SJF – Chapter 13

This entry is part 13 of 25 in the series SJF Chapters

background-tile3.jpgShortly after Darius got his identification badge, he was taken to a small classroom with two-dozen desks. The top of each desk was actually a computer screen that tilted upward. Sitting at eight of the desks were five men and three women—all waiting for the new employee orientation. Darius wondered if any of them were in Second Chance.

A woman dressed in a gray skirt and white blouse stood in front of the blank cyber-chalkboard at the head of the classroom. She looked almost human, but clearly she wasn’t. Her skin was an odd shade of dark red, like a brick that had been faded by the sun. Her unusually large eyes were completely black, she had no visible ears, and as she shuffled through a pile papers, Darius could see she only had three fingers and a thumb, all of which were noticeably longer than those of a human.

Darius had seen other aliens before, but he had never been this close to one. He tried to remember how many extraterrestrial races lived on Earth. He’d read three chapters on aliens in his sixth-grade social studies class. There had been a test and everything, but he simply drew a blank. Is it five or six?

“My name is Xangtha,” said the woman, her voice revealing no hint of being anything other than human. She used a piece of cyber-chalk to spell her name on the board. The tiny electronic device never touched the board, but the letters X-A-N-G-T-H-A each appeared, as if by magic. “I will be your orientation supervisor. The first order of business is a test that will take approximately two hours to complete. Don’t be concerned about passing or failing, this is not that type of test. This is more to determine personality, interests and aptitude, which will then be used to determine your assignment.”

The test broke up into several sections, with the first part covering math, spelling and language skills. They want to make sure I’m not an idiot, Darius thought as he answered questions like “fish is to water, as bird is to (fill in the blank).”

The remainder of the test was some sort of personality evaluation. There were hundreds of questions, mainly multiple choice, some true or false, all answered by touching the appropriate box. Some of the questions were the same, only phrased slightly differently. And some of the questions were kind of weird, like the one that asked if he ever felt like being alone, or if he ever felt like people did not understand him. He had to choose between answers like “all the time,” “sometimes,” “occasionally,” and “never.” He wasn’t even sure of the difference between “sometimes” and “occasionally,” so he just decided to alternate between the two whenever he needed to.

There were a handful of essay questions at the end of the test. The last question on the test perplexed him the most. “When is it acceptable to break the law?”

This has got to be a trick question, Darius thought. Answer this one wrong, and they’ll haul my ass back to jail.

He stared at the computer screen for what seemed like a long time. He thought and thought and couldn’t come up with an answer, and then something popped in his head from when he was much younger.

In the back of his mind, Darius recalled an old memory of his father trying to fix something. Darius couldn’t even remember what it was, just that there were parts and pieces all over the kitchen floor, and his mother was yelling at his father. “You made it worse,” Janae Logan said.

“Sometimes you gotta break it in order to fix it, baby,” said Dwayne.

Darius wondered if that kind of thinking applied to the law. And then another memory popped into his mind. His mother, ever the lover of history, sat him down to watch a documentary film about the Civil Rights movement. The image of black kids his age, in the streets of Birmingham facing down police dogs and water hoses came clearly into focus in his mind’s eye, and he had the answer to the question.

“It is acceptable to break the law when the law needs to be fixed,” he typed.

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