Read Transcendent (9781311909442) Online

Authors: Jason Halstead

Tags: #coming of age, #action, #science fiction, #robots, #soldier, #dystopian, #colonization

Transcendent (9781311909442) (6 page)

BOOK: Transcendent (9781311909442)
11.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Lily blushed and shook her head. “No! I
mean, I don’t think so. I just did my best. I didn’t think I did
that good.”

“Lily, that list only shows the girls who
were tested in this room today,” Palla said. She held out her pad
and showed it to her. “Out of everyone who’s tested this cycle so
far, you’re ranked at number eighteen.”

Lily’s eyes widened as she studied the
display on the infopad. There were thousands of kids like her being
tested. She leaned back in her chair and stared into space, trying
to understand how it was possible. “There must be a mistake,” she
whispered. She wasn’t that smart! Nobody was that smart.

Kami blushed and stared at the ground. Her
scores were below the average for fourteen-year-olds, especially in

“Don’t sell yourself short.” Trix chuckled
at Lily and said, “Besides, if you keep doing it, you’ll help us
look a lot better!”



Chapter 10


“Krys, get ready!”

Krys jerked his head up from the holographic
display in front of him. He turned it off, making a small
three-dimensional image of himself and Lily sitting on a box blink
out of existence. Mr. Strain had given it to him after they’d
returned to the camp where the survivors had fled. There were only
eight of them. Eight out of one hundred and four colonists.

Rumor had it some people had been loaded up
and taken away, but they were kids. Why the attackers would take
children while they killed the adults didn’t make any sense. It was
the adults who knew how to run the equipment and tend the crops and
animals. Then again, if they took the children away, it didn’t
matter what they knew.

Krys shook his head and followed Mr. Strain
away from the camp at the edge of the forest. The weather was mild
and warm, making survival simple if not comfortable. The worst part
was the constant raiding they had to do to get food from the farms.
That and the lack of meat.

“What do you want to learn today, Krys?” Mr.
Strain asked him once they’d walked a few kilometers deeper into
the forest.

“I don’t know,” Krys said. “I mean, I guess,
what’s the point of it?”

“The point? The point is to remain free. To
do your best to live by your rules, not theirs!”

Krys nodded. “I understand, but why? It’s
going to take until next summer or longer until the seeds we’ve
planted will bear any fruit and we don’t dare try to raise any
cattle; they’ll spot us and hunt us down.”

Mig turned and stared into the trees around
them. He sighed and nodded. “It’s a shame, son. All this land and
we’ve got the run of it. But because it’s so darn safe, we can’t do

Krys snapped his fingers. “Fish! They seeded
the oceans with fish. They must have spread. Why not travel to a
coast and live there?”

Mr. Strain looked down at him and smiled. He
shook his head and said, “You remind me of my Lily sometimes.”

Rather than be offended by the comment, Krys
lifted his head. “I miss her.”

“I do too.”

“I’ll find her, someday,” Krys vowed.

Mig looked up to the sky. “No telling where
they took her, and we don’t learn much more living out in the

Krys shrugged. “Doesn’t matter.”

Mig’s lip twisted up in a smile. “I believe
you. But you can’t set a thing right if you don’t learn how to
defend yourself.”

Krys nodded. Mr. Strain had been a soldier
when he was younger. He’d left it behind when he met Lily’s mom,
Avaleen, and they’d come to Venus to learn how to be ranchers.
Venus was quickly becoming the only hope for feeding the human race
but there weren’t many people interested in the hard work farming
hundreds of kilos of crops and animals required.

“So practice with the rifle or hand to

Krys frowned. “There are other ways, aren’t

“Other ways to fight?”

“Well, maybe not fight, but to get something
done. We don’t fight when we steal fruit and crops.”

“We don’t want to draw attention to
ourselves,” Mig said. “Wouldn’t bother me much to take a few of
them murderers out, though!”

Krys nodded. He felt the same way, but he
knew it was pointless. “This is all so stupid,” Krys muttered. “We
weren’t hurting anyone! Why couldn’t they just take over peaceful?
We’d sell crops to anyone, wouldn’t we?”

Mig frowned and then nodded. “I expect we
would,” he admitted. “But that’s the thing of it: they don’t want
to buy them. They expect us to give them away, then they give us
back what they feel we should need.”

“That’s not right!” Krys said. “We grew
them; they belong to us, not someone else!”

Mig patted the air with his hand to signal
Krys to calm down. “Yes, son, I know, but that’s the thing people
don’t understand. If they won’t fight to protect what they got,
then what’s to stop someone else from thinking they can have

“It’s not right!”

“But we can’t fight back with only eight of
us and hundreds of them.”

“And they’ve got soldiers and that

Mig nodded. “I heard about them when I
served but never saw one. At least nothing like that. We had some
early prototypes but they were slow and broke down a lot.”

“Well, these didn’t look slow,” Krys pointed
out. “One almost squashed me in the woods!”

“Bigger they are, the harder they fall,” Mig
grunted. “Trick is figuring out how to knock one down!”

“Let me guess, that’s why we’re training?”
Krys ventured.

Mig chuckled. “Just like my Lily, smart as a

Krys shook his head. “Nobody’s that smart,
Mr. Strain. Lily’s something else.”

Mig sighed and turned away. He cleared his
throat and spoke in a brusque voice. “She is, son, but stop
distracting me. Let’s see to figuring out some things we can do if
one of them big tin cans is chasing us.”

“Um, sir?”


Krys swallowed before pointing out, “You
keep calling me, ‘son.’”

Mig blinked as he stared down at him. “So I
do. I meant no disrespect to your father. Just felt natural is all.
Won’t happen again.”

“No!” Krys blurted out. He winced and slowed
down. “I mean, it’s okay. I, um, I think my dad would be okay with

“Is that right?”

Krys nodded. “I am,” he added. “I mean, um,
Lily told me about my mom and hers talking about us.”

Mig chuckled and his eyes glistened. “So
they did. Seemed to think the two of you were made for each

“Lily had dreams and plans for herself.
Things she wanted to do.”

“That she did. She was a dreamer.”

“I never thought about it much. Lily did
enough of that for both of us,” Krys admitted. “But she always had
me in her dreams with her. She always made a place for me.”

“Did that bug you?”

Krys shook his head. “No. Matter of fact,
when I thought about it, I never imagined a life without her in

Mig stepped up and pulled Krys in for a
quick hug. He sniffed and turned away. “All right, quit stalling!
We got some work to do if we’re going to be ready when the
resistance starts up!”


“Don’t you worry; it won’t be long before
somebody realizes what’s going on. Maybe the old ways weren’t the
best but this new crap won’t last. People have a need to be
responsible for themselves.”

Krys wasn’t exactly sure what Mig was
talking about but he nodded anyhow. It sounded good, at least, and
Krys couldn’t imagine having something that he used and took care
of, but it didn’t belong to him. He frowned. “All right, let’s

Mig grinned. “Imagine you got one of them
robots chasing you—how are you going to get away?”

Krys considered hiding under a fallen tree,
but he’d been lucky he hadn’t been stepped on. “Maybe running away
isn’t the answer?”

Mig raised an eyebrow. “Bold. I like it.
Keep talking, son, and let’s see how we can make this happen!”



Chapter 11


Lily emerged from her tiny bedroom and
caught sight of Kami walking towards her. Lily smiled and raised
her hand but not before Kami turned and ducked into her room. Lily
hesitated, staring at the door that slid shut behind her, and then
started to notice the other girls walking in the hallway who were
staring at her.

“Hey Lily, what’s up?”

Lily spun and saw Treya, a fourteen-year-old
who had been taken from a colony south of hers. She offered a smile
and then glanced at Kami’s door again. “Nothing, I guess. I was
just on my way to class.”

“Great job on your tests,” Treya said. “Who
knew a farmer’s kid could be so smart?”

Lily frowned. “What’s that mean?”

The other girl’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry,
it was a joke.”

“Oh, um, okay.” Lily blushed. “Guess I’m not
so smart after all.”

Treya smiled again and tucked her hair
behind her ear. They all wore the same hairstyle now, with it cut
to a length that was just below their jaw. Lily let hers fall where
it wanted most of the time; she had better things to worry about
than how her hair looked. “Don’t worry, we’re all new here.
Besides, my family were fishermen; it’s not like I’ve got any room
to talk!”

Lily fell in beside her and tried to keep up
with the people waving and greeting her as she walked with Treya
towards her classroom. Their conversation was limited by
interruptions and when Lily arrived at her class, she realized they
hadn’t really said anything useful at all. Some talk about what
they liked and what the future might hold, but nothing about what
they’d left behind. She walked into her class and took her seat,
feeling like something was missing.

“Hey, Lil,” Trix greeted her from the seat
behind her.

“Hi,” Lily responded on autopilot.

“Uh oh, what’s wrong?”

Lily’s breath caught in her throat. She
glanced at the instructor who was waiting for class to start. She
couldn’t talk about her missing family and friends; they’d been
told repeatedly to look to the future of humanity, not to the past.
The past was where mistakes were made. “Just worried about Kami,”
she said instead of facing her own troubles. “I tried to catch her
in the hall but she ignored me and shut herself in her room.”

“Oh. Well, she’s been kind of feeling bad
lately. First, um, you know, what happened, and then she didn’t do
so good on her tests.”

“So? That doesn’t mean I don’t want to be
her friend,” Lily said.

Trix sighed. “You’re special, Lily.”

“Stop it! I am not.”

“Come on, Lil, look at what you did! You’re
like a genius or something.”

“No I’m not.”

“Then how did you do so good? I know you’re
hearing the same rumors I am—you’re rated the highest on the
station—on all the stations—because you’re only fourteen.”

“So what,” Lily argued. “A lot can

Trix ignored her protests. “How did you
learn all that stuff? Those tests were hard!”

“I don’t know. Krys’s mom made learning fun
for us. That and the rest of it I figured out. I didn’t get
everything right. I mean, there was a lot of stuff I guessed or
just didn’t know. Maybe I just got lucky?”

Trix rolled her eyes. “Yeah, sure you did.
Lucky every time. I don’t think so.”

Lily slumped in her chair. “I don’t want to
be different.”

“Hey, even if you are a freak, it’s cool.
I’ll still be your friend.”

Lily snorted. “Great.”


“No! I didn’t mean anything bad! I meant the
part about being a freak.”

“I was just teasing.”

Lily nodded and sighed. She opened her mouth
when the teacher, Instructor Doleen, signaled for the door to shut
and stood up to begin class. Lily spun around in her seat and
focused on the teacher. They’d only been in class a few days so far
but the lessons weren’t nearly as much fun as they had been with
Krys’s mom. Although having Krys there with her to help her take
her mind off things had helped, too.

“Young misses, before we begin I have a
request for Miss Lily Strain to head to the administration office
when class is over. Any questions?”

Lily sat upright and glanced around to see
everyone staring at her. She felt her cheeks warm.

“Miss Strain?”

“Sorry, ma’am,” Lily stammered. “No ma’am,
no questions.”

“Good, then let’s move on to where we left
off yesterday with advanced geometry.”

Lily sank back in her seat and let her mind
wander. Geometry was easy. Advanced geometry, according to
Instructor Doleen, was what Lily had learned a couple of years ago
while playing in the fields with her classmates. What really
twisted her mind up for the remainder of the two-hour class was
what kind of trouble she’d gotten herself in that required a trip
to the administrative offices.

“Miss Strain?”

Lily jerked her head up. She’d been staring
at the back of Candiss’s neck. Candiss turned, as everyone else
did, to look at her. Lily ignored them and saw the display the
instructor had drawn the complex shape on. “It depends,” she
answered, barely remembering what Instructor Doleen had asked.

“No, it’s a simple question,” the instructor
disagreed. “How many planes are there in this structure?”

“If it’s just a two-dimensional image, then
there’s one,” she began.

A few gasps greeted her answer. Her peers
thought she was being difficult and were either excited or worried.
She wasn’t and opened her mouth to explain but Instructor Doleen
spoke first. “That is a fault of the display. You know perfectly
well this is not a two-dimensional object. Miss Strain, I’m very
disappointed in you. I think some additional work might help you
focus better and—”

“Instructor, I wasn’t finished,” Lily
interrupted her. She ignored the rustling of her startled peers and
pressed on. “Without seeing it fully, I can’t tell how many planes
it has. Are there additional vertices hidden behind the ones that
are visible? And what if the side not facing me changes while I
can’t see it? The odds are unlikely, but it’s still a remote
possibility. Additionally, if we magnify it to atomic levels, there
will be a different landscape on the surface and within, allowing
for an order of complexity I can’t begin to guess at. If we factor

BOOK: Transcendent (9781311909442)
11.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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