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The chronicles of vallan.., p.1
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       The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp: Novice, p.1

           Morgan Feldman
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The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp: Novice
The Chronicles of Vallanie Sharp: Book 1

  Morgan L. Feldman

  Copyright 2011 Morgan L. Feldman

  Table of Contents

  Chapter 1: Scia

  Chapter 2: Mom

  Chapter 3: Civitis

  Chapter 4: Central

  Chapter 5: Mr. Prime

  Chapter 6: Altus

  Chapter 7: City Outings

  Chapter 8: Zack Septus

  Chapter 9: Patient 218

  Chapter 10: Upper Floors

  Chapter 11: Clint

  Chapter 12: Novagene Design Core

  Chapter 13: Escape

  Chapter 1: Scia

  You probably don’t know me, but you might recognize my name from the headlines. I’m Vallanie Sharp, though most people call me Val. The only time I ever hear my full name is when I’m in trouble. I’ve heard it a lot lately, usually in a headline followed by the words “traitor,” “dangerous,” or, my least favorite, “the girl who destroyed the dome.”

  I guess that’s true, in a way, but what the news shows is only a tiny fraction of the truth. So let me add my canvas to their paint, and hopefully the full picture will emerge.

  Growing up, I never wanted to leave the dome. I believed what they told me: that the air outside was toxic, that the few who survived were warped, twisted and criminal, and that leaving was the most dangerous and stupid decision a teen could make. I was perfectly content within the 200 miles of sanctioned land that lay encompassed by the magnificent web of electricity and metal alloys.

  I was a good kid. I did what I was told. If you asked me where I thought I’d be when I was eighteen, I would have said in Uptown Civitis, competing for the title of “Best Perceiver of the Year.” Not on every homepage as a wanted criminal.

  My mother was the artist who crafted the Guardian: this large granite sculpture of a huge winged creature that sits on top of the City Center, and looks as if, at any minute, it could swoop down and rip you to pieces. People say that was her greatest masterpiece.

  She says I was. She was never satisfied with other people’s work, so when it came to a child, she couldn’t choose from the few thousand pre-designed genetic charts. Instead, she started from scratch, spending years attempting to design the perfect baby (within the legal guidelines, of course) and found that it cost a fortune to do so. She knew she wanted a Researcher, which meant she needed an above average IQ, and that alone put her in the top bracket when it came to price. With each sculpture sold, she began tucking away part of the profit for specific add-ons: a bridge for blue eyes, a train for straight hair, a tower for honesty.

  Even with Mom’s careful sculpting, my chart was only average for a Researcher, and my grades reflected that. I completed the usual primary education before choosing the path of a perceiver. At the time, I hated it. I knew, one day, I’d be out there protecting the city and saving lives, but I had a hard time seeing past the next dull test while I watched my Worker and Techie friends finish their paths and start their apprenticeships.

  By the time I turned sixteen, every one of my friends had started working and most had moved away. Sid was the only one who stayed close enough to home to celebrate with me, and I was glad that she didn’t comment on the fact we spent it indoors watching movies and eating cake with Mom. Each day after seemed painfully long, bringing worse and worse feelings of despair.

  It was a full two months later when I was introduced to Scia. In the mean time, my wardrobe had darkened, my hair had changed color five times, and I had watched every episode of nearly a dozen TV shows.

  I had just finished a test on standard deviation and I didn’t feel like starting my homework in the two and a half minutes I calculated it would take for Karen Octa, the slowest test taker in our class, to press submit, so I was sketching the back of Ace Founder’s spiky hair in the margins of my screen, when a red box appeared through the center and told me to report to the office.

  Clearing my screen, I slid out from my station before Luci Lux, whom I had the unfortunate displeasure of sitting next to, looked over in curiosity.

  She didn’t need to see the red box to know I’d been called out. Her frosted pink lips stretched into a smirk, and I wondered how they could stand such movement with out dripping lip-gloss all over the table.

  All it took was a soft click of her tongue, and twelve nicely styled heads of hair turned in our direction. Everyone’s gaze—with the exception of Karen’s, whose was still pointed determinedly at her screen, the only thing in the room not annoyed by her constant sighs and whimpering—was directed towards me like I was a sculpture on display.

  Regretting the loss of my subtle escape, I kept my eyes down, trying to get out of the room as quickly as possible without stumbling or tripping and making a fool of myself.

  I could only imagine my peers were trying to figure out why I was called out of class. People were only called out of class for one of two reasons: they’d done something good, or they’d done something bad. I hoped mine was the first.

  The office assistant didn’t say a single a word, but led me to a small room, empty except for a desk gathering dust, two egg shaped chairs that had never been in fashion, and a woman. The first thing I noticed was that one of the floor lights was out by the woman’s right foot. The second was that she was in a black lab coat with a small white insignia on the neckline. I felt my breath catch the second I recognized the coat. I was so certain I must have done something wrong, I thought for sure she was there to examine me. Why? I hadn’t missed my annual mental check-up, and the perceiver had said I was fine.

  I heard the sound of metal scraping metal as the door slide shut behind me, leaving me alone with her.

  My mind raced to figure out what I had done wrong, but I simply couldn’t think of anything, other than perhaps calling Luci a rude name or two. Surely that wasn’t enough to call in a perceiver?

  Her eyes traveled from my head to my heels, and I swear I saw a small frown form at the corners of her robust lips. “Vallanie Sharp?”

  It felt as if I were an object being scanned and cataloged. All that was missing was the red light, which was easy to imagine emitting from her laser-like eyes over every miniscule wrinkle and microscopic fray in my clothes to the tiniest roots of my new blonde hair. In that one look, she seemed to try and extract everything about me, and I didn’t doubt she could do it. All I could do was stare back in fear.

  Dark hair curled around her shoulders, falling in just the right place to frame the curves of her face, so that she appeared young and vivacious. The light filtered through the glass ceiling in such a way her skin gave a subtle glow. She was fashionably plump, which I couldn’t help but envy. While I had never been skinny, especially not compared to my working class friends, I’ll admit that I was teased on occasion by the meaner of my classmates, including Luci. I couldn’t imagine this woman ever having been teased for anything. I thought she was perfect. She was everything I wanted to be, and seeing her made me sick, because I knew she had the power to ensure I’d achieve it, or take the option away from me forever.

  “Scia Novem,” she said, introducing herself as she offered a puffy hand with smooth ruby rings that spiraled her fingers like electrons to an atom. “It’s a pleasure to have you as an apprentice.”

  “An apprentice?” I repeated in surprise. Relief flooded through me, filling up the emptiness I’d felt moments before. I distinctly remember how I rushed to grasp her hand, and the feeling of her cold firm grasp as I hoped my hands weren’t too clammy with nervous sweat.

  “They didn’t tell you?”

  I shook my head.

  “It doesn’t surprise me.” She lifted h
er dark, flowing skirt, and sank into the chair, letting the fabric fall over her crossed legs. “Doesn’t seem like anyone can do anything right around here. Schools were much better when I was your age. Students were leaving much more prepared.”

  I gave a small nod, just to be polite, and slid into the chair across from her, positioning myself so I couldn’t see the defective light. I tried to match her grace, but my skirt refused to fold in a fluid motion, and instead gathered in thick clumps that I had to manually smooth out.

  “I hope you’re looking forward to working with me.” The words floated from her lips with a cold crispness like they slipped from the freezer.

  “Yeah,” I responded, automatically, still focused on the ugly wrinkles covering my knees. I immediately remembered the woman I was talking to was my superior, and such a bland statement could be taken as rude, so I tried to smooth it over with an overenthusiastic, “Yes, Ma’am.”

  She gave a broad smile that set me instantly at ease. “Don’t worry about the formalities.” Waving a hand in the air, her nails caught the light and glinted bright red. “If we’ll be working together, I’m sure we’ll have no use for them in the future, so why bother now? You may call me Scia.”

  “Thanks. Call me Vallanie. Or, actually, just Val.”

  She was turned away from me, looking at the computer screen in her hand. There was a moment of heavy silence in which I could hear the hum of the tiny lights that circled the walls over the sound of my shallow breathing.

  She glanced at me, then back to the screen. “I’ve been looking over your birth chart, Val, and it’s astounding.”

  “Thank you.” I always found it difficult to come up with a correct response for when people comment on my genetics, because the credit should go to my mother. I had no say in the matter.

  Scia tapped a long nail against the counter, narrowing her eyes as if she was trying to work out some complicated math problem. “Your grades are acceptable.”

  The nervousness returned.

  “Though, with a chart like this,” she continued, “I’d expect you to be in the top three of every class, and you have managed to do so only in physics.”

  “And art,” I added. I once made a painting of the solar system that the school displayed on the digital boards for a month.

  Scia didn’t reply. She didn’t seem like much of an art person, so I tried to go in another direction. “But all the other kids here have good charts too.”

  She looked up from her screen and blinked a few times, as if adjusting to the light. “Did you know I looked through every chart in your class?”

  “No,” I admitted, trying my best not to sink into the hideous fabric of the chair.

  “Well, I did.” Scia leaned back, bringing her eyes to meet mine. “And I’ve looked over the charts at three different schools as well. Of all of them, you are the best qualified to be a perceiver.”

  There was something in her tone that made it sound less like a compliment than it should have been. Nevertheless, “Thank you,” was all I could think to say.

  “And yet,” she continued, as I guessed she would, “your grades do not outshine the others. Why is this?”

  I felt my face flush. “I don’t know.”

  Scia clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth. “Think.”

  I wracked my brains and, instantly, I was hit with an answer, though I didn’t want to admit it. I knew I didn’t have any other choice. “Because they try harder.”

  Scia nodded. “You have great potential, and yet you’re not meeting it.” Her words always seemed so stern and blunt. I later came to learn that they stemmed from a real desire to help others become as successful as her, but at the time I thought she was just another self-centered adult. “They may say a person can differ up to ten percent from their genetic design with every decade they live, but I think there comes a time when everyone meets their maximum potential. Your classmates are pressing theirs, but you still have far to go. I’m willing to get you back on track, if you’re willing to accept the challenge.”

  I nodded enthusiastically, wanting nothing more than to get out of school and start my career. “Yes, I am.” That was my first lie to Scia, though I didn’t realize it at the time.

  She gave a long slow nod, her chin reaching almost to her chest. “Very well,” she returned to her former intimidating posture, “I assume you have been informed of your duties as an apprentice?”

  “To observe and imitate,” I repeated the mantra I’d memorized years ago.

  She seemed satisfied with the response, and continued, “You are my third apprentice. My most recent just passed the exam last month—with flying colors, I might add—and my first has won two awards already…” and so on and so forth, in such an intimidating manner that I hardly absorbed the information, but realized instantly that I had big shoes to fill. “I understand that you are here to learn, and that learners make mistakes,” she said, in conclusion. “I, therefore, expect you to make mistakes, and to learn from them. Are we clear?”

  I nodded. I’d never been so eager to make mistakes in my entire life.

  “If I point out a mistake,” Scia’s voice hardened, but her face remained tranquil, “I expect you to acknowledge it, and move on. I won’t hold it against you, but I don’t want you brushing it a side. As long as you understand the importance of our job, and how seriously you must take it,” she leaned back in her chair and smiled, “then our time together will be pleasant.”

  I gave a genuine smile back. “I understand.”

  We made arrangements to depart for Civitis early the next morning, and I was sent back to an agonizing hour of class. We watched some boring video on the foundation of Novagene Design Core that seemed completely irrelevant to us since it took place before the dome was built, even as far back as when people still grew inside other people. It had happened more than a hundred years before I was born and I could care less about it, so I let my mind wander, imagining what it would be like strolling the city with Scia.

  The rest of school passed in a blur. Luci seemed to lose interest in me when I returned smiling, and left me alone, which put me in an even better mood. I practically had to restrain myself from running or skipping down the familiar halls as I exited though the front gate for the final time.

  In no time at all, I was at the station, boarding the train home. Taking a seat near the back, I folded my legs underneath me, resting my arm against the thin strip of metal that lined the window. Everything seemed wonderful and fresh. The light I naively called sunshine shone brighter than ever before, and every house we passed looked as if it was grinning, the silver blinds forming eyelids, the large glass windows fanning out like lips. Even the oxygen seemed sweeter than usual. Lawns covered with perfect patches of synthetic grass were so green and inviting, I had the desire to press my hands deep into their rubber base and cartwheel home.

  Chapter 2: Mom

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