now is as good as it gets.” Olivia dropped her school smartpad on the couch and flopped down beside it.
“I’ve got good news and bad news, what do you want to hear first?”
“I’ll take the good news.  I need some cushion for any bad news right now.”  She propped her feet up on the coffee table. 
“You won’t have to put up with the kids at school for the rest of the year,” said her father.
Olivia’s eyes opened wide. “Whaat!?  Miss my senior year at Malibu High??  Why?!”
“We’re moving to the Central Valley.”
Olivia just stared, mouth open, before getting out, “To the San Joaquin Valley?”
“Yes sweetheart.  To Essex, California.”
“But why Dad?  I can’t believe this!  Malibu is our home.  I mean, I don’t want to move to some dusty aggie valley town!  Dad, what about my future? I won’t have any friends, no place to surf, I…”
“Olivia, you can make more friends.  Agricultural people can be quite friendly.  Think of it as an adventure!”
“Daaad...  Starting a new high school at the beginning of the year, new people, the senior prom, graduation…”  
Her voice trailed off into a tight strain, tears welling before slipping off her cheeks.
“Olivia, please try to understand!  I have a job that needs me there.  I’ve tried to do this remotely and now the genetic research lab really needs me there in person.  The company is calling in us telecommuters—I don’t have much of a choice.”
“What kind of genetic research, Dad?”
“Genetic engineering.  You know.  We copy segments of DNA from one species of plant or animal and insert them into another, allowing their offspring to indefinitely con¬tinue the DNA modifications.  And, you know, like making insulin.”
“Oh… right.  But haven’t you been doing that for years?  Why move now?”
“Because now it is getting much more complicated now.  To put it simply, I need direct access to their molecular qubit computers for artificial intelligence simulations.  They haven’t invented a fast enough internet connection to keep up with them yet.  They just need me there in person, Olivia.  I can’t talk them out of it.  I’m sorry.”
“I hope your company is moving us up there for a very good reason.”
Richard laughed. “So do I.  Duke has this siege type mentality, just doesn’t give up!  I get his point but I still don’t want to move.  Believe me; I’ve tried to get out this!”
“Duke Jersey wants you to move?”
Richard looked very pleased.  “I’ll be working directly with Duke at the lab on a genetic cure for the UB2 African flu— an anti-flu serum.”  
“You will?!  That’s quite an honor, isn’t it?”  
“It sure is.  Duke’s the most brilliant scientist of all time.  I’ve worked with him for years, very intelligent and witty.”
“I know Dad.  Most of the kids at school know you work for him.”
“He’s the Steve Jobs of genetics.”
Olivia looked blankly back at her father. “Steve Jobs?”
“He was famous in my time, the brains behind Apple.  He got smartpads going.”
“The company that Banana bought out.”
“Oh.”  Starting a new school.  How awful.
“Now, don’t worry about starting a new school.  We plan on having you do home study the rest of the year. Your mother is taking several months off from work, and she is resolved to do a fine job with your last year.  She just needs a break from her work.  I’ll help out also but I think you’d agree your mother is the best candidate.”
Olivia gave him her best cardiac arrest look.  “Home school?”
“Yes honey.”
 “No way,” she said, her green eyes tearing.
“Now Olivia, you think this over a little.  We can put you in the Essex high school if you want—.  They haven’t even started yet; it starts a few weeks from now.”  Richard sighed deeply.  “It would just be very nice to keep trouble away from you while I get settled into the lab.”
Olivia trudged upstairs to her room and closed her door.  She collapsed on her bed with an exasperated sigh.
A depressing real estate sign advertising tours for pre-qualified buyers was planted in front of their home on Thursday, and the week crawled as they packed up.  She decided to go for a walk with Trinity after a heavily perfumed potential buyer complimented the mural painting in her bedroom.
Two weeks later she followed her parents out of the Los Angeles Basin and over the Ridge Route.  Coming down the Grapevine on Interstate 5, she gazed over the San Joaquin Valley spread out below her in a vast, hazy, flat patchwork quilt of crops. 
I wonder what this holds for my future.


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