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Authors: Nik Abnett

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Savant

BOOK: Savant
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Published 2016 by Solaris

an imprint of Rebellion Publishing Ltd,

Riverside House, Osney Mead,

Oxford, OX2 0ES, UK

 

 

www.solarisbooks.com

 

ISBN: 978-1-84997-927-6

 

Copyright © 2016 Nik Abnett

 

Cover art by Sam Gretton

 

The right of the author to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the copyright owners.

 

 

 

 

For Pops, who just was, and who was content for me, too, simply to be.

 

Chapter One

 

 

S
HE WORE COTPRO
socks in bed in High, and woolpro socks in Low. She could have had the real thing, but it seemed extravagant. She wouldn’t have worn socks at all, but she disliked the sensation of linopro on the soles of her feet, with its faintly spongy finish, and Tobe couldn’t bear the sound of slippers slapping against it.

It was 05:30 in the morning of an ordinary day, Metoo’s perfect day.

Service and Requisites were simple, compared with the complications Civilians endured, of checks and balances, of rations and over-supply, of real and pro. She didn’t know, any more, if Civilians used anything but pro. Service was daily, since she’d been with Tobe, rather than Scheduled, and Requisites fell only on mid and end days of High and Low, rather than monthly. She had not been a Civilian since she was twelve. She had not been a Civilian for more than half her life.

Metoo’s family had been overwhelmed with pride and relief when she had been Drafted. It didn’t matter that she’d been bred to it; there was no such thing as a forgone conclusion. Breeding was one thing, but balance was another. Never-the-less, she had stood in front of her parents, her teacher and her class, aged twelve, her future secured.

Family pride was not the best of it, the best of it was relief: the Drafted never returned to Civilian life, so there was one less mouth to feed, one less body to clothe, one less mind to... To what? Metoo’s thoughts were suddenly cast back to her childhood, to a time when no one considered the mind. She had not been aware, then, of her thoughts, that they existed, never-mind mattered. Civilians were assessed for physical suitability for various kinds of work, and chipped for education and thought processing. She had been one of them, had been part of a family, but, now, she could barely remember their faces, and seldom thought about them. She was Drafted, and no one she knew had been a Civilian for four years or more. News of the Civilians was old news. She only knew that, if she fulfilled her role, they would endure.

By 05:45, Metoo was breakfasting on coffee and fruit. She chose her luxuries carefully, but this half-an-hour, alone with her thoughts, meant something to her, so she indulged herself a little. Coffee was scarce, but she grew a good deal of fruit during High, and preserved what she could to last her through Low, supplementing her supplies from Requisites. In the eight years that she had spent with Tobe, first as his Student, and then as his Assistant and Companion, Metoo had never filled her annual Requisites, giving up as much as a third to Stores, that others might enjoy the benefits.

She was privileged, but she knew it.

At 06:00, the shower was running at 40 degrees, and the eggpro was cooking. Metoo signed in with Service, the 45 seconds it took, allowing breakfast to be perfectly cooked, ready for Tobe as he finished his ablutions. A few minutes later, she set the dish in front of him at the kitchen counter, and made her way back to Service.

“It’s the same,” he said.

Metoo turned, her cotpro sock squeaking slightly as the ball of her right foot rotated on the linopro. She winced, knowing that the sound would bother Tobe, that he might spend valuable time working out the physics that created that particular pitch from the cotpro formula, the wear on the linopro and the speed of her rotation.

“It’s the same,” Tobe said, again, without looking up.

He seemed not to be speaking to her, so, Metoo turned again, stepping this time, rather than swivelling, and went back to Service; she’d make up those 15 seconds before his tutorial at 08:30.

Back on Service, Metoo woke Tobe’s Students, and set all of their Schedules and accounts for the day. It was a Companion’s task, but Tobe’s previous Assistant had burnt out early, and Metoo had been brought in as Assistant before she’d finished three years as his Student. She never learned what had happened to the man she’d replaced, but Kit had been brought back as Tobe’s Companion, after two Lows’ sabbatical, to pick up the slack. He had barely lasted the High before Metoo found herself in the dual role of Assistant and Companion. Had she found Tobe’s requirements arduous, or complex, she might have failed too. In the middle of their second High together, Metoo was fully in charge of maintaining Tobe, and Service had decided that the dual role, however rarefied, should continue until a Pitu was ready to take over as Assistant, and Metoo could become, solely, his Companion.

 

 

T
OBE GOT OUT
of the shower, rubbed himself down, dropped the towel, and pulled a robe over his head. He never thought that someone had placed the robe ready for him, or that someone would pick up the towel. His thoughts almost never strayed to the domestic, or to Service. He had long since given up signing in, leaving it all to Metoo, except that he no longer had a conscious memory of ever having signed in, or of there being any need to. Service did not exist for him, except when it affected his practice. Metoo bypassed his need to remember it for its own sake, conscious for both of them.

He sat at the kitchen counter, as he had done every morning for as long as he could remember, except that remembering such things was arbitrary, and, therefore, redundant. He knew only this: it was the same. It was the same today as yesterday, and yesterday it was the same as the day before.

“It is the same,” he said, not to himself and not to Metoo, but simply because it was.

“It is the same.”

 

 

T
HE
C
OLLEGE WAS
home to as many as five thousand inhabitants. The Masters, with their Assistants and Companions, lived on the South side of the campus in small apartments, which usually consisted of three bedrooms and shared living accommodation. Master, Assistant and Companion were individually responsible to Service, except in rare circumstances where a Companion would be responsible for running the entire household.

The majority of the College population was made up of Students at various stages in their educations, and these included all of the Assistants and many of the Companions. The youngest were children of twelve or fourteen, who lived in family groups on the West side of the campus, and shared everything from classrooms to bathrooms in the building referred to as the School. They lived with Seniors: teachers and carers, mid-grade Drafted, who had been through the system before them. Service was taken care of by Seniors, and their routines adjusted to best suit their temperaments.

As they got older and more independent, and with first stage adjustments to their chips completed, most of the Students moved out of the School. Their education became more specific to their intellectual strengths, and some were assigned to Masters. They also moved into the dorms on the East side of campus, and were responsible directly to Service, although their choices were limited. Food and clothes rations were provided according to need, rather than taste, but Students were free to choose reading material, music and visual stimuli from Service lists. All the Students in East wore buttons, on chords, around their necks. They pressed their buttons to acknowledge Service on the Schedule, just as Civilians did.

Pitu 3 hit the Service button around his neck to acknowledge his Rouse. He had last hit the button eight hours ago for Rest, and would hit it several times throughout the day: at Roll-call, Repast, Recreation, and so on through the Schedule.

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