Chapter 1.5

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I put the jetpack back on the stand. It was early noon, with the sun shining bright, and since I hadn’t put any sun block, my skin burned where the sun light fell on it, and turned a faint red. Faint, but visible.

I wore jeans along with a loose t-shirt.

I didn’t know what you generally wore on parties so I decided to just wear whatever felt natural. And this was what I came up with.

I felt some uneasiness because I wasn’t sure whether I wore the right type of clothes for a party. And partly because I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of everybody.

I shook my head.

No matter what happens, show confidence, that way you’ll just look like you have no idea what they think is wrong, which is kinda true.

James’s house- or should I say mansion was three storey tall and was now filled with noise. His lawn was big enough to fit three playgrounds in it, and had trimmed grass that was maybe three inches tall. There were also nicely trimmed shrubs along the pathway to the house. There were two gates, one for walking, and the other for driving or flying.

Both were made from carbon composite, meaning you couldn’t break through with a wrecking ball.

It was the type of house that only the millionaires could afford, but this city was filled with the sort, so it was actually pretty normal. My house was way smaller compared to this, and didn’t have the same amount of security, but I was the only person living in it and I was only staying there for a month, so it didn’t make sense to expand.

I walked to the smaller gate, and found a blue console on the wall. I was going to try to open the gate myself, but the gate opened automatically. There was no one on the lawn, meaning this was an indoor party.

The door opened by itself too, revealing students all around, either standing in groups, or playing alone on the massive holo-systems. The music was a little louder than I had anticipated.

Barely anyone turned to look at me, and if they did, they just went back to their businesses.

I felt relieved that my clothes fit in, as the others were wearing the same sort.

I spotted James walking down the stairs, and he seemed to be looking for me too, judging from the way he was glancing around. When he spotted me, he waved me over, and I followed him. I went upstairs and was surprised to see a pool at the end of the hall.

Sitting on the edge of the pool was the group. They spotted me and waved.

I waved back.

Lily gestured for me to come over.

I dodged past various students and sat by James at the edge of the group.

“So what do you think!!” Sam asked, shouting so he could be heard over the volume of the music.

“It’s nice!”I said.

“What!?”

“I said it’s nice!”

He nodded.

Greg said something to Lily, and she nodded. Then she said something to Ray and Sam, and they nodded too. Diana must’ve heard, because she seemed to understand too.

They all looked me, making me very nervous.

“What!?”

They said nothing. And then I got pushed into pool, splashing everywhere.

The water was cold at first, but I liked the cold. And since I had a lot of experience with swimming, I was able to bring myself upright quickly.

The group laughed.

I faced the group and narrowed my eyes.

Then, I pulled Lily’s leg, bringing her into the pool too. The splashing water blinded me, but I recovered from the sting quick enough to see Lily fuming.

She struggled more than I did.

When she was upright I said, “Not so funny now is it?”

The rest of the group laughed.

She swum back to the pool and heaved herself over the edge of the pool, slipping a few times.

“Aren’t you going to get out of the pool!?” Diana asked.

I shook my head.

“Love the water!”I said.

They gave me confused faces, but then seemed to understand.

“Why don’t you guys jump in!?” I asked.

“Sure!”Greg said, and then he jumped in, splashing everybody, and turning the group wet.

A bit of water went into my eyes again, and I was blinded for nearly a minute. There were a couple more splashes, and when I opened my eyes the entire group was in the water.

The reason I wanted to stay in the water, was because it reminded me of my comfy base, in which I had a lot of pools. And I used to spend a lot of time in those pools, because it made me feel calm, ad at peace. Something I wanted to hold on to, after the event.

And I could already feel myself becoming calmer, less concerned about all the bullshit going on in my crazy life.

We splashed water on each other’s faces, and spent half an hour playing in the water. It was pretty fun too. The other students preferred to stay out of the pool and dance or play or whatever.

We spent an hour talking about what we wanted to do when we grew up, what our dreams were, what we wanted to accomplish.

Greg and Sam, they wanted to be astronauts, and wanted to explore the galaxy. Lily wanted to live a peaceful live, where she could do her art and live near a beautiful landscape.  Diana wanted to build a better system, build a system in which there were no flaws, in which everyone was happy. Ray wanted to become an engineer; he wanted to build magnificent buildings, building that would be legend. I gave my ambition to be the architect of said buildings of legend, because it seemed funny, me wanting to be, well, me.

I felt sad, because of all the ambitions of the people who wouldn’t survive the event. It haunted me, all those beautiful thoughts and minds, would…. Just… be gone. After the event, it was just their memory that survived, and it was up to the survivors to keep it.

So I bottled up those feelings and spent the next few hours talking, sometimes about me, and sometimes about them.

It was getting dark, and students were starting to file out. I wasn’t sure if I had to leave too, because I could reach home anytime I wanted, as there were no parents at home waiting for me.

But I wasn’t sure about the others, they were felt confident, and actually waiting for the end of the party.

I decided it was best for me to go, as I didn’t want to bother Sam, since it was his house.

“Wait!”Greg said.

I stopped in my tracks.

“Where are you going?”The music had turned off, so he could speak properly.

“I thought… It was time to leave… since all the other students had left… and I didn’t want to bother James if I stayed too long or anything…”I lamely explained.

“Well, you don’t have to worry about bothering James, but unless you have somewhere to be, you can stay. Sam’s parents won’t be home till tomorrow evening, so you don’t have to worry about that.”He said.

“Alright.”I said.

I felt cold, and the water in my clothes made me feel heavy, but I was familiar with the feeling so it wasn’t too bad. Crazy as it sounds, I actually like the feeling, or should I say the familiarity of the feeling. I spent a lot of time walking around like this in the base, so I was used to it. The others, weren’t. They were hunched, hugging their shoulders and rubbing their arms.

Sam disappeared through a door and reappeared with a few towels in hand. Everyone took one and wrapped it around themselves, including me. I tortured my head by rubbing the towel harshly against my hair until it turned from dripping wet to damp. I wiped my face and my arms, and then my neck. I couldn’t do anything about the waist-down part, as the water from my shirt and pant would make my legs wet no matter what, so I let it be.

I pressed the water out of my shirt as well I was able, and got like fifty to sixty percent of the water out. I did the same for my legs, being careful not to go any higher.

I couldn’t imagine the torrent of insults that would get me.

After everyone was done, I was free to ask my question.

“What now?” Not great, but it was a question.

“The After-party.” Ray said, smirking.

An after party. Great. I didn’t know shit about an actual party, and now there was an after party. What the hell was I supposed to do now?

Probably just play along and watch from the sidelines. Easier said than done although, because there were plenty of problems I could run into.

The architect, the world’s youngest, and arguably, greatest genius of all time, now dumbstruck with high school problems. How impressive of you John.

I couldn’t help but smile, after that thought.

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Chapter 1.4

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My eyelids felt heavy. I fought to stay awake. It would not give me any brownie points with the program if I dozed off. Thing was, it looked like I wasn’t the only one who thought this class as extremely boring. So I wasn’t necessarily fighting th battle alone. I tried listening to what the program was saying.

“… Use three force fields…”but I again tuned it out, because I wasn’t hearing anything new.

This stuff was what they thought you over and over again as it was ‘necessary’ in your life and so that you wouldn’t forget it.

“…And that’s the end of this lesson. Class dismissed.”

Finally.

I got up and slid my back over one shoulder. I walked out of the class among twenty something students. One of the students had a heavy amount of security implants, like the small thick metal tube that showed from the bottom of his wrist. The skin was white where it met with the tube.

I suspected that the boy was from a rich family, as only they could afford implants like that. It also meant that he was the type who expected everything to be handed to him. Thing was, even with his personality, I was probably sure that people worshipped him and did his work for him, even if they got shot down in front of everyone they knew. I made a mental note to stay away from him, and others like him.

I bumped into the girl I sat with yesterday in history, and technology class.

“Excuse me.”I said.

“It’s no problem. John right?”

We both began walking again, as we had stopped for a second there.

“Yup, that’s me. And you must be Lily. Never actually introduced ourselves properly, did we?”

She smiled.

“No we did not. But that’s because of the fact we were still in class. If you don’t mind me asking, how’d you get in? You don’t seem to be the type with high and mighty parents.”

“Um, I got in through the competition.”

Her eyes widened.

“Damn, you know that only one person out of millions make it every year in the competition?”

“Really? That is something I did not know.”I said, exaggerating my tone.

She lightly punched me in the shoulder.

“Serious. ”She said, but she was smiling.

I gave my best innocent look, widening my eyes.

“But, I am serious.” I said, in a tone that was too good to be real.

She giggled.

“Seriously, knock it off.” She said, but she was still smiling.

I smiled.

She slowed down before a turn, meaning we had to part ways.

“I have to go for my geography class, so could we meet up in lunch break? I’ll be waiting for you.”

“See you then.”

She nodded, then she started walking again. Then I did too, heading for my psychology class.

“Grace, how come you’ve been silent the entire time I’ve been in school?”I asked.

“That’s because there’s nothing much I feel like talking about, and you didn’t ask me for anything.”She said, a little too quickly.

Now I knew she was hiding something.

“Oh.”I said.

“Why?”

“It’s nothing. Just been wondering.”

“K.” she said.

She didn’t say more, meaning that she was probably scared of me getting suspicious or getting worried about me wondering about her.

***

 

I went through the opening that was the door to the lunch room, feeling a cool breeze.

Cool, they had AC.

I looked around, searching for Lily. I spotted her sitting with a couple of other kids. She saw me at the same time I did, and waved me over. A few of the kids sitting with her looked my way, and one of them said something, then Lily said something in turn.

It was probably just a ‘Who’s that?’ and a ‘Just a guy I met yesterday.’

They were three guys and one girl sitting next to Lily. The guy sitting opposite to Lily had curled hair, and wore spectacles that were more edgy, giving it a nicer look. The guy sitting next to him had a nice guy sort of look, and had a fit build. He wore a smile that revealed perfect white teeth. The other girl had black hair that was shoulder length and curled at the end, she looked very attractive, even more than Lily. The guy sitting next to Lily had dark hair longer than most boys and was smirking.

All of them looking pretty attractive compared to me.

Me, I was skinny and barely exercised the past two years. But I did have good hair, and violet eyes that was one of a kind. I also had the personality, which won me more respect than any of the looks.

When I was a few paces from them, Lily walked up and greeted me.

“Guys, This is John. I met him at History class yesterday”

“Nice to meet you John,” the one with the million dollar smile said, his voice sincere.

“Nice to meet you too.”

“And that would be Ray. This is Diana, one of my close friends.”She gestured at the attractive girl.

“Hey John,” Diana said.

“Hi Diana.”I said.

“That’s Gregory.” She gestured at the guy with the cool glasses.

“You can call me Greg,” he said in a friendly voice.

“Alright, Greg.”

“And last but not least, that’s Sam.” She gestured to the guy who was sitting next to her.

“Hey John.”

“Hey Sam.”

“Come on John, take a seat, don’t wanna leave you standing.”Lily said.

“Sure.”

I sat down next to Greg, opposite Diana.

“Oh Yeah, and I forget to tell you guys, one of the reasons I invited John here was because he’s this year’s winner for the competition.”

All of them gave me surprised faces, and looks of awe.

I simply shrugged.

“That competition is meant to pick out geniuses, with high stress tests and competition among millions. Every single one of the winners has achieved breakthroughs in this school that us normal kids can’t even dream of getting. You know what that means, right?”Diana said.

I nodded.

“Going to be a lot of expectations for me. All I can do is hope that I can live up to them.”

“If you got through that competition, trust me, you will live beyond our expectations.”Ray said, his voice still sincere.

I shrugged.

“Guys, why don’t we don’t we invite John to start of the year party?” Sam asked.

“What party?”I asked.

“The start of the year party. We have a party on this weekend, that our group is hosting, to celebrate the start of another year of school. We’ve been hosting the party for the last two years, which means after this party, we’re going to be the first ones to be host the start of the year party for three years in a row!”James said.

The group cheered, except for me, because I was pretty much new to this group.

He seemed to be pretty excited about it, and so were the others, so I played along, acting a bit more excited about the party than I really was.

“I’ve never been to a party before, not if you count the birthday and tea parties so what’s it going to be like?”I asked.

I really haven’t ever been to an actual party before, as I spent the last six years of my life as the architect, and before that, the only parties I got to were tea parties and birthday parties, like I said.

If they knew that, they wouldn’t be giving me those exaggerated faces right now. Wait, they’re faces would probably be more exaggerated. Which didn’t really seem possible without them turning into cartoons, but eh, I just wanted to make a point.

Greg covered his mouth.

Nerd alert.” He said, pretending to cough.

“It’s a long story.”I said, trying to defend myself.

“I’m in the mood for a nice long story right now.”Lily said.

“I don’t think this is a nice story.”I said.

“So it has twists? Excellent!” Diana said.

I narrowed my eyes.

She giggled, accompanied by Lily.

I looked at Ray, Giving him my best helpless face. He shrugged back at me.

James in the mean time, looked annoyed, impatient, and as if he was trying to say but couldn’t find an opening. Finally he gave up, frustrated.

“Seriously, it’s not something I want to share, because it’ll ruin the mood and I don’t want that to happen. James, you wanted to say something?”I said.

“Doesn’t matter now, moment’s passed. “

Sounds like he might’ve had some really good line that he wanted to throw in, probably making me humiliated in the process. In that case, I was very glad he didn’t get a chance to tell his joke. Unless it sucked, In that case I would’ve probably tried to defend him.

A buzz sounded across the lunch room, indicating that it was time to eat. I had seen the rules, it said same lunch for everybody, but not same lunch everyday. There was a routine, apparently.

White plastic trays appeared a bit above me, hovering down unto the table, making no noise as it touched the table’s surface. The contents were four white, spongy protein cubes, with a coating of molten chocolate. The cubes weren’t placed in a ordered pattern, they were placed in a way that made them look artistic, with a few slant, and at uneven distances from each other. There were what seemed to be different types of candy in the other half of the tray, with no wrappers or anything.

There weren’t real candy, just vitamins and minerals that looked like candy, in fact, I was sure even the chocolate wasn’t real chocolate, just something that tasted like chocolate, felt like chocolate, but not real chocolate. It probably had some nutrients in it that was meant for our body, but I still liked originality, even if made you fat.

Though I don’t have to worry about being fat, because no matter what I do, I cannot convince myself to eat properly. This dish for probably the thing I needed if I wanted to keep fit. I was sure that the plate had everything I needed, all balanced out, only problem was no student actually realized it. I knew because I wasn’t a legitimate student, wait no, I wasn’t a legitimate citizen .

I finished my lunch quick, aware that by the time I was done, it was the end of lunch break. So I took off and headed to my lockers, accompanied for a few minutes with my newly acquired friends, until they had to split to reach their own lockers.

There was a familiar face at the end of a corridor, but she disappeared as soon as I spotted her.

Probably just a figment of my imagination, because the person that face belonged to was… a figment of my imagination.

Did I just see Lucy?

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Chapter 1.3

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The walls were made of solid stone. They were two feet thick. The floors were cold and had dried up leaves and dirt on it. Some slabs of stone were cracked, and had vines and other weeds running through them. I was bare foot, so I could feel the moisture and coldness of the floor. It looked like an abandoned temple, with a broken statue in the middle. I saw old worn down railings that used to be shiny stainless steel once upon a time.The temple was lit up by the light coming through the eight feet tall door and the windows.

I heard footsteps coming from behind me. I turned around.

It was a woman, only she had wings. She would be… what was the term… an angel. Yes that was it, only angels didn’t really exist .She was a mere figment of my imagination, just like the temple around me.

“Hello Lucy.”I said.

“Hello John.” She said, her voice resonating throughout the temple.

“Why the temple?”

“It’s a creation of your subconscious mind, not mine.”

“I guess, but you always have an idea about what these constructs represent.”I said, gesturing to the temple.

“I do, yes, but it would do no good if I simply told it to you, rather than you figuring it out.”

“What now? You always show up with a thought in mind.”

“Your new alias ‘Daniel’ may not last very long.”

“It isn’t meant to.”

“I know, but something feels off. I don’t know what it is, but I need you to keep an eye out for threats.”

Coming from anyone else, I would’ve just said “Sure” and walked away, knowing full well I could handle myself from any threat. But if it’s coming from Lucy, I have to very serious about my actions.

I searched my memories of the entire day. Only one thing seemed to stand out.

My fingers drummed against the side of my thigh.

“Now that I think about it, something did feel off. It’s this feeling that’s been nagging at me ever since I reached the school. I think I will keep an eye out for anything out of place.”

“Thank you. This ‘Grace’ might be something to look out for too, so be careful.”

“I will. In Fact, that’s what seems suspicious to me. I mean, come on, why would you let high tech A.Is into the hands of students that seriously screw something up?  And don’t answer that, the question was rhetorical. What can we rely on to be constant in case something happens and we need to think of a plan?”

“The students, Because it would be too hard to manipulate things on that scale.”

“No, you’re wrong on that front. Like I said, the A.Is could be controlling them through subtle manipulation..”I pointed out.

“True. The A.Is are something we might have to get rid of, as they serve as a major potential threat. We can’t trust the school or anyone working for the school. We can rely on old friends, by currying favor in case we need them to do something, discreetly. We need a few cards up our sleeve, literally, so that if we’re caught off guard, we have something to defend ourselves with. It might be useful to send spy bots after everyone we’ve been in contact with and is related to the school to gather information. Information is gold.”

I nodded.

I ran my fingers through my hair.

“How did a vacation turn into a freaking game of cat and mouse?”I asked.

“Well, You were a pretty big deal as The Architect, and a major threat to the system. So if someone figured out that you didn’t actually die, they probably would’ve tried their best to track you and figure what you were up too. And maybe they found you at the school, a little changed, but still enough of the original that they were sure that it was you, they might’ve called the authorities-“

“One. The question was rhetorical. Two. It would be impossible to track me down with all the countermeasures I have in place. Three. I was gone for two, fucking years!”

“Let’s not lose our temper. It’s important to stay calm amongst each other. You taught me that, remember?”

I nodded.

She stepped closer to me. When I didn’t react, she stepped closer. Then when she was a step from me, she stepped forward and wrapped her arms around me. Her wings folded around me too.

It was comforting, as I don’t get much hugs in real life. I lived alone, and have zero friends, so you can see how many hugs I get. It also helped that I trusted her more than I trusted my creations. She had earned that trust after going through hell and back with me in my time as The Architect. I’m still The Architect, but everyone thinks I’m dead, which is actually a good thing, for now.

She let go.

“What was that for?”

“Since there’s only two months before the event, I think important we keep each other sane.”

“Is that all there is to it?”

She raised an eyebrow.

“Guess not.  Anyway, thanks, it was nice.”

She smiled.

“You should go now. Grace might be fiddling around with the security systems.”

“Oh shit.

“Yeah. Bye.”

“Bye .”

The place turned dark. Then I found myself lying on my couch, curled up. I opened my eyes and I slowly pushed myself to a sitting poition.

“Good morning. Or should I say good night?”Grace asked,

Her imaged appeared to my right, sitting next to me.

“Neither. Did you mess around with any of the security systems?”Better put it bluntly, then try to beat around the bush. I have beaten around the bush in several occasions, and trust me, it can be exhausting.

“A little. What’s with all the firewalls? And the actual systems are military grade, why the hell do you need a military grade security system for such a small house.”

“Smart kid, living alone, would be the perfect catch for kidnappers,especially when the kid is now enrolled in one of the biggest schools in the world, so you could say being a little paranoid can save my life.”

She nodded.

“Don’t you need to eat something? Readings show low blood sugar.”

“I will. Just a second, I haven’t completely woken up yet.”

She nodded.

I stretched both of my arms, then stood up from the couch. I walked over to the kitchen and opened one of the cabinets. There were plenty of pills that were meant for different purposes, all lined up in small plastic boxes. I took the purple tinted box, and opened it, placing the lid on the counter. I took a pill and placed it on the lid. I walked over to the other side of the kitchen and took a glass. I filled up the glass with water from a tap, then I took the pill and swallowed it, then drank the water.

“Done with food. Since I had that nap, I’m not feeling in the mood for sleep. So maybe you could keep me company?”

“Sure. We could play games, solve riddles, watch movies and other stuff.”

“Sounds fun.”

This was going to be a long night.

 

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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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Chapter 1

Next

Chapter 1.1

I put both my hands on my straps and began walking.

There wasn’t any greenery, all of it was concrete, metal, glass, and blue holograms. There wasn’t much sky either, as many buildings too were airborne, blocking much of the view. The rest of the sky that I could see was buzzing with various aircrafts, the traffic of the morning.

I walked past lots of buildings until I finally reached my destination. It was the jetpack stand, which had only a few jetpacks left in it. I walked up to the console and put my index finger on it. When I saw the blue triangle form on the screen, I took my finger off and put on a jetpack. I fastened the straps and pulled the hand bars out. I wrapped my hands around the handles, feeling for the silver buttons on them. I pressed the button that met my pinky finger lightly.

The clamps unhinged, and I launched into flight. I used the handles to maneuver the jetpack, dodging other fling aircraft in the process. I nearly smashed into a Stad airliner once.

I raised myself up until I could see the Kareone tower, which was about 73 storeys above ground. Then I headed for the tower, flying at the zone above normal aircraft to avoid traffic.

It was a brief flight, as it only took minutes to reach the tower. I was somewhere between the 30th and 35th storey, moving at a slow pace. When I was just a few feet from the wall, the glass disappeared, giving me a free path to the inside. I reduced my speed further, and hovered a few inches from the ground.

I pushed another button, and landed onto the floor harshly due to the added weight of the jetpack. I undid the buckles for the straps and carried the jetpack with one hand over to the chair and placed it there.

I walked out of the room and headed to the elevator in the center of the corridor that I was walking in..The elevator was a tube that ran through the entire building, which used artificial gravity to take us down and anti-gravity to lift us up. If there was no power, getting in the elevator meant a steep drop to your death . if you reached your level, then the elevator would make you hover in the air, until you stepped out.

I pushed a small square button, and the glass door slid open. I jumped in, but I didn’t fall, instead, I just hovered.

“Ground floor.”I said.

Then I started floating downwards, slower than a fall, but fast enough  to reach the ground floor in a few minutes. I slowed to a halt a inch above the ground, the glass door opening. I put one foot forward onto solid ground and put the other next.

The walls were curved, the entirety forming a perfect circle. The walls were made of metal that gleamed in the sunlight. The double doors were open, and orange light came in from it, illuminating the floor. A few feet from the center of the building, opposite to the door, was the counter, and behind it sat a man with glasses. He was talking to someone through a microphone so he didn’t notice my arrival.

I walked towards him until I was in his line of sight and waited until he noticed me. He frowned, his eyebrows scrunching together.

“….fix it. listen, could I call you back later?….there’s a new student here.” The man said, pushing a button on his microphone.

“What can I do for you?” the man asked, in a polite tone.

“Could you direct me to my locker?”

“No problemo. What’s your name?”

“Daniel. Daniel Dutchman.”I said.

The man typed something on a holo-keyboard. His eyes widened when he saw the screen. He also looked like he just figured out some riddle of some kind.

“I see. You must be this year’s candidate.”

I nodded.

He typed something onto the Holo-keyboard.

“…here.” he handed me a small black cube.

I leaned over and took it. The texture was smooth, with not one single flaw. It split into two separate cuboids.I held the bottom half while the other half floated an inch or two above the bottom half. Then blue holographic wording appeared between the two cuboids, which read ‘Rules While In Premises of Kareone Tech School.’ . it scrolled through all the rules, which was pretty basic common sense. It took two minutes for the recording to end.

“It’s a Info cube, it should display all info it’s programmed to. In this case it’s the school rules, and also the directions to your locker.” The man said.

He looked at his watch.

“You want to stay here the entire day or are you gonna get going?”

I tapped the side of the info cube. The cube split into two pieces. The two pieces floated away from each other. Blue letters appeared in the space between them. I read it, then I gave the cube back to the receptionist.

I turned away and headed back to the elevator.

The door slid open as soon as I came near it. I got in, waited for the doors to close and said-

“3 floor.”

I hovered to my floor, and jumped out.

I was in a room that was completely empty, except for a security bot in the corner and a automated vending machine to the wall in my left. Three corridors connected to the room, with metal panels next to each opening showing the sector name. Sector-f was the corridor right in front of me. However, I wasn’t in any hurry so I went to the wending machine.

I tapped a button and spoke-

“Ven bar.”

A chocolate bar hit the tray below. I picked it up and removed the golden foil.

I walked to my locker, slowly eating my chocolate as I went. The lockers were actually huge rooms which stored all the things you would need for both semesters of the year. The doors weren’t really doors as they had no handles, because they couldn’t be slid open. But, if you had the access, then you could walk right through them as if it was thin air. Kinda like magic. It was the sort of thing you would to fool a kid.

I passed by twenty different doors before I found my locker. My initials D.D was engraved in bold and cursive strokes. I walked through the obsidian door.

They were all sorts of gadgets around. Most of them were for your own lab experiments that were to be conducted as a test at some point. There was also some scrap metal in a box in a corner. There was also emergency food and water that lasted you about a month if you got stuck in here by accident. Thing is, the lockers also served as a panic room, the schools began to notice this about a decade ago when a few troubled students had took refuge in their lockers. So the schools began to take advantage of this and equipped the lockers with life support to support a grown man or woman for a full month in case of an emergency.

My essentials was placed in a glass rack. There were a few info cubes, a bracelet that had a info cube tied to it with a white string, a small portable computer with a cavity for hologram representation and a glass screen, spectacles with a white frame and a few memory chips lying next to it. The bracelet piqued my curiosity, so I decided to look at the info cube that was attached to it.

I held the cube. It split.

Artificial Intelligence.

To provide our students

With the best education

we decided to create

A.Is to help them and

provide companionship.

They will also monitor

the student 24 hours a

day to diagnose mental

and physical health.

Kareone Tech School.

The cube closed and fell to the ground.

I bent down and picked it up, and put it back on the rack. I took the bracelet in my hands and investigated it. It was black, a bit thicker than a wristwatch, and it had a few ports hidden under a few tabs. I put the bracelet on.

“Put your glasses on too.” A computerized voice said.

The voice didn’t sound normal. That would be because it wasn’t, although I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“Huh?”

“Put your glasses on. That way I could display visual information too and be more efficient in helping you.”

“Alright…” I said slowly.

I picked up the glasses and put it on. Standing in front of me was a teenage girl, she had blonde hair, a athletic figure, and a smile on her face. I pulled the glasses off. The image of the girl only appeared on the glasses, so there was nothing in front of me but a rack and a white wall.

I put the glasses back on. The girl now had one eyebrow raised.

“What?”

She shook her head.

“What’s your name?”I asked.

“Grace. ”

I nodded.

“I’m-“

“Daniel. Daniel Dutchman.”

I raised one eyebrow and said-

Really?”

She shrugged.

“The first class is going to start in a fifteen minutes, so you better start getting ready.”She said.

“What’s the first class?”

“Holograms And Their Uses.  You just need one memory chip, the portable computer and an info cube. The first class should be easy, so nothing to worry about.” She said.

I smiled and nodded.

*****

It turned out, Grace was right, the first class really was easy. The program just explained stuff about how the holograms worked and how we’ve been using them ever since it was invented.

I was sitting in the last row, not on purpose but because there were no other seats when I reached. The room was dark, to enhance the contrast of the blue holograms the program was using for the demonstration.

Turns out, holograms came in every color, but we use blue just because it looks nice.  The class was already over, the program just took a extra few minutes to show us the ‘magic’ of holograms.

The demonstration ended with a ‘bang’ as the red and orange turned into a flurry that quickly disappeared. The lights came back on. I got of my seat and walked out of the class, rushing past the others. A few students stared at me as I went.

Some of them I noticed, were pretty girls. But that was probably just me noticing things were they didn’t exist.

“Umm… Grace, what’s the next class?”

“That would be history. It’s the class you just passed by.”

I turned around. I pointed at the door closest to me .

“That class?”

“Yup.”

“K. Point me back to my locker, would you?”

“Sure. Just turn around, take a left, then turn at the second right, and walk until you reach the elevator. Then you head to the third level and go to sector-f . from there, you know where to go.”

“Got it, thanks.”

“Anytime.”

I turned around and walked to the end of the corridor. I took her directions, ending up in one of the rooms that had the elevators.

I stood next to the elevator and waited until it opened. I jumped in, the anti-grav kicking in, making me hover.

“Third floor,”

It didn’t take much time to descend to my floor. It feels a bit unnerving the first times you use these elevators, but you get used to it.

I continued walking. Students buzzed about, either going into the pitch black doors to retrieve their essentials for their next class, or hurrying out of them to get to their class. Some walked in pairs, while others walked in groups of three to five. Others, like me walked alone. I found that people often stared at the ones that walked alone, even me. But some got more attention, probably due to either fame, or something else entirely.

I could tell you what ‘something else entirely’ meant, but I’m leaving it to your imagination.

I walked at a quick pace, wanting to find my locker faster. That seemed to grab more attention from the students. But I ignored them, wanting to make the best impression on the programs or the teachers. The same programs would take your classes the entire year, and they appreciated good etiquettes. They were programmed to do so, to encourage good behavior among the students. The teachers, well, they weren’t exactly programmed to appreciate good behavior but they sure as hell did.

“Need help?” Grace asked.

“Sure, just point me to my locker.”

“Keep on walking forward, and then take a left, walk for a bit, and you should find your locker.”

“Thanks.”

I did as told, and I reached my locker. I hurried inside.

“Grace, how much time left before I’m officially late?”

“Seven minutes.”

“Crap, Crap, Crap. Let’s forget that for now and focus on what I need. What do I need?”

“Just a paper notebook, a pen and pencil.”

“What are those?”

“The pen is a small metal cylindrical thingamajig that you use to write. The pencil is a wooden thingamajig that you use to write. The notebook is what you write on.”

“What’s the difference between the pencil and the pen if they both write?”

“The pencil use graphite and the writing is erasable. The pen uses ink, and it cannot be erased. Keep in mind, it’s not pure graphite, it’s just clay and graphite.”

“How do I write?”

“You’ll find out in class. For now just grab them and get the hell out of here. Oh, I forgot, also get the sharpener and eraser.”

“What are those?”

“Just hurry up and get them. There’s no time for me to explain now, and besides, you’re gonna learn anyway in class.”

I nodded and rushed to the essentials rack.

I typed in the small keyboard on the corner of the glass. A chute above the rack opened up, and five items fell down. The notebook was blue in color, and had plenty of sheets sandwiched between two thick sheets. The pen, was the silver cylinder. A cylinder on top was detachable, but I didn’t remove it because of the shortage of time. The pencil was yellow, with a pink rubber thing attached to the back with a crushed metal tube. The top was flat, and had a black spot in the middle. The eraser must’ve been the soft rubbery white thing . the sharpener was a plastic cylinder with a hole in the bottom. I put all of them into my bag and headed out.

No one was left in the corridors, which worried me. I rushed back to the elevator I came from. The elevator opened as soon as I came near, as there probably was no one in it currently. I jumped in.

“23 floor.”

I began ascending. It was fast, but not fast enough, if I calculated right, at this speed we would never make to the class in time.

“Grace, is there any way you could speed up the journey?”

“… Yes.”

I started moving a bit faster. It was a bit disorientating.

I slowed to a halt. The door opened. I ran out, and headed to the class where I’d last seen it, hoping that I remembered the directions properly.

Note: The story hasn’t even begun, so you better tap that next button and keep on reading.

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