Author's note: I wrote this a couple years ago and, although my writing style has since matured, I decided that... Show full author's note »
The ChildrenThe next day, at exactly 9:00 a.m., after receiving good lucks from Andy and each other, the four children were separated. Dean was put in a room and told that he had three hours to create a piece of artwork. The council would then judge whether his artwork or the MIND’s artwork was better. Sarah was placed on a track, and put in a 5 mile race against a robot. The robot would be set to run at a constant, but fast speed. Mark was placed in a room with the MIND and a giant screen. A game called “chess” was explained to him, and then he played three games against the MIND. Whichever of them won most of the games, would win the test. Caitlin and the MIND (with a robot to act as hands) were each given a young, and severely hurt, child and told to do what they deemed best with it. They could ask for any materials that they wanted. At noon, the two children would be examined by the council members.
Andy was told to wait in the conference room they had used yesterday. His job, he told himself, was to not freak out. Although, at the age of 51 years, he thought, it has been a while since I’ve ‘freaked out.’’ If Andy had ever heard of praying, that is probably what he would have done right then. But seeing as religion was outlawed, and he had never been exposed to one of the few people who disobeyed the law in this effect, Andy did something rather close to praying, and he hoped and hoped with his mind, heart, and soul. He could only wish it would be enough.
At noon exactly, the four children, Andy, and the ten council members assembled once more in the conference room. Andy hailed the children as they came in, but refrained from doing likewise with the council members. Sometimes he found himself doing slightly childish behavior, and he just couldn’t see the council members approving that kind of thing.
The woman, the council leader, got up and spoke. “The tests have been completed. We will go through the results of each, starting with the art, then the athletic, next the chess, and finally the injured child test. The boy who made his picture should now come forth with it.
Dean rose from his seat holding a piece of paper in his hands. The piece had taken him the entire three hours, and looking at it, he felt it was the best piece of artwork he had ever created. He could only hope it would be enough. Taking the paper over to the council member, he set it on the table in front of them. The council members stared at it in shock.
Dean, a boy prodigy, had created a masterpiece. He knew he was a good artist, but had never really grasped how good of an artist he was. Years later, people who looked at this piece of artwork, and knew the artwork of old, compared it to works by Leonardo de Vince, Michelangelo, and the like. It was the best piece of artwork the boy ever created, but he had climaxed at a point none had ever reached before. Using just a plain piece of canvas, a pencil, and some paint, the boy made a picture of from the Americas in the past. He had captured a herd of wild horses reaching out their hooves to fly across the plains of the Wild West. You saw each individual hair, and could hear the horses’ breaths. The clear blue sky contained a few wisps of clouds, floating lazily along in the breeze. The sun’s warm rays reached down to caress the dark earth beneath the horses’ bodies. Dean had captured a snapshot from a scene more than 300 years ago, and had captured it like he had been there himself. The painting was miraculous.
When MIND’s picture full of geometric shapes and lines was brought forth, the council members had no thought but to make the winner Dean. Only the woman, the council leader, voted for the MIND’s work, saying it was true art of the time.
Next up was Sarah. She later described the race to the others. She raced a robot that was set to run at four minutes and 20 seconds for each mile, adding up to a total of 21 minutes for five miles; 26 seconds faster than the current world record. This speed was also pushing the robot. Robots were not actually created to go very fast for a large distance. Robots with add-ons such as turbos could do so, but not your everyday robot. Sarah had kept neck and neck with the robot through the third mile. After the third, Sarah had dropped slightly behind the robot, still chugging out the distance, with an expressionless face. Through the fourth mile, Sarah had kept the robot right in front of her while she had tried to find the energy to catch back up. In the fifth, and final mile, the opposite started to happen. Sarah’s legs, strong, athletic, and never-failing, had started to hurt. In all other races she had ever competed in, it had always been a battle with her mind, to convince herself she could spend that last bit of energy needed. Now, it was a battle with her body. She had seen herself falling behind, and tears had started to form in her eyes. Then, Sarah got mad. Not the angry mad, where you want to go around hitting something, but the furious mad. This robot, a stupid, metal, machine, she had told herself, is beating me. I have never been beaten. Ever.
And with that thought in mind, Sarah had done the impossible; she had pushed herself past the limits of the human body. In that last quarter mile, Sarah caught up to that robot, and passed it. Sarah ended up finishing that race with a time of 20 minutes and 58 seconds, two seconds faster than the robot, and 28 seconds faster than the past world record. The two council members standing at the finish line saw it all, and the medics too, that later helped her away to rehydrate her, and let her have a few hours of sleep. Mechanics took the robot away, to give it a new resurfacing on its feet, because it had been worn away in the race. No one could contest the outcome, as Sarah had won fair and square. The children were two for two.
A council member next stood and read the moves, in order, from the chess games. Few in the room actually understood what the moves meant, but Mark would flinch occasionally as he noticed a mistake he had made. Andy, Sarah, Dean, and Caitlin did know what it meant when the council member read “Bishop to Kings-Rooks-6 mate.” Mark had lost the first game. Mark flinched less the second game, because he had known it better at that point, after playing the first game. He did bang his head on the table once and call himself “stupid” when one move of his, later in the game, was read. He remembered that move clearly, as he remembered all his other moves, and it had almost cost him the game. However, four moves later, “Castle to Queens-Knights-7 mate” was announced, and Mark had won the second game. Mark had been told upon exiting the games against the MIND, that he wasn’t allowed to give the results of the games to the others. Unfortunately, Mark had an extremely good poker face, so the three other children and Andy had no idea if he was about to burst into tears, or start dancing on the table. Dean for one, knew he wished he could practice telepathy. Finally, the last move of “Queen to King-1 mate” was announced, and the winner along with it. Mark had won the final chess game, making him winner out of two of the three, winner of the test, and, Mark thought to himself, probably the best chess player in the world. Not that it is a particularly popular sport. A pity, seeing as how much I enjoyed it.
The final test, between Caitlin and the MIND, or as Andy thought, between having a heart or not, was undecided. The two children that Caitlin and the MIND and its helper robot had been given, were submitted to the council. A printout of what the MIND had to say was read aloud. “Child has 12 percent survival chance. There is not enough reason to try to save it. More resources would be spent trying to save it than would be advisable to spend on such a small insignificant human. Resolution: Do not spend resources on it.” The child had been left, sitting in the inactive robot’s arms, with nothing done to take care of it. Andy, the children, and some of the council members, looked at the printout in disgust. Caitlin stood and announced what she had done.
“I too could tell that the child had little chance of survival, but so did many of the children who came into the Institute. I requested warm water, soap, and a tub, to bathe him in, because he was covered in grime” here she stuttered “a-and blood. After he was clean, I asked for warm, dry clothes, which I put on him, and blankets, which I wrapped him in. I then took a bowl of soup and a spoon and fed him. He is at the age where he should be able to feed himself, but he was so weak, he could barely open his eyes, let alone make his small hands clutch a spoon. He ate three whole bowls of soup. Three! I only stopped feeding him there because I was afraid he would get sick. I then set him in my arms and rocked him to sleep. He was half dead when I first set eyes on him this morning…well the MIND says more than half dead, and he may not survive to the morning, but at least I know I did everything I could for him. He was loved for three short hours, probably more than in his whole life combined, and I actually saw him smile in his sleep. I doubt that boy has smiled ten times, over his lifetime, but he smiled once this morning when he was happy and comfortable. If the boy, whom I took liberties to name Will, seeing as he had no name, dies because he is too sick and hurt to survive, then at least he died after meeting a little bit of kindness in this cold dark world.” Caitlin paused, a sad shadow passing over her face, and added on something else in a quieter tone, “Sometimes, that is more than some children, lying in their graves, can say.”
When the council members raised their hands to vote, four members voted for the MIND, and six voted for Caitlin. Dean, Mark, Sarah, Caitlin, and Andy turned to each other happiness written all over their faces, and laughed out loud. “We did it!” they cried, and they had. The four children had beaten the MIND and a robot, in all four tests. Andy turned to the council members and triumphantly stated,
“And now, you must listen to what you have to do!”