Merged by Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl
Release Date: September 17, 2019
Seven of our country’s most gifted teens will become Nobels, hosts for the implantation of brilliant Mentor minds, in an effort to accelerate human progress.
But as the line between what’s possible and what’s right draws ever blurrier, the teens discover everything has a cost.
Scientists have created an evolved form of living known as Merged Consciousness, and sixteen-year-old Lake finds herself unable to merge with her Mentor.
Lake, the Nobel for Chemistry and Orfyn, the Nobel for Art, are two from among the inaugural class of Nobels, and with the best intent and motivation. But when Stryker, the Nobel for Peace, makes them question the motivation of the scientists behind the program, their world begins to unravel.
As the Nobels work to uncover the dark secrets of the program’s origins, everyone’s a suspect and no one can be trusted, not even the other Nobels.
As the Mentors begin to take over the bodies and minds of the Nobels, Lake and Orfyn must find a way to regain control before they lose all semblance or memory of their former selves.
This is a scene from Orfyn’s perspective that we cut (after who-know-how-many drafts to perfect it) to increase the story’s pace during the first 20 pages.
It’s only five-thirty, and her eyes are as sharp as they are at mid-afternoon. Sister Mo is already sipping coffee at the long wooden table marred with a thousand nicks and gouges, surrounded by twelve chairs on with side and three at each end. The kitchen is also at the ready: frying pans on the stove, tower of plates stacked on the counter, eggs and bread and butter waiting to be lovingly-transformed into breakfast for the kids of St. Catherine’s.
“Out all night again, you,” Sister Mo says in her thick, Kingston lilt.
I drop my canvas bag on the well-worn but impeccably clean, linoleum floor. “You know I can’t paint during the day.” We’ve had this discussion, like, a few hundred times.
“The devil prowls at night,” she says, rising to her six-foot height. “You need breakfast.”
“Thanks, but I’m not hungry, Sister,” I try. Even though she doesn’t like me out all night, she supports my obsession, my need to tell a story through paint.
“Nonsense.” Sister Mo springs to the ancient gas stove and clicks on the gas burner. She slices and tosses three pats of butter into a hot pan before cracking three eggs in. Pops and sputters fill the room.
I blurt out what I’ve wanted to say from the start. What I want the world to know. “I really did it. I captured The Last Supper!”
She drops a couple scoops of hash browns next to the eggs, and then lets out a long, disapproving sigh. This is as close to a curse as Sister Mo ever gets.
“Sister, I know it’s good. Better than good. And mixing the New York Rangers with The Last Supper may not be Guernica, but you can’t say it isn’t creative, and it just might make someone’s day.”
“Kevin, you think you’re doing something meaningful with your alley pictures, but it’s temporary. Fleeting.” Sister Mo drops two slices of bread into the eight-slice toaster. “You could paint something that lasts. Something people will see for hundreds of years.”
“I want people to see it now. Not only old, rich people with a lot of money to go to fancy museums and buy million-dollar art for their living rooms. Everybody. Where they live so they can see it every day—”
She dismisses my words with a wave. “You work all night, and it’s gone in months, sometimes days. You should go to art school. Really learn.”
“I’ve studied in my own way,” I say.
“You don’t know what you think you know.” She slickly retrieves the toast, brushes the slices with butter, slides the eggs onto a plate, adds mountain of hash browns, and sets the overwhelming breakfast in front of me.
Her deep-set brown eyes pin me in time. She stabs a long, thick finger at me. “Eat something, you.”
I’m exhausted and not the least bit hungry, but when Sister Mo says eat, you eat.
“Anyone see you?” she asks, surprisingly casual for someone who five seconds ago was arguing that I was wasting my talent.
I cram a piece of toast into my mouth and hold up a finger to buy some time. I don’t want to tell her about Rosa, but there’s no lying to Sister Moses, there’s only delaying the inevitable. Her eyes are glued to me until I swallow.
“Just a girl.”
“A girl? What about ’dis girl?” Her voice is a mix of whimsy and concern.
My brain needs three days of sleep before I’m ready to have this conversation, but there’s no escaping her now. She’s given me a huge plate of food, enough for a hockey player the night before a game. Nobody wastes food at St. Catherine’s. I’m not leaving this table until it’s gone, and until Sister Mo has squeezed every last detail out of me.
“Her mom was working, so she hung out on the fire escape while I painted.” I don’t tell Sister Mo that we talked all night, or that Rosa took a photo of Take This Cup. I also don’t tell her what Rosa’s mom does for a living. “Don’t worry. She doesn’t know my real name or how to find me.”
Sister Mo studies me, and I swear she’s been aware of every thought I’ve ever had. “She see the painting?”
“Yeah.” I recall Rosa’s face when I unveiled it. “She saw it.”
Sister Mo leans forward. “She like it?” It feels like she’s cataloging my every inflection, every nervous twitch.
I can’t contain my excitement, and a huge grin breaks across my face. “She really liked it.”
“Good, then.” Sister Mo smiles, eases back in her chair, and lets out that wonderful laugh that always makes me feel like all is good with the world.
Link to Tour Schedule:
About the Author
Jim and Stephanie Kroepfl are a husband-and-wife team who write stories of mystery and adventure from their cabin in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. When they aren’t dodging moose, their story ideas appear during their walks with their dog, who far prefers chasing balls to plotting novels. Jim and Stephanie are world travelers who seek out crop circles, obscure historical sites and mysterious ruins.
Instagram | Twitter | FB | Website
One (1) winner will receive a Starbucks gift card