Authors: Simone Pond
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Young Adult, #Romance
Ktown Waters Publishing
Copyright © 2013 Simone Pond
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Ktown Waters Publishing, Los Angeles, CA.
Book design by
“Freedom of the individual is where you start, and then the individual can say, what am I going to do with my own freedom? How am I going to use my imagination and my creative power to invent realities of my own and make them fact in the world as opposed to sitting back here passively and letting elites manufacture reality for me?”
– Jon Rappoport
“For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead.”
– Thomas Jefferson
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
– John 8:32
The Most Important Day
his scribe was taken the year of Ava Rhodes’ inception. This is her story.
“Residents of the
City Center, we are gathered together on this 21st day of June 2310 in the Kingdom of Los Angeles for the 14th Graduation Day. On this most important day the members of Royal Court will select their upcoming Successors to rule over the kingdom.
“In addition to bringing in the new ruling class, the King and Queen are pleased to extend their deepest gratitude to the older generation who has served the City Center these last eighteen years. We wish you a most wonderful retirement at Ret-Hav. You have served well and now it’s time for your royal treatment. Today, as in all previous Graduation Day ceremonies, we also celebrate the inauguration of our younger generation stepping into their new positions of service and we look forward to the next eighteen years.
“But now, the moment everyone has been anxiously awaiting, the final competitions between our ten Successor Candidates! These ten will be contending for their place within Royal Court. Following the competitions, votes will be calculated by our most gracious leader, Chief Morray, after which he will assign a title to each Successor Candidate, starting with King and Queen.
“And let us not forget, today is also a celebration of Chief Morray. Without him, none of us would be here.
“Let the competitions commence!”
Ava stood in
line at the Studio wearing her ballet attire. She glanced at the nine other Successor Candidates; their stony expressions revealed nothing. Expressing emotion was a sign of weakness inside the City Center. Some of the candidates stretched along the bar and whispered about Graduation Day only one week away. They called it the most important day, the one they had been training for since inception. Ava yawned, exhausted from staying up late practicing her solo. She’d rather be asleep inside her sleep pod, but she didn’t have a choice—attendance at morning rehearsal was mandatory. Missing rehearsal or showing up unprepared meant some form of punishment administered by her Handler—the tyrannical and imperious Helena. As one of the ten individuals competing to succeed the throne in Los Angeles, Ava had certain obligations to uphold. That morning was no different than other mornings.
Uncomfortable among the others, she fidgeted, looking around for a distraction. She watched the mid-ranking facility attendants in their gray tracksuits moving about with robotic precision, entering information into display monitors for the day’s agenda. Her partner match, the dark-haired statuesque James, smirked and stretched his muscular legs along the bar she leaned against. Rather than endure another one of his lectures about the importance of winning the final competition, she focused on a news feed at a nearby hologram station. She honed in on a female Info-tainer whose face was so luminous it was difficult to decipher from the white backdrop. Almost as though she only consisted of two sapphire eyes. She spoke with the same singsong cadence of all Info-tainers, which irritated Ava to her core, but she was willing to suffer for a few minutes if that meant avoiding James before Helena arrived to monitor their morning rehearsal.
City Center we forecast another
day. Air-quality levels are at an all-time purity level. And today starts the official countdown for Graduation Day! We’re only one short week away. Successor Candidates have been working diligently to prepare for their final competitions, and throughout the week we’ll stream historical footage of their journey to this most important day. Who do you think will be our City Center’s next King and Queen? Be sure to send in your votes! And while our most gracious leader and creator, Chief Morray, always makes the final decision, your votes do help determine the popularity of each Successor Candidate. Oh, and we haven’t forgotten about you, our loyal older generation of City Center residents. Plans are being finalized for the most exceptional send-off to Ret-Hav—where you’ll live out your remaining days in the lap of luxury. We expect this Graduation Day to be the most
“And don’t forget about tonight’s virtual event in the Arena—the Water Polo rematch between East and West City Center Sectors. We’ve heard buzz that Chief Morray has a pre-game surprise. Do you think he’ll share a sneak preview of Graduation Day festivities, or a performance from our Royal Court? Send in your votes before 3 p.m. today!”
The monitor dissolved from the pair of sapphire eyes to a commercial for Ret-Hav. Ava watched images of white-sand beaches and turquoise pools of water glide across the screen. Close-ups of content faces laughing and sipping fancy drinks filled the display. On Ret-Hav there weren’t any rules. After retirement people could do as they pleased.
“Ret-Haaav… Ahh… Soo relaxing…” whispered the soft voice. “Where you can breathe in fresh air while you dip your toes in the crystal waters. Eat whatever you want. Sleep till noon. It’s the haven you’ve been waiting for. On Ret-Hav you’re free to do whatever you please. You worked hard for it, so sit back and let us work hard for you.”
Ava hated the commercials for Ret-Hav with their programmed enthusiasm and overzealous branding. Like anyone needed to be sold on the idea of retirement. She felt a pang of jealousy. It would be another eighteen years before she could live rule-free. She turned her attention to another monitor displaying a male Info-tainer giving a grave report of happenings outside the City Center walls. He exuded a stern and serious demeanor, like the majority of higher-ranking males trying to emulate the City Center’s leader, Chief Morray. Some even wore the same black-framed glasses Morray wore, though their eyesight was perfect.
“Conditions outside our City Center walls continue to worsen. The air levels have reached toxic heights due to an increase in the sun’s lethal rays, and a new strain of the X5T epidemic has been detected in various surrounding regions. Ongoing disputes between the northern and coastal Outsiders have exacerbated. Chief Morray has implemented extra precautionary measures. Security along the perimeter has been placed on Level-5.”
Ava tuned out the news feeds; the way the Info-tainers gave opposing information had always bothered her. What was the point of inundating people with such an optimistic portrayal of the Inside only to crush it with looming threats from the Outside? Threats she often questioned because they seemed more like scare tactics than reality. But she kept quiet. Nobody ever challenged Morray’s reports.
Elizabeth, a fellow Successor Candidate, approached Ava and looked her up and down with her topaz eyes. “Your hair looks rather… interesting,” she said, flipping her glistening black hair over her shoulder.
“I woke up late.” Ava untied the messy bun releasing her mane of auburn waves. Even without a trace of beautification, her allure surpassed the other four female Successor Candidates and they knew it.
“Again?” Elizabeth dipped into a series of demi-plies, showing off her muscle strength.
“I was practicing.”
“Are you prepared for the final challenges?”
“We shall see.” Ava glanced at James balancing in a one-armed handstand, knowing she didn’t have a choice.
Harmonic bells chimed, signaling the start of morning rehearsals. The Handlers entered the lobby wearing black tracksuits. In the old days Handlers lugged around digital tablets, but over the last few generations Chief Morray had converted the mainframe to a holographic system. He believed in efficiency.
“I see appearance wasn’t a priority today, Ava.” Helena approached the team and towered over them. Handlers were designed to be sturdy and durable. Built to last.
“I woke up late.”
“Shocking,” James said.
Ava looked at her partner and smiled, trying to remain cordial. All Successor Candidates had been designed to fulfill a position in Royal Court after Graduation Day, but James wanted only to be King. Winning the final competition was his sole purpose—a lesser rank wouldn’t suffice. Ava didn’t care about winning or succeeding the throne. She had no interest in serving as Queen to the Los Angeles City Center for the next eighteen years, but she went along with what was expected of her. She had learned long ago to hide her differences.
“I stayed up late practicing,” Ava said.
“Not only sloppy, but sleep-deprived.” James looked at Helena, shaking his head.
“I’ll be fine. Don’t get so tight about it,” Ava said.
“You even sound slack.” James looked at Helena for support.
“Ava, please watch yourself. This is an important week. There’s no room for even the slightest error. Everyone is watching. And your performance of
still needs attention.”
“Did that information make it to your brain, Ava?” James said.
“Unlike you, I want to succeed the throne. I was designed to be King. Not a pointless Duke or some pithy Count. And since they stuck me with you, you better get into the game. If I don’t win, I promise you will live a long and miserable life.” James brushed her aside and followed Helena into the studio.
“Something you’ll never let me forget,” Ava mumbled.
Inside the rehearsal studio, Helena turned on the hologram, transforming the room into a moonlit forest. Ava stood under the glowing lights and began her performance. James and Helena watched as she transcended into an enchanting creature: she twirled and glided across the floor, her long legs elegant and graceful. At the end of her solo, she stared off toward the gleaming full moon, her eyes glistening. She loved dancing—on the dance floor she was free to express her emotions and not be scrutinized by anyone.
“Impressive,” Helena said, spraying Ava’s body with muscle healing agents.
“Of everything, you definitely excel in ballet,” James said.
“Thanks,” Ava smiled, a bit shocked. James never doled out compliments.
“Now, if you could perfect your scores in the other areas, we can win,” he added.
“My scores are fine in the other areas. According to the Info-tainers, I’m a favorite,” Ava said.
“You’re still number two in combat,” Helena reminded her. “But I have plenty of training simulations arranged this week to get those scores up.”
“And you’ll want to get those scores up, Ava dear. Trust me, you don’t want to spend the next eighteen years as my Duchess.” Ava didn’t want to spend the next eighteen seconds as anything belonging to James.
“I’d graciously accept the role of Duchess.”
“You’d graciously accept shoveling dirt, or working at the pipelines in the East Sector,” James said, shoving Ava aside.
“You always know just how to motivate me, dear James.”
James had given Ava a hard time since they were children practicing for their competitions; he’d tell her the Planners miscalculated her DNA coding, and that she wasn’t fit for any rank in Royal Court—especially Queen. He thought breaking her down would force her to work harder, which it did, but it also forced her to retreat. By the age of seven, she had learned to overcompensate to meet his standards, and conceal her different traits. Though she couldn’t please James, the people favored her; she had something special, an unspoken quality the others lacked. Nobody, not even the intrusive Info-tainers, could pinpoint what made her unique. Ava figured James was right about an error in her DNA coding, but that glitch—as he called it—seemed to give her an advantage over the others.
“Time to bring in the other dancers and finish out this rehearsal,” Helena announced.
Chimes sounded and the second-tier dancers entered the studio and took their positions. Ava waved to her friend Delilah without Helena or James noticing. Delilah had been her best friend since they were young girls. Outside of dance rehearsals and performances, their friendship was frowned upon because of their different ranks. Ava didn’t care if Delilah was a mid-ranking entertainer, or if the upper ranks in the City Center shunned their friendship, she loved Delilah. She could be herself when they were together. Whenever she had a break in her regimented training schedule, she’d run off with Delilah to watch classic films, or walk barefoot in the Garden Sector. But their carefree days were numbered: after Graduation Day Ava would be condemned to serving the next eighteen years with James in Royal Court, most likely as his Queen. Delilah would either be selected to join the Royal Troupe or remain in the City Center to train the next generation of entertainers. Either way, communication between the two would be banned. This is how things were structured, nobody ever thought to question why.
The grueling rehearsal went on for five continuous hours. Helena released the dancers and requested physical therapy for James and Ava. She instructed the attendants to remove all visible signs of stress to their bodies; her job was to keep her team in exemplary physical condition.
“You have exactly one hour of free time before afternoon combat sessions,” Helena reminded the team.
“How about a beautification treatment during the break?” James looked up from his cocoon inside the steamy hydration tank. He took a shot of relaxa-mist and rested his head back. Ava never touched the stuff for fear she’d let down her guard and start telling people what she really thought, which nine times out of ten wasn’t in alignment with City Center protocol.
“I already have plans.”
“What plans?” James asked.
“What I do during my free time is not, and never will be, your business.”
“You’ve been my business for eighteen years, and you will be for the next eighteen. Get used to it,” James said.
“I think you might be wasting your credits,” Ava said.
“Whatever are you talking about?”
“The relaxa-mist seems to fail at achieving its purpose.”
James took a few more hits and lowered himself into the hydration tank. Ava looked toward Helena, who was calculating point averages.
“I hope you’re not meeting that entertainer girl,” Helena said without looking up.
“That’s my personal business.”
“Ava, you are my personal business. Be back by 2 p.m. sharp, or I’ll send out the guards. You won’t be pleased with your penalty.”
“What more can you do? Cut off my feet?”
“I can ensure your last days inside the City Center will be spent practicing in seclusion, which means no more secret visits with your little friend.”
Ava sank into her hydration tank and let the hot water relax her tight muscles. Why fight a losing battle, she thought. Her fate had been sealed since inception. She had no way out.
After a long afternoon of rehearsing and doing simulated tests to measure strength, coordination and strategic aptitude, Ava needed to unwind. She left the training facilities with the others, thinking about how nice it’d be to watch a movie before the big Arena event.
“Coming to dinner with us?” Elizabeth asked. Ava knew she wasn’t being nice or polite. Elizabeth wanted information about her scores.
“I need to rest a bit before the Water Polo rematch,” Ava smiled.
“She never wants to come out with us. Afraid she might have fun,” James laughed.
Ava curtsied to the group and walked off.
“Too good for the transporter?” James called out.
“I need fresh air,” Ava yelled back without turning around.
She glanced up to the violet-colored sky and though she couldn’t see the dark solar panels that encased the City Center, she knew they existed. On the Inside, there was no such thing as fresh air. Fresh air: just an old figure of speech she must have picked up from a movie. She walked along the main street in the Northern Sector. Dusk settled over the city, creating pale pink hues throughout; glowing incandescent orbs floated in the air to give off more light. The cylindrical dwelling towers illuminated from yellow to green and blue. As she walked, the mainframe synced to her internal microchip, and holograms of news feeds followed her along the walk home. She didn’t want to hear any more chatter about Graduation Day.