This story will not be taken down unless I have found a need to edit it. Updates will not be regular (sorry about that) but the story will be finished eventually. Comments and reviews are welcomed flamers are ignored.
Chp. 1 The Begining of Everything
I knew it was fake. Nothing this good would ever happen. Could happen. But I still loved every part. I was surrounded by a warm, welcoming glow. I was laughing happily as I was spun around. Around and around I went till the spinning stopped and my warm glow melted into an ugly grey and a familiar ringing. Flipping over on my side, careful to mind my wings, I looked over to my companion's empty bed.
No, oh no. They've put her to sleep… Wait don't say that! For all you know it could just be a test day. Yeah a test day, they happen once a while anyway. This one's just a little early. Stop worrying she'll be fine. Putting my dark thoughts aside I got up off my bed and changed my clothes, putting my old clothes through the small shoot on the left wall. Near fifty's bed. Inside my head I yelled at myself. I needed to stop this. Even if, if she was gone I couldn't let it affect me. Besides it had happened before and all of us-
Quickly I stopped my pacing and sat on the bed. I would act as if nothing affected me, like a wall, strong and able to withstand everything they could throw at me. Once fifty and I had witnessed thirty-seven after she broke down over thirty-four, the escorts came in and took her out of the lunch room. Thirty-seven was different ever since, she became jumpy and stuttering, never stepping an inch out of line. Fifty and I attempted to ask her what had happened but she never spoke of it and acted as if it never happened.
The heavy metal door that went into our cell opened and a tall, robust man with greying brown hair walked in. He was my escort. An escort is a person required to go with you to be able to move around, they would take you to lunch and classes and to any tests in here, or the Jail as twenty-five once called it. A bathroom was at the end of each room and if you needed water you got it from the sink. At least when the water was actually running. That was why fifty and I had a couple cups of water in the corner of the bathroom. Just in case.
As he roughly took my arm I knew where he was to 'escort' me to: The first part of my lessons. As he led me down the many corridors I thought about what Master Pruitt would teach us. The first part is always math, addition or subtraction, the same as it has been forever. The second part we'd practice writing or go outside. But the latter we did very sparingly and only in the court. The court was just a small fenced-yard, a place for physical exercise. The fence however, surrounding the court yard and beyond was about 10 feet high and electrified.
After the first part of the lesson was lunch. Lunch was the only way we could see the rest of us. Like twenty-one and eighteen. Everyone was there and it was the only time to be social. Or at least wave. We could talk and trade experiences, or see if someone has been put to sleep, if there is anyone new or if it is someone's test day. Like fifty.
My escort stopped suddenly and I bumped into him and looked up. He looked down while his mouth curled upward in disgust. He punched in the code for the next corridor. This corridor held all (or rather most I guess) lessons. Mine was two rooms down. The escort left once I was in the room, muttering about miserable little mutts. The door sealed shut behind him.
… This was new. I looked around the room but Master Pruitt wasn't anywhere.
"Miss Vivian these are your charges. 42 and 50."
"I was told I will be teaching children." She said slowly. 'She' was about 29 years old. Despite the fact of her Master's degree her voice was light, and sounded simpleminded and rather naive. This idea wasn't helped by her looks. She was small with a petite build, and short, thin, blond hair laid wispily all over her head.
"In some retrospect, you are. Look Miss Vivian I am not here to guide you around and baby your every move. You are a teacher aren't you?" Strictly commanded the other. He could almost be the opposite of his friendlier companion. A stock of greying-brown hair was atop his head that missed the shoulders of his suit by about 2 inches. Glasses hid his eyes and frown lines appeared on his skin.
"Yes…. But I mean…?" By the end of her sentence her voice had gone from being calm to unsettled.
"Just go in there and teach the little mutts. It isn't hard. You signed a deal Miss Vivian, and I'm sure the boss would hate for you to back out now." As he finished he opened up the back door and pushed her though. The technician in the room turned around to face him.
"You really think she'll be able to do this. The thing's almost a kid herself. Just getting her hired was difficult."
"They'll be much more likely to trust her than us though."
I stopped my search for Master Pruitt as a Master's door opened. There were only two doors in the room, one for Masters, and one for the rest of us.
Who is that? Instead of Master Pruitt, who is tall and rather cold, came this new human, who was unimaginably small and looked rather put off. As if someone had told her a rather off-hand comment that was not appreciated. Who was this? Is she a Master, a Doctor, an Escort, or was she something I had not yet seen here? Well she was certainly not like any Doctor I had seen, they were always cold and distant or near and put-off just by your presence. Most likely a Master, a very odd Master. As she sat down I got out one piece of paper and one pencil to wait for instruction. When none came I looked up in waiting, was this new Master unorganized (something our original master drilled into us never to be) or was she waiting for fifty. She was listening to some contraption that I hadn't seen before though it dimly resembled a phone, faintly I could pick up noise and a voice from the other end. I cleared my throat and told her that fifty would not be here today. When I looked back up the new Master was staring at me, her eyes wide in disbelief and never blinking. I crouched down as far as I could in the seat. Anger? I could take that. Hate? I could take that. The utmost loathing of us? Not very well, but I can get over it. The one thing that always unnerved me was the staring though. The pure disbelieve and shock made me feel not quite like a mutt but rather a mistake. Like I wasn't supposed to be here, like I wasn't supposed to exist period. After a minute or so she looked away, still in shock, and told me in one of the meekest voices I had ever heard to start copying down and solving the math problems on the board. The board was blank, she seemed to realize this also as she rushed over to the board and began to jot them down. Now she was just embarrassed, the redness of her cheeks gave it away. Definitely unorganized. I began copying down the problems as I felt her eyes staring at me. I suppose she was trying to figure out just what I was, but you never know. Maybe she's deciding whether or not to quit being a Master. I stopped and turned as she started to speak.
"My name is Miss Vivian, and I will be your new teacher… Hello." She sounded frightened and shocked, as if she had never been here before. Was she new? I never really met new people. Or at least I never really noticed. My escort changed once but besides being just a little older there was almost no difference. Fifty is better at noticing the small things about people.
"Hello, Master Vivian." I spoke in monotonous voice; I had learned that people here get upset to no emotion. For a second she looked shocked then nodded her head in recognition. She walked over but stopped as my tail twitched slightly behind me. Once again she had that bug-eyed look to her. I curled my tail to my right side and unsuccessfully tried to sink lower in my seat. She would be gone by the end of lunch. I though sourly. After all why would want to work with us? No one else did. It was only out of the 'generosity' of their hearts that they even took care of us. That's what my guard told us. No one believed it. Well, at least fifty and I never believed it. While you can talk to the rest at lunch, to discuss your thoughts on lessons or Masters or anyone else would be treacherous if overheard. We didn't know what would happen and hoped to never know. But to share thoughts with your friend in the safety of a cell after lessons were over is okay. Just never speak too loud or too much.
"Please come up and answer the questions on the board." The quiver was still there but she seemed to be trying to hide the initial shock. As Master Vivian commanded me I came to the board and started to answer. 34 plus 56 equals 90; 7 times 6 equals 42; and 96 minus 23 equals 72. I went back to my seat as Master came back up to the board. Starting as just muttering under her breath she spoke aloud.
"Seventy-two is wrong. Ninety-six minus twenty-three equals 73. Just a simple mistake, good job on the rest though." Her voice had taken a more confident and warm tone. As she turned around and smiled at me I was frozen, my eyes wide. Who does she think she is? Who does she think I am? She noticed my expression and her face shrunk back to one of uncertainty. She began to go back to her desk as a bell rang. It caught her off guard.
"Don't worry," I said, realizing that no one had filled her in. On anything. "An escort will take me to lunch. Then afterward I'll come back here for the rest of the lesson."
"Thank-you." She was smiling again. The fur on the back of my neck bristled. It was so odd. I'd have to tell fifty. If fifty was even alive.
My head raced with thoughts as the escort led me back down corridor. The lunch area was past the cell corridor (where the rest of us were kept). Would fifty be there waiting for me, or had they put her to sleep her as they had to thirty-four? When we got to the door that kept me from knowing fifty's fate I paused. I didn't want to know. If she was gone I didn't want to know!
The escort took this as a refusal. He grabbed me roughly and shoved me though the door making me land face first on the tiles. The escort snorted quietly and the shuffling of everyone else stopped as the door sealed shut. I didn't move. I felt a pair of hands, too large to be fifty, grab me by the shoulders and pull me up towards my feet. Looking at me in the eyes was thirty-seven. Thirty-seven was the only one of her group (30-39) to be known to still be alive. She was about 4"5, while taller than me she was much thinner and had an unhealthy look to her. Her fur was a spotted, cheetah cub coat. She was the closest in age to fifty and me so we formed a little group at lunch. She looked at me wide and fearful but also curious. I wondered why but then it hit me.
They wondered why fifty wasn't with me.
I fought as tears pushed their way forward. Thirty-seven lead me to a table as whispers started to flow around the room.
"Another one's been put to sleep." Whispered twenty-one.
"Poor fifty." Muttered twenty-five. They stopped talking as the door once again opened.
"Forty-two?" A child's voice asked. A younger, softer voice then mine. I waited for the door to close before running up to fifty and giving her a small hug. She was 3"9 and officially the baby; she was also the only tiger of the group. She was my little sister; not officially though, the only siblings we knew of were twenty-five and twenty-six. That's why most were nice, perhaps not adoring, but certainly nice to thirty-seven. She was the baby of our 'screwed-up' (twenty-five's words not mine) little family.
I took fifty's hands in my own and led to the line for food. By this time the rest of us had turned away. As we got into the line I smiled at fifty. She returned the favor and squeezed my hand.
"I promise forty-two, it was just a test day. I also heard that there might be a new group coming soon." My eyed widened at the news. I wonder how many were created, how many would live. We are as of right now (well not really according to the news) the youngest of us.
Our food consisted of several pills and ground up substances. Most of it was unknown though I did know a couple from talks with twenty-one. The orange pill on the right was protein and one of the ground up substances was sugar. Of the entire meal the sugar was our favorite. On one side we had juice. This was the only time juice was available. It tasted sweet but had another taste to it, one I had no name for. Out of the line fifty and I went and sat in the corner with thirty-seven. Fifty and I sat on the left while thirty-seven sat on the corner. She never sat down at lunch unless her back was in a corner. We think it made her feel secure.
We ate in silence. Wait. Master Vivian! I had almost forgotten about the new Master. I tugged on thirty-seven's and fifty's sleeves motioning for them to slide closer. I told them about how Master Pruitt hadn't been here today and how a new Master took his place. Fifty was excited while thirty-seven wondered if this was a good thing or a bad thing. I told her I had only had the new Master for half of the lesson, so I couldn't make a judgment. She told me to be careful as a bell rang and escorts came.
As we were led down the corridors back to the lesson I heard thirty-seven behind us. As my ears swiveled back to hear she caught up to us. She smiled hopefully but then jumped in fear as her escort (a man whose blond hair was much too brilliant to ever be natural) opened the door on their right and quickly slammed it shut. I mouthed sorry to her as fifty and I turned around the corner.
Our escort punched in the numbers for the door and then pushed us though. As fifty and I slowly walked to our desk we took everything in. The floor had been swept, and the corners of the room no longer had their dust. The walls, normally a plain, clean, white, had paper in an assortment of colors detailing how to write letters and numbers. As we sat in our seats I saw Master Vivian. She was at her desk in front of one of the Master doors, listening to the phone-like contraption I had seen earlier. I turned back to fifty and motioned to her to look at the desk. I didn't speak as we were taught to never disrupt a lesson or a Master. I knew what she was thinking by the look on her face. Is this even real?
Master Vivian looked up then down then up at us again, only now realizing she was no longer alone. Confusion crossed her face for a second then vanished as she got up. She went up to the board and began writing the alphabet flowingly and precise and my mind flashed back to this morning and the ugly scribble I had produced, and my ears flattened back in jealousy. Fifty noticed and tapped my shoulder lightly. I looked at her motioning to the chalk in Master Vivian's hands. She nodded once and I put my ears back up in a neutral position. I can't let myself slip like that.
By this time all the letters A though Z were up on the board. Master Vivian turned around, opened her mouth and began to speak but then closed it. She grumbled a little and then became embarrassed before turning to us.
"Would both of you please tell me your names." As she finished her sentence fifty raised her hand. "Yes?"
"Well-l I'm fifty and she's forty-two." I had caught the momentary stutter and wished that I had said it first. Her faced looked confused as she asked us if those were our names. This time I answered.
"Yes, Master Vivian." She looked rather uneasy and again I thought back to when I first saw her and she looked so shocked as if this was some unfathomable dream. Maybe it wasn't a game, maybe something had happened to Master Pruitt and this inexperienced, unprepared girl got stuck with us.
I blinked and decided that I would treat her the same way as any other Master before her. That would be the best plan, if this was her actual personality that was fine, but if this was trick then we wouldn't lose anything. I would tell fifty the plan once our lessons were over.
I looked back up at the board as Master Vivian finished writing the alphabet. She then walked over to us handing us each a piece of paper and a crayon.
"Okay, I want you two to copy the letters A, B, and C ten times each, got it? When you're done raise your hand and I'll come around to check your work." She was still smiling happily. The nervousness and fright from earlier seemed to be gone. I could sense fifty's uneasiness at the new Master's behavior, her own tail flicked back and forth uncontent with the unnatural happiness she gave off. I turned my head down toward the paper and began to write. After a while I had finished, the A's and B's were atrocious but the C's were at least somewhat satisfactory. I raised my hand and soon Master Vivian was on her way. She looked over the letters and soon looked back up at me.
"Great job 42! Work on your A's and B's a little more but the C's look perfect. Repeat the other two letters 10 times each again, but good job!" And with that she proceeded to pat me on the head. I was frozen, fifty too. No one, especially not a Master would ever touch us, most directly avoided to. But here she was patting a mutt's head.