This piece was written years ago, but it has been repurposed to be a part of my novel. This is from the same story as “The Redemption”.
“Now remember, everyone, what you got on this assignment does not reflect how you perform in this class, or any class in Hoffman Academy. This assignment was graded by The International Space Association, based off of their rubrics. The ISA is looking for students who will be able to create machines and life support systems that can be tested, and eventually used, on Ivosa,” Mrs. Alia explained to the class, her arms full of rubrics and research papers, “Though this project will influence if you will be attending The Great Mind Meeting with the ISA, it will not impact your grade in this class.”
Mrs. Alia began to walk around the room to hand back the assignments. Her perfect manicured hands passing back the piles of paper to the anxious students provided no clues to the grades they would receive.
There was a mix of emotions about the room. Most students let out a groan of disappointment.
“What did you get?” asked Ryder Quinn.
“35%” Erik Roe whined, “What about you?”
“33%” Ryder groaned.
Tanner Oxford looked at his grade and smirked. He looked around the room for everyone’s response once the papers had all been handed back. He was one of the smartest kids in the class, and his personality showed it.
“Those of you that scored 95 or above on this project will be attending The Great Mind Meeting,” Mrs. Alia explained as she returned back to her spot at the front of the room. She glanced towards the clock, time ticking down to the end of the day, “Remember that your papers on Ether Willis and Wona Lark are due next time I see you.”
The bell chimed. Students automatically packed their bags and flooded into the hallways. All the students could talk about were their grades on the project.
In Mrs. Alia’s classroom, one student remained. She stayed in her seat, staring at the stack of papers on her glass desk.
“Ms. Beyer,” Mrs. Alia said as she walked over to her and stood next to her desk, looking down at the girls raven hair, “What’s wrong?”
“This isn’t right,” Jaelyn replied. Her eyes were fixed on the red numbers on the rubric, “Something must be wrong. This can’t be right.”
Mrs. Alia smiled. She took the paper and looked at the grade, “Jaelyn Beyer, 100%. You should be used to this grade by now. This isn’t the first one hundred you’ve received.”
“Mrs. Alia, the ISA gave me an one hundred on this project? How many people got an one hundred? Was it easy?”
“Jaelyn, you were the only person in our school to receive an one hundred. You deserved it. You worked night and day on that assignment.”
“But… But this isn’t… I really did it? I did the best in the class?” Jaelyn asked, looking up towards Mrs. Alia. A smile was plastered across her face.
Her teacher smiled, “You did the best in the school, Ms. Beyer.” Mrs. Alia turned away and walked to her desk, “Now go home, the rain is going to start soon. You don’t want to be caught out in the wet.”
Jaelyn stood up and put her dark blue backpack on, holding the papers in her arms. She walked out of the classroom, and out the front doors of Hoffman Academy.
Her dark skirt brushed against her legs as she walked towards the monorail station. She walked up the glass stairs and waited underneath the overhang for the outbound train.
The rain began to fall. It was light at first.
“Hey, Picker,” Jaelyn heard over her shoulder.
She sighed and glanced towards Tanner, “What do you want, Tanner?”
He smirked and came up the stairs, stepping under the overhang with her and peering at the papers she was holding, “What did you get?”
“Doesn’t matter to you. Tanner, please leave me alone.”
He laughed. Behind him appeared Axle Wring and Moore Traillon.
“Just tell me what you got, Picker,” Tanner stepped closer to her, “I just want to know, that’s all.”
Jaelyn stepped away from him. She hugged the papers closer to her white button down, “Go away, Tanner. Please.”
“You embarrassed? Did you fail?” Tanner asked, laughing to himself, he reached for the papers and grabbed the top of the stack, “Let me see!”
“Stop it!” Jaelyn yelled, pulling the papers away from his hands. She stepped out into the rain and held them as close as she could, “Go away! Leave me alone!” Jaelyn searched for the train, but it was nowhere in sight on the tracks. She looked back at Tanner’s dark eyes, “Why are you even waiting for the train? Daddy not picking you up in the limo today?”
“I told him not to,” Tanner spat back, “I told him I was busy after school. Had to deal with a Picker.” He looked at Axle and Moore, “Grab her arms.”
Jaelyn turned on her heel and ran down the platform.
She could hear him yelling behind her, and soon she could hear their stomping feet as they started running.
Jaelyn’s eyes were focused on the space in front of her. She blocked out the taunts.
Even though she lived outside of the city, she knew the monorail stations better than any of them.
She took a sharp turn down the stairs. She slid down the railing to the street. Jaelyn ran through the pathway under the tracks and up the second set of stairs.
The train pulled up and came to a stop. The doors slowly opened. Jaelyn ran through the open doors and turned to look through them.
Tanner was coming up the stairs as the doors shut. He began cursing and pounding his fists on the glass. His eyes met Jaelyn’s and she smirked.
She held up the rubric to the glass, showing him the bright red one hundred circled on the top of the paper.
As the train pulled away, Jaelyn felt a wave of relief wash over her. She sat down on the black padded seat and shoved her papers into her bag. She had learned after so many years of torment by Tanner Oxford how to avoid him and how to get away from him.
Jaelyn was lucky enough to be able to attend classes. In Brighton View, only the wealthy could attend school. Everyone went to school until age 12. Then, secondary education was only available for those who could afford the cost. The tuition at Hoffman Academy was a whopping $65,000 a year. Jaelyn could never afford to go to school, but when she was young she took the Scholarship Test for the Homeless or Needy. That was the first one hundred she ever received. Hoffman Academy paid for her tuition in full. Her uniform – including the skirt was now ripped due to sliding down the railing, her books, her pencils, her pens, anything that was required for school, they provided for her.
Jaelyn had studied for hours every night before that exam. She wanted nothing more than to be able to learn and develop a mind fit to one day work for the International Space Association. She wanted to study the stars and the movement of the planets. She wanted to be able to learn everything there was to know about Ivosa, their sister planet, and just about anything else that space had to offer her.
As the monorail came to a stop, she stood up and walked out the doors and onto the platform. The stench of rotten meat and spoiled milk filled her nose.
She looked over her shoulder at the glittering city that was now in the distance behind her. Jaelyn sighed, then turned back to the stairway in front of her. She walked up the stairs and into the sunlight, where the stench was stronger.
On the outskirts of the city, piles of garbage weighing metric tons separated the marvelous, shimmering city from the rotting and decrepit slums. The slums that Jaelyn called home.
Her clean black shoes were covered with dust as she walked along the dirt roads. She had gotten used to the smell at this point, 17 years surrounded by the garbage of the wealthy would do that to someone.
She passed many homes on her way to her own. They were dark, with broken windows and patches in the roof. When storms came through, the wind would pick up large debris and where it was thrown would never be known until it happened. Crime was also heavy in her area, which explained why everyone was usually awake during the night time.
At this time, everyone was just starting to wake up for their shift Picking.
The Pickers went through the garbage, day after day, to find valuables worth selling. That was the life of a picker. Wasting their life away picking through the trash of those who didn’t even think about where their garbage went.
Jaelyn passed by groups of pickers that were going through their finds for the day. In the morning, many of them would make the long trip out to the farms where they would trade their valuables for money and food. Jaelyn’s long time friend Marea Montrone was one of the farmers daughters – she always offered to make the trek so she could see her friend.
Jaelyn could see her house in the distance. It was just like the other houses – dark, run down, and cold – but it’s where the rich weren’t.
Cade would be out picking at this hour, she thought, at least he won’t be home. Jaelyn walked up to the front door and tried to turn the handle. It was stiff, but she was able to push the door open if she used a bit more force. Cade had punched the door frame the night before in a fit of rage when he found out that Jaelyn wouldn’t be able to go get food the next morning because she was attending classes. He was angry a lot of the time.
She shut the door behind her, and looked around at the relatively empty room. On the far side of the room, by the windows that were covered with dark curtains, her mother laid out on the floral stained couch. Her arm was outstretched over the edge of the couch, fingers barely touching the dried cheap wine that stained that area of the brown carpet. Her mouth was agape and her eyes were shut. In her hand that was resting on her stomach, there was an empty bottle and a used cigarette.
Her mother’s chest slowly rose and fell as she slept. She was a heavy sleeper, she never heard Jaelyn leave or enter the house. She never heard Cade scream – or she didn’t care to listen.
Jaelyn walked down the hallway and into the last room. In the back of the house was her room. It was the smallest, but she picked that room because it had the best view of Ivosa at night. Cade was happy to trade rooms with her when Jaelyn was able to understand that she could see Ivosa in the sky.
Jaelyn carefully stripped from her uniform and put it on the red hangers in her closet. She sat in her bed and looked at the rip in her dark skirt. She opened a drawer next to her bed and pulled out a small sewing kit that she had found in the garbage one day. Carefully, she began to sew the rip. The school will supply a new one anyways once they see the rip, she thought, but what’s the point walking around like the Picker they say that I am?
Once her skirt looked good enough, it joined her blouse in the closet.
Jaelyn dressed herself in her dark green oversized t-shirt and black pants. She lied back in her bed and stared at the ceiling above her, looking at the star chart that she had created with paint that her mother gave her on her 15th birthday.
She rolled onto her side and looked at her door. Hanging against it was a poster from the ISA with Mars Addington promoting the programs. She smiled as she looked at her hero.
Mars Addington personally funded many of the ISA’s projects. He was intelligent, generous, and made Jaelyn believe that she could do anything. She could recall in the documentary The Beginning of the Future that they had watched in class many times why she loved him so much.
“The International Space Association, my colleagues, and just about everyone that has been apart of this project have done a better job than I could have ever hoped they would. When Dr. Evelyn Snow came to me with the idea to make this colony, I was more than happy to personally fund this project. I can say, repeatedly, how proud I am with what we have accomplished. Dr. Snow is one of the brightest women I have ever met. I am happy to have worked with her, and hope to work with her for years to come.
“I hope that our accomplishments of the past, present, and future will inspire generations of engineers, scientists, and astronauts. As a boy, my father was involved with the International Space Association and taught me everything that he knew. Interests start at a young age – and for many, your interests can turn into an occupation. I was lucky enough to know what I wanted to do the minute I could understand exactly what my father had done for work.”
Jaelyn smiled as she lied in bed. Hopefully, she thought to herself as she felt her eyes become heavy, He’ll say that I’m one of the most intelligent women he’s met.
She shut her eyes, allowing the troubles of her day to melt away as she drifted off into her dreams.