10. Breaking News
The division system is a simple way of organizing living spaces, as well as an effective method of separating different classes within the same city. It works by filling one neighborhood with identical skyscrapers, and then dividing those skyscrapers into a certain number of homes, called “divisions.” A building with three homes is called a three-division, one with four is called a four-division, and so on. The fewer divisions there are in a building, the larger those divisions will be…and, consequently, the more expensive they will be.
Being a relatively prominent genitech and owning four imps brings in good money, so Felix lives in the comfort of a four-division. All of his imps have their own rooms, except for Cade and Ema, who share living space out of personal choice rather than necessity. After being somewhat shaken up by the maybe-accident they witnessed on the way home, they have all retreated into their normal routines of winding down for the evening, relaxing themselves before bed.
Lai is curled up in her favorite saucer chair, engrossed in a new book that she picked up from the Archives before leaving Pristine Labs for the day. Alec is seated in an old armchair in his room, both eyes closed (although the eyelid of the damaged one hangs crookedly), in an almost meditative state. Cade is quietly arranging his collection of knickknacks and chewing over his situation with Ema.
Felix is in the living room; the spectrovision is on, but its volume has been turned down so that he can focus on Ema, who is seated on the couch beside him. She is currently in full psychologist mode, and her stoic, concerned expression makes her look like an actress in a melodramatic soap opera.
“Look, you have to face the facts, Felix,” she says carefully. “In rom-coms, odd people are considered to be ‘quirky and desirable,’ but in real life that’s a sign of a personality disorder. And you can’t deny that Lai is showing multiple signs.”
“These days, they have a ‘personality disorder’ for every behavior that’s even slightly weird,” answers Felix dismissively. “And besides, no imp has ever developed a personality disorder.”
“There’s a first time for everything. And this isn’t justonestrange behavior, it’s a lot of them, and constantly. Bizarre pattern of interests…”
“Oh, so being creative now means you’re mentally ill?”
“Self-imposed social isolation…”
“So she’s not a people person, so what? We can’t all be socialites.”
“Obsessions with inconsequential subject matter…”
“Her fixation with old-fashioned stuff is just a hobby, not an obsession.”
“And, of course, complete disinterest with the real world in favor of an internal fantasy realm.”
Felix huffs. “Look, it didn’t take long for humans to start getting artistic, Ema. It was only a matter of time before imps got in on it too! Lai may be different, but there’s nothingwrongwith her.”
“Felix, you’re not getting it!” Ema insists. “Imps are made to work. Even when we have other interests besides our jobs – something that I support wholeheartedly – work still takes top priority. But Lai was commissionedten years ago, and she still hasn’t shown any interest in her career whatsoever!” Her brown eyes narrow challengingly. “That’s highly abnormal…and, of course, Lai already has a size defect. Who’s to say that a glitch in her genetics didn’t causeotherproblems?”
“Ema, you are a professional and I trust your judgment,” Felix says evenly. “But there is no way in hell that Lai has a personality disorder.” Ema opens her mouth to protest, but he puts up his palm. “I don’t want to hear any more about it. Lai is perfectly healthy and happy as she is, and I don’t have any reason to be concerned about her. Besides, even if she did have a problem, what would you do about it? Put her on some crackpot medica – ”
A burst of static sound explodes from the direction of the spectrovision. Ema flinches and Felix looks over in annoyance, thinking that he must have bumped the sofa-arm controls and turned the volume up accidentally. He reaches over to silence it…
But the panel over the controls is still flipped down. He blinks, puzzled. The spectrovision is loud and blaring, but it couldn’t have just turned itself up.
Then he realizes that it could have – in the event of an emergency, the Set Gov can send out a signal to all of the comms and spectrovisions in the city, snatching up virtually everyone’s attention. And this does appear to be an emergency, because Felix’s comm is starting to buzz violently in his pocket, and the spectrovision’s sound is turning into a shrill warning tone…
Lai emerges from her room, as if on cue. “Woah, what’s going on? My comm is going nuts!”
“Mine too,” says Cade as the door to his bedroom slides open.
An overly calm robotic voice chants from the spectrovision’s speakers; the holographic screen’s display has become flat and blue. “Please remain calm,” the voice repeats endlessly. “May we have your attention please? Your programming will be redirected momentarily. Please remain calm…”
Alec is the last to join the congregation gathering at the sofa. He doesn’t say anything; something about the combination of the screaming comms, the eerie spectrovision voice, and the others’ perplexed expressions is enough to keep him silent.
All of their eyes are fixated on the 3D screen, so they are watching as it flickers back to life, displaying a grim-faced woman standing in an unfamiliar outdoor location. She is instantly recognizable as a news anchor, even though none of them have ever seen her on a show before.
“I’m Stephanie Carter, reporting live for World Gov News,” she states. “Behind me, you can see that a barricade is forming around Settlement 211. Authorities have been receiving calls from panicked civilians throughout the afternoon and evening, and information has finally been revealed that an attack was launched on the settlement about two hours ago. The epicenter of said attack was a prominent laboratory institution, Evolutionary Research Associates.”
Everyone in the Mansen division seems to inhale as one – everyone except Alec, that is, since he is unable to breathe.
“Eyewitnesses said that the attackers called themselves the Imps Liberation Group, or ILG,” continues the reporter. Ema stiffens abruptly, and Cade tentatively places a hand on her shoulder. “While little is known about them at this point, they appear to be an imp supremacy movement. The rebels’ base of operations was ERA, but they are currently in control of several other buildings within Settlement 211, including the Set Gov headquarters. So far, they have refused to release hostages or negotiate with World Gov representatives. Authorities are unsure of the ILG’s extent. Lockdown warnings have been issued for Settlements 208, 209, 210, 212, and 213…”
The camera crews are being very careful not show any of the chaos that is presumably lurking behind the reporter. The woman herself seems to be struggling to repress her anxiety, and signs of the strain are visible in her media-friendly poker face. Emergency instructions begin to scroll across the bottom of the spectrovision display. In a moment, Felix will stand up and begin performing the first tasks on the long list of procedures…but for now, he, Ema, Cade, Lai, and Alec are still too stunned to move. They are attempting to wrap their minds around this turn of events and what it will ultimately mean.
A rebellion of imps? It can’t even be possible. After all, impslikeworking, like living in harmony with humans. How had an attitude of supremacy cropped up? And on that note, in this age of communication technology, how had no one caught wind of an upcoming attack?
The world isn’t perfect, but for the past decade or so, it has existed in a tenuous state of relative peace. Something like an imp rebellion might just change the dynamics of everything. The news is already sweeping the globe, putting ideas in the heads of humans and imps alike…
And perhaps, on a subconscious level, Felix and his imps already know that by the time that this is over, none of their lives will ever be the same again.