The 16th Academy by Spencer Yacos | Blog Tour + Excerpt

Juvenile delinquents look for a second chance at life by entering Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization that operates in secrecy and has nothing to do with educating its "students."
I was thirteen the first time I stepped into Weiss’ office. Going through what I was, I certainly was not a doe-eyed innocent child, but I also wasn’t the unstable wreck I was two years later. At that point, I was starting to get really good at pretending. I was someone who liked to pretend things were still going right for me, even though deep down I knew they weren’t. I pretended not to hear what the grown-ups said about me and my ‘potential.’ I pretended to smile, even after my family was gone. I also pretended not to be utterly terrified when I looked Professor Weiss in the eyes for the first time.

He had a laid-back aura to him. His larger, somewhat bloated body didn’t sit back in his chair, but lounged in it. It never seemed like he was giving orders to us, but more like helpful bits of advice we were required to follow. His sunken-in eyes held no gleam, and his face was hardly ever tense or tight. I initially thought he was just a naturally lazy, carefree person who ignored his worries, but later I knew that he really had no troubles to worry about. Everything always went according to his plan, so there never seemed to be a reason for him to be excited or angry.

“Have a seat, Davy. What’s up?” he gave a polite, mild smile. He ran his thick fingers through his silvery blond hair, perhaps trying to adjust it. “I’m Auric Weiss, pleasure to meet you. I like that name, ‘Davy.’ My third favorite Monkee. We’ve had a couple Davids here before, had a Dave—a real jerk, that one—but never Davy. Welcome to Eastway.”

“Um, thanks,” I said, briefly forgetting my fears. So many questions swirled in my mind that I didn’t know where to start. “Are you the principal?”

“Heh,” Weiss let out a quick chuckle. When he finished, I realized that his icy blue eyes were glaring at me, reinstating all the terror I had before walking into the room. “Kids around here call me the professor. I’m basically just the director of things around here. You know, like, I direct things onto the right path and make sure the students stay on it.”

“What path is that, exactly?” I asked.

Weiss didn’t answer. Instead, he picked up a thick, yellow folder that was in the center of his desk and flipped through it. “You’ve got a very nice record, Davy. As I hope you know, Eastway is very selective of its student body. We try to make our pupils feel as comfortable as possible on campus. We’re talking a bowling alley, arcade, and private cinema stocked with all the newest releases. You also can drive to town any time you like, too. Can’t give you your license right now, but I’m sure the older students would be happy to take you. They’re real sweet kids, most of them.”

As I listened to Weiss, lingering uncertainty from what I had heard before began to rear its ugly head in my mind. “Um, sir—”

“After you have finished your five years here, you will be accepted to the college or university of your choice. We’ll watch over your career path from behind the scenes and make sure it’s just as successful as you want it to be. Here at Eastway, we believe connection is key. We have an extensive network of—”

“Sir!” I interjected, immediately regretting the decision.

Weiss frowned. His mild eyes studied me intensely before he said, “Don’t interrupt me, Davy. It’s common etiquette.”

“I’m sorry,” I sighed. “It’s just . . . I heard we have to do . . . things here.”

“Things?” Weiss gave another light chuckle. “Use your words, boy. All schools make you do ‘things.’ Sure, ours doesn’t perfectly fall in the academic variety . . . ”

“Yeah, that,” I said. My heart pounded, awaiting his response.

Weiss opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again. “I suppose the appropriate thing to ask, then, is how much do you know?”

I recalled what the tall boy with the glasses had told me. “This really isn’t a school, is it? Here, you go after people and . . . take them down.”

“‘Take them down,’” Weiss repeated to himself. “Yeah, guess that’s an appropriate way of putting it. Davy . . . do you know what justice is? It’s when a bad guy does something bad, and he’s prevented from doing it again.” He spoke to me as though he were talking to an infant.

“Bad guys?” I asked with strong skepticism in my voice. I had no idea where this conversation was going, and I didn’t like it.

“We’re not talking about the mad scientist on your Saturday morning cartoon,” Weiss countered. “Evil people. Drug dealers. Mobsters. Crime lords. Mighty and corrupt people the police can’t lay a finger on. At least, not without a little help. Help from people like us.”

“So you kill the guys? Are you serious?”

“It usually doesn’t come down to killing when we play our cards right. C’mon!” Weiss urged, “This is the opportunity of a lifetime! What person your age doesn’t want to be the hero, fighting the good fight, taking down the high and mighty who think they’re above the law?!”

“What can you people do here that the police can’t?”

“Well . . . ,” the professor shrugged innocently. “We’re an independent organization that works for private investors. Let’s just say our reach extends a little bit further than the arm of the law. Some of our tactics may not exactly be ‘legal’ if you want to be stringent about it . . . ”

“No,” I said definitively, standing up from my chair. “I’m not getting into any more trouble. Thank you, ‘Professor,’ but I don’t think Eastway is the right fit for me.”

“Sit back down.” Weiss’ voice dropped lower, and his smile weakened. Something in his voice had changed, and I detected the first hints of emotion, different from his laidback coos. One look into his icy eyes was enough for me to obey. “We’re trying to protect you,” he elaborated, pulling out another file from his desk. “Half the kids in here are in the same boat you are. There’s a criminal homicide case out there against you.”

“I didn’t do it,” I hissed. I had said that sentence at least a thousand times the previous day.

“It isn’t a matter of whether you’re guilty or not,” Weiss stated flatly, tapping the file. “There’s enough evidence there—fingerprints, DNA, phone records—to get a pretty clean conviction. Once you’re guilty, you’ll be put away for the rest of your life. I can’t stand that, though. Your IQ might be twice as high as your usual juvenile delinquent. You’re twice as articulate and had a future twice as bright as any other kid in your school. We want to give you that future back, Davy. Give you the life someone of your genius is entitled to. We can protect you behind these walls, but not in some state courtroom, exposed to the world. All we ask is that you use your talents for us and our noble cause.”

“I don’t want to hurt anybody,” I muttered, feeling my choices disappear. Now I knew how this conversation was going to end. The office walls around me seemed to get smaller, almost confining me. “No matter how bad they are, crime shouldn’t be solved with more crime.”

Instead of a smirk, Weiss smiled pleasantly, seemingly amused by my remark. “That’s very cute, Davy, but open your eyes. What separates us from them is that we’re willing to protect the innocents that they are willing to harm. I’ll gladly sacrifice a few of the moral fibers I have left if I can go to sleep knowing that guiltless lives have been saved at the cost of some of the guilty. The bad guys out there need to be brought to justice somehow, whether it’s through a jury, some words, or a bullet. I’m willing to take that extra step.”

“No,” I said, biting my lip. “I don’t want this, please . . . ”

“Davy,” Weiss urged, almost frustrated, “sacrifice today for us, and we’ll give you the brightest tomorrow we can.”

At that point, I didn’t want or care about a bright future. All I wanted to do was go back home with my family and go to sleep in my own bed. Wake up from the nightmare I was living—one with police officers and reporters and men in funny coats who looked at me like I was some sort of zoo animal. I knew that that was reality, though, and even if it meant that I was escaping one hell to be condemned to another, I knew that the Academy was the better choice. “Fine,” I said. It was a quiet, suppressed word, as if my body was hoping the professor wouldn’t hear it.

“Excellent!” Weiss exploded, clearly pleased. The tension that caked the air seemed to disappear as the grown-up extended his hand for me to shake. “You’ll make a fine addition to the Sixteenth Academy, Mr. Prince. Be smart, pay your dues, and you’ll be off to college before you know it. Enraptured by the future we’re giving you here!”

“Yes, thank you,” I said. Now that the deal had been struck, the more compliant I was the faster I could get out of that office.

“You wait downstairs and I’ll get some of the kids down to get you acquainted. Today, just relax and get comfortable with the campus. We can start training tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” I said, feeling increasingly obsequious. I stood up once again and turned toward the door, only to turn back once a new thought struck me. “Sir, what kind of training are you talking about?”

“Well, we’ll start off with the basics, I guess,” Weiss explained. “I mean, do you know how to shoot a gun?”
The 16th Academy
Spencer Yacos
Publication Date: December 1, 2016
Genre: YA Thriller
Eastway Academy, a shadowy organization steeped in espionage, valuesobedience above all else. Although a well-trained agent in his third year,16-year-old Davy Prince struggles to find his morals when every missionseems to put innocent lives at risk. How will Davy react when sabotage turns an already risky job into an all-out struggle for survival?
About the Author

I'm an 18 year old author and my first novel, The 16th Academy, was written when I was 15. I have been featured in and have written for multiple newspapers and magazines. For me, writing is all about characters. There can be a flashy, twisted plot and maybe an overarching message to the reader, but the most important thing for my stories to have are three dimensional and developed human beings and the conflict that stems from their encounters. I am an avid fan of professional wrestling for some inexplicable reason and enjoy movies and music more than I do reading. Don't get me wrong, I love a good novel as much as the next guy, but as far as writing is concerned my central influences stem more from Tarantino than they do James Patterson. One of the biggest goals I hope to achieve through writing is to translate what I feel from other media - feelings, passion, color, in-the-moment contentment - into my novels.
Ayanami Faerudo

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