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Excerpt from book:
WEARING A STIFF BLUE JUMPSUIT and handcuffs, Carl sat with no expression on his face and waited to see what they were going to do to him this time.
They were going to come down hard on him. The judge might even dismiss the case straight to adult court, and then Carl would be looking at jail time, as in real jail, no more juvie, no more boys. Men. Thieves and rapists and murderers. Shanks and gangs. Everything. He’d be lucky to survive a month.
The Dale County Juvenile Court didn’t look like a courtroom. It was just a narrow room with two folding tables set end to end. No judge’s dais, no jury box, no spectators’ gallery. Just the tables and a dozen or so uncomfortable metal chairs flanking them. Carl smelled new carpet and coffee. Fluorescent lights buzzed in the drop ceiling overhead. A furled American flag leaned in one corner, pinned to the wall by a podium pushed up against it to make room.
He avoided eye contact with his foster parents, who sat at the other end of the table, next to Ms. Snyder, the probation officer, and stared instead at his bruised and swollen hands—the scars on his knuckles reading like a twisted road map of the great lengths he’d traveled to arrive here.
Out in the hall, somebody laughed in passing. Carl heard keys jingle. A cop, probably.
The cop in this room looked bored. His leather gun belt creaked as he shifted his weight, watching the judge shuffle through a tall stack of papers.
Carl’s mouth was dry and sour with the waiting. Directly across the table, the judge picked up a white Styrofoam cup. Then he put it down and set some papers to one side of the others. Then he looked up. He had watery eyes and deep lines in his face. His hair was a gray mess, and he needed a shave. Despite his robe, he looked more like a burned-out math teacher than a judge. Looking again at the white cup, he finally spoke.
“Could somebody please get me another cup of coffee? Velma? Would you mind?”
A tall woman said okay and stood up and left the room.
“You are an orphan,” the judge said, turning his attention to Carl.
“It says here your father was a police officer?”
“And what does that make you?”
Chief Watkins snorted. “I’m the damned sheriff.”
“Language, Chief. I’d hate to have to find you in contempt of court.”
Carl read the men’s voices: just a pair of good old boys, having a little fun while they sat one more case together.
Chief Watkins nodded. “Sorry, Your Honor.”
“That’s all right.” Then, looking up at Carl, he said, “You’re kind of a hard-ass, aren’t you, son?”
Chief Watkins cleared his throat.
“It’s all right, Chief. It’s my court. I’ll be in contempt if I see fit. Answer the question, son. You fashion yourself a hard-ass?”
Carl shrugged. “I don’t mean to be.”
“You don’t mean to be.”
“And you know what that sounds like to me?”
“That sounds like every kid who comes in here.” He looked at the paper. “It says here you’re a boxer?”
Carl nodded. “I was.”
“Chief Watkins used to box a little, didn’t you, Chief?”
“A few smokers back in the navThe inspiration for the CBS TV show Intelligence—a thrilling adventure that’s “Lord of the Flies meets Wolverine and Cool Hand Luke” (F. Paul Wilson, creator of Repairman Jack).
A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can’t seem to stay out of trouble—using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island.
Classified as a “terminal facility,” it’s the end of the line for delinquents who have no home, no family, and no future. Located somewhere far off the coast of the United States—and immune to its laws—the island is a grueling Spartan-style boot camp run by sadistic drill sergeants who show no mercy to their young, orphan trainees. Sentenced to stay until his eighteenth birthday, Carl plans to play by the rules, so he makes friends with his wisecracking bunkmate, Ross, and a mysterious gray-eyed girl named Octavia. But he makes enemies, too, and after a few rough scrapes, he earns himself the nickname “Hollywood” as well as a string of punishments, including a brutal night in the “sweatbox.” But that’s nothing compared to what awaits him in the “Chop Shop”—a secret government lab where Carl is given something he never dreamed of.
A new life…A new body. A new brain. Gifts from the fatherly Old Man, who wants to transform Carl into something he’s not sure he wants to become. For this is no ordinary government project. Phoenix Island is ground zero for the future of combat intelligence.