This serial is presented in draft form and will be updated each Thursday. Your comments are always welcome!
Prologue ~ Ch 1 ~ Ch 2 ~ Ch 3 ~ Ch 4 ~
It was several months before the “bad thing” that Nereida predicted began to manifest. There was a steady rise in tension amongst the adults living in the compound, although the children, of course, had no idea as to its source. When the children were not in their classes or the dining hall, they were confined to their dormitories. The twins had passed their twelfth birthday without fanfare, as was the way of things. Birth records were kept strictly for informational purposes, not as a cause for celebrating.
Most of the girls in their year-group had already entered puberty, the boys soon to follow. Tespiro usually hit between the ages of fifteen and seventeen and they were fully knowledgeable about what to expect from the combined changes in their bodies. Classes now focussed on science and mathematics.
A special assembly was called to take place in the dining hall, the only room large enough to contain all but the youngest year-groups. The girls from Nereida’s group were already seated when Ravi’s group arrived and he had no opportunity to sit beside her.
What’s going on? he asked silently.
I don’t know, but whatever it is it must be important. I heard Dr. Arjun himself is going to address us.
Dr. Arjun? Ravi couldn’t suppress the wave of shock he sent across their link. Despite the fact that Dr. Arjun was their leader and the chief scientist of the facility, none of the children had ever seen him. He was a shadowy authority figure; to some he was the monster in the night that they feared.
Nereida winced, squirming in her seat.
“Are you all right?” asked the nearest attendant.
“Yes ma’am,” Nereida said promptly.
“Then stop fidgeting.”
Sorry. Ravi’s voice whispered in her mind.
Have you noticed the number of attendants in here? Nereida asked.
Take another look, Ravi told her, glancing surreptitiously around the room. It’s not just attendants. There’s teachers and medical staff as well.
Intimidated by the number of authority figures in the room with them, the children kept their whispering to a minimum. They didn’t have long to wait. As the last year group was seated, another door to the room slid open and Dr. Arjun entered.
“Is this all of them?” he asked the nearest attendant.
“Yes, sir. The entire pre-tespiro group.”
“I had expected more.”
“I am sorry, sir, but with the virus and—“
Dr. Arjun cut him off, addressing the assemblage.
“I’m here to announce some much needed changes being made, effective immediately. Preparations are being made to move to a new facility. Until that time, classes will be suspended and the year groups will be confined to their dormitories. Meals will be brought to you there.”
There was a wave of murmurs, quelled almost instantly at a glance from the Doctor.
“It has also come to my attention that you children have been far too sociable. That stops right now. Your duty is to the Program and how you can perpetuate it. I feel it is time you had a daily reminder of this. You will no longer be known by names, you will instead have designations.”
What does he mean, we’re too sociable? Does this mean we can no longer see each other? Nereida asked.
We’ll find a way. And at least we can still talk mind-to-mind. But I think it’s more important than ever that we keep it a secret.
“I have looked at your recent academic test scores and I am not pleased,” Dr. Arjun went on. “Soon you will enter into tespiro, and until that time we have no accurate measurement of the strength of your gift. Only the most powerful will become a Breeder or a Seeder. The rest of you must find another way to be useful to the Program. If you do not have the strength or intelligence to make a contribution, you will not be allowed to remain part of this facility.”
This time the whispers that rose came from the adults as well as the children. For the children it was the fear of being cast of out the compound. The outside was a fearful place, it was unthinkable. The adults, however, knew all too well what the doctor was implying. Certain members of the staff had gone missing and it was to be wondered, what really happened to them?