Page 69


She nods and enters a code on the companel. Above me, the ceiling splits wide, and out of the gaping hole, two spotlights burst on. Blinking against their brightness, I watch the mapper descend. It’s a large dome, but as it comes closer I realise it’s not solid; it’s a series of connected wheels and gears so intricately bound together they appear to glide against one another. My eyes shift to the doctor ducking through the observatory door, and then to the nurse, who is checking my medcuff. As the device lowers over my head, I try to determine how it functions but a beam of green light breaks across my vision and I’m blinded.
‘It’s normal,’ the nurse murmurs next to me, fiddling with my medcuff. ‘You’ll be able to see again after the procedure is over.’
I arch up from the table and try to shove the device off my head.
‘Deep breaths, Adelice, or I’ll have to get the Valpron,’ she warns me.
This forces me to settle back into the darkness. My arms and legs tingle with the chill in the sterile room. Without my sight I feel trapped and immobile, like a fly in a spider’s web.
‘Adelice.’ The doctor’s voice sounds in my ear. ‘We’re beginning the test.’
I take a strangled breath and let it out slowly.
‘Adelice, where were you born?’
‘Romen, in the Western Sector.’
‘Good. Answer specifically like that,’ he says. ‘What were your parents’ names?’
I take another breath and answer, ‘Benn and Meria Lewys.’
‘Your father’s occupation?’
‘He was a mechanic. He worked on the Guild’s motofleet in Romen.’
‘And your mother?’
‘She was a secretary.’
‘What is your sister’s name?’
‘Amie,’ I whisper. Each time I say her name, I see the wispy curls behind her ears.
‘Please repeat.’
‘Amie,’ I say more authoritatively, pressure building in my chest.
‘Are your parents living?’
I suck in a breath and exhale my answer. ‘No,’ I lie.
‘Adelice, did you maintain purity standards before your testing?’
‘What kind of question is that?’ I demand, my hands clenching into fists.
‘Please answer the question.’
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘I maintained purity standards.’
As if I had a choice. Girl neighbourhoods sit on the opposite side of the metro from the boy neighbourhoods, and trips into the metro are carefully chaperoned by parents during approved movement hours. It wasn’t always like that though. My grandmother whispered stories about how things had changed since she was a girl. On my fourteenth birthday, a month before her removal, I asked her about the marriage profiles in the Bulletin. Girls at academy brought them to hide under their desks, taking turns passing them to one another and giggling at the pictures of the boys.
‘Why are there marriage profiles in the Bulletin?’ I asked her. ‘Can’t girls and boys meet in person in the metro after they turn sixteen?’
My grandmother had deep brown eyes and she turned the full force of them on me, studying me before she answered. ‘It’s not as easy these days for girls and boys to meet. Parents don’t like the chance of it, and most young people get tongue-tied when they meet the first time. ’Course –’ she chuckled a bit – ‘that’s not so different from before segregation.’
‘I never realised there was a before and after to segregation,’ I said, feeling very small under her wise gaze.
‘There’s always a before and after to everything since before humanity began,’ she said with a twist of her mouth, ‘and there’ll be an after to humans someday, too. But yes, when I was a girl. We lived together then – boys and girls. No separate neighbourhoods.’
‘Did you know grandfather then, before . . .’ My hushed voice trailed into a question. Even talking about boys seemed strange.
‘He grew up next door to me,’ she told me, widening her eyes in mock shock at the confession. ‘I think it was easier to meet the marriage requirements then. Girls didn’t marry complete strangers.’
‘But purity standards . . .’ I couldn’t finish the thought. It was too embarrassing.
‘Oh, yes, those,’ she said with a wink. ‘They were harder to keep.’
I didn’t ask her if she kept them; it seemed too personal a question, even for grandmother, and because I was really embarrassed by her wink. ‘My mom and dad were profiled though, right?’
‘Yes, our children were the first segregated generation,’ she said, and there was a trace of regret in her words.
‘But they loved each other when they got married,’ I reassured her, not understanding the sadness in her voice. ‘So it’s okay.’
‘Yes, they love each other,’ she said in a soft voice, and I felt peace settle into my chest. I didn’t ask any more questions that day. Only now do I regret the answers I lost.
‘What was your academy ranking?’ The doctor’s voice filters in over the memory, and I realise I’ve been answering the mapping questions without listening. Stupid mental stimulant.
‘I was ranked in the top quarter.’
‘Were you disciplined often?’ he asks.
‘You guys have my file, you know this,’ I say, fighting the urge to shove at the mapper again.