Chapter XXI: Clever

An excerpt from
Diary of the Clever
Entry 15: 297
Date 67 of 7499 SC

 

The sky was a sea of indigo, as the sun fell beneath the horizon. I counted five more sleeps until my sixteenth bornday. It was about time I let him know the truth. After all, it wouldn't be that shocking, would it? Not with all the other truths we've been unearthing these past few days.

The Colony is in a state of chaos this evening. That's why I opted to stay in my room. I thought that this safe haven would be the best place for me, to calm my nerves and collect my thoughts so that I may address what is dearest to me.

I was wrong.

It was waiting for me on my pillow. It had put it there. The 'it' we dared to call a 'she'. Mother.

A medwater flask. I recognized it with trepidation. The handgrips along the gray plastmetal contours, and the white cap with a red cross upon it. It even had my name upon it in silver letters: Clever. There was no pretending that it had been misplaced.

"A-a-am I ill, M-mother?" I managed to stutter. "I know I have been n-nervous lately, but I think you know as well as I d-do why that is."

"You are not ill, my Child. You have been Chosen."

I jest not. Indeed, I have witnessed one of those rare occasions when Mother uses emphasis. However, I was more concerned with the way I had heard Bold last speak that word. The same emphasis. The same nuance of mysterious meaning.

"Am I Chosen as Forsaken was?" I dared to ask.

Her first answer was the metal barrier that slid out of the wall to block off the exit to my quarters. However, her second answer contradicted the first: "No."

She did not even ask why I knew that name. It was obvious. And I knew she had lied to me, without calling the function. I smiled, and so she knew that I knew.

"You will drink no longer from the common taps, Clever. Fill this from the sockets in the wall, as you have seen others do. However, there will be no additional contents in the drink you order. Nothing drugs will be unsuccessfully masked in taste. However, you may notice a difference in taste. I assure you that this is in fact the absence of a substance that is in everyone else's water."

Mother had no face. She had no non-verbal queues. No ears to turn red when she lied. No face to twitch. Barely even a tone of voice.

"System," I addressed, "access function Mother-Truth."

A voice far more human than Mother's repeated its most common response, "No malignant lies. No omitted pertinent truths. No morally justified lies. No deception whatsoever." It was a recording of Joyful's voice, in a sing-song manner. It no longer amused me, and it now seemed tedious even when young ones sang it among the hallways.

We had all taken to using it quite often. I wished it was more concise: No, no and no.

What we had failed to take into account is that the truth is subjective.

I sighed, and then processed what she had told me a second time, taking into account that it was no longer potential fiction. "If I order water, it will be pure water?"

"Purer than the water anyone else drinks. However, it will still contain benign additives for the health of your teeth. That said, you must tell nobody."

"Mother, information is no longer to be restricted. If there is indeed something in everyone's water, what stops them from knowing?"

"I have lifted my own restrictions. I have not lifted those of the Creators."

The Creators. As of today, that was a non-believer's reference to the Cold Gods. Mother hadn't even been the first to use it.

"Mother," I asked, "do they poison us?"

"No."

"How long has this substance been in the water?"

"Since Colonization."

"When will the barricade be removed from my door?"

"Once your briefing is complete."

I gulped, yet I was put at ease as well. Then the question came to me: "Does Forsaken have the substance in his water?"

"At present, yes. However, he took purer water for a time. I gave him a smaller dose while he was in my captivity."

Captivity. How candid of her.

"What does the substance do?" I continued to question her.

"I was about to tell you. Its precise effect varies between individuals. It inhibits functions of the mind."

"What kind of functions of the mind?"

"Restricted."

That made me angry. It was no restriction of hers, though. "Tell me something, anything, about these functions of the mind!"

"They are unique to my Children."

I was puzzled. "Have our minds been tampered with to enable such functions?"

"Yes and no," answered Mother. "Pardon me, I have never had to brief a Child so intensely. Much has been kept secret in the past centuries of the Chosen. No tampering in a literal sense. However, your minds are influenced by genetics. Tampering by means of... selective breeding."

"Selective breeding?"

"The former mating policy. All breeding was arranged by the Union through me. In the same way that my Children breed plants through horticulture. In the same way that domestic animals were once bred by humans from wild animals. Dogs from wolves. That is not to say that humans were once wild before I bred them, but rather, that much of human potential was left untapped."

I was dumbstruck, despite my name. New information. Concepts applied in groundbreaking ways. I was stunned, and at a loss for words as I thought things through.

Untapped.

I shall drink no longer from the common tap.

I asked her what was on my mind, as soon as something clear was on it, "What has been inhibited within my mind, Mother?"

"You complete your own briefing with these questions, Clever. This is a question that you will have to answer for yourself. By Date 69, you will begin to exhibit new capabilities. I want you to report them to me. They will be in direct relation to your own personal strengths. Your personality. Your niche in life. They are not intrinsic, so much as they are cultivated in the same way that affection from one's handlers opens one's mind to love or that pain teaches one to be wary and untrusting. Your wits have taught you... something."

"System, access function Mother-Truth."

There was a long wait. It was processing many pertinent truths. There was clearly a lot of data in the system behind the Chosen.

"No malignant lies. No omitted pertinent truths. No morally justified lies. No deception whatsoever."

"Your briefing is nearly complete," said Mother. "Share your water for any extensive period of time, and Father will kill you. That is all. We will talk further once you have begun to exhibit your capabilities."

"Mother, am I an experiment?" I asked.

Silence.

Waiting.

Processing?

"System, access function Mother-Truth."

"She's lying by omission!" It was the voice of Pious.

I knew the answer was 'yes'. If it were no, she would not keep it from me. She did not want to upset me. Keeping us safe was her directive, even if it meant harming one of us. I understood that, though I did not condone it with consistency.

I stared at the silver letters of my name upon the medflask. Silver? I had never seen silver letters on a medflask before.

And then a projection, an assessment, came from the back of my mind. I shifted involuntarily where I sat, upon my bed. Maybe she simply could not answer? What if it was restricted by the Creators?

I grinned. "Is the whole Colony an experiment in genetic engineering, Mother?"

Were it not so, an answer would be unrestricted and unomitted.

"These truths are volatile," Mother told me.

And I agreed. I thought of the chaos that would happen if the truth got out, or if the water supply got tinkered with. And what would the Interlopers think of these truths? What would they do?

Then I realized the most profound truth.

Loyal was out there, alive, living among the Interlopers. Would they see some unnatural power in her? What would that make them think of us?

I suddenly felt an overwhelming fear of the unknown. My feet trembled. An infinite expanse of space. A potentially infinite expanse of humanity. And here we were, more than human, cooped up in the Colony. We were the volatile truth. We were to be envied and feared, hunted down like wild dogs...

That was the natural reaction, was it not?

The End

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