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I must begin with what we believed.  You will find it hard to comprehend that we believed in such obscure and inhumane things; but you must understand that it was all we were ever taught – it was all we ever knew.

The colony was called Primortikos, we were never told why.  Primortikos was located deep beneath the ice of the Jovian moon Europa.  The colony was submerged deep within the ultra-warm waters heated by the constant gravitational pull of Jupiter.  The water was holy, it was what surrounded and protected us.  It gave us warmth and sustenance, for man is mostly water anyway.  We were blessed because we had an unlimited supply of water and we were not even Citizens.  The Citizens on Earth had water too, but the water had been contaminated by the sins of thousands of years.  The Citizens of Mars were even less fortunate.  For Mars had not yet been tera-formed and all of their water came from Europa.  We supplied the Citizens of Earth, Mars, Luna, and Herkulese with our blessed, life giving water.  But that was not our only job.  We worked at thousands of jobs, each sub-person responsible for a specialized task or function.

My task was a Mech-Tech 2nd Class, a mechanical technician.  I specialized in the calibration of machinery based on all universal measurements.  This job led me to the discovery that would eventually shatter the beliefs of all sub-humans.

There were only three levels of humans on Primortikos: Citizen Scientist, Citizen Soldiers, and sub-humans or clones.  At the time we didn’t know what clones were, we had never been called anything but sub-humans.  All that we knew was that we were workers and not Citizens.

The Citizen Scientists were the highest level and leaders of Primortikos.  They were also equivalent to priests. They always wore white lab coats and white uniforms because they were pure.  They were rarely seen except on religious occasions or to announce the Transcendence of a sub-human to be with our God, The Shroud.  They lived deep in the lower reaches of Primortikos in seclusion.  No sub-humans were allowed in these parts for it was heavily guarded by barriers and Citizen Soldiers.  No one knew what the Scientists did, but rumors said that they attended to the Will of The Shroud.

The next level was the Citizen Soldiers, most were cruel and carried large electro-sticks.  They wore gray uniforms, and they were always present – always.  They performed their jobs mercilessly.  They knew The Scriptures of The Shroud by heart and would recite them while beating a sub-human for working too slow or complaining about the taste of their food.

Lastly, there was us.  We were sub-humans. We were the workers and we wore black because we were not worthy to wear anything else.  Our sole lot in life was to filtrate, bottle and ship the Holy Water of Europa for the Citizens of Earth and her colonies.

I do not know where I was born. I always assumed we were all born on Primortikos.  My earliest memories were of being educated in the General Education schools by adult sub-humans.  There were always exactly 211 children in each class, and we were named by our number.  My name was 144. In my lifetime I knew of seven other 144’s.  After General Education graduation we went on to our job training which we would do for the rest of our lives.  After we graduated from Vocational School, we were given the title of our profession to further identify us.  So, my name became Mech-Tech 144.

After Vocational School graduation I went on to my job which I would do for the rest of my life.  I spent most of my time with Mech-Tech 76 who was my mentor.  She was a Mech-Tech 1st Class and a very intelligent woman.  One day I came to work, and she had Transcended.  This is when I first became suspicious that the Shroud was not God.  Mech-Tech 76 was not worthy to become Number 212.

Transcendence to Number 212 was the highest and noblest event that could happen to a sub-human.  Only a truly worthy and perfect person would be chosen for 212.  I knew Mech-Tech 76 better than anyone did, and she was not worthy for Transcendence to 212.

Water was our Holy Life Giver, and the Shroud was our God.  The Shroud was the name given to the essence of Water.  The Spirit of The Shroud moved through all people both Citizen and sub-human.  It covered, surrounded, and protected us, thus the name the Shroud.  The Shroud spoke to us through the Citizen Scientists.  As I said, they acted as priests.  We rarely saw the Scientists, but occasionally they appeared before us to announce the message and will of the Shroud.  Their messages were written down and became The Scriptures of The Shroud.

The Scientists would always quote the same verse when the Shroud chose someone to transcend to Number 212.  Just like the day that Mech-Tech 76 became Number 212.  I arrived at work to find her belongings cleaned out of her workstation.  I was bewildered.  My bewilderment didn’t last long because soon a Scientist flanked on either side by two gray uniformed Soldiers arrived and made the announcement: “The Shroud has blessed us with his presence and once again has moved among us.  He has seen into the heart, soul, and mind of Mech-Tech 76 and found her to be a worthy specimen and creation.  The Shroud has blessed Mech-Tech 76 and taken her to be with his Holiness.  Mech-Tech 76 is now 212.”

And then all of the sub-humans cheered and applauded in praise of Mech-Tech 76’s accomplishment and The Shroud’s benevolence.  But my enthusiasm was hollow.  I was stunned.  I knew Mech-Tech 76 well and I knew that she was not worthy of 212.  Or maybe I was deceived into believing that the Shroud would not find someone like Mech-Tech 76 worthy of 212.

Mech-Tech 76 was not a particularly religious minded woman.  Over the years we had occasionally broached the subject of our religious beliefs. Mech-Tech 76 held the opinion that the Shroud was not a real being, that the Scientists had just fabricated him to control us. This was the most unheard of blasphemy anyone, human or sub-human, could ever say or think.  But Mech-Tech 76 didn’t care.  She mostly kept her opinions to herself but would occasionally point out other ways that the Soldiers and Scientists controlled us.  Like the day we were working in the Filtration Deck.  Mech-Tech 76 said, “Have you ever wondered why we need to purify the water?”

“To remove impurities from the water,” I replied.

“If the water is so Holy M.T. 144, then why does it have impurities?”

“I don’t know, why?”

“Don’t you see?  That’s one thing that they’ve never been able to explain away with this whole Shroud nonsense.”

“Watch your mouth, Mech-Tech 76!  If a Soldier hears you, you’ll be made a negative,” I said looking about to see if anyone was in earshot.

“Relax 144,” she said unconcerned.  “I don’t know what all goes on here but please don’t let yourself be brain-washed by their lies.  Always remain skeptical of what they say.”

I later figured out why it was that Mech-Tech 76 was chosen.  It was her intelligence.  Mech-Tech 76 was a very organized and expedient technician.  She was the master of our profession and learned new mechanical systems extremely fast.  I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.  It was these qualities that the Scientists looked for in the clones they had engineered.

As for what happened to a person after 212, that was another matter.  No one really knew but The Scriptures of The Shroud said that three things happened: 1) You went to be with the Shroud, 2) The Shroud transformed or granted you Full Human Status and 3) Full Human Status meant eternal life.  Otherwise, if you died before reaching number 212, it was said your memories were wiped clean, you were re-cycled and born again to try to live perfectly at which point you would be chosen for 212.  But, as for specifically what happened, it was unknown.

But Mech-Tech 76 had committed an unforgivable sin; she had blasphemed against The Shroud.  It rarely happened, but when it did the Soldiers would drag the individual off beating or electrocuting them while reciting verses from The Scripture.  These people were said to be reduced to a negative number.  What happened to them after the Soldiers removed them was unknown, but The Scriptures said that a blasphemer would never be reborn, would never have a chance at 212, and would live an eternal existence of damnation and frozen pain.  The shroud would not tolerate such insolence.  So, you can see why I was confused at Mech-Tech 76’s selection for 212.

I remembered something Mech-Tech 76 had told me once.  I had said that her blasphemy would earn her damnation as a negative.  She told me that there were probably many blasphemers in their hearts but they would never become negatives.  It was because the Scientists couldn’t catch them at their blasphemy.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized the truth and the enormity of it leveled everything I had believed in.  It happened when one day I arrived at work and found that my work-order required me to go to an area I had never been before.  It was an area that was forbidden.  It was an area that was heavily guarded, an area where the Scientists carried on their religious activities.

It was the calibration of a thermometer that they wanted me for.  I was met at the guarded entrance to the area by a very high-ranking Soldier who was, unlike any Soldier I had ever met, very polite.  He explained to me that we would be going to one of the deepest areas of Primortikos and that I would be recalibrating a thermometer in a submersible vehicle that the Scientists used to venture into the water’s of Primortikos for religious rites.  He also told me that we would be seeing many Scientists and that I was not to talk to any of them unless spoken to first.  Of course, I wouldn’t dare because two gray suited guards who accompanied us would see that I stayed quiet.

The four of us got onto an elevator and descended for an extremely long time.  I was led along several corridors; some barren and some with many Scientists involved in some tasks I could not understand.  We went down another elevator and eventually came to a domed room with a pool of water in the center.  Suspended above the pool was some sort of vehicle obviously used for going in the ocean through the floor.  It was very hot in this room and steam rose from the water.  I was able to look in the pool and could see that there were occasional bubbles rising to its surface.  The bottom could be seen far below shimmering and distorted by the bubbling water. I stared transfixed by the geological formations and the currents of hot water rising from fissures.  This was the first time I had ever seen the bottom of the ocean.

A Scientist entered and I reflexively bowed my head in respect.  “Hello, Captain,” he said to my escort.

“Hello, Dr. Sawyer,” He replied.

“Is this our technician?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What is your name?”  He said to me.  This was the first time a Scientist had ever spoken to me.  Actually, this was the first time I had ever seen a Scientist speak to any sub-human directly.  I felt so intimidated.

“Aaaa…um Mech-Tech 144, Your Holiness,” I stammered.

“Do you know why you are here?”  He asked.

“My…my work order was to calibrate a thermometer, sir,” I replied.

“That is correct.  What is the universal standard measurement of temperature?”

“Celsius, sir,” I answered.

“That is correct.  But, 144, here in this temple, it is the Shroud’s will that the Holy Water be measured as the Ancients did.  Are you aware of the scale the Ancients used?”

“No, sir,” I said.

“It is a scale called Fahrenheit, named after Saint Fahrenheit.  I will give you the chart that converts Celsius to Fahrenheit so you can calibrate the thermometer.  Do you understand, 144?”

“Yes, sir,” I replied confused but not wanting to show it. I had thought that the Shroud had decreed all the universal measurements.  That’s what made my job so prestigious.  But now, this priest was telling me to ignore the universal measurement in this case and that it was the Shroud’s Will.  I didn’t have long to ponder this though, but I did know something about this whole situation was not right.

The Scientist continued as he handed me the sheet with the conversion chart on it.  “The thermometer is in the submersible pod.  Follow me.”

We entered the small pod.  It basically had a pilot’s seat, a co-pilot’s seat, and a small cargo area.  Not much room.  The Scientist showed me where the temperature read out was and I got out my equipment and started working.

The first thing I had to do was enter the conversion formula on my calibration equipment.  Immediately I noticed something peculiar.  Freezing point on Celsius is 0°, on Fahrenheit it is 32°; boiling point on Celsius is 100°, on Fahrenheit it is 212°.  Our holiest number, 212.  Maybe that’s why The Shroud had a sentimental attachment to the Ancients’ system.

But what I found next changed my life forever.  I was tracing the line that led to the actual thermometer that was in contact with the water on the outside of the pod.  The wire led into the cargo area to a small back door.  As I was tracing its path behind a small bench set into the hull, I found an inscription crudely etched in the wall.  It said:  212=death, 76.

My blood went cold, and a chill ran down my spine.  Mech-Tech 76?  Could it be?  Then everything she had told me came back to me.  She was right.  What if they were going to kill me and tell everyone I had become number 212?  But no, this couldn’t be.  Too many people had known my work-order; too many saw me leave work.  It never worked that way when someone became 212.  No one ever saw them before they disappeared.  I nervously went about finishing the job.  The Scientist hovered over me, and I felt that at any moment he would assault me.  But all I could think about was what happened to Mech-Tech 76.

“We should take the pod underwater to verify the calibration,” the Scientist said.  I froze with fear.

This was it.  I would be taken away never to return.  Obviously, Mech-Tech 76 had been in this same spot and had known that they were taking her away to die.  They would probably tell everyone that I had Transcended to 212.

The Scientist ordered one of the guards aboard and I sat helpless as we descended into the ocean.  At first my anxiety was such that I felt I would go berserk but I managed to remain composed enough not to raise any suspicions.  The guard eyed me with contempt at first, but the underwater scenery eventually lured his gaze.  My own nervousness subsided as I too was drawn in by this rare glimpse outside of our habitat.  Enormous rock shelves heaved up into the ocean.  Thousands of jets of boiling water gave the whole barren landscape a shimmering appearance.  Behind us the habitat of Primortikos receded until I was able to behold the entire structure.  It looked like some alien virus that has invaded a gigantic aqueous cell.

Then ahead we entered what appeared to be a grotto of enormous jellyfish.  Huge man-made bubbles filled with some kind of viscous goo swayed in the currents.  There were hundreds of them undulating near the ocean floor, all secured by long tubes to an elongated black structure.  The goo could be seen flowing through parts of this strange machine.  I caught a glance from the Scientist as if he were watching my reaction.  I braced myself but I still began to tremble.

I wracked my brain for a solution to my predicament.   I took a mental inventory of the contents of my equipment bag.  If attacked, I could use a screwdriver as a weapon.  It wasn’t much against the lethal elecrto-stick the guard carried, but it was something.

“The readings taken from this area are consistent with what we know the temperature to be,” the Scientist was saying.  “I need to take the sub up to the where the ocean begins to reach freezing point to verify that we are getting an accurate reading.  After that we will return.”

I didn’t know what to think.  A part of me felt like I was out of danger but another part of me felt like this was the end.  Then an idea hit me.  If I was doomed, so be it.  There was little I could do.  But, if I was just along for the ride like the Scientist said, then I still wanted to know what happened to Mech-Tech 76.  After this was over, I would never have an opportunity to come here again.  The area was just too heavily guarded.  But I did have a decimeter microphone.

A decimeter is a device used for measuring noise in high noise areas.  Mech-Tech’s used them for calibrating certain types of equipment.  If I could remove mine from my bag and leave it on board then maybe I could monitor the sub the next time someone Transcended to 212.  It was risky and I was terrified, but I had to know the fate of Mech-Tech 76.  As discreetly as I could I removed the device.  It was merely the size of a pen. The guard had lost interest in me and was now enthralled in the ascent of the sub.  Slowly and quietly, I removed the microphone and turned it on.  Then I slid it amongst electrical wires inside a box in the hull.

Large pieces of ice began to appear ahead of us, and the Scientist brought the sub to another halt.  “Everything seems to be normal,” he declared.  “We can head back now.”

To hear those words was like a weight being lifted off my shoulders.  We returned to the room where the submersible was housed.  The Scientist thanked and blessed me, and then I was escorted back out.

Back in my small living quarters I took the decimeter that was used to measure the decibels picked up by the microphone and wired it into a small speaker.  Then, every night I listened for any sounds in the pod.

Over a week went by with nothing heard.  I began to wonder if something was wrong.  Maybe the equipment wasn’t working or, even worse, maybe the Scientist had discovered the microphone.  But then, finally, one night I heard two men talking.

First voice – “This is the submersible we use to take a clone to be injected into the boiling waters at the ocean’s bottom.”

Second voice – “And they suspect nothing with why they are here in this colony?”

First voice – “No, Governor, they believe that it is their god’s will and they are being called by divine intervention to be with their deity.”

Second voice – “Unbelievable.”

First voice – “We keep them ostracized from our scientific activities.  They think we are priests of their god.”

Second voice – “Any success in producing spontaneous life?”

First voice – “We have perfected the method of making the clone DNA into primordial ooze and injecting it into the water; but, as of yet, we have not had success at an organism recombining the material to form a primordial organism as on Earth.”

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