A century after a global nuclear war, eighteen-year-old Chelsea Thomas has spent her life living in fear of Newhome's paramilitary Custodians, due to a prohibited rogue ability.
In the past week, her twin brother - a forager - has uncharacteristically run away from home and work after the mysterious death of a teammate. Something has also scared her normally unflappable father half to death, and, their family is threatened with eviction.
But her brother's disappearance presents her with a long-sought after opportunity to escape Newhome, since only the foragers - all men - are allowed to leave the town. All she has to do is impersonate her brother long enough to make her escape while foraging out in the ruins.
But she never counted on the kindness of Ryan Hill, a forager new to the team. Nor on barbaric Skel attacking the team the moment she makes her escape. She has to choose between making good on her escape or saving Ryan and the others.
* Impersonator is Book One in a new trilogy set in the world of Peter R Stone's Forager Trilogy. Although it starts three years before the events in Forager, it is not a prequel. It will catch up to, carry on, and draw to a conclusion the Forager Trilogy storyline. It can be read independently of Forager.
As soon as Father burst into the flat, I knew something was very wrong. From my vantage point in the kitchen doorway, I saw him put his keys on the hook beside the door with trembling hands, and noticed he was breathing rapidly with shallow breaths. I wondered what could have spooked him so badly. He saw me and quickly averted his bloodshot eyes. That was strange. He always greeted me when he came home. Concerned, I watched him closely while wiping sweaty palms on my faded kitchen-apron.
"Finally decided to grace us with your presence, did you?" Mother said. In an open display of defiance, she didn't even bother to rise from the threadbare sofa near the kitchen entrance. Like me, she was three inches shy of six-foot, but was all angles, compared to my still developing curves.
"Remember your place, Wife." Father's voice wavered and he looked anywhere but at her.
"Dinner was ready an hour ago," she said.
"Hot or cold, with the slop you lot dish up, does it make any difference?"
"Try increasing my housekeeping allowance so I can afford more than just flour and vegetables."
"Stop harping on about money!" He never yelled like that. I wondered if something happened to him today. He was an hour late home, but that happened often enough lately. Sometimes he went to the Worker's Club after work and came home drunk. It's what he did on the other nights he came home late that concerned me. He would be sober, downcast, and his suit reeked of tobacco, although he didn't smoke. Our town, Newhome, banned cigarettes, but according to my twin brother, Brandon, plenty were available through the black market.
Tonight Father was neither drunk nor could I smell tobacco on his clothes. This was something new. Something bad.
"Why do you bring back less than a quarter of what you used to?" Mother spoke softly, but there was an unmistakable edge to her voice.
"I told you about the budget cuts at work. It was take a salary cut or get the sack." He blinked faster as his eyes darted nervously about the room.
He was lying. I could tell by his body language. I wondered yet again what really happened to his money. Was he blowing it on booze?
As my parents continued to bicker, I ducked back into the kitchen and tapped my fingers against the stained glass oven door. It was no longer too hot to touch. The roast vegies inside would still be warm, but that was a far cry from serving them hot. If we had left the oven on at a low temperature, they would be hotter, but we were going to be hard pressed to pay the next electricity bill as it was.
"Father's home then?" my sister asked. She was standing beside the bread maker on the kitchen bench. At fifteen, Karen was three years my junior, although slightly taller. We sported the same strawberry-blonde hair and brown eyes, but apart from that, you wouldn't have thought we were related. In respect to my face and figure, I was a true plain-Jane - or plain-Chelsea - if you asked my brother. Karen, on the other hand, turned many heads with her gorgeous curls, defined cheekbones, and fuller figure, which she somehow managed to accentuate even though she wore the mandatory ankle length dresses. It rankled me that it was 2120AD but the law required we wore dresses like those worn in the early nineteenth century. Clothing styles of the past two centuries were banned, as they were deemed too revealing and therefore provocative. Personally, I'd settle for a pair of jeans and hoodie like my twin brother wore.