A futuristic story of the planet in 100+ years from now.
To You, My Reader:
The story you are about to read is not true - yet. But in approximately 200 years, all that is in this story will be true - unless changes are made now in the way we live.
This is a story of how incurably sick people, people with criminal minds, and hopelessly intellectual, physical and emotional deficients, will be expunged with the result of preserving those who will be allowed to remain. This act will be considered neither apathetic nor cruel and unfeeling, but necessary to the future of the world.
Newborns will be evaluated on their Physical, Intellectual and Emotional potential.
Evaluations are repeated on the anniversary of the first, second, and third pentads, with eliminations done at the completion of each, as required.
Analyses, referred to as the PIE, accurately predict physical, intellectual and emotional potential of each subject, based upon their current physical abilities, inborn intelligence, and natural ability to deal with emotion in an acceptable manner.
Only perfect subjects are left intact; all others neutralized. Children are not raised by their seed and sperm donors, but by "Teachers," specially trained subjects, who nurture newborns to the ultimate effectiveness attainable in a human being.
There is no war, no crime, no sickness, no poor no hungry. Everyone is self-motivated and self-sufficient. The entire population is inspired, productive and capable. The average life span surpasses 110 years, with death occurring not from disease or accident but from the inevitable wearing out of body parts that are still not replaceable.
This is the story of one inhabitant during this time.
P E R F E C T W O R L D
CHAPTER ONE - THE PENTAD
John is a happy, healthy male-gendered child. Today he will travel to the Evaluation Center for his first pentad test to document his Inborn Physical, Intellectual and Emotional abilities, referred to as his IPIE.
Physical ability is based partially on genetics, color, size and shape of eyes, including visual strength, hair color, texture and density, skin color, including thickness and any defects, consisting of freckles, moles, birthmarks and other blemishes, hearing ability, manual dexterity, flexibility, lung capacity and muscular development, strength of internal organs, and other lesser physical attributes. In addition to the genetic evaluation, other physical characteristics are judged on how well the subject uses their inborn abilities, in combination with manual dexterity, as in good hand/eye, hand/mouth, and eye/foot coordination, among others.
Intellectual ability is measured by a series of age-appropriate mental games, quizzes and mazes, during which the Technician notes not only the processes chosen by the subject to solve the given problems, how difficult it is to decide upon a solution, how many puzzles are solved, and how long each puzzle takes to work out. Some problems test mental dexterity, the ability to predict an end result of up to 30 separate moves, of which only one combination of moves will result in success, during which the Technician records and observes body language.
Emotional testing is limited during the first pentad, to avoid permanently affecting a subject’s developing personality. Tests consist of the subject’s ability to control reactions to various degrees of pain, administered while the subject is placed in a sound-proof, darkened room, surprise shocks, personal insults, intentional unattainability of goals, in which a supposedly simple task, such as solving a seemingly uncomplicated puzzle is, in fact, impossible to complete, allowing the Technician to observe the subject’s reaction. The ability to obey orders without question is also tested.
After a short period of relaxation, during which all subjects are allowed to roam the Center at will, meeting and talking with other subjects, and become familiar with the various apparatus, testing resumes. Potential development testing in Physical, Intellectual and Emotional abilities, referred to as PPIE, will then begin.
These tests require stretching one’s abilities beyond the inborn score. Physically, the subject is required to use the strength of arms, legs, back and shoulders to move dead weights equaling twice their own weight. Results of how far, how fast and how easily items are moved are recorded and scored. Electronic diodes attached to critical body points interpret the subject’s heart rate, lung rate, perspiration rate during testing. How long it takes the subject to “recover” after each test is noted. Lungs are tested for breath-holding capacity, both quantity of air and duration of the hold. Any degree of light-headedness during or after these tests will deduct points. PPIE results are calculated using a mathematical formula created from the IPIE results, combined with actuarial numbers collected since the Great Transition. The results of these two appraisals are combined to create the Total Combined Abilities Score, or TCAS. Once this score has been determined, John will be tentatively assigned to his Life Work, pending his next Pentad test.
John is excited that he’s finally going to the Center. He has been preparing for this day as long as he can remember. Every waking moment of every day for his entire five years of life, has had but one objective: to perfect his inborn abilities to score well enough to be the next Superior.
Michael, his male gendered Teacher, is excited, too. He and Helen, his life-mate, have spent the past five years nurturing this blond, fair-skinned boy. John has been a fascinating child to raise - so eager to learn, desiring only to please.
Helen is visibly nervous about John’s upcoming appraisal. She and Michael’s first subject had failed his first Pentad evaluation, with a score of only 260 points. A score of less than 300 points is considered unacceptable, and the subject is immediately eliminated. John is their second and final chance.
Although devastated by that loss, Michael and Helen are confident that John’s score will be more than acceptable. He’d always been a physically strong and mentally alert subject, and the fact that the current Superior was John's sperm-donor, they were convinced that John would be an exceptional candidate. In spite of these facts, they prepare themselves for the possibility that John may not score well in this Evaluation, in which case, they will not be allowed to nurture a third child. If he doesn't qualify, Michael and Helen will be demoted to Helpers, considered inadequate as Teachers.
They had done their very best for John, both physically and mentally. They supplied him with the best of nutrients and learning apparatus, working with him constantly, stressing to him the extreme importance of this endeavor. John is aware of their teachings, and has learned so well, that he is now on the brink of effectively becoming their teacher. He is excelling in areas his Teachers can only begin to understand, putting them in awe of his accomplishments. Constantly craving knowledge, and with a natural curiosity, John has a way of causing a seed of information to grow in directions never anticipated by his Teachers.
After dissolving a primary nutrition disc under his tongue, Michael programmed the Transport for the Evaluation Center, then summoned Helen and John to join him in the exit cylinder. The “vaporizer” is activated, allowing their bodies to momentarily liquify, and pass through the Shelter wall, and into the Tube. The transparent Tube is constructed of “Solarex,” a material that absorbs and stores solar energy within its thin, double walled exterior, The stored energy powers the Transport, protecting the occupants from deadly exterior air.
The standard sphere-shaped Shelter, though not transparent like the Tube, is constructed of the same energy-absorbing material, and supplies abundant light and climate control, and sufficient energy for the overall operation of the Shelter.
The Exit Disc, with Michael, Helen and John aboard, travels smoothly and swiftly toward the Transport. While traveling through the Tube, they observe the barren remains of what several decades earlier, was a beautifully landscaped area - but what has now been transformed to a charred, dry, ugly spanse of destruction. All vegetation has long ago decayed and decomposed, and the cracked, broken ruins of once productive structures continue their evolutionary crumbling to dust, and stand as gruesome reminders of a time all but forgotten by the survivors of the Great Transition. At the Transport end of the Tube, the Exit Disc again allows it’s passengers to pass effortlessly through the Transport wall.
Constructed of Fricno, a friction-deflecting material designed to provide unrestricted atmospheric movement, the Transport is capable of withstanding the most extreme temperatures, even that of the core of the sun, while maintaining a comfortable interior temperature for humans. It is controlled by a main transportation module, which virtually eliminates the possibility of any two Transports occupying the same spot at the same time. Small adjustments in speed and direction are made as necessary, to avoid mid-air collisions.
Within the seamless, windowless main compartment, there is ample space for six passengers, with a cargo area large enough for necessary trip supplies. The excited trio is securely enclosed in upright travel capsules, the entry door is hermetically sealed, and the Transport disconnects from the Tube as it rises horizontally to a safe altitude before heading for the E. Center. Visual images form in the airspace before each of them, showing the world as it appeared before the Collapse . This trip, of 2400 miles, will take approximately 30 minutes. The Transport door opens automatically upon arrival at the Evaluation Center.
CHAPTER TWO - THE EVALUATION
John, Michael and Helen are greeted at the Evaluation Center by two Technicians who lead John to the Examining rooms and place John on a table, where scanners read John's physical makeup. His heart, lungs, kidneys, liver and spleen are examined thoroughly for size and denseness.
Michael and Helen, having been told that the examination would take about an hour, returned to the Shelter to prepare for John's return. The past five years were predominantly based upon his inborn abilities. Now these abilities would be shaped and perfected to a more useful state, which would be beneficial to the world.
They reviewed the program and agreed not to let their enthusiasm show. John might interpret this as emotion, which of course it is. This is Michael and Helen's mutual weakness - too little Emotion Control. If not for this - they might have been Procreators, rather than Teachers. But emotions must be bred out of future generations.
They busied themselves preparing the Physical room, setting up the Muscle Builders, Pressure Testers and Lung Strengtheners, the Weights, and Running apparatus. Later, they would go to the Reflection room, program it with the appropriate holograms, encouraging flawless behavior. These thoughts would be absorbed to the full capacity of the mind.
The Correction room is the first room in which John would strive to correct whatever deficiencies were indicated by the Evaluation before any other progress could be made.
Now, with less than twenty minutes to return to the E. Center, almost 300 miles away, Michael re-programmed the Transport and they were on their way.
As they neared the Center, Michael felt himself becoming uneasy - felt that strange tingling in his stomach, knowing it would be only moments before they would know the outcome of John's Evaluation, and consequently, their future as Teachers. With his usual tendency to see things at their worst, Michael is afraid he had failed, and that he and Helen would be sent elsewhere.
CHAPTER THREE - THE RESULTS
When the Transport door opened, Michael and Helen were deposited into the E. Center tube. Michael hesitated, took a deep breath and stepped onto the beam that would take them inside, where they were met by the Head Technician and taken immediately to the Decision room. There they saw John happily chatting with a Technician, probably discussing his scores.
As John's eyes met Michael's, the test results were obvious. John smiled his lopsided grin.
The Technician said, "I have good news. John has earned an excellent score. You have done well with him. Come into my chat area to discuss the results."
The trio followed the Technician and sat down to discuss the five mandatory tests.
The first, Physical Capacity, is an impressive 150 points, of a possible 200. Fifty points were lost due to his smaller than average size, blond, rather than the more protective dark hair, and the freckles around the nose and cheeks, which were to be expected with blond hair. None of these were considered serious physical defects.
The test of Physical Potential is equally good. 160 points of a possible 200. This test, a projection of the maximum that his physical capacity could be increased with the proper training.
The third test, Intellectual Capacity, resulted in an outstanding 185 points, almost matching the Intellectual Potential test, a remarkable 190 points.
Only 110 points were scored in Emotion Control. Although it is an acceptable score, it is significantly low, and a cause for concern at the E. Center. Excess emotion is an unacceptable trait for a Superior, and could present an obstacle to future growth. This score would most definitely be re-evaluated at the next pentad.
During the discussion, they were told that another child, a female named Sivle, located on the opposite side of the world in America, had attained the very same overall score, and although her Emotion Control is much better than John's 110, at 160, her Intellectual Capacity and Potential indicated possible flaws. Another Evaluation would be necessary on both children before a new Superior could be named.
The Superior, affectionately referred to as "Super", is responsible for the care and well-being of all the people. Because of this, any direct descendants were given priority over other children, when their positions were being decided. Since the present Super is John's father, John had a definite advantage. This fact is known only to Michael and Helen, and could not be revealed to John until after his Final Evaluation at the age of fifteen.
With a total over-all score of 795 of a possible 1,000, John is excited. Michael and Helen were thrilled to have such a high-scoring pupil to develop. This would give them the opportunity to raise another.
CHAPTER FOUR - THE OUTSET
Michael and Helen could now plan their next project: to produce a Super. The current Super had been waiting for a replacement for twenty years, and although he is not old, at age 35, he is five years past the standard retirement age. Based on the knowledge that the human species begins to lose its mental precision beginning at thirty five years old, he needed to be young and competent enough to endure the continual decision-making and stress. Because no child had attained a satisfactory Evaluation score to qualify for Superior for twenty years, the Super would be 45 before he would be allowed to retire. And now, strangely enough, there were two contenders for the coveted title.
Inside the Correction room, assorted audio sounds, optical visions and electronic mind generators would make corrections to any area in which John showed weakness. He activated the Hologram for Emotional Control and watched examples of the devastation caused in the pre-Transistion days by excessive emotion, when Aaron Smith saved the world from inevitable destruction.
He watched in awe the images of once powerful countries violently destroying each other, themselves and others with drugs and hatred. Violent, vicious, cruel, degenerate people, challenging every law of man and nature. John would learn the proper thought processes and the consequences of excessive emotion. How it can destroy the good that has come to the world since Aaron Smith conceived and implemented the "Great Transition". A transition from bad to good. From wrong to right. From sickness to health. From death to life.
John would learn the difference between emotion and kindness. That people needed to be kind to one another, but not to the point of allowing others to influence your performance and common sense.
One example is given: In your relationships with people, do not allow yourself to be compelled into doing something that you would not do for yourself. A very old saying from hundreds of years past is still used today: "Do For Others As You Would Have Others Do For You."
After experiencing these images for two time periods, John needed some pleasure time. He proceeded to the Relaxation room, where he could do as he pleased. His activities were continually monitored by virtual video which would be instantly stored on a memory chip at the Historic Center, where all happenings on the earth are documented and stored for later study and evaluation.
The Relaxation room contained devices that would indicate the direction in which John's learning is headed, areas that needed special attention, and exceptional progress.
John had spent many time periods in this room in the past. Today, he surprised his Teachers when he began looking through a collection of history books. He had learned to read at the age of three, and although he had read some trivial books, he normally chose the computerized life-sized artificial person that interacted with him in any situation that he preferred. Michael speculated this indicated loneliness on John's part, and that he craved the company of another child. Now that he had scored so well on his Evaluation, his need would likely be realized, as there would, no doubt, be another child available for Michael and Helen to teach.
As he searched the book titles, each one containing some history of the world, his small hand reached up to select the well-known "Gone With The Wind", a book containing examples of almost all the human emotions that would eventually begin the destruction of the world. John understood why he must control all excessive emotion.
CHAPTER FIVE - LISA
With John's progress program underway, Michael decided to contact the Super concerning the acquisition of a new child to raise. He activated the Communicator, and waited for a response.
The recorded voice of the Super is heard:
"PLEASE STATE THE PURPOSE OF YOUR COMMUNICATION. I WILL REPLY PROMPTLY. BZZZZZZZZZ . . ."
Michael spoke directly into the Communicator. "Teacher Michael speaking. Our pupil, John, has completed his Evaluation. Because of his excellent score, and because we feel it would be in the best interest of everyone in this Shelter, Helen and I would like to prepare another infant."
Almost immediately, the Super's voice is heard.
"YOU HAVE DONE AN OUTSTANDING JOB WITH JOHN. YOU HAVE BEEN ASSIGNED AN INFANT, WHICH WILL BE DELIVERED TOMORROW, DURING THE FIRST TWO TIME PERIODS AFTER BIRTHING HAS BEEN COMPLETED. CONGRATULATIONS TO BOTH OF YOU."
"Thank you very much," Michael said, and deactivated the Communicator.
Pleased that their request had been granted, Michael and Helen decided to look in on John. They found him absorbed in his book.
"We must prepare the Nursery for the new infant," Michael said to Helen.
"Yes", Helen replied. "But maybe that should be a learning tool for John."
"Of course. That's a wonderful idea. And I'll bet he'd enjoy it."
All the learning apparatus were put in place. An infant must be trained from the very outset to learn, and to be productive. The imaging screen above the sleeping area is programmed with the learning devices that will teach the child as it sleeps. Sounds and visions will infiltrate the child's mind and help introduce the knowledge that would be necessary for future exceptional development.
Michael turned as he heard a sound from behind him.
John, his face turned up to Michael's, questioned. "Michael," he spoke slowly, as if unsure of exactly what he wanted to say, "I have been wondering."
"About what, John?" Michael asked.
"Well, I was wondering if it would be possible for me to meet Sivle."
The question caught Michael off guard. He had not considered meeting the child that might prevent John from becoming the next Super.
"Why would you want to meet Sivle", Michael asked, honestly perplexed at this request.
"I would like to know what she is like. I would like to know if she is nice, like you and Helen. Maybe she would make a better Super than I."
"A better Super than you? Ha!" Michael laughed at the thought. But if that's what John wanted - Michael would try to arrange it.
"I will inform the Super of your request, John."
Helen interrupted. "John, a new infant will be delivered tomorrow."
"Really?" A big, crooked smile came over his face. "An infant?"
"Yes, Won't it be interesting to have a baby here?"
"Oh, yes, it will. I would like to help teach it, if I may."
"Of course you may," Helen answered, glancing at Michael. "You will need experience in child training when you become our Super."
"Would you like to help prepare the Nursery?" Michael asked.
"Oh, yes. What needs to be done?"
"You will need to program the Language Audios to suit the newborn, set up the Visuals for beginning learning comprehension, and be certain the room is climatically controlled according to this infant's size and metabolism to develop perfect growth patterns."
John began by gathering the Language Audios. He chose an old language, barely used anymore - American. Michael noted this, and is surprised. He is sure John had a reason for this choice, as he would have asked if he had been in doubt. Michael speculated that it might have to do with the book he is reading, "Gone With The Wind", which is written in American.
"How are you progressing with your reading," Michael asked.
"I have finished the book. It is fascinating."
John had become quite a proficient reader, Michael knew, but to finish that book in such a short time, even for John, surprised him.
"You have finished? So soon."
"Yes, it is enlightening. I can empathize with the people of that time. It was very hard for them. So much conflict."
"That is true. There is much to learn of the past so that we may learn of our future. I remember the first time I read 'Gone With The Wind'. It took me literally months to get some of the intense scenes from my memory. Are you having a problem with that?"
"No, Michael. I want to remember every detail. I feel it will help me more to remember and grow from the experience."
"You are an amazing boy, John." Michael left John to create the ideal atmosphere for the anticipated infant.
CHAPTER SIX - THE VISIT
A Helper from the Birthing Center arrived at the Shelter the next morning with the new infant as promised. She is enclosed in the special metamorph capsule to protect her from any injury during the transfer. Michael carefully removed her from the capsule, and carried her immediately to the Nursery where he placed her in her sleep basket, a special vertical hammock suspended from the ceiling, which allowed effortless sleep-learning. Neonatal supplies were also enclosed in the container, which included a supply of her mother's milk. The mother would supply milk for the newborn for three months, at which time the infant would be switched gradually to liquid nutrients. She had been delivered immediately upon birthing; only after having being internally-scanned for abnormalities and found to be free of any immediately detectable defects.
John felt an instant fondness for her.
"What is her name?" he asked as soon as Michael had placed her in the Nursery.
"Well, let's look at these transfer papers."
Scanning the documents, Michael replied. "According to the documents, the name chosen for her is Lisa."
"Who chooses the name, Michael?" John asked.
"As I understand it, John, there is a list of acceptable names kept at the H. Center. As soon as an infant is born, a name is chosen from the list according to the birthdate, time, place, physical characteristics, and, or course, the sex of the child."
"Lisa", John said the name slowly. "Lisa. That's a wonderful name. What else do the papers tell about her?" John tried to read over Michael's shoulder, but he is still too short.
Michael studied the papers. He noted that she is a good sized child, 29" long, weighing 17 pounds, 9 ounces at birth, with no noticeable imperfections at birthing. Her head is thickly covered in dark, almost black hair, and her eyes were brown, though this could not be verified. She is sleeping. What could be seen is the slight smile forming on her lips as she slept. Her chubby cheeks seemed to cast a rosy glow on her olive-colored skin.
The Audio/Visual Datacom is activated.
It is now time to work out in the Physical room.
John enjoyed the Physical room. He liked pushing his young body to it's limits, and to challenge himself to better performances each time.
Michael watched John encapsulate himself in the Strength Building sphere. The computer indicated he could lift 100 lbs. with each leg. His face indicated his dissatisfaction when he failed to increase his score. He tried to exceed 100, but could not.
He switched to arm presses and lifted 150 lbs. with each arm. John is accomplishing far beyond average expectations for his age and size, but still he is dissatisfied.
As Teachers, Michael and Helen were trained to recognize a child's capabilities, and knew that John is favorably advanced. However, he expected more of himself, and spent much of his time exercising, always trying to improve. John had so much drive - such a desire to excel - a passion for physical perfection. This may have been a determining factor that reduced his Emotional Control score.
After spending two time periods in the Physical room, Michael suggested that John relax for a while before going to the Thought room, to develop his Intellectual Potential.
Inside the Relaxation room, John entered the anti-gravity cube, and let himself be gently rolled and tossed, weightlessly floating, while sonic and subliminal sounds soothed his ears and mind, until he is completely relaxed, and ready to tackle more physically challenging activities.
John's activities were being monitored and documented by both Helen and Michael. Every effort, trial, success, failure, attempt, and test score would be logged for both John and Lisa, until they were appointed their acquired positions at the age of fifteen.
By the time a child had reached maturity, every effort, every experience had been recorded in a log, not only by their Teachers, but visually stored at the H. Center, for the consideration of the Super. All logs and evaluations would be entered into a database and reviewed, to determine where each person should be placed.
John continued to inquire about the meeting with Sivle. Michael is doubtful that this is a good idea, but could not put John off any longer. He left a message on the Communicator, that John wanted to meet Sivle, the other child with the exceptionally high score.
Normally, messages to the Superior were answered promptly, but this time, three weeks had passed before the tone sounded on the Communicator. Michael activated the response button.
"THIS IS A RESPONSE TO TEACHERS MICHAEL AND HELEN. YOUR REQUEST FOR A MEETING BETWEEN JOHN AND SIVLE HAS BEEN APPROVED. ARRANGEMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE FOR JOHN TO TRAVEL TO MEET SIVLE IN TWO DAYS. BECAUSE YOU HAVE AN INFANT WHO CANNOT LEAVE YOUR SHELTER AT THIS TIME, ONLY ONE TEACHER MAY ACCOMPANY JOHN ON HIS TRIP. GOOD LUCK." BZZZZZ . . .
John heard the reply, and is noticeably pleased.
"Who will go with me?" he asked, glancing from Helen to Michael, then back to Helen questioningly.
Michael Would accompany John Helen would stay at the Shelter to watch over Lisa, and administer the duties there.
CHAPTER SEVEN - THE TRIP
When the Special Transport arrived at the Shelter, John is ready. He had supplies for two days. The trip would take approximately 30 minutes, a long trip in comparison to the area trips taken in their own Transport, but the Special Transport could travel much faster. They would be on the other side of the world in a half hour.
The Tube "beam" deposited them inside the Special Transport. The door sealed, and they left the ground smoothly and effortlessly, pre-programmed by the Superior for America.
Neither the Transport nor the Special Transport required a pilot. They were both automatic; computer programmed to deliver its passengers to their requested destination.
John is unusually quiet. Michael hoped that this meeting would have no adverse affect on John's capacity to control his emotions. If John and Sivle liked each other, Michael thought to himself, there could be an emotional infatuation. If not, there would be a confrontation of another kind. Either way, this meeting did not seem like a good idea to Michael.
On board the Special Transport, historic images of America were shown on the area above the reclining passengers.
There is a brief showing of what was once the "Capital" of this place called America. The place where major political decisions had been made. To wage wars that almost destroyed the world. The place that created laws the people would not obey, and supported people who would not work. It is no wonder the world was almost destroyed. Visions of explosions, bombs being detonated, shelters and other buildings being destroyed. People of all ages, lying dead everywhere.
People of those times did not realize how much of the earth's natural elements were being wasted. Today people were frugal in this respect. All the sun's energy is collected and stored for use in the flawless climate-controlled environment, the food manufacturing processes, transportation, every aspect of life.
All rainfall is preserved for fresh drinking water. None is allowed to be wasted, or flow over the streets as in the past. The earth could no longer produce food in the form it once did, soil-grown plants, so no rainfall is needed, nor desired on the ground. That would be a waste of valuable clean water. Watching visions of water running over the ground, being allowed to run in the gutters amazed Michael. Nor could the world support the disgusting habit of eating living animals as people once did. To think that these people, who professed to such intelligence, flew into space because "it is there," could allow all this waste. Floods, draught, rebellion - all out of control.
Every breeze and gust of wind that stirs is hoarded, preserved, stockpiled as the world's valuable resources. Whenever wind or water energy could be substituted for solar energy, it is. Waterfalls supplied much of the energy required to operate the Centers. Nothing is wasted. But the most valuable natural resources of all were geyser spewings and volcanic ash. For eons these were considered worthless debris, but now geyser spewing is used (after filtering processes are completed), as the basis for our daily nutrition tablets, containing extremely volatile vitamin-rich elements that guarantee the health and abundant energy required to exist in the current time. An extremely old geyser, named affectionately "Old Faithful" is our most reliable supplier. Volcanic ash, comprised of much valuable life-giving material is being added to the soil as fast as it is made available to replenish the earth's depleted nutrients.
Michael could not imagine living before the Great Transition. How hard it must have been. People didn't know if they would be killed, or be able to obtain food. The present world is a perfect world. There is no fear for your life. All people have their work to do, and take care of themselves. Then, people would not do anything without being monetarily compensated. They traded coins and trinkets in return for labor. What good were coins and trinkets? Could you eat trinkets? Would they keep you warm and dry? Would they give you satisfaction? It is difficult to understand that part of their life, but Michael knew it's true. He assumed that most of the people who lived then were the ones who today, because of low scoring Evaluations, would be eliminated. Not enough intelligence or emotion control. What else could it be?
The imaging devices now showing the ancient history of Aissur. More bombs, fires, people starving, dying. It is all so unbelievable and difficult to comprehend that one man conceived and activated the solution to all of the chaos.
CHAPTER EIGHT - THE TRANSITION
Aaron Smith had been an integral part of all that war and devastation, and driven by the senselessness of it all, decided to do something about it.
Known and respected by the leaders of the major countries throughout the world, he is known as a "Peacemaker". The world's leaders admired him for his ability to bring peace and understanding to warring and pre-warring countries. It was Aaron Smith who helped avoid the potential world explosion when two countries were determined to outdo the other, no matter what the cost. Their battles had gone on for centuries, since biblical times. Each battle was more intense than the one before. In the midst of one of these emotional battles, leaders were changed, one new leader coming into a situation with which he was not thoroughly familiar. An ally of few scruples offered to supply the new leader with the ability to wipe out his adversary, and over half the world as well. The new leader was planning to accept the offer, when Aaron Smith quickly summoned him to a meeting, explaining the inevitable consequences of his planned action and the motives of the ally.
When the new leader agreed to disarm his new weaponry, the world took notice. Aaron Smith is a worldary hero. Having been a peaceful man all of his life, and being totally against war or fighting of any kind, he foresaw a united world - with one leader, rather than so many individual countries with separate leaders. He started a campaign of speaking to leaders of other countries to convince them that it was possible to eliminate all war - all hunger - he knew there was enough food on the world to feed everyone - it was just poorly distributed. He formulated a plan by which all countries would be free to have whatever they needed - food, shelter, peace.
His plan was not taken seriously initially. He talked to each leader separately, and eventually to all as a group. A meeting was called in what was then known as Combined Authorities, and Aaron "The Peacemaker" Smith explained his plan in great detail.
He spoke of ending war forever. Of the end of poverty and hunger, crime and sickness. His plan was so different from anything anyone had ever known, it took years to convince the leaders that not only could it be done, but that it would work.
It would be done in three stages: the first stage was to destroy all weapons. ALL WEAPONS. Nuclear warheads, handguns and knives, all were located by means of a weapons detector, and deposited into the melting pot.
The second stage involved eliminating all substandard people. People serving prison sentences for violent crimes were eliminated. They had proven to be unsuitable. People chronically ill in hospitals, people with terminal illnesses, incurable diseases, or physically defective bodies were also eliminated. The total of all people eliminated was about 25% of the population at the time, which was growing at a rate exceeding acceptable limits. The remaining people were evaluated, and trained or eliminated, as necessary. People with Evaluation scores below 500 were sterilized. There could be no children born to less than physically and mentally acceptable people. Many more people were destroyed during this process. There were those who fought against this seeming "discrimination". Some tried to escape. But the remaining people could see that the plan was already beginning to work.
The third stage involved the destruction of most items that contributed to excessive emotion: movies, music, books, drugs, etc. Some were sent to the archives, where they could be studied and used as learning tools for future generations.
The survivors were given positions as Procreators, (those scoring exceptional enough to produce children for the future), Teachers, Technicians, Helpers or Followers, according to their abilities and evaluations.
All of this "Transition" took place from about the year 2000 until almost 2020 to accomplish. Unfortunately, before it could be finalized, the Final War took place that destroyed the world as it once was. All vegetation was destroyed from the chemical burning; buildings crumbled and collapsed. The "outside" air was so contaminated it could no longer be tolerated and everyone that survived retreated into temporary underground shelters, until the current "Shelters" could be constructed. Nutrition tablets were manufactured and made available to everyone. That was 200 years ago. Now the people find it difficult to imagine life as it was . Now there was no war, no hunger, no stress, no worry, no fear. There is no sickness or crime. Everyone is free to do their work to guarantee the future of the world. Their energies are put into making the world the very best and to enjoy it as long as they live.
CHAPTER NINE - AMERICA
As the Special Transport door opened, John and Michael were deposited outside, where they were greeted by a thin, dark woman and a female child. John and Michael introduced themselves to Sivle and her Teacher, Marie.
John studied Sivle intently, noticing her dark eyes and hair, and particularly her size. She was tall for her age. At least four inches taller than John, Sivle radiated excitement and prankishness. As their eyes met, John felt his face flush. Her eyes reached deep inside his. When she smiled at him, he felt he would faint. Thankfully, they were now entering the Shelter, and Marie was guiding them on a tour.
The rooms were similar to those of their own Shelter. Some of the audio and video concepts differed slightly, but were comparable in their effectiveness.
John avoided Sivle's eyes. He knew to feel her eyes on his again would be disturbing. He sensed she was looking at him, but he feigned great interest in the equipment in the Physical room.
"John?" Her husky voice spoke. He looked up, feeling those dark eyes on his again. He felt his face burning and tried to fight the feeling that was coming over him.
"Hmm?" he responded, while pretending to be examining the controls on a muscle stretching assembly.
"Would you like to test our new muscle conditioning equipment?" she asked.
John nodded that he would.
Sivle instructed John on the new electronic device called M.A.C., the Muscular Aerobic Conditioner. John noted that it was similar to the Relaxation Cube, with the addition of body clamps. Sivle attached the clamps to his arms, legs, neck and torso, before activating the ergometer. Having Sivle fuss over him this way was disturbing. John could not concentrate on her instructions regarding the controls.
The M.A.C. did not rotate and roll the way the Relaxation Cube did, but John could feel the body clamps massaging his muscles as he followed the instructions on the viewing screen. While he undertook each test he felt his muscles tingle, becoming stimulated. He enjoyed this piece of equipment.
While John experienced this new challenge, Sivle entertained herself with the weight lifting machine. John tried to see at what degree of efficiency Sivle was able to operate it, but was unable to from his position in the M.A.C.
John noted that the M.A.C. rated his muscle-tone at 62% and indicated that this was within the average range. Average was not good enough for John. He looked at Sivle, who was concentrating on her strength control and seemingly unaware of his stare. Because she was lost in concentration, he found himself looking at her more closely than he had previously dared.
She was a lovely girl. Her eyes were especially attractive to him. So dark. While they gave the impression of being sad, looking at her made John feel strangely warm and happy. But he knew he should not let these feelings continue. They were sure to be detected.
Michael's voice broke John's spell. "John, You and Sivle come with me while I accompany Marie through their Shelter."
John exited the M.A.C. and followed Michael.
In the Relaxation room, they took their supplemental foodstuff and discussed the purpose of their visit.
"I understand that it was John's idea to visit." Marie nodded at John.
Michael acknowledged, "Yes it was. When we learned that both he and Sivle had obtained the same overall Evaluation rating, John felt that they should meet. We brought a copy of John's Evaluation Summary."
"We were surprised to learn of his wish to come." Marie smiled, as she accepted the report Michael offered. "I had not heard of this being done before."
"Nor I," replied Michael. "Maybe that is why it took so long to receive a reply from the Super." Michael offered.
"The Super notified us of your request, and asked if we had any objections. Of course we could think of no reason why this meeting should not take place, so we agreed," Marie explained.
"So, what do you think of Sivle?" Marie asked John.
John could not look at Sivle, or even Michael or Marie, when he answered.
"She seems quite enthusiastic. I think she would make a good Super." he said, staring at the floor.
"Are you not so capable yourself, John?" Marie asked.
"I have some weaknesses." John confessed.
"Oh? If that is true, they are not obvious, John."
John wondered if Marie had noticed his face when he first met Sivle. "She must be blind to have not", he thought.
There was something about Sivle. Something . . . John could not put his finger on it, but . . . something disturbing. She had a strange way of looking at him that made him uncomfortable. A feeling he had never before experienced.
John felt Michael's eyes on him. He felt embarrassment when he looked at Michael and thought Michael knew what he was thinking. Michael knew him. He knew his weaknesses and would notice anything out of the ordinary.
"John", Michael asked, bringing John back to the present. "Are you feeling all right?"
John, realizing that his face must be flushed, said without completely lying, "I do feel a little warm, Michael."
"Perhaps we should be leaving, then," Michael suggested.
"Oh, no, Michael, I will be all right."
"Well then, why don't you and Sivle go get acquainted while Marie and I compare your reports." Michael suggested.
Sivle jumped up, smiling widely, grabbed John by the hand, and said, "Come on, John, I have something wonderful to show you."
John followed Sivle out of the room, through the Shelter to the south side, and out through the tube to the area outside the Shelter, under the protection of the sphere. They came to a place that was completely private and out of sight, where they sat on a small stone ledge, observing the scenery outside the sphere.
After several minutes of silence, John finally spoke. "It's sad, isn't it, to observe the empty, charred landscape, knowing how lush and alive it once was."
"Yes," Sivle answered. "I have read of the beauty that once was.I wonder if it will ever be returned to that wonderful condition"
"I have recently read 'Gone With The Wind'" John stated. "I am inspired by the beautiful landscape of that era and wonder what might be done to restore it. Trees used to grow everywhere out there", he said, motioning to the barren ground outside the sphere. That's what is so interesting about it, Sivle. Because of that book, I had to read other books to learn about things like that."
"And what have you learned?"
"That trees used to grow right up from the ground. Everywhere. And that grass covered the ground. And then to be exterminated by poisons and irresponsible behavior -," his voice drifted off as he visualizes the devastation. . . ."I cannot imagine living in such an environment, can you?"
"I wonder what it was like back then, John? I mean, really."
"I think it must have been very hard, Sivle. I think it would be very difficult."
"I know. I feel the same way. There was so much unhappiness."
"I wonder how people could live that way. I'm glad I was born when I was."
John stood up and said, "We'd better go back. Michael and Marie might be looking for us."
"Oh, no, John, wait. I almost forgot."
Sivle took John by the hand and led him behind the curve of the Shelter.
"Look at this", she pointed to a small crack in the slick boundary wall that encircled the Shelter within the sphere.
"What is it, Sivle?"
Sivle inserted her index finger into the crack and pried a piece of the material away, revealing a small cavity inside.
John was fascinated. As he glanced into the opening, he saw something inside.
"Shh. You mustn't tell," Sivle warned, checking behind her to see that they were alone.
John reached into the hole, grabbed the stack of paper, held together by a thin paper band, and pulled it out.
"What is it?" he asked.
"It is money", Sivle answered.
"Money? Oh, I know. They used it for trading. I read about it in one of the books."
"Yes, isn't it wonderful?" Sivle smiled.
"Yes. Where did you find it, Sivle?"
"It was right here in this wall - right where you saw it."
"Do you mean it has been here all along?"
"I guess this must be a pretty old wall, John. I don't want anyone else to know about it. You won't tell, will you?"
"Does Marie know about this?" John inquired.
"No, John. No one knows. Only me. And now you. Isn't it wonderful? Please tell me you won't tell anyone."
"Of course not, Sivle. I wouldn't cause you any trouble."
"It will be our secret, John." Sivle reached for John's hand.
"We'd better be going now, Sivle" John nervously handed the stack of paper to Sivle. She put the bundle of money back into the wall, and the piece of rock that fell off fit right back onto the surface of the wall, so that you could barely tell it was there.
They returned to the Shelter, where Michael and Marie were deeply engrossed in conversation.
Michael looked up as they approached. "Ah, you are back. Did you enjoy your time together."
John smiled and said, "Yes, very much, Michael."
"Good. I have been studying some innovative teaching techniques with Marie. We have all benefitted from this visit."
Marie smiled as she spoke. "I agree, Michael."
"We have completed all we came here to do. We won't impose on Marie and Sivle any longer, John. We must leave now."
"Oh, must you?" Sivle asked, disappointed that the visit must come to an end.
"Yes, I am afraid so. But we will visit again if you would like."
"Yes, please do", Sivle answered, while Marie smiled and nodded agreement.
While John and Michael gathered their supplies, and headed for the Transport, Sivle hurried through the tube toward them, waving her arms excitedly to attract their attention.
"Wait, wait, John." she shouted as she reached them.
They turned to see what Sivle was so excited about and noticed she had something in her hand.
"John," she said, "I want you to have this. A gift from me to you. I hope next time you will be able to stay longer."
John looked at the small encapsulated package and started to open it.
"Oh, no, John. Not now. Wait until you get back to your Shelter." Sivle urged. "It is a surprise."
John smiled and agreed to wait.
John and Michael said goodbye again, before being deposited inside the Special Transport.
Michael looked at John, and said, "We need to have a discussion when we arrive back at the Shelter, John."
"Yes, Michael," John knew what it would be about. It had been obvious that he was unable to properly control himself in the presence of Sivle. He didn't know why - he had never had this problem in the past, and didn't know how to handle it.
John wanted to ask Michael questions about Marie, but felt this was not the time, since he was about to be corrected.
CHAPTER TEN - THE DECISION
Helen was there to greet them as they entered the Shelter. "You are back so soon. Did everything go well?" She asked.
Michael began describing the trip, while John headed for the Relaxation room.
John had so much to think about. So much had happened that he just was not sure of what to think. As soon as he was sure he was out of sight, he pulled the small package out of his pocket and opened it.
He recognized it from some of the books he had read. It was a trinket from the past. What they used to call a "coin". On one side was the impression of the face of John F. Kennedy, one of the "Presidents" of America, and on the other side was an eagle. The coin was dated 1964.
"Why did she give this to me?", John wondered. "She knows we are not allowed to have trinkets. What will I tell Michael? I cannot keep this. I must return it to Sivle. No, she would be hurt if I did. But I don't want to break the rules. I'll explain it all to Michael. He'll know what to do."
At that moment, Michael entered the Relaxation room. John's thoughts instantly switched from confessing all to Michael, to recalling his embarrassment during his interaction with Sivle. He knew why Michael was there.
"John," he said. "We must discuss your behavior toward Sivle."
"Yes, Michael. I know that you are disappointed in me. I am disappointed in myself. But you must know that my embarrassment in the company of Sivle is difficult to control. Possibly it is due to the fact that I have had such little experience with people other than you and Helen. I am sorry, Michael, and truly intend to learn to control myself better in the future."
"John, what are you talking about? I am referring to your manners. You must learn that a man cannot treat a lady as you treated Sivle today."
John was confused. What could Michael be referring to?
"What did I do wrong, Michael?" John asked.
Michael sighed, then explained. "Did I see you accept a gift from Sivle without so much as a 'Thank you'"?
"Well, yes," John answered.
"Don't you think that was poor manners on your part?"
"I don't think Sivle was upset, Michael." John reasoned.
"Why do you say that?"
"Because we got to know each other pretty well in our short time together, and I feel that she was not hostile to me in any way."
Michael considered this, then changed the subject.
"What was this you were saying about being embarrassed by Sivle? I hadn't noticed. Why would you be embarrassed?"
John realized that he had spoken too soon.
"I guess it was not so much embarrassment, Michael. It's as I said before. I am unaccustomed to meeting new people, and found it strange. But it will be easier next time, I am sure."
John felt better, knowing his weakness was not so obvious as he feared. He felt the coin in his hand, and was now undecided. How should he tell Michael? Michael had not yet asked, so that gave him more time to make his decision.
"I did want to ask you about Marie." John changed the subject again. He could not bring himself to mention the coin yet.
"What about her, John?"
"Does she not have a life-mate? I saw no one at the Shelter with her and Sivle."
"She mentioned that her Life-mate, Tom, had been overcome by emotional weakness. He was sent to the Follower's Farm, where he will spend the remained of his life working under the close supervision of Helpers. He will be employed as a Follower in the manufacture of all the material things we need to carry out our daily functions."
John was intrigued. He knew, of course, of consequences for people who would not or could not follow the rules, but never knew specifically what they were.
"Michael, what is it like at the Follower's Farm?"
"Well, John it is not at all like it is here at our Shelter. I was able to visit one once, while I was being trained to be a Teacher. We have the freedom to do as we please, so long as we do it within the framework of the rules. At the Follower's Farm, everything is watched and evaluated."
"The Followers take care of the manufacturing processes - they attend the computers that assemble our clothing, our equipment, our nutrients, even our Transports. They ensure that everything is assembled properly and from the right materials. It is actually a very important job."
"It is probably impossible to do anything wrong there, isn't it, Michael?"
"It is difficult, John. But I have heard stories of people who cannot even control themselves at the Farm, and are ultimately eliminated."
"They must be borderline people to begin with." John decided.
"Most are. But some were Technicians and even Teachers that are sent there. As in the case of Tom."
"How about Procreators? Are any Procreators ever sent to the Farm?"
"Not that I've heard about, John, But I suppose that nothing is impossible."
"What I don't understand is how does anyone find out about this? For instance, if you broke a rule, who would know?"
"You would know, John. And Helen. And soon, Lisa. And even if you didn't know, I would know."
"But you are my Teacher. I would not report you to anyone if you broke a rule. And neither would Helen, would she?"
"John, you must. This is the only way to preserve our way of life. It is so important to keep the rules as they were laid down, or we will all end up the way we were before the Great Transition. You have read the books. You know the consequences. You must not be loyal to me. Or to any person. You do know that, don't you?"
John knew that. But he didn't agree with it. It was too cold. Too difficult.
"Yes", he said.
There was so much about the rules that disturbed John. He could not read enough of the past to convince himself that the Great Transition had been the best solution to the problem. However, he knew enough to realize that he still had much to learn, and this he was eager to do. He wanted to develop to his fullest potential. He wanted to become the new Super, and to make changes. But he knew that he must not let his plans for changes be known - to anyone - lest he be disqualified before he'd even had a chance to begin.
But what of Sivle? She was certainly a contender for the position. But she is very secretive. And there is something about her that disturbed John. He wondered what her reaction to his thoughts would be. He knew he must not reveal his private thoughts to anyone. Not now. And especially not to Sivle. He realized that the world was dangerously close to destruction before the Great Transition, and outside of the Shelters and the protective spheres, there is nothing left. But the present alternative was far too rigid and unyielding to promote unity among the people. There were people being demoted and eliminated unnecessarily. People are only human, and have human weaknesses. Any attempt to change the rules now would accomplish nothing but disqualify him from the position for which he was so well-qualified. He must be careful to follow all the rules until he is in a position to change them.
Still, he wondered about Sivle. Could she be trusted with his secret? She had trusted him with hers, the hidden "money". She even gave him a coin to keep. Certainly, she could be trusted. That was probably her way of telling John that she was not out to hurt him. He must talk to her again. But he must wait, or he would arouse suspicion. He would wait before suggesting another visit.
John concentrated his energy on developing elaborate programs for Lisa. He was intrigued by her smallness, having never observed a newborn child before. He knew that this was a crucial time in the development of a child, and that all possible progress must be made during this period.
Lisa would be an essential supporter in the implementation of his organization. She must be sympathetic to his aspirations, and hopefully will aid him. But he must train her carefully, while she is still young. He hoped Michael and Helen would continue to allow him the experience of teaching the newborn child.
As the weeks turned to months, John concentrated on Lisa and her learning program. Michael and Helen were impressed with his interest. He was developing great promise as a Super. A natural interest in other people and their learning abilities was important. John seemed wrapped up in this new endeavor, and less interested in Sivle.
\ Michael and Helen discussed this while observing one of John's sessions in the Relaxation room.
"It does seem strange," Helen said. "John seemed so interested in Sivle after their evaluations. But since he's met her, he seems to have put her completely out of his mind. He hasn't mentioned her once since your return."
"I was thinking the same thing, Helen. It's as though he realizes that she is not a threat to him."
"Yes, neither has he mentioned his desire to be the Super. Could it be he has already conceded the title to Sivle, and is not going to even try?" Michael was thoughtful for a moment, and said.
"He has thrown himself 100% into his work, Helen. I think John has something on his mind that he is not communicating with us. Perhaps we should have a discussion with him.
Meanwhile, John was floating in the Cube, dreaming of the day when he would be the new Super.
He would certainly not eliminate people simply for being human. He knew that the population had to be controlled, but the destruction of people was not the way it should be done. He felt that it would be better to control births, rather than destroy lives. He had observed what he felt were unfair rules, and though the rules did promote the kind of living conditions necessary to the preservation of the world, he felt other controls would be more appropriate.
A man and a woman and their three children are living in a cabin in the mountains in North America. They are the fourth generation of "survivors", since the "Great Transition". They are totally unaware of how the majority of the world is living, but are aware that a large segment of the population was whisked away about two hundred years ago, to be "saved" from the devastation that had overcome the world. It had been rumored that anyone who did not go along peacefully to be evaluated, and then "placed" according to their evaluation, could not live more than 24 hours on the "outside". A small group of 30 "rebels" fled and hid in the mountains until the hunt was called off - presumably to let all those who refused to be evaluated - die a certain death. It was stated that the atmosphere had been so badly filled with toxic gases that no one could survive. But either they were lying - or they were wrong. Either way - there are now 10 families living peacefully and happily in the mountains, with little regard for the "victims", as they referred to the others.
We have almost recovered completely from the destruction and havoc of that time. It has been hard - the land had been burned and ripped ragged. It is no lie that the population had gone mad - totally out of control - every country at war with every other country. Riots, battles - people had lost respect for each other and themselves. Something had to be done - and what was done was probably best - but not to be carried to such an extreme. It wasn't necessary. We are living without the protection of the Shelters. The air is breathable, and the water from rain is drinkable. A small section of the mountain seemed to be unaffected by the devastation, and is growing food for our small group.
CHAPTER TWELVE - RETURN TO AMERICA
Several months had passed since John visited Sivle. He had stayed busy working with Lisa, his mind focused on one thing: the future. The more time that passed, the stronger he felt about his decision to make changes. He had to insure that he would attain that position to make that possible. He must also be sure that he scored higher than Sivle in the final Evaluation. But - how could he be sure? She certainly was as qualified as he - maybe more so. He would do all he could to be the best qualified. But would that be enough. There must be a way to disqualify Sivle.
Disqualify Sivle! The thought surprised him. Why hadn't he thought of it earlier? It would be easy. She had already admitted she had secrets. Probably more than she was telling him. He had to learn more. Perhaps it was time to visit Sivle.
John approached Michael. "Good morning, Michael."
"Good morning, John. Did you sleep well?" Michael asked.
"Yes, Michael", John replied. "Although the holding beam on my sleep hammock needs replacing. It opened while I was sleeping and I almost fell out."
"Well, we will have one delivered today. We can't have you falling out of your hammock."
"Certainly not. How would it look to have the future Super getting hurt in his sleep due to a defective holding beam?"
They both chuckled at the thought.
"And what would Sivle think? She might feel better knowing she had no competition." John laughed.
"We can't have that happen, can we?" Michael joked.
"I've been wondering if you have heard any news from Sivle lately."
"Oh? You hadn't mentioned her in so long, I thought you had forgotten all about her."
"I have been busy, Michael, as you know. I must do my best to be the best candidate."
"You surprise me, John, The last I heard, you weren't so sure that you were the best one for the job."
"I have done a lot of thinking since then, Michael. I feel that the world needs me. So I must prepare myself - both physically and mentally."
"And emotionally", Michael added.
"Yes, emotionally, too," John nodded agreement.
"Where does Sivle fit into your plans, John? If at all."
"I must know more about her, Michael. If I am chosen the new Super, she will presumably be a Procreator, and we will be in close contact with each other."
"That is true, John. But there are many other Procreators that you will also come into contact with as Super. Why are you concentrating solely on Sivle?"
"Because she is the only other contender for the title, Michael. If I am to defeat Sivle, I must know what I am up against."
Michael looked at John. He couldn't believe what he was hearing. Could it be that John was shrewd enough to plan such an undertaking?
"Can we propose another trip to visit Sivle, Michael?"
Michael agreed. "Of course, John. I'll arrange it." He activated the Communicator. The normal recording was heard.
"THIS IS YOUR SUPERIOR SPEAKING TO YOU. PLEASE STATE THE PURPOSE OF YOUR COMMUNICATION. I WILL RESPOND SHORTLY."
"This is Teacher Michael requesting a return trip to America. John would like another visit with Sivle." Michael de-activated the communicator.
"Do you think our request will be honored, Michael?" John asked.
"I don't see any reason why it should be denied, John."
John didn't know if any limitations were put on inter-continental visits, but was certain he was about to learn.
The familiar tone of the Communicator sounded.
YOUR REQUEST FOR A RETURN TRIP TO America HAS BEEN GRANTED. HOWEVER, BEFORE YOUR DEPARTURE, I NEED TO VISIT WITH YOU IN PERSON FOR THE PURPOSE OF BECOMING ACQUAINTED WITH BOTH YOU AND YOUR SHELTER-MATES. I ALSO NEED TO INVESTIGATE A REPORT OF DEVIANT ACTIVITY IN YOUR SHELTER. PLEASE BE PREPARED FOR INTERROGATION. MY VISIT WILL TAKE PLACE IN TWO DAYS.
John spoke first. "What does he mean, Michael? What is "deviant activity?"
"It means that either some rule has been broken, or there is a malfunction somewhere in the shelter. Maybe someone in this Shelter has broken a rule, and it has been reported to Super."
"This is peculiar, Michael. The Super is coming to visit us, but there is some problem here that we are unaware of. Have you ever met him?"
"No, John. He doesn't make a habit of visiting Teachers and their Pupils unless something is out of order."
"You look worried, Michael. Do you think it is serious?"
"I don't know, but it is out of the ordinary. It makes me wonder . . ."
"Did anything unusual happen while you and Sivle were together?"
"Unusual? Like what?" John started to sweat.
"Did you or Sivle break any rules?"
John realized the seriousness of the situation. Maybe Michael was right. Maybe Sivle has reported him for having the coin. But she would have to explain where he got, wouldn't she? No, she wouldn't She could have told Marie that John had the coin, offered it to her, and she refused it. After all, she wants to become the next Super. She may have the same plan John had - to disqualify him, and therefore secure the title for herself.
All of this ran through John's mind in a matter of seconds, and he suddenly realized that Michael was calling him.
"John! Are you listening to me?"
"Oh, yes Michael. I"m sorry. I was just thinking of what you said about Sivle."
"And what was it you thought of, John?"
John was tempted to confess the truth to Michael, but something made him stop. If he told Michael about the coin, Michael would wonder why he had not mentioned it earlier, and would be suspicious of his motives. No, he must not tell ANYONE about the coin. He must hide it so that no one would ever find it.
"I am confident no rules were broken, Michael," John lied.
"Well, we will learn soon enough. Super will be here in two days."
John decided to spend some time in the Physical room. He needed to break his previous record of 110 pounds of lift with each leg. While operating the leg lift, his mind wandered to the coming visit.
What could Sivle have said? Was she trying to cause him to be disqualified! He must be certain to conceal the coin so that it cannot be found. But where? If Super knew of the coin, he would use a detector and would find it, no matter where John hid it. This was just too much to think about right now. And what if Michael should remember the package that Sivle delivered to John as they left? How would John explain that?
Coming back to reality, John noted that the readout indicated he had pressed 125 pounds with his legs! That was amazing! And without a thought about what he was doing!
This was recorded, of course, and would become part of his lifelong file. John was proud of his accomplishment, and looked up to see Helen watching him.
"I came to talk to you John. About Super."
"Yes, I know he is coming."
"Do you know why?" She asked.
John felt suddenly uneasy. First, Michael asked him, and now Helen. Do they know about the coin? Are they testing him to see if he will lie about it? Should he tell?
He decided that now was not the time to admit anything. He had had the opportunity earlier, and chose to reject it. To admit anything now, would surely be admitting his guilt.
"No, I really don't, Helen," he said. "Do you?"
John hated himself for adding that last question. It would probably force Helen to tell him that they knew all about how he had the coin, or whatever story Sivle had told about him, and all his plans for the future would be destroyed.
"Yes, I do," Helen answered.
John could feel droplets of moisture trickling through his skin. He was hot. Sweaty. His worst fears were about to fall right in his face. What could he say or do to get out of this now?
"You do?" he asked, wishing he could be somewhere else.
"Yes. It is about me, John."
Still sweating and hot from thoughts of being found out, he barely heard what Helen said.
"Did you hear me, John?"
"Yes, Helen. You said it is about you . . .You?" It sank in that Helen was confessing to him, and that meant he was innocent.
"Yes, Are you surprised?"
Surprised! That was not even close to the word John would have chosen. Astounded, maybe. Dumbfounded, for sure. Surprised, oh, yes. And relieved!
He calmed his mind, then tried to make his voice sound only slightly surprised.
"Yes, Helen. I am surprised. Why is Super coming to see about you?"
"I have been guilty of falsifying records, John. Please don't say anything to Michael. He doesn't know, and I can't bring myself to tell him - - yet. Please try to understand."
"Helen's voice started to quiver and John felt instant compassion for her.
"Please don't cry, Helen", he said. "It can't be that bad."
"I'm afraid I will be demoted, John. If Super finds that I have lied, I will be sent to the Followers Farm."
"No, Helen. You couldn't lie. I know you. You couldn't lie. You are too good for the Followers Farm." John consoled Helen. But as he spoke, he felt his words were wasted. This was exactly what Michael had told him. The rules are the rules. And if they are broken,there are no excuses. Punishment will follow.
"John, I did lie. I admit it. But I thought I was doing right at the time."
John needed to know more. "What did you do, Helen?"
"It happened while you and Michael were visiting Sivle. I made an error in logging some information pertaining to Lisa's progress."
"Is that all? Surely that can be corrected, Helen. You are worried unnecessarily." John tried to reassure her.
"No, John. I was just not paying attention to what I was doing. I was missing you and Michael so much, and feeling so lonesome, that while I was entering the information into the log, I entered it directly into the permanent log, without verifying it. Now the information is part of the permanent file, and can never be changed. It can be corrected, but that information will always be visible. There is no excuse for what I did, except that my mind was not on the job, and was instead, on you and Michael."
"Is that such a serious offense, Helen? I would think that Super would understand, since you were here all by yourself, missing us, and . . ."
"You see, John, that is the problem. I should not have allowed myself to become so emotionally involved to have missed you enough o affect my work. but my weakness was tested, and I failed at the very first opportunity. I am quite sure that Super will not forgive this."
"What will happen to us, if you are sent away, Helen? Will you be replaced by another Teacher?"
"No, John, Whenever one member of the teaching team is disqualified for any reason, the remaining Teacher must go on alone."
"And suppose the remaining Teacher should also fail? What becomes of the Pupils?" John wondered aloud.
"I don't know, John. I have never heard of that happening, although I'm sure it is a possibility. I don't know what would be done then."
"Helen, how did this error get reported? No one knew about it but you."
"That's right, John. No one knew but me. And when I discovered what I had done, I reported the error to Super."
"You reported yourself? Helen! Why?" John couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"John you must understand. I broke a rule. I had to report it. How else could I continue to respect myself? How else could I continue to teach others something that I could not do myself?"
John was quiet. Helen was doing just what she was taught to do - yet she would most likely be punished for it. How unfair. How unjust.
"Possibly if Michael and I plead your case for you when Super arrives, we can make him understand that you are a great Teacher, and it would never happen again."
"No, John. That would make him mistrust you in the future. You must not try to help me in any way. This is for the best. We shall just leave it up to Super."
"All right, Helen," John agreed
CHAPTER THIRTEEN - THE SUPER
The day the Super arrived came too soon for John. When the Special Transport arrived, he was mentally and emotionally exhausted.
While Michael and Helen greeted the Super, John noticed how handsome and physically fit he was. His golden hair was cut in the mandatory "cap" length. Hair, known to have been a carrier of germs and disease, was kept very short on both males and females and was not be allowed to grow below the ears. John detected just a hint of freckles on his face, and thought it interesting that he and Super shared the same colorization.
Suddenly, aware that he was being introduced, he extended his hand toward this man whom everyone looked up to and followed with great respect.
Jesse spoke to John. "You are the young one that wished to visit his competition in America. May I ask the outcome of your visit?"
John, intimidated by this inspiring man, felt his face flush with guilt, as he recalled the coin, tried in vain to stammer some explanation of his visit. He felt as though Jesse could see inside him, and knew he was hiding something.
"And now you are requesting a return visit, is that right?" Jesse asked John.
Still flushed, and wishing this conversation were not taking place, John muttered, "Yes, Sir."
"I see no reason why your request should be denied, John. You are doing a fine job here. The reports I see are outstanding, and I look forward to seeing more of you as time passes."
Hearing the Super praise him, made John feel both happy and guilty at the same time. Happy, because he had not been discovered, and guilty, because although he didn't agree with the rules, and had all intentions of changing them when and if he got the opportunity, he knew he was not thinking as an ideal Super should.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN - HELEN'S SECRET
John and Michael sat in silence outside the Conversation room, while the Super and Helen talked. From time to time, John checked in on Lisa. The video he had programmed for her was operating properly and she was attentive.
John was proud of the progress Lisa was making, and considered her one of his future Procreators. Though she was not yet a year old, Lisa was already responding well to the videos. Her physical abilities exceeded those of the average year old child.
Michael broke the long silence. "What could be taking them so long, John? It seems to me that the Super is either going to find Helen 'Guilty', or 'Not Guilty'. and be finished with it."
"I don't know, Michael. I agree. It seems to be taking longer than it should." The door opened. Helen exited, looking pale and exhausted.
Not knowing what had transpired behind the door, and not wanting to say anything wrong, they looked from Helen to the Super for any sign of what had transpired.
Jesse looked directly at John as he spoke. "Helen has been exempted from guilt. I find her to be an honest woman, and, with the stipulation that any future weaknesses will be severely punished, all charges have been erased from her record."
John breathed an audible sign of relief, and thanked the Super for his compassionate decision.
John could not help but think that the Super was not the rigid, unfeeling individual that he had been led to believe, but a man that could be understanding. A man similar to how John would want to be.
As Jesse prepared to leave, he turned to John, put his large hand on John's shoulder, and said, "You can plan to travel to America tomorrow. Sivle is anxiously awaiting your visit. You have made an impression her, John."
John felt his face flush, and tried to hide it by turning away from the Super. The Super turned him back to face him and said, "Looks like she's made an impression on you too, young man. Be very careful of this, John. I know how difficult it is to control, but you MUST!"
"I am sorry, Jesse. I will try to control myself in the future."
"Yes, you must, John."
CHAPTER FIFTEEN - THE CHALLENGE
By the time he arrived in Acerima, John was confident he would be the new Super. He had been utilizing motivational audio-visual programs designed to increase his self-esteem and point out his leadership qualities, while minimizing his deficiencies, which were few. The program indicated that he was above average in honesty and was extremely empathetic.
Sivle greeted them as he and Michael arrived. They immediately left Michael and Marie inside, while they went directly to "their spot" by the wall, both excited at the renewal of their friendship after so many months. It was a private spot for them, and they felt secure and comfortable there.
Sivle asked, "Do you still have the coin?"
"Did you show it to anyone?"
"Good. I knew I could trust you."
"What would you have done if I told Michael?" John asked.
"I would have denied it, of course. But I knew you wouldn't tell."
"How could you be sure? I did contemplate telling Michael at one point."
"But you didn't, did you?"
"I don't know."
"Yes, you do."
"Because you don't want to jeopardize your chance of becoming the next Super. Isn't that right, John?" Sivle's voice had a sarcastic tone that John hadn't heard before.
"I suppose" He answered.
"I suppose," she mimicked.
John suddenly felt uncomfortable with this conversation. It was becoming obvious that Sivle had the upper hand, and he had absolutely no control. This would not do, if he were to be the Super.
The desperateness of the situation triggered his remembrance of why he wanted to return.
"Yes, Sivle, you are right. I did not want to hurt my chances of becoming the Super. But neither do you." John said.
"You're absolutely right, John! And I have no intention of settling for less than I deserve."
Sivle sounded more threatening than John had noticed in past meetings.
John said with all the credibility he could collect, "You certainly have the qualifications to be the Super, Sivle. You are a strong person, and are in control of yourself and the people around you."
"You are right, John. I deserve it. And I intend to get all I deserve."
John said, "I hope you get everything you qualify for, Sivle".
They were both aware that a high score on the Evaluation was not the only criteria in choosing a Super. Every detail of their lives from the first Evaluation until the final test at the age of fifteen would be compared, computed, cross-referenced and calculated, until there was absolutely no doubt that the new Super was not only the highest scoring individual available, but had the desirable characteristics necessary to carry out the many responsibilities of the Super.
"Sivle, let's go to your Physical room. I am very interested in your equipment. Perhaps you could explain some of the newer pieces to me."
"Of course, John. I enjoy that room, too."
Inside the Physical room, Sivle began explaining some of the various activities. Although they were similar to what he was used to, there were some that were totally different, such as the Muscle Toning chamber, which was specially designed to allow complete muscular coordination.
"Tell me about this one, Sivle."
"In this program, your body is completely encapsulated within the chamber. The chamber is pressurized in such a way that you must use all of the strength you can gather, in order to free yourself from the chamber. If you are unable to break the pressure by muscular control, you must wait until the pressure is relived by outside forces, such as another person, or just waiting until the pressure escapes, which could take up to one time period."
"Thirty minutes? That sounds a little dangerous."
"Well, I suppose it could be, but the secret is, to never set the pressure for more than you are sure you can handle."
"How much pressure can you handle?"
"I have recently broken out of 162 psi."
"So, I suppose your next trial would be for 165? Or 170?"
"Oh, no, I would try for at least 200 psi next time, Would you like to try it?"
John's first impulse was to try something else. The thought of Sivle "eliminating" him in this manner flashed across his mind. If he were to be unable to escape, there would be no contest as to who would become the next Super.
"Why not?" He heard himself saying, but could not believe he had actually agreed to this. Was he trying to impress Sivle?
He watched Sivle program the system for 200 psi, the chamber opened, exposing a control panel inside, with levers for each foot, grips for each hand, and a plate that could be pressed with the back of the neck.
Sivle explained that in order to break the pressure, he must press the arm and leg levers as hard as he possibly could, while simultaneously pressing backward with his head. The combined muscle pressure, if held long enough, would allow pressure to escape, allowing the chamber to open.
"Are you ready?" she asked, smiling.
John thought "If she can break out of 162, surely I wouldn't have a problem with 200".
Without speaking, John entered the chamber, and positioned himself at the controls, placing one foot on each lever, and folding his hands comfortably around the grips.
Sivle activated the chamber, and the door closed, with John inside, looking through a small window, through which he could see Sivle leaving the room. "Why was she leaving? What if he couldn't open the chamber? She didn't say she wouldn't be there to oversee his first attempt"!
He could feel the pressure building. His ears started to feel strange. What was happening? His eyes felt as though they were going to pop right out of their sockets! His fingers felt swollen - unable to grasp the controls. His legs were the same. What was going on?
His head started to buzz. He felt dizzy. He had to get out of here! He squeezed the hand grips as hard as he could, while pushing down on the foot levers. Was he pushing hard enough? His legs felt numb! He had to get out of here before his whole body exploded. Why wasn't the pressure escaping? He was pushing as hard has he could! Was he going to die? Where was Sivle? Where was Michael! Why had he agreed to this? His neck. He remembered he had to push back with his neck. A slight tilt backward was all he could manage. He heard something. What? A sound. A hiss? Sweat ran down his face. Cool air coming from somewhere. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of his eye he saw something. Turning, he was looking at Sivle. She was there! The chamber was open.
John fell more than stepped out of the chamber. Sivle caught him and helped him to sit down. He head was still tingling and throbbing. And after a few minutes he was able to collect his thoughts.
"Sivle", he asked. "I'm glad you returned when you did. Why did you leave me alone in the chamber? Being my first time, I became confused, and was afraid I might have died!"
"I was only gone for a few minutes, John. I knew you would be all right until I got back. But I didn't open the capsule. You did it yourself just as I returned."
"Really? Well, I think that setting was too much for my first time."
"But you did it, John. You broke out at 200 psi. I'm not sure if I could do it. Want to watch while I try?"
"Sure, but show me what to do to release you."
Sivle showed him the spot to touch to open the capsule, and told him only to touch it if she looked at him. She climbed in, and the door closed behind her. John watched as the pressure built. He watched Sivle's face - determined, strong, but not looking at him. The pressure reached 200 and John watched Sivle press the levers and squeeze the grips, her neck pressing back on the neck plate. Her face started to contort. The door did not open. John became concerned. She didn't look at him. He knew what she was feeling. Her facial expression changed. Her mouth started to open, her face went limp. John touched the spot and the door opened. Sivle gasped and fell toward John. He caught her and dragged her limp body out of the chamber and laid her down on the floor. She was breathing heavily, her eyes closed, her face red.
"Sivle", John yelled. "Sivle, are you all right?"
"Ohhhh..." Sivle muttered.
"John - what has happened?" Michael was standing over them. He and Marie had come to see what was happening.
"Oh, Michael, I don't know what happened", explained John. "Sivle was showing me this new muscle toning chamber, and I guess she set the pressure a little too high".
"What pressure did she set, John"? asked Marie.
"Well, it serves her right. She knows better than to use that chamber at such a high setting. The most she has achieved in the past is 125!" It's just a good thing you were here to get her out, John".
John was surprised. Sivle had only done 125? And she convinced him to do 200? Maybe she was trying to kill him! But she figured if he could do it, then she could, too. But she was wrong! Yes, It was a good thing that he was there.
Sivle started to become aware of her surroundings, and started to sit up. She was still weak, and dizzy.
"How are you feeling, Sivle?" John asked.
"Whew, I'm not sure, John. Pretty strange. I'm so surprised I was unable to break out of the chamber."
"Why didn't you give me the sign to open it for you?"
"I just thought I could do it myself, John"
"I think you need to work up to it, Sivle. Please don't try that again, without someone here to help, all right?"
John and Michael prepared the Transport and promising to get together again, returned to their Shelter.
CHAPTER SIXTEEN - LISA'S PROBLEM
Although Lisa's physical, intellectual and emotional abilities were progressing outstandingly, it was apparent that she had a problem that could no longer be ignored. She had not uttered a word since her arrival.
The average child usually had selected a preferred language before the end of the first year. Apparently, Lisa had not. Not surprising, considering the myriad of languages being absorbed continually through the subliminal audio system in the Nursery.
In seventeen months, Lisa had not uttered the first word. Nor had she laughed or cried. Her vocal cords were intact and operative; there was no physical reason for her to not speak. This became the main concern of the Shelter: Why won't Lisa talk?
Physically, she was without a fault. Intellectually, she seemed happy, content to be continually entertained and tutored. She responded excitedly to Michael, Helen and John without hesitation,. It was plain she could hear and comprehend. She just would not make a sound. Yet she seemed to make herself understood. John noticed it first - he seemed to "know" her thoughts. He hesitated mentioning this to Michael or Helen, for fear of sounding peculiar, but when he did finally mention the possibility that Lisa might be "Telepathic", Michael admitted that he too, felt he could "hear" Lisa's thoughts.
"Could it be that Lisa is telepathic?" John had suggested to Michael.
"It would appear to be a possibility, John. I recall reading about a child similar to Lisa many years ago. I can't recall all the facts about it, but it seems it occurred before the Great Transition. Give me a little time. Maybe it will come to me."
John occupied the Correction room most of the time, spending most of his time at the Historical Archives Monitor, investigating all available information related to psychological phenomena. When he found no answer, he became discouraged, neglecting his own personal programming.
Michael observed what was happening. Upon entering the Correction room, he found John engrossed, as usual, in the Historical Archives Monitor.
John looked up as he heard Michael enter. "The answer is not there," Michael stated flatly.
"You have been neglecting your own schedule. You need to keep up your own program as well as Lisa's. If her problem is upsetting you that much, you must give it up."
"I can't, Michael."
"She will be all right, John. She just needs a little more time."
"Maybe. I just don't know."
CHAPTER SEVENTEEN - THE ADMITTANCE
"I came to tell you that Sivle has invited you to visit again," Michael told John.
"It's a little soon." John muttered without looking up from the monitor.
"It has been almost a year. Don't you want to go?"
"No? John, I am surprised. Did something happen between you and Sivle? Did you have a disagreement? I thought you were doing well together."
John decided that this was the time to tell Michael how he felt. "Michael, there is a problem, and I do not know how to handle it."
"That is what I am here for. I am your Teacher. It is my job to help you prepare you for your future. What is the problem?"
"I feel Sivle is using me, Michael."
"In what way?"
"Well, I might as well tell you everything. Do you remember the first time we went to visit Sivle?"
"Do you remember that Sivle gave me a gift, just as we left?"
"Oh, yes, I had forgotten abut that. What was it?"
John took a deep breath. "It was a coin."
"A coin?" Michael pronounced it as though he had never heard the word.
"You know, Michael, a coin. What people used to use to trade for things before the 'Great Transition.'"
"Sivle gave you a coin?" Michael asked incredulously.
"And you have it now?"
"Michael, let me tell you about it."
"All right. Tell me."
"When I realized what she had given me was a coin, my first thought, of course, was to throw it away, and to tell you about it."
"And why didn't you?"
"I felt it would hurt Sivle's feelings. After all, it was a gift."
"But you knew you should not have it, John."
"Yes, I did. And I still do. But the last time I went to visit Sivle, she asked me if I still had it. I told her I did. She asked me if I had told anyone about it, and when I told her I hadn't she said she knew that I wouldn't. Michael, she wants very much to be the new Super. I think she is planning to disqualify me."
"Very interesting." Michael seemed amazed. "May I see the coin?"
John retrieved the coin from it's hiding place between the pages of "Gone With The Wind" and handed it to Michael.
Michael turned it over a few times, examining it closely, having never seen one before. He was obviously fascinated by it.
"You know what needs to be done, don't you John?"
John knew. He had hoped that Michael would have some alternative than to report him to Super. Everything was falling apart! He hadn't done anything wrong, had he? But everything was looking worse every minute. He had made a mistake by not reporting the coin to Michael as soon as he had received it from Sivle. He knew that now. Why hadn't he? It was obvious now that Sivle would be the new Super. She had accomplished just what she set out to do.
"We must call Super at once. We must report this incident and set the record straight, John."
"Yes, Michael. I am sorry I did not report this to you when it first happened. I knew better. But I let another person influence my behavior. What will happen to me, Michael?"
"John, you have broken more than one rule. You not only let yourself be manipulated by another, but you are in possession of an illegal artifact. You have certainly put yourself in a precarious situation. It will also reflect on me and Helen. Did we not instill these practices in you strongly enough?"
"Yes you did, Michael. You did." John was becoming emotional. He realized what was happening, and suddenly stopped, pulled himself together, and looked squarely at Michael. "I need to speak to Super. In person."
"Yes, John, we will speak to Super."
"No, Michael, I need to speak to him by myself. I need to explain to him exactly what happened and why I did what I did."
"All right, John. We will contact Super tomorrow and set a meeting time."
John nodded and headed for his sleeping canister. All of this emotion had left him exhausted. He felt that a two hour sleep would refresh him and ready him for his pending encounter with Super.
CHAPTER EIGHTEEN - THE ANTICIPATION
John could not sleep. His mind raced with thoughts of Sivle and how she had tricked him. Why was it he who should be disqualified? Was Sivle not equally as guilty as he? Maybe more? Yes. She also possessed the coin. And also kept it hidden before she offered it to him. And, he continued to defend himself, how was he to know it was a coin when she gave it to him? It was wrapped! He had no way of knowing what was inside! His only error, as he could see it, was his failure to report it to Michael immediately. Sivle, on the other hand, used it deliberately to inflict harm on another person. If he was guilty, then so was Sivle. Would there be no Super again this time?
This was not working. He could not sleep - he might as well go to the Relaxation room. Maybe that would help. As the cover to his sleeping canister slid open, he heard Michael outside the room.
"No, he is asleep at the moment. But he wants to see you."
The voice of the Communicator responded: "I SHALL ARRIVE IN TWO DAYS. PLEASE HAVE ALL PREPARATIONS READY."
"All right. Thank you."
John thought, "Michael has been talking to Super. He said he would call tomorrow. Why did he call today?"
Michael almost knocked John over as he turned and did not notice him standing behind him.
"John! I thought you were sleeping."
"I can't sleep. What did you tell Super?"
"He contacted me, John. He said he had a problem that he needed to discuss with us. I told him that you wanted to speak to him too. He will be here in two days."
"He contacted you? That's the second time. Maybe Sivle has already told him about the coin." John hung his head.
"There is no sense worrying about it until we know what he wants, John.
CHAPTER NINETEEN - THE AGONY
Two days can seem like two years when the impending event is not a happy one. John tried to involve himself in Lisa's speech problem, but that only made things worse by reminding him that he probably would no longer be allowed to "coach" her. He went over and over the events that had led to this point, only to find more and more fault with himself for letting it happen. He wondered how someone who scored as well as he did on his evaluation could end up in his present circumstances.
The Relaxation room helped a little, but he still could think of nothing but the impending confrontation.
While the hours slowly passed, the Super finally arrived on the appointed day. John had gone over and over the events in question, practiced appearing non-emotional, taking deep breaths to stay calm.
John asked if he could speak with Super alone, and Michael and Helen agreed.
"It is good to see you again, John", Super smiled pleasantly. "I hope you have been keeping busy with all of your programs, including your extra duties caring for Lisa."
"Yes, Super, I have been learning many new techniques. I access the Historical Archives Monitor almost daily. I find it absolutely valuable in many of my endeavors including those with Lisa."
"I am glad to hear that, John. The H.A.M. was put into existence at my urging, as I felt it could be a valuable tool for people in your position. Have you encountered any questions that the H.A.M. was unable to solve?"
"Well, there is a situation that we in this Shelter have been trying to correct, but at this point in time, there seems to be no solution."
"Maybe I can offer further wisdom. What is the problem, John?"
"It is Lisa. Although she is very bright, and is learning rapidly, at seventeen months, she has not yet spoken. We are all concerned."
Super was silent for a moment as he appeared to be pondering the situation. "May I see her?" he asked compassionately.
John directed Super to the Nursery, where Lisa lay smiling on her learning area, intently studying the holograph before her. Super watched her for a moment, then returned to the visiting area to speak.
"She is doing fine, John", Super assured him. "It is not very often that I have the privilege of witnessing first-hand a child of such advanced intelligence. Lisa is extremely bright. You can see it in her expression. Do not be concerned that she has not yet spoken. She apparently has nothing to say. All of her needs, including her creative ones are being sufficiently met. When she needs something that she is not getting, she will speak."
"That is very comforting to know, Super. In my limited experience, I was afraid that there might be some hidden deficiency."
"John, I am thoroughly impressed with your progress. You are honest and forthright. I admire that. You have a strong desire to learn, and are interested in the instruction of others. That is why I am here. Well, that, and one other reason."
"Thank you, Super," John felt uncomfortable. "Is there something that I can do for you?"
"Yes, John, there is." Super appeared to be searching for the right words. "I need to you help me expose someone. I have never had to do this before, so I am not sure if this will work, but I feel that you are the right person for the job. Do you want to hear more about it?"
When John heard the words 'expose someone', he felt very uncomfortable. What could Super possibly be suggesting? He answered "Yes, I would."
"I would like you to take a short trip with me in my Transport. Would you mind?"
"I would be honored." John replied. He wondered what Super wanted him to do, but whatever it was, he would do it gladly. "When would be take this trip?"
"Right now, if you don't mind, John."
"All right. Let me tell Michael and Helen." After explaining that they would be back within an hour, John and Super boarded Super's Transport and departed.
Once underway, Super began explaining the purpose of their trip. "We are going to visit Sivle and Marie, John. She has been in contact with me several times since the last time you visited her."
John was quite surprised to hear this. Why would Sivle contact Super?
"She has given me some information that has disturbed me, and I hope you can help me get to the bottom of it."
John could no longer stay calm. He had to confide in Super. He had to get rid of this awful guilt. "Super, as you know, I also wanted to speak to you, and possibly it is all related. I need to tell you about something that happened while I was visiting Sivle and which has turned out to be a nightmare to me."
"All right, John, tell me what happened." John took a deep breath, and began telling Super all that had happened with the coin, and the conversation that Sivle and he had had during his last visit about her disqualifying him, and even mentioned his experience in the Muscle Toning Chamber. When he was finished, he didn't look at Super. There was just silence between them. Finally Super spoke.
"Very similar story to the one Sivle told me, John. Similar, but different."
"According to Sivle, you had the coin, offered it to her, but she, knowing she should not have it, refused it. She told me that you have it, and that you should be disqualified not only for possession of it, but for trying to blemish her record. What do you think of that?"
John just shook his head in disbelief that Sivle actually did what she said she would do. What defense did he have? It was her word against his - and he had the coin.
"I really don't know what to say, Super. I know it is her word against mine, and I did break the rules when I failed to report the coin when I received it, but you must believe that that is all I did wrong. She told me that she would try to disqualify me, and that is exactly what she did. Do you believe her?"
"I believe you, John. That is why I wanted you to take this trip to America with me. We need to confront her. Are you up to this assignment?"
John was so relieved that Super believed him, that he answered "Yes, I am definitely up to this assignment."
"Do you have the coin with you, John?"
"No. It is at the Shelter. I will give it to you when we return."
CHAPTER TWENTY - THE CONFRONTATION
John knew this trip to America would be different from the others. It would more than likely be his last, and it was sad. He had been so excited initially to meet this girl with the high scoring Evaluation. And now, the excitement had turned to disappointment. Disappointment and hurt. He had approached the situation with all intentions of becoming strong friends, no matter the outcome later on. But he had been used. Yes, he was hurt by it. People really have not changed from the pre-Transition days at all. They just use a different approach.
As hard-hearted as it sounded, John knew that this was just the type of activity that was supposedly eliminated. And it would be up to him to see that this is not allowed to continue.
The Transport arrived at America and as the door opened, John saw Sivle waiting for him, a smile on her face.
"I'm so glad you agreed to come, John. I have something to tell you."
John followed her through the tube and into the Shelter. Here, she stopped in the Chat room, and motioned John to come closer.
She whispered in his ear. "Do you know what happened to Tom, Maria's life-mate?"
"I know he was sent to the Follower's Farm, that's all."
"Do you know why?"
"No, do you?"
"Of course. I was responsible for his having to go."
"Yes." she giggled secretively.
"I don't understand. How could you . . ."
"It was easy, John. He is a man. Just like you. And he is weak. Just like you."
"I am not weak, Sivle." John was defensive.
"Yes you are, John. All men are weak. We women are the strong ones. And I when I become new Super you will see just how powerful we are."
"You are not a woman, Sivle. You are still a girl. You are the same age as I.
"John, you just don't understand, do you?"
"No, Sivle. And I don't want to hear any more of this ridiculous talk from you."
"But John, I am trying to explain to you why you have no chance of becoming the new Super, because I am going to show you just how weak you are." Sivle reached for John.
"No you're not, Sivle." The voice surprised Sivle and she turned around to see Super standing there.
"Oh, hello, Super, she smiled, trying unsuccessfully to hide her surprise with a cute smile. "I'm so glad to see you. I was just about to explain some very important facts to John about . . ."
"I know all about it, Sivle." Super interrupted. "I was doubtful when Tom told me his version of what occurred between you two, and didn't believe him. But after hearing you threatening John, I am sure Tom was the victim, not you, as I was led to believe."
"I don't understand. Why are you here?" Sivle looked guilty now.
"It was on the advice of John's Teacher Michael, who alerted me to your deviousness on previous visits. And John verified his experiences with you. I could not be absolutely sure unless I witnessed your brazenness for myself. I am glad I listened to them. You are going to the Follower's Farm, Sivle. And Tom will be back here with Marie, where he belongs. Apparently, our world is not quite as perfect as we thought, when we can still allow people like you to fool all of our sophisticated testing."
"John, you have proven yourself a worthy leader by handling this situation in the manner you did. Although you have pentads of training ahead of you, I am confident that you will continue to manage this world as it should be. You and I will be working closely from this point on. Congratulations!"
TO BE CONTINUED . . .
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