Authors: David Estes
Book One of the Slip Trilogy
Copyright 2014 David Estes
Kindle Edition, License Notes
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Discover other exciting titles by David Estes available through the author’s official website:
or through select online retailers.
Young Adult Novels by David Estes
The Dwellers Saga:
Book One—The Moon Dwellers
Book Two—The Star Dwellers
Book Three—The Sun Dwellers
Book Four—The Earth Dwellers
The Country Saga (A Dwellers Saga sister series):
Book One—Fire Country
Book Two—Ice Country
Book Three—Water & Storm Country
Book Four—The Earth Dwellers
Book Three—Burn (coming January 2015!)
The Slip Trilogy:
Book Three—Flip (coming in early 2015!)
The Evolution Trilogy:
Book One—Angel Evolution
Book Two—Demon Evolution
Book Three—Archangel Evolution
Children’s Books by David Estes
The Adventures of Nikki Powergloves:
Nikki Powergloves—A Hero Is Born
Nikki Powergloves and the Power Council
Nikki Powergloves and the Power Trappers
Nikki Powergloves and the Great Adventure
Nikki Powergloves vs. the Power Outlaws (Coming soon!)
For anyone who’s ever been told they can’t do something.
PART 1: THE BOY WITH NO NAME
Past article from the
Saint Louis Times
Controversial Population Control Decree Written Into Law
Since the cataclysmic natural events referred to globally as the Rise and the Fall, American lawmakers have discussed various ways to control the growing population to ensure sufficient resources for survival. A five-year study has determined that the ideal economic and social population for the Reorganized United States of America is 504 million. As our great country is on the verge of reaching our ideal population, a population control system will be instituted on the 5
of December of this year. Prior to pregnancy, all couples planning a family must register with the Department of Population Control of the Reorganized United States of America, and pay a nonrefundable processing fee. After processing, each couple will receive a ‘pregnancy offset,’ which the media is casually referring to as a Death Match, someone who is likely to die in the near future. Only when their Death Match has died will the couple be authorized for pregnancy and child-bearing, thus maintaining the population status quo. This process has been coined Birth Neutrality, and is being referred to as ‘the cornerstone of our survival,’ by recently elected President Ford. In the event of an unsuccessful pregnancy, the Death Match will be voided and provided to another couple in need of a match. At that time, the couple may reapply and try again. Punishment for non-compliance will fall under the jurisdiction of the newly established Department of Population Control, which has been nicknamed Pop Con.
For more information on the topics discussed in this article, speak “Pop Con and you” into your holo-screen.
Have a comment on this article? Speak them into your holo-screen now.
JimBob006: I think this is a positive step forward. My grocery store is always packed and the shelves are empty. More people will mean even less food to go around. Something’s got to give.
CyborgLuvr12: This is bulls!$*!
LingLi8: Now I know how my great-grandparents felt.
GovHater: JimBob006 probably works for Pop Con.
ichael Kelly’s stomach is in knots.
It’s no different than he’s felt since his promotion to Head of Population Control, except that the knots seem to tighten with each word that his second in command, Corrigan Mars, speaks. “Finally,” Corr says slowly, “we’ve got a Slip.”
, he thinks, but he can’t say that. “What do we know?” he asks instead. As usual, he’s playing his role and playing it well.
“Not much,” Corr says. “Except she’s young, maybe three or four years old, female.”
“The doctor?” Michael says.
“Dead. He was particularly good at keeping secrets, even under our most sophisticated interrogation procedures. His mind was stronger than his body.”
Michael knows exactly what
means, and it makes him cringe inwardly. Torture. But he doesn’t show his revulsion on his face, his false expression stalwart and emotionless. “Just one child slipped through the cracks though, right?” Michael’s chest tightens when he realizes his mistake. His loose tongue. He called the Slip a ‘child.’ A child born illegally is no child, is nothing more than an enemy of the state, something he should know better than anyone.
Corr blinks once, but if he notices the error he doesn’t show it. Instead he only nods in confirmation. “There were others, but none had reached the age of mobility. The doctor started doing illegal births a few years back. He began slowly, as most of them do, but then ramped up operations as he gained confidence. The Slip was his first.”
“How’d we catch the others?”
“After the first, the doc started keeping records. He used code names and misdirection, but we managed to crack the code during his interrogation. From there it was relatively easy. The Hunters tracked every last UnBee down.”
, Michael thinks, hating the slang term more than ever.
“How many?” he asks, wishing he didn’t have to. Wishing he could walk out and never return.
“Dozens.” His old friend says it with a smile, like killing more children than can be counted on two hands is something to be proud of. When did the gap in their beliefs widen into an eternal chasm?
“Good,” Michael says, bitterness coating his tongue. “Catch the Slip. Use every resource we have available. Our careers may depend on it.”
The smile never leaves Corr’s blood-red lips. “Don’t you worry, Boss. We’ll catch her and we’ll kill her. Her parents, too.”
The moment Corrigan Mars exits his office, Michael Kelly slumps back in his chair, his body shaking with regret. All he wants to do is run home to be with his son, the boy with no name.
he boy doesn’t even know his own name.
At age five he wonders if it’s ‘Son,’ as his father always calls him.
“What’s my name?” he asks his father.
He knows his father doesn’t like the question because he won’t look him in the eyes. “You are special, Son,” his father says into his ear. “You don’t need a name. A name will only let them control you. Even the smallest and most unwanted seed can slip through the cracks and, against all odds, grow up to be a tall, strong, beautiful thing.”
He doesn’t know what his father means, but he stays silent. He sits on the bed and watches as his father pulls on his black pants, black belt, black shirt, black tie, black coat, and black shoes. Even his father’s socks are black. But he sees his father’s secret: His red underwear is like a brightly colored kite that someone has thrown a dark blanket over, smothering its brilliance. It reminds him of the kites he sees the other kids fly sometimes, rising over the sheet-metal fence surrounding the backyard. A memory flits through his mind.
“What are they?” he once asked his father.
“Kites,” his father said, standing next to him and gazing at the bright sky, shielding his eyes with his hands.
Mimicking his father’s stance and posture, the boy asked, “Are they magic? Like the dragons on the holo-screens?”
His father laughed, and it was like music to his ears—he hadn’t heard such a beautiful sound from his lips in a while. “No, Son. The other children are flying them. Do you see the strings? Look hard.”
Other children. He knew who his father meant. He’d seen them through a tiny hole he found in the metal barrier, just big enough for him to peer through, one eye closed and one open. He’d been trying for weeks to gather up enough courage to ask about them.
He looked very hard, but still couldn’t see the strings, which was strange because he could usually see everything. The kites seemed more like magic to him. He desperately wanted to run to his secret hole to look for the other children, but he didn’t dare.
The memory flies away, just like the magic kites.
Dressed fully in black—other than his hidden red underwear—his father is ready to leave for the day, to go to a place called work. Sometimes he calls it Population Control or Pop Con, too. The boy knows his father must be an important man there, because they always need him. His father never seems happy to leave, however, so the boy wonders why he goes at all. But he doesn’t ask his father. He saves that question for Janice.
As usual, Janice is late, looking as if she just woke up, with wisps of static-charged hair shooting out of a messy bun; and, as always, Janice wraps him up in the biggest hug of his life, even bigger than the one she gave him the day before. Even as he squeezes back, he wonders if one day she’ll squeeze him so hard he’ll pop.
“I swear you’ve grown three centimeters taller since yesterday, child,” Janice says, standing up from the hug. The boy’s not sure if she’s right, but those piercing blue eyes of hers do look a little closer than before.
“Can we measure?” he asks, looking at his father for permission.
His father smiles, but it doesn’t look right. His eyes don’t crinkle at the corners like they usually do. They look wet and glossy. But then he blinks and they’re back to normal. He tousles the boy’s hair and says, “Ask Janice. I’ve got to go.”
His father reaches for Janice stiffly, almost like the robots on his second favorite holo-screen program,
, and touches her shoulder. His lips part like he wants to say something, but then they close and bulge outward. He turns away and strides for the door, which opens from bottom to top with a whoosh as he approaches. He stops briefly and looks back. “Listen to Janice, Son,” he says. “See you later.”
“See you later,” the boy says, copying his father’s words because they taste so good in his mouth.
The door whooshes closed and the boy looks at Janice, who’s wiping her eyes with the cuff of her white, silky shirt. He wonders if there’s something in the air today that causes wet eyes, but his feel so dry they’re burning a little.
“Janice?” he says.
She finishes dabbing her eyes, flashes a quick smile that fades as quickly as his father’s smiles do these days, and says, “Speak your mind, child.”
The question about why his father goes to work when he doesn’t like it rolls around on his tongue, but he swallows and it disappears, replaced by a different question. “What’s my name?” he asks.
Janice closes her eyes. Her face is as blank as one of the white sheets of paper the boy uses to draw on, but there’s no mistaking the quiver on her lips, the tiny drop of liquid that squeezes from the corner of one of her eyes, like juice from a lemon.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “I just…don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” Janice says, opening her eyes and once more wiping away the moisture, this time with her knuckle. “All I know is that caged monkeys will rebel every single time.” The boy wonders what monkeys have to do with anything, but he doesn’t ask, because Janice’s eyes have that faraway look they sometimes get, like her mind has left the house while her body remains.
He sits on the couch and waits for it to pass.
After a few minutes she flinches, as if startling from a heavy sleep. “Let’s get you measured,” she says, forcing a smile.
She was right. He
grown three centimeters since the last time they marked his height on the wall by the incinerator.
But she never answers his question about his name.
When he’s six years old, they have a big celebration.
Everyone he knows is there. Father and Janice at the same time, and for more than the time it takes to say hello and goodbye.
It takes a full twenty-six minutes for the food-maker to prepare the cake, but he watches the whole time through the hazy window. He can almost catch a whiff of the smell on the tip of his nose. He can almost taste the sweetness on the tip of his tongue.
When the bell dings and the door pops open, he has to resist the sudden urge to grab the cake and shovel it into his mouth. His nose twitches when he smells the aroma. Having his father take away his backyard privileges might almost be worth being the first to taste the warm chocolate.
“It’ll be hot like burnt toast,” Janice says, reaching past him to remove the cake. “We have to let it cool down.” As she places it on a wiry pedestal on the counter, his eyes never leave the rich, brown form. It’s the same shape as everything that comes out of the food-maker—square—but it looks so much better.
“Why is it called devil’s food cake?” he asks Janice. “Aren’t devils bad?”
“It’s hard to tell the difference between devils and saints these days,” Janice says, pinching his earlobe.
He ducks and giggles, trying to pull himself up onto the countertop. Now that he’s six years old he thinks he’s surely old enough to climb like the kids he sees clambering onto tree branches. The ones he wishes he could talk to.
He struggles for a moment, his legs skittering against the side of the counter, his arms shaking with strain. Just as he’s about to fall back to the floor, a strong arm surrounds him and lifts him up.
He’s sitting next to the cake.
“It’s called devil’s food cake because it tastes so good it’s almost wrong to eat it,” his father says, a gleam in his eye.
“But it’s not wrong?” the boy asks.
“Not everything that people say is wrong actually is,” his father explains.
Like many things his father says, he’s not sure he understands. Why would people say something is wrong when it isn’t? But he doesn’t ask, because all he really wants is to eat the cake.
His father begins to set out plates and forks, but Janice waves him away. “Let’s just eat it,” she says.
“It hasn’t cooled,” his father says.
“It’s cool enough,” Janice says. “You first.” She motions to the boy. “Happy birthday, child.”
A hungry gleam in his eyes, the boy reaches for a fork, but she stops him with a hand on his wrist. “Not with that,” she says. “Use your hands.”
The boy’s eyes widen, and for a moment he wonders if she’s testing him, but she only nods toward the cake, a wild look in her eyes. The boy grins so wide he thinks his face might split in half.
“Janice,” his father says.
“It’s okay, Michael,” Janice says. Michael? Is that his father’s name? He’s never heard Janice call him that. He can’t remember her ever calling him anything.
But he can barely think about that, can barely think about anything but the tantalizing smell of the devil’s food cake resting next to him.
Before his father can stop him, the boy reaches over and pushes his fingers into the cake, feeling the gooey warmth surround his skin. When he pulls his hand back, a fist-sized clump breaks apart. With unabashed glee, he stuffs it into his mouth. Although he opens his lips as widely as he can, smears of chocolate rub onto the skin around his mouth. He can even see a dab of chocolate hanging from his nose. He doesn’t care about any of that though, because…mmmmm!
It’s the best taste he’s ever tasted. Better than spaghetti—the red and white and brown squares that are usually his favorite food.
Unexpectedly, his father laughs. “Son, it’s all over your face. Let me help you.” He reaches for him with a cloth, but Janice’s hand shoots out faster, grabbing a handful of cake and smashing it into his father’s mouth.
“Janice!” Michael screams. At first his tone is one of protest, but as he licks his lips it morphs into one of delight. “God Almighty, this is…heavenly,” he says. “I’ve never tasted anything like it.”
Then, quick as a beam of light, he grabs a clump of chocolate and pushes it into Janice’s face. The boy stares, astonished, trying to hold back the laugh that rises up in his chest. Janice’s face looks as if she’s been playing in the mud.
To the boy’s utter shock, she laughs, her signature high squeal. It’s the truest laugh he’s ever heard, borne by a grown woman with a chocolatey smile.
For the next half hour they eat cake with their hands, oblivious to how silly they must look with chocolate all over their mouths.
Spent with his father and Janice, it’s the best day of the nameless boy’s short life.