The Network, by Andrew Long

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Nathan threw open the bedroom door and launched himself onto the bed. He took a deep breath and exhaled loudly. It had been a hectic week. His 15th birthday was last week, and today he passed his evals. He leaned back and ran his fingers along the port on the back of his head. Tomorrow he would be connected to the Network.

Nathan's father propped open the door and peeked his head into the room. "Dirty shoes on the bed again? You know, after tomorrow you won't be able to get away with that anymore."

Nathan nodded, as his father pulled up a chair and sat down.

"I was able to follow you most of the day, well except when you were with your unconnected friends. Your classmates and teachers are pretty excited for you."

Nathan's father placed his hand on his should. "Listen, I know we've talked about this since you were little, but do you have any questions?"

Nathan paused for a moment and looked up at him.

"Are we going to change?" Nathan asked. "You know, me and you."

His father smiled. "Yes. But, in a good way. We'll be closer," his father said. "Listen, you're the only family I have, and I've been waiting for this day for a long time."

"As have I," Nathan said.

"Great. Get some rest, it won't be much longer. I put everything you need for the ceremony in a bag by the door. I'll meet you at the hall."

Nathan's dad put the chair back and left the room. Nathan kicked his shoes off and laid back on the bed. He thought about getting undressed, but decided since nobody was watching yet, he should take advantage of it.

It was late morning before Nathan woke up. Now that he was approved for a connection he wouldn't be going to school anymore. From here on out his education would be piped directly into his head. He ate a big breakfast and lounged around the house as long as he could.

His dad left the house long before Nathan got up. This didn't mean he wasn't around. Just about everyone over the age of 15 was connected to the Network, so his dad could pretty much spy on him when every he wanted to. And if Nathan had overslept today, his dad would most certainly compel a neighbor to go to the house and wake him up.

Nathan grabbed his bag and started off to the train station. Random people waved and said hello. This was his dad using the Network to check in on him. He was used to it by now.

As he turned the corner to the station a tall, thin boy reached out and grabbed him on the arm.

"Nathan Song?"

Nathan said yes. The boy looked around quickly and pulled him into the alley. Nathan wasn't alarmed. It was common for unconnected kids to reach out to strangers for help.

"Hey man, whatever you need, I can't today," Nathan said as he shook the boy's grip from his arm. "Let's find another kid to help you?" said Nathan as he turned and headed back to the street.

"Your mom's alive," the boy said.

Nathan turned and walked back toward the boy. He grabbed him by the head. "Don't mess with me, man. I'm not in the mood to be messed with," he said.

"Nadine Song. She's not dead." Nathan stepped back and released his grip. "And you know this how?" he said.

"She'sin that car over there," the boy said.

Nathan hadn't thought about his mother in a long time. All he had was pictures. He wasn't old enough to know her. Nathan's parents were the first generation connected to the Network. The system wasn't quite perfect back then, and accidents happen. Nathan's mom was one of those accidents. A driver was suffering a glitch from his connection when he struck her head on.

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