SPARES is my near-future science fiction sequel to THE BODY INSTITUTE (Entangled Teen, 2015) that released January 3, 2021. It continues to explore themes of body image and identity while completing the storyline that began with Morgan Dey and her job as a Reducer for The Body Institute.
SPARES: the body swapping continues.
Sixteen-year-old Lexi Moore is obsessed with going to illegal junk food parties. This doesn’t exactly mesh well with her mother being a National Health Care councilwoman and staunch supporter of The Body Institute.
The Institute’s method of losing weight—downloading the minds of workers into client bodies—has always been controversial. A widespread petition nearly shut it down. Lexi has also heard ugly claims about its supply of reusable, mind-stripped bodies called Spares. Her family’s longtime friend, Leo Behr, has lost his job at the Institute during the whistleblowing fallout, and the questionable Spares project is no longer in existence.
When her mother hijacks Lexi’s body one night to replace her mind with a Reducer’s, Lexi awakens six weeks later to find herself thirteen pounds lighter. Not only that, her best friend has disappeared. Feeling betrayed and suspecting the Spares project has been revived, Lexi launches her own investigation into her friend’s whereabouts. With the help of a hot guy named Ajeet whom her BFF has targeted for romance, Lexi must expose the body-swapping corruption and rescue her friend—without being turned into a mindless shell herself.
ASIN : B08RYKZ3Z3
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Excerpt from SPARES.
Copyright © by Carol Riggs. All rights reserved, including the
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There’s nothing like the promise of illegal junk food to ramp up my Monday by 500 percent.
Mr. Slater is stroking his beard while reciting the principle exports of Argentina, and all I can do is grin at my phone.
Special Study Session tonight @1800. Home of Terise Hutcheson.
“Yesss,” I say under my breath. It’s light-years past due for another Crave. Looks like the party alibi this time is a study session, as signaled by the code of being “special.” I’m more than ready. Mom’s obsession with rabbit food and lean cuisine is making me frothing crazy.
Even more awesome, my best friend is hosting. Terise’s Craves are getting famous on this side of St. Louis. Who else scored an invite? Her guest list is usually short, no more than twenty-five or thirty. My fingers fly to send a response:
I’m in. I am REALLY in the mood to buckle down and study.
At the front of the classroom, Mr. Slater knocks on his desk. “Lexi Moore, put your phone away. If I see you texting again, I’m confiscating it.”
I shove it into my jeans pocket, fast. I’ve got to force myself to pay attention to my deskscreen for the next twenty minutes. I type out the list of exports for my report on Argentina like a good girl, while visions of glazed donuts and butter-drenched popcorn float through my head.
Tonight. I can’t wait. Although with my luck, this will be the night Mom comes home early and gets in the mood to fix dinner with me. I’ll miss out on quality time with her. Again.
Across the room, Finn catches my eye and wiggles his left eyebrow at me. He must’ve gotten an invite. I try to wiggle my own eyebrow, but he shakes his head. I’ve never mastered the single-eyebrow-wiggling thing.
The bell rings at last, releasing us from our Argentinean prison. I snatch my backpack and squeeze through the door past the exiting crowd. Terise materializes next to me in the hall like she’s been beamed in from space, bob-haired and smiling.
“I’m so amped you can go!” She flips dark bangs off her forehead. “Maybe you can help me with a little personal crisis while you’re there.”
“Sure, anything.” I’m guessing the crisis has to do with her love life, or lack of one. Hot guy alert. She probably invited her latest Person of Interest to the food-fest.
Finn comes up from behind and circles around to face us. “Yo, ladies. We’re gonna study up a wicked storm tonight.”
“Prepare to have your minds blown,” Terise says.
I’m pretty sure that’s code for delighted taste buds. I squint at the chest of Finn’s hoodie and nail him with one finger where the letters ACTI are peeking out. “Is that what I think it is?”
He unzips his hoodie and bares his T-shirt like Superman. But instead of a mighty “S,” his shirt says: HACTIVIST with a cause. Beware, all who corrupt.
“Nice,” I say. “Hide it fast before a teacher sees it.”
“You would’ve been amazed by my latest trick.” He covers his shirt with a melodramatic zip. “Such a sweet hack. I slashed into The Body Institute site and messed with the Reducer application forms. I changed their boring hobbies and goals questions to things like, ‘When did you attend your last Crave?’ and ‘How often do you have dreams about world domination?’”
I groan. “Finn. Why the haze did you tell me that?” Seriously, I won’t be able to keep a straight face when Mom gets her Institute reports and complains about her admin problems.
Terise sends him a lofty smile. “He’s admitting it because he has the smarts of a quantum computer and the common sense of a nanobot.”
“You cut me to the core, T.” He makes kissy noises in her general direction and grins in the glow of her fiber-optic sweater.
She pats his freckled face. “You’ll get over it. See you tonight.”
We ditch him at his advanced robotics class and continue down the hall.
“What’s on your party menu?” I say, closer to her ear.
She throws me a look of mock outrage. “I can’t spoil that surprise. It’s against the rules.”
“Since when? Are you my best friend, or not?”
“Fine, fine. I’ll tell you.” She clears her throat. “The main course is pizza. Well, that’s not illegal yet, but I’m serving it with potato chips and French onion dip, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and ice cream sundaes with whip cream and maraschino cherries. Plus some deep-fried jalapeños.”
I have a hard time suppressing a squeal. “You’re an absolute goddess.”
“I know.” She leans toward my ear. “It’s easy to buy basics like flour, eggs, oil, and sugar, but it’s getting tougher to buy things like chocolate chips. Finn had to help me set up a VirtCoin account so I wouldn’t be tagged for racking up a ton of junk food sales on the Black Grid. You know, in case the government is poking around for proof to arrest people. Same for buying the potato chips, whipping cream, and cherries.”
Whoa. That’s risky, prowling on the shady side of the Grid. “What’s a VirtCoin?”
She lowers her voice further yet. “It’s an anonymous ‘wallet’ we can use to buy stuff, instead of using our ID chips and thumbprints online. If people want to donate credits to the account, they can. Kind of like old-fashioned ‘laundering’ through a legit site. When we buy illegal food, it’s programmed to look like we’re getting harmless things like holo-posters or jeans.”
“You’re letting all our friends buy food with that account?”
“Not a chance. Anyone going to the party can donate to the site, but not everyone can spend the Coin. Finn authorized you to buy. He’ll send you a link for the encrypted login. The delivery addresses are also hidden from government snoopers by shifting encryption codes.”
I follow her into our last sophomore-tier class, a hard knot forming in my gut. “The delivery part won’t work for me. I have a hunch Mom scopes out everything shipped to our house. And she might be checking my room for hidden stashes of food. There’s no safe place to store it.”
“Then Finn and I and a few other trusted people will buy the stuff. Don’t worry about it, Lexi.”
But I do worry. I’m basically a freeloader who lets everyone else take the risk of buying foods labeled “unhealthy” or straight-out banned by National Health Care Directive 2040. Mom helped roll out that disaster of a decree on Labor Day. And with her ties to the government, I have more at stake than anyone else. If I get fined and arrested, it won’t just affect me—it would wreck Mom’s reputation as a councilwoman for national health care.