Rainbows, I thought, looking at the two boys in the room. They both looked to be teenagers and only the red one seemed to be paying attention. Jay cleared her throat and said again that there was company.
“In a minute, Doctor,” the yellow one said, peering intensely at the chess pieces in front of him. “After I finish this.”
“What, beating yourself again or losing to yourself again?” the red one asked with a smirk and the yellow one glared slightly.
“This is Ross,” Jay said, indicating the red one. “And that is Flavian. Flavian, stop playing that game and get up. When you agreed to stay here for examination, you agreed to listen to what I say.”
“Flavian never listens to anyone,” Ross said with a nervous chuckle. He quickly stood up and looked at me. “Hello. My name is Ross Lowell.”
I offered my hand but he just stared rather blankly at it. “My name is…” I trailed off and looked at Jay who gave a nod. “Luna,” I said. “Danevbie.”
Ross smiled. “It is a pleasure to meet you but what should I call you, ma’am? Doctor? Professor?”
I was startled by this question but finally shrugged. “Neither. Miss Danevbie is fine.”
“She has some questions for you,” Jay said, already looking bored now that my initial surprise was over.
While Flavian continued his game quietly, Ross and I sat down on the love seat in the corner of the room. He seemed a bit nervous and I wasn’t sure if it was because I was a stranger or because Jay Redding–or rather, Dr. Dearg–was in the room.
“Tell me about yourself,” I said, figuring that was as good a open as any. “Your life here.”
He glanced over at the Reddings and I assumed one of them indicated he was allowed to answer because he began talking. “I’ve lived sixteen years,” he began. “My brother is twenty years of age, and my mother and father were married twenty-two years ago.” He shifted in his seat and spread his hands on his knees. “I–I had the same childhood as most others in our town. I really don’t know what else to say.”
“Are you happy?” I asked. “Are you treated well?”
“I’m happy,” he said and then smiled. “I’m mostly treated well.”
I narrowed my eyes and glanced sideways at Jay. She didn’t seem perturbed by this confession so I leaned in a little closer to Ross. “Mostly?” I whispered. “By the Deargs?”
“Oh!” he exclaimed with a laugh. “The Deargs treat me awesomely. It’s my brother who gives me trouble. He still pushes me around.” He rolled up his sleeve and indicated a faded, but still rather vivid, purple spot. “He knocked me down two days ago. But I don’t like fighting back. It’s wrong.”
I felt rather sheepish by this, realizing I was trying to make a mountain out a molehill. One hint of unhappiness in this boy and I was ready to blame Jay. “What do the Deargs do to you?” I inquired.
“Do…?” he asked softly. “Not much. I don’t see Professor Dearg often.” He looked over at Kay who quickly bowed his head, mumbling something. “Dr. Dearg is usually around when I get my medical examination and asks questions. Like about my diet, my routines, stuff like that.” He began picking at his fingernails, making humming sounds as he thought. “A couple weeks ago she had me try this new medicine then she hooked up these, um, weird electric-y things to my head then did a scan of my brain.”
I looked at Jay again who stared impassively back at me. “As I said, we are currently working hard on finding ways to reduce stress on the mind and the body during situations that have large amounts of stress. To help those such as doctors, or in the military.”
“And I’ve taken something that helps learning,” Flavian said from his spot by the chessboard. “I just learned this game this morning and tomorrow morning I’ll be playing an expert and see how I do.” He studied the piece in his hand and then smiled. “I probably won’t do well. No offense,” he added to Jay who didn’t look pleased.
“And what about you?” I asked Ross. “Why are you in here? The same reason? Or because of the stress reduction treatment?”
“No,” he whispered, tugging at the hem of his shirt. “A different reason. I recently lost the hearing in my left ear due to an accident.” He reached up and swiped slightly at the ear in question. “Dr. Dearg inserted these, um… nan… um, nanobot thingies in my ear. Um, they um…” He looked up at Jay, a rather helpless look on his face.
“Nanorobotic technology is one of the fields of exploration here at Acinert,” Jay said very smoothly. “Some of them worked on his eardrum but most of them are still in his ear, forming an eardrum and acting as one. It seems to be going well. Except they don’t stay long. That is why he is here, we needed to put more in.”
Part of me wondered if that was safe, though honestly I didn’t know a whole lot about nanorobotic technology. Nanobots were just something I had heard in sci-fi movies or books. I knew it was something some researchers were looking into but to have them at the point of working as an eardrum was, I hated to admit, rather impressive. At least, I thought it was.
“And it’s safe?” I asked and Ross shot me a rather nervous look.
“Perfectly safe,” Jay replied. “We have been using this technology for a year now without any problems.”
I talked to Ross a bit more but he seemed fine, happy, and able to hear with both ears. He was somewhat nervous but I finally decided that was due to him not knowing me. Now I turned my attention to Flavian who reluctantly stepped away from his chess game.
He wasn’t anywhere near nervous and actually seemed slightly cocky and confident. He told me he was very happy in his community. He lived with his father and a younger sister. His mother had left years ago. and Jay stepped in, reminding me that all volunteers were allowed to leave when they wanted to.
“I don’t know why she wanted to leave,” Flavian said with a frown. “I love Ancora.”
“Ancora?” I asked, looking at the twins for any explanation.
“L-Latin,” Kay said. “For s-support and… and h-hope. W-we named it Anc-cora because it is a c-community of support, and h-hope for the f-future.” He frowned, though, as if he didn’t believe this or maybe he was lying. I couldn’t tell and a little nagging feeling tugged in my brain.
Because it’s Jay Redding, I thought, turning my attention back to Flavian. The people in Sunset Valley used to treat my father badly because of what happened. Even my siblings were sometimes mistreated, like Rion mentioned the police. I shouldn’t let my own prejudicial feelings towards the Reddings sway my opinion and judgment.
“And you are comfortable with all this? You said you love Ancora. Does anything bad ever happen?”
“Of course it does,” Jay said quickly, as Flavian started to open his mouth. “Like any other community. You already know of the incident that happened the other day.” Jay stared at Flavian who was frowning. “Miss Izusa,” Jay told him and Flavian bowed his head slightly. “The girl who had the… accident in which Mr. Wright went into town for supplies.”
I nodded at that but was studying Flavian’s face. There was something in his eyes that raised my suspicions about what Jay was telling me. “Did you know her?” I asked.
“Yes,” Flavian answered. “My–my friend is her younger sister. Dr. Raleigh informed us last night that she passed away.” He curled both hands into fists and pressed them under his chin, his eyes big and full of thought. “I hope Rose is okay. I mean, Rosalba,” he added, going slightly green. For a second I thought he was sick then realized it was him blushing. His red blood under his yellow skin made him tint green instead of pink.
“I am really sorry for your loss,” I said and a small smile crept across his face.
“It’s all right, ma’am,” he said, tossing back his hair. “Accidents happen. I understand that. As the saying goes, there are two things that are certain to happen. Death, and the Deargs.” He laughed quietly at that and I couldn’t help but smile at the change in the phrase. I guess Ancora doesn’t have taxes, I decided.
We continued talking and Flavian was open about everything and it really made me curious to see at how quickly he got over being upset about the death of his friend’s sister. Either he didn’t care about… what was the name? Isoza? Izusa. That was it. Either he didn’t care much about her, or he had the mental attitude that death was okay. It made me wonder if that’s what Ancora kids were taught about losing loved ones. It also made me wonder what else they were taught.
“Of course I’m gonna stay when I turn eighteen,” he said when I asked him and then I turned towards Ross who nodded quickly.
“I will stay as well,” he said with a smile as he headed over to his bed. “Ancora is nice.”
“What do you do there, as adults?” I asked. “Do you have jobs?”
“Yep,” he replied, beaming now. “We all start our apprenticeships when we’re sixteen. I’ll be starting mine in two weeks, when I turn sixteen. I’ll be apprenticing to my father, who of course is a potter. We make all the dishes, bowls, vases–all of those in Ancora.”
“What about you?” I asked Ross.
“Oh…” He stared at me for a moment, looking at loss. “I’ve started mine with my mother and father. I am a guardian. I–“
“A guardian is sort of like a police officer,” Jay said, stepping forward and cutting off whatever it was Ross was going to say. “Now, Luna, I think it’s time we leave these boys be. Ross needs his rest and Flavian needs to work on learning chess.”
I nodded and stood up, thanking each boy for their time. I followed Jay and Kay back out into the hall and then down to Kay’s office. It was a relief to step away from the dark, pressing feeling of the halls.
Kay and I sat down, while Jay stood by her brother with a smirk on her face. “Are you happy with what they said?” she asked me quickly. “I hope you have come to a final decision.”
The bubble of fear grew larger. Jay really wanted me working with them. And the only thing stopping me was, as I had realized earlier, my prejudice against them. On the surface everything seemed… right. But I had the feeling of darkness under the glossy, bright surface. Jay was lying about something. Something was hidden. The death of the Izusa girl, perhaps? There was something about what I had been told that seemed off but again, perhaps it was because I expected something dark, dirty, and evil.
“What will I be doing?” I asked, crossing my legs. “And how much will I be paid?”
Jay scribbled something down and handed the paper over. “That will be your starting salary and with promotions, of course, it will get higher. I hope to have you at the level my brother and I are at soon. But to start, you will be one of our researchers. When someone needs a hand with an experiment, you will be there to lend a hand. If we need research to be done, that will be given to you to look up. You’ll put reports together, and occasionally you will be going into Ancora to talk to the villagers and ask them generic questions.”
They were both looking at me. Her, with a smirk and something fake in her eyes. Him, with a rather frozen smile and something fearful in his eyes.
“What sort of… helping with experiments will I be doing?” I asked, glancing down at the paper again. The pay was good. Really good. Much higher than what I was receiving at Soil and Water.
“For instance,” Jay began, “if we need something done along the lines of what Flavian is undergoing, you will be at hand when the person is given the drug and you will be constantly checking on them to find any side effects. If it is something such as what Ross is undergoing, you might be called in to help with the medical scans of his ear.”
“I think I have decided,” I said, crumbling up the piece of paper in my hand and then looking at Jay and Kay with my chin lifted and my lips set. “I will work here with you.”
“Very good, Luna,” she said, her voice slipping through my mind like ice. “I am most happy to welcome you on board with Acinert. You have made the right decision.”
“Y-yes,” Kay whispered. “Wel… welcome…”
I just hoped Jay was correct, and that this was the right thing to do. But whether it was right or not, it was what I wanted. And wanting to work here so much was a lot scarier than working here because it was the ‘right’ thing to do.