The sky from which we came, a black lagoon,
Then trapped were we within silver cocoon,
A scene so brightly, lights like fires went by
En-robed were they within a see-through sky.
She enunciated the stresses of the lilting poem from the surface of her crystal reader, and placed it down onto the glass table in front of her. With a gesture to the aft-facing window, she asked her ancient literature students brightly. “Now, let’s discuss what Eamesworth was trying to say with this particular passage. It’s a fairly straightforward excerpt, the first quatrain in a three stanza, two couplet style known to the Ancients as a “sonnet.” Each line contains 10 syllables, a pattern of stressed and unstressed for each. Elliot. This was your project, was it not? Tell us the historical significance of this poem.” Elliot glanced at his shoes for a moment, and then lifted his head to look into the eyes of his fellow classmates. Most of them were at the age to be considered Adults, Elliot surpassed them by one more. In far older times, his age would have been cause for great celebration and subsequent inebriation, but thoughts of historical pastimes were far from his focus as he set about explaining the context of Eamesworth’s Ode to the See Through Sky.
“Eamesworth was one of the charter board-members of the group who were banished from Utopia.” He began confidently, having memorized the account by heart. His teacher promptly stopped him.
“Not Utopia. First Colony.” Her irritating voice drove a wave of heat and blood through his face, partly embarrassment before his peers, but mixed with a haughty self-righteousness. Remembering the words of his Adviser, he willed the emotion to fade, using observation to quell the outburst. “Yes ma’am. First Colony.” He even flashed her as embarrassed as a smile as he could muster, defusing the situation.
“They were given a period of time in which to build our Primarch.”
Again, she interrupted. “Primarch meaning Prime Arcology.” He nodded, ignoring his childish defiance. “An ‘arcology’ being an architectural project intended to create a self-sustaining, ecologically friendly environment for about a billion humans to survive.” He continued.
“We see from his poem, written around the time the Prime Arcology was launched, that he greatly romanticized the idea of living aboard the Prime Ark despite the conditions he was forced to endure as a result. Banishment, namely, from his birthplace. Our ancestor’s birthplace.”
“And what of the subject of this piece? A ‘see through sky’?” She purred, much to the amusement of the other students.
“The vacuum of space. It is transparent, though it appears black.”
She nodded, satisfied, and adjourned the class for the day. “Remember, your projects are due by the latest on Friday at Over-Dark, 30 degrees. Remember to calibrate your pocket-techs!” Her shrill barely sounded over the mumbling hubbub of the class as the students in their crisp, colorful uniforms trooped out past the bulkheads of the classroom.
Stepping out into the brightly lit Upper School Atrium, Jonas stopped to take a good look at the binary star system the Primarch was orbiting this celestial season. He recognized the nearby nebulae as the Foxhead System, which meant they were doing the yearly gravitational induction tests at the nearby black hole cluster. Shaking himself out of a reverie of thought, darker and deeper than even the black holes themselves, Jonas took a seat just outside of his classroom at one of the plush, faux-leather chairs around a standard TableOS. It’s shimmering glass screen was, thankfully, blank for the moment. No news or updates from the Bridge or Central.
He dropped his things and took in a deep breath of air. A sweet, delicate smell, like the flowers in the seemingly endless Upper Cosmic Gardens but different. It smelled clean and fresh, but also of learning, of books, of his education. Equations swirled neatly in the air, vaporous odor invisible to all but the nose. His nose twitched a little as his thoughts were drawn back to her.
I wonder if I’ll get to see her again, he thought, musing as he cracked his textbooks. Wouldn’t it be nice for her to join our class?
Jonas nearly fainted when a blaring alarm sounded just above his left ear. In an instant, his entire body felt very cold. A shivering sort of terror that leaves one’s ass icier than a glacier in winter. Jonas could feel the similarly cool and watchful eye of the cerebral scanner whirring just inches behind his head, its drug-laden injector poised carefully above his brain’s left hemisphere. The derivative of x^2 is 2x. Pi to the tenth digit is 3.1415926535. The theorem of cognitive dissonance posits that freely suffering for a cause will generate an adversive arousal state resulting in– Such rubbish continued to pour out of his mind, a conditioned reactive effect to the omnipresent devices that were, unfortunately, trained otherwise.
“Jonas 26535897, Heir to the County of Aft-Wharf 93. Your presence is requested at Ark-Sec. Please report immediately. To resist a summons is to commit a felony and subsequent detainment measures will be enforced. Thank you.”
The device pipped expectantly as Jonas shakily rose to his feet. Three strike rule, he repeated in his head. Three strike rule and its my third strike.