2. One

I wake up at exactly 0600 hours, and slip out from under my covers. All around me, the other trainees are waking up as well, refreshed after their slumber. I walk over to the shower, and a Bot tells me that today I am to be the fourth person in. I wait patiently for my turn, and am soon under a cascade of scalding hot water. I relish the feel of the droplets against my skin, and come out ready for a day full of training. I dry myself off, brush my teeth, then at 0610 hours I report in for Health Check. Obediently, I stand still as I am scanned, and then the Bot tells me I am in almost perfect condition, however I am slightly low on protein. I will have extra eggs at breakfast.

At 0615 hours we get dressed into our immaculate white jumpsuits and we make our beds, then head over to Fitness. As I run on the machines, strands of dark hair escape from my ponytail and cover my eyes, and I push them back impatiently. After a couple of kilometres on the running machines, I move onto weights. I then cool down with some stretches, and quickly wash my face in the basin by the door. Before breakfast at 0720 hours, we change into our school clothes: a crisp white shirt and black trousers. Breakfast is two slices of toast with extra scrambled eggs for me, and orange juice.

After, we walk in a single file line to the school block. We report in for Welfare Check, and the Bot asks me some questions. It comes to the conclusion that I am fit to go to my studies, and I head over to our first lesson, which begins at 0740 hours. The first thing today is Science, and as I absorb new information I imagine that I can feel my brain expanding. It is a hungry creature, and as I feed it with knowledge, it grows fatter and fatter.

Something strange happens in Maths. I don’t really know how to explain it. As a Bot patrols up and down the workspaces, checking that our work is correct, it… jitters. Bots are supposed to work smoothly and flawlessly. Everything is meant to work smoothly and flawlessly. But today, something has gone wrong. I’m not sure if anyone else notices.

Sometimes, I think I might be different from everyone else. Of course, on the outside I’m exactly the same – everyone is. All of the infants, the trainees and the soldiers look the same, and all of the Bots look the same, with a coloured stripe that signifies their purpose. That is how it works. That is how it has always been. But who knows what is happening inside? Welfare checks can only tell so much. I look at the other trainees, wondering. Do they think about these things, as I do? Watching them, I doubt it. I am sure that the only things they think of are training and their studies, and becoming soldiers.

I am different. I am different. The thought creeps up on me like a beast stalking its prey. I know that being different is a bad thing in our society, in a place where everyone and everything knows its place. What is wrong with me? Lunch is at 1240 hours, and as I eat, I glance around at the other trainees. No one is looking around. They all concentrate on their food, and I realise that is what I should be doing too. Quickly looking down at my food, my heart racing, I hope that no one has noticed.

The first thing after lunch is gun drills, at 1300 hours. I take some pleasure in the feel of the powerful weapon exploding in my hands, spewing bullets in unison with everyone else. I try to lose myself in the rhythm of it, as I normally do; moving swiftly through the positions, and slowly, I begin to forget about my worries. The drills start to run into each other, and by the time we retire to bed, at 2300 hours, all thoughts of being different have been chased out of my head. Everything’s fine. I am simply a cog in a huge wheel, playing my part and obeying orders. I am the same as the trainees that surround me. I will question nothing, keep my head down, and everything will be normal.

I undress and fall into bed, craving the peace of sleep’s silent embrace.

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