The echoes of whales surrounded me, and schools of fish were clearly visible in the bright, blue sea overhead. The waters had been relatively calm recently, giving my days a rare, soothing atmosphere. I exited the starch, marble building of Ovid Academy, with a sullen expression, but a clear goal in mind.
The luminescence of the glass walls protecting Triton from drowning were in severe contrast from the dull, mass-produced sidewalks and structures that were so familiar. While the bleached ambience of the First Prong was supposedly a testament to our government-imposed love for cleanliness, in reality, it was just an excuse for laziness.
Triton consisted of three districts, known as the First Prong, the Second Prong, and the Third Prong. Naturally, these three districts separated people into rankings. Those closer to the government and less problematic were sent to the First Prong, while the more barbarous were sent to the lower districts. While the original settlers of Triton were ranked in such a manner, these days, the district you belong to is pretty much decided by where you’re born. The Second and Third Prong are inherently worse than the First Prong, but living there isn’t really a punishment. They’re just a tad dirtier.
With my lineage, being born into the First Prong was logical, even if my rank didn’t really involve me with government affairs. I wasn’t really a fan of the First Prong’s plain environment, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. My teaching skills were needed at Ovid, and while the government does allow job transfer and the like to please its citizens, being able to transfer to another district was almost unheard of. Cultural norms varied greatly between districts, and allowing people to move around made it harder for the government to control us.
If I wanted to aim for something in the realm of reality, I would attempt to move to another district. Leaving Triton however, was impossible, and we all knew it. The Colony that you are born on is where you will live the entirety of your life. Exploring the outer reaches of the Colony and going for submarine or boat rides is allowed, but under no circumstances would the government allow you to move to another Colony.
As of April 3rd, 2242, there are three colonies spread throughout the Atlantic Ocean, each of which is governed by a parliament controlled by one of the three Holy Trinity companies. These three colonies are called Triton, Poseidon, and Neptune. The three colonies were completed in 2091, following the worldwide Holy Trinity Revolutions, The Rise, and The Great Failure.
In the early 21st century, civil unrest began to break out all over the world, originating in the Middle East and Africa. While many first world countries attempted to control the situation, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia, the focus that these nations, and more, put into the problems of other nations ultimately led to their downfall. The nations of the third, and second world had finally had enough with their governments, and began to rise up. The governments of the first world however, had forgotten about their own people.
With a sinking world economy, and the first world’s surprising unwillingness to accept social changes, nearly all of Earth went into a police state. Three massive worldwide companies, banded together to help rebel efforts all over the planet. These companies, the Humanization Corporation, Freedom United, and the Physical Solution Company, came to be known as the Holy Trinity. Governments fell, and freedom prevailed. The Holy Trinity Revolutions had begun.
New countries were created, and the general quality of life for humanity had risen. This period of happiness however, was not meant to last. Scientists first took notice of global warming in the 20th century, but for a long time, people simply thought of it as something that their descendants would have to deal with. It was unexpected that the seas would rise so soon, and so fast.
While there are various theories for what caused The Rise, no one idea is officially accepted as the truth. Coastlines began to be swallowed up, and people quickly moved inland. Where the evacuees fled, the waters chased. At an abrupt and frighteningly fast rate, cities were flooded, and governments fell. Overpopulation filled the deep inlands, chocked full of survivors from the floods.
The initial idea was to evacuate the population to the Moon, and space in general. The peace following the Holy Trinity Revolutions allowed for great scientific progress, especially in the field of astronomy. Many countries created small moon colonies, and the moon grew to harbor a population of a little under a thousand. WASA, the Worldwide Aeronautics and Space Administration, led the charge.
Colonies were made, and millions upon millions huddled onto large spacecraft. A grand total of a billion people worldwide were present for the first ascension into space. WASA, funded by the Holy Trinity, had spent billions, if not trillions of dollars on this project, in an attempt to save as much of the human population as feasibly possible. The oceans continued to Rise, and time was of the essence.
75% of the spaceships malfunctioned and were destroyed prior to reaching their destination. The remaining 25% all died out quickly on the Moon, as the colony systems present were not up to standard. It appeared that WASA had focused on quantity and not quality, and payed the price. In mere days, a seventh of the human population was wiped out.
Back on Earth, the deaths of these pioneers were met with great hysteria. The media branded the event as The Great Failure, and WASA was forced to shut down due to the public outrage. The Holy Trinity was forced to speak, due to their massive monetary contributions the WASA, and essentially, The Great Failure.
With their credibility on the line, the Holy Trinity proposed a new plan. With the option of space colonization out of the picture, the Trinity looked to the seas. They proposed a plan in which three, massive underwater colonies in the Atlantic would be created. Each of the three companies would build and advise their own colonies, and intense testing would be done to ensure the safety of the immigrants. In addition, moving to the colonies would be 100% free of charge.
The proposals were met with public skepticism, but with The Rise, there wasn’t much that the people could do other than pray that the Holy Trinity’s plans would work out. And their prayers payed off. In 2091, the three colonies, Triton, Poseidon, and Neptune, finally opened for business. People loaded onto boats, and then onto submarines, and travelled deep into the ocean to their newfound homes.
While their were a few accidents and bumps along the way, the transition into the colonies went, for the most part, smoothly. The Holy Trinity enforced various new economic and social rules upon the society, but the amount of freedoms that were given to the general populous were unheard of at any point in human history. One of such freedoms was the Right to Love act.
The Right to Love act was proposed by the Holy Trinity as one of the new liberties that would be given as a human right, in order to ensure that the undying cycle of revolution would finally end. Homosexuality, incest, polygamy, and various other forms of marriage and love were legalized. While the more conservative citizens opposed the act, the Trinity ensured that the freedoms given by the Right to Love act were meant to hasten the obviously eventual arrival of such social liberties.
In 2153, a new government-regulated job system was created, which segregated people into different areas, in order to ensure that all people had jobs, and that all people were able to get by. While written in the history books as social progress, it is quite clear to regular citizens that this was a caste system. The citizens however, did not speak out against the system, but rather welcomed it. Even if it ranked and segregated people, the caste system kept the economy going, and no one was left behind.
This simple system, while economically sound, had built up a social barrier around me. To many people, including myself, a person was only as good as their rank. I’m not Blaine Savers. I’m an appeased, who works a chemistry teacher. Willow isn’t Willow Hourig. She is an exultant in government censorship. Even though the ranks were essentially equal, discrimination never ended.
The rank names alone were enough to make this clear. Thrall meant slave, and noble mean aristocratic. Even if we sugarcoated the ranks with more fanciful words, we knew what they meant. As an appeased, I lacked the rights and acclaim to choose the path of my own life. Even with my immense complaining, I knew that 2,600 had it worse.
2,600 lived in a storage room on the side of an older building. The room lacked heating and furniture, so she was forced to sleep in a pile of blankets that I had provided her. Prior to our meeting, 2,600 appeared to have slept on the concrete floor. Her red armband told me that she was an undesirable, but my curiosity didn’t overpower my respect. As our friendship grew however, that respect simply turned into fear.
As I neared the alleyway, I mentally prepared myself for the confrontation. I would have to choose my words properly, in order to not offend her. Asking her straight up seemed to be the simplest way, and if she didn’t understand then I could simply feign innocence.
The generic shade of white so common to Triton was interrupted by a gray, leaky alley. Pipelines littered the sides of the buildings, and a dark shadow was cast across the walkway. A single pair of rusted, steel doors presented themselves to me, in a rather unwelcoming fashion. I reached for the iron handle, then twisted it with a gulp.
“Ahhhh!” screamed 2,600. She hid under her blankets, shaking wildly.
“You’re acting just a bit fearful.” I said casually.
2,600 pulled down her blankets and gave me a surprised looked, before sighing. Her pajama shirt was sullied with what appeared to be baked beans. Her clothes were made of clumsily sewn together cloth, and her red armband was visible in a pile of clothing in the corner of the room. It wasn’t surprising that she wasn’t wearing it, but I was a bit perplexed as to why she kept it around.
She was surprisingly small, about 5’3, but her damaged skin and muscular body told me that she had been through a lot. I postulated that she was actually older than me, but if she was I was sure that it wasn’t by much. While I wouldn’t described her as scarred, her skin was darker than was the Triton norm of pale white, and her complexion was a plethora of whites and browns. With the lack of physical labor jobs in the colonies, I could tell that whatever she had been doing prior to this was strenuous.
That theory was further supported by her build. I wouldn’t describe her as manly, but when she wore more revealing attire, the slightest movement seemed to emphasize her muscles. Her arms and legs were definitely bigger than my own, but she wasn’t fat either. I was scrawny admittedly, but I still refused to believe that I was over-exaggerating by calling her muscular.
However, there was one blatant counterexample that hurt all of my ideas. 2,600 was surprisingly happy. She carried herself in a jolly manner, and smiles were her specialty. For someone who I believed lived a life of hardship, she sure didn’t appear to show it. I, who had lived an inherently privileged life, still wasn’t as a satisfied with life as she was. Her happiness seemed to fill a void in me, which led to us growing closer.
Our friendship began as platonic, with me simply wishing to help a poor soul out. My inner sorrow resulted in me becoming a surprisingly charitable young man. I gave her some blankets and some food, and due to her makeshift home being along the way to my own home, we began talking more and more. I, who was never able to connect with people on an emotional level, suddenly was able to make friends with a peasant girl.
Luckily for me, we were both lonely. Her optimism didn’t match her lifestyle. Out of the many people who passed by this alleyway, I was the only one willing to lend a hand. I wasn’t quite sure how she found this place to live in, but regardless, it appeared to me that no one else helped her. Nothing new ever popped up in her dwelling, nor were there any surprise visitors.
Our collective desolation made us grow closer. We turned from strangers to friends, and from friends to lovers. I found a carnal attractiveness in her, and even though she didn’t conform to the societal standard of beauty, she truly was the definition of pulchritude.
I wasn’t very aware of how she viewed me, but I didn’t particularly care. I was needy, and so was she, thus our relationship worked out. Honestly, neither of us really viewed our liaison as a romantic situation. The need for intimacy is a basic, animalistic tendency.
Technically, we were worlds apart. Even so, our personalities clicked. As they say, opposites attract. My depressed sagacity, combined with her jovial solitude, resulted in a perfect match. But even as the days went on, and our bodies grew closer, our loyalty never wained. I had never told anyone about my relationship with 2,600 until Chadley, and even then I merely told him that I “have an undesirable friend.”
I assumed that 2,600 didn’t tell anyone either, but frankly, that was just because she had no one else. I was 2,600’s everything, and I liked that. After coming into this relationship from a disheartening emptiness, being someone’s lover was a great confidence booster. This was one of the few times in my life where I truly felt gleeful, even if it was for only a few moments a day.
2,600 laughed. “Sorry about that! I just wasn’t expecting you, I guess.”
“Why is that? I normally come around this time.” I said.
2,600 bit her lip and avoided eye contact. “Oh, yeah. You’re right. I’m just a bit antsy, that’s all.” she replied.
I wondered if somehow, I had been cursed with the worst time to have to ask her about her past. Chadley had been so happy when I told him about the undesirable friend, so I just couldn’t let him down.
“I actually have a question to ask.” I said.
“What is it?”
I gasped for air and struggled to mouth the correct words. An aching feeling surged throughout my body, and sweat began to build up in my pores. My head started to itch, and my scratching hand was met with a slimy, damp mess of hair.
“I was wondering if you know anything about the Infinity Project.”
I finally worked up the guts to say it. For months, I had been too afraid to ask 2,600 anything about her past, but in a simple afternoon, a middle school boy managed to convince me otherwise. Chadley, although unknowingly, had manipulated me. It wasn’t Chadley’s fault at all. I was simply a pathetic, weak man.
2,600 didn’t respond. She simply glared at me, with an unusually violent stare. From head to toe, she scanned me, before getting up and approaching me. Without saying anything, she put my in a headlock with one arm and began to pat down the side of my body with the other. After noticing that there was nothing on me, she signed in relief.
“So, I guess you’re not an agent then?” she asked.
“No, I’m not an agent.” I replied.
“Then how do you know about the Infinity Project?”
“A student of a mine, a noble boy, told me about it. It was leaked onto the internet supposedly.”
“Well, that’s a coincidence!”
Her snarl turned into a grin. 2,600 loosened up and rolled over back into her corner. I could see her shaking behind her smile. I amended her for trying her best to stay casual, but being perturbed as she was, it simply didn’t work.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“It doesn’t matter! Telling you anything about me will just ruin our relationship.”
So that was what troubled her. Admittedly, I was afraid of the same thing. However, I wasn’t sure if she meant that she would have to leave me, or if it would be so horrific that I would leave her. I doubt anything that she would say would truly disturb me, unless the government used her as a killing machine or something of that like.
Regardless, her being afraid of losing our relationship seemed sort of useful. For someone like me, who was constantly lonely, knowing that there was someone who honestly wanted to be with me brought warmth to my soul. At the same time however, a sinister idea was stirring within me.
At this point, 2,600’s secretive allure had already piqued my curiosity. It was clear that she knew what the Infinity Project was, but it seemed that her attraction to me kept her from flat out lying. Instead, she simply stated that talking about it would harm our relationship. If she didn’t want to talk about it at all, she would have simply feigned innocence. But it was also possible that something was forcing her to tell the truth.
Hundreds of possibilities rustled through my mind, and I struggled to keep them organized. I glanced over at 2,600’s trembling grin. She looked into my eyes, with a surprisingly frightened expression. I never would have expected someone like her to be afraid of someone like me. It was likely that she believed I was possibly faking everything as an “agent” of the government, so what I was going to do next probably could have gotten me killed.
I got onto my knees and began crawling towards 2,600.
“2,600, tell me about the Infinity Project.” I said.
I was trying to take advantage of her. Her blatant fear made her too easy to manipulate. She was simply so afraid of losing me. I found it ironic that someone as pathetic as me would do something so strikingly repulsive.
“What are you doing?” said 2,600. She backed herself into the wall, telling me that I had the psychological advantage.
“I just want you to tell me about the Infinity Project, that’s all.” I said. I slowly crawled closer. The dirty, concrete floors sullied my pants and hands. She was too afraid to say anything. As our eyes met, I lifted a hand towards her face. Taking notice of the earlier fiasco, I assumed that she would go on the offensive after my “attack”. However, she remained static.
My hand met her face, and I softly caressed her warm cheek. Our eyes met, and I stared into her bright, blue eyes -- the same color as mine. I tightly hugged her, making sure to go easy enough so that I wouldn’t appear threatening.
I whispered into 2,600’s ear. “Tell me, I promise that I’d never leave you.” Still hugging her, I noticed tears coming down her face. I had won this battle. A surprising manipulative side had awakened within in. I wasn’t sure if this had been a result of years of loneliness, or years of bitterness, but regardless, it seemed to work out.
2,600’s body gave out, signaling me that she wanted to be let go. I released her from my death grip, and backed up a bit. I sat down a few feet opposite of her, enough to give her space, but still too close to be ignored. She looked directly at me with a menacing look, still whimpering from her crying session.
“Do you promise that this won’t ruin anything?” she asked.
“Of course it won’t.” I replied. I had to choose my words carefully.
“Well, how much about the Infinity Project do you already know?”
“I know that it apparently encompasses everything that the Holy Trinity has been doing for the last two hundred years, and that the Trinity is trying to create superhuman espers.”
2,600 gave me an expression that could only be described as between a smile and a frown, before wiping the tears from her face.
“It looks like the files I leaked worked then,” she said.
“Wait, you were the one who leaked those files? How did you get onto the noble internet?”
“You’re a really fast thinker...” she said, sighing.
“I apologize for my enthusiasm, I’m just really curious about this whole thing.”
And it was true, I was very curious. Even though I came into this situation due to my fear of letting Chadley down, the way she hid the facts kept pecking at my brain. It’s not like the conspiracy theory itself didn’t interest me, it’s just that it was a tad farfetched. It isn’t everyday that a kid tells you that the government is making espers, and it definitely isn’t everyday that you actually have someone who could be related to said theory.
“Let’s start from the beginning,” I said, “are you an esper?”
“Yes, I am.” she said calmly.
I wasn’t sure how to react to that. 2,600 was an esper and had essentially confirmed Chadley’s files. An awkward silence filled the room, as neither of us was really sure how to follow up.
“So, what exactly is an esper?” I asked. I knew that espers had extrasensory perception, but I wasn’t sure what that entailed. Did espers have supernatural powers, or was some sort of science behind it? Clumps of questions filled my mind, but I knew simply throwing them at her one by one would probably piss her off, or make her cry again.
“I’m not too well versed in science, so I’ll do my best to explain. Basically, what the government does is unlock the hidden potential of the human brain, so that someone can gain new powers. The way I understand it is that they somehow allow you to control the electric brain waves that come out of your mind, and then you can use them to alter electricity around you. Sorry that I can’t really give you a better description.”
I was a bit underwhelmed. With all of this build up, I guess I just assumed that being told about the theory would be some kind of amazing revelation, but instead, I just didn’t know how to respond.
“Is that it? You were crying earlier, there has to be more to it.” I said.
“Do you really want to know? You already know about the espers, the rest of this might just make you mad. Besides, I don’t want to drag you into anything against your will.”
“Just tell me, I’m too curious already. Don’t worry about me.”
“Well, you’ve already seen my red armband many times before, right?”
“Yes. It symbolizes that you’re an undesirable, correct?”
“You’re right. Us undesirables are the governments test subjects. Unwanted children, criminals, and worse all end up being undesirables. Basically, as the name says, anyone who isn’t desire by anyone is taken as a subject. It’s kind of inherently dangerous taking the most bitter people in the colony and giving them superpowers, but I guess it works for their purposes.”
“Why were you taken away?” I asked.
“You know Blaine, you’re not a very sensitive person.”
I was taken back by this statement, but admittedly, it was true. Years of cold bitterness were built up within me, so being nice wasn’t exactly my strong-suit. Besides, I was asocial and awkward, interaction in and of itself was hard enough.
“Anyways, I escaped from the testing facility a few days ago and leaked those files before I left. I think I’m the only one who has ever escaped, but it kind of made sense, considering my ability.”
“What do you mean by your “ability”? Are you stronger than most of the other espers?”
“I wouldn’t really consider myself stronger. In fact, I’m probably one of the weaker espers. The ability of each esper kind of psychologically corresponds with them. Not everyone has a different ability, but differences and limits are common because everything thinks differently.”
“Well, what can you do?” I asked.
“I can make myself turn invisible. Going by my past, it makes sense. I’ll just tell you know that I’m not interested in talking about it.” she said.
“Interesting, although I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do now. It’s not like I have some sort of vendetta against the government to fulfill or anything.”
“You should really stop seeing me.” 2,600 said.
It came suddenly, and felt like a punch to the gut. Our conversation had been going so well, and other than her remembering her apparently horrid past, I didn’t feel like I made any mistakes. Her sudden statement felt surreal. I couldn’t comprehend why this would be happening.
“Why would I do that?” I shakily replied.
“Government officials will be coming for me soon. I’m surprised I’ve even been able to stay hidden this long, especially in the same place.”
“How will they find you? Is there a tracking device or something?”
“I used my esper ability on all of the guards at the facility I was being kept at. Due to the secrecy of the Infinity Project, only those working at the facility are allowed to go out and find espers, although I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who has ever escaped. They use electromagnetic pulses to turn off our abilities. I can sense it, I’ll be captured soon, and I won’t be able to fight back.”
Fear consumed me, and my body fell limp. We had only been together for a few months, but I’d rather face the end of the world than be separated. 2,600 had cured nearly everything that was wrong with me, even if it was only for those few moments that I was with her. Around her, I felt alive. When I left her small home however, I returned to my usual, asocial self.
“What if you stayed at my place?” I asked. The idea was ridiculous. Alicia, my thrall, would never allow another girl to stay at my place, even if she was technically supposed to obey me. Besides, harboring a government fugitive wouldn’t look very good on a resume. Regardless, my love for 2,600 transcended fear, and I refused to let her be taken from me.
“That’s impossible Blaine. You’ll end up in the same lot as me. Trust me, you don’t want to become an undesirable,” she said.
“I don’t care. Look, you’re all I really have. I just can’t bear with losing you.” I replied. My desperateness had reached the point of no return. “2,600, I need you in my life. These last few months have been the happiest times I’ve ever had, I just can’t let you go.”
2,600 bit her lip and looked away, trying not to make eye contact. She was grief-stricken too, but she played the role of the bigger man.
“Remember my ability?” she asked.
“Yes, why?” I replied.
My temples began to throb, and my vision began to go blurry. I fell over onto my side, my body enveloped in pain. I still felt clearly awake, but my head continued to send torturous pulses to my brain. No one was around me. Recovering from the initial trauma, it appeared that 2,600 had used her ability on me.
“2,600, are you there? Don’t leave me!” I wailed. Whilst yelling I began to flail about in an attempt to find her. I wasn’t sure if she had run away or if her ability completely destroyed my ability to sense her presence. No matter what I did, there was no reply. The room remained motionless.
In my stupor, I stumbled upward and attempted to gain my balance. Slowly but surely, I led myself against the wall outside of the storage room. The pipes of the alleyway scraped against my hands and side. 2,600 had disappeared, and I had no idea where she had went. There was no way I could chase after her. It was going to be a long walk home.