004 (chapter 2)
apologies for the hiatus, lets see how things go now.
also, Ray, as you can see, new character. Probably want 1 - 3 more sections with Aral
In university, Aral had had the distinction of being the only CS student who didn't need caffeine, at least in the morning. He woke up with the sunrise and his biological clock or whatever it was, kept him going till at least siesta time.
As he refilled his cup from the ancient, and barely washed, office machine, Aral regretted his earlier complacency. According to the calendar, the sun wasn't set to rise for another month. His second winter in Antarctica was proving as bad as the first.
Coffee consumed, more tolerated than savored, he made his way to the containment wing. After four months, he had the routine down, essential considering his grogginess.
First, strip down to your underwear, not required, but otherwise the heat was unbearable. Some of his coworkers went commando, but management frowned on the practice.
Next the contact suit, a loose fitting disposable cover that, according to it's manual, had enhanced bacterial environment patches that would not only trap pervaders, but also change colors. Like all the pervader-free colonies, Eden 6, invested heavily into detection technology. The patches had given him comfort when he first started his job, but upon mentioning them to his sister Lynn, the family biologist, she had pronounced it wishful thinking at best, and delivered him the microbe 101 lecture that made his hair stand on end.
It made Aral all the more careful as he struggled into the real protective layer, the containment suit. The seals gave a satisfying pop as they closed around his ankles, wrists and neck. He took a deep breath of air already stale under the protective hood and plexiglas visor. That was the part that got unbearably hot. But it was a discomfort Aral could put up with, if it meant the integrity of the colony.
Completely outfitted, he passed into the containment area and through it's various access points until he came to the interview room. Beyond the glass wall sat Martin Elias. His records gave his age as 16, but dressed in the oversized jumpsuit, his recently shaved body covered in peach fuzz, he looked closer to 13. His frightened, worried expression contributed to the impression, and reminded Aral how he had felt in that position, barely 2 years ago.
They're stories were similar as well. Savings turned over to a shady business promising the wonders of paradise and delivering passage on a barely sea worthy boat. Aral had been dumped at ancient summer research station with barely enough supplies to make it to the colony.
The kid hadn't been so lucky. He, and his fellow refugees had been left on an abandoned oil platform, with promise of a pick up in a few days. Two weeks later, they'd constructed a raft - the capsized remains had been spotted by Eden 8's boarder patrol. According to the report, there had been at least five survivors, but 8 was closed to outsiders, and by the time the rescue team from Eden 6 had arrived, only Elias remained.
He'd been in bad shape, and his month in quarantine was spent recovering. Aral glanced at his report. If he'd made it this far, then Elias must have tested negative for all know pervader's proteins. His normal flora profile didn't conform to any known infections and the limited psyche evaluation rated his responses within human normal parameters. (some stat term for 83% non pervader status) But that was statistics, and if Elias was to be admitted to Eden 6, they needed to be as close to 100% as possible.
"Good morning," Aral said.
Elias's head snapped up, staring at the one-way mirror uncertainly.
"It's morning?" he asked, uncertainly. Contact with uncleared refugee's was kept to an absolute minimum. When Aral had been through the process, he'd sometimes waited for more than 3 hours, often without a clue of what was to happen next.
"As close as we come around here." Aral tried to make his voice as warm and comforting as possible, given the containment suit, he wasn't sure how successful he was. "My name is Aral, I'm your case officer."
Elias looked more confused. Not much was known about the Eden colonies to the outside world, especially their entrance requirements. While it was true that most were either completely closed, or only open to the very wealthy, the hope persisted that if you could just get there, the streets would be paved with aseptic gold. The pervader plague had done much to educate the population to the prevalence to parasitic microbes, but many still clung to the belief that they could be purged of any colonizing bacteria. Aral had held that hope when he made his way here. It was suspected that Eden 9 had a functioning bubble isolation program, but any oddness could be attributed to 9, as they hadn't conversed in all but the most cryptic communications for years.
"I'll be interviewing you for the next several hours. We'll be looking at your responses and from there it will be determined if you can eventually gain entrance to Eden 6. In that case, I will continue to be your case worker, helping you adjust and integrate into the colony."
"Yes, yes. I very much need to be accepted. Everyone outside knows, the end of the world is coming, but not here."
"Quite possibly," Admitted Aral, not a fact he slept easily with considering his relatives and friends he left behind. "But, you must know that Eden 6 is a self sustaining colony. If you are accepted, you will be matched with a job based on both your qualifications, and the colonies needs, which, I must warn you, can be very ungratifying." A lot of septic and sterilization work, as Aral had found before being promoted to his current position.
"Yes, yes, I will do anything."
Word repetition. Aral wrote in his notes, and added two checkmarks. It was probably just overeagerness, or a language tick, but any abnormality was to be monitored.
"Today, we're just going to go over your personal history. Colony 6's clean status is because we're extremely careful about who we admit. It's essential that you be completely honest with me. As a potential citizen, you will share responsibilty for our survival."
"Yes, yes. Anything you want, I will tell."
Aral began the interview in proper. Starting with Elias's parents and his childhood. There were a few holes to be filled in, but mostly he was guaging the boy's mannerism and behaviour. In the last month, Aral had become intimate with all available aspects of the youth's life.
It was an almost perfect record, far better than Aral's had been when he was admitted. But just as you couldn't clear the body of it's microbes, there was always something. For Aral, it had been someone. That Colony 6 had still taken him, more than anything else, spoke to their fairness. It was to that ideal that he gave them complete allegience.
It was to that ideal that he treated his current position with such respect and care. He like Elias
"As you're probably aware, Elias," he said carefully, "Each nation has been given a rating for pervader's infiltration. And while no nation is completely free from prevadors, it is the Prevador level 4 that is the most serious. I want to know if you have spent any time in any of the level 4 nations."
"No, never." replied Elias, too quickly.
"I'm going to read them off, just to be sure. Even if you only had an airplane stop over, even if it was before the official pandemic started, I need to know if you were ever in any of these countries. Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel,"
To each of these names, Elias shook his head.
"Japan." Was there a pause? It was possible he didn't remember the choir trip his middle school attended. It was so long ago. But a quick glance at the biometrics indicated otherwise.
Please tell the truth, Aral silently pleaded.
"No." said Elias.
"Vatican city." Aral continued. But the rest was just for show. At the hour mark, he said.
"That will be all for today, Elias."
"Did I pass?"
"We still have several interviews, I'm sorry. I'll see you tomorrow. Get some rest, okay."
"Okay, thank you. See you tomorrow."
But he wouldn't. When Aral finished with his report, they would begin injecting a sleeping gas into the room. When Elias was deemed unconscious, he would be packed into a safety pod and launched towards Australia. Colony 6 made sure all rejectee's were picked up. From there, it was up to Elias what he would do.
Aral longed for a shower. A long one, with lots and lots of soap. It wasn't just a reaction to the protection suit. He still had two more interviews for the day, plus some exterior cleaning work - it was only a partial promotion.
He began to punch in his security code for the next interview room when screen flashed red. "Priority Assignment! Confirm?" the only response was yes. Next came the assignment:
Aral Mellis, Rank 2 Citizen, report immediately to Security Council. It was all Aral could do not to sink to the floor. What had he done to deserve this?
Collaborative Story between Ray and Kim
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