18 ♦ Ovelia

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The Journey to the Melody-Harmony Engine

As I step out of my studio, pine needles slip-and-slide under my feet. I feel springier than usual.

I may or may not have a fresh crush on Alistar. But as soon as the thought surfaces, I get rid of it.

I'm still light in my step as I head up Third Street, even when pushing my feelings down.

On the way, I meet with Alistar, as well the other five Verdant Mages he chose—all faces I know I've seen in class before, yet I can't put a name to any of them—then we walk single-file through a thinning fog bank, even though we have plenty enough room to walk beside one another.

We do not speak to one another, or at least none of them speak to me, for what I hope remains a comfortably long time.

As we pass under the shadow of a loft, I look to the sky, squinting.

The iPigeon I sent to Aleria never returned.

I hope my sister made the correct guess that I'd be in attendance to the Melody-Harmony Engine; and I also hope my iPigeon is in the safety of her room.

If I'm wrong—and my iPigeon experienced issues again—that means it's broken somewhere on school grounds; and the thought of my little robotic bird, out there alone and unaccounted for, momentarily breaks her heart.

Mom always told us to not get attached to artificial intelligences. But I have a hard time not forming attachments.



In front of me, a Verdant Mage lifts a fluorescent patch from her leather satchel, startling me out of my thoughts of my missing robotic bird.

I've seen these round fluorescent patches before. They're no more than a thumbnail in size, and they provide a direct connection with a person's registered superintelligence.

Before AiPatches, we had these seductive handheld devices, which we kept dropping out of pockets, onto hard floors, or on a bad day, accidentally plopping into a toilet.

As the shorter, younger woman tucks the bright pink circle between her cheek and eye, she glances over her shoulder and offers, "Want one?"

I've never been able to afford disposable tech. Every semester, when vouchers are distributed, I budget for sustainable, reusable tools, so I can invest in different equipment the following year.

Disposable tech is more reliable and advanced than reusables—and naturally, it's easily recycled—so it's not nearly the threat to the environment that it used to be; it just has a limited lifespan. Which makes it pricey.

It doesn't feel right to take one.

The young woman's already pulling the second patch out, extending it as a gift from the tip of her finger.

I take it reluctantly, despite all my gut-wrenching anxiousness telling me not to use it, then I whisper, "Thank you."



She nods. "I'm July. Ovelia, right?"

Here comes the discussion about Aleria. "That's right..."

Emergence No. 7Where stories live. Discover now