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“Ugggg” thought Molly as she forced her self to climb out of her sleeping pod. It had been like a warm shelter to her all through the night and now leaving it was like taking a bath in ice. With a sigh, she resigned herself to the fact that today was her first day back to school. She knew she should be happy, but she wasn’t, and couldn’t bring herself to be anything but annoyed by the stupid computer voice that kept shouting “The time is now 6:30 and you should be wakening up“ in its mechanical “don’t I sound real” kind of voice. “Please hurry or you will be late for your first day back to school.”
She groaned as she made her way to her closet. It was her first day back and she wanted to look her best. It had to be something that said “no I didn’t stay on this boring planet all summer long! And even if I did I had wonderful time!” finally she decided to wear her pink vintage moon stones t-shirt and her dark wash jean pants. She pushed a button on the wall and a little finger pad was ejected . Impatiently she placed her index finger on the scanner. “good choice!” came the overly peppy response of her terminally perky room nanny.
She dressed quickly and then walked over to her transporter. “First floor. Kitchen” she practically growled at the microphone. Instantly she felt the familiar tingle of her body being broken down, and then transported like the picture on an ancient television. When she arrived in the kitchen she looked around. Everything - the walls, the counters, the table - were made out of something that looked like glass, but with the right commands, would show anything the person wanted. Usually this room made her feel calm and relaxed, but today she felt like she was looking at giant ice cubes. She sat down at the table and tapped her fingers feeling absolutely alone. About a minute later one of the house robots entered the room. “Why, helloooo!” it said to her “how are youuuu?” The last thing Molly wanted was to make small talk with a stupid robot. “Ummm fine, fine can you make me some breakfast?” she looked at the blank face and made a funny face at it. It was a game her sister and her had made up called “stump the robot”. The rules were that you had to be nice, but other than that it was all fair. The goal was to try your best to absolutely confuse the robots. Points were given based on how the robots responded. The robot cocked its head to the side. Then it seemed to give up and went over to the huge wrap around counter. Molly felt a little better after playing her game, but instantly frowned as her sister walked in.
“No reply, no points!” Kendra happy pointed out. Molly simply glared at her. Soon the smile on Kendra’s face disappeared. “Come on!” she told her “I will only be gone for two weeks!” She seemed to read molly’s mind, but that was nothing new. Molly knew she was being childish, but she didn’t want her sister to go off to Earth without her. Though she would never tell anyone, the truth was that she was afraid to be alone in the house.
“Humm. Funny, that’s what Mom said too.” Molly shot back angrily. Their mother had left three months ago to explore the ruins on Earth, and she had decided to stay there for awhile. Molly knew how close Kendra was to her mother and had seen her cry when the message had come in. Now, after speaking her fear out loud, Molly felt bad for bringing it up.
“Not fair!” Kendra told her in a gloomy yet very mad tone “I would not do that and you know it! I told you I would be back and I will!” The initial anger seemed to soften as the last words came out. “Besides”, she continued, “like I want to live on the Earth! Ha!” she began to chuckle at the idea of living on the strange planet. Hearing that chuckle made Molly feel much better. When her sister said something she stuck to it. She grinned at her sister
“Sorry” she apologized.
“It’s ok.” Kendra returned the smile.
Just then the house robot walked over carrying Molly’s breakfast. “Can I get you something?” it asked Kendra.
“Oh, Yes!” she answered “farfinnugeroerboger”. Molly let out a giggle as the robot tried to decode the order.
“ERROR! please speak clearly. ERROR!” it relayed in complete confusion.
When the girls had calmed down, Molly agreed to add another fifteen points to her sister‘s score.
“Don’t you have school today?” asked Kendra.
“Sadly I do.” answered Molly gloomily. As she spoke she began to search for her school stuff.
“Finally made it to level one! I am so proud!” Kendra teased her.
“No, I start level seven actually.” Molly informed her sister, “But I don’t really want to.”
Kendra looked like she wanted to press the matter, but was distracted when Molly asked her why she was going to Earth. Her face lit up, and it was clear to Molly that her sister wasn’t just pretending to love her job. “Well, we are going to assess the ruins!” her voice became a higher pitch as she went on in excitement, “There has been talk. Wild rumors about what has been found and what might be possible. Some scientists want to start rebuilding!” Molly pretended to be mildly interested in the topic even though she had been hearing all about it on the universal news. “See, I think they will try to bring it back. It was our founding planet, and all that, so I think they want people to, you know…” her voice lowered “start living there again!”
Molly gasped in fake astonishment. “NO! Really??? Make sure you take quantabytes full of notes and send me holograms!” Molly glanced at the clock and realized she really had to be going or she would be late. Kendra glanced up and noticed the time too.
“Bye, sis!” she kissed the top of Molly’s head and waved at her as she jumped on the transporter. For some reason, Molly tried desperately to memorize every detail of her sisters bright face. “Earth ruins, section 6, zone 27x”. Kendra’s face lit up with a smile as the teleported started to work and in an instant, she was transported. “
Two minutes later, Molly stepped into the same device, muttered “school” and transported away from the house.
Molly landed at the school far before she was ready. With a deep breath, she managed to get off the transport station just before some fat kid pushed his way through the crowd while showing off the newest implant he had installed in his head. Judging from his preoccupation with it, he must have gotten it over the summer. All around her, the fellow student body jumped off the transport bases. This room was always crowded on the first day. People pored in, but most of them didn’t have the sense to move on though, choosing instead to block traffic by socializing with friends and passing judgments on the new students. Molly tried to weave her way through the mass of people with a minimal amount of attention. Two girls suddenly blocked her way squealing and jumping up and down. Molly was becoming sadder by the second. This was their last year before they would be put in job placement, and she felt more alone than at breakfast. Her mother, her sister and her very best friend Amy were all gone. This was the sole reason that Molly did not want to go to school today. Everyone was reuniting with their friends, but all of hers were gone now. She had known Amy since level one! They did everything together, and normally it would have been Amy and Molly jumping and screaming. Molly pushed passed the two deliriously delighted girls, and tried to push the thought of the long year ahead away as well. For perhaps the billionth time she cursed Amy for being so smart she got to skip level 7. Amy had gone on to become a fashion research scientist working for the Io Consortium. She go to spend her days thinking up totally adorable outfits while Molly was left to suffer level 7 alone. She didn’t blame Amy for being a genius, she just wished she could be a genius too!
Just then her thoughts were interrupted by Jilly Backmen. “Hey!” she said.
“Me?” asked Molly confused.
“Ya, silly! How was your break?” she smiled and Molly decided that the question was genuine.
“It was fine I guess. My sister, got a job going to check out the ruins on Earth.”
“Earth? Wow that’s so, so far away!” she sounded excited like most of the others. “Hey, what are you taking?” she asked
“I haven’t looked”, said Molly pulling out her hand held organizer, “I got advanced studies of the milky-way, advanced astropyrogrophy, advanced Communication tactics, advanced ancient history, advanced fashion, advanced studies of mammal mutations, and a couple others I can’t pronounce.”
“Ha ha! Yea, me too, except I’m only taking a few advanced classes.” She smiled sweetly and then waved to someone in the distance.
“What do you have first?” Molly asked feeling like maybe she could stick it out this year. Molly noticed Jilly’s organizer vibrate.
“Uhh…..not sure. I got to go. See you around!” she called over her shoulder as she ran to greet a girl across the room. She was gone before Molly could say goodbye back.
Molly’s first class was Advanced Milky Way. At least it would be held outside, in the outer observatory, 37th floor, in the wing reserved for the advanced placement students. This would make the 4th year in a row she had studied some variation of the topic and she was sure there was nothing more she could learn. Molly avoided the magnetic people mover sidewalks, choosing instead to trudge slowly through the campus and take in the sounds of the new year’s beginning. The trip helped her settle her mind, but she didn’t get to her class until professor Moonshadow had finished assigning seats, so she took her place in the back row right as he told everyone to turn off their cubes, store their music tiles under their desks, and be quiet.
“This year, since all of you are advanced students, your curriculum will build on all you have learned during the past 6 years. We will start by injecting the year’s prerequisite reading into your heads.” With that, a collection of medical robots flew into the room through the opening at the top of the wall behind the professor’s head and hovered over each student. Medical robots were the reason that schools had taken quantum leaps from the ancient times. Once the electric code was broken that determined how information was stored on the brain, it took very little time before a painless, cheap way to alter the content of human brains was developed. She wondered why she had to go to school at all. Why not just zap the whole body of knowledge into your head at once and be done with it? That thought evaporated as one of the robots slowly came to a hover just in front of her forehead. Slowly, as the students closed their eyes and braced for the impact, each medical robot began to hum as if some invisible conductor had raised his baton. Each robot suddenly flashed in unison, then started to emit a very thin bluish light that carried all of the base information they would need for the course. 2 minutes later, the last of the robots were gone and Molly was trying to figure out what was new in her head and what was old. Most of it seemed like it had been there forever.
“Now, let us begin!” Moonshadow said to no one in particular. “This year, it is absolutely critical that we re-educate you on one very important fact that has been withheld from you for the last 6 years. Until now, you have been told that ours is the only planet in the galaxy that has intelligent life. You have learned about Earth and the mysterious ruins there, but this year you will learn the truth.”
The background facts started to whirl through Molly’s head like a blur. She saw the pictures of the ruins that had been sent back, but studied them in her mind for the first time. There were the odd, rectangular buildings made from some kind of stone that seemed to cluster together, the seemingly endless maze of lines that crossed the ground and seemed to be made of the same rocklike substance. No one was sure what they were for, but the seemed to be littered with pieces of metal and some kind of black flexible rings. Her mind fixed on the huge dome shaped structure on the western shore of one of the continents. Moonshadow had been droning on and on, but Molly had tuned him out as she toyed with her new memories.
“…the Lost Angles dome is where the epicenter of destruction began. After the great destruction happened, the remaining scientists established this dome to protect the rest of the planet from future impacts of the disease. Since this area seems to be where it all began and ended, it is here that the Interplanetary Science Foundation has been concentrating our most recent exploration of the Earth ruins.”
Molly’s stomach rolled and her mind was jolted back into reality by what had that idiot said. There was some kind of disease on Earth and her mother and sister were standing on top of it by now.
“Professor Moonshadow?” Molly interrupted, “If there was some kind of disease that wiped out the entire population of the planet, then how can the Foundation be sure that it’s safe for our scientists to go there?
“Excellent question, Molly, I am so happy to see that you have joined us again this year! The truth is we actually don’t know for sure. As you are aware, excessive solar flare activity from their sun has made reliable communications from our base there impossible and as of yet, no one has actually come back. It could be a problem with the teleporters, it could be that the work they’re doing is so amazing they don’t want to come back, or it could be something far more sinister. We’re just not sure. In the end, though, the potential for the advancement of knowledge outweighs the risk.”
Molly’s mind was nearing light speed. Two things became instantly clear. First, she had to get out of this class! NOW! Not later, now! Second, her family was in danger and she had to rescue them. When Moonshadow turned his back to the class and started fumbling with the interconnected holograph display unit, Molly stretched her leg as far as it would go and kicked the music cube out from under the desk in front of her. As the device rolled up the aisle, it immediately blasted the chorus from the latest Jupiter Brothers song. Jax jumped from his chair to retrieve the device, but Molly tripped him as he started to move. Jax fell into Darius, who threw out a hand to brace himself, hitting Verna in the side of the head. Verna, who never was one to do anything quietly, started shrieking about the potential brain damage she had suffered. Chaos had begun. When Moonshadow went toward Verna to inspect the cranial impact, Molly threw her organizer at the wall, hitting the button labeled “medical robot recall summons”, causing all the robots to re-enter the room. Moonshadow left Verna to shoo away the robots who were determined to retransmit all their knowledge. All of the students started trying to block their heads from more information downloads, and Jax had started a fight with some kid Molly didn’t even know about who owned the music cube. In the middle of all this commotion, no one heard the door slide shut behind Molly as she ran from the room and bolted toward the nearest teleported.
The hallways seemed too quite to have been the hall way she just left. Everyone of her foot steps sounded like thunder, but she couldn’t stop and couldn’t slow down. Molly new she had to get to an earth transporter because her hole family was on earth. Now knowing that she new that there was a disease and NOBODY had come back from the planet. Then she made the last turn in the hallway and was at a transporter she could use, Impatiently she placed her index finger on the scanner and said “Earth.” almost instantly she felt the transporter working. Molly closed her eyes and thought of all the happy times she had, had with her family. As a tear came down her face the transporter said in a robotic voice “welcome to earth!”
As she was stepping off the transporter, she opened her eyes and let out a small gasp at what she saw.
“This is not good, I think its worse then the scientists imagined.” she looked at the planet earth with horror struck eyes, and she stepped forward to met her fate…