Knowledge is Power
9.36 a.m., September 13th, 2169
Laurence Harris Public High School, New York City.
Advanced Computer Technology. Boring. Understandable but boring.
It was my first year of high school, and so far, it was good. Of course I didn’t know many of my classmates outside of school since I had been running with the 10th Street Reds since I was 12. Back then, they just wanted some young pretty face that could easily be used as a courier. That was the old days, before they realized my potential.
I was lucky though, because I had one of those minds that remembers most things, and understands them. Many of the other kids envied me and I could see why. But just because I could understand subjects like ACT didn’t mean they weren’t boring.
Advanced Computer Technology was one of the subjects that belonged under the umbrella program called Advanced Technical Subjects that was taught at most schools. After scoring off the charts at some test during the start of the school year, it was decided by some asshole that not only was I eligible to take all of the subjects offered by the program, but I was obligated to. Fucker.
This particular day, I didn’t feel like listening, so while my omni-tool was recording everything that was said, I also had it play songs through my ear-piece. Most people were unaware of the awesome music that was made in the early 21st century. Today’s choice was some guys called Alien Ant Farm with a song called Smooth Criminal.
So while the song was playing in my ears, Mr. Cast was yapping away. The first thing I noticed about the class, was when Cast went to the interactive blackboard and erased the words ‘The Matrixes of Alien Computer Systems’ and all the different algorithms he had written while talking about it, and then wrote the words ‘Combat applications of computer sciences’. That sentence made me listen, so I turned off the music on my omni-tool and took out the ear-piece.
“Now, dear children, I have arranged for a very special guest speaker and a former student of mine to talk to you today.” He turned to the door where there was an Alliance Marine standing in full dress uniform. “Come on in David.”
The blue uniform looked good on him, but you could still tell that he wasn’t a high ranking officer: his muscles were too defined for him to be a paper-pusher.
He took off his hat to reveal the traditional jarhead haircut. “I am Lieutenant David Raynes of the 103rd Marine Division, and I am a computer nerd” the Lieutenant said.
Cast, who was sitting on his desk, continued while the marine was standing straight. “The good Lieutenant here is with the special unit called Team Zeta.”
It became clear that the two of them had practiced this speech.
“I am a combat engineer, and the Alliance Navy Field Manuel classifies me as an Infiltrator. My notable skills include long-range elimination and hacking.” He was a sniper, how interesting.
“David’s team is nicknamed the Bridge Burners” Mr. Cast told us. “Can any of you guess, based on the information you have so far, what they specialize in?”
I peered curiously at the other students: they all looked like they were searching through every little corner of their brain for the answer.
Finally, I raised my hand. “Yes, Shepard?”
“Sabotage” I answered. “And I would guess that since your combat engineers, your sabotage focuses on enemy structures?”
The Lieutenant lifted an eyebrow and let a slight smile pass. “Correct, Miss Shepard.”
The other students were looking at me. Some shocked, others were jealous. Most of them had wanted to take this subject. Some of them had even worked hard to qualify for it, some even harder to qualify for the entire umbrella program. They hated me for not even trying.
At the end of the class, I had learned a lot about ways to use computer sciences in combat. Most of them involved hacking, like making a weapon overheat, or infect your opponents armors VI (Virtual Intelligence) with viruses.
When the bell rung, everyone was trying to get out of the classroom first, but like always, I just packed up my things quietly so I wouldn’t be caught in the rush in the hallway.
Though I hadn’t much to pack, I still had a backpack with a few datapads in it.
As I was getting ready to walk out of the door, the Lieutenant stopped me. “Katherine, is it?”
“Shepard” I simply answered. There weren’t a lot of people who called me by my first name, and those who did, knew me as Kate, not Katherine.
“Have you thought about what to do after you graduate high school, ‘Shepard’?” he asked.
He nodded, and licked his lips once. “Do you like advanced computer technology?”
I shrugged while trying to figure out why he was so interested. “It’s a little boring” I said.
“Mr. Cast tells me that you excel at it,” he said while glancing at Cast who was also packing his things. “In fact, he says that you excel at all the Advanced Technical Subjects.”
“You guess?” he said with a sarcastic tone. “Did you know that less than 2% of all the people who take the ATS test has a perfect score?” the Lieutenant asked, referring to the test I took at the start of the school year.
“That doesn’t make it less boring” I said with a challenging tone as I crossed my arms.
This was the point where Mr. Cast interrupted. “Listen Shepard, the brain trust of your generation isn’t likely to seek employment in the Alliance, even though they need smart people like you.”
I shifted my weight to the other foot. I was frustrated now. How could they think that I was Alliance material?
“Listen, I excel at this subject for the same reason that I find it boring: it’s easy.”
“Which is why you need something to challenge you, and if you were a marine, you would get that challenge every day.”
“Shepard, when we took that IQ test last month, you know what yours said?”
I sighed again. “No, Mr. Cast. What did it say?”
“Inconclusive. Your IQ can’t even be measured by a standard test.”
The Lieutenant quickly started to talk before I could get a word in. “You’re the kind of person that could end up with an N5 degree someday.”
I considered that for a second. N. The premier Special Forces of the Systems Alliance. Hell, the premier Special Forces of Earth! According to the extranet, it was an honor just being qualified for N-School, even though the first course was so harsh that it had an 80% drop-out rate.
I had gone off in my own head while the teacher and the marine were still trying to talk me into this.
“Stop!” I finally said as I left my head. “Even though I am flattered that you think so highly of me, both of you, there is no way in hell that I am going to get into the Alliance.” I picked up my messengers bag and went towards the door. I turned my head towards the two men and said “Any recruiter is going to look at my record once and reject me.”
As I went out into the hallway, I wondered if I had ruined my chances at a life.
The first time I had been arrested was when I was doing my initiation for the 10th Street Reds. Aggravated assault. I got six months in juvenile hall for that.
Second time was for destruction and vandalism of military property. That one had been fun. A couple of friends and I had spent an entire night with drinking and spray painting graffiti on the nearby Alliance Recruitment Center. I had been very proud of a giant Anarchy symbol that I had painted on the sign. Unfortunately, we hadn’t noticed the video cameras. I got two months for that.
As I walked out of the classroom and into the crowded hallway, I remembered some of the things that the good Lieutenant had said. Even though the class ended on a sour note, he gave me a lot of information that I could use for more… Devious purposes.