Chapter 2: News
In two weeks I’ll get to meet my parents. I wonder if I’ve got any siblings? Maybe my mother has a lot of sisters, and they all married, and I have a ton of aunts and uncles and cousins. I’ve always thought Terrie, from my class, looked like me… maybe we’re related! Does anyone else in my family have the strange half-moon shaped birthmark like I do?
I can’t wait to see my grandmother. Maybe I don’t have one… I’m sure I do. What if she’s not like Nana is? Wait, do I keep Nana when I move up?
By moving up, I mean what happens when you’re thirteen. You go and meet your parents for a day, you take some kind of written test, with questions on loyalty and physics and then they move you from the Training complex to new quarters in the Advanced complex depending on how you did. If you’re brilliant, you get advanced schooling. If you’re amazing at robotics, then you go to the trainee Family makers, who start learning to design new Grandmothers.
If you can’t do anything unusual, then you go to the factories. It’s supposed to be hot, boring, and loud there, because that’s where most people end up.
The super-smart, loyal, and obedient are recruited by the government. Some become officials, some supervise factories, and a few even become Deliverymen: the people who take the babies.
There’s another place, too. Somewhere they take the ones that run away, that misbehave, that don’t have any potential, the ones with parents who aren’t loyal.
But no one likes to talk about that.
I grab my bag, shuddering, deciding that personal research isn’t nearly as important as passing that test. My timing’s just about perfect anyways, because right then Nana shows up. “Time to head to Geography, Gabriela,” she says mechanically.
“Okay,” I reply, walking beside her out of the bleak library. “Do I have any messages?”
There’s a small flash as she processes my request. “Ella says, ‘Hey, I want you to meet my new friend Jina from our old History class. She was one of the new people who joined yesterday. Let me know what time works for you. Oh, and she’s from the Curie building. Bye!’ You also have a message from Castle.”
“What?” I gasp. “Castle? What’d I do? What’s wrong?” The control building in the middle of the complex only messaged when things were extremely wrong. “Do I want to know what it’s about?”
“Calm down, Gabriela. It reads, ‘To Gabriela of the Caesar building, Ward 20819: This is your official notice-” My heart is pounding so loud I barely hear the words. What’s going on?
“-You are to report to Castle at noon on the day before the anniversary of your birth for preparation for a ride to meet with your parents. You will be given departure details then. Reply to this message stating you have received it and will be there.”
My heart soared- I’m going to meet my parents! I knew it was coming, of course- but it all seemed like a dream. It’s not! They’re real! I have parents!
“Gabriela, you have an incoming message from Katie,” Nana says. “She messaged you: ‘I just got a notice that my parents will be at the Meeting Room, which is apparently a building somewhere in Castle, on my birthday! I’m supposed to go two hours before sunrise… Did you get one? Oh, and guess what I heard about poor Makayla? She got a notice yesterday that said her parents hadn’t… made it. She never even got to meet them, can you believe it? Message back later!”
“Nana, send her a message.”
“Ready to record, Gabriela,” her eyes flash. “Start.”
“Hi, Katie. I did too, glad you did. I feel bad for Makayla though,” I say, and I really am, because I always can feel what others are feeling. That used to be called empathy. “Bye.” I pause until Nana nods, confirming the message was sent. Then I continue. “Put me through to the Castle, please.”
Nana replies, “Yes, Gabriela,” and then starts speaking in a man’s voice, asking me my name, building, and reason for calling. I give him short answers and get out as soon as I’ve told them I’ll be there.
Next, I message Ella. “I have Geography, but then I’ve got a short free time. Your room? Can’t wait to meet Jina- thanks.” Just a little note, because I’ve really got to go.
“-So I’m doing these imitations, and she wheels in, but I didn’t see her, but Jina did, and-” Ella’s overcome by laughter and can’t keep going.
“Woah, slow down,” Jina says. “We know this is funny, but don’t choke over it.” I like her- Jina, I mean. She’s easygoing and nice to be with.
“Then Jina starts having this coughing fit, and everyone looks over there, the Grandmother included, and she rushes over there to see if she’s okay, and her sensors didn’t see what I was doing!”
“Luckily,” I say.
“For Ella, you mean. Not for you, Jina.” Katie says, making the other girls laugh. “So what made you decide to help?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I’m just a kind person naturally,” Jina smirks. From what I’ve seen, that’s not true. She seems like a person who’s protective of their friends, but if you’re not her friend, you should probably watch out.
I decide that’s a good thing. I’m the quiet one, Ella’s the joker, Katie’s the gossip. Now we’ve got a protector. But hopefully, we’ll never need one.
“Makayla? Are you in there? It’s Gabriela,” I say, knocking on her door, like I’ve been doing for the past ten minutes. “I just wondered if you wanted to talk, but if you don’t want to, I’ll leave you alone…” My voice trails off, I let my hand drop to my side, and I turn to go. I can tell when I’m not wanted, I just thought maybe she’d want to talk -with the news about her parents- and then I thought she couldn’t hear me, or something, but I guess not. I don’t know what to do. I’ve got to help her, I’ve got to. I just don’t know how. Maybe I can bring her a treat? But what?
Oh, I know. We each get a few sweets, something called fruit drops, depending on our behavior and school work lately, for the month. Since my marks are good, I usually get several. One time, I got a dozen! Ella and Katie, on the other hand, never listen and are lucky if they get one a month. I’m guessing Jina barely gets any either. I’ll bring some to Makayla.
Then her door opens behind me and a Grandmother wheels out. “Makayla wishes to see you,” she says. I follow her in meekly.
“Hi, Gabby.” Her face is puffy, red, and tearstained, and I can’t help but walk over and give her a hug. “I figured you would come. Whenever you hear something’s wrong, you have to help, don’t you?”
“Yes,” I say quietly.
“I’ll be alright, you know? It’s just kind of hard… I’ll never…” The rest of her sentence is indistinguishable from her soft, muffled sobs.
“It’s okay, Kayla. You’ve still got your friends. You’ve still got us.”
“Thanks,” she sniffs.
I sneak up against the wall as my dad starts talking, I can hear the concern in his voice as he speaks.
“Grace, look at this letter I found. It says it’s from the Training complex, and there's a message bot outside.”
“ Ok .” My mom goes into a whisper. “ et Gwen into her spot and I’ll let the bot in.” My dad walks in as I try to act natural. He mouths upstairs and points. As I reach the landing I hear my mom open the door and the sound of the fans holding the bots in midair.
“Both parents must be present for the message to play,” it says. “Where is your spouse?”
“ He’s just upstairs freshening up from work.” Its eye sensor flashes and ignores the answer completely. My dad comes down the stairs with his normal clothes on and a strange expression.
“Where would you like the message to be played?”
“ Right over here would be fine.” The bot moves to the middle of the living room, turns to my parents and starts speaking.
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lenson, as you know your daughter, Gabriela Lenson, is turning thirteen in two weeks and will be delivered to your house for one day to meet you and to discuss her life career. Security will be placed inside your house for your well being. Your house will be searched before the visitation for any possible danger. All the information you need is inside the letter. Please respond if not able to attend. We thank you for your cooperation.” The robot pauses. “End of message.” It opens the door and leaves. I heard the whole message, but I don’t make a sound until my dad walks up and says,
“You can come out now, honey, the danger is gone.” I smile and pretend I didn’t hear the whole conversation, knowing what happens when I talk. While inside my head is are in different ideas now knowing that I have a sister. Racking through my brain, I remember a conversation my parents had when I was a kid. I think it was something called the twin curse. When twins are born it is said that each twin has something extra in their brain that allows them to communicate. If controlled, it can be very useful… or dangerous.