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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2. Make Up

'What were you daydreaming about anyway?' asks 763.

We are walking along the corridor, hugging our books to our chests. People in grey flit past us, soft babble rising and falling.

'Nothing,' I murmur, but it wasn't nothing.

My daydream has been about my dad, 321.

'There you go!'

'So, does that mean I won?'

'Not quite,' 321 smiles. He picks up his knight and sweeps it across the board, straight through a gap and toppling my king. 'Checkmate!'

'Not fair!' I laugh. 'You were supposed to be helping me!'

'Never trust a chess opponent,' he grins. He jerks his arm across the board, knocking the pieces into the box. 'Rematch?'

'You're on,' I smirk. 'I'm about to open  big can of butt kick!'

My dad is dead.

He was killed in a Pod factory explosion where he worked, when someone added too much acid to the mixture and the whole thing went bang, killing everyone inside the building. That's why my family has a weird situation.

We're not allowed to separate from our partners after we've been paired with someone. To find a single parent is very unusual, and the only way of finding those is if one partner is either dead or an Odd.

763 shrugs and opens her locker, marked with her number. She takes out her Geography book and holds it up in a strange angle, hiding her face from the corridor. She takes something from her locker and I gasp. It's a tube of lipstick.

'763!' I whisper, scandalised. She ignores me and stares into her locker door, where there is a mirror I never noticed before. She opens the tube and puts the chunk of pinkish colour to her lips, sliding it across. It colours her mouth an admittedly pretty pink.

Make up is forbidden. Of course, there was the black market of eyeshadow and things like that, but I thought the Protect Evens stamped that out a few years ago. We think that make up hides the true self. Well, we all hide ourselves from the Evens, but we can't do it behind make up.

'Where on earth did you get that?' I hiss, as 763 tucks the lipstick away and wipes away the stray smears with her little finger.

'My uncle, 514,' she whispers back, shutting her locker.

I draw in a sharp breath. 514 is dodgy. Plenty of times he almost became an Odd. He deals in old used Pods, outlawed car parts, and now he apparently sells illegal face paint.

I take out my Pod. A Pod is a bit like a "mobile computer", as in the olden times it was known. It is oval shaped, and it's not flat - it's thick and curved. It's covered in bright shiny metal like very smooth tinfoil, and on the top is a small white luminous circle marked with a black "N" for Numbers. When you tap the circle, the edge of the Pod where it goes round and creases opens up and the whole top slides round. A bright screen covered in little icons appears - calculator, World Search, a list of the laws. A few select games as well.

I open my Pod and tap on World Search. I type in "make up". The top result isn't a web address but a big yellow banner with flashing scarlet letters - "WARNING: THE ITEM YOU SEARCHED IS AGAINST THE LAW". I show the Pod screen to 763. 'See? Illegal. Now please put it away and wipe it off!'

763 smiles sadly, wipes her pink lips on her jumper sleeve, and walks away.

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