“Candidate 4327, please step forward.”
Clutching the bag that contained all my possessions in the world except the plain blue unitard that I and the other candidates were required to wear, I stepped forward and lowered my gaze, unable to look directly at the Lhoebitta Adjudicator as she prepared to read out my assessment.
“Eyes forward, stand straight for scanning, Female Candidate 4327”
I looked up, trembling. I had an idea of what my assessment was likely to be. It wasn’t too hard to work out, considering previous assessments I had witnessed at previous Assessment Ceremonies. I just couldn’t bear to see my worst fears confirmed in the harsh judgement of her cold, alien eyes before the final pronouncement of my worth, or my lack thereof, was made….
“Low Quality”, she said, her bulbous compound eyes gazing down her alien nose at me, in disapproval.
Her disregard was so complete, absolute and total that I wanted nothing more in that moment than to sink slowly beneath the surface of the earth and then, die. A slender alien hand gestured towards the low quality area, and, filled with shame, I walked towards my new masters, tears streaming down my face, my little bag clutched to my chest.
There were two officers at the low quality selection, one Human merchant, and one Lhoebitta Master. By the side of the Lhoebitta was a Thur’cron, a miniature gate. The difference between a Thur’cron and the more common Lhoebitta gate variants was, light could pass through them, and they were power efficient enough to be run continuously as small, portable portals. No doubt a Lhoebitta Primate Psych-adjust recommendation was responsible for the fact that they were used for the purpose of performing the classification ritual. I, and everyone present, could clearly see the furnace to which everything cast into the Thur’cron was destined.
The Thur’cron extended his slender, blue arm, and I passed him my bag, trying not to think of everything I owned, my life history, all that I had ever been given, made for myself, or otherwise believed was mine, contained within that little purse. He snatched it from me and casually tossed it into the Thur’cron, which transported it across a fold in time and space to a furnace, incinerating my belongings instantly.
The Master then produced a blue crystal, and ceremonially sliced it in two with a super-sharp retracting fingernail, before pocketing one half of the crystal, representing my total worth- half a measure of Thur’in. Then, the other half of the crystal was handed to the Human Merchant standing beside him, signalling the Lhoebitta payment to the Terran State for the onward transfer of ownership of me.
To the Lhoebitta, Humans were considered ‘Speaking Primates’ and subject to classification. “Low Quality” class primates were only allowed class E Right to Own. The only items included in class E were a candidate number (mine being 4327) and a candidate shroud (my blue unitard). For most Humans destined for a lifetime of servitude in the Lhoebitta empire’s Factory, assessments were carried out in bulk and sorting took place via a mass boarding process at one of the many Thur’shiens (Transit Gates) located around the globe. Assessment ceremonies such as this one, however, were still carried out frequently in front of large pre-assessment and freeborn human audiences, as a means of keeping Primate Psych-Adjust parameters within acceptable levels. It was bad enough to be handed your worth and your destiny in a single phrase, but incalculably worse to have it handed down in front of an audience of thousands, and six of your peers. As I shuffled to the holding area, my arms wrapped around my bosom and my hands clutching my upper arms, I became less and less aware of the lump in my throat, and the sound of my uncontrollable sobbing.
This assessment was followed by a deafening cheer, and thunderous applause. I blinked away tears to see who had merited this assessment, and I wasn’t surprised. As I had predicted, Candidate 4330 was the lucky one. My sorrow found itself fighting outrage and a deep sense of injustice. The Adjudicator was beaming, gazing at 4330 with a look of satisfaction and pride. I remembered the disgust she had shown, looking at me. 4330 himself was grinning from ear to ear, waving to the crowd with his huge, muscular arms. He strutted across the assessment platform, putting his impressive physique on display for the crowd to see, before walking to the Top Tier area, where a grinning Master/Merchant pair waited, smiling and clapping, before welcoming him with hugs. A female Low-Tier primate hurried to his side to carry his bag of possessions for him, a ritual I considered completely unnecessary, given the Class A Right to Own enjoyed by Top Tier Primates. Top Tiers could own a large variety of items, one of the most important being a Name. If he so desired, this could be the last time candidate 4330 was referred to by that number.
And all these luxuries, all this status, was afforded to him by the impartial, biological scanning technology perfected by the Lhoebitta for the assessment of Human potential.
Except it was bullshit.
As 4330 took his place at the Top Tier section, a brilliant white smile breaking the chocolate monotony of his dark-complexioned face, skin as dark as mine, I accurately predicted the Top Tier classification of 4326, a petite, pale skinned girl with high cheekbones, dark, straight hair , pronounced Epicanthic folds and a memory almost as good as mine. Next was 4324, tall, beautiful, fair skinned, with prominent breasts, blue eyes and golden hair. Prediction: “High Quality”. Correct. Candidate 4338, Pale skinned, with straight hair, a physique as impressive as 4330, who consistently defeated him in arm wrestling contests at mealtime recess during pre-assessment. Prediction: “Low Quality”. Correct. Sorrow was gone, and the sense of injustice was replaced with anger.
And then there was 4325. A petite, dark skinned girl, just like me. Nothing remarkable about her body or face, just like mine. Expectant, hopeful eyes, unlike mine.
And a limping gait, unlike mine.
My heart sank as my indiginance on her behalf rose, now convinced my predictions were accurate, and thus my certainty at her entirely unjustified fate did nothing but fuel these emotions.
The pronouncement was punctuated by a wail of anguish as she collapsed to the floor. Two fierce Lhoebitta enforcers were upon her in a flash, dragging her towards the Chattel area. Class F Right To Own meant she did not even merit a number. Her possessions were snatched from her and cast roughly into the gate, where they were incinerated. She was slapped across the face, and beaten- enhanced Lhoebitta muscles rendering her helpless in a few blows as her unitard was ripped from her body and thrown into the gate, reduced to ash. Her limp naked body was then thrown to the chattel area. The Lhoebitta Master smashed a crystal in his palm, reducing it to dust, and sprinkled some of the dust into the outstretched palm of the Human merchant, who spat upon her prone body. The audience was silent.
The last of us was also chattel, and I barely paid attention as his naked, battered body was flung into what was now a small heap. I fought against feelings of relief that I was “fortunate” not to be bound for the same fate as those two poor souls, destined for the Chattel area of a Lhoebitta Factory world. A grim lifetime in a cubicle equipped with a crank and a gruel dispenser- where they would labour forever generating energy toiling on the crank and consuming the Gruel- until the cost of Gruel, air, and sanitary liquid exceeded the value of the energy generated, at which point the next ration of Gruel would remove all motor functions and then their bodies would be reclaimed by the meat processor to be rendered down into Syy’lanth, a costly Lhoebitta delicacy, served only to the most privileged of Masters.
As I marched towards the low-quality transit gate, I remembered His words, long since committed to memory. Candidate 2377, from the pre-assessment camps.
“The scanner is a lie. The sorting formula is one from the history of humans, not Lhoebitta. Remember the truth of your worth, and remember to seek this worth in others like yourself. Keep this in your mind, find others like yourself, and low quality will be the death of Bondage.”
I stepped through the gate. I kept Hope alive as I did. Classification was unjust, and evil. But I was not low quality unless I accepted it. I was not a Speaking Primate unless I accepted it. I was not 4327 unless I accepted it. The truth of my intellect and my memory was not a lie unless I accepted it. My destiny as a menial worker, a labourer, a cheap prostitute for idle Top Tiers, was not mine unless I accepted it. And I would spread this Hope. I would spread this Hope among the other Discarded in low quality, find others like myself- others with talents, and worth, cast out among the discarded, and together, we would light a spark- one that would catch on the tinder that is scorned human ingenuity, and we would begin the long process of rising up against our oppressors.
We would end this slavery.