"Attention: All citizens are to abandon their job-homes and school-homes and return to their source-homes immediately. Job-homes will be closed from tomorrow at 14:00". The humanoid holograms in the road were repeating monotonally.
These words startled the two occupants of the little school-home, Ebony Bosh and Alice Vodel. They set aside all their hard philosophy and science essays, due tomorrow. They listened to the message, again and again, and wondered what this would mean for them.
"Source homes? I thought those were abolished after the Second Reform", Ebony asked her roommate.
"Well, apparently not. How are they supposed to move all the stuff from our room into our source homes until tomorrow?", she answered.
Her instructor appeared on her spider-silk desk, unannounced. She reminded them that they had only a few hours to pack.
For a human yet to finish her second decade on Planet Earth, this was a change as momentous as they come. She had to abandon her roommate, Alice, and all her friends. She had to move back to her source home, where she had barely spent two years of her life. She had to leave one of the most prestigious educational institutions on Planet Earth, abandon her education and with it all her thirst for learning.
Her life had been thrown into the void, where she didn't know what to expect, and which she had never explored before. How long was this to last? A month, two maybe? More?
A month locked up with her biological family. She thought she'd never see a member of her family again. Or that, when she did see it, it would a large revelation, like the ones shown in the plasma screens. There, people found out that their sibling was a grand scientist, a colonist to the New Void or a governor in Andromeda. She feared that her sibling would be a lowlife, a good-for-nothing hedonist, whom she would be forced to spend time with.
She turned on the plasma screen to listen to the government's advice on the disease.
" A new respiratory virus has began spreading in our city. After sequencing of the genome of the virus, scientists discovered an old type virus with a different genetic code. This code contains previously unseen sulphur bases instead of nitrogen ones. Unfortunately, it is not yet understood how these new, sulphate-based genes work. Until the genome of the virus can be decoded, the government has taken the cautionary measure of confining all citizens in closed quarters. We are conducting trials with already ill patients to study transmission. Any new information will be shared with you via the government's health network: health.gov. There is, however, no need to panic. The government has got the situation under control. Thank you."
After hearing the minister's report, Alice seemed disappointed.
"I wanted to help. I want to be a health care worker and I'm this close to getting the diploma. It will help me get experience in the field. I know I can do it. But they won't let me", she murmured, with sadness enveloping her once happy figure.
"Now, now, don't be sad, it's going to be alright. They're going to figure out they have no more good doctors. Then they're going to call upon the best in the land, Dr Alice", Ebony tried to cheer her up. Seeing no response, she continued,
"You're going to find a magical cure for the disease. You will be known everywhere. You will receive all the prizes and awards meant for mankind. You will move through the city, and everyone will be saying:". She started her imitation of perfectly honourable everyday figures.
-Here's doctor Alice, the best doctor of the century.
-No sir, of the millennia.
-Hail to the matriarch of medicine" and both girls started laughing.
"You know, you've got quite the imagination", Alice told her.
"It's only foresight", she countered.
They were interrupted by the screeching sound of the old speaker, there to remind them of the time. Only thirty minutes left until dinner, where they would part with their friends and attend the last formal ceremony for some time to come.
Both girls hastily moved to get dressed, putting on their formal uniform. Each student had a different uniform that they would wear at formal events. Alice had insisted to the tailors that she would wear a simple, wavy black shirt with long sleeves and white trousers. These were plain, with only the Institution's emblem embroidered on them.
"I think the best thing clothes can be is comfortable, and these sure are", she had said after first trying them on and vowing never to take them off again.
Ebony's uniform, on the other hand was more intricate, designed by her old roommate. It consisted of a long, royal blue robe, with white lines tracing the hands, shoulder and neck.
"It's like they're tracing your bones", Alice teased her.
The sleeves hang loosely around her arms and hands, weighing them down. They bounced around as she moved, which proved very uncomfortable.
Thankfully, Ebony's general craftiness had led her to put the silver pins they had created in chemistry to use.
They were learning about redox reactions, electrochemistry and how to silver plate. They used the rare acid fruit Veonce from one of the large plantations in the moons of Jupiter, that provided just enough voltage for a straight pin of 3 millimetres. From Ebony's fascination with the experiment 20 pins had been plated. Having no other use for them, they were pinned to the loose sleeves, to lessen their fumbling around.
The uniform was rather plain in the torso, with only the school's emblem embroidered right above her heart, a sign of devotion to the Institution. After that the dress continued down to the knees, with a few curved lines and two elegant rosettes embroidered in each side.
The uniform she had chosen was, in fact, very anachronistic, its design proposed to her by her previous roommate. Her friend was interested in the Institution's creation a couple of centuries ago, when human beings only lived on the Earth. It was also near the time the first computer was invented and "Artificial Intelligence" used. Though Ebony's fashion teacher had later scolded her for "putting things together that shouldn't be together", she refused to admit wrongdoing.
"The uniform was just fine," she had told her, "and if people at the time didn't have the brains to put them all together, too bad for them".
Fortunately, both their shoes were as modern as they come. They were white, designed from a student of the academy and inspired from a similar old Earth shoe called ankle boot. They were, in all aspects, more comfortable, enveloping the foot with the highest quality gel from the Uranus factories and adjusting to it automatically.
"Are you ready yet?", Alice shouted
"No, I've still got my hair to do", Ebony countered
"You're taking a very long time, we're going to be late", Alice reminded her
"Well, that's because I wear a dress, not trousers". At this Alice chuckled.
"See, I told you, my clothes are more comfortable AND save more time. Now don't waste any more of it talking, go get ready, quick" she told her.
It was one of the colder months so it was fashionable and logical to let one's hair down, for the neck to stay warm. Alice was irritated by long hair, so she had it cut right down to the edge of the neck. She always kept it there, winter or summer, no matter the weather. Ebony had let her long straight hair down, taking care to not let it accentuate her heart face too much.
Truth be told, she was often disappointed with her face, as her parents had not had the wealth to change anything about her but her eyes, which had a honey tone to them. All her other facial features, from her brown hair to her unusually high cheekbones and her narrow forehead, annoyed her. After all, they were not perfectly proportioned, or beautifully coloured features like those of other students. She had sometimes thought of undergoing robot surgery, to change her features, but Alice had talked her out of it, reminding her of the danger of such processes. Her friends told her that such features make her look "unique", but did they, really?
"Miss Bohr, what are you doing, staring at yourself at the mirror like that?", Alice said.
Ebony jumped out of her trance state, putting the finishing touches in her attire. She used a few leftover silver pins for her hair, to keep it from falling in front of her face.
Alice then looked at the skincare creams, which none of the girls particularly liked.
"These things are annoying: they make me feel like a freshly made statue, about to solidify, not a human", she commented.
To which her friend nodded with understanding.
The third bell rang. The girls left the room just in time. A wave of people slowly moved down the stairs, threatening to block and absorb them. Alice rushed forward, galloping down the stairs.
"What are you doing?" Ebony asked
"Just going to get us some seats, the room is already filled with people", she shouted while still running and almost falling down the large staircase.
Sighing and with her friend being out of sight, Ebony stopped on top of the staircase. She scanned the room around her, searching for some clues as to what would happen next.