They led her down the hallway.

Everything- the people, the rooms, the feelings- was bright, elegant, and shining.

Except her. She was just an Average, all freckles, red curls, and bony joints. There was no real reason that They could be considering her…right? The Commission was a place of beauty. Someone so awkward and clumsy like her didn't belong here.

"In here, Miss Haley." Her guide said kindly, a gentle smile on his lips.

She sat at the table, and he across from her, and they got down to the hard parts.

"Now, Miss Haley…" With a wave of his hand he opened up the computer, the screen sliding up out of the desk and the keyboard projected onto its surface.

"Although your last checkup was only three months ago, We'd like to be sure that your data is up to speed." He smiled. She nodded.

"So… your name?"

"Amariss Leeann Geraldine Haley."

"Age?"

"15 years, two months, and…nine days."

"Father?"

"Drew Willard Haley."

"Status?"

"Deceased."

"Mother?"

"Jessica Andrea Goode Haley."

"Status?"

"Resigned."

"Siblings?"

"One. Frederick Drew Haley."

"Status?"

"Deceased."

He checked the Records one last time.

"Everything seems to be in check, Ms. Haley. Do you know why you're here?"

"I applied for a secretarial spot…"

"You did." He smiled. For a second, just a second, it seemed…off. But then she realized that it was probably just her. After all, she was just an Average. He was a Superior. What did she know?

He reached out and took her hand. They shook.

"Welcome to the Commission."

****

She got her schedule ten minutes later, and her desk shortly after. Amariss had been told she wouldn't start work until tomorrow, for her Preparation was scheduled for today. A female guide came and led her down a long corridor full of metallic doors, and she was just beginning to think that working here was going to be an absolute joy when she heard a yell.

Someone was screaming. She stopped, turning round. A door about two yards back had been opened, and a screaming adolescent was being dragged out, flailing and kicking.

"Come, Miss Haley." Her guide said. She didn't move. Another figure was towed out, less forcefully, a young man. He was in a restraining collar, and he looked terrified far below his years. The boy began yelling more than ever, cursing in an odd slurring tongue.

She couldn't make out anything from his cries. But she didn't need a Translator to know he was saying some pretty foul things about the man in charge. And he didn't either. So he slapped the boy. The boy responded by biting his arm.

"Miss Haley!" Her guide grabbed her arm and led her away, down the hall, around a corner, up an escalator.

"Miss Haley, in the future, such insurrection shall not be allowed." Her guide said rather shrewdly. Amariss flinched from the change from her calm, angelic tone. All at once her guide's face collapsed into a forgiving and loving smile.

"It's alright, love, it's only your first day. Come on, now." She took Amariss's hand and began leading her towards the Orientation room.

Amariss could still hear the screaming.


Lysander sat scrunched up on his bed, his head buried in his arms. He could hear the screaming and yelling in the next room. The entire Dead Place had sound-proof walls, save for the one separating his and the Red Place.

Screaming. Screaming. Endless, throat-wrenching screams. He could almost hear the vocal cords straining, the wet snapping as he imagined them breaking. But the screams were not made from vocal chords. But Lysander did not know what a Program-Failure sounded like, or how a nano-speaker sounds when it is blown to shreds, so vocal chords were all he had.

Then the screams stopped.

The horrible thing was that Lysander wanted them to continue.

He held his breath in spine-melding guilt. His lungs fluttered, his lip quivered...

Suddenly, the door slid out of the wall, burst open, and with a puppy-like whimper, Jude was thrust through. Lysander breathed again.

He was bleeding from his restraining collar, staining his white shirt like ink. His eyes were sad and would have been crying if not for the lack of tears. Lysander got off of the bed and gave him a hug, wrapping his arms around him. Jude was at least three heads taller than Lysander was, but that would change soon.

It was strange, being older emotionally than someone seven years your senior. When you laughed, and had to explain what a laugh was, when you needed to describe what crying was, when you needed to somehow explain what anger was when you were in the heat of hatred...Lysander had known people who had mental problems back on his homeland, but at least they had known what emotions were.

All Jude knew was what The People wanted him to know. Pain, to control him, and contentedness, to let him know when he wasn't in pain.

Lysander pulled him over to the bed, and they sat down together, Lysander with his paper and pen, and once again he tried to tell him everything.