Authors: Nicole Sobon
Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Fantasy & Magic
Book One of The Emile Reed Chronicles
Copyright © 2011 Nicole Sobon
Second Edition Edited by H. Danielle Crabtree
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Cover image by Péter Mács - Fotolia.com
Cover design by Nicole Sobon
This one is for the outcasts of the world
It’s okay to be different.
I may have written Emile’s story, but there were numerous people that helped me to perfect this story. I want to say thank you to H. Danielle Crabtree. Without your editing services, this novel would still be a complete mess. You’re a lifesaver. I also want to say thank you to both Jacky Beren and Leslie Diaz. When I wanted to give up, you both reminded me that Emile’s story was worth continuing.
And, finally, I want to say thank you to my old InkPop readers.
This book means a lot to me. I began writing it in
late 2010/early 2011
, not entirely sure what I planned on doing with it when it was complete. Let’s face it, this isn’t exactly a book for everyone. And while feedback has been mixed since its original publication in 2011, there have been readers who have responded wonderfully to Emile’s story. To them, I want to say thank you. It is because of you guys that
I decided to rework this story
in hopes of making it better.
he small, black phone buzzed inside of my coat pocket. I did not have to look to see who it was. My mother was calling to see when I would be heading home. I didn’t bother to answer; I’d be leaving soon enough.
Tommy walked me through the front door, his hand never leaving mine, even as we squeezed our way through the tiny doorframe.
“Do you really have to go?” He sighed.
“Oh, stop.” I pushed him gently as I turned to face him. My hand pressed against his chest. I pulled myself closer to him, nuzzling my head against his chest. Tommy wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his chin on top of my head. I wanted to stay here, just like this, but I knew it was impossible. My mother was waiting on me; I should have been home by now.
The phone started buzzing again.
“Tommy, I have to go.” Slowly, he backed away from me, his blond hair shining under the moonlight. I stood there for a moment gazing at the boy in front of me, the boy whom I planned to start a life with someday.
Noticing I had not made an effort to leave, his lips turned up in a smile. “You’re doing a great job of leaving.” He smirked. He started to walk towards me again. His hands were out stretched as if to pull me back. But I needed to go. I was already running late, and I was not in the mood to argue with my mother.
“Sorry.” I laughed as I turned to walk down the porch steps. The sound of wood creaking followed closely with each step I took. “I’ll call you when I get home.” I turned around on the last step and smiled at him once more, still trying to force myself to leave. That was when the phone started buzzing again.
"I’m coming," I whispered, turning towards the dark street in front of me.
I began walking down the sidewalk, headed for an alleyway near my house. The streetlights were out, just like they were every night.
Were they ever going to get those fixed?
I wondered. Probably not. Fixing the streetlights did not seem like a priority. After all, they had been out for months now.
I looked down at the uneven and cracked sidewalk, my hands in my coat pocket. The hood hid my blond hair from view. The world around me was quiet as everyone sought sleep. There were no children outside and no lights on in the houses lining the street. It was pitch black outside, peaceful even.
The stillness crumbled as an engine roared to life behind me. Headlights flickered on, illuminating my surroundings. I could feel my heart pounding with fear.
, I told myself,
just get the hell out of here
The alleyway was right in front of me; I decided to make a run for it hoping to avoid the car. But as I approached the alley, the car began to speed up. I kept running, my breath becoming more erratic with each movement. My chest was beginning to tighten. I was out of shape and I felt as though I was about to hurl. I stopped to rest, unable to go any farther.
That was the worst thing I could have done.
The second I stopped, the car plowed into me, knocking my body to the ground. I could feel the warm blood pooling around me. "No!" I tried to cry out, but my words got lost in my throat. My eyes began to blur; my eyelids were heavy with exhaustion. I tried lifting myself up, hoping to find help, but I was unable to move.
Footsteps approached me followed by bits of laughter. Fighting to look, I saw two men stop beside me. Both were thin and pale. One looked older than the other, his face masked with wrinkles. The dark-haired one bent down to look at me, his lips turned up into a smile. “Perfect,” he whispered. The man took to his feet, making his way back to the black sedan.
I could hear the trunk open, but I was not sure what they were doing. Why had they followed me? Were they going to leave me here to die? The two men were whispering. I tried to listen, but their voices were too low. Unable to fight any longer, I closed my eyes and lay in the blood pooling below my body. It was only then that I knew I was not getting out of here alive.
NOT A HUMAN
he leather straps constricted my wrists forcing me to endure the electric current soaring through my body. With each jolt of energy, the wires beneath my skin buzzed, sending a shrill throughout my core. Programmed to respond to pain, my body flung forward involuntarily.
“Pain is a natural reaction,” they told us. “It’s a part of being human. It is something you will better understand once your human identity is finally installed.”
But no matter how much I might look human, I was not.
I was a Program, a machine built to appear human.
The straps dug into my skin, tearing it slightly. I could feel the cold brushing against the metal surrounding the wires beneath the break. The tearing didn’t hurt, but my Program reacted as though it did. The scientists wanted to see how we react to pain. They wanted to believe we were capable of acting human.
This body, this skin, it was a cover for what I truly was.
“They do not have enough experience with your kind,” the White Coats said. “We just want to make sure you are safe out there. This is your world, too.”
At least, that was what they told me.
“Program Thirteen,” a harsh voice called from behind the glass. I could faintly make out a shadow of the man as he held his clipboard in his hand, carefully checking each box indicating I’d passed my daily inspection. I was making excellent progress, or so I’d heard.
“Your Program is coming along quite nicely,” McVeigh had told me. “I can only imagine how well you will do once your human identity is programmed into your core.”
I knew that McVeigh was happy with my progress here at Vesta Corp, but I did not comprehend much of what he said. What I did know was that as long as my treatments continued to work, I’d remain activated. I’d retain a purpose. That was all that mattered.
Looking down, I could see that the leather straps were hanging down, no longer constricting my wrists. Even without the straps to hold me down, I did not move. I remained seated, waiting for a White Coat to come strolling in through the door. As I waited, I noticed that my skin where it had been torn from the pressure of the restraints was flapping around. I’d have to pay a visit to the doctor again so that she could tend to the tear.
“You must find a way to fight the pain, Thirteen,” she’d tell me, just like she always did.
And then I’d nod, because that was what I was expected to do.
The truth was that I had no control over how my Program reacted to pain. Everything I did, everything I was – it was all controlled by the scientists. I didn’t choose to react. My Program, the one which they’d built, did. I twisted my wrist so that my palm was facing up, and I gazed down at the open skin. No blood. No bone. Only exposed metal.
“Program, please move towards the door to await your caretakers.” The scientist’s voice echoed throughout the room. “If I have to repeat myself, Program, I will see to it that Mister McVeigh is called, and I’m sure neither of us wants that.”
Slowly, I took to my feet, nodding towards the frosted glass as I made my way to the door. My caretakers had yet to come and retrieve me. Until they came for me, I was forbidden to leave the room. Programs were not to be left alone, especially to stroll through the facility.
“Freedom for the Programs means danger for the living,” McVeigh always told us. “We provide a strict schedule to ensure you live up to your potential. If you fail to comply with our requirements, you will be subject to deactivation.”
I'd seen a fellow Program be deactivated only a few days earlier. The White Coats seemed puzzled as to what could have gone wrong. She had received her daily treatment before heading into inspection.
“The inspection should have proceeded as normal,” the White Coats said regretfully. “It never should have happened.”
I remembered walking to the Pod room. The bright, white hall was empty and quiet for the most part, until she came along. Her voice, full of anger and desperation, broke through the silence. She didn’t sound like us. She sounded like one of them. She sounded alive, mortal.
“You can’t control me,” she screamed. “I know who I am. I know what it is that you are doing here! I will stop this. Do you understand? I will find a way to get the truth out there to the others!”
McVeigh assured us that he would take care of the problem.
That was the last I ever saw of her.
This was Vesta Corp. This was the place we called home. Charles McVeigh was the man responsible for giving us life, for giving us everything that we could possibly want. He told us that we were a part of something bigger than we could possibly understand; that we were the new race. And I believed him.
I didn’t know much about the world outside of these walls, only what McVeigh told us, and what I had learned from being around the White Coats.
And even though I was a Program - a computer built to act human - I still considered myself to be alive. Sure, there were distinct differences between us and the humans around us. For one, Programs did not bleed, nor did we have beating hearts. We felt what only what our Programs registered; what we were programmed to feel. We reacted as we are programmed to react. Everything that we were has been carefully constructed and monitored.
“Humans have a tendency to allow their emotions to overpower them.” McVeigh said. “Such behavior often produces terrible endings, and we do not want that, now do we?”
No, we did not.
McVeigh said that we would become the new human race. That all of us Programs were given a purpose. We had a reason for existing. What more could I want? I was fully aware that I was not human, but it did not bother me. I was alive. I had a reason for my being. Vesta Corp and Charles McVeigh gave me life. As long as I lived up to their standards, I would be allowed to live among the humans, truly beginning the journey set for me.
A group of White Coats strolled inside the room. “Come, Program.” The man reached for my wrist. “Off to your Pod you go.”
We traveled down the bright-white hallway in silence. The head White Coat tightened his hold on my wrist as we moved along, while the others followed closely behind.