Everyone gets the Mark. It gives all the benefits of citizenship. Yet if getting the Mark is such a good thing, then why does it feel so wrong?
Set in a future North America that is struggling to recover after famine and global war, Swipe follows the lives of three kids caught in the middle of a conflict they didn’t even know existed. United under a charismatic leader, every citizen of the American Union is required to get the Mark on their 13th birthday in order to gain the benefits of citizenship.
The Mark is a tattoo that must be swiped by special scanners for everything from employment to transportation to shopping. It’s almost Logan Langly’s 13th birthday and he knows he should be excited about getting the Mark, but he hasn’t been able to shake the feeling he’s being watched. Not since his sister went to get her Mark five years ago . . . and never came back.
When Logan and his friends discover the truth behind the Mark, will they ever be able to go back to being normal teenagers? Find out in the first book of this exciting series that is Left Behind meets Matched for middle-grade readers.
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By EVAN ANGLER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 Evan Angler
All right reserved.
Chapter OneLOGAN LANGLY, BOY WHO CRIED WOLF
The last thing Logan would want you to know about him was that he was afraid of the dark.
But Logan was afraid of the dark, and if you ever asked him about it, ever brought it up to his face and maybe teased him a little even, he'd stop you right where you stood and tell you it was for a very good reason.
It was because Logan Paul Langly was being watched.
He didn't know who, and he didn't know how. But every night, when Dad pulled up the covers, turned out the light, and shut the door behind him after demanding sweet dreams and tight sleep, Logan Paul Langly found himself on the wrong end of a spyglass.
So when Logan awoke with a start—even in the comfort of his own bed, even in the warmth of the late-summer evening that was anything but dark and stormy, the weekend before his first day of eighth grade—it was with well-worn urgency that he sat up, rubbed the sleep from his eyes, and scanned the room for signs of intrusion.
Tonight, there was only one. His window rested an inch above its seal, and a breeze dried the nightmare sweat from his forehead.
Logan couldn't remember if he'd left it open, but if you'd asked him in that moment, he would have told you he had not.
Had his father? Had his father walked to the window during their conversation that night? Maybe for some cool air in the midst of their heated discussion? Logan replayed the scene in his head.
* * *
He had been focused on his breathing, controlled and steady to keep himself calm. He had pulled the covers back but was standing a few feet away from the bed, just in case someone was under it, waiting for an ankle.
I'm too old for this, he thought, and he shook his head with just a little bit of shame.
"Whatcha doin', bud?" Mr. Langly said in the doorway behind him, and Logan jumped as if the words were a spider falling down his back. "Imagination got hold again?"
Logan nodded but didn't turn around. Instead he crawled into bed and pulled the covers high up over himself, curling up and facing the wall. He could feel his father sit beside him, hunched over and looking at his hands, folded and resting on his lap.
"You know," Mr. Langly said, "I think school's gonna be awesome this year. I think school's gonna be its best yet. You've got that government class ninth period—I know you're gonna love learning about all that stuff, and you've got gym and art and technology and—"
"Dad," Logan said, and his dad stopped abruptly. "I'm not worried about classes." The two were quiet for a minute. Mr. Langly wondered if he should take the opportunity to ask what Logan was worried about, and Logan wondered if he should say. But Dad pretty much knew the answer.
"The Mark, right?"
Logan stiffened at the sound of the word. Finally he said, "We're all turning thirteen this year. Everyone's getting it. It's just a matter of time."
Logan knew that if he was going to talk about this with anyone, it had to be Dad.
You did not talk about the Mark with Mom.
"Look," Mr. Langly said. "This year ... is going to be ... it's going to be great." But he frowned and sat still for several breaths, and Logan believed him less with each one.
"I remember when I got the Mark," Mr. Langly said, finally. "Just after you were born, when the program began. They give you a spoonful of nanosleep, so it doesn't hurt. You just go in, answer some questions ... sit back, and before you know it, you're Marked and on your way. It's nothing. Honestly.
"And then it's great! It's like playing your first hover-dodge game, or getting your first tablet, or going off to school, or ... I mean, you're free! With the Mark, you're free. You can get a job, you can shop for things ... if you want more juice, you can just go out and get a carton yourself. You won't even have to wait for Mom or me to come home—"
Logan rolled over and pulled the covers away from his head to look his father in the eyes. "Juice?"
"Or something." His dad smiled. "Why? What would you get?"
Logan refused to think about it, refused to allow himself even the slightest excitement over the Mark, so he and his dad had a little unspoken staring contest instead. They did this from time to time, just reach a moment of disagreement when Logan would stare, and Mr. Langly was a good sport, so he'd always stare back.
"You can't pretend it didn't happen," Logan said. "You can't pretend it didn't kill her."
And Logan's dad sighed.
That pretty much ended the staring contest that night.
In all of it, Logan couldn't remember his dad opening the window, couldn't remember the draft coming in and animating the blinds' soft rat-a-tat against the pane, as they did so ominously now.
So who had done it? Who had touched the window, and when? There had to be a reasonable explanation, but Logan couldn't think of one.
Why could he never think of one?
For years, it had been this way, off and on. He'd walk home from school on the familiar sidewalks of his town, looking over his shoulder the whole way. He'd finish homework on his lap with his back to a wall, his desk beside him empty and gathering dust, so as always to keep an eye on the room he was in. He'd brush his teeth at night transfixed by the door behind him in the mirror, his eyes trained on the knob that at any time could betray him, could turn or jump or jiggle. A quiet moment was one spent listening for footsteps, for leaves rustling in the fall or snow crunching in the winter. Time alone was time spent watching the movement in the shadows.
Being underage, Logan couldn't see a doctor without a Marked guardian, so at his moments of highest desperation, when his parents had had enough and didn't know what else to do, his dad would take him—drag him—to the Center. Logan would sit in the examination room, prodded and scared, while Mr. Langly said to the doctor things like "We don't know what's wrong with him ..." and "Ever since his sister ..." just exactly as if Logan wasn't there, wasn't sitting right there and crying silently as the doctor shone lights at him and shook his head coolly and clicked his tongue, saying words like traumatized, paranoid, delusional.
Over time, Logan learned to carry his fear. He learned to swallow it, deny it, live with it. His accounts of faces in windows and footprints on floors, of sounds at night and doors opening and closing on their own, of being followed or tracked or who-knows-what-else, had all been brushed off so many times by his parents and teachers and adults of any kind that sometimes Logan wondered what was real and what was imaginary.
But his sister had died. That happened. And ever since, Logan was about one floorboard creak away from certainty that someone, somewhere, was out to get him too.
His parents didn't know it, but Logan kept a flashlight hidden under his pillow. The switch to the ceiling light was all the way across the room, and he would have had to get up out of bed to turn it on. That was unacceptable. So Logan sat, now, back to the wall, covered in blankets up to his neck, and his hand braced the flashlight against his cheek to steady the beam of light as he swept it around each corner of the room.
There was nothing immediately out of the ordinary, except for the opened window. No mud on the floor, no stuff out of place ...
He turned the flashlight around, pointing the unlit end of it away from him, and flipped a switch along its handle. The main light turned off, and out of its other end, the violet haze of a black light began to glow.
Black lights were useful. They revealed lint, smudges, blood, traces not seen by the unaided eye ... and most importantly to Logan, they showed nanodust. There wasn't a Marked person around who didn't leave a cloud of it behind.
Tonight, though, like every night, Logan saw nothing—just the single small trail left by his father, an empty room with an unpleasant draft, and a window slightly ajar.
Time to check the rest of the house.
Logan tiptoed to the corner of his room and called for the elevator, which arrived promptly and took him to ground level.
Like many private residences in the town of Spokie, Logan's house had just one room to a floor, with an elevator connecting them and an open-air spiraling staircase outside in case of emergency, or for use during the nice summer months. Each room had panoramic windows and doors in two of the corners—one to the elevator and one to the outside staircase. The height of these houses varied widely and could reach higher than twenty floors, but Logan's had only eleven. This was good. More would have taken longer. Because every night, without fail, after his parents had tucked him into bed and gone to sleep themselves, it was Logan's job—selfappointed—to look thoroughly through each floor, bottom to top, flashlight in hand for signs of even the slightest suspicious thing.
Paranoid? To Logan, it was practical. These were simply the habits any boy might develop if he were certain that someone was out to get him.
The first floor was the foyer, lined with pictures of the family and hangers for coats and not much else. Nothing unusual this evening, so Logan double-checked the front door's dead bolt and moved on.
The second floor was the kitchen. Knives were all in place. That was a good sign.
The third floor was the dining room, only ever used for holidays and entertaining guests, and tonight it was as empty as expected.
Fourth floor was the bathroom, but no one lurked in the shower tonight. Floor five was the living room, cluttered but hardly suggesting a break-in. Six was Mr. Langly's office, and the holograms of his latest architectural projects glowed untouched. Seven was Logan's bedroom, which he skipped for now.
Eight was a rec room that no one ever used. It had been Logan's room up until five years ago—right there was where his bed used to be—but he'd moved down a floor when his sister passed away. Because she had lived on the ninth, and because every night while she was alive she'd tap a rhythm for Logan to hear through the floorboards. Shave-and-a-haircut, it went, and Logan would throw both shoes up at his ceiling. Tap-tap, they went. Two-bits. That was how they always said good night. When Lily died, it didn't take more than one tapless night for Logan to know that he couldn't live under that ceiling anymore.
Lily's room, nine, was a floor frozen in time like a museum of her last days, like one big held breath. It was Logan's least favorite to visit. A chill ran through him each time he did, and his eyes watered and made it hard for him to see, but still he never skipped it—nine was the perfect place for an intruder to hide. Tonight, though, like each night, there was no one there, or at least no one Logan could find, and he wasted no time stepping back into the elevator, knocking a soft tap-tap against the wall as he did.
Ten was his parents' bedroom, which Logan didn't need to check, so he moved straight to Mrs. Langly's study on eleven, filled to the brim with screens and meteorology tablets and satellite dishes, though no spies or burglars or murderers. It was beginning to look as if Logan would wake to see another day.
On the roof was the Langlys' yard. It was too small to play football up there, but it had a nice view. The grass shook gently in the evening wind, and having now checked each floor, Logan relaxed and allowed himself the drowsiness leading so pleasantly to sleep. He took the elevator down to his room on seven and crawled back under the covers, relieved to have made it through another night.
There! On his desk! The picture he kept ... had it moved?
In its frame was the last snapshot taken of Logan and his sister, on the eve of her death, smiling over presents with the blur of family celebration behind them. Logan always kept this picture positioned so he could see it from his bed. Now it rested ever so slightly pointed away, his view of it not quite straight on, the desk space in front of it just slightly wet with water that should have been in the glass beside it.
Who had been there? Who had snuck in through the window? Who had tipped the glass and knocked the picture askew?
No one, Logan told himself. You're being insane.
And Logan's heart snapped in his chest—so hard that it hurt—when across the room, the door to the outside stairway clicked quietly shut.
Chapter TwoERIN ARBITOR AND THE GOVERNMENT WORK
Erin Arbitor was aware of her father's voice beside her, but she couldn't have told you what he was saying. His chatter filled their magnetrain compartment like a bored conductor's while her mind wandered further and further away, past the blur of unfamiliar tracks, past cities and towns, over mountains and across rivers, all the way back to Beacon City, her city, half a continent away and nothing like the humdrum destination she rode to now.
Spokie, she thought. It would never be home.
"—don't know why we couldn't have caught an earlier train," Mr. Arbitor was saying. "Soon as we get in we'll have to register you for school; then I need to get straight to the office and set up while you unpack at the apartment."
"Fine, Dad," Erin said. She held her pet iguana up to the window so it could see an oily and polluted Lake Erie off in the distance.
"It's just a lot to do in one afternoon—"
"I know, Dad."
"—and you and I are both gonna need to hit the ground running tomorrow." Mr. Arbitor shook his head. "Not even there yet and we're already behind. Kept saying we should have left on Friday ..."
Erin rested Iggy on her lap and emerged reluctantly from her daydream, caustic and angry. "If only there could have been some way for us to stay with Mom in Beacon instead of uprooting our lives for no good reason." She shook her head, feigning sympathy. "Then you wouldn't be suffering such a terrible inconvenience."
"It was your mother's decision not to come with us," Mr. Arbitor said forcefully. He ignored Erin's tone. "She knows how important this job is. And not just to me—to the Union."
Erin sighed, caught square in the middle of a standoff between two strong-headed, working parents.
Just two months ago, Mr. Arbitor had surprised his family with the announcement that he had received a promotion at work, and that they would be moving to Spokie to accommodate it. Erin's mom, a top economic software analyst on Barrier Street in Beacon City, had told him precisely what he could do with that idea. Of course, Mr. Arbitor was certain it was only a matter of time before his wife gave in and found a way to keep the family together, but so far, she had not, and Erin was left with no choice but to get used to a new town a thousand miles away while her dad played a game of spousal career chicken and her mom continued enjoying life in the Big City back east.
"Well—anything for the Union," Erin said sarcastically, and her father rolled his eyes.
"I mean it," he said. "I took this job with good reason. You'll feel better about it once your mother's out here with us."
"She's not coming out here with us, Dad! She's waiting for you to come to your senses and tell DOME you can't just uproot your family because some bureaucrat's offering more money to copy and paste documents in Spokie than in Beacon!"
"That's not what this is, Erin."
"What about Mom's career, huh? What about my education—"
"This is what's best for all of us," Mr. Arbitor said, in a tone that suggested he'd been through this enough times with his wife already. "When we are called upon, we make sacrifices. Some things are more important than—"
"Than what? Than your family? How important can it be when you won't even tell me what you're needed for? I mean, maybe if I had some sense of what you were doing out here, at least I could wrap my head around—"
"Government work, Erin. Government work."
"'Course, Dad," Erin said. In all his years at DOME, Mr. Arbitor had never once talked about the specifics of what he did. When friends asked, Erin said what she was told to say, which was, "Government work," even though she had no idea what that meant. Somehow it just summed it up, said it all. If anyone pressed, she was supposed to say, "DOME, Department of Marked Emergencies." But no one ever pressed. The weight of the first two words was enough.
Frankly, Erin couldn't understand what her father was doing at a desk job in the first place. When she was younger, he had been a Beacon police officer, and a good one at that. In those days, when they'd play games together, he'd swoop her around the room with one hand. She'd hug him at night after his long days of patrolling the city, and it'd knock the wind out of her, every time. She loved that.
Excerpted from Swipe by EVAN ANGLER Copyright © 2011 by Evan Angler. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
ContentsPROLOGUE THE FRIENDS IN THE DUST....................1
ONE LOGAN LANGLY, BOY WHO CRIED WOLF....................3
TWO ERIN ARBITOR AND THE GOVERNMENT WORK....................12
THREE FIRST DAY, NEW FACE....................27
FOUR THE INVITATION....................62
FIVE SPY VS. SPY....................91
SEVEN DUST ON THE LAM....................157
EIGHT LOGAN'S MANY FRIENDS....................178
NINE DANE HAROLD'S QUIET ENCORE....................201
TEN STREET CLEANING....................219
ELEVEN THE MEETING OF THE MINDS....................234
ABOUT THE AUTHOR....................275