by Lori J
Laresn, living on Celem, greatly desires to escape from her planet.
Laresn knew she would have to slip away from school, without being detected. There were cameras everywhere, but she knew where they were and had mapped out a route in her head that would avoid each one from the nurses’ building to the airstrip. She would have to crawl through a drainage pipe to avoid a camera, which she knew she could do without any trouble. She had been wanting to escape for ages and was determined to get herself away from here. Far away! After her flying lessons, she knew she would have a way.
If she faked a pain, she could get sent to the nurse. A place she had never been before for any kind of pain or sickness. Faking a toothache or earache should be easy. She hoped the teacher would take her seriously. The nurse was impatient and didn’t put up with minor aches and pains. If she thought students were overreacting, she sent them back to class with a demeaning message. The teacher was quick then to give them extra homework. Most students suffered through their aches and pains until they were running a temperature or showing some other signs of sickness. Their teacher sent them to the health unit herself then, and the nurse’s reaction was always caring and concerning.
With her black hair tied back and blackish-brown eyes looking straight ahead, Laresn saw herself walking in apparent agony out the door heading to the nurse’s station. When she got there, instead of going inside, she would go around the back and take her planned escape route that ran to the parking area. She would be gone in a half minute, as soon as she reached the spaceship she shared with her three roommates.
She planned to take Zook with her. Sometimes she thought it would be better to leave her behind, but she didn’t think she could do that. Zook had always been there for her and, even though she was telling her this was a stupid idea, Laresn was sure that Zook would choose to go with her. No one knew about her. She was her imaginary twin. She had always been kept a secret. She didn’t even remember when Zook had entered her life, but they had played together day after day when she was in First Home. Back then, Zook was Zooky, but when she was moved to Building G-A, Laresn decided that she needed a more grown-up name. After all, they were ten years old already at that time.
She got her mind off of Zook and went back to her plan. She was glad she had finished her driving lessons this past summer and knew she was a good driver. She was already very confident when zooming to classes or back to their building. There was only one key to their spaceship, which had to be checked out and back in on their assigned days to drive. One of her assigned driving days would be her escape day. When first the idea of escaping had come to her, she dismissed it, knowing it would be impossible. Now, though, she had knowledge she didn’t have then.
Laresn became more and more convinced that she could do this and get away from this horrid place. She kept going over and over what she would need to do. She thought of everything that could possibly happen and made a plan for each possibility. What if the teacher sent someone with her? What if she met a teacher on the sidewalk who was also going to the nurse’s station? What if someone was in the parking area working on one of the ships? What if they were doing maintenance on their ship? Different possibilities kept popping up in her head. Being quick would be of utmost importance. As soon as she was in the ship and had taken off, she was sure she’d have it made. She knew she needed lead time, though, before it was discovered that she was gone. The earlier she got out of the school building and headed to the nurse’s station, the better it would be for her.
Living this way was bad. She hated the home she had been sent to. She hated the classes she had been assigned to. She hated the hoity-toity girls she had to share a room and spaceship with. The girls would really hate her when they discovered the ship gone. They would run back into school and report it right away. Their teacher would call the Guard of their building and he would go straight to the General. It was the rule. Rule Number Seven stated that if anything strange or suspicious happened, it must be reported immediately. If something was not reported in a timely manner, and it was determined that someone may have known about it, they would be sent to detention for an indefinite amount of time. She knew her roommates would be questioned; however, they knew nothing. She planned to be well on her way to Earth by that time. She knew the General’s ships were much faster than what she would be driving, but they would have no idea where she was going. No one knew. No one! She did not share anything with anyone.
There were those who had tried to escape but were always caught. They left when angry and tried to make it to the mountains on the other side of the planet. They couldn’t travel far enough, fast enough. She hated it for them, but there was nothing that she could do to help them.
Others refused to do as ordered. When she heard about those, she always tuned out. Laresn had trained herself to listen only when necessary. She remembered her caretaker telling her years ago to always make a plan when you want to do something new. Not that they had many opportunities to do new things on their own. They were always watched closely and led through every step of everything they were being taught to do. Their rulers wanted control over everything and everyone. They were taught to recite a promise when they were young and just beginning classes and repeated it at the beginning of each day. A new leader was chosen every munifee, and he proudly took his place speaking clearly and loudly.
The promise was simple, “I promise I will listen and do whatever I am told to do.” Each morning, that promise rang through the school building. The General would get on the intercom then and tell the students, “Good, good, you must all remember that all the time. Promises always must be kept.”
No one, absolutely no one wanted to be in trouble with the General. He was tall and had a very domineering look, with cold and demanding eyes. When the students saw him coming, they had been taught to stand aside, in a rigid and formal stance. They never spoke to him unless he spoke to them first. If sent to him because of a misdeed, a student would have to stay with him through that class period. They always came back to the next class very subdued and would not speak of their punishment.
Somewhere she had a brother. He had been sent away a long time ago, and she didn’t remember him. She wondered what he looked like and if his name had been changed. They were sometimes given a new name whenever they were moved. When she knew him, his name was Mobeen. Laresn didn’t know what he had been trained to do, or even if his training was over. The little she knew about him came from her First Home mother, who had told her about him just before she was to be taken to her next home. Furthermore, she didn't know what kind of training she was getting. She realized this had been determined some years back already. It didn’t matter, though, because she had no intention of doing whatever it was.
She didn’t know much about where they were. Only that their planet was called Celem and that the other side of the planet was covered with mountains. She’d heard that somewhere, but when she’d asked their guard, Rayceen, he had just said he didn’t know anything about any mountains anywhere. Then he had said, “Laresn, just study hard and learn what the General wants you to learn. Don’t go around asking questions. Don’t do anything that will get you reported to the General.” After that, she was very cautious. She didn’t ask questions of anyone. But she became very observant, taking care to notice the behavior of those around her.
After Laresn first came to their building, when she was ten years old, there was a girl in one of her classes that disappeared and never returned. She never knew or heard where she had gone.
Rena was short, a lot shorter than she herself was, and always wore her dark hair woven in braids. She had been a friendly outgoing girl when she first came to their class and everyone seemed to like her. Her uniform, however, was on the tight side and a little short, but Laresn knew that was because Rena had grown and developed more than most of the girls. Clothes came from the Clothing Needs Department twice a year at winter and summer season change, and at this time it was still two months until the winter season.
One day during class, one of the students, Lasad, had answered a question about the nature of insects that eat plant roots. It was very apparent he had no knowledge of the answer. However, when anyone was called on, they were required to give an answer. Rena was quick to make a snide remark about Lasad’s stupid answer. Even though she had made the remark quietly, the teacher had heard what she said and had really called her out on it. “You seem to think you know the answer, Rena, so what should the answer be?” Rena was hesitant to answer but gave a half-way right response. This was not the first time something like this had happened, so no one was surprised when the teacher called Rena aside and spoke to her about how important it is to keep the right attitude and not to be snobbish. Rena mocked the teacher when she turned away from her. Laresn wasn’t the only one who noticed.
It was a week or so after this that Rena did not return to class. Laresn really wanted to know what had happened to her, but didn’t want to break her ‘no questions’ rule, so she never found out. She didn’t hear the other girls or anyone else talking about her, which seemed so strange. It was as though she had never existed in their world. Zook kept telling her, “Don’t worry about it. There’s nothing you can do to help her or anyone else for that matter.” She knew that Zook was right, so she kept quiet about it and just concentrated on her own studies.