30-Day ProgramMark Tullius / Science Fiction
A short story from 5 More Perfect Days by
An excerpt from
5 More Perfect Days
Copyright © 2014 by Mark Tullius
Published by Vincere Press
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Long Beach, CA 90802
All rights reserved.
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This is a work of fiction. All of the characters and events portrayed in this book are either fictitious or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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Cover by Brian Esquivel
Table of Contents
A Note to the Reader
The Other F-Word
About the Author
Excerpt from Try Not to Die: At Grandma’s House
A Note to the Reader
“30-Day program” is the second story in 5 More Perfect Days, the companion novella to 25 Perfect Days. While I have attempted to make “30” and the other stories in 5 More strong enough to stand on their own, their main purpose is to enhance the original novel, answering some questions, creating others. Here’s a look how the new 5 stories fit in.
Five Minutes Alone August 19, 2036
Fourteen Angry Marchers October 11, 2037
29-US89N4X (5 More) June 21, 2039
Thirteenth on the List September 11, 2041
Nine Months Later December 18, 2042
Four Percent June 2, 2043
Twenty-One Seats June 20, 2044
Fifteen May 20, 2045
Nineteen in a Row April 24, 2046
Ten Drops of Bleach May 4, 2047
30 Day Program (5 More) March 23, 2048
Eleven Times More Likely August 16, 2049
Six Hail Mary’s June 26, 2050
Twenty-Four Hour Bullshit November 1, 2052
Three Sacred Truths August 12, 2053
Seven to Go August 31, 2054
28 Blocks (5 More) September 30, 2055
Eight Out of Nine December 17, 2056
Eighteen is Enough May 8, 2057
Twenty-Twenty November 4, 2058
26 Pills (5 More) January 21, 2059
Two Minutes to Midnight November 14, 2061
One Last Bedtime Story February 1, 2063
Twelve O’Clock High November 14, 2066
Twenty-Two Pine Avenue March 6, 2067
Sixteen Acres December 24, 2068
Seventeen Soldiers August 1, 2072
Twenty-Third District March 31, 2074
25th of December December 25, 2076
27 Generals (5 More) December 31, 2076
March 23, 2048
The bell rang and Gabe got up from his desk. He pretended to look for something in his bag, waited until everyone had left the room. He threw two pills in his mouth, swallowed them dry.
Gabe’s locker was ten feet from the door, but in the wrong direction. Only left turns when leaving classrooms, another stupid rule. It took him almost two minutes to circle back around each time.
He took the left, and someone kicked the bottom of Gabe’s shoe. Fucking Frankie, been doing this shit since they were five. Through his nasally laugh, Frankie said, “Hold up, man.”
Gabe kept going, made a right at the first hallway.
Frankie popped up beside him. “Gotta hit your locker?”
“No, I’m just taking a tour, dumbass.”
“You don’t have to be a dick.”
Gabe switched his focus to Derrick, the new kid, his blond hair bouncing off his shoulders. A couple of days ago they got partnered up in chemistry. Derrick wasn’t like most of the others transferred here. He didn’t seem to care if he fit in or not, hardly spoke at all. Until this morning. Derrick had asked Gabe if he shot hoops. Gabe thought it might be some new drug, but Derrick was just talking about basketball. At the end of class, Gabe agreed to play him one-on-one after school.
A line of students filed through the archway toward everyone waiting for Transport, but Derrick swerved right, snuck through the fence. Not asking permission to opt out of Transport was cause for expulsion, but Derrick walked like a man without a care.
Gabe turned the corner, and Frankie asked, “So, would you do it?”
Gabe moved onto the walkway closest to the window, split his attention between the dumpy girl in front of him and the idiots attached to their screens, oblivious to everyone around them. No one more oblivious than Bryce, standing there, drool glistening in the corner of his mouth, a different dude after The Program.
Frankie repeated, “Would you?”
“That’s just for the Controllers.”
“Didn’t you hear anything Torres said? This summer it’s open to anyone.”
Gabe had been daydreaming in class, thinking about what Derrick had said in chemistry the first day they’d been paired up, that he recognized him. Gabe had never seen him before last month when Derrick transferred.
“I could never afford it,” Gabe said.
“But if you could?”
They made their final right, stopped at Gabe’s locker, ten feet from where he’d started. Gabe pressed his thumb to the lock to open it. He said, “We’re already too connected as it is.”
“Well, I’m definitely asking my uncle.” Frankie’s uncle raked in the big bucks as an anchorman, but Frankie never saw a dime. His parents were in the same position as Gabe’s.
“You need to lighten up,” Frankie said. He dug in his back pocket and pulled out a pink envelope. “Trisha asked me to give this to you.”
Gabe looked past the note at Rocky’s locker. It’d been over 3 months since they put him in The Program. No one had heard a thing. No one was asking.
“Here, man,” Frankie said.
Gabe grabbed the card, “Gabriel” in cursive flowing across it. He shoved the envelope in his bag, merged back into the herd.
“Well, what should I tell her?”
“I don’t know.”
“She digs you, man. You can’t keep ignoring her.”
They headed for the archway. Landon, a chunky senior training to become a True Resident for Peace, stood near the loading area in his silver sash, scrutinizing everyone.
“Man, I’m telling you,” Frankie said, “if Trish even looked at me like that, we’d have fifty fucking babies by now.”
“You’re a moron.” Gabe didn’t just mean about girls. Just like all their classmates, Frankie believed the lies his uncle spread on the news.
Gabe didn’t. His dad had explained how everything worked the last time they’d gone hiking, left their electronics behind. His dad had stood up to the Reverend and turned his back on The Way, lived to whisper about it. They hadn’t talked about it since Gabe got chipped for school, but Gabe remembered every word.
Through the six-inch slit in the wall, Gabe saw a couple of kids out on the sidewalk, only those that lived within three blocks were given free passes to be on foot. Then there was Derrick, across the street slipping through the trees.
Gabe said, “You know what? I’m not taking TP today. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Frankie chuckled. “You serious? We have to take it.”
They only lived five blocks from campus, but Transport was the rule unless they personally opted out. The glorified hall monitors rarely granted passes. The Way got paid for each body on board.
“Yeah, I’m just going to walk.”
“Dude,” Frankie said, “that’s not a good idea.”
Gabe didn’t care. He told Frankie, “I’ll be fine.”
Frankie shook his head, continued down the fenced walkway, joined the students standing four across waiting for Transport.
Gabe straightened his back the way his dad used to, tough and strong, not a scared little coward, and headed straight for Landon checking off names on his electronic clipboard. Gabe ignored the recog glasses, focused on the acne covering the senior’s face. Gabe held out his wrist. “I’m opting out of TP.”
Landon pushed out his chest so it almost matched his belly. “You have a note from your mommy?”
There was no chance of lying with Landon wearing the glasses so Gabe recited p. 53 of the school manual. “Students can be granted permission if they are fifteen years of age and request to opt out.”
Landon studied Gabe’s face, the recog glasses checking his vitals. Gabe slowed his breath until Landon scanned his wrist. “Don’t get bleached, weirdo.”
Landon wasn’t a True Resident for Peace or a Controller, but he was the kind of guy who’d track Gabe down the moment he became one. With no reason to upset Landon anymore, Gabe asked, “May I go?”
Landon flicked him in the head, and Gabe bit his tongue, walked off. The sun was brilliant, Gabe cut through the trees, stopped for a second, heard the slap of the basketball on cement. Derrick was directly across the street bouncing the ball, his button-down shirt off, now tucked in his back pocket, tight white tank top hugging his chest. At six feet, with all those muscles, he had to be