written by: Richard Bishop
Abigail stared at the shot of Mindkiller clutched in her hand and wondered if it would taste better with a salted rim and a slice of humble fruit. Her butt ached from the hard marble benches of the rotunda, and the alabaster statues of the Great Intellectas scowling down at her didn’t make her duty any easier.
“If you drink that,” said Edsel, pointing to the glass. “You will function at a Norm level. It is permanent. No coming back.”
“But Norms talk to each other, touch each other, and have families.”
He wagged his fingers. “Awkward, filthy, and noisy.”
She leaned toward him. “Do you know anything about Norms, Edsel?”
“I’ve watched them scurry around the science tower. They looked busy, like ants, surrounded by a cloud of sweat.”
“I have heard them whistling as they perform their duties. Do you ever whistle, Edsel?”
“Never. Why would I?” He yawned and brushed a crumb from his blue robe.
She stared into his eyes. “Do you think you would enjoy living as a Norm?”
Edsel shook his head and gazed at the statue of Grand Intellecta Beatrice for support. “Whatever gave you that idea?”
She stood and paced the rotunda before sitting beside him. “I thought you might understand. We share a common ancestor with them, and the High Intellectas take the pretty ones for satisfaction women or bed boys.”
“Is that what you want, Abigail, to be a professor’s whore? With your grades and intel score, you will be a teacher in five years and a professor ten years after that. If I had your abilities, I wouldn’t have to beg for assignments.”
“Do you not find this life boring? All mental, little physical contact.”
“No, I find it challenging.”
She threw her hand out, palm up, towards him. “Would you not like to feel, to laugh, or cry now and then? Would it be so bad to get drunk and roll around in the dirt? Have a one-night-stand, a marriage, a family, be a father, have your heart broken?”
Edsel’s brows wrinkled. “The one-night-stand has its charms, but Norms cannot control their offspring’s intelligence. It’s aimless, based on random coupling.”
Abigail glared. “Sometimes our children are not perfect. It is rare, but high functioning Norms slip through the breeding program until discovered and repurposed.”
Edsel sighed and lowered his chin onto his chest before speaking. “Norms will never appreciate the higher functions of a well-formed mind. It is our burden and duty to guide them.”
Abigail bowed her head, then looked up. “I understand the burden, and my duty only too well. I like you, Edsel. I will miss you.”
He tentatively placed his hand on her shoulder. His fingers brushed her arm and slid along her silk robe. Her lavender scent teased his nose. “Don’t do it. Abigail. Maybe we should pair up?”
Abigail shook her head, rose from the bench, and stepped around the rotunda, nodding to each of the statues, her sandals clicking on the marble floor. She raised her eyes to the textured ceiling, filled both lungs with air, and let the breath flow out of her nose. She wrapped her fingers around the glass of Mindkiller. “I am sorry, Edsel.”
Edsel gulped. His brows scrunched together, and his pupils dilated as she raised the glass.
Her eyes teared up.
He closed his eyes. “I cannot watch this.”
“Good, it will make it easier.”
She pinched his nose and poured the dose of Mindkiller into his open mouth.
He tried to spit it out, but it was too late. “Why?” Tears dribbled from the corner of his eyes.
“Your intel scores are too low. You are not a pure Intellecta. You are not one of us. Do not worry. Professor Gertrude wants you.”
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