A hologram surrounded the room in blue light, an image of an ocean displays around the room as the small group sat on an artificial sandy beach. Primina digs her fingers into the sandy ground feeling the individual grains pass between her tips. “So this is all not real?”
“Indeed.” Cody replies. “You are touching fragments of light with a collection of tiny machines that simulate sand. They are nothing more than creating the imagined state.” Cody smiles. “So in a way it is real, just not in the way we would consider it.”
“Amazing. There is so much to discover here.” Primina says. The days went by, Primina had found herself at home in the colony. She spent her time exploring the network of tunnels and the expansive gardens, learning all about the world that enclosed her. Yet still the question of what happened above hung in her mind. They graced upon the answer but never explained. She understood that “something bad” has happened. Outside of those vague terms no one answered her questions, though it became clear to Primina that people discussed it among themselves. As much as the question attempted to lace itself into the conversation Primina felt it best to tame that idea.
Azamoth’s usual wolfish smile bares from his spread lips. “Yet still, it is not enough to keep this dreaded boredom from consuming everything.”
“Azamoth, how can you be so negative?” Vanity jokes. Vanity had proven to be a loyal friend. As much as Primina did not know, a deep trust seated itself in her for Vanity. Cody too often tagged along, though she always suspected he is observing her for purposes unknown. Though she still found him kind. As for Azamoth; he always dressed in a suit, acted more non callant as the others. In some ways Primina found him to be the only genuine person around; while by some unspoken law is bound from speaking his mind. At least that is the impression she got. “We just had the most interesting thing in years happen.” Most people in the colony were friendly and playful. It did not take Primina long to realize she was the only child. The others made it easy to forget.
Azamoth nods his head. “Sure, right? As long as I say nothing.”
“That’s right Azamoth. We all have to abide by the rules of the board. It is for our own safety.” Cody firmly states.
“Shit, with logic like that maybe we should all be kept in boxes.” Azamoth grunts.
Cody raises an eyebrow. “What was that?”
“You two stop it. We are here to relax, not have some petty squabble over something that can’t be changed. We should just be happy our mercy has revealed itself.” Vanity chimes. Primina pretends not to notice that all eyes are shifting onto her.
“Azamoth, how old are you?” Primina asks. He bursts into laughter. Cody sits upright diverting his gaze to the side. A mask that had become familiar to Primina crosses Vanity’s face, a smile, artificial as can be but none the less painted on as her impenetrable garment. “Well, I don’t think it is that funny of a question?”
“Well then, my dear? How old are you?” Azamoth asks.
Primina’s face falls. “How old am I?” she questions herself with no reply. How could she have forgotten something so key to her, something so simple as her age? Stasis had scrambled most of her memories. Only fragments remained and even those were narrations that rung in her mind. The slowly spreading realization troubled her, especially when tangible details are simply gone from thin air, ones so key to her person. “I don‘t know? How old am I?”
Azamoth glares at Cody. “Well, why not tell her how old she is?”
“I don’t know.” Cody bluntly groans. “It, it is not important.”
“Well, how old does she look?”
Cody furrows his brow giving Azamoth a swift glare. “What does it matter?”
“Come on, look at her. What is she, a teenager? Pre-teen? Huh? How old?” Cody’s face straightens out. His composure returning. “Judging by her body, I will guess maybe, twelve but you could be as old as fifteen.”
“But how old am I really?” Silence between the group returns. “You guys know but you won’t tell me. I get it, you don’t want me to know how long I have been in stasis.” Primina pouts. “I don’t know why you don’t want me to know.”
“We don’t know how long you have been in stasis.” Vanity assures. “To be honest, no one in the colony knows exactly how long you were in stasis.”
“So what else won’t you tell me?” Primina asks.
Cody shakes his head. “A lot. It is for your own good not to question it. Just know that we are protecting you Primina. A kid does not need to know the weight of the world’s problems. You should just be happy you are out of stasis and safe. Just accept things for what they are. Your curiosity is unwelcomed.” Primina’s eyes turn glassy as she looks into Cody’s firm gaze. His lips soften into a pout. “It is not my choice. Just as you are not allowed to know, I am not allowed to tell you. Trust me, it is hard.”
“Who is the board?” Vanity closes her eyes letting out a long sigh. “Helibore talks about them sometimes. Mumbles about them. They are the ones making all the rules right. I want to talk to them.” Her eyes lock onto Cody. His face chips into a small smile even as much as he tries to suppress it.
“Yeah, I bet you do. But you can’t.” Cody grunts.
Azamoth shakes his head. “Kiddo, we all want to talk to them. See you and me and Vanity and Cody. We are never going to even see the board. All we know is they are here somewhere. They make the rules and we follow them. If we don’t we have to leave. Simply put no one speaks to the board aside from the board itself. Helibore is a member, if you want to talk to the board; talk to Helibore.”
Cody jumps up from the ground shoving a finger in Azamoth’s face. “What the hell are you thinking Azamoth?” His gaze snaps back to Primina. “You never repeat that, to anyone! None of you. This conversation does not leave this room!”
“Cody, they listen from every grain of sand. You know there are no secrets.” Azamoth chuckles. “Every dot of these walls, everywhere you go, they are watching us. We are nothing more than trapped animals waiting in their cages.”
“Stop it!” Vanity shouts. “Primina, we are going to leave.”
“What so you can hide from the truth?” Azamoth says sprawling back onto the sand. “They are not our gods Vanity. If they were, this would be over.” In an instant the sands sweep into the air and the hologram of the ocean disappears with a flash and a flicker.
“Announcement, All Class B Citizens are to report to the briefing room immediately.” a male voice calls over the intercom. “I repeat All Class B Citizens are to report to the briefing room immediately.”
“Shit.” Azamoth says turning pale as a ghost. “You don’t think that is…”
Cody shakes his head. “They would not call everyone for your stupid outburst. Come, lets go. Vanity take Primina to her quarters. I will fill you in.”
“Right.” Vanity says.
The dull roar of the ventilation system rattles Primina right to the bones. As she paws through the dark confines of the shaft, she makes her way towards the conference room. After she was sure Vanity had left her to her own devices, she snuck through the small opening in her room. The tunnel is remarkably clean Primina thought to herself. As if maintained and scrubbed clean. Something she was sure happened because of nano machines which from her understanding coated just about everything inside the colony.
“Now, now, the implications are not as dire as it would immediately seem.” she hears the familiar old and weathered voice of Helibore state. ”The process is going as planned. We have already dispatched the majority of class D citizens. We have known for some time the cells will eventually fail. I just was not expecting it to happen so soon.”
“Why won’t the hanger doors open?” a woman calls out. Primina lays tight against the floor placing her ear close to the vents opening.
There is a pause, Primina’s heart skips. Did someone spot her? “Well, we don’t know.” Helibor continues much to her relief. “None of the surface doors are responding to internal commands. I don’t mean to alarm anyone but I am sure Armitage has discovered our location. Not that we have ever held any ideals of concealment. I am quiet certain because of our experiments it has taken notice. Most likely this is a means of keeping our new talents hidden from the rest of the world. I foresee no further interruptions.”
“How much time do we have left before the cells are completely drained?” a man asks.
“Well, that depends. Do we conserve energy and alarm the people inside the colony, or do we attempt to repair the cells? I have a plan that is risky. Although required to ensure the success of the colony’s ambitions.” Helibore says raising a slight amount of chatter from the people. “While the surface hangers won’t operate we still maintain full control over the subterranean gates.”
“What are you mad?!” a man roars as the people go into a frenzy.
“Enough!” Helibore shouts. “We don’t have many options. I said it was risky. I understand full well what it means to open those doors! What else would you have me do? We need parts to repair the systems. Without those we will be at a full blackout within the year. We will be trapped here. If we do nothing, then this colony is a tomb in the making. Either way, we will complete this process, however if we have to increase pace it has new complications. So, what I want is a group of volunteers to go through the Amala to the surface and return with a new cell. I will present those willing with the dream, in case of complications I will guarantee you the reward. I understand there is a risk of no return but think of your duty to the colony.”
There is a shuffling of feet. “I will go.” a man says.
“I will go too, as long as I get the serum.” A few more people agree stepping forward.
“That settles it. The council will open the hangering doors. The rest of you, go about your daily lives and do not mention this to anyone. Treat it as though nothing at all out of the unusual has occurred.”
The dull chatter of mechanical servos creak inside the clean sterile doctor’s office, metal arms adjusting and every so often sparking as it assembles a glass tube. Helibore’s steps move about behind Primina. She places her feet up on the chair she rests in. Its comfortable and adjusts itself as she moves to perfect its comfort as if alive. A needle is inserted into her forearm, slowly pumping a stable line of red from her. The beep of a heart monitor canvases the background to a steady beat.
“I already have had blood taken twice this month.” Primina pouts laying her head onto the rest. Helibor’s steps stop. “The rules are twice a month, it is for my own good. Right, well, why again so soon?”
A titter escapes Helibore before he recomposes himself. “My, you do know the rules rather well don’t you.” Stepping into view he bears a warm smile on his face. One which made Primina feel entirely uncomfortable. He is never one to smile, especially when questioned. The thing is like an article of the wrong style and color, it just appeared utterly out of place on him. Her fingers grip the armrests tightly. “Well, you always are such a smart girl. There has been a complication in your treatment. Our, window of opportunity has closed some. What I mean to say is we have less time. I want to make sure you are healthy, but we need to take a little extra blood from you. Just to make sure everything works out.”
“I never agreed to this.“ Primina grumbles.
Patting Primina’s leg Helibore lets out a hearty laugh standing to his full height. “I don‘t believe you did in the first place. In fact, if I remember correctly you used to fight tooth and nail against it. I remember you hiding in those vents.” he says turning away from Primina. “Always hiding and trying to miss your appointment, but I always knew you had to eat so I would wait until you got hungry. Primina, I cherish you. You are a treasure among treasures, a real fountain of miracles.”
Primina smalls into Helibore’s chair. “I noticed a guy I used to see by the river has not been there in a while. Also that lady who runs the commissary, she’s also missing. Where is everyone going?”
Placing his hand on the thick glass bottle Helibore inspect the crimson fluid. “Just a bit more.” He clears his throat, his graying blue eyes locking onto Primina. “Well, I don’t know where they went. I tell you what? How about after you rest we go look for them?”
The grass against Primina’s legs felt nice. It is springing but not enough to irritate the skin. The smell of roasted onions and steak covered in a creamy red pepper cheese sauce wafts from her plate. Raw dark leafy greens rest off to the side with a small pile of cherries for dessert. Her fork dips into the steak releasing a hidden spring of juices as Vanity rubs her shoulders. “Vanity? How come you never have dinner with me?”
“Silly, you already know that.” Vanity chuckles. “I don’t eat until later after my shift.”
“Yeah, but, I am eating now. So why don‘t you just eat with me sometime. Or maybe I could eat later.” Primina asks. She lifts a fork full of greens looking back to Vanity as she takes her bite.
Vanity softly smiles. “You have a special eating schedule to insure you have the energy you need. After all you are having a lot of blood draws, and it seems like Helibore wants to increase that schedule. It is important you get the right nutrition or else you may get sick.”
“If it can make me sick, then why are you doing it?” A tingling yet comforting sensation crawls through Primina’s hair as Vanity walks her fingers untangling her ends. “You’re touching me. Vanity, that is not allowed.” Vanity just hums as she continues running her fingers through. “Vanity?”
“O’ Prina, stop. Don’t worry about things so much.”
“But we could hurt each other.” Primina groans.
“Prina, does it hurt?” She shakes her head. “So, it can’t be bad can it?”
Primina takes another fork full of greens. She chews deliberately longer than usual giving herself some time to think. It is true; it does not hurt. She never understood what is so bad about touching, anyway. She swallows. “But, we could get into trouble.”
Vanity grins lowering her hair over Primina’s face. It tickles her nose as she pushes against the strands trying to brush them away. “Stop it Vanity.” Primina chirps. Vanity’s fingers tittle and wriggle onto her sides. The tickling sensation runs down her spine as she falls onto the ground releasing a loud giggle. “Stop Vanity! I am going to pee!” Vanity lies on her back letting out a little huff of her own.
“That was fun.”
Primina looks over her shoulder to see a pair of legs fast approaching. Gazing up she sees Helibore’s face crinkled into a demonic mask of rage. “Vanity!” he booms. “What in the world are you doing!” With wide eyes Vanity rises to her feet. He points his sharp finger towards the entrance gates to the small garden enclosure. “Out!” Vanity lowers her head and does not say a word as she quickly leaves. His venomous gaze latches onto Primina who still sat on the ground on her knees. “What did I tell you Primina! You could have damaged her! You are never to touch others ever.” Helibore wags his shaking finger. “In the old days!” he roars as Primina cowers from his wrathful thunder. “I would have strangled you dead for this! Watched the life crawl from your bloody tears. Times do not allow for that.” Warm tears stream down her cheeks. For all the joy she had felt the room became filled with a tense sense of foreboding. “From now on the both of you will be separated!”
“Helibore it was my fault.” Primina cried. “I should not have touched her. I am so sorry!” she yelps. “Please, I won’t do it again.” her voice cracks.
He shakes his head. “Fine, but for right now you eat your food. I will decide what to do later. After you are to report back to your quarters until I tell you to leave. Do I make myself clear?” Primina nods her head. Turning from her Helibore marches out of the room leaving her alone in the garden with her plate of food.