Numbers

Everyone in this new world has a number. From 1 to 789000, that is a person's name. The Evens are the police force, the government, the rulers - the Odds are the criminals, the rebellions.
I am 987. This is my story.

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11. Aim

Tess and I are Melanie's new official friends.

Once you get over her need for sign language, she's very sweet and shy. She apparently loves books, hairstyling and sketching. She showed us a few of her drawings and they were incredible - soft, quick strokes of black ink on creamy paper. She has drawn Rosetta, a smile lighting up her face. Pearl gazes up from the paper, looking sweet and innocent. And then Mercy, her eyes shining, her mouth twitching in a smile.

"Wow!" Tess says. "They're really good!"

A boy of about eighteen called Ignatius Beale - which is a pretty fanciful name for someone that looks like a walrus with glasses and acne - is Melanie's official translator. He translates Tess's words into sign language and Melanie's face lights up with happiness. You get the feeling she isn't exactly showered with praise very often.

Rosetta appears again, frowning. "New mission," she tells us. "You can't come, you don't have any training. Well, you could - you just need training. You want to start now?"

I nod. Tess looks eager.

***

"This is the gym and training centre!"

Rosetta is having to shout above the din. The gym is a huge box of a room, ten times bigger than where we met Mercy. Treadmills, weights, swords, knives, hira-shurikens, whips, guns, bows and arrows and targets line the walls. Two girls in their early twenties are on the treadmills, and a pack of boys are messing around with the whips, flicking them at each other.

"Pack it in, you twits," Rosetta says crisply, walking through the middle of the group of boys. They disperse respectfully. Either Rosetta has a lot of power, or she's just very tough.

"Let's see what you two are like with throwing knives," she says, stationing us by the knife rack. I pick up one of the smaller knives, weighing it in my hand. Tess goes right for the biggest knife.

"Throw them at that target," Rosetta says, pointing. It's a big round one hanging on the wall, an old-fashioned archery bullseye.

I block out the noise around me and raise my arm. I breathe deeply, focusing on the centre of the target.

My hand flicks down, releasing the knife.

It flies through the air and embeds itself, quivering.

I blink.

It's a perfect shot.

"Good aim!" Rosetta says, impressed. "You go, Tess."

Tess does the same. But her wrist wobbles too much and the knife lands in the third ring out.

I try it with the shurikens, the whips, the bow and arrows. It's all the same.

I have a perfect aim.

How?

I've never thrown anything before, except maybe a paper plane.

I'm even a better shot than Rosetta.

Again;

how?

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