Chapter 1.2

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I pushed the door open. Everyone was seated, a few seats were empty. Everyone leaned forward, both hands on the table, waiting for the program to begin teaching. All eyes turned to me, but only for a small period of time. Some eyes remained on me.

I walked to the closest empty seat. I sat down. To my left was a blonde with green eyes. She wore a blue blazer over a white shirt, and a jeans.

She frowned.

“What?”I muttered.

She simply shook her head in response.

The guy sitting next to me, was busy glaring at me.

What?” I again asked.

He shook his head too.

I was going to push for more answers, but the program blared to life in bright blue colors as a hologram up front. The hologram took the form of a woman who resembled a librarian with her spectacles. She was slightly tinted blue, just enough for any to recognize as a program, not an actual person.

“So who wants to learn some history today?”She said, in an active voice.

No one responded.

“No one?”

Now everyone shook their heads.

“So you’ve all heard of the near extinction level event that happened nearly a century ago, right?”

I nodded my head, along with plenty others.

“Today, we’re going to go in detail about what really happened that day.”

I leaned forward, now very interested in the topic.

“It was the twenty first century, the prime of humanity. Everyday someone had invented something new, done something great, or achieved a breakthrough.”

She showed holograms of news papers, each having a title that shouted out the new achievements of humanity, with gestures of her hand.

“You could find geniuses right around the corner that time. But the problem was, with the rise of technology, religion was beginning to fear that people would get too greedy, or we were insulting the gods, and many other worries. Each religion had their own views. The science academies continued to push forward, breaking barriers, and achieving the impossible on a daily basis. So finally, the most violent religion at that time, decided to hijack a nuclear missile and blow up the NASA institute. It didn’t work as the nuclear missile detonated in the silo they had kept it in. However, this sparked a war, a war between religion and science. Things soon turned ugly, people were targeted out in open areas, attacks going back and forth, back and forth, until one day, things had gone too far. Gise, one of the major terrorism groups in the time, even slaughtered thirty thousand people, slicing all their throats and turning an entire city red with their blood, just in spite. So the scientists retaliated, they released a modified virus that killed anything it touched within hours of being infected.”

She showed pictures of the virus, it was like a spider, only it had a pointed head, and also had a tail. She showed the victims next, hundreds of people lying dead on fields. Few pictures of them screaming, one of the pictures showing the victims begging for mercy. It didn’t have any audio, but the point was clear by the twisted expressions on their faces.

“But to prevent it wiping out the entire species, they put a special tag in registered citizens and themselves before they released it. They used lie detectors, and other sort of devices to separate the good from the bad.”

“But the virus evolved beyond its programming. It turned unstoppable, killing trees, animals, even the people with the tags. Nothing could stand in its way. Ninety percent of life was wiped out in three days.”

She showed pictures of earth turned red, the oceans slowly turning from blue to brown.

“But why wasn’t life wiped out completely? How are we still standing here? All thanks to one great man. His name was Victor. He was able to make a type of nanobot that killed the virus. In order to find out if it worked, he took a leap of faith and tested it on himself. He survived the virus, but not the people. He was killed by a stab wound in the chest. No one knows who did it or why, but we know we lost a great man that day.”

“Though he died, the nanobots didn’t. They spread and rampaged against the virus. It took a week for the virus to be exterminated, but that was enough time to annihilate another five percent of the life left on earth. Barely one percent of that was us, the humans. A few species of animals survived, like the dogs and cats.”

“Since most of the geniuses were gone, humanity was left to start over, with only 1 million thirty thousand  people left out of eight billion. They were all scattered around the world, so they first had to develop communication. Anyone with brains knew how to build a radio, so that was how we were able to keep our heads held high.”

“Within a few days, the survivors began to band together, forming factions. Most of the life was gone, but the buildings, structures, and all of man’s creation still stood. In those buildings were computers, computers that held important knowledge. But a major seventy percent of the knowledge was in the people, and those were gone. That turned out to be a major setback for humanity. But people still went forward, carrying the legacies of all the people we had lost. We ended up rediscovering everything that people had already found out. So right now, we are at the stage we were before the event, accelerating forward. But this time, we don’t have any religions, as the concept was lost in the event. All we know of religion is that it’s the reason we’re here and not out there.”

She showed pictures of space.

“That’s the lesson, but we still have more time. You all must be wondering what are the extra things you’re A.Is had instructed you to carry, right?”

I nodded.

I pulled the straps of my bag off my shoulder, then I turned around and unzipped it. I pulled out the pencil, the pen, and that notebook at last.

I placed all of them on the table.

“Recently, we found another bit of information about our ancesters that was lost in the event. Before they had computers, they used books to store information. They used to write using the pen, and draw using the pencil. Although you could use a pen to draw and a pencil to write, it’s a bit unconventional.”

“The Books they used to write on were made of paper, basically pulp of the bark of a type of tree that was flattened out and dried. The pen uses ink to write, but the pencil uses a mixture of clay and graphite. The graphite smudges on the paper, and the ink gets absorbed. The graphite can be erases with a bit of rubber, but the ink stays on. They were also different types of ink, but we know only of the ball point pen’s ink.”

I nodded.

“Why don’t you try using them? Start with the pencil because you can erase any mistakes and hence you can make your notebook more neat. Start with your name on the first page.”

I did as told, and I didn’t like the results. The Letters came out looking like random doodles.

I frowned.

The girl next to me laughed.

I smiled.

I took the eraser and did my best to make the scribbles disappear. It didn’t completely disappear, as there was the impression it made on the paper. Nothing I could do about that.

I took the pencil and tried again. This time, I used slow and long strokes, making sure to apply the lightest amount of pressure on the paper. The D came out looking italic, and had a curl at the top. The A I did smaller, but still in capital form, with a curl at the bottom and top. I used the same style for the I, the E, and the L.

Now it came out nice. I smiled and took the pen, sliding off the cap with my index finger and thumb. I followed the lines of all the letters carefully, though it went out of sync in a few places. After I was done, I realized it didn’t look good anymore with the black and blue overlapping, but since I was going to erase the pencil lines it didn’t matter.

“What do you think now?”I asked the girl sitting next to me.

She slowly nodded, giving a look of impression.

“Nice, and definitely better than your last try . What about mine?”

She showed me her notebook.

L I L Y was written across the top, with a rose  next to the top of the Y. the rose looked realistic rather than a cartoon with the amount of strokes used.

I raised my eyebrows and opened my mouth, and left it like that.

The gir-Lily smiled back at me.

“I have some practice. I use my computer to paint and sketch. This, right here, is just a thirty second sketch, but you should see the paintings I have at home.”

I closed my mouth so I could speak.

“Damn, that’s a skill I would love to have. But I’m just limited to science and technology .Basically a geek. But I ain’t just any geek, I’m the king of geeks.”

She giggled.

The program cleared her throat.

I looked up, and saw a not-very-pleased program looking at me. I gave my best innocent look and went back to the notebook. When the program wasn’t looking I stuck my tongue out at her. A couple of people who noticed giggled. I stuck my tongue back in, a moment before the program turned around.

“What was that?”

Nobody answered, each going on their own businesses, pretending as if nothing happened. I had a very strong urge to smile, but by some miracle I was able to keep myself from smiling. Though I wasn’t a hundred percent sure I wasn’t smiling.

*****

I walked a bit slower now, as I wasn’t in any hurry to get anywhere anymore. I walked through the obsidian door and into my locker. Grace’s image walked beside me and stopped as I did, but further ahead. She turned around.

“So Grace, what do I need for my assignments?”

“Nothing much, just a notebook and pencil, and an info cube. They want to start you off slow, so all you have today is to practice writing and drawing, and record your observations in the info cube. And here’s a little tip, The programs appreciate a little creativity.”

“Thanks, I’ll make sure not to forget. Oh, I almost forget, do I take you home or do I have to keep you here?”

“You have to take me home.”

“That’s a little odd, isn’t it? I mean what I broke you or something? I don’t think they could replace you easily.”

“First of all…. I don’t like the idea of being replaced. And I definitely do not like being destroyed, be it by accident or not. And also the encasing of the bracelet is plenty of times harder than iron, so it’s going to be very tough to break.”

“But still, why can’t I just keep you at the school rather than risking it?’

“Because, if we were only meant for in school purposes, then we are basically no better than a program .They also want us to help in other ways than guiding you to class or to your locker, for example, I could help you with that subject you don’t like, feeling lonely? I’ll be your best friend, feeling bored? Why don’t we talk about that hobby that you like. Get it?”

“Yup, you’re supposed to back our psyche, not our studies. Or is it both?”

“It’s both.”

“Thought so.”

“See, you aren’t as dumb as I thought you were.”

“Haha” I said, dryly.

Grace smiled.

“What was I doing again?”I asked Grace.

“You were taking the things you needed for your assignments and going home.”

“Right.”

I walked through the image of Grace, and put my bag on the top of the rack. I took an info cube and stuffed into the bag. I put the notebook and pencil next, in that order. Grace’s image disappeared.

I zipped my bag and put it on, before leaving the locker. I went through the elevator, and out the front door. The front door wasn’t familiar.

Then I realized, I hadn’t come through the front door in the morning or seen it in the entire time I had been at school.

I walked to the jetpack stand, took a jetpack and flew back home. I put my hand on the console, waiting for the small blue dot to appear. When it did, I simply pushed the door open, as it was unlocked by the house’s security systems.  I threw my bag onto the couch and took my seat beside it. Grace’s image appeared next to the other side of the bag. Her legs were crossed, and she was leaning forward, her hands cupping her chin.

“So….what do you do when you’re home?”

“Nothing, just relax. I live a quiet life. And I prefer to live it alone, as you know from the records.”

“Mmnhmm.”

“But don’t worry about it, If you prove yourself trustworthy and good company, you have nothing to worry about.”

“And if I don’t?” she asked, not challenging, but curious.

“You have something to worry about.”

She nodded, as if taking that in.

She stayed quiet for the next few minutes, leaving us both in awkward silence.

“I have to ask, do you have emotions?”

“I do. It’s not exactly the same type of emotions humans have because we’re artificial and are very different. But yes, I do have emotions.”

“How strong are they?”

“Same as you or any other person.”

I nodded.

I leaned back and closed my eyes.

“I’m going to sleep now. I know its noon, but there’s nothing keeping me awake.”

“Ok. Sleep tight.” She said.

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