Naming Names

“Good morning, Student Alphas,” the teacher smiled at the small group of gathered children. 10 nine-year-olds sat in pod-shaped desks made of metal, with a transparent glass display in front of them. They wore standard white jumpers that identified them as Students.

“Good morning, Professor History,” they replied as a chorus. Professor History touched a display on his desk and it came to life with glowing white text. A second later the displays on the children’s desks came to life with the same text.

“I’m sure you’re all excited, so let’s not waste any time,” the professor said. “Who is first?” he asked. A dark-haired boy stood and stepped out of his pod. He walked to the teacher’s desk and placed a hand flat against the glass surface. A thin white line circled his hand on the display, then it filled with a solid blue color. Different tags appeared around the circle to list his opportunities. The boy read through the tags, then smiled at one in particular.

“My name is Apprentice Programmer,” the boy said. The blue circle around his hand blinked several times, then disappeared. The other nine Students in the class exhaled simultaneously the moment the system registered his new name. The sigh was a reaction to him leaving their minds as if they felt lighter somehow. Professor History gave the boy a blue band for his arm.

“Thank you, Professor History,” he smiled when he accepted the band.

“Good luck, Apprentice Programmer.” He wished the boy well as the new Apprentice walked out of the classroom. “Next?” A girl with blond hair walked to the desk and placed her hand down. The same white outline circled her hand, but this time the circle filled in with green light instead of blue. She scanned the eligible jobs that popped up, then nodded with determination.

“My name is Apprentice Botanist,” she said. The green circle flashed and disappeared. The students sighed when the professor handed her a green armband.

“Good luck, Apprentice Botanist,” the teacher smiled as she left the room. “Next?” A brown-haired boy placed his hand down to reveal a red circle.

“My name is Apprentice Medic,” he shrugged. Professor History handed him a red armband and wished him luck, then the boy left to his new class. Six more students each took their turn to become Apprentices. One programmer, one medic, one engineer and three chefs. As the 9th Student, Apprentice Chef, left he glanced at the only other child, a girl, in the room. He looked from her to Professor History, and back again several times before leaving with a shrug. He looked like he had something on his mind. Professor History almost asked, but the girl approached the desk to take her turn. She paused before placing her hand down. She looked around the room as if to check whether they were alone, and glanced at the door to make sure it was closed. She leaned closer to the instructor and whispered.

“What if I don’t like any of the choices?” Professor chuckled.

“Oh, Student. Of course you’ll like one of them. You’re nervous because you’re the last one in your class. I’m sure it’s lonely in there without the others, but don’t worry. Once you choose a path you won’t be alone anymore,” he tried to reassure her. The girl shrugged.

“Can’t I stay like this? It’s actually kind of nice.” A flash of horror washed over Professor History’s face. His eyes widened for a split second before he regained composure.

“The next class of Student Alphas will be named soon. Either way, you’re not going to be alone,” he said. “Name yourself, Student,” he gestured at the glassy display. She nodded. Her fingertips walked over the display as she stalled for extra seconds, but Professor History stared at her. She relented and flattened her hand. The white circle filled in with red light, and the appropriate tags appeared. Then the light shifted to orange. The red tags remained while new orange ones appeared. The light turned yellow bringing new tags, then it cycled through the rest of the spectrum. Each new color added tags until the desk was completely cluttered with colored text. The light inside the circle continued to pulse through the colors like a rainbow. Professor History stood from his desk unsure what to do, but the girl spoke.

“My name is Eve,-” she said and brought her hand up to cover her mouth. She mumbled the last few syllables into her hand.

“NO!” Professor History shouted. He tried to pull her hand off the desk, but she held it down long enough for the circle to flash. It disappeared along with all the tags. The older man fell backward into his chair.

“Run,” he said. It came out as a whisper that Eve had trouble hearing at first.

“I’m sorry,-” she began to apologize.


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