Transpara Stars

Two years ago, everything was normal. Our biggest threat was terrorists from foreign countries. We kept the information we needed in our cell phones. People actually continued aging after their twenty-fifth birthday.
We were free-willed human beings who lived in houses made of wood and stone and glass and metal, who lived for the next iPhone, who wasted their bodies and minds in a desperate attempt to survive and thrive.
That was before the Clones showed up.

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2. Chapter 1

“CH001988.”

    My fingers continue to fly over the touchscreen as I reply to the guard’s address. “Yes, sir.”

    “The Queen has requested your presence.”

    My fingers falter, but I recover quickly enough to swing the mechanical arm down and catch the falling crate. I glance at Killian, my group’s spare controller. “Take over here, Killian?”

    He nods, deftly moving his fingers to replace mine as I turn to face the guard, who nods at me. “Come.”


 

    The guard leads me up the tall, swirling staircase to the queen’s private meeting rooms. Once we finally reach the meeting hall, he walks me up to the third door on the left side of the hall and knocks. “I have CH001988 here for you, my Queen.”

    “Excellent!” she trills. “Send her in. You may wait outside, Sir Jayet.”

    Sir Jayet presses his palm against the door. It reads his palm print and swings open. Jayet motions me inside, and I hesitantly step over the threshold.

    Queen Kyrella is sitting at the head of the long transparan table. Her violet eyes have a pleased sparkle to them, and her delicate, pale pink lips are stretched in a smile that is surprisingly warm. She brushes a strand of long, golden hair away from her face before speaking. “CH001988.”

    I curtsy awkwardly. “My Queen.”

    “I’m very pleased with you, CH001988. You are undoubtedly the best worker of this House. You and your team do an excellent job.”

    “Thank you, my Queen.”

    She cocks her head, eyes thoughtful. “What was your human name, CH001988?”

    My eyebrows knit slightly.  “Astrid, my Queen.”

    “Astrid.” she repeats, sitting back. “Hm. Fitting.”

    Silence falls, and I try not to fidget under the queen’s keen violet gaze. Finally, she shatters the silence. “I’m going to give you and your team the rest of today and all of tomorrow off. You may use those hours to do what you please, within the rules of the House. One of the new teams will take your place until you return.”

    I blink rapidly, startled. “Oh! Um, thank you, your Majesty. Thank you.”

    Kyrella smiles. “You’re welcome. I feel that such a hard working group of CH’s deserves a reward. You may go now. Jayet!”

    Jayet enters the room. “My Queen.”

    “Take her back downstairs. CH001988 and her team, MNCHT8, have the rest of today and all of tomorrow as a break. Alert the rest of the House guard. Understood?”

    He bows. “Yes, my Queen.”


 

    I run back to mine and my team’s station. “Guys!”

    Finn calls over his shoulder. “What’s up, Warrior Queen?”

    “We have the rest of the day off. And all of tomorrow. Queen’s orders.”

    Even though they couldn’t turn to face me, I could see jaws dropping on all five of my team members. Lila finally spoke. “You’re kidding.”

    “Nope. They’re sending over one of the new teams as a replacement.” As I speak, I can see the group trudging over to our station, closely followed by two guards. Killian glances over at them, fingertips still grazing his touchscreen. “That them?”

    “Must be.” I reply, watching as they approach. They’re a ragtag group, made up of five incredibly skinny guys and one tiny girl who’s barely over five feet tall. “Jeepers. They must have come from one of the Southeast Houses. Those kids never get enough food.”

    My teammates step back from their stations as the new team approaches, all hitting the pause button as they go. These kids won’t be as quick or as well trained as us, and would have to continue our work from a stop instead of hitting the ground at a run like we always do.

    My team clusters around me; Finn, Lila, Killian, Alec, and Ruth. We all watch as the new team scrambles to start up the machines again. Finally, I say, “Come on. There’s no point in spending our break watching them. Let’s go to the pool. I have something to show you guys.”

 

    

    The Workhouse does have some perks to it. Weekends are work-free days, and there are various ways to spend those days. There are entertainment rooms with dozens of games, there are rooms the size of a football field for physical activities, there are various gaming arenas. There’s a library, and an observatory, and even a computer lab with every game and program imaginable downloaded in the computers.

    My favorite place, though, is the pool. Before the Clones came and everything normal was destroyed, I was the best swimmer in my school. I held all the records, won most races, and was an excellent swim teacher, as well.

    When I’m in the water, everything that’s bothering me is literally washed away in the clear blue waves, and I can just swim, carefree.

    I was overjoyed to find the pool at the Workhouse, and it wasn’t long before I developed a routine of going to swim early in the morning and late at night, barely beating the curfew. More than once, I’ve spotted a guard and occasionally even another CH watching me swim, but no one ever says anything to me, and I always just ignore them.

    Now, as I lead my team through the winding halls of the House, I explain, “So, I was swimming yesterday morning, like I always do, and I decided to go down to the bottom. I swam along the bottom of the pool for a while, and just before I went up for air, I saw something along the wall. So I got some air and dove back down to investigate. You won’t believe what I found.”

    We enter the pool room. Not surprisingly, it’s empty. No one is free to use it at this time on a weekday, so the water is still and flat as glass.

    The girls and I separate from the guys so we can change into the suits that we all grabbed from our rooms on our way here. Once everyone is changed and ready to go, I dive into the pool. The water ripples around me as the others follow. We stroke across the surface until we reach the wall farthest from the door. I dive down, leading my team to the bottom of the pool.

    There is a hole in the wall, and I swim inside, weaving through the long tunnel that winds through the pool wall. The tunnel angles down, and I keep swimming, hoping that the rest of the team is able to follow suit. The water level in the tunnel suddenly drops, turning it into a water slide. My belly glides along the tunnel’s smooth bottom as I approach the dimly lit opening yawning before me. Finally, I fall through, landing in the water below with a splash. I bob for a moment before swimming out of the way of the slide’s drop zone.

    One by one, my teammates pop out of the tunnel. Lila yelps as she hits the water, and comes up laughing. Killian flails for a moment, gasping for air. I stroke to his side, helping him keep his head above water so he can breathe. Once he’s gotten his oxygen back, I move away and check on the others. I count five heads and smile. Everyone made it through.

    “Oh, my stars.” Killian gasps behind me, looking around with an awed expression on his face.

    We’ve landed in a cavern that is lit only by a bright, luminescent moss that lines the walls. The moss glows in shades of blue, green, and yellow, and the colors are reflected on the water, creating a dazzling effect. There is another hole on one wall of the cavern that, as I learned yesterday, holds a stone staircase that leads back up to the pool. In the center of the pool, which is about the size of a three-bedroom, two-bath house, is an island that is covered in the same bioluminescent moss that lines the moss.

    The pool of water that we’re all bobbing in is surprisingly deep, an estimated ten feet at its deepest. There are real fish darting around our feet, not holographic like the ones in the House pool. The fish are tiny, barely the length of my index finger, and they have gleaming silver scales. They poke harmlessly at our feet and ankles, more curious than vicious.

    “Astrid,” Ruth breathes, eyes wide with wonder. “What is this place?”

    “This is what I found yesterday. I don’t know why it’s here, or if we’re even supposed to be in it, but...it’s pretty amazing, right?”

    I look around, at my teammates, who all have bright smiles on their faces. “I don’t know if the queen knows about this place, but if she’s watching our trackers, then she’s probably figured it out by now, or she will soon enough.”

    Finn, who has clambered up onto the island, laughs. “Who cares? This place is so amazing, even the queen couldn’t ruin it!”

    I smile. “Still, we should keep it to ourselves. Don’t tell other CH’s about it. Or anyone, for that matter.”

    “Are you kidding?” Lila scoffed. “I would never want to give this place up to those savages. They would tear it apart.”

    I laugh. “Alright, then. This is our place. Right, team?”

    They all cheered, and happiness swelled in my chest.

 
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