BEFORE YOU READ THIS UPDATE PLEASE READ Among us Parts 1 – 3:
Among Us I — http://storiesbydude.com/2020/06/12/among-us/
Among Us II — http://storiesbydude.com/2020/07/17/among-us-ii/
Among Us III — http://storiesbydude.com/2020/07/31/among-us-iii/
A Short Story by Remontz
Location: Union Prime Space Station/Colony — Union Prime University
Date: 9th day of Lesser Equinox
Classroom 418B. Rose dreadfully scanned herself into attendance and took to her desk. She slumped her chin into her palm, her elbow barely maintaining contact on the slippery, sanitized desktop. As all Amber students at the university were, she was mandated to completing three-credit hours of “Amber History and Sociology 101”. Each. And. Every. Year. As refresher of course. So that they never forgot their place. The bottom. The instructor, ignoring the commonly practiced five minute grace period, promptly locked access to the classroom at exactly 1500.
“Exam.” The days learning objective was displayed through a holographic projection screen on each students desk.
“Attention.” He called, “Please turn your Chronos off…Today’s exam will be conducted with the tools of our ancestors…”
A murmuring stir bubbled throughout the class as he produced a thick stack of papers and an accompanying box of writing utensils. He sat the supplies on the rotatable table that sat in the center of the classroom; taking his seat immediately after. “Well…”, he interlaced his fingers, “What are you waiting for? Begin.” He instructed while looking down at his watch and starting the forty-five minute timer.
The students scrambled. Reaching and frantically grabbing at the rotating table for the exam taking tools.
Rose thought of how elementary and basic it was for them to be given a written exam to close the semester. Rose had detested everything about the class for the entire semester but this was downright laughable. A slap in the face of intellectual progression. She grabbed the antiquated exam booklet and a pencil; slowly rotating the latter in her hands, developing a feel for it. Rose hadn’t used a pencil since grade school — Mrs. Ferguson’s arts and crafts classes, during Union Prime history month, in which the students emulated life in various centuries of the past.
Toying with the pencil was eating at her time as she daydreamed. Finally, Rose used it to break the adhesive seal that held the exam pages shut. She fluttered open the booklet, taking in the pulp scented document and considering the test length as she did so. She inhaled a breath full of revolt and exhaled a stream of loathing.
The first page was simply a request for the test takers name. Simple enough. She turned the page and found that the next one was intentionally left blank. A Union Prime University logo rested on the accompanying page. Rose glanced up at the timer being displayed on her desk — she had forty-three minutes remaining to complete the exam. To her that meant it would be forty-three minutes of pure propaganda driven torture. That’s all the entire class had been.
On the next page the directions for the exam were given: “1. This is a closed-Chronos exam. You are prohibited from using any forms of resources that are not directly on your biological person.
”2. There are 11 pages, including this one, of multiple-choice questions and a final page featuring a short survey response question. The latter will not be graded. The survey will be used purely to assess your understanding of Amber sociology.
”3. You will be given 45-minutes to complete the exam.
”4. The entire 45-minutes must be observed by all students and there shall be no talking until the entire time limit has run its course. Good Luck.”
Rose turned the page only for her jaw to drop in complete horror. She slammed her fist down hard on the desk and searched the room for any semblance of mutual disgust in the faces of her classmates. There wasn’t a single pair of eyes with a shred of Amber-empathy in them, other than her own. Not even the slightest hint of consideration was amongst any of their privileged consciousnesses.
“Is there a problem, Ms. Zuri?” The professor interrogated with a anger inducing smugness about his expressionless smile.
Rose cleared her throat, embarrassingly holding her rage in; with every breath she pressed it back down. Deep, deep, down — into the recesses of her mind and spirit, where it had to stay for her own safety. She took a moment to fully collect herself before answering, “No, sir. Everything is fine, I just…uh…dropped my pencil.” She gave a quick smile and waited for his response.
“Ahhh…”, he chuckled. “…it may take you a bit longer than the others to become adjusted to it. Very well. Proceed.”
How Rose wished to snap his twig-like body in two at that moment. Instead, she nodded and read the hideous first question once again:
“1. Why were twenty-third century geneticist compelled to create isolated gene therapy in order to suppress Amber mutative properties?
”A. Because Ambers’ are prone to violent outbreaks and the mutations would put society at greater risk during an outbreak.
”B. Without suppressing the genetic disease all of humanity would potentialy come to have contaminated DNA.
”C. The Ambers faced extinction without some scientific breakthrough to help them combat the genetic disease.
“D. All of the above.”
Cringing, she gave the answer needed to pass the test. The wrong answer in actuality — she like all Ambers knew the reason for the SGT shots was too keep Ambers from being more powerful than non-Ambers. Now in present times, they shared none of the superhuman abilities of their ancestors; the only traces of their former selves was in their eyes.
The remainder of the test was much of the same. Anti-Amber propaganda driven theories and historical lies hidden with sprinklets of truth. She powered through it. Holding back the tears and anger as she had done the past two years she’d been forced to take the class. Both times she’d been the only Amber enrolled. However, hurtful as it may be, it was imperative that Rose not cause a stir about it.
Discipline was always swifter and harsher on an Amber-eye. Plus, she needed to get through the next few weeks without any trouble finding her, so as retain eligibility to be for the Earth trip. All third years went to Earth for field studies in their respective career paths.
As a Civil Engineering Major, with a minor in historical civilizations, Rose was slated to visit the ancient ruins of Egypt and study the many monuments and wonders that the ancients there had erected. She was beyond excitement. Nothing — not even a prejudiced professor teaching an even more prejudiced curriculum could break her determination to study on Earth.
Kora and Rose stood in line next to one another and giggled excitedly about the opportunities that lay ahead. They were in queue to be fitted for their traveling kits — a full body protective suit, equipped with the latest amenities of space travel. Including, among other necessities, was a suit patching kit, first aid pouch, auxillary oxygen tank and a state of the art communicating module.
This Field study trip would be both of their first times leaving Union Prime. A huge milestone in a young woman’s life. They’d gotten extremely lucky to not only both remaining eligible through the entire year, but also in both being tasked to visit Egypt. Kora had wisely put her Non-Amber privileges to good use; as a Creative Writing major, she had been able to convince the University Council that a chance to visit the ancient library of Alexandria would be tremendously beneficial for her studies.
“I’m so excited!” Kora exclaimed as they stepped forward in line. They were next up.
“I know…Me too!” Rose agreed, unable to hide her smile. “I can’t believe it’s already here. I’ve waited all year for this…”
Kora squeezed her fists tight and bounced on her toes with pure joy radiating from her smile. Her short crop hair was dyed a bright purple with blue tips highlighting the eccentric style. A single braid bounced around her temple as she jumped.
“Jeez, sis! Calm down a bit before they turn us away…”
“You’re right. You’re right. I just…aaah…we’re going into space!!!” Kora announced.
“We’re already in space…”, Rose laughed.
“Next…” the registar called out.
Kora sprinted towards him and began the onboarding process with her usual high-level energy and enthusiasm.
As soon as her best friend left her side, Rose felt completely isolated and exposed. The feeling, mostly due in part to the ominous glances she received from the Union Prime Travel Security Agents. She felt a swell of pride mixed with fear in her heart as the realization that, though they did not want her to, she did in fact belong there, fell upon her. She quickly swiped the tear from her eye and smiled back at Kora who was now heading towards the entrance of the dressing facility.
“Next…”, the Registar motioned for her to step forward.
Rose ignored the snickering of the students behind her as she tripped, taking her first step towards her trip to Earth.
“Hello,” She greeted the Registar and held her Chronos out towards the verification device. “Where do I n—“
“Gotta ‘nother one…” the Registar announced.
“Aw you gotta be kidding me…”, said one the other agents in disgust. “This way, you.” The agent called for her.
“Uh….okay…”, she started towards the new agent, confused and looking to the Registar for an explanation.
“Next…”, he called for the next student without giving her a second glance.
“Come on. Come on. I ‘on’t have all day….”, the new agent called.
Rose noticed his name tag, “Yes Sir….uh…”, she stammered, “Officer Holizar…why a—“
“This way. Let’s go.” He ushered her towards a separate facility across the pathway from the dressing and fitting building that Kora had entered. “Hands up.” He commanded as he used his Chronos to scan her body for weapons and contraband. “Clean!” He yelled into the building before instructing her to enter.
As she stepped into the doorway and forceful mist blasted her above, below and into her face. After her body was completely coated with the sterilizing mist, she felt a strong clasp right above her elbows.
Two Agents had hold of her and began walking her towards a desk in the center of the office.
The woman manning the desk, held a hand out indicating to the two other agents that they may leave. “Take a seat.”
Rose did as she was told and sat in the poor excuse for a chair that faced the mountainous desk. “Um…ma’am…may I ask—“
“You may not.” The woman cut her off. “Rose Zuri. Twenty. Height, one-hundred, fifty-seven point four, eight. Weight, forty eight ‘an half…”, the cold shouldering woman spoke with such a sharpness that Rose felt attacked by her tone.
It came as a shock when Rose realized she wasn’t the one the woman was talking to. “Got it.”, said a voice shrouded in the darkness to Rose’s left.
“First trip?”, the woman asked.
“I’m sorry…”, Rose had heard her but she was so terrified her brain and ears weren’t communicating properly.
“I’ll take that as a yes…”, woman tapped on the tablet before her, and quickly looked up into Rose’s eyes. Piercing deeply with her stare. “Do not cause any trouble while you are away.”
“Y-y-es….ma’am…”, Rose forced herself to respond.
Suddenly the footsteps of the two agents at the door drew nearer. The took up her arms once again, almost lifting her from the chair, before she stood on her own. They wheeled her around the large desk and towards another door. The agent on the right’s Chronos lot up as he accessed the next room. She was slightly pushed away and the door closed behind her.
“Rose!! What’s up!!” Darren stood and greeted her as she entered.
“Hey Darren…”, Rose greeted him in return, her voice hollow. “I…uh…I didn’t know seniors were going to Earth…”, she tried to force conversation.
“It’s only a handful of us. Going to complete my Research project in this place called Arizona. There’s this amazing, naturally formed rock canyon. Apparently there’s no other expansion like it on Earth! I just have to see it! Y’know?”
“Yeah…yeah…that sounds cool…”, Rose joined him on the bright white bench. The entire room was obscenely lit and a bright metallic white that stung the eyes. “Where’s Darrius?”
Darren looked down for a moment. A rare, quick moment of defeat parsed his face; though it was gone just as quickly, Rose knew what it meant before he said it. “We got split up…” he tapped his face just below his eyes with two fingers. “You know…”
“Yeah…”, Rose said sadly.
Darren pulled her close hugging her shoulders. Rose knew they hug was for him as much as for her as a few more tears found a way to escape her eyes.
Rose fell asleep on Darren’s shoulder as the wait and boredom got to her. She was startled awake by the chamber door sliding open.
The two guards who’d escorted her entered and demanded they both stand. The Agents shoved a folded set of suits into each of their arms, atop the suits sat a paperback book entitled: “Enjoying Earth.”
“No need to try them on. Your measurements were scanned when you entered.” One of the agents declared.
“Thank—“, Rose started.
“You may leave.” The other agent interjected showing them the door.
Rose walked out and into the boarding lobby and immediately spotted Kora’s bright hair. She was staring out of the giant window pane that overlooked the transport dock.
“Go on”, Darren laughed when Rose looked back at him. “I’m gonna go find Darrius.”
Rose nodded with a smile and paced diligently towards Kora.
Before Rose could sneak up and give Kora the surprise hug she had planned, Kora turned and spotted her. She bounced giddily and they embraced.
“That was so cool right!!!” Kora exclaimed.
“What was?” Rose questioned.
“Oh cut it out,” Kora laughed. “Even you have to admit that was awesome. Like when I walked in the machine went right work, it measures everything even our fingers?!?!” Kora searched Rose’s eyes for a shared enthusiasm that just wasn’t there to be found.
Rose tried, “Uh…yeah, yeah. It was weird too, huh.”
“Very!! Hey…you okay?”, Kora asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine.” Rose reassured before deflecting Kora’s attention towards the window. “So is that it?”
“Yep. That’s it!!” They two besties awed over the beauty of the shuttle that would take them to Earth. It was a massive, masterful work of art and spacecraftmanship.
The trip was bittersweet for Rose. As the other students enjoyed floating jello fights, flipping contest and racing in the zero gravity chamber, she couldn’t shake the ill-feelings towards the separate boarding practices.
Nevertheless she and Kora were here now. The home of ancient Egyptian civilization. Kora ran towards the first temple they saw, speeding away from Rose and their tour guide.
“Kora wait!!!” Rose chased after her.
“Oh my—“, Kora exclaimed.
“It’s…it’s her isn’t it?” Rose stepped slowly towards the statue that Kora was frozen in admiration before. Tears of joy curling over the dimples of the huge smile on her face.
“It has to be…”, Kora answered the rhetorical question. “Pain of The Lyon-ness.” Kora read the inscription below the statue.
Rose was stuck in a state of admirable silence. At a complete loss for words, she shrank before the display of her ultimate hero. The winged statue held a hand out reaching for…what? Her eyes and facial expression showed nothing but the utmost terror and pain. The wings: one erected straight out and the other curled back in distress.
“I wonder why the sculptor had her kneel. I can’t imagine anyone with wings would ever kneel! Right?!” Kora pegged excitedly.
Rose couldn’t respond, she was too lost in a bevy if emotions. She wiped the tears off her face and reached out towards the statue. Just as her hand grazed the tip of one of the wings the tour guide case screaming into the temple.
“Do not touch!! Do not touch!!!” He yelled, “This. More expensive than you both. We go now. Come.”
Kora laughed and quickly followed the guide.
Rose marveled at the figure a moment longer, backing away slowly.
She turned on her heel and quickly caught up to Kora and tour guide as they made their way to the planned route to the Library of Alexandria.
The spot where Rose’s tear soaked fingers had grazed the wing began to crack. Small shards of stone fell to the ground revealing the trapped, feather. More pieces began to fall to the temple floor, revealing the entire wing tip. The sun shining through the skylight coated the newly freed tip in heat.
Copyright © 2020 Kacy Gilbert (Writing as Remontz)
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