It started with the last civil war. Or maybe it began long before that. My tutors told me stories about the 2031 pandemic. They had explained the original United States split into two factions; those who believe facts, and those who believe opinions. The rest of the countries followed suit; countries seceded from former unions and formed their own alliances. They’d beaten this once before; they weren’t going to allow a rogue group of nonbelievers to bring it back from extinction.
The United States split into two alliances: North and West, South and East. They fought bitterly against each other, each vying for power, influence, and territory. The battle began when the North decided to deny medical treatment to those who would refuse to accept the new vaccine. They called it population control, which the West agreed with. Why waste valuable resources on those who refuse to protect others? The South and East considered it murder; how could you value one human life over another? Both sides had their merits, and other nations took notice, which nearly resulted in a World War, until he stepped in.
Jonathan Nash, a stately, fiercely independent politician with blonde hair and cool blue eyes, who grew up in the South but educated in the North, successfully campaigned to create a new government. After over one hundred years of fighting, America was finally united again. After soothing all the wounded egos involved and removing the dissenters from power, his first objective as Head Counsel of the new government was redrawing the map. No longer would individual states or territories be squiggly shapes on a page. Counselman Nash devised a strategy to create symmetrical borders in which each new territory would have an equal amount of land and resources. He labeled these new territories The Four Annexes, splitting the map of the former “United States” into quadrants, and he called the new nation “Novus”.
The names of the Annexes were Liberty, Peace, Equality, and Unity (the capitol annex). Counselman Nash touted that these names reflected the new core values of our nation: liberty for all, peace with all, equality for all, and of course, unity as the primary binder. A new nation needs a new leader, and Counselman Nash was the man for the job. That’s when things got weird.
Now the Minister of Unity, Nash set about sweeping reforms to erase everything that remained of the former USA. He appointed a team of top lawyers, scholars, and philosophers to draft a new constitution, which he dubbed, The Articles of Peace. Next, they tackled the Bill of Rights, which then became known as The Liberty Entrustment. The sweeping reforms removed many of the complications and legalities of American life, but also did away with important privileges and protections.
Nash’s other reforms included policies on weather control, population control, ethical and moral reforms, educational system reforms, relocation, and more. Work and trade were all regulated by The Counsel. Media, literature, the internet (which never fully recovered from the infrastructure destroyed during the wars), newspapers, movies, television – none of it was beyond the scope of Jon Nash’s influence. To be Novian was to be a beacon of pacifism and singularity.
Jon Nash promised Novus would make us free.
It didn’t. That’s where I come in.
My name is Novalee Nash, and I was born for one singular purpose: to kill my father.
Novalee Nash was created in a petri dish by top scientists and military strategists. On the day her mother discovered she was pregnant, there was rejoicing; not because she would soon bring a bouncing baby girl into the world, but because the Uprising finally had the sleeper agent they needed to topple Nash’s entire oppressive regime. As soon as she was able to stand, Novalee was trained in various types of combat and weapons. She was also a talented actress, trained in the finest theatre school Novus had to offer. Novalee Nash never had a choice in becoming a killer. She was bred for it. It was her destiny.
On this, the eve of her 17th birthday, her time had finally come. It was all planned out; Novalee would accept her father’s birthday present at the large soiree he’d planned for her. Then, when he reached to embrace her in front of thousands of his closest friends and supporters, she would stab him in the heart with a double-edged dagger.
The Uprising thought this was a novel way to kill Nash; a tribute to the betrayal of so many other egomaniacal leaders that had been assassinated before him. They told Novalee it would serve him right to be killed by the person he supposedly loved most in the world; effectively stealing from him all the joy he had stolen from the lives of citizens by imposing his anti-democratic ideals.
Novalee had never given much thought to what would happen after her father was dead. She’d been training and waiting so long for this moment; she wasn’t quite sure what to do when it was all over. She’d never had any hobbies or friends; all of her time was spent learning, training, and obsessing over every minute detail of this day. How many birthdays exactly like this had she sat through, pretending to be “daddy’s little girl”? How many political events? Holidays?
Oh, how many times her stomach had turned as he showered her with affection, all the while knowing the evil that lurk in his heart toward the very people he took an oath to protect. Novus was a sham. To Jonathan Nash, sameness eliminated conflict, and that was the path to peace. However, power never exists in a vacuum – her father may have begun with good intentions but in the end, he sensed an opportunity for power, and he seized it.
Her mother’s bedtime stories rang more like calls to arms; Novalee couldn’t remember anyone other than her father saying, “I love you”. She was bred to be a weapon, nothing more – and she knew it. Her mother’s hatred for her father outrivaled her own. Anyone who would go to such lengths to get rid of someone must have justification for doing so.
Minister Nash beckoned for his daughter to come forward and receive her gift. She opened the small, pearlescent gift box and held up a tiny, golden, heart-shaped locket.
“Open it,” her father said excitedly.
Novalee depressed the button to open the tiny locket. Inside was a picture of the two of them; it was from Novalee’s first birthday. The photo depicted a smiling little girl sitting in the lap of her beaming father. If they’d been a normal family, this is the kind of gift that would’ve made a daughter cry. But they weren’t, so Novalee pretended to do just that. Jon Nash’s eyes crinkled and filled with tears themselves. What was he playing at? Did he know the plot against him? Did he know what she was about to do?
Nash leaned in and whispered to his daughter, “I am so proud of you.” Her stomach felt knotted. There was no backing out now. His words were meaningless. He was a tyrant; a scourge on democracy, and her every breath had come down to this. Novalee reciprocated her father’s hug as she reached for the dagger strapped to her thigh. Raising the dagger to her father’s back, she smelled the familiar scent of his cologne and cigars for the last time. He had been a good father, but a horrible leader.
“Goodbye, daddy,” she whispered, as she plunged the dagger into his back and through his heart. At that moment, the open locket around her neck smacked closed.
When she withdrew herself, Novalee was in shock. She was no longer standing in the ballroom of her father’s mansion surrounded by crowds of supporters. She was suddenly standing in the middle of an open field, surrounded by pasture and a gentle breeze blowing the smell of honeysuckle.
In the distance, she heard what sounded like a child laughing and cows mooing. She followed the sound until she came upon a small boy sitting on a milking stool.
“Good girl,” the boy said as he picked up his bucket and walked away from the stables. Finally realizing he was not alone, he turned to Novalee.
“Where’d you come from?” the boy asked animatedly.
“I’m not quite sure,” she admitted.
“Ah, that’s no problem. Do you need any help?” the concern in his voice was earnest. He continued, “you are welcome to come to the house and share a meal with me. I’m alone most days now since my ma and pa passed away in the wars. But I don’t ever mind extending a helping hand to a stranger in need.”
The boy couldn’t have been older than eight. Novalee nodded and followed him wordlessly.
“Where are we?” Novalee finally spoke up. She had been trained in espionage and any form of warfare you could think of, but she didn’t know how to have a simple conversation with a child. Nothing had prepared her for this.
“We’re in West-by-God Virginia, ma’am. On my family’s farm.” He smiled proudly as he walked her into the two-room farmhouse and sat down his milk pail.
“What year is it?” she inquired, taking a seat at the table as he beckoned her to rest.
“Well, I’m not learned much, ma’am, but I believe it’s probably 2089,” he nodded gently before setting about filling their plates with biscuits and white gravy, and a slice of some mystery meat on the side.
Novalee was perplexed. How did she travel back in time?
As they ate, the boy told her about his philosophies for life, politics, economics, religion, and how he wished there was no more war. Of course, a boy of this age didn’t know that’s what he was talking about – to him, it was very simple. “People shouldn’t be killing people, and people should all have the same shot at life,” he’d said through mouthfuls.
Novalee couldn’t speculate anymore. She had to know.
“What’s your name, kid?” she asked with a nervousness that was unfamiliar to her.
“I thought you’d never ask!” the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy remarked with renewed excitement. “My name is Jonathan Levi Nash, ma’am, at your service.” Then he tipped the hat on his head.
Novalee’s training instincts kicked in. She could kill him right now and spare the world from all the damage he would do in the future. What caused this kindhearted farm boy to become the heartless politician that separated families and destroyed their cultures? She could take the steak knife in her hand and kill him right now. It wouldn’t even be hard. A lump formed in her throat.
“I believe I’ll call you Miss Novalee,” the boy stated nonchalantly, apparently unaware of the internal struggle going on within his future daughter.
“You just look like a Novalee to me,” he let out a chortle. “That locket you’ve got around your neck looks like my Nana’s. Her name was Novalee, too.”
Novalee glanced down at the locket, conflict churning in her heart.
“I’m proud of you, ya know,” the effervescent boy smiled again, then went on without skipping a beat. “Making that journey all by yourself.”
“What journey?” she inquired with suspicion, her grip on the steak knife retightening. Did her father know what the locket would do?
“Whatever journey I figured you done took to get here, I ‘spoze.” He shrugged as he straightened out his ballcap.
“Just thought I’d tell you I’m proud of you for it is all. I know what it’s like to be all alone and don’t know what to do.” And with that, little Jon Nash went back to his meal.
Novalee gently sat the knife back on the table.
“Thank you,” she said, inaugural genuine tears filling her steely eyes.
“I’m proud of you, too,” she added as she took another bite.
Jon continued his musing, teaching her about farm life and recalling quirky stories from better days when his family was still living. His full, rosy face fell flat as a painful memory splashed across it.
“Y'know what I don’t understand, Novalee?” his bright blue eyes glazed sad as he asked.
“I just don’t understand people,” Jon bowed his head in disappointment. “People ain’t nothin’ like plants or animals. Farmin’ is simple. I put a turnip seed in the ground, I grow a turnip. I raise a chicken, I get lots of eggs.” The now sad little boy shook his head back and forth, his normally chipper voice falling to a crushed mutter.
“People aren’t predictable at all,” he continued sadly, “they don’t always turn out to be what you was expectin’ or hoping for.”
Novalee gave a small smile as she brushed the hair out of the little boy’s face.
“And aren’t you glad that’s true?” she replied softly. “Because that means we can be anything we want to be, Jon Nash.”