A purple sky tainted the morning, lighting the sleeping quarters of the guard. The customary mark of respect replacing the usual green hue that greeted the start of a new day. An Original had died, not that he didn’t know that.

How many did that leave now? Reeth thought, as he rubbed at his eyes and stood from his sleeping pod. Eight. No, six. Two woman from the south quarter and four men from the west, he remembered, as he pulled on the dark silver uniform of the Quadrant Guard.

Reeth had a somewhat weird fascination for the Originals, much to the dislike of his fellow officers who saw them as contaminants. A scourge that should have expired decades ago, they would say. Only, these ones had lasted longer than anyone had expected them to. Not that he minded. It gave him an opportunity to interface, or talk, as Martin (an Original and his latest acquisition) had informed him.

“So I see another has finally shut down. Good.” Reeth turned at the sound of Roake’s voice and stared at him. “Does that make you want to cry?”

Reeth smiled before looking back to the sky. He found it amusing how they had the same pale-blue eyes, dark, silver hair and perfect simulated skin, as was the required law of The Guard. However, one difference set him apart from the rest. Reeth had acquired a knowledge. Well, more taken than acquired.

“No. how would I cry if I am not programmed to?” Reeth looked back, not a flicker of emotion betraying the strange sensation he was feeling inside. “I simply find them fascinating. How we were once designed as separate entities.”

“You are not paid to think, Reeth.” A harsh voice came from behind them. Reeth turned and faced Raeben, the Quadrant Commander. “Now get moving. They need you at Sector Ten. They require a … sympathiser, to deal with the body.”

“As you order, sir.” Reeth bowed his head. Sector 10. They had found him sooner than he’d expected. He turned away, grabbing his I.D. band from his pod and left.

The air was cool, and the purple sky that he had awoken to, had changed back to the pale-green glow that was customary for their zone. Eight minutes, though. One minute of remembrance for every ten years of Martins life. Not much time to acknowledge his worth, but then, more than anyone else gets. His kind never lived past thirty years. How anyone could mourn a loss in three minutes, he thought. No one would though, because The Senate forbids mourning. Reeth straddled his solar trike and left the compound behind.

The road was empty, giving him a chance to enjoy the freedom of being alone; he was becoming accustomed to these new feelings. He slowed the trike, put it in automatic pilot mode and leaned back in the seat. He thought of last night’s conversation he’d had with Martin. They had been discussing the differences between birth and cloning, how a female and male would perform an act called sex to ensure continuance of their population. Reeth seemed shocked, if not a little disgusted with the idea; these sexual organs Martin spoke of weren’t part of their anatomy. And, he had almost vomited when Martin opened the flap on his trousers and showed him the parts he was missing.

Reeth had changed the topic of conversation rather quickly, asking him how the earth differed before the arrival of his kind. Martin was more than happy to share his knowledge. Reeth understood this as loneliness. Apart from himself and the medics from The Senate, which attended to his weak heart, no one else dared to venture within the compounds of his domicile.

Martin continued. “The world back then had become greedy, stripping the planets resources until there was nothing left. A dark time.” His eyes misted over. “Many of them died in the harsh winters that followed.” He lifted his head off the pillow and stared blindly at a faded picture. “You should feel lucky to have all this clean air and trees. Ah yes, trees.” He lifted a hand off the cover and gestured weakly at the window. But there were no trees. The solar storm of 2073 took care of that.

However, Reeth didn’t understand the concept of lucky, no more than he understood why trees were important to the atmosphere. Martin had laughed; telling him there was so much he needed to learn. Reeth had slipped the adapted brainwave-transferer deep inside Martins ear and removed the last of the knowledge. Then he’d wiped away the smear of blood as Martin drew his last breath.

The strange twinge from earlier came back, there would be no more learning, not from Martin any more. He turned his attention back to the road. The tall buildings of Sector 10 were just visible on the horizon, gleaming sickly-green from the sun.

“When I’m finished, it’ll be me ruling them.” He flicked the switch to manual, took hold of the handles, and pulled himself forward on the seat. I wonder which Original I‘ll visit next, he thought, as he accelerated the trike towards the Citadel.

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