“YVK, where are you?”
XXV charged down the corridor, yelling at the top of his voice. He hadn’t long been out of the daycare centre, and he and his friend had already got into one of their games, which had already got them into enough trouble with the nurses. But more importantly, she was already winning, so he needed to catch up fast.
“It’s your turn to find me, anyway. It’s not fair, I always get the hard job.”
If they had been from Earth, the young aliens might have likened the Mothership to a beehive or a rabbit warren. There seemed to be an endless maze of identical corridors, crisscrossing and linking for miles and miles. In fact, it was a good job he was so focused on running: a more sensitive soul might have found it very overwhelming. The thought did cross his mind that he was wandering into uncharted territory, but before he had chance to stop and get his bearings, he heard a giggle and shot off to follow it.
“I’ve got you now!” he laughed triumphantly. “I’m coming to – oof!” In his excitement he had forgotten to look where he was going, and had crashed headlong into something coming the other way.
“What is the meaning of this, child?” A stern voice came from somewhere above him. “Do you consider this to be appropriate behaviour?” The person grabbed him by the ears and turned him round, lifting up his shirt to read the identification code. Then they set him back on his feet and slapped him sharply around the face.
“What’s going on here?” Another person came from behind to join them. Still reeling, XXV turned around and tried to focus. He didn’t recognise this man, but from the hushed tones of the crash victim he gathered he was someone very important.
“Oh, Mr Director, sir, this child… he was behaving despicably…”
I don’t know what that means, thought XXV, but I’m sure it’s a bit harsh. I was only running.
“I see,” the Director said. He listened to the account of what had happened, the turned to XXV. “Come with me, young one.” He took him by the shoulders, calmly but firmly steered him into a room and sat him down on a chair.
“Now, what is your ID?”
“XXV 1279. Beta quadrant.”
“I see. XXV, that’s a fine division. Did you know, my personal secretary is from there? XXV 806.”
“No, sir,” he didn’t know particularly why that last word came out – after all, he’d never heard of the Director before today – but something in this man’s stern eyes commanded instant respect. They also looked familiar, although he couldn’t work out where from.
“Yes, it has produced its fair share of honourable Community members. How much do you know about the Community?”
“Not much, sir,” XXV admitted. The Director nodded slowly and stood up. He walked over to a screen and flicked it on. At once, various diagrams and statistics began to flash up. He waved a hand over them as he explained. Here you could see the vast network of rooms that made up the mothership, as well as every resident of every division, in every quadrant, all arranged in order of seniority.
“You see?” said the Director. “All these people, good people, working towards the great goal: Expand and Dominate. Our people have the potential to be mightier than all others, to be respected and feared throughout the whole universe. I see in you someone who could be a great part of that. Would you like that? Would you like to help us reach greatness?”
“Good. Then you must do exactly as we tell you.” He placed his hands on XXV’s shoulders and stared into him with his wide, black eyes. There were no lights reflected here; they might as well have been simply holes in his skull. Such an empty sight should have been meaningless, but somehow they seemed to suck you in. As he listened to these prophecies of glory, he felt something swell inside him. Once again, it felt strangely familiar, but new at the same time.
Eventually, dizzy and confused, he was turned back out into the corridor. The Director shook his hand and retreated back into his office.
“Hey! There you are!” YVK careered into him, wrapping him in a hug. “You lose!” she giggled.
“Hey… you’ll never guess what happened to me,” he said.
“You’ll never guess what happened to me!” she replied excitedly. The two friends put their arms around each other’s shoulders and set off to try and find their classroom, each recounting their little adventure.
“What are your thoughts, Director?”
“Hmmm, he’s a funny lad.”
“Do you think he might be a Subversive?”
“No. He’s an empty vessel, that one. It will be easy enough to fill him with the right stuff. What about the female?”
“I’m worried about her. She’s quite the free spirit.”
“I see. Well, you know what to do. Any subversive elements must be eliminated.”