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Hybrid This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   Remnants of thethunderstorm clung to every leaf. One drop fell onto Kiyoshi's pale, sleepingface. Consciousness crept into every pore of his body, letting him know that helay on soft turf. Breathing the damp air, Kiyoshi felt northern winds gently stirthe green carpet, spinning above the ground as it danced with the trees. The seabreeze reached his nostrils. Roused by the odd surroundings, Kiyoshi blinked atthe rays of the afternoon sun diffusing the shade of the peach tree above him.Wide-eyed, Kiyoshi looked around and found himself at the top of a hill with thelone peach tree overlooking the sea.

Behind him, a mountain loomed. Below,a faint electromechanical hum throbbed like an engine. Mind racing, Kiyoshi triedto identify the sound in his central neural organ. Memory ran like water througha clogged drain. Although it failed him, Kiyoshi's exploratory sense of learningdrove him to clarify his vague recollections.

Kiyoshi walked, firm anddecided, toward the noise. As he approached, a man acknowledged him with a nod.His piercing eyes and well-cut hair gave him the look of a trained specialist, asamurai ready to die honorably. Beyond the man lay the machine, a stationaryMulti Transport Vehicle, waiting for its pilot. The man and machine lookedfamiliar, but Kiyoshi's memory was still dormant. Part of him wanted to run, butthe better half suggested talking as much as possible to get information.Instinctively, Kiyoshi clutched the left side of his chest, touching a turquoisedolphin hidden in his clothes. Startled, he looked at it with amazement, knowingthat it bore something of great importance.

"Good. You are awake. Howdo you feel?" asked the man in a tone reflecting the wisdom of his years.Kiyoshi dropped his hand and wondered about the man. He seemed like a lion,intense and authoritative, but with a foreboding recognition of someone ready toleap on its prey.

"I do not know. I do not remember anything,"Kiyoshi responded. "Who are you?"

"I am Ezekiel - yourfather. I have longed to see you ever since you were born. Did you know that yourdolphin is more than a piece of turquoise embedded in cloth? Your mother gave itto you before she died. Take a closer look and you will find our first familypicture imbedded within its eye. You can thank your mother for that. She insistedon giving you this, the last token of her love, so that you would remember herthough she died soon after you were born.

"What is afather?"

"Hmmm. I see that the effects of the HS environmenthave not worn off. Your former diet contained a drug that induces a lapse inmemory. Should you leave the Leviathan Tree System, the change in environmentwould trigger the drug to work for the estimated time the HS requires to spend incapturing you ..."

Ezekiel's words floated in Kiyoshi's mind. All theterms sounded familiar, but only a few formed a picture. The Leviathan Tree washis habitat; its trunk was typically 550 feet in diameter and rose a mile high,hence the name. Kiyoshi knew it gave shelter to humans, providing a home in itsprotective layers of bark, cork, epidermis, cortex and other tissues. Water wasobtained and purified through live xylem tissues, and sugars were taken fromphloem vascular tubes to serve as food. Indoor transportation was limited to pithelevators, located in its middle, and the root systems, a network of trainsrunning in the artificially connected roots. People could move from one tree toanother in this manner without exposing themselves to the outsideworld.

The HS, disturbingly potent, was another matter. Kiyoshi could notremember anything about it except that it contained institutions of appliedlearning for mathematics, science, and art such as communication, electronics andmedical safety. Kiyoshi interrupted and asked, "What is the HS?"

"HS? That is Hyper Synergy, founded by the Universal Governmentafter the Revolution of Biological Dominance. You do not know what those are, soI will give you a crash course in history. Are you ready?"

"Yes,go on," answered Kiyoshi, focused and fearless.

"Before theRevolution, buildings were everywhere. A strange occurrence caused a suddengrowth sprout in plants. Although its cause was unknown, the Leviathan Treesseemed to cluster around radioactive fields, particularly nuclear stockpiles andpower plants. At that time, scientists predicted that insects, reptiles andamphibians would grow exponentially to adapt in the new environment. They saidthat mammals, birds and fish would remain relatively normal - a theory that wasproved partially true. As plants took over, birds grew in size and population.Flora and fauna populations exploded, except the human race. Even marinecreatures grew ten times as large, making a mockery of the once-majestic bluewhale. Do you understand?"

Kiyoshi nodded, digesting the informationwith the attentive eyes and ears of a child.

Ezekiel continued, "Whenthe biological shift caused a sharp decline in human population, people all overthe world joined together to survive. The Universal Government occurred at thesame time as the construction of biomechanical colonies. The UG would enforceuniversal laws to all mankind, changing society through its legislative,executive and judicial powers. Then the Universal Government pronounced theestablishment of the HS. They set rules so rigid and logical that any child wouldrationally come to believe he came from the Production Chamber. The majoritybelieves what the HS tells them, partly because nothing else is available, butmostly because the HS reports what is law. The HS rationalized every piece ofinformation, leaving no room for doubt, much less wonder. It was the UniversalGovernment's responsibility to ensure that any claim or accusation would beinvestigated until proven true, causing society to get rid of any falsehood, eventheories that scientists wanted to prove."

Ezekiel breathed slowly,like a dragon preparing to shoot flames, and went on. "After societyembraced the new standard, it became confused. Everyone drowned facing the truthabout human existence, and it backfired. Human vice became hated so that everyconvict was executed, every wrongdoing corrected, every hungry mouth fed, andevery religion declared false. Extremists, who committed wicked acts for sheerpleasure, became the prey of society. Not a teardrop of mercy reached theirgraves. They were branded condemned mortals. Society thought the only salvationfor them must come from death. By the time the HS was completed, the newgenerations were unaware of any corruption, and innocence waspreserved."

"Innocence? What isinnocence?"

"Exactly. The preservation of innocence led societyto take another extreme: the termination of the parental role. Since manychildren followed their parents' wicked habits, or learned their parents' racial,religious, or cultural biases, society demanded that parents leave their childrenwith the system. Many parents agreed. In this system, parents work in isolatedlocations while their children grow in the HS system, to create a new societybased on proven fact and devoid of wrongdoing. And now, your generation does notknow who or what parents are.

"But no matter how many parents agreethat androids provide an environment free from human vices, your - our -sacrifices will not protect innocence. The loss of the family structure madesociety dysfunctional. Innocence cannot come through ignorance. By exposingyourself to evil, you have a choice. It is a risk that parents must take. Afterall, it is our duty to teach you to choose what is right. Innocence is the purityof heart that makes a person true to him or herself. You are not innocent, evenif you have not committed any crime, because you have no knowledge of what isreal and true. To be innocent is to choose to be innocent - not ignorance of whatis evil. You, Kiyoshi, have to carry the torch of light to restore to Innocenceher true name."

"Why me?"

"Because you are myonly son, a member of the new generation. We have each other and theresponsibility to do what is right. I took you out of the system because Johannaand I love you. By that love, I risk my life and everything I have."Trembling with emotion, Ezekiel looked at Kiyoshi, trying to stop tears fromfalling. Then he whispered in a determined vow, "Understand that I will notfollow the system if it means losing you - I have already lost yourmother."

Kiyoshi did not know what to do. Should he join his father?To refuse would mean getting lost, having a potential enemy, or living in the HSagain. To accept would be to go against all odds, a leap of faith in a father anda shot at changing the world. Kiyoshi looked at the man and declared,"Ezekiel, let us go."

With a tight smile, Ezekiel acknowledgedhis answer and headed toward the MTV. "Johanna died with your name on herlips, saying, 'No matter what happens, you will always be in our hearts and weshall always be together.' Your mother would have been proud of you. Despite yourconfusion, you come to me in peace - you choose to understand our situation. Onceyou regain your memory, you will understand more and see what I mean. Then tellme what you choose to be. If you choose to go with me, I will train you tosurvive, cultivate your skills and advise you. After that we can help otherparents reconcile with their children. The way would be difficult, but I assureyou it would be the right one. Should you refuse, you can choose to go to theLeviathan Tree again or stay at my home. Understood?"

"Yes. Ihave to ask you more about Mother though."

"We can do that alongthe way."

"Very well. Who's driving?"

"Do youknow how to drive the MTV?"

"No, but I can try, can't I?"

"You are as adventurous as I was at your age. Let me show youhow.

Bodies moving, minds racing, father and son sat at the controls.Kiyoshi prepared to imitate his father's every move. Smoothly levitating off theground, the MTV retracted its wheels, recoiled its underground drill, andexpanded its hydro-aeronautic propulsion system. With the impulsive interesttypical of a 17-year-old, Kiyoshi was soon at the controls, headed in thedirection his father pointed - toward the looming mountains to chase thethunderstorm.

Navigating through the storm with difficulty, Kiyoshifinally understood that Ezekiel was molding him. The hotter the fire, the purerand stronger the metal. As they approached their destination, vibrant rainbowsshot out of the sky, cutting through the clouds and brightening the canopy below.Ezekiel hinted to Kiyoshi its meaning. Without the rain from the thunderclouds,the rainbows would not exist. Only when he faced tribulation could Kiyoshi becomea fine-tempered blade. He would be a sword that penetrated the system withprecision, truth and light.

Training had begun.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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