— Origins —
18th of September 2036 — Rockdale University, England
Who Am I?
I am Carmen Aicher. A servant of Peace, a Drifter, an experiment in the name of science: a product owned by the Protectorate Militia. But who am I really?
I repeat the thought as I speed through the Drift Universe. Here, time has ceased to exist. In this very moment, without the limitations of my past burdens or future promises, I experience the true meaning of freedom:
No attachments, no responsibilities, no expectations, no ability to feel pain, — just pure consciousness captured in eternal presence.
Yet, there’s something calling out to me. I sense an indescribable urge to hold on to who I once was. It’s an intuitive instinct asking me to complete the duty I was created for. I must go back to finish what they started. This urge translates to a magnet with incredible attraction pulling me back. Back to where I came from; home. There is no hesitation. The intention has been long decided. It overwhelms me with the obsession of return. A total recalling process begins:
I morph into matter and become my earthen born flesh and bones again. During the transformation, I flicker through countless snapshots portraying my past. Immersed in light, I see the journey of my path of life in flawless mathematics and symmetry, — like a predestined pattern.
Then I wake up.
But I’m not awake, at least not yet. Now I’m floating above a classroom where a lecture takes place. The one with the old fashioned Gothic windows taking up an entire wall behind the hundreds of modern desks neatly facing a podium made of dark cherry wood. I recognize the classroom setting all too well. This scene is not just familiar rather this is exactly what happened on my first official day at Rockdale University. I have relived this life moment before. This time I’m back as a fly on the wall. I stare down at myself playing along in a reality I call the past. It feels as though I still need to awaken from a dreamscape, but my surroundings cannot be classified as a lucid dream. This is real.
Drifting away from my snoozing body behind the desk, I hover above the heads of three-hundred students belonging to the bachelor course of Global Law. I know I’m only here to be an eyewitness to my own embarrassment ready to unfold within the next two minutes. Mr Westbay stops the lecture mid-sentence. This marks the timestamp of the exact moment my professor caught me asleep. The students anxiously anticipate the interaction between their professor and one of their own. They watch him as he’s about to make me an example to demonstrate the consequences of in-class inactivity. His stern gaze is locked on my long black locks wildly crisscrossing on top of my desk. Mr Westbay’s right hand grabs hold of the damned Global-Rights book he will smack on my table in the following minute to come.
That bang will wake me up for good and knock me back to the real world. When that happens, that version of me down below will have no recollection of this future experience nor any of the painful insights I acquired during this Drift episode. The only thing this fast asleep Carmen will be left with is a feeling of distress. This feeling will urge her to ask fundamental questions. It’s the search for answers that will make her dedicated enough to fight against all upcoming adversaries. It will gift her with a purpose. This will set her on a radical course of action and I have less than thirty-seconds left to recall what that purpose is. What am I missing?
“Carmen, every Saint has a past, every Sinner has a future. Hope dies at last.” He reminds me, my Fusion Consort. “Look beyond good and evil.” His warm voice like an echo from afar: “Our path is destined without return. You know the choice you have to make. Remember why we are connected!”
Yes, I recall. Ten-seconds remain but it’s all I need. Once I finish this last trial, stage three will be successfully completed. My energy-systems will be aligned and I will be one of them, a Drifter.
Five-seconds. I know where to go. So I subdue to the vibrations and sink, dropping fast. I hear it. It’s distant but it’s there. A distorted ringing sound penetrates my ears in a steady rhythm. Every time I hear it my heart contracts. The ringing surges in my head, the beat slams against my skull. Louder until the sound comes smashing through as expected:
I snap back.
“Nice for you to join us back in class, Miss…?” My professor responds somewhat derisive while his hand rests firmly on the large book of law he smacked on my table seconds ago. I jolt upright behind my desk. His light blue eyes glare at me intently across the rim of his black square classes. Uncomfortable and still in a daze I look around. The entire course of year one have their eyes on me. I frantically scan the classroom for any type of moral support, but even my closest friend Isa returns my plea with a lift of her slim shoulders and an apologetic I-can’t-help-you look. The professor sifts through his well-groomed, coffee-brown stubble, his eyebrows creasing. “You do have a name, don’t you?” He retorts with a tone that could cut through ice.
“Carmen,” I croak, my mouth dry as dust. I quickly clear it: “It’s Carmen Aicher, Sir.” I can’t stand to look at him directly and Isa’s clamped up reaction beside me as her cheeks blush a faint red on her pale skin, affirms it. He’s a handsome professor. Maybe even the most good-looking one at this University. Despite being in his mid-thirties, his aesthetics are associated by many as deeply intimidating. It’s something about the force of power he emanates.
“Three things Miss Aicher,” his eyes travel among our peers. “One, — and this goes for all of you here, it’s Mr Westbay. Two, I don’t tolerate students napping in my class. This is day one, I get it. You are all hungover from the night before as a result of Servant’s week. However, I can promise that getting drunk and not paying attention will be the end of a career that never started.” His light-colored irises flit back to me. “Miss Aicher, make sure you don’t make it on my personal hit-list of most intolerable students this year.” His words are accompanied by a smirk that would’ve been attractive had circumstances differed, but his underlining threat is more than clear to me. “Oh, and three, you have a little…” Mr Westbay falls back to his pre-set charm and points his thumb at the corner of his mouth, gesturing to wipe it away. I mirror his action and discover saliva, which dribbled down my mouth during my nap. Embarrassed, I wipe it away with the ends of my sleeve. An uproar of laughter erupts in the classroom. Mr Westbay elegantly returns to the front. “All right class, I need your undivided attention on the subject. I know it’s hard for your generation to maintain focus longer than a sixty-second global news clip, — as Miss Aicher kindly demonstrated, —” more laughter fills the room, making me feel alienated. My rate of confidence drops to sub-zero in a blink of one humiliating act. A flighty smile of amusement flashes across Westbay’s lips: “— but, did anyone pick up on the importance of my subject?” he continues. “The Art of Persuasion plays a large role in the success of a Guardian-Attorney. Can anyone name me an intelligent reason to why that is?” One of the students dares to respond. Others eventually join to add their opinions in an attempt to validate their knowledge to him. In a matter of minutes the entirety of the course is engaged in a chaotic discussion. I take a backseat on participating and pray for the focus of my sleeping fiasco to subside in the meantime.
Christ, I’m tired! I exhale a long breath to calm my agitated heart. My exhaustion levels remain high despite the professor’s intervention. I absently nod to something being said on the topic without really catching any of the information when Isa snags my iGuard from my desk only to return it a minute later. I take a peek at the tablet, my curiosity always being bigger than my fears. She opened my notes app and scribbled down a single sentence: ‘We need to talk after class.’ I aim a bitter smile at her comment then hash a quick glance at our lecturer before I reply. He and the rest of the class seem far gone into the discussion. I erase the note and write back: ’Yes we do. You’re the reason I can’t keep my eyes open.’ I cautiously hand her the tablet beneath our desks. Not a minute passes before I see my iGuard with more text handed to me once more. I let out a barely audible sigh and pull the screen closer to me: ‘Not that. It’s about last night and the drugs involved.’ I read her message more than twenty times over in high speed, but I can’t seem to digest the content.
What drugs is she talking about? Dammit, Isa, I thought our Adderall days were over! She swore to me that experimenting with illegal Pharma brews would never be up for discussion again. My mother’s tragic past haunts me just thinking about the one sin I committed which ended up destroying her. Yet here we are. Isa is joking. She must be. If what she’s claiming is true — No, even worse; if the University were to find any evidence of the consumption of an underground drug in our first upcoming monthly 10-Panel drug test, we’ll be done for! The Guard Regency put out a global ban on every type of substance classified as a drug for illegal misuse. One strike from the Protectorate and you’re deemed unfit for society. Nobody is going to save us a second time around.
My thoughts are racing. Is this girl, which I call my blood, — my hermana, really trying to send our dreams to the grave by putting our freedoms on the frontline? Once we’re labeled as inept World Citizens who can’t think or act for the greater good of the collective, there’s no coming back from it. This would mean our definite end. Which means: Welcome Educational Reformation Camps, here we come! Life will be incredible with our future prospects as Reformists and scum of society! Why, it sounds exciting to live like asylum patients at one of the remodelled prisons in some hell hole part of the world. Maybe one of us will be privileged enough to get a job as a janitor or a cleaning lady if we’re lucky. How about that?
Ehm, fuck that, ese! I scribble the words on the iGuard with mixed emotions of trepidation and dread: ’Don’t joke to me about drugs. Let’s talk later.’ There’s nothing I’d wish more than this whole messed up situation to evaporate. If it turns out to be Isa pulling a cruel prank on me for shits and giggles, I’d be happy for it. Nevertheless, my anxiety is revving up. The palms of my hands turn clammy and my heart rate increases rapidly.
Coño, I don’t remember much of last night! Only a distant memory of yesterday’s Servant celebration comes to mind. Although the soreness in my body is very present. Do I want to recall why all my muscles feel like the aftermath of an insanity work out? I watch her slide my tablet right before my eyes. This better not be heading to where I think it is. I should not read it now. What I should be doing is turn my attention back on the fast changing topics being discussed. But even though I’d rather not know, and even though I’d rather not risk disrupting Mr Westbay’s class again, my hands twitch with curiosity nonetheless. I’ve always been at the mercy of that one regrettable trait which defines me. So, my eyes shoot down like a sucker for pain: ‘I’m not joking, sis, and neither were you last night about the loss of your virginity during your psychedelic trip.’
“WHAT!” I shoot up from my seat. My iGuard hurls off my desk and hits the naked floor. My brain is on fire. Isa’s words echo in my head: “Neither were you last night about the loss of your virginity…” And that, high on psychedelics?! WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED LAST NIGHT?
My heart drops to the pit of my gut and when I look up, I feel the cone of shame return to my head. Three hundred pairs of eyes gawk into my direction. I’m the center of unwanted attention again. Mr Westbay’s hand rests on his cheek while the other is leisurely tucked inside the pant’s pocket of his cobalt blue business suit. He glares at me. A dead silence looms in the classroom. His impassive facial expression makes it impossible to decipher what he’s thinking. The rumors were right; his silent presence makes me feel sorry for my existence: “I suppose your exclamation was not directed at a comment on our topic?” His tone is firm but surprisingly friendly. I timidly shake my head. My heart throbs inside my throat. Westbay lets out a forced sigh. “I did not think that I had to do this, but I’m adding another chapter to your homework assignment for next week. I want all of you to upload your responses to the GR-archive before the start of our next class.” A collective groan of frustration erupts among the students.
“But that adds an extra thirty-seven pages to read and respond to!” One of the students complains.
“Yes, I am aware. You might want to thank your fellow Servant over here.” Mr Westbay nods my way. “This is how it’s going to be; even if a single student disturbs my lectures or fails to hand in assignments, the whole class will be penalized for it. For all of you who don’t want to add any value to my teachings, do yourself a favor and don’t come to my seminars. At the latest, the scores of your Annual Psychological Assessments will reflect your performance record for me.” A sly smile appears on his lived-in face: “May I remind all of you, that a complete lack of engagement marks as a one way ticket to a life as a Reformist. Don’t be a fool and combat the idleness.” I never wanted to disintegrate into thin air this badly. The gazes of evil eyes from all corners of the room are aimed at me. I stare at the floor knowing my popularity status in this course is steadily degrading by the second. It’s the first official day at Rockdale University and I’m ready to change majors. The aggravated murmurs of the students increase in volume, “Listen up!” Westbay dictates like a military drill sergeant. “What I’m about to tell you is critical for your own understanding. Getting a grasp on world politics as global law students is very important for your future careers. As you are all well aware, the World Peace Act was signed by all surviving colonies in 2030,” he says. “After the elections of regional Proxies, the Guard Regency’s founding seven Regents decided to revive an old political ideology based on a socialist construct in service of the three billion survivors. Within less than decade the world as we knew it has changed a lot. A more egalitarian distribution of wealth was put forward as a pledge of solidarity for the working class, our Servants, but also to better the working conditions for Guardians, as myself.”
Isa softly nudges her elbow into my sides with a snort. "It's not like we haven't been told our own history over and over again for the past few years... jeez, one cannot escape it." She whispers into my ear. I silently raise my finger to my lips as a warning not to arouse any attention then turn my head to focus on our professor with a slight head shake.
Mr Westbay takes a deep breather: “After Operation Invictus, the Guard Regency implemented new laws and civil rights. They have been augmented to fit the newly established international justice system. Nowadays, the same judicial procedures and expected social code of conduct apply to all World Citizens in every single colony across the globe.” With a quick roll of his shoulder to release tension he says almost grudgingly so: “Since then, our Board members which make up our global government include our seven continental Regents and administrative Proxies. As for our local community patrol offices, operators and Protectors, they serve the General’s Protectorate.” Mr Westbay shuffles his body weight from one foot to the other whilst pinching the bridge of his nose. “We as attorneys automatically serve our head of the High Court of Justice, the Chancellor, Regent of Australia, as faithful Guardians. Those who prove themselves worthy as productive World Citizens through excellent Performance Reports, will receive the privilege of an open border passport. With this earned right you can do a hell of lot goodwill in our society.” I sense a low burn beneath his words. Mr Westbay slicks his square glasses into a more perfected position but deigns to look at us, students. His next words escape his lips with a slight strain: “At the end of this academic year you will have to decide which sector of the International Law you want to specialize in. No matter the choice you make for yourself, here at Rockdale University you will focus all acquired capabilities on sustaining our World Peace. Your duty will be your career, got it?” Our professor lifts his head and sends us an unyielding serious look. He purses his lips as if he just tasted a grisly amount of copper shavings in his mouth. With a dismissive wave of the hand he ends his speech. “I am terminating class early today. I don’t expect the best, I’m expecting the very best from all of you this term. Don’t disappoint me.” He follows to pack his belongings into his briefcase in a brisk manner. On cue, students begin to shuffle from their seats. “Don’t forget to register your minors and extra curriculum courses on your GR-App!” he announces then raises his voice to combat the noise of the talking crowd. “Only then will you receive the date for your individual assessment!” His voice goes soft. In a low mutter he adds more cynical than I expected: “Happy Invictus Day everybody.”
A streak of anger flames up inside of me at the mention of our Psych-Assessment and the thought of possibly failing it again. I shove everything I own into my messenger bag. I’m not just mad at the supposed drugs Isa involved me in, I’m also terrified. If my hunch proves me correct then her actions might have already damned us to a life at one of the Educational Reformation Camps. We are close to falling off the edge, but this time it is sink or swim. From the corner of my eyes, I catch her bouncy bob of blonde hair. She attempts to sneak passed me. I seize Isa by the strap of her skull printed duffel bag and drag her through the sea of students heading out the same exit.