“Mother, where do the Darkers come from?” Marta asked as she assisted Veppa setting out dinnerware.
“Sweetheart, you learn all about where the Darkers come from in Nurturement.” Sweetheart had been a term from the ancient times her mother had passed down to her. Veppa had promised to pass it on.
“No, Ma,” Sardin retorted, flipping on the media switch. “Nurturement teaches us where the Darkers are. They're up in the atmosphere, just out of reach. Marta wants to know where they came from, their history.”
Marta, seeming to understand that she had been mocked, stuck out her tongue in protest.
“Little one, what causes this curiosity?” Veppa asked.
“They want us to kill them, right?” Marta asked.
Veppa paused, turning from the cooking food. “By Highness! No.”
“If I go to the Academy, I would study how to kill them,” Marta pushed.
“Why do you think that?”
“The questions, on the pre-aptitude,” Sardin cut in. As if reading each other's thoughts, Sardin and Marta made eye contact before Sardin continued. “It's the patterns in the questions: given a small piece, how can we solve a large problem, or finding weaknesses in unbalanced situations to ensure victory when you're at a disadvantage.”
Veppa wasn't sure why she was surprised anymore at either of the twins's responses. Their eight-year-old analytical minds were growing at an astonishing rate. And now, they were interpreting the methods of tests as training. They had turned the questions themselves back against the interrogators in hopes of understanding what the Institution was searching for. Veppa had little doubt either of her daughters would pass Delta examinations.
“Well, remember that there is a military mirror of the our class system."
Sardin, losing interest, returned to images of war flowing from the media. “We know, we know. There's Legislation Alpha, Beta, Delta, Bedouin, Taper, Common and there's Military Alpha, Beta, Delta, Bedouin, Taper, Common.”
“I'm saying that they may be testing you for military leadership. Bit I believe that if our legislative leadership is good, there won't be a need for war.”
Marta glanced to her sister, but didn't follow. “Go ahead, Mother. I'm listening. Tell me about the Darkers.”
Veppa began setting the drinks. “Well, they were just like us.”
“Human?” Marta's eyes grew wide.
By Highness, what were these children being taught in Nurturement?
“Yes, human. They are human... kind of.”
“Before the era of Genetic Identification we live in today, there was the era of Breeding. We had just interpreted our DNA and society as a whole decided to identify genetic traits preferable for specific societal roles. These roles were identified and then eventually bred for.”
“Mother, that's aweful,” Marta protested.
“No! It's boring!” Sardin eavesdropped.
“Remember, this was before the Institution,” Veppa continued. “At that time, it was believed that the framers of a global Government needed to be highly intelligent if our planet could ever realize world peace. So, the world's most intelligent individuals were bred, genetically altered and over time, developed into a new people.”
“We bred the Darkers?” Marta was fascinated.
“Well, Sweetheart, they were all volunteers. The breeders and the bred together believed they were doing a public service.”
Sardin re-entered the conversation. “So, what happened?”
Veppa shrugged. “It failed.”
“The Darkers failed?” Marta asked.
“Yes. No, well yes and no.” Veppa faltered. “The Darkers emerged as the intellectual elite. That worked. They continued the breeding work on their own and applied genetic alterations to themselves. Future generations became astronomically intelligent, telepathic, telekinetic, increasing in abilities at an exponential rate.”
“So, how did it fail?” Marta pressed on.
“They didn't act as the rest of the governed initially expected. One day, the Darkers left. They just vanished into the sky. They didn't govern, they didn't say why. Every few years they attack us.”
“Why?” Marta asked, puzzled.
Veppa was out of information. “No one knows. That is quite the mystery.”
“So, the Institution rose out of the governed,” Marta resolved.
“Yes. Genetic breeding halted, at least on the surface and below—who knows what the Darkers are doing? The governed began searching the naturally born for advanced capacities of ethical reasoning. The pursuit of highly evolved Morality replaced the pursuit of intelligence for the framers of the Institution.”
“Why do we call them Darkers?” Sardin asked.
Veppa applied the final touches to dinner. “The genetic alterations modified their appearances. They were human-like, but grew taller, elongated features. They stopped growing body hair of any kind and skin pigmentation was almost always near pitch black in color.”
Sardin shrugged. “I don't mind if we're supposed to kill them. I hope we do. I hate them.”
Veppa accepted defeat. “Many people do.”
Marta finished the last of the dinner placements and after some thought, returned to Veppa's side. She placed a small hand on Veppa's wrist. “Mother,” she spoke softly. “If you want me to perform badly on my Delta examinations, I will.”
Veppa pulled back, a little afraid. Could it be that Marta was capable, and at such a young age? Even so, how could she know Veppa was doing the same? It wasn't possible.
“I love you, Mother,” Marta whispered. “And if you ask me to do anything, I will do it for you.”