Sierra Ketsom
The Grounds
The Daetre Learning Centre, Australia

"He's never going to make it now." Ygritte informed her, shaking her head sadly. "I overheard the Teachers talking about him last week. They said that he probably wasn't going to be even considered for Society, no matter how well he does on his tests. He doesn't even have a small chance now."

"I feel bad for him. I wonder how long he's going to stay at the Reformation centres for if they won't even consider him." Sierra said, watching as the Teachers pulled apart the quarrelling boys and led them off to the punishment rooms.

"I don't. He shouldn't have even been in a fight in the first place." Ygritte replied, flipping her long black hair over her shoulder. "He's a trouble maker that one. Don't be drawn in. You'll get in trouble associating with those ones."

"I didn't say I was." She said, turning to face her best friend. "I just feel bad."

"Yeah, yeah. You're too empathetic, Sierra. Be careful. It might affect you." Ygritte replied, picking up her study books which she had left in the shade of a tall tree.

"I'm already in trouble. No one can be smarter than the great Ygritte Williams." Sierra said, only half-joking and Ygritte laughed softly.

They both looked up at the building's surrounding them when the soft crackling of the loud speakers could be heard, meaning that someone was about to speak to them. Sierra often wondered what it must be like to live in the Societies. The Learning Centres were the only buildings in the entire world that kept the same technologies as two hundred years ago. Only if you were admitted to Society were you finally admitted to the advancements of technology, life and immortality.

'Lunch has been shortened today due to the inappropriate actions of two sixteen boys. Please return to your classes, they have been lengthened to accommodate for the extra time.'

There were no groans or complaints as the children on the Grounds packed up their games and conversations and filed inside, making themselves look as presentable as possible for class. Sierra and Ygritte joined the line making their way into the C block. In the Learning Centres, it was failure to disobey the Teachers and no one wanted to fail.

Teachers Henley and Joccumson were waiting by the doors, inspecting everyone to make sure that they were clean enough to enter inside. A few of the younger children were sent off to the washrooms with a stinging slap to their behinds but everyone older than twelve knew exactly what to do to please them. SIerra was waved through with no hint of a smile or a word of praise. The Teachers weren't assigned to baby and look after you ever since you were three. They were there to conform and twist you to fit the ideals of the Society, no matter how much they punished you or how mean they were.

Being sixteen years of age meant that Sierra was in her final year of schooling and that in the next year, she would be introduced into life in Society. It also meant that in four days, she would be beginning the Final exams soon. That was enough to give anyone sleepless nights for weeks. Sierra walked upstairs in learned order, following the person in front of her, leading the person behind her. She didn't talk, she kept her posture straight and she hoped that it was good enough not to earn a smack with the cane.

There was a big difference between class and lunchtime. During lunch, you could talk, play, eat and make friends. In class, you were silent and you learned. If you did anything other than that, you sorely regretted it and not only for that day but for the rest of the week as well. You didn't slack off, you didn't daydream and you certainly took notes. Things were drawing towards revision now and Sierra was finding it hard to keep up with most of the class. That scared her. The only thing that she appeared to be good at was history and sport and even then, she wasn't the best in her class. She wasn't like Ygritte who was good at everything.

"As you all know, your Final exams are coming up soon. This is your last chance to prove that you are the perfect citizen. You will begin with arts, then academia and then sports. Study hard and word hard and maybe you'll be excepted. Believe me when I say this, you do not want to fail. It is not simply about staying back a couple of years and looking older than everyone else. You do not want to fail. Understand?" Teacher Joccumson said as they took their seats. Everyone nodded.

"You'll regret it for as long as you live." The Teacher continued as though she wanted to stress her point, grimacing slightly. Sierra frowned but nodded again, wondering why she was telling them that. Everyone understood from their earliest memories that you must do your best in School. It was simple knowledge and no one had really repeated that ever since their sixth year. Teacher Joccumson was one of the easier mentors, she didn't hit anyone as much and she was generally quite kind but some thought that maybe she wasn't as sane as she could be upstairs. Sierra didn't know what to believe so she went along with what was right. What was expected. She agreed with the Teacher and kept her thoughts to herself.