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Reached (Matched #3)
Ally Condie

PART ONE

PILOT

CHAPTER 1

XANDER

Every morning, the sun comes up and turns the earth red, and I think: This could be the day when everything changes. Maybe today the Society will fall. Then night comes again and we’re all still waiting. But I know the Pilot’s real.

Three Officials walk up to the door of a little house at sunset. The house looks like all of the others on the street: two shutters on each of its three forward-facing windows, five steps up to the door, and one small, spiky bush planted to the right of the path.

The oldest of the Officials, a man with gray hair, raises his hand to knock.

One. Two. Three.

The Officials stand close enough to the glass that I can see the circle-shaped insignia sewn on the right pocket of the youngest Official’s uniform. The circle is bright red and looks like a drop of blood.

I smile and he does, too. Because the Official: is me.

In the past, the Official Ceremony was a big occasion at City Hall. The Society held a formal dinner and you could bring your parents and your Match with you. But the Official Ceremony isn’t one of the three big ceremonies—Welcoming Day, the Match Banquet, and the Final Celebration—and so it’s not what it used to be. The Society has started to cut corners where they can, and they assume Officials are loyal enough not to complain about their ceremony losing some of its trimmings.

I stood there with four others, all of us in new white uniforms. The head Official pinned the insignia on my pocket: the red circle representing the Medical Department. And then, with our voices echoing under the dome of the mostly empty Hall, we all committed to the Society and pledged to achieve our Society-designated potential. That was all. I didn’t care that the ceremony wasn’t anything special. Because I’m not really an Official. I mean, I am, but my true loyalty is to the Rising.

A girl wearing a violet dress hurries along the sidewalk behind us. I see her reflection in the window. She’s got her head down like she’s hoping we won’t notice her. Her parents follow behind, all three of them heading toward the nearest air-train stop. It’s the fifteenth, so the Match Banquet is tonight. It hasn’t even been a year since I walked up the stairs of City Hall with Cassia. We’re both far away from Oria now.

A woman opens the door of the house. She’s holding her new baby, the one we’re here to name. “Please come in,” she tells us. “We’ve been expecting you.” She looks tired, even on what should be one of the happiest days of her life. The Society doesn’t talk about it much, but things are harder in the Border Provinces. The resources seem to start in Central and then bleed outward. Everything here in Camas Province is kind of dirty and worn out.

After the door closes behind us, the mother holds out the baby for us to see. “Seven days old today,” she tells us, but of course we already know. That’s why we’re here. Welcoming Day celebrations are always held a week after the baby’s birth.

The baby’s eyes are closed, but we know from our data that the color is deep blue. His hair: brown. We also know that he arrived on his due date and that under the tightly wrapped blanket he has ten fingers and ten toes. His initial tissue sample taken at the medical center looked excellent.

“Are you all ready to begin?” Official Brewer asks. As the senior Official in our Committee, he’s in charge. His voice has exactly the right balance of benevolence and authority. He’s done this hundreds of times. I’ve wondered before if Official Brewer could be the Pilot. He certainly looks the part. And he’s very organized and efficient.

Of course, the Pilot could be anyone.

The parents nod.

“According to the data, we’re missing an older sibling,” the second in command, Official Lei, says in her gentle voice. “Did you want him to be present for the ceremony?”

“He was tired after dinner,” the mother says, sounding apologetic. “He could barely keep his eyes open. I put him to bed early.”

“That’s fine, of course,” Official Lei says. Since the little boy is just over two years old—nearly perfect spacing between siblings—he’s not required to be in attendance. This isn’t something he’d likely remember anyway.

“What name have you chosen?” Official Brewer moves closer to the port in the foyer.

“Ory,” the mother says.

Official Brewer taps the name into the port and the mother shifts the baby a little. “Ory,” Official Brewer repeats. “And for his middle name?”

“Burton,” the father says. “A family name.”

Official Lei smiles. “That’s a lovely name.”

“Come and see how it looks,” Official Brewer says. The parents come closer to the port to see the baby’s name: ORY BURTON FARNSWORTH. Underneath the letters runs the bar code the Society has assigned for the baby. If he leads an ideal life, the Society plans to use the same bar code to mark his tissue preservation sample at his Final Celebration.

But the Society won’t last that long.

“I’ll submit it now,” Official Brewer says, “if there are no changes or corrections you want to make.”

The mother and father move closer to check the name one last time. The mother smiles and holds the baby near the portscreen, as if the baby can read his own name.

Official Brewer looks at me. “Official Carrow,” he says, “it’s time for the tablet.”

My turn. “We have to give the tablet in front of the port,” I remind the parents. The mother shifts Ory even higher so that the baby’s head and face are clearly visible for the portscreen to record.

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