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Parents are looking for fiction that makes Christianity exciting for kids. This series is an alternative to the Hunger Games series and other dark dystopian fiction. It’s packed with action and intrigue, but the message is written from a Christian worldview.
Logan Langly went to get his Mark but backed out at the last minute. Ever since, he’s been on the run from government agents and on a quest to find his sister Lily, who disappeared when she went to get her Mark five years ago. His journey leads him to befriend the Dust, a network of Markless who oppose the iron-grip rule of the government. On the way to the capital to find Lily, the Dust receive some startling information from the Markless community, warning that humanity is now entering the End of Days.
Spark introduces nine-year-old Ali, a beggar living in the Dark Lands city of al-Balat. Ali meets a stranger who gives her his tablet, a portal to a tech world that Ali never knew existed. But one day, the tablet begins to communicate back to her—and takes her on a journey that will cross her path with exiled Logan Langly, Chancellor Cylis, and the fierce battle for power that spans reality and the virtual world.
Meets national education standards.
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About the Author
Evan Angler is safe, for now. He lives without the Mark, evading DOME and writing in the shadows of Beacon. But if anyone asks, you know nothing about him. Don’t make eye contact if you see him. Don’t call his name out loud. He’s in enough trouble already. And so are you, if you read his books.
Read an Excerpt
THE SWIPE SERIES
By EVAN ANGLER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2013 Evan Angler
All rights reserved.
ALI WITHOUT A NAME
Ali Without a Name was pretty sure she knew exactly how much trouble she was in. The truth, in fact, would have shocked her. But for the moment, that truth was still a long way off.
She needed more.
She looked for targets.
And with her back to the wall, she kept one eye out for guards while she boiled in the afternoon sun.
Around her, the crowd was loud, and a hundred thousand footsteps kicked up clouds of dust that swirled and sank and haloed around her head.
Without more, the Khal gets angry. The Khal gets angry, and Naughty-Ali gets the closet.
"[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" Ali hissed under her breath to herself. Don't you think I know that?
To her left was the New Gate, the northwestern mouth of the Old City of al-Balat, and long lines shuffled in, merging at the entrance but forking a ways out like a snake's tongue. Tasting the forbidden fruits of the Union's biggest outpost.
And here I am for the scraps, Ali thought.
"But you can't afford to wait like this," she whispered to herself, practicing her Union English. "You've wasted the whole morning by now."
But the gatekeepers saw me, she thought. What else can I do?
She couldn't answer before Sarim came by.
"Hey!" he yelled, picking up on her English and hopping over through the crowd. "Scolding yourself again?" He bent down to speak with her, leaning against his crutch and letting some of the spoils from his ragged pockets spill out onto the ground. "Which one of you's angry this time?"
"Nervous-Ali," she said sheepishly.
Sarim nodded. He eyed her ripped sleeves and the trickles of blood underneath. "You know, if you kept to the back of the customs lines, those guards wouldn't pick on you so much. It's stupid to hang around up front."
"Up front, the merchants are distracted," Ali said. She glanced quickly at Sarim's bum leg. "Not all of us get the kind of sympathy you do just by begging alone."
"You want this kind of sympathy?" Sarim asked, pointing to his bandages.
"Sorry," Ali said. She looked away, embarrassed. "I just can't stand to spend another night down in the basement, is all. I'm afraid I'll go nuts."
Sarim hopped gently over to her and put a hand on her shoulder. "Ali, you can't believe the Khal's tincher stories. He only says that stuff to scare you into making quota."
"Yeah, well, you've never spent a night down there in that basement, have you?"
"No, but I gladly would if it meant no more accidents! Ali, the reason Khal Obaid talks about boogie men with you sisters is because the Khala doesn't like to let him hurt you. With us, he doesn't bother because to us Khal Obaid is scary enough on his own!"
"I hear things in that basement, Sarim. If it's not tinchers, I don't know what it is."
"It's your imagination," Sarim said. "Tinchers aren't real. The Khal's just fooling you. But you really will have more than ghost stories to worry about if you don't start making quota soon."
For a moment, Ali stood still and stared at the gate, at the Union guards checking paperwork, at the Dark Landers coming and going with sacks of goods, eager to trade with Marked Union vendors in the Old City's sprawling bazaar.
She knew that Sarim's warnings were right. Tinchers or not, Ali was on thin ice—and the day was getting only hotter. The thought of it made her suddenly very impatient. First a twitch in her foot, then a wiggle in her legs ... finally a bouncing that spread up and through her whole body in a way that only nine-year-old girls could sustain.
They're getting away! the squirming said. Pockets and handfuls and whole bags of goods, and I'm missing it!
"All right, all right," Sarim said, laughing at her. "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Let's go already, before you hurt yourself."
"What makes you think I'm waiting for you?" Ali asked in broken English that tried to sound playful.
"Because you're useless out here on your own," Sarim teased. "And because you know I'd love to see you keep your hands all the way to adulthood."
Ali's eyes brightened. It wasn't every day that the two of them begged together, but the times they did were always her favorite.
"Hey, hold your horses!" Sarim yelled, gathering his alms and struggling to plant his crutch in the dirt. "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" But Ali was already off, running eagerly toward the gate.
"Please help!" she yelled at the crowd. "Kind help for a poor cripple!" She spun back toward Sarim and whispered, "Come on! Look pathetic! [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]"
For the first time today, there was hope she might make it through the night without punishment.
Wading through the mob along Old City's outer wall was always rough—rabid merchants and strict guards, ruthless bullies from rival gangs, tangles of elbows and prying hands that threatened from every which way—but somehow, with Sarim there, it wasn't so bad. The crowd's knots seemed to loosen. Paths emerged, kids steered clear, adults leaned down and listened ...
Sarim had the touch. Always did, even before his "accident" with Khal Obaid, but especially now. In just the few minutes it took him to wade halfway through the New Gate's afternoon crowd, more Dark Landers had taken pity on him than they had on Ali all morning long. Already, as he caught up to her, he was passing handfuls of trinkets into her pockets so as not to risk looking as flush as he really was.
"I don't know how you do it," Ali whispered, in awe of the master beggar.
"The leg helps," he said, looking Ali up and down and practically pitying her. "You're too old to look as healthy as you do."
Ali folded her arms playfully and narrowed her eyes. She didn't particularly feel over the hill. But the truth was that in this line of work, nine and healthy was just about retirement age.
"Tell you what," Sarim said, pointing to her pockets. "Those latest gets are all yours. We won't go halfsies—just keep 'em. You'll have an easier time of it tonight."
"[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" Ali asked.
In response, Sarim stuck out his tongue, and Ali took that as a yes. Eagerly, she reached into her pockets to size up what was there.
No food, Hungry-Ali thought, her stomach rumbling a bit. But it was an impressive handful all the same. Bracelets, rings, scarves, chains—even a few pre-Unity coins. Ali stopped to get a better look while Sarim approached a few more men and women farther back on the gate's long line.
"Papers," a guard said suddenly in Union English, peering down and looking as if he might just kick Ali to the curb whether she had them or not. Ali looked up from her haul and was surprised to find that she'd drifted with the tide of the crowd all the way to the front of the New Gate's customs line.
She stared up at the man, eyes wide. She noticed the taser-rifle and magnecuffs on his belt.
"You're wasting my time, ya mute splinter—papers or get outta here!" He brushed her aside and let the documented Dark Landers shuffle past and shake their heads.
"Whoa, whoa, what'd I tell you about the front of the line?" Sarim spat, hopping over to Ali and dragging her forcefully back.
"He called me a splinter," Ali said sullenly. It was the worst slur against them that Dark Landers could hear.
"Yeah, well, you are one, trying to weasel your way into Old City like that."
"But I wasn't—!"
"[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" Sarim shook his head. "You all right?"
Ali nodded, distantly. Still not far from the gate, she had an unusually good view of the city streets beyond the wall. Inside were bright, flashing tablet computers lining one shoddy merchant stand after another; rolled up plastiscreens poking out of baskets, displaying movies and news programs to no one at all; computerized "smart jewelry" unlike anything outside Union walls, hanging snarled from driftwood awnings; not to mention whole barrels of imported fruits, meats, vegetables, nanomeds, candies, every color of the rainbow just spread out like confetti across the market, waiting for takers in piles so high you could dig down up to your elbows ...
And that was all within only the first narrow alleyway past the entrance, and not even the fanciest Union gadgets could compete for Ali's attention when just a few winding blocks beyond New Gate's main street opened up to reveal the jutting scaffolds and pacing soldiers and monstrous blue tarps that covered one of Old City's vast northwestern excavation sites. "The Digs," Dark Landers called them. A cluster of satellite sites complementing the biggest Dig of all, just east of here, on Mount Olivet over in the West Bank. The Digs were the last good reason the Union had for being here. Its only reason, in fact, ever since it so badly failed to defend the city against Russian Dark Land attackers several years back, losing the battle of al-Balat along with any real chance it ever had of luring the Middle Eastern Dark Lands into its empire.
The Union wasn't usually one to admit its defeats—let alone linger on them. But something about that Mount ... something about its Digs made this area worth occupying, against all odds and resentment and reason.
Legend had it a hospital there, at the base of the mount, was haunted. Its abandoned grounds were supposedly the source of the tincher sightings in al-Balat.
But Sarim didn't buy that, and he never had.
"What do you think's going on in there?" Sarim asked, pointing to the site as casually as he could. Something about his tone was soothing. He was clearly hoping to take Angry-Ali's still-fuming mind off the slur she'd been called. "Ancient artifacts? Historical treasure?"
"Who knows?" Ali said. "Whatever it is must be—"
But the rest of Ali's words caught in her throat as a great club struck her back. "I thought I told you splinter dogs to leave!" the gatekeeper yelled, and all at once he shoved Ali and Sarim hard to the ground. Ali stumbled clumsily and landed on her back, but Sarim wasn't so lucky. In one horrible crack, his crutch snapped in two, pieces flying as he smacked the dirt with his hands and head.
There was a helpless horror in his eyes as Dark Landers stampeded over the belly-up, one-legged cripple in their way. But he managed to drag himself up by the pant legs that passed, and once balanced on his foot, he moved with swift, determined haste.
"Get up," Sarim hissed. "Ali—get up."
"I'm okay," Ali said, still on the ground and too angry even to stand.
"Maybe you are," Sarim said. "But your quota's not!" Around them, desperate Dark Landers began to swarm, carelessly grabbing at Ali's spilled haul and taking for themselves every last trinket and coin they could get their hands on.
Somehow, Ali wasn't paying attention to it. Instead, she squinted off into the distance, wondering what secrets those strange digs held. She couldn't see them, she knew. But in that moment she hated them—every last one of them—for bringing this Union occupation into her life.
"Obaid will kill you!" Sarim was shouting, focused much more on the present. "The Khal will whip you dead!"
"Oh," Ali whispered. "Right."
She stumbled up, but her quota was already gone. It was all Sarim could do to drag her away from the mob before they pulled that flighty little beggar girl apart.
The base to which Ali and Sarim and all their brothers and sisters went home each night was an old, pre-Unity skyscraper that their Khal, Obaid, had commandeered nearly eight years ago from among the al-Balat city blocks not directly hit by the war. Like everything in the Dark Lands, buildings were first come, first served, and while nothing within this one worked—not the electricity, not the plumbing, not the elevator—it wasn't exactly about to fall down, and anyway there was plenty of room. So Obaid made the building both his home and the center for his business of child beggars—or as he liked to call it, his family.
No one in Obaid's "family" was actually related, of course. The "brothers" and "sisters," as they called themselves, were a collection of kids taken from desperate Dark Land homes in exchange for food or safety given to the parents. The deal also came with the promise to the parents of a better life for their kids. A life in the "big city," far from the humble shantytown roots these "siblings" had known.
Ali herself had never heard of any such promise. None of the kids had, actually. And that was probably for the best.
It would have only confused them if they had.
* * *
That night the man the brothers called Khal stomped with heavy black boots between the rows of sisters nestled on two dozen sleeping pads against the cold, hard tile of the fifteenth floor.
By the Khal's own directives, this was a serious taboo. The fifteenth floor was the sisters' quarters, into which no brothers or men were ever allowed.
And yet here the Khal was now, announcing himself loudly with four strong cracks of his whip. He was looking for Nafia, he said. He needed to speak with the Khala.
She was groggy when she sat up from her mat in the corner, but Nafia quickly leaped to her feet.
"Why are you here?" she asked in perfect English, clearly hoping the girls wouldn't understand. It was a vain attempt to protect them, Ali realized. But Ali was wide-awake, and practiced in the Union's language from her days spent at the Gate. She'd made it a point to be able to understand words in situations like this.
"You are short," Obaid said. "Very short."
It was the last night of the week, Ali remembered. The night the sisters' haul was gathered and tallied and passed off to the Khal.
"They are aging out," Nafia said, calmly pointing to the sisters around her. "They are doing their best."
"It is your job to make them do better. It is your job to keep your eye on them."
"And I have—"
"You have done no such thing!"
"We had a bad week, Obaid. It will not happen again."
Obaid nodded. You're right, that nod said. It will not. And the Khal was determined to see to it that it didn't.
He readied his whip in a horrifying fashion. Always, the sisters had seen Khal and Khala as equals. But for the first time tonight, it was clear to them that even Nafia, twenty years older and every bit their leader, was just as afraid of this man as they were.
"Who missed?" Obaid asked. "You are short more than a full day's quota, Nafia—who did not deliver?"
Ali nearly let out a yelp just hearing this. On her mat, she trembled visibly, waiting for the hammer to fall. She dreaded the closet again. The noises in the basement. But then she thought of Sarim's warning that day—and of the "accidents" of so many of the brothers—and a silent, terrified tear fell down her cheek as she realized how much worse this could get.
Seconds went by. Ali held her breath. But Nafia remained silent.
"You cannot protect them!" Obaid warned.
Still Nafia stood her ground.
"Okay," the Khal said, nodding furiously. "Then you take the blame."
"Yes," Nafia said. She closed her eyes and braced herself. The Khal lifted his hand.
"Stop!" Ali yelled. Immediately, Obaid turned, eyes wide and violent in the shadowy dark.
"Sister, no," the Khala said.
But in the dim open floor, Ali rose defiantly to her feet. "It was me. I was short every day this week."
Obaid took four swift steps, his gruff face mere inches from hers. "You again, huh?"
"I have ways of improving your yield," he said. "You realize that, sister?"
And Ali nodded again. Her mind flashed to Sarim's limp. To the other brothers' milky eyes, and missing fingers, and—
"Obaid, you can't," Nafia said.
He turned to her. "Same old story, Khala. I'm beginning to question your loyalty."
The Khala took a step forward. "My loyalty is to this business," she insisted. "That is a sister you're speaking to. An investment. If you hurt her, she can't work. If she can't work, she'll make us nothing."
"[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" Obaid said, nodding unpleasantly. "But the fact remains that at present, Ali here has been a bad girl."
Her jaw clenched the second he said it.
"And you know what happens to bad little girls, don't you, Aliyah?"
"When little girls are bad, Aliyah, the tinchers come to get them."
Not the closet, Ali thought. Please not the closet.
"That's right," the Khal said. "Straight down from Mount Olivet. They can smell the bad behavior. They hunger for it. It drives them mad.
"But we can't let one bad little girl put all the rest of us in danger, now can we, Ali? Why, sisters—if we let her sleep up here with the rest of us, all those hungry tinchers might just come down and eat us all!"
"Please ...," Ali said, barely audibly.
"So I guess we'll just have to keep little Ali here in the closet again down in the basement—where the tinchers won't get the rest of us. Because we'd hate to lure them upstairs, wouldn't we, girls? [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]"
The sisters all nodded in wide-eyed agreement, and this made the Khal grin with delight. "I'm sure you understand," he said to Ali, grabbing her harshly by the arm.
"Khal, please forgive me," Sorry-Ali said, louder this time, and it made the Khal stop dead in his tracks.
"Me? You're begging me? Why, I don't control the tinchers at all, little Ali! If you're going to beg—I'd suggest you beg them."
Ali started to respond, but this time Nafia stopped her. "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" she said. "[TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]" The Khala spoke in Darklandese, to make sure that all the sisters understood. To make sure they knew, in the end, that Ali would be just fine.
But Ali had seen that look before on Nafia's face.
It was a look that said otherwise.
Excerpted from SPARK by EVAN ANGLER. Copyright © 2013 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.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR.................... ix
PROLOGUE ARRIVAL.................... 1
ONE ALI WITHOUT A NAME.................... 5
TWO DRAINPIPE.................... 21
THREE THE TOTER OF LIGHT.................... 38
FOUR REFUGEE.................... 57
FIVE UNCLE NICO, GOOD SAMARITAN.................... 74
SIX ULTRANET.................... 100
SEVEN GRAND TOUR.................... 122
EIGHT WAR AND PEACE.................... 157
NINE CONFESSIONS.................... 174
TEN PAWN.................... 194
ELEVEN SHOWDOWN.................... 214
TWELVE HOME.................... 226
ABOUT THE AUTHOR.................... 249