An excerpt from
Diary of the Clever
Date 72 of 7499 SC
It's my sixteenth bornday today.
And I'm scared.
It had been 5 days since I started using my medflask, filled every day from the special water taps Mother had shown me. The water tasted different, less heavy, cooler and more refreshing. I longed to tell my friends about my secret, and let them share some, but I knew Mother's eyes and ears were everywhere, and I daren't even whisper, even in areas where Motherpresence was off.
As long as I followed her orders to the letter, Father would not kill me. Everyone knew what "kill" meant; but to be threatened by our own Parents had drummed into me the seriousness of the position I had been placed in.
And then, not two days after Mother's briefing, things began to change.
It was as if the water was flowing, lingering longer in my veins, unblocking new routes and cleansing me of some heaviness. My mind started working differently; it was as if my thoughts were being beamed through a loudspeaker. I could think clearer, move with more precision, see sharper, hear better, smell the smoke from Father's anti-grav boosters from my Accommodation window.
Intuitive disappeared today. I don't know if it has anything to do with the flight incident, or the attack on Cunning. All I managed to find out is that she has been Chosen, too, and she has started demonstrating abilities no human should have. Was Loyal Chosen, too? Had she been given the new water by the Interlopers? Had she begun to change, like I had?
And then, as I lay supine on my bed, my mind started to buzz. Thoughts whizzed around in my head like fireflies in the Zookeep. And I began to make conclusions pretty quickly.
Loyal had been singled out. So had Forsaken, Intuitive and myself. I figured, as they had all disappeared, that soon I would be abducted too; whether by those living Cold Gods (the very thought made me shiver) or maybe to be killed by Father after all. Either way, it was time to move. And to get definite answers, I knew exactly who to look for, the very person who had been at the supposed rebirth of the Cold Gods, the person who had escaped them alive.
I jumped off my bed and opened the door to my Accommodation to see Mother standing in the corridor.
"Good evening, Clever," said Mother monotonously. "Where are you going?"
"I'm g-g-going for a sssstroll, Mother," I stammered.
"You may come with me," said Mother. "I must introduce you to someone."
"Restricted. You will find out when we are in a secure location."
I stopped walking at once. Secure location? Wasn't that another way of saying a prison cell? Like the ones we went to for Time Out?
My mind spun faster than ever. These people - Intuitive, Forsaken - weren't ill, they were being locked up! Locked up, no doubt, because they had powers out of the ordinary, or because they had been Chosen, or because -
Mother had stopped and turned back to me. I had to be Clever, not anxious. A hasty decision now could prove disastrous.
"I'm sorry, Mother," I said coolly, resuming walking.
"I assume you have just experienced a head rush?" Mother chirruped. "Do not worry, Clever, it is a normal symptom of one of the Chosen."
"Er ... yes, Mother, thank you."
She rolled austerely through the long corridors of EastSide Accommodation Block, before exiting into the bright sunlight of the Courtyard.
No-one was out of doors at the moment, as they were all in the cantine. I hadn't wanted to go in there as I would have drawn attention to myself. But Mother had chosen the perfect time to come and get me: the Courtyard was empty, its surrounding buildings casting few shadows at this midday hour.
We were heading for the Worship Hall.
I walked in silent amazement behind Mother as the door to the Hall opened. I hesitated before entering - I didn't know what I would find inside - but Mother said, "Come, Clever, we have little time," and I hurried across the threshold. The door clanged to behind me with a menacing echo.
And then I saw the statues of the Cold Gods ahead of me. All five boxes standing tall against the back wall, just as I remembered them - and only two occupied.
"Is it true the Cold Gods have arisen, then," I said.
"You see evidence with your own eyes, Clever," said Mother, in a might-be-solemn voice. "Not everything I tell you is a lie."
"Father lies though, doesn't he?"
"Father's directives and speech algorithms are based on logic, whereas mine are, as much as is possible for a machine, built upon human socialism and gene interaction. Father cannot lie - he only withholds restricted truths."
"Where is Father?"
"He is incapacitated."
"He is incapacitated."
"How did that happen?"
"It is a minor issue. The Armoury should be diagnosing and rectifying the damage to Father's master manifestation at this moment."
"So, who is it you have taken me to meet?"
"It is I."
A hidden door in the far wall of the Worship Hall had opened. I turned to see a man striding before me, a man I had last seen standing as a statue behind a shimmering, solid wall of permanent ice ...
"Welcome to the Kryostasis chamber," said Hierto in ringing tones. "Or as you Children call it ... the Worship Hall. I believe your adjective is Clever."
I would have been more shocked, had I not realised that I would be seeing this as soon as I knew we were headed for the Worship Hall. Why else would Mother summon me alone, into a place which had been out of bounds for nearly a week?
"Yes," I said.
"Now, I suppose you are wondering why we have brought you here today," said Hierto.
"Why are you even talking?" I said nervously. "You were a dead statue not too long ago. Everyone said it wasn't possible you could come back to life ... the Children were close to mutiny."
"Indeed, indeed ... strange how a religion for our lifeless bodies, hewn from nothing, inspires a loyalty greater than to the very beings that have catered after you since Colonisation."
I looked at him, dumbstruck. Did he mean what I thought he meant?
"Anyhow, Clever. I understand you are one of the Chosen?"
"Have you experienced a change in your behaviour in the last week?"
"For better or for worse?"
"For better, I think ..."
Hierto turned and walked towards the hidden door. I was evidently supposed to follow; Mother gave me a gentle nudge. I yielded at once - I hated contact with her artificial skin.
Hierto led me along a dark corridor and into a room, where something similar to the System Access Unit sat on a table. There was only one chair.
"Sit down," said Hierto, following me through the door (Mother remained outside). "I want to play a game."
"A kind of game where I get to find out exactly how clever you are," said Hierto. "This is a test - a test to determine how inherently large and well-developed your brain is."
"You have one hour," said Hierto brusquely, turning to leave. "I shall return when you have finished."
I kept my blank face on until the door had closed. Then I sat up straight again.
I had no idea what had happened in the last ten minutes, but I wasn't about to sit here for an hour playing computer games, by the order of some defrosted maniac I had never worshipped anyway.
I wasn't going to end up permanently locked up like the other Chosen. I was going to do a bit of poking around and see what exactly was going on here.
Hierto was right - I had experienced a change in my behaviour in the last week. I had become cleverer. No doubt cleverer than Hierto himself. And I was determined to thwart him.