Sweetness and Light

by vegetables [Reviews - 0]

Printer Chapter or Story
  • All Ages
  • None
  • Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe, Drama, General, Humor, Mixed, Series

It was hard to tell the time of day on Ipsico 9: the sky was always dark, and there was never any sun. Nonetheless, Chris discovered she had arrived in the makeshift town not too long before the school day was due to start. She arrived slightly late to the long, low building where school was taught, being ushered into a room full of adults sat behind tough sugar desks. None of them looked up as she entered, the teacher explaining that they'd decided to take on another alien adult, and the class weren't to do what they’d all done last time. Then lessons began, without so much as an aside to Chris as to what they might all be about.

It wasn't much clearer what the lessons were about after they actually began. Chris knew she was an intelligent girl; she’d been told as much by frustrated people more often than she could remember. But there were still limits to what she could do, and the formulas and equations the teacher scribbled on the board would have been beyond even a maths professor from her time. It was clear they were beyond the teacher, too; she was obviously nervous as she read out of her giant and yellowing textbook. In Chris’s class back home the pupils would have sensed that fear as a weakness, pouncing on the teacher as they ripped her lesson plan to bits. But this teacher was a child and her class all adults, and there was silence as the crowded room scribbled away.

Several confusing pages of the textbook passed before a buzzing sound indicated it was time for toilet break. Almost all the adults started chatting to each other, looking past Chris as if trying not to notice her. Only one thin man seemed to realise she existed. He looked awkwardly at her, then came over to shake her hand.

“Chris, is it?” said the man. “I'm Angles, and welcome to Ipsico 9!” He waved his hand to indicate his retreating classmates. “Sorry about this lot. They're a bit prejudiced against aliens. Last one we had needed to leave, the bullying got so bad. Everyone kept calling her Four-Eyes.”

“Because she had four eyes?”

“No eyes. But two sets of glasses.” He frowned. “But I think they'll treat you better than her. You look so much like a child that they’ll think of you as an authority figure, even though they know you're not.”

“It's funny,” said Chris. “Where I'm from, the adults are in charge and the children who go to school. I’d never thought of it happening any other way.”

“Gosh,” said Angles. “I didn't know that about Ipsico 1! Truth is, it used to be like that here — adults like yours truly running everything — but I think we made a bit of a mess of it all, in the end.”

He paused as something suddenly occurred to him.

“How much do they tell you about what happened here, over where you’re from?” he said.

“We tend to focus on ourselves,” said Chris, being careful not to lie. “We know things happen in other places, but we don't ever spend much time actually thinking about them.”

“I see,” said Angles. “Well, you’ll only have spoken to children, up until now. And they wouldn't have told you the whole truth. See, there are things that only us adults know—”

“Oh, I know all about those,” said Chris. “What happens is that two grown-ups get into a bed, and then—”

“No, not those,” said Angles. “Things about Ipsico 9. I thought they'd be on the news, throughout the system. But perhaps we were just hoping that other people would care.”

He looked into Chris’s eyes.

“What happened was—”

But before Angles could say anything more, a horrible sound told them the break was over, and the teacher shouted for the adults who’d spent too long in the loos. Whatever Angles had to say would have to wait, and Chris's mind swam with questions as the class turned to the boring book once again.