A 26 year old teacher living in an underwater colony called Triton finds that his secret lover has been kidnapped by the government. Grief-stricken, he decides to use a file that she left behind to take down the government. Also ignore the lack of indents, this was written in pages and I'm too lazy to reindent.
“Mr. Savers, I think I have something you’d like to see!” A familiar student of mine waltzed up to my desk, his standard-issue suitcase in tow. His long brown hair sat at his shoulders, complimenting his freckled, pale face. The purple band wrapped around his upper arm, signifying his nobility, glimmered against the sunlight. He sat the suitcase on my desk and extracted a stash of photographs. I furled my brow in frustration, attempting to figure out exactly what these photographs were made of.
“Chadley, these photos seem a tad anachronistic,” I said. The boy glanced up at me with a peculiar look, but quickly regained him composure.
“I took these pictures with film,” he said, trying to withhold a grin. “If I used something digital, the government would have been able to track me down.”
“I’ve never seen a real film photograph before. Tell me how you got your hands on a film camera.”
Chadley paused and stared at his armband, irritably frowning. “When you’re the son of a nobleman, you kind of end up with things,” he replied. I faked a smile to ensure Chadley that I wouldn’t discriminate against him for his nobility, unlike the majority of his peers.
The school I work at is known as Ovid Academy, a middle school for the more intelligent students living in the First Prong of Triton. Being on the higher end of the appeased, I was able to scrape out a job as a chemistry teacher here at Ovid. Soon after I received this job however, a young boy with a purple armband caught my eye.
At lunch period, the kids would segregate themselves into their cliques, usually defined by caste-ranking. Exultants would sit with other exultants, appeased would sit with other appeased, and charged would sit with other charged. While the various caste-rankings are seen by many, usually the higher ups, as rankings of intelligence, the lower on the ladder prefer to see the castes as different jobs, rather than rankings. In contrast to the laughter of the other students, a boy with a purple armband sat alone in his desk, reading a book. While many people would interpret this as bullying, it was clear to me that this was anything but. The other students were afraid of him.
Chadley was the son of a nobleman, and thus automatically ranked as a noble on the caste-ranking, giving him instant access to all sorts of privileges. One of these privileges being that nobles are allowed to make anyone of any rank below them into their own personal thrall. While those ranked above charged normally receive their own thralls at their coming of age ceremony, nobles were an entirely different breed. Rather than being forced to accept the system, they did whatever they want. The other students crowded into their groups, and adamantly continued to ignore Chadley. If Chadley attempted to make conversation with them, they would erratically answer in the most formal way possible. Again, they were afraid.
The solution to his loneliness was right in front of Chadley, but he couldn’t overcome his own caste-imposed psychological crutches. Ever since the caste was imposed upon the Colonies, the government has attempted to promote the idea that we’re all equals. One such attempt at this was making people of all castes go to school together until they separate students into trade-specific schools following the end of middle school. The government’s artificial want for equality seemed to be exactly what caused Chadley’s anti-social tendencies. For all of his life, people would never hang out with him because of his armband. For him, loneliness was the norm.
Chadley smiled and began to explain his newest conspiracy theory to me. “Anyway, look at these photos!” said Chadley. I picked up one of the photographs and carefully examined it. There was a web browser, and the only words I could read were “INFINITY PROJECT” in large, bold print.
“To be honest, I’m not really getting anything out of this photo other than Infinity Project.”
The boy’s grin widened, and he began to fidget, a sign that he was extremely excited. “This is exactly what the Holy Trinity have been doing for the last two centuries! Everything, the caste-rankings, the Colonies, the undesirables. All of it is for this Infinity Project,” Chadley shouted. His sudden barking caused me to recoil back into my chair.
“Keep your voice down,” I whispered. Chadley walked over to the door, scanned the hallway for any possible spies, then closed it. He sighed and relaxed his body, then proceeded to return to my desk.
Finally recovered from the initial shock, I questioned Chadley. “Regardless, these are some pretty huge accusations you’ve got here. Care to explain?” Chadley took a deep breath and coughed into his hand in a cute attempt to act professional.
“Well, I’ll try my best. It appears that the files were leaked onto the web, because they were taken down pretty fast after I took the pictures.” Internet leaks are an extremely rare occurrence. While the general public does have a basic form of the internet for communication and entertainment, it’s pretty clear to all of us that we aren’t allowed to post anti-government babble on there. In fact, there are entire censorship teams dedicated to keeping the web clear of treasonous prose.
“Then, wouldn’t that mean that a noble posted the pictures? There’s no way that something that drastic could get past the government’s censorship.”
“That seems like a reasonable assumption. The pictures were posted a few weeks ago, but I just now decided to show them to you. I wanted to confirm that these were real before bothering you,” said Chadley. His precise word choice kept me curious.
“So, what exactly is this Infinity Project that apparently ties together all the conspiracy theories of the last two centuries?” I asked in a regrettably condescending tone.
“The Infinity Project is the Holy Trinity’s attempts to create espers.” My jaw dropped from the sheer absurdity of the boy’s statement. Surely esper was just an acronym for something much more sane.
“What exactly do you mean by espers?” I inquired.
Chadley put on a puzzled look, and chuckled. “Espers, as in people with extrasensory perception.”
Chadley was dead serious. He wasn’t giggling because he was joking, but because he was surprised that I didn’t believe him. Apparently, espers were behind everything. “Okay, so, suppose there actually are these espers. How on Earth do they connect with the conspiracy theories?”
Chadley rummaged through pile of photos and grabbed one of a word file. He examined the photo carefully, and turned it over, revealing a haphazardly written paragraph. “Here, read this,” he said, as he handed me the photograph.
Citizens of Earth, you must immediately stop your support for the Holy Trinity companies. The Trinity does not want to help you. They merely want to use you. Files retrieved from Troubleshooter spies have shown us the truth about the Trinity. They plan on using their economic strength to take over the world. They will segregate all of you into castes, forcing you to take up the jobs that you are “worthy” of. In the coming decades, the seas will rise and space travel will become impossible. The Trinity will force you to move underwater into THEIR colonies, and you will forced subject to THEIR needs.
The overarching goal of the Trinity is to become superhuman. These vile men are greedy enough, but that is not the end of what they want. They wish to create espers. Through horrifying genetic experimentation, the Trinity is trying to alter human physiology to give them abilities that they should not normally have. “How do I know this?” you make be asking. I was an esper. I am the leader of the Troubleshooters. I’ve found everything out. This file will probably be censored and forgotten to history, but remember, if you ever find yourself with a red armband, prepare to be cut open.
I wasn’t sure how to take the letter. While the emotion seemed real, it was still inherently ridiculous. Two things about the file struck me. First off, they mentioned the Troubleshooters. While I haven’t seen any official documents recognizing their existence, all of us, from noble to thralls, had all heard the legends of the terrorists who hundreds of years ago, attempted to stand against the Holy Trinity--the Troubleshooters. To us, they were merely an evil group, with the stories intended to keep us on the straight and narrow. This letter appears to tell a different story. Maybe this is why the government doesn’t recognize the Troubleshooters.
The second thing, was the “red armband” statement. While the caste system was mentioned in the first paragraph, that could merely be a coincidence. The armband however, was too specific. In the caste system, the only official “jobs”, as the government likes to call them, are, in order from highest to lowest, noble, exultant, appeased, charged, and thrall. People of each caste level are required to wear a rank-specific armband, for identification. Nobles wear purple, exultants wear blue, appeased were green, charged wear yellow, and thralls wear orange. Recently however, a young woman with a red armband had caught my eye.
A few months ago, while on a walk home from work, I noticed a woman. She sat in an alley, dragging boxes into what appeared to be a storage room in the side of a building. At first, I assumed she was just a regular charged or thrall, but I noticed a peculiar dissimilarity about her. Her armband was red. With my curiosity piqued, I walked over to her. I yelled in her direction, jolting her into dropping her box. She looked over with a fearful expression, before sighing and waving back. “Uhh, my name is 2,600! Is there anything you need?” she murmured. A friendship between the two of us spurred on, which eventually become a tad more intimate. Not out of love however, but out of my need to cure my chronic loneliness.
“So, what do you think, Mr. Savers?” asked Chadley. While the correlation between the red armband and the present day was haunting, the word “esper” still bugged me. While the Holy Trinity did force us underwater and create the caste system, the very notion of espers seemed preposterous, especially to a man of science such as myself. Logically, the next step to solve this puzzle would be to confront 2,600, the only person with a red armband that I personally knew..
Akin to the hobos of olden times, those with red armbands were homeless, and apparently casteless, which essentially made them wastes of space. Thus, the general public began to refer to them as undesirables. While they are admittedly a rare sight, their undying presence has always discomforted communities. Undesirable sightings are rare, but when you do see an undesirable, they usually keep to themselves, which is exactly why 2,600 was so peculiar.
I made a thinking man’s pose, and looked straight into Chadley’s eyes. “So, you believe the “red armband” part of the letter refers to the undesirables, correct?” I asked.
“Yes, exactly! There’s no way these files would have been leaked onto the net if they weren’t real! We know that the Troubleshooters existed, and everything that they predicted was right! This is exactly the conspiracy theory that I’ve been looking for!” Chadley exclaimed with a grin.
For the last few months, Chadley and I have been cooperating and telling each other our various conspiracy theories. After noticing his loneliness, I began to try to help him open up to the other students, although it never really worked. Many a time I had assigned group projects with the goal of getting Chadley to interact more, but nothing ever worked out. The group would work together, often excluding Chadley, in a rush to get things done so that they could limit their interaction with the noble boy.
Eventually, my meddling had come to a point where it seemed to hinder Chadley, rather than help. Rather than try from behind the scenes, I finally decided to talk to Chadley after class.
After the bell rang, the common students quickly raced to get home and do whatever pre-teens do. Chadley packed up his suitcase, and lethargically dragged himself to my desk, his long hair covering his face.
“What is it that you want, Mr. Savers?” he asked. I simply wanted to talk to him. I felt a connection to the boy. He was lonely, as was I. Ever since I was a child, I was always the odd one out. While I was able to put up an artificial smile for teachers, and later on, clients, it was always hard for me to find a connection with other people.
My father is an exultant, head of a company called Aquaria Interactive, which focuses on bringing technology and games to the classroom. While logically, I should be heir to his fortune, the caste-system chose a different destiny for me. The Savers name is surprisingly well known in these parts, partially because of the great business tactics of William Savers, but also because of a scandal that happened years ago that was covered up by the government. Being that I was son of the great William Savers, I didn’t find it particularly surprising that people hid what happened from me.
Father had always ignored me, leaving me to the care of his thrall. The thrall liked to ensure me that father was never home because he was working hard, but I never believed her. Many other kids loathed school, but I enjoyed it. I didn’t have any friends in the neighborhood, because I wasn’t allowed to commune with them. Father thought they might corrupt my mind. Thus, I was left to sit in my room for hours on end, bored to death. At school, I was free to do whatever I pleased.
While the isolation my father kept me in hindered my social skills, during ranking school, I did have the pleasure of making a single friend. She was a cute, spectacled brunette girl named Willow Hourig. We met on the playground as children, where we would play soccer with one another day after day. Years later, as ranking tests began, we began to slowly drift apart.
Willow had done better on her tests than I had, which consisted of both a mental and physical portion. I considered myself to be a fairly intelligent lad, but it was clear to me that I couldn’t compare to many of the other children, who had been trained from infantry to get high ranks. Unlike many of my peers, I didn’t receive any special tutoring to help me with my inevitable ranking tests. Father simply assumed that being his son, I would automatically become an exultant. The tests however, were not so simple.
My physical condition wasn’t too amazing either. Willow had always been the winner in our one-on-one soccer matches. While life as an exultant seemed impossible due to my intelligence, I prayed that my fragility would at least keep me from becoming a charged or a thrall. Being a charged would have been a far too social experience for me. Charged usually took up the occupation of clerk or cashier, or other equally social jobs. While becoming a thrall seemed suitable, I knew that my father would probably return home for once just to beat me if I ended up bringing such shame to the Savers name.
At the age of 14, the government had already decided our futures for us. Willow would become an exultant, that would specialize in government knowledge fixation, which meant she would be in charge of censoring the media. To my delight, I was ranked as an appeased, and specifically assigned to become a teacher. As I walked up onto the stage and received my green armband, I knew that I had tried my best, and for that, I was happy.
After the ceremony, while Willow and I were able to remain in contact, our friendship quickly grew stale. In the beginning, we would talk to one another daily, but as the workload began to pile up, it became weekly, and eventually monthly. For most of my life, Willow had been the only person who I truly felt a connection with. I grew lonely.
As time went on, I continued to act properly. I showed up to school on time, and eventually, school become work. Teaching became an outlet for me. Since I couldn’t keep myself busy socially, drowning myself in work and planning kept me sedated. Thus, when Chadley appeared, I knew I wouldn’t let him grow up to become an asocial dimwit like myself.
Our conversations were dull at first, but as he grew more comfortable with me, he began to open up. We didn’t share very many common interests, so we usually chatted about our days and aspirations. Soon, Chadley began to talk about conspiracy theories.
The thing that struck me as odd was that Chadley, a noble, was interested in the conspiracy theories. If he was a thrall or charged, who was possibly bitter about his ranking, then I wouldn’t be surprised. However, Chadley’s interest, combined with his noble privilege, baffled me. As time went on, it started to appear that he too resented the caste-system, but in a different way. Rather than being jealous of those of a higher rank, he was tired of being segregated for his armband. Chadley could essentially have anything in the world, but this artificial wall created by the caste-system kept him quiet.
Although I originally feigned interest in the conspiracy conversations, meeting 2,600 changed everything. Many of Chadley’s various theories involved undesirables, which I didn’t find very surprising. Once I had met an undesirable however, it was amazingly interesting. I felt as if I had some sort of connection with these theories now. When Chadley would talk about how undesirables were tortured, killed, or treated in any other abhorrent way, I felt genuine pain. 2,600, while a bit off, seemed a far cry from Chadley’s theories. I couldn’t bring myself to ask her about it, as I feared 2,600, the only person who gave affection, would begin to dislike to me.
“Yes, it may be the conspiracy theory you’re looking for, but what are you going to do with it?” I asked.
“I’m not sure to be honest. The theories have always interested me and all, but it’s kind of like, what do I do now? It’s not like I can expose the government or anything. I’m not really sure what I was trying to do when finding conspiracy theories anyway. Besides, I have no way of knowing if this is even true.” replied Chadley.
A lightbulb went off inside of my head. The letter basically stated that the undesirables were the ones who went through esper testing. I haven’t actually asked 2,600 about her origins due to me being afraid of offending her. Of everyone in the entirety of Triton, it appeared that 2,600 was the only person who could give me some answers.
“I have a friend,” I said, “an undesirable friend.” I instantly regret what I said. I hadn’t lied, nor did I have any malicious plans. Regardless, guilt swelled up inside of me. My heart rate began to pick up, and my head began to itch.
“An undesirable friend? You’re joking!” said Chadley. I was definitely serious. I knew that 2,600 had the answers, but the possibility of putting her off terrified me. I had already told Chadley too much, and I couldn’t just say it was a joke. I was afraid. Afraid of letting Chadley down, and afraid of 2,600 leaving me.
“I’m serious. Do you want me to ask her about the espers?” I said. The contract had been sealed. Just the thought of betraying Chadley’s newfound hope pained me. My lifetime of loneliness had all led up to this event. A promise, a question, a mistake. This was truly the beginning of the end.