《Elysium: Diamond In The Rough》Chapter 1: Remembrance and Arbitration

I throw the lunch I made for myself into my backpack and begin quickly throwing on a mismatch of clothes. Today isn't like every other day in Preparatory School in Elysium, today is the day of The Arbitration.

The Arbitration is a series of tests, both physical and mental, that is given to every thirteen year old Elysian. It's a tool used by the government to determine best how the upcoming generation can benefit society. If you're a good study, then your schooling continues past Preparatory, but if it doesn't you are assigned to a manual labor job you are most compatible with.

There is no shame in doing manual labor, you aren't looked down on for doing the work that keeps the city running. Both of my parents were janitors, but they passed away in some freak work accident when I was ten, since then I've been living on my own.

The higher up political types decided to let me keep my family's house since it was already paid off and I do small jobs around the city in order to make money to keep the food coming.

As I run out the kitchen I grab our family picture and give it a small hug. " I'm going to make you guys proud today, don't worry about me too much." The house looks exactly the same as it did the day mom and dad died; I take special care to make sure it stays that way, and make sure everything is locked up while I'm gone. I breathe in deeply and take in the distinct Elysian smell of food stalls, slight smog, and the general daily work that seems to always be happening.

On my way to school I stop by one of the food stalls that I frequent, Miss Pamela an older woman of asian descent turns her head to me with a smile. "Stopping by to get your usual breakfast Alexander?" I look up at her and sing out "Yessssssss ma'am, you know me better than my own mom." Miss Pamela swiftly skewers a cooked animal that looks like a hybrid between a large rat and roach, with what is probably decades of experience, and hands the skewer over too me. " One Kacabu-On-A-Stick Mr. Alexander," and as she says that she pinches my cheek in a way I imagine any person's grandmother would "and don't be makin' jokes like that ya hear?" I nod my head politely and reaffirm with a "Yes ma'am."

I take a bite out of my snack as I walk towards Preparatory School. The carapace of one of the kacabu's legs breaks revealing the stringy delicious meat inside. The meat is naturally greasy and stringy as the muscles have developed over time to give it the quick adept movements kacabu are known for, making it perfect for stews and stir fry. Walking slower than I expected, I watch the people of the city and take in every site I can commiting it all to memory. People accomplishing their daily tasks for work, names, faces, interesting gossip, anything that is interesting or could be important to me is now stuck in my brain. Growing up my parents would always play memorization games with me so I just kind of do it now out of habit to keep myself busy and entertained.

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As I get lost in my mind games, I'm suddenly brought back to reality as a notice the massive group of my classmates funneling into the courtyard of the school. After a few minutes I finally make it and a few moments later the gates to the school shut behind me. A wave of "shushes" forms and rushes over every student as a man with a mane of silver hair steps out onto the balcony above us.

" Children," the man speaks calmly but firmly into a microphone " It is now that time of year, the time of The Arbitration and I, your Arbiter. With the help of the many teachers here, and with your abilities, we will determine your future in our beautiful city. As we all know, no one will help you with the test only your abilities will decide where you go. Consider this the loneliest day you will experience at Preparatory School, you will take the test by yourselves and won't know the results until all of you have finished." A sense of unease begins to stir in the already anxious group of preteens, the man smiles and looks down at all of us and it strangely seems to wash the tension away. " Children, don't be worried, with the test done this way you can continue on with 100% confidence knowing that you forged your own paths. With that being said, give it your best shot! "

The children begin to cheer and I look forward ready to take the test that will determine the rest of my life here in Elysium. They bring us inside in groups of twenty, and since I was one of the last ones to show up, I’m in the fifth and final group of students to take the test. Out of pure boredom, I begin drawing in the dirt with my foot and kicking rocks of all sizes around. One of the guards near the gate grunts out “ Hey kid, quit all that nonsense.” I look back mildly annoyed and bark back “ I’ll quit the nonsense as soon as you people decide to keep me busy with this damn test!” The guard grunts, lets out an annoyed sigh and continues to stand his watch.

“Group 5 you are now up to take The Arbitration,” a woman with a soothing voice says over the speaker system and my eyes dart up from the rock I was getting ready to kick. My group slowly walks into the large schoolhouse that resembles a warehouse, and we are quickly separated to take our individual tests. I’m marched into my own room containing a ridiculous amount of free weights and 3 observers with clipboards. “Hello Alexander,” one of the observers says plainly “I am Observer Josiah and my two accomplices here are Observers Rebecca and William.” The two others give a slight nod as they are introduced and quickly go back to looking at their clipboards. “Your first test will be the physical portion of The Arbitration. We’ll have you lift some weights, do some sprints while we monitor your heart and test your agility.” I nod in understanding and begin to lift the weights, going heavier and heavier until my body can’t go any further. I look at Observer Josiah with a questioning expression worn clearly on my face and the three begin to scribble on their clipboards. "What am I supposed to do, they've only told me to life the weights, but they aren't telling me what they actually want from me.." my thoughts trail off. Every event in the physical portion followed the same pattern, they would tell me what to do but past that they never gave me any more direction or really spoke to me that much. As I finish the last of the agility tests, they scribble in their clipboards and Observer Josiah speaks up “Alexander that will be all for the physical portion, you will be guided to the academic portion now.”

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“Wait, how did I do? You people didn’t tell me ANYTHING, how do I know if I did something wrong?” I scan the Observers but they just wave over a guard to escort me to my next portion of the test. I look around and for some reason I can’t shake the feeling that the school I’ve attended since I was six looks and feels different. The smell gives this vibe of business and they way we’re being treated feels the same, as the thoughts dance around in my head I am greeted by the same three Observers. The room has a singular desk in it and they motion for me to take a seat, which I do.

“Alexander I assume you are somewhat aware of how the academic portion will go.” Observer Josiah pulls out a stapled stack of papers as the last word leaves his mouth and he places them on my desk. “You have two hours to complete the test, if you don’t know an answer then guess...if you leave any of the questions unanswered it will be automatically considered a failure.” Guards bring three chairs into the room and the Observers take their seats. It feels like they’re staring a hole into my forehead and 20 minutes after I start the test, I finish it. “What’s with the prank? It isn’t funny, I mean some of the questions were a little difficult, but…” my voice trails off as I hand Observer Josiah the test “ Seriously. I only have like an hour and a half left after your prank.” The Observers just look at the test for what seemed like another 20 minutes and wrote on their clipboards.

They wave in the guards and move me into another room, Observer Josiah and the other two are there again, except this time the man with the silver mane of hair accompanies them. The silver haired man smiles and emits a welcoming aura as he does so, “Alexander welcome to the final portion of The Arbitration are you nervous?” I think for a second and reply “ I’m more confused than anything, wouldn’t call it being nervous. I’m just taking in the experience,” my eyes narrow as I answer. “Well you’re right! There is no reason to be worried, we’re just going to ask a few questions.” I nod.

“What did you think of the test?” The silver haired man’s eyes look at me questioningly as he asks.

“Well the physical portion was weird, I just kept picking up heavy stuff until I couldn’t and the running was annoying. The academic portion was easy, that may need to be readjusted at some point.” I think some more “ That’s all.”

“You don’t seem like the other children in your grade, why is that?”

“I guess it’s cause I’ve been living on my own for the past three years, I think I act pretty normal” I say in a tone trying to make it sound like I was a tiny bit offended. “ My parents died, but they taught me a lot before they did.”

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“That’ll be all Alexander, thank you for your time.” As more guards come in and finally escort me to the holding room where all of the other children of finished their tests were. More of my classmates trickled in for the next couple hours and finally the woman comes over the loudspeaker “ All tests have been completed, please wait for your results.” The trios of Observers had the results for the five children they were in charge of and would deliver the test results to each child. Observer Josiah and the other two finally made their way to me and handed me a large closed manilla envelope with “ Alexander Washington” written on it. “We hope you are happy with your results Alexander and welcome to the rest of your life in Elysium.” Observer Josiah says with a genuine smile on his face.

Kids all around the room begin reading out loud their future jobs and fields of study.” Farmer! Police Force! Janitor! Civil Servant! Engineer!” I rip open into my envelope and where as all the other kids in my class had a packet of papers in their envelopes, mine only had one.

“Alexander Washington | Male | FUTURE PROFESSION: N/A “

I look around confused and some of my other classmates see my sheet. “ Everyone look at Alex’s job! He doesn’t have one!” Some people murmur things like “ He’s an outcast. Loser. Useless.”

I look around the room and begin to walk back home with a dejected look on my face. “Mom...Dad, I failed you.” As a tear rolls down my cheek.

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