“We’ll have to move up our schedule.” Robin said to Jeri during free time later that day.
The Center was about a quarter of a mile by a quarter of a mile in size, and was enclosed by the same fifteen-foot concrete, razor-wire-topped wall that Robin’s creek had run under at their old playground. Inside the wall, the Center was broken down into dorms for teenagers and pre-teens. The dorms surrounded a green space area in the middle of the Center, where the teenagers could play sports and enjoy their periodic free times between classes during the day, and at lunch and dinner.
Jeri looked at Robin. He had only just turned thirteen, and moved into a teenager dorm, but he was still almost a foot and a half shorter than any of the other thirteen-year-olds, and all skin and bones.
He had been stretching out for basketball when Jeri found him, and now he began to dribble a ball and take shots, most of which missed the goal altogether. Jeri would watch him play, and try to keep from laughing, because she knew it was important to him, but Robin was a terrible player. His body was just not big or strong enough. Despite that, he had become his team’s unofficial captain because his knowledge of the game, its rules, and strategy was second to none. He couldn’t play the sport well himself, but his tactics and planning had taken his team to the final rounds of the Center’s intramural league.
“How will we even survive outside?” Jeri asked.
“We’ll find a way. We’ll get jobs.”
“What kind of jobs? I’m 15 and you’re 13. Still children by human standards. The humans will want to know where our parents are.”
“It will be difficult at first, but what’s the alternative? If we aren’t chosen for the enzyme by end of puberty, they’ll get rid of us. The only other way out of here alive is escape.”
“They’ll look for us,” Jeri said.
“At first, they will, but after we’re 18, we’ll be too old for the enzyme.”
“Maybe becoming a breeder wouldn’t be that bad. It would only last until we’re about thirty-five. It’s not that long.” Although Jeri said this, at age fifteen, she didn’t really believe it. Thirty-five seemed so far off it might as well of been a hundred.”
“I’m never going to be a part of this system. I’m leaving, with or without you.”
Jeri reached out and held Robin’s hand briefly. They tried not to show too much affection in public. Robin said it could be misconstrued.
“You know I’ll go wherever you go,” Jeri said.
Jeri found a note on her bed at her dorm stating that all of her things had been packed up and moved to a breeder-certified dorm.
The pre-breeder dorms for the kids over thirteen were communal bedrooms that fit half a dozen people per room. Her new dorm was laid out with two private rooms connected by a shared bathroom. The enzyme treatments only took about a month, so no one was there for very long. They were placed here so that they could more easily be monitored by the doctors administering the enzyme shots.
She opened the door, and looked at her new bedroom to the right. She looked in front of her at the shared bathroom. Then she looked to her left, and saw Even lying on the bed in the other room.
Even had been on Robin’s basketball team when he started playing about six months ago. Jeri was terrible at sports, and, unlike Robin, she didn’t have any interest in them. Much to Jeri’s dismay, Even and Robin had become fast friends. On some level, Jeri knew that her jealousy was insane, but she had disliked Even, nonetheless.
Even had blonde hair and blue eyes, like Robin. Even was about a foot and a half taller, but, other than that, they could have been brothers –if they had been human. Jeri’s hair was red and she was fair-skinned. Her eyes were dark. She didn’t look like Robin at all, and it drove her crazy that someone might have more in common with him than she did. Fortunately, Robin’s friendship with Even hadn’t lasted. Robin never told her why, but he had quit his basketball team, and stopped talking to Even about a month back.