Operation Raze (Novel Excerpt)


Isabella Fountain '25, Author

 It was eight o’clock sharp. The doors clicked shut and the windows blacked out. Everyone’s credit-counter displays turned off. The lighting reduced except for the platform, revealing a wiry, middle-aged redheaded woman in a purple dress. A deafening silence veiled the once-lively mass of purple-uniformed teenagers.

“Good morning, ” she chimed. The students replied the same as one body.

“Welcome to the first day of term! I am Mrs. Griffin, your homeroom teacher for this year.” Her voice was endearing yet taut, almost matronly. She twirled her pointer in her hands as she meticulously paced the platform. “Let us begin with our pledge.”

“We, the Model Citizens of Koppeltown, swear allegiance to the supreme cause of pursuing justice. Never will good deeds go unrewarded nor evildoing unpunished, no matter the cost, lest we abandon order for disorder. This is the demand of the Government, that righteousness is the goal of mankind, beginning with us as its beacon to enlighten the world. Let us, then, place no comforts, things, or people before it, and all things in its way must be destroyed.”

“Very well, as always. Now let’s begin our lesson on unity. Open the book to page 37.”

Around here, the ‘book’ is Kane Koppel’s In Pursuit of Wealth. Read it, study it, and live it, and you will achieve success and foster goodness in society. James listened attentively from the front row, taking note of every concept. He was an exemplary Model Citizen youth, and his family had maintained the title since Koppeltown’s founding.

“Can anyone tell me what our great Leader said about competition?”

James raised his hand. “We should always rely on one another to push ourselves towards moral perfection, but trying to surpass our comrades in any other way is futile and only creates inequality. Attaining great character inherently results in success.”

“That is correct, Mr. Gillis. You explained that ex—”

BANG! An array of sparks and broken glass shot from the ceiling. Alarms blared and flashed, illuminating the smoke rising from pure black. James and a few other students rushed to the exits, pounding the locks until they gave out. They yanked the doors open, holding them back for the rest of the class to exit calmly. The fire, smoke, and flashing alarms blurred into one bright smear as he faded out of consciousness.

“James, my sweet boy! Wake up!”

“I’m here, Mother.” James stirred in his cot, only half awake and not noticing his credit counter’s morning alarm clock hadn’t gone off. “I had an awful dream last night. Something about a fire.”

“It wasn’t a dream, Mr. Gillis,” said Merkel, the district Chief Official. “I’m afraid it did happen. You fell unconscious from the lack of oxygen but did not show any serious bodily harm when the Doctors examined you.”

“Wait, what? What happened?” He sat up, finally taking in his surroundings. He was wearing a light blue gown, surrounded by monitor machines and several anxious relatives.

“The fuse in the Academy’s electrical system blew out, and the sparks caused fires in several classrooms. Fortunately, there were no deaths, but many were severely injured. We have reason to believe it was a planned assault from a crime syndicate, or worse, the United States government. Why someone would want to commit this monstrosity, that is beyond me.”

James’ father seethed at the news. He had heard the explosion from the Board of Education headquarters that day and alerted the Security Forces, but the damage was done.

“Whoever was on Maintenance duty at that school must be broke now,” he said to his wife. They both anxiously checked their credits, relieved to find that they had actually increased a little since arriving at the hospital.

Citizens,” said a magnetic broadcast of Koppel’s voice, “What occurred at the Academy was the lowest level of monstrosity Koppeltown has seen. The terrorists who committed this crime, these malicious lovers of greed, have resorted attempting mass murder on children to smear our global reputation for their personal gain.

Mr. Gillis clenched his fists, boiling with rage over the possibility of losing his son. His other children, Dawn and Eustace, shivering with fear, cowered into Mrs. Gillis, who was equally terrified. James, now home from the hospital, exhaustedly slumped on the sofa.

“We cannot allow the existence of any alternative credit system outside the Government’s regulation. Look at the evil it has already created, and imagine what is to come if nothing is done about it! By having an incentive to do wrong, people will gladly do so to abandon the equilibrium of justice and stability. Therefore, I declare that the barter of any goods or favors in exchange for other alike things is now among the worst level of offenses and warrants the loss of remaining social credits for the perpetrator and the rest of his household. The punishment for such heinous defiance of national harmony will force him to submit to the Government if he wishes not to starve.”

Officials’ patrol vehicles prowled the neighborhood. Of course, foreign currencies from unjust nations were already illegal. However, many Koppeltonians of lower standing secretly traded items and services they could not afford with credits, since their neighborhoods had far less surveillance. In fact, Officials regularly caught those presumed to have died in bankruptcy surviving off such networks in these districts. Now, rebellion would be suicide.