The Rapturing – Final Chapter
After cleansing, I surveyed my domicile. I had a private social area, kitchen, and bedroom. I shared a cleansing room with nine other domiciles. My clothing was hanging in a closet and was the same for every day, black pants and a red shirt. Approximately two ticks after my Rapturing, Administrator-Delta appeared at my portal. Accompanying him was a young woman covered in dirt and soot.
“Ele-65545, this is your new domicile. Go down to the cleansing room. There is a uniform for you to wear. You have a quarter tick.”
“Yes, Administrator,” Ele-65545 replied then quickly scampered down the hallway.
“Spear, one question,” Administrator-Delta insisted, “How did you know she wasn’t the real Hope?”
“Hope taught me combat. I knew her every fighting move. If she had raptured forty-three people, her fighting skills would still be strong and she would use the moves that served her best for quick kills. Additionally, she would stay in shape and not be soft to the touch. And lastly, her scar did not start as high over the eye as the fake one.”
In a short period of time, Ele-65545 returned from cleansing and reported to my domicile. Administrator-Delta addressed her, “Hope, this is Spear.”
At the mention of my designation, she quietly gasped and bowed.
“You are assigned to assist him until the end of your days. Consider yourself his property. Spear, our deal is complete. Instructions will be listed in your goggles about procedures and schedules. I’ll expect you at meeting exactly one cycle from today.”
He paused at the doorway, “I look forward to working with you.”
When Administrator-Delta left, I closed the door and turned to Hope. I could tell she was studying me wondering who I might really be. With so many Adm clones, it would be easy to mistake a familiar face with a friend.
“What did you say when we were in the combat room and you kissed me?” I asked.
Suddenly a flash of relief came across her eyes. With a smile she answered, “I said, ‘Finally, I have you where I want you.’”
“Welcome home, Hope.”
She rushed to hug me. Her embrace was firm and her muscles were taut. “How did you pull this off?”
“Soon, but for now, return to your old domicile and retrieve your tools. Is there anyone there who is important to you?”
“No. Just good co-workers.”
“I assume you are still farming in the nature caste. While you are there, retrieve some cayenne. Now go quickly.”
When she returned I had her grind the cayenne into a powder while I searched through her tools. I found a small hinge-jawed tool for removing worms. Walking into the kitchen, I boiled water and placed the pinching tool in the water for a few deciticks. After making certain it was sterilized, I wet my finger and rolled it in the cayenne. I then shoved it as far up my nostril as possible.
The pain was nearly overwhelming. My eyes watered and mucous poured from my nose. Grabbing the pinching tool I drove it into my sinus cavity, clamped down on a foreign object and yanked it out of my skull, feeling its tendrils as they ripped free from small arteries and nerves. The world grew dark and silent around me.
Moments later, I came to my senses and Hope was holding my head in her hands, sponging my face to clean off the blood and mucous. Wiping my eyes with my uniform sleeve, I looked around for the pinching tool. It was lying on the floor a few feet from me with a small mechanical object still in its jaws. I quickly got to my feet and took this monitoring sensor to the cleansing area. After washing it, I examined its circuitry and tendrils. “Heartbeat, respiration, and…looks like brainwaves.” Quickly I dumped it into the flushing tank.
When I arrived at the domicile Hope asked an obvious question, “Why did you do that?”
“Administrator-Delta told me that they’ve monitored me since I was young. The two Adms in sequence before and after me developed hemorrhages. The only time they could have implanted me was when they put me to sleep. Subcutaneous monitoring devices would be noticed eventually. The sinuses were the only logical place for a device that could monitor breathing and vitals.”
She put her arms around me and I embraced her with enthusiasm. We went to the bedroom and crawled into the bed. After this day, sleep would be required. But lying next to Hope filled me with a sense of happiness that I could not release. I looked at her still auburn hair, her beautiful green eyes, and touched her light skin. The slicer had only cut a razor line down her face nearly exactly like the nick she gave me to keep my attention during combat practice.
“Hope, tell me about these last few annums.”
“Adm, I am Nature Caste. These last few annums have been filled with hydroponic gardening. My slab was surrounded with other slabs just like in Pod. Well,” she chuckled, “not exactly like Pod.”
I smiled at the mention of our adjoining slabs. After Hope had declared her emotions for me, I analyzed the wall between our slabs and devised a way to collapse it and reassemble it. We spent many nights holding each other and kissing, but acted completely sterile outside of the slabs.
“I continue to practice combat, but I am the only one in my section. Nature and Tech share recreational facilities and many feel like it’s not necessary after Pod.”
“I am glad you survived your Rapturing.”
“Yes,” she said sarcastically, “I survived it. But it honestly wasn’t that boring. I could have done without the half-day slide show presentation.”
“What are you talking about? A form of lecture?”
“Well, yes. First we met in a meeting hall filled with other podlings. Then the lecture about civic responsibility. Then we were separated by our Castes and divided into work groups. We were given a tour of our facilities. I met Administrator-Epsilon who is over the Nature Caste, then I was taken to my slab and workstation. Was yours any different? Other than the grand domicile, I mean?”
I explained to Hope the events of the last podling Rapturing. She listened horrified at what I told her.
“That’s not normal. That’s not normal at all. Why would they impersonate me?”
“I can only surmise that they read my Rapturing journals. The impersonator only referred to information I wrote in them. And, of course, they were full of half-truths and misrepresentations.”
Silence descended on us as we both pondered the situation that we were in.
Hope turned on her side so she could face me. “Why am I here?”
“Hope, I need someone I can trust. Someone whose combat skills complement my own. There is a very dangerous game being played. I have changed the game somehow and someone is trying to use me or put me out of the way. I don’t know if it has to do with breaking the lock code on the edugoggles or the herbs I used to season the food and counteract the serum in the protein base.”
“You did what?” Hope asked shocked.
“Didn’t you notice after I started preparing the food how much better we got in combat? Faster, stronger, quicker reflexes?”
“I just thought it was training, maturing.”
“I need a partner who can play a role in public without breaking, but who can also dispatch an assassin. Right now, all they know about you is that I have emotions for you. Sentimentality. But I’m hoping you will be my secret weapon.”
“What role do you want me to play? Companion? Slave?”
“Assistant. I will send you on errands. I will ask you to keep up with schedules. And it has to be real. But in addition, I will need you to be a bodyguard and a spy. There will not be anyone like you. No Caste prepares a person for what I am asking you to do. Do you think you can do this?”
“Do I have a choice? After all, I am now your property, right?”
“Oh, no, you have choices. You can be this spy and go with me everywhere I go. Or, you can be my companion sharing my affection and the benefits of my station. Or, you can live here in this domicile and never have to work as long as I live, which could be decannums or just a few cycles.”
“Hmm, let me think about this,” she said playfully. “Which one of these choices allows me to kiss you and hold you?”
“All of them.”
Administrator-Delta took his seat at the large conference table with the other Administrators.
“What happened, Delta?” asked a woman’s voice from a speaker located at the center of the table.
“Viceroy, it seems that Spear is far outpacing the other candidates. I assume you saw the Rapturing?”
“Spear, I think, was incorrectly designated. He shows more in common with Major than with Brute.”
“He was aptly named, Delta. He is keenly able to make quick, decisive action without regard to authority. He is fine-tuned, observant, and inventive. He shall lead our Elite Squadron.”
“What about Hope?” asked Alpha.
“These last two annums her training has prepared her to be what he needs. She is prepared to fulfill her purpose,” the Viceroy replied.
Beta questioned, “Viceroy, why did you choose genetic clones for this experiment? This has cost the Politic much in resources and time. We could have used both to train…”
“Cease your babbling, Beta. Unlike you and your kind, children never question how they are raised. They simply accept it as the norm. By capturing their minds from and early age, we control their thought processes. Our philosophies will guide their future. This experiment of ours will conquer and subdue this world, not with mechanical weapons, but with children.”