Jandy-500 lives in a future world of food shortages, energy blackouts and overpopulation. There are rumours that the Government has found a way to make things better. But will their solution work – or will Jandy and her friends be lost forever?
‘I,’ said Jandy-500, ‘am absolutely wrecked.’ She dropped onto her bunk with a sigh and flopped back onto the hard mattress. Her whole body ached, and her mind felt fuzzy and stupid after too much concentration for too many hours.
‘Squared,’ Corinda-493 agreed. ‘Makes me wish I had a lower bunk. Just for tonight,’ she added with a tired grin. She heaved herself up the ladder attached to the end of the stack of three bunks, and Jandy felt the whole structure shudder as she dropped full-length onto the middle one.
Jandy closed her eyes. She knew the Yearsend Tests would be hard. The instructors, both human and computer, had said so. Many times. The sixteen-year-olds in the Edulevel above hers, who’d completed the test the year before, had said so, even the ones who hadn’t received high marks and who’d had to wait up to six months to be assigned to a job.
The Yearsend Tests determined what job you would hold for the rest of your life.
And it didn’t help that the Tests also included subjects they’d studied three or four years ago and never again.
‘I’ve failed, I know I have,’ Cori said mournfully from above. ‘Farm stuff I’m good at, but that mechanical module? Not.’ She snorted. ‘I couldn’t even get the solar panels wired up, let alone calibrate them to the sun’s path.’
Jandy frowned. Yes, that test had been odd. She and Cori, most of their Block in fact, had come from farming families. Their Edutracks had been biased toward advanced farming techniques; water conservation, crop rotations, soil and weather knowledge. Other science subjects, along with mechanical and general studies, had only taken up a few modules of their Edutracks.
But Jandy had liked the non-farm-specific modules they’d studied, and she’d managed to complete all five non-farming Yearsend Tests. Even that one at the end, the virtual extreme survival one, which assumed that a group of one hundred teenagers was left with no survival gear in a hostile environment, and had to find shelter, food and water within four days.
She didn’t tell Cori that though. Cori was rattled enough. Instead she said, ‘I wonder where we’ll be allocated.’
‘And when,’ Cori added. ‘You know Garris-459? From Dorm 8B? I heard him talking at lunch break, and he reckons something’s going on. He says he heard the Dorm Manager talking to the Directorate Overseer. Something about a spindrift.’
‘Spindrift? Never heard of it.’
‘Might be a new farming project,’ Cori said, and yawned. ‘There’s been rumours going around for a while about how the Science Division’s finally worked out the last kinks in accurately finding artesian water in the desert.’ Her words were slurred with tiredness.
‘Guess we’ll have new modules to study if we don’t get allocated tomorrow,’ Jandy murmured. Suddenly she too was fighting to keep her eyes open.
‘Guess so. ’Night.’
But Jandy didn’t hear her. She was already asleep.