“Did you enjoy your cleaning duty?” Jeremiah stood with arms crossed. “Because you’ll be on cleanup for the rest of the month.”
Shoveling manure or dealing with you, it’s all the same. That is what Cera wanted to say, but instead, she avoided eye contact and chewed her lip.
Jeremiah scoffed at her silence and stepped closer so she could hear him whisper. “You’re only here because Lead Scientist Parker thinks you’re valuable but everyone knows you’re her worthless little pet.” Seeing her cheeks flush and tears forming in her eyes, Jeremiah smirked and left her to return to his work.
Cera stood there, the warmth of his heated words still on her cheek and the dagger of pain in her chest. She agreed with Jeremiah to some extent. She knew she wasn’t as valuable to the research as Lane, but she had always felt that what she did contribute was at least helpful. Cera rubbed her cheek against her shoulder and swallowed the dagger as she headed to Lane’s section of the lab.
Lane waved her over, “Just came in from the enclosures, huh?” She pointed at Cera’s cheeks. “Wear a hat next time. Your cheeks are super red.”
“Y-yeah.” Cera responded with a shrug. “What’s going on? Why is the Director here?” Cera tilted her head towards the top of the staircase where the Director and his board members were gathered.
“Ah, yes. It’s—” Lane’s response was cut short by the booming intercom speakers.
The Director was clearing his throat into the intercom, “Sorry about that.” He waved an apologetic gesture. “Hello, members of Xenia Corp.” He waited for the room to fall to a hush before he continued, “The accomplishments of this team are piling up under the leadership of Lead Scientist Parker. Over the past decade, you have all worked diligently to decode the window to the soul or, to be less poetic, the eyes of humans.” He gestured behind him towards the fox enclosure. “Through your tireless studies, you have found that irises reveal the nature of the holder. Specifically, central heterochromia, or starburst eyes are found in individuals who are prominently submissive whereas those with no variation in their iris are prominently aggressive by nature.”
He placed a hand on the board member nearest him. “You even took it a step further, proving that these traits could be passed on to the next generation or bred out of the genetic pool altogether!” He shook the board member’s shoulder, “Can you believe that?” The board member shook his head in feigned disbelief.
Lane whispered under her breath, “Out with it already.”
“It is thanks to you that Xenia Corp will be at the forefront of bringing stability to mankind.” Whispers grew in the crowd, but he continued. “Imagine a world, where at birth, you’re offered a personalized road map tailored towards growing your talents based upon your personality. Instead of being forced to attend a cookie-cutter school with standardized testing that doesn’t apply to your strong suits, you’re placed in an environment that allows you to hone your interests. Those scientifically inclined aren’t bogged down with mandatory physical education or the history of fine arts. Artists aren’t required to take algebra or forced to study the periodic table. You get to do what you’re genetically made to do with no fuss.” The murmurs turned to claps of approval as all the scientists rejoiced at the idea that the next generation of scientists wouldn’t have to endure the pain of P.E. class.
The Director drank in the applause. “To reward your efforts, I’m giving you the rest of the day off.”
Lane raised her hands up in defeat as she proclaimed in hushed tones, “Is that really it? Is that all we get from this discovery? We literally saved the next generation of scientists from the embarrassment of P.E. and we get half a day off?” She unbuttoned her lab coat and turned to leave. “I need ice cream. Cera, you in?” Cera opened her mouth to respond, but Lane dramatically shushed her with a pressed finger to her lips cutting her off. “Yes. The correct answer and only answer is yes.”
Through Lane’s pressed finger Cera mumbled out “Well, I mean obviously. You’re buying though.” Cera linked arms with Lane as they left work to enjoy their reward.
Cera just wanted to share her latest astrophotography with a small group of fellow night sky enthusiasts, but when her images go viral for exposing alien life she becomes the interest of both her government and the Judger of Worlds. Cera has spent her life hiding under the darkness of night skies and she absolutely does not like having the limelight shining on her. The light exposes too much and with it, she learns that the Galatic "Good Guys" maintain interstellar peace through the destruction of all advanced and aggressive civilizations. Earth will soon be advanced enough to join the rest of the universe, but are they peaceful enough to dodge the "Delete All" button of the Judger of Worlds? Probably not, but Cera might be able to convince the Judge to bend the rules. Well, maybe.