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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6. Amarie Fender

The day goes normally. 571 gets told off by Even 125 for not having neat hair, but that's about it.

We walk home together, me, 763 and 571. Along the grey pavement, talking cheerfully. A large white van is parked behind us.

We talk so much that it's a few minutes before I notice the van crawling up beside us.

It's so quick I can't react.

571's elbow suddenly jerks and catches 763 in the stomach, winding her. She swings her fist round and it connects with my cheek, as two young men jump down from the van. One produces a greyish syringe and jabs it into my forearm.

I'm out like a light, cheek pressed to the gritty pavement.

***

'987? 987? You coming round?'

I gaze woozily into a pair of bright green eyes.

I recognize them.

I jerk upright in shock.

'Hey! Hey, it's OK! I'm not going to hurt you!'

571 looks at me anxiously. She's not in her outsized jumper and trousers and shoes anymore. She is wearing a skin-tight khaki catsuit ending at her elbows and just above her knees. A black weapons belt, a silver-grey body warmer, a pair of lace-up brown calf boots. Her hair still in the messy high bunches.

'Why did you - what - ?' I splutter.

'God, they're stupider than I remember,' someone spits. I squint into the corner and make out the shape of a young man leaning against the wall, arms folded, gazing at me distrustfully.

I am tied with ropes to a wooden chair in the middle of a bare metal box of a room, only one naked light bulb dangling from the ceiling.

'987, we are in the Free Name Organisation headquarters,' 571 says gently.

FNO?

'Oh my God,' I breathe. '571, what happened?'

'I'm not 571!' she laughs. 'I'm not a number, 987. I'm more unique than that.'

'You have a word name?' I gasp.

'My name,' she says proudly, 'is Rosetta Avery.'

I taste the first name on my tongue. It's a light word, a quick, pretty word. 'Rosetta.'

'While you're in this organisation, you are required to have a word name,' Rosetta says. 'Dan, bring the name book.'

The young man in the corner makes a "tchuh" noise and moves into the light as Rosetta unties my hands.

He has floppy, thick blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. He's tall and chiselled-looking in a black t-shirt and ripped jeans.

'This is Daniel Packard,' Rosetta says. 'Dan, give her the flipping book!'

The boy - Dan - shoves a thin booklet at me. I take it shakily and flip through it. Endless lines of tiny type covers the pages, quite a lot of words crossed out with pencil.

'Pick one that isn't crossed out,' Rosetta advises.

I eye up the first few pages. One word jumps out at me. "AMARIE."

I point at it clumsily. 'What's that?'

'A first name,' smiles Rosetta. 'Do you want it?'

'Yes, please,' I whisper.

'And your last name could be..............Fender?'

I smile. Amarie Fender. It's a fresh name, a sweet name.

I like it.

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