Author Topic: Chapter 11  (Read 7101 times)

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Offline Daen

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Chapter 11
« on: July 21, 2022, 03:02:19 AM »
Chapter 11

The first class gathered together again a few hours later, inside the dome. Noah had set up a white sheet, suspended from the ceiling in four places. Below it, one of his drones operated a projector. Diana remembered seeing something similar during their classes, but this was designed to put much larger images up.

The movie that night was Prince of Egypt, about Moses and the Israelites leaving slavery and crossing the Red Sea. Diana had already seen it once, and hadn't really liked it. Still, it was a chance to see Simon again, if only at a distance. She'd waved goodnight to him at the end of it, and gone back to her room with a smile. She hadn't been the only one smiling, either. Even Sarah seemed to be in a good mood.

Noah would slowly be allowing more and more social interaction between the oldest kids here. The door in the wall dividing the dome would be opened more and more over time, but always with his direct supervision. He was very clear about that. Other than his carefully planned movies, dinners, plays and work activities, the only chance any boys and girls had to see each other would be at other Naming Days. Today had been the first, and they would only happen every three Earth years afterwards. That would be a long time for the little ones not to see each other.

Back in her room, Diana pulled out the little paper Simon had given her. There was nothing in the computer database about any 'tap code', she was sure. She didn't even bother to check. The database available to her and the other 'ladies' was all about proper behavior and dress. How women had behaved back on Earth, in England especially. They had to know how to walk and sit, how to care for children (which was a big part of her day-to-day tasks) and how to cook.

What must the boys' life be like? Simon seemed so much more confident now than before, and he said he'd learned so much. This tap code he'd given her must be a tiny part of what they did every day. She remembered them being rowdy and loud, back in the day, and had sometimes even joined in. Now that it was just her and Sarah and the other girls, Sarah had set up a much more quiet life. The little girls were taught to be quiet and proper and to never speak out of turn.

Simon said that Argent and... Massimo, she thought the other one's name was, had started their own greenhouse. She and the other girls visited greenhouses from time to time, to learn how to plant and harvest crops if necessary, but it was Noah who'd planted everything there. Noah was capable of growing all the food they'd ever need on his own, but he said that if anything went wrong with him, they'd have to learn how to do it themselves. With the boys' help of course.

She had wanted to hold off on asking Naomi to trade rooms for now. She didn't want to raise any suspicions. Now, Diana realized she couldn't wait any longer. She had to start talking to Simon, as soon as possible. How much had she missed already??

It probably wouldn't be an issue. Naomi was about the most likeable person on the planet. When asked to keep a secret, she was always reliable. When confronted with anger, she had been wise and deliberate, but obviously hurt deep down. Even if she found out what Diana was up to, she probably wouldn't tell anyone.

Seeing Simon again today had brought memories flooding back of those times back in the day. The nights spent stargazing. The flight away from the dying settlement. Seeing Simon, or Chif back then, running towards that cave to rescue his friend, heedless of his own safety. The eventual move out here, and then suddenly not being able to see half of the people in her life anymore.

Mostly though, it had been the flying. Soaring through the air like those birds she'd seen in the instructional videos about Earth. Noah had been reluctant to give her too much information, given the damage to his historical files, but it seemed humans had started building planes in the early 1900s. Now, two hundred years later, Noah was following their example!

Sometimes during her trips outside the dome, Diana had seen that same cargo plane that had brought them here, landed on the airstrip to the south. Time and again she'd tried to get a closer look, but had been stopped. First through words, and then more harshly. Sarah had told Noah that Diana wouldn't stay with the group, and he had redirected a drone to keep her away from the plane.

"You're teaching us how to plant and harvest, in case something goes wrong with you," Diana had argued forcefully. "Why not teach us how to fly, for the same reason?"

"It's not your place," Noah had said placidly. "It's not most peoples' place, in fact. On Earth, fewer than one in a hundred people ever learned how to fly."

The Doctrines of the Faith were clear on a lot of things, Diana had learned since then. She'd read all three volumes front to back, several times. Noah had agreed to provide them to her, though he'd been mystified as to why she was asking. The Doctrines said a lot of things about women, but not one of them mentioned flying.

-.-

The next few months were a transformative experience for Simon. Well, more so than his education had been so far. He hoped it was the same for Diana, and she at least seemed to be happier day by day.

They'd gotten the tap code going right away, though it had taken a day or so to position the mirror on the beach just right. He had shined a flashlight up from his room, where the light bounced off a mirror he'd positioned above his bed. Then it flashed over to the beach, back to Harmony through Diana's portion of the dome, off her own mirror, and down to her in her own bed. Complicated, sure, but effective.

She'd picked up the code quickly, just like he had, but it was still a slow process having to spell everything out. For hours into the night, they'd 'click' at each other, until one of their batteries started to run down, at least at first.

Their conversations were long and hard at first. Fortunately, his programming classes had just started. He was able to, with help from the computer, set up a tap code converter. He typed in a message, and it immediately started beaming out a signal using a laser. The trouble was, he could only do that from the console in the common area. If he wanted secrecy, he'd need some help. And there really only was one option for who could help him.

"Why do you need your own keyboard and monitor?" Bez had asked, after Simon had first approached him. He was the only kid with any engineering experience, having been trained by Noah to take apart, upgrade, and put back together, an entire computer. It was part of his special elective classes, just like Massimo was learning about growing new kinds of spices.

"It's for my programming," Simon had lied to him. "Noah's piling up the work on me, and I can't do it all in the common area, not while I'm taking classes too. I need a way to do this at night, in my room. That way I can catch up. Please, Bez? I'm getting buried here."

Bez shrugged. "Why not? It's not like Noah's letting me work on the electrolysis systems yet. It'd be good practice to start building my own computers later." Electrolysis was how Noah generated the oxygen for the domes—by splitting water molecules apart using electricity. They'd learned about that last year in chemistry.

"Thanks man. Just, could you keep it secret? I don't want Adam to know I'm falling behind."

"Sure thing."

Bez hadn't been in much of a hurry, and Simon didn't want to risk rushing him, but after a week or so he had a portable terminal set up with a laser in his room. He could pack it up every night before going to sleep, and unpack it after light's out the next evening. He was even going to ask Bez to make a backup unit in case the first one failed, and smuggle it out to Diana so they could both chat easily.

The trouble was, Diana had no experience with a keyboard. All the girls could read and write with pencils and paper, but apparently computers weren't part of their training. Eventually Simon had been able to convince Bez to put in a mic, so he could use voice recognition software. All Diana would have to do was speak, and the program would hear her, translate her voice to letters, and transmit those letters through the mirrors to him. She'd have to be quiet, but it worked.

With the consoles in place on both ends, their conversations had really taken off.

He'd told her about his education, and she'd returned the favor. His science class had just started going over the rain cycle both here and on Earth, as well as the basics of a living ecosystem. They didn't really have one on New Eden just yet, but Noah had been working on it since well before any of them had been born. In math, they were just getting into algebra, probability, and geometry (which he particularly liked).

It seemed the girls were taught nothing about any of that. Instead of math and science, they studied something called 'home economics'. It focused on childcare and education, how best to maintain a home (even though no one had a home of their own just yet), as well as parenting styles, basic maintenance, cleaning, and cooking.

Just about the only similarity they had in classes was history. Noah's historical files were still a mess, with most of them missing, but the Faith had kept detailed records of Biblical history, and then Greek, Roman, Scandinavian, British, and finally American actions. It was a good thing too, because all of that had been erased from the world history Noah had started out with. Right now, both Diana and Simon were studying Roman history, specifically Boudica's rebellion in 60 AD. Their classes made it clear that Boudica was a radical, dangerous maniac who had needed to be stopped at all costs, but Diana clearly thought differently.

"I've read a bit ahead," she tapped out to him. "Britain broke free from Rome at least two hundred years later. The books say that it was a good thing—that Rome was corrupt and falling apart. Britain had to break away. But if it was good then, why was it bad when Boudica was doing it?"

"I don't know," he responded after thinking about it. History wasn't really his thing, but it meant a lot to her, so he'd tried to make an effort. "She killed what, seventy thousand people when her people attacked Londinium? Maybe it wasn't when Britain broke away, but how it was done."

"Maybe," she'd responded, but her doubt was clear even through the transmission.

-.-

This year, instead of a series of tests to conclude their schooling, Noah was having them put together a presentation for the class. It was their choice what to present, though, and Noah was giving them a lot of leeway in what to do. Simon and Bez had asked if they could do a joint project, and Noah had agreed. Argent and Massimo were doing the same, but everyone else had their own ideas about what to do.

They had a full month to work on it, but Bez insisted on getting it done early. He was a real overachiever, but Simon went along with it. The engineering and programming were easy to do, if a little time-consuming. It was the presentation itself that filled him with impending dread. He froze up in front of people. Even a few seconds in front of the crowd at the Naming ceremony had been terrifying to him. How was he supposed to handle ten minutes in front of the class?

Their extracurricular activities were getting more important now, too. Massimo was expected to provide desserts for their meals now, at least once a week. Desserts that people actually liked. Argent helped as much as he could, but he was now expected to run a commissary of sorts, for the sugary goods produced by their little greenhouse. Noah had started giving them an allowance, of gold and silver coins. He must have mined them up in the mountains, purified them there, and then minted them into coins. Argent was all over that. He talked about starting his own bank one day.

Simon was now working on programming languages of different kinds. Noah had even given him access to his own source code, or at least a part of it. He wasn't allowed to make any changes, but watching all of the subroutines form, interact, and then delete themselves was mind-blowing to him. Was that how people thought? Noah had been modeled after human minds, so it made sense.

Adam's responsibilities were growing as well. He led nightly prayers as always, but now he was expected to teach some of the younger kids' classes in social studies and history. Just a few hours a day, but it added up. He still looked uncomfortable being in charge like that, but at least he had practice public speaking. Simon wished he'd been forced into something like that. He might do better by the time the presentations happened.

Bez loved all of it. He was now working on the life-support system, including the electrolysis plant outside the domes. It was connected to Harmony with its own tube, while the excess hydrogen created by the process just floated up into the air.

"We can't do this forever," he'd explained to Simon one day, when they were out at the plant watching the water churn around it. "Eventually we'll get too much hydrogen in the atmosphere, or the water will all be gone. That's why Noah's planting so many trees on all the continents, and seeding all the oceans with as much anaerobic bacteria and algae as he can. Eventually, they'll make the air breathable."

"Yeah, in like three hundred years," Simon retorted. "We'll be in domes for what, twenty generations? More?"

Bez just shrugged. "Yeah, but what can we do about it? Make it so we don't need oxygen?"

"Believe me, Hippo's working on it," Simon said, and they both chuckled.

A few months ago in literature class, they'd read Frankenstein, by an 'M' Shelley. Whoever the author really was, apparently his information had been lost along with the history files. Still, it was a fun novel, especially for Hippocrates. He'd been whispering over at his classmates during the reading, that 'I could do that', or 'that wasn't so hard', when the book described the animation process of Frankenstein's monster.

The story made Simon sad for some reason. The Creature had done nothing wrong at the start, and yet it was treated horribly. Only the blind man had shown any kindness to it, and that was just because he couldn't see it! When it had finally gotten revenge on its maker, it didn't get any satisfaction and ended up killing itself, too.

He had smuggled a data storage drive to Diana during one of their shared dinners, and it had the book on it. She could read it or listen to it on her own time, using her own hideable console. She burned through it in like a day, and said she was on the Creature's side. Not all of its murdering and revenge, but at least how it wasn't allowed to be part of the world. Simon supposed she felt similar, given that the books the girls were given were more like Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, and strangely, The Scarlet Letter. Again, some of those authors' names had been lost to history, leaving behind only their first initial and last name.

She'd used the tap program that he wrote to send him a copy of Pride and Prejudice, which he'd read in his limited spare time. Elizabeth and her sisters really had it pretty rough, in his opinion. Sure it was a love story and all that, and at least two of them ended up happy, but that was only because they got married in the end. Apparently that's the only way that 'J' Austin felt women could end up happy in his stories.

In his lit classes, they were now getting started on Shakespeare, too. All of his plays seemed to go one of two ways. Either everyone ended up getting married, or everyone ended up dying. Didn't that guy know any other way to end a story? Why didn't any of them end up going on an adventure, or becoming an inventor or something?

Bah. Earth had some really weird authors. At least Rhys was more of a poet and songwriter, in addition to his painting. He was working on his own musical production for his project, and was roping in some of his classmates and younger siblings to help perform it.

To Simon's horror, he learned that it was all about them! Rhys was writing the story of Noah's arrival, and building the first settlement, and then the evacuation, including Simon's own mad dash outside to find Yuun!

Fortunately he was able to find out what Rhys was up to pretty early on, and convince him to do something else. "Please, man. Yuun's had a long time to get over being embarrassed about running away. Even after Noah told us all it wasn't Yuun's fault, people still didn't like him. He's finally over all of that. Please don't bring it all back up!"

Rhys had seen his point, and reluctantly scrapped his idea. Now, he was working on a series of songs meant to bring his paintings to life. Whatever that meant.

Simon felt a little guilty about tricking his friend, but it wasn't really a lie. Yuun had been shamed after running away, and he didn't need to be reminded of all of that, in song form of all things. No, Simon's real reason for stopping Rhys was much more self-centered. He couldn't afford any attention on him, not with what he was working on now.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2022, 03:08:52 AM by Daen »