Atica returned to the hostel with Mata G and Dal M. Mata C and Dal T remained behind in the city square with the other children. Atica felt the tension as soon as they entered the hostel. She’d done something to displease the parents, but she hadn’t a clue what it was. For a long while, they said nothing to her. She sat in the portable crystal box alone, wishing for an explanation. After an hour of recharge, she couldn’t stand the silence any longer. She stepped out of the box and went to the kitchen.
“Have I done something wrong?” she asked the parents.
They sat at the table, sipping hot castil, a substance that resembled coffee, but had a sweet, not bitter taste. They didn’t look at her, only at one another.
Atica sighed. “Please, I want to know.”
“You were fraternizing with a Westerner,” Dal M finally said.
“So? She was my table mate. Should I have ignored her?”
Mata G looked up, her forehead wrinkled. “You don’t understand, Atica, and obviously, we have not taught you well enough. Your table mate is a Morethan. Lessthans do not fraternize with Morethans.”
“Morethans? Lessthans? I don’t understand.”
“I told you we should have explained this to her long before now,” said Dal M, looking at Mata G with his nose turned up.
Mata G waved her hand at him. “Shush. She was too young to understand and being an alien child, she still may not understand.”
“Stop talking about me as though I am not here,” Atica demanded with her hands on her hips.
Mata G patted the chair beside her. “Sit, childe, and I will explain.”
Atica did as instructed, but huffed as she sat down.
“Good girl,” Mata G said with a smile, ignoring Atica’s attitude. “What I am about to tell you is the history of our planet. Marmooth began as a slave planet, thousands of years ago. The original Marmoothians had a lovely golden brown skin and bright sparkling green eyes. The slaves were copper-colored with dull green eyes. They came from a neighboring planet that has long since been destroyed. Over time, the slaves revolted, gained their freedom, and became prominent people on this planet. They intermarried with the Marmoothians and bore children with them. Eventually, their DNA overtook the original Marmoothian’s DNA and we are the result of it.”
“So, you are all the same now. What’s wrong with that?”
Dal M crinkled his nose. “We are not all the same. We, the inhabitants of the Southern region, have less slave DNA than those from the rest of the planet. Our copper skin isn’t as bright as the others and our eyes are bright green. We’ve maintained this by only marrying and bearing children with other Lessthans.”
“I still don’t see what this has to do with me.”
“Social order, Atica. See, I told you she wouldn’t understand,” Mata G quibbled with Dal M.
“Give her a chance, Gladia.”
“Fine. Let me explain further. You are the adopted daughter of a Lessthan. You cannot be seen interacting with a Morethan. It disrupts our social standing on the planet. Do you understand?”
“It’s your way of remaining snobs,” Atica tossed out with a roll of her eyes. “There’s something I don’t understand then. If the Grand Master knows about this social order, then why did he put a Morethan at my table? I am assuming that Ito is a Lessthan, correct?” Atica recalled that Ito’s skin was less coppery and his eyes a brilliant green.
“Yes, Ito is. And we are very upset with the Grand Master. For decades, he has tried to undermine the social order. He has it in his head that we Lessthans need to get out of our bubble, as he calls it, and socialize with the rest of the planet. What can you expect from a Morethan, though? He brazenly mixed up the children this year.”
“Let me see if I’ve gotten this right. Because I am an adopted child, even though I am not even of this world, I cannot fraternize with a Morethan. Even a female Morethan, because it would disrupt your social standings. By this logic, what does that even make me? I am not a Morethan or a Lessthan.”
Dal M nodded his head. “You have it all correct, childe. Unfortunately, you are a Nonthan, and we must keep you guarded from the Morethan at all cost. If your mind became filled with their global agenda, it could infect the Lessthan.”
Atica let out a deep sigh. “This is bigoted snobbery. What happens when we leave your charge and go off to Trade Schools? Surely this social order doesn’t remain intact.”
Mata G shook her head. “We start from birth with our offspring, instilling in them our ways and values. Our children do not go to trade school until they reach Entignastia. By then, reason has guided them for twelve years, and they will carry it forward into their lives away from us.”
“In other words, you’ve brainwashed them,” Atica said defiantly.
Dal M glared at her. “Call it what you will, childe, but this is our way of life. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to obey it.”
“What difference does a few days make though? You are sending me away before I even reach Entignastia. I’ll have no choice but to mingle with the Morethan then.”
“We know that,” Dal M began. “You’ve already influenced Elanta with your Andromedan ways. We cannot stop that, but we will not have you infect her with Morethan philosophy before you leave. She is still too impressionable, too naïve. You will not speak to her about what you and that Morethan discussed. Is that clear?” he concluded with another glare.
Atica lowered her eyes. She understood far too well now. Elanta was only eight. She still had four years of indoctrinating from the parents. They still had time to undo everything from Atica’s presence with the family, but only if Atica left now. This had less to do with their running feud between the Morethan and Lessthan and more to do about her being from another world with different values.
“It’s crystal clear,” she finally whispered, knowing that the word crystal would tell the parents just how well she understood.
“Good,” said Mata G with a bright smile on her face. “Now, let’s talk about trade schools.”
Dal M clapped his hands together. “Yes. Where does Atica want to go?”
Atica remembered the conversation she had with Ostare. She had to persuade the parents to send her to Astroengineering. “Anywhere but Astroengineering,” she pleaded.
“Why not there?” Mata G asked. “I’ve seen you tinkering with things. You would do well there.”
Atica shook her head. “My father was an astroengineer. I don’t think I could bear studying the same field that got him killed.”
“Nonsense,” Dal M said. “It wasn’t his field of study that got him and your mother killed, it was a raid ship. It might do you some good to study his field. Bring you closer to him. What did your mother do?”
“She was a terraformer.”
“Well, I think you should begin at Astroengineering and if after a few years of training, you still feel uncomfortable with it, we can send you to Terraforma. How does that sound?”
Atica pouted. “Do I have any other choice?”
Mata G smiled at her. “You always have choices, childe, but you have engineering in your blood. At least give it a try.”
“Fine. I’ll try,” Atica bellowed, throwing her hands up in the air.
“Good. It’s all settled then. I will contact the Astroengineering Authority in the morning. Go finish recharging now,” Dal M decided, a smug look upon his face.
Atica lowered her head and nodded. She got up and went back to her crystal box, grinning from ear to ear from her deception.
Andromeda Dreaming is a YA Science Fiction story. Young Atica has been marooned on an alien world, adopted by a family there. She longs for her parents who may or may not be alive, and Allura, her homewold in the Andromeda Galaxy. Will she ever see her parents again? Or will she have to accept a life on the foreign planet Marmooth where she fears she will never fit in?
Andromeda Dreaming ©2016-2017 Lori Carlson. All rights reserved. Permission must be granted to distribute or copy this serial (unless reblogging). Thank you.
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