I started writing this blog during a time I had thrown up my hands in disgust with a story I was writing. I was overwhelmed by insecurities, and by my own inability. However, the only way to become a good writer is to practice, so today I offer a glimpse at the newest installment of my cheesy story.
Kalen ran her hand through her shaved head. Her first days at the Center had been trying. She had been shaved, deloused and reclothed. She now wore the simple grey jumpsuit of a Noviate. The food was horrid. Protein pellets, more appropriate for chickens then real people, thought Kalen. Testing had begun.
There were only a few reclamations trickling into this Center from the villages. None were Kalen’s age. There were some children here, more then in the villages, but a young child was still rare. Kalen would be one of seven children of varying ages beginning Learning this week.
The first day of testing dealt with physical endurance. The Noviates were woken early and fed a breakfast of cool clear water. Just water . The stocky Learned administering the test claimed that a day of fasting would sharpen the reflexes. A rigorous obstacle course was set up, and and the Noviates ran it again, and again, until they collapsed. Each Noviate was then judged with consideration of his or her age, gender and build. Extra points would be awarded for leadership. Kalen scored near the center of the group.
The mental capacity test was the most rigorous. Kalen spent the day in front of a clear, living screen. Tentacle-like electrodes were attached to her skull to measure her responses. Though she feared what had happened with Ja’tem, there was very little Kalen could do to alter the test. The flashing images continued long after Kalen was conscious of them. At some point Kalen was carried to bed.
Kalen rubbed the sleep from her bleary eyes the morning afterward. She had missed First Meal. She never even heard the call. She slid out of her cot, one of many. Only a few were occupied in the grey circular room. The other Noviates were already up, and only a few of the lowest ranking Learners shared this room with them. Kalen gathered up the jump suit that had been cleaned while she slept. She should wash herself, but she was anxious to see her scores.
A fair haired boy, Sedrin Kalen thought, pushed past her on the way out. She hadn’t really gotten to know any of the others yet. She knew their names. She knew that Tew was the little boy from a village who cried himself to sleep at night. Sedrin was cold. A girl, Nir, was from the Center. She had a haunted look and talked to herself. Last night she woke up screaming in her sleep.
Kalen made her way to the courtyard outside of her room. The courtyard, a vast garden, was a meeting place where the Noviates met their instructors each morning, long after the Workers left for their duties, but before the Learners began their studies. The Noviates chamber was on the lowest level of a ten level tower. The expansive courtyard was circled by five such towers. The courtyard was a mixture of intricate stonework and botanical wonder. Screens of flesh were grown inconspicuously into the greenery at varying heights.
There was a special place in the Garden, a stone bench surrounded by vibrant red flowers that Kalen could not name, that Kalen had discovered on her first day. It was there that she went to activate a screen and discover her scores.
Kalen pressed her hand against the screen. She felt movement beneath her palm as enzymes on the surface of the screen worked to identify her. In a moment, her scores appeared. Kalen was relived to see that her psionic talent scores were in the average range for a Healer. Her other scores placed her in good stead to be assigned to a Medic apprenticeship, and were high enough that she would considered for a coveted Science post. It would depend on her performance during her rigorous First Year of learning.
Kalen felt something hit the back of her head. It was Sedrin. “You’re late. I’ve been sent to fetch you. Hurry up or you’ll be punished- and not by me this time either” She glared at him, but decided now was not the time for a battle. Kalen followed Sedrin to the morning meeting.
“Today will be my last one with you, and your last as Noviates.” Congratulations. You will all undergo two years of general Learning in your prospective fields before attaining to an apprenticeship. Tew, Lanos, you will go to the Tell of General Husbandy. You can hope for apprenticeships caring for, or even designing and growing the tools upon which our society functions. Lanos, a caretaker by nature, put a protective arm around Tew. “I’ll watch out for you,” the lanky girl whispered.
Kalen, Sedrin, you both scored very high in Healing and Sciences. You will join the Science Tell. You could become Medics, Engineers, or even attain to the Learned Council. Sedrin shot Kalen a contemptuous look.
Arn, and Sothe- you will be assigned to the Military Tell. Based on the leadership you show there, you could receive apprenticeship in a variety of fields. The boys- good friends from a nearby village- grinned slyly at eachother.
Nir pulled away to the back of the group and looked as though she might run, but her movement caught the Instructors eye. “ Ahh, Nir, you will, of course, become what you were engineered to be. Your psionic scores place you well withing the Psion Tell- a very elite school. Your birth givers should be pleased with themselves, as well as the team that created you. You may even make it to the colony ship! Air and Space would be learned to have you! Nir’s dark eyes darted. She looked frightened. “I-it wasn’t me,” she whispered.
The Instructor ignored her and dismissed the group. “You are free for the afternoon, but must report to your schools tomorrow morning after First meal. You can find the most direct route on any Screen.
Kalen was excited at the prospect of a free afternoon. She had not spotted Driel since they had arrived on the Flyer, and strangely, she missed him. The screen would only tell her what her Chief Instructor programmed it to- the contents of the next days classes were already available- but it would be of very little help in finding that curious boy.
The bone chime rang for second meal. Kalen weighed skipping her daily protein pellets, but decided against it- she’d already missed breakfast and her stomach was beginning to rumble. As she turned towards the Nutriment Hall, Sedrin grabbed her by the arm.
“Wait. I want to talk to you”
“What do you want. I missed first meal, and though the food here is awful, I’m still pretty hungry.”
“I’m sure you are…I imagine that living in a village gave you very little training in controlling your natural passions. You must not be used to skipping meals in order to follow higher pursuits”
Kalen tried to control her growing frustration. Blowing up at Sedrin would just prove to him and everyone else that she was as backward as they all assumed she was “Did you need something?”