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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4. Chapter 3

“Why were they there in the first place? Why didn’t they just leave with the others?”

    “I’m afraid I don’t know, my Queen.”

    “It’s very unnatural...a young human wanting to help its peers? It’s something that was very rarely seen in our observations of them.”

    “Rare, yes. But it happened.”

    “And still does, it seems. That’s good. Selflessness. It can be a good trait, until it gets a person killed. Like this one almost was. Like her teammate was. Have you found the cause of the fire yet?”

    “Yes, actually, we have. There were matches in one of the reading nooks. Its seems that someone deliberately caused it.”

    “Was it CH001976?”

    “We believe so, my Queen.”

    “Is she awake yet?”

    “No, my Queen. She inhaled quite a large amount of smoke, it almost killed her. It may take some time to recover.”

    “If she is responsible, I will have to extend that time significantly. We cannot let this pass without attention. If CH’s are attempting to rebel, we have to put an end to it immediately.”

    “Yes, my Queen.”

    “When will this one be awake? CH001988?”

    “In another hour or so.”

    “Good. Send for me as soon as she is able to speak.”


 

    I peel my eyes open slowly, squinting against the bright light above me. A steady beeping fills my ears, and a medicinal stench tickles my nose.

    I’m in the infirmary.

    The fire, Finn and Ashley...

    Alec.

    Alec is dead. I know it without having someone tell me. I saw the shelf collapse on top of him, saw the hungry flames. He couldn’t have survived.

    A tear rolls down my cheek, and I lift a hand to wipe it away. As I move, a stinging pain on the back of my neck reminds me of my own injury, and I wince. I slowly puch myself up to a sitting position, coughing slightly.

    A doctor appears in my room like a ghost. “Hey, now! Easy there, kid. You just wake up?”

    I nod, not ready to try my voice just yet.

    He watches me with steady gold eyes, and a random thought pops into my head: A surefire way to distinguish a Clone from a human is the eye color. Clones have different eye pigments than humans, allowing for colors that wouldn’t be seen on a regular human, like gold and violet and red.

    I push that odd thought away and open my mouth. My voice comes out in a rough whisper: “Finn? Ashley?...Alec?”

    The doctor blinks, momentarily confused. He doesn’t know them by their human names, and I restate my concerns using their CH numbers. His eye brighten. “Ah! Yes, of course, you’re concerned about your team. Your two workers who went outside are fine, of course. The two who were in the library, CH001976 and CH001984 are in stable conditions. CH001976 is still unconscious, likely due to smoke inhalation, but she’ll be alright. CH001984 also inhaled some smoke, and he has a couple of second-degree burns and a broken ankle, but he’s conscious. He’ll be fine.”

    He pauses, watching my expression, then speaks again. “Unfortunately, CH001990 didn’t make it, and perished in the fire. I’m sorry. You’ll likely have his replacement on your team within the next twenty-four hours.”

    I fight my tears, keeping my face neutral. Did the rest of the team know yet? They would be devastated by the news. I focus on the doctor again. “Does the team know?”

    He shakes his head. “Not yet. The Queen feels that...you should tell them yourself.”

    I nod. That’s exactly how I want it to be. It’s a tough task, but the news will be better heard from me than from an emotionless guard or the Queen herself.

    The doctor suddenly startles. “Oh! I almost forgot! The Queen asked me to send for her once you were awake. I better go do that. Would you like me to bring anything for you? Water or anything?”

    “Water is good, thank you.”

    He disappears, and I lean back against the pillows.

    The taste of salt on my lips alerts me to a steady stream of tears flowing down my face.


 

    The Queen enters with her usual flourish. She is stunning in a deep indigo gown, her hair pulled to the side in an intricate braid. Her violet eyes glisten with false sadness and concern, and I struggle to keep my face composed. I’m not crying anymore, but she can probably see the tear tracks on my face.

    “Oh, dear! What a horrible ordeal you’ve been through, CH001988. How are you feeling?”

    I shrug. “I’m alright, my Queen. I’m alive.”

    “Yes, you are,” she purrs. “Thanks to your teammate. Such a brave boy, hm? He will get a good funeral service, I promise. A hero’s farewell.”

    I nod, looking down at my hands. “Thank you, my Queen.”

    “In the meantime, you and your team still have tomorrow as a break, so you will have time to recover as a team. CH001990’s replacement will be waiting for you when you return to work.”

    I can’t help but wince slightly, and I nod to show my approval. “Yes, my Queen. We won’t let this loss hold us back, I promise.”

    She beams. “Excellent. That’s exactly what I like to hear, CH001988. That is exactly what I like to hear.”


 

._._._.

 

    “No!” Lila cries, turning away. Callum holds her close as she sobs; his face is full of sadness and concern for his sister.

    Finn, who is in a wheelchair because of his ankle, just gazes silently at his knees. He already knew, having seen the same thing as me. Ruth spins and angrily kicks the wall behind her before bursting into tears. Killian, who is standing behind Finn’s wheelchair, turns and grabs her before she can hurt herself.

    I watch as my team digests the news of Alec’s death. I give them a couple of minutes to absorb it before speaking again. “There’s something else.”

    They all look at me, faces glistening with tears and tight with grief. “What?” Killian finally asks.

    I take a deep breath. “They think that Ashley purposely started the fire. I overheard Kyrella talking to the doctor and a guard. If they find that she’s responsible...she’ll be punished.” I can’t help glancing at Finn, who is still staring at his knees. His face is blank, but his eyes are dark with fury and grief.

    “She did.” he says softly.

    “What?”

    “She did start it. Ashley. But it wasn’t to harm anyone, or rebel, or anything. She’s...a bit of a pyromaniac. She found the matches, and refused to get rid of them even though I begged her. When I found her in the library, there was just a small fire in front of her, a really smoky one. That’s what set off the alarm. She tossed in another lit match, and the fire grew, and she just watched it. She was like a little kid watching Star Wars, she just couldn’t look away. I tried to pull her away, but she fought me off. She shoved me to the floor, then lit another match and tossed it onto one of the bookshelves. It caught instantly.” Finn drops his head in his hands, sobbing. “I should have taken them from her, made sure she couldn’t do anything. It’s my fault!”

    We all stand in shocked silence for several minutes, unsure of what to say.

    A small, hoarse voice comes from behind me. “It’s not your fault, Finn.”

    I turn, startled to see Ashley standing behind me. She walks past me and kneels in front of Finn. He looks at her as she places one of her small hands on his knee. “It’s not your fault. Even if you had taken the matches, I would have found a way. A good pyro always finds a way.”

    Finn gazes at her, eyes shining with tears. “But I still should have been able to stop you. Alec would be alive if-”

    “No! Don’t say that, Finn.” Ashley says adamantly. She cups his face in her hands. “Neither of us are truly at fault. But you know who is?”

    Finn sniffled, not responding. Killian stepped around the wheelchair and spoke. “Kyrella.”

    Ashley looked up at him. “Yes.” She looked back at Finn. “Yes. Kyrella. Not just her, though. The Clones. If they hadn’t shown up, Alec would be alive and well, probably in the hospital working as a candy striper while completing his nursing school requirements.”

    I smile at that image. Shortly after meeting as a team for the first time, we’d all confided the jobs that we’d hoped to have before the Clones, the futures that we’d planned. Alec told us that he wanted to be a nurse, maybe even a doctor. “I love helping people,” he said. Ashley, who knew both Alec and Finn from school, actually shared a class with Alec at the Career Center; turns out they both had an interest in nursing.

 

    Finn inhales a shaky breath, meeting Ashley’s eyes. He still doesn’t speak, and instead places a gentle hand on Ashley’s cheek.

    They’re still gazing into each other’s eyes, with me and the rest of the team silently looking on, when the guards arrive.

    I’m roughly shoved out of the way, almost falling to the floor as the guards march into the room. Ruth catches me and pulls me out of the way. The guards swarm around Ashley and Finn, grabbing Ashley and pulling her to her feet. They yank her away from Finn. She screams, twisting in their grip. “No! Let go of me! Finn!”

    “Ashley!” Finn cries, struggling to stand, and collapsing back in the chair with a pained yelp. Killian pulls the wheelchair away, keeping a restraining hand on Finn’s shoulder as the guards drag Ashley out of the room.

    We all watch in horror as one of the guards jabs a syringe into Ashley’s arm, and she goes limp. Finn screams, “ASHLEY!”, and Killian has to grab him to keep him from leaping out of the wheelchair and going after her.

    Ashley is picked up, head hanging limply over the guard’s arm, and carried away, out of our sight.

    I am too stunned by what just happened to even speak, and I’m not the only one.

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