From my world-building notebook for Your Little Sister. I’ve gotten in a habit of creating back-story for people who don’t make an appearance, but live, in the world.
When world-building, I start with a general idea and just start expounding. As I progress, I shift from exposition to direct storytelling. This type of world building works well for me. In no way is this a short story. More of a definition of a theme than anything else.
The Most Beautiful Girl in the Room sits surrounded by boys vying for her attention, at a table by the window. She wears a gun. She has been contemplating getting rid of it all day.
High school in Year 3. Only, no one calls it high school anymore. It’s finishing school. Let’s get it done, school. You need to become an adult school. Pre-vocational training school. It would be a decade before a new cultural name would emerge: prevoc. Very swanky sounding, prevoc. Prevoc is what you did before moving up to advanced training, or research. General education, well, they just called it “General”.
Half the seats in the lunchroom are empty. The prior government built the school in an earlier age, where every child could get a public education. Now school cost money, no taxes are collected to fund education,a child’s family had to fund it 100%. Some parents could not afford it, but the gist of it all was, smaller schools were more attractive. Schools like this one were going out of style in a slow, gradual death spiral of market corrections.
This one catered to military families, so it was still seeped with macro sized learning techniques. It was, after all, only three years since the war ended. Both the mother and father of the most beautiful girl in the room both served. By all accounts, they were outstanding soldiers.
They were, by the same accounts, lousy parents.
The next table over, going clockwise, is the Math Squad. This group keeps their numbers even, three boys, three girls, not in some mathematical formula of balance, but simply because they were all in relationships. Only couples obtain admittance to the Math Squad.
Two of the couples are actually doing it. The first, the founders of the club, engage in desperate sex, as if each night could be their last. As far as they know, it could. Both are war orphans. They are happy they had relatives to take them in and pay for school. These two, well, these two are broken. Perhaps being together will make one productive adult out of them.
The other two, the youngest of the group, actually, are simply fucking like mad weasels because it feels good. In twenty minutes, they will sneak to an unused classroom, and have sex right on the old teacher’s desk. Their hedonistic streak does not end there. After the last period, they go to the girls home for dinner, bringing home stacks of impressive books, pilfered from the empty class room. After dinner, they go to the girl’s room and close the door.
Her parents think she is studying. In actuality, she is engaged in more enthusiastic sex. They do it for hours.
The Math Squad only has a mild social interest in the most beautiful girl in the room. Most of it is either a small attraction, or envy. Sometimes, she has the highest senior math score.
Continuing our clockwise stroll around the immediate tables surrounding the most beautiful girl in the room, we come to another couple, sitting alone. She is very pregnant, this young woman. In three weeks, she will give birth to a baby boy, at a whopping nine pounds, three ounces. The young man sitting at the table is both her husband and the baby’s father. Legally adults, they have pre-paid for all four years of finishing school with the money they inherited from their parents’ estates.
They are the last of their line. Their parents, of course, are dead from the war. This baby matters more than most. He is a new beginning to a bad end. They will have six children in total, and eventually adopt three more.
The pregnant woman thinks the most beautiful girl in the room is quite beautiful, and she is also envious. The most beautiful girl in the room thinks the same of her. The husband carries no thoughts of the most beautiful girl in the room, other than a base attraction when they were swimming together one year.
The next table over is a teacher and three of her students. She teaches pre-war history, and these three students are very fascinated by both her age (old), and her willingness to speak frankly about many subjects, subjects now taboo to their parents. She is a good orator, and likes to talk. It is a good combination, these four. She only eats half her lunch, but by the end of the break, one student will volunteer to mow her lawn, the other to fetch groceries and the third to have the accumulator serviced on her small e-car.
None of these four have any interest in the most beautiful girl in the room. She is, quite simply, a person of no historical interest, nor one interested in history. She might as well be invisible.
Our circle of tables is almost complete. At the last table surrounding the most beautiful girl in the room, sit two boys. Rumor has it they are gay. They are not gay, they are collaborating on a software project, and it is all consuming. This project will turn into one of the very first civilian released overlays for a quantum computer, and finds classification as an AI Level 3. In only three years, they will have accumulated nearly a million Nuevo Credits. They refuse all VC money tossed in their direction, and start a computing empire stretching for hundreds of years.
These two are watching the most beautiful girl in the room. When they go home, they share fantasies about her. Sometimes silly, sometimes nasty. Right now, they are contemplating how they can get her to go to the Spring Formal with one of them.
They are too late, unfortunately. It is a lesson each will remember well. All they had to do was ask, they found out later. The most beautiful girl in the room always said yes, because hardly anyone ever asked her to dance. You could even kiss the most beautiful girl in the room, all one had to do was make a play for her rosy lips. Each would remember this lesson, and socially, they sprouted wings and flew. They never were shy again.
Back to the most beautiful girl in the room’s table. The boys at it are of no consequence. Each is flirtatious, in his own way; most are charming and even mature. But they are competing with her thoughts. She can’t help but think of her gun, and what it would mean to give it up.
Lunch is over. The most beautiful girl in the room leaves, but does not go to class. Today she has been excused post lunch. She sighs, knowing she is the faculty’s disappointment, and heads to the Principal’s Office.
Principal Vernon is expecting her. Inside the small office with him is a short woman dressed in a distinctive, but unrecognizable, uniform. The most beautiful girl in the room sighs again, and sits without asking.
“Sandra, I want you to meet Major Hackett of O&S.”
Sandy raises an eyebrow, and shakes the woman’s hand to be polite. Whatever Vernon is doing, however, she does not want to be a part of, no sir. She frowns, unfastens her holster, and slides it across the desk.
“No,” she says simply.
His eyes flash with anger, actual anger. He pushes the holster back.
“Don’t give me this bullshit, Sandra. It’s your pistol now. You’ve worn it for a month now, it’s yours.”
“Mr. Vernon! Don’t you cuss at me!”
“Ha! See Sandra, you’re an adult. You have been for an entire year. You haven’t Declared because you’re saddled with the apathy from your fucking parents and you’ve been wearing it like some kind of mantle. Hell, I’ve been more of a parent to you for the last four years then either one of those two sloths, and I am here to tell you to knock this shit off. We’re all tired of it.”
Sandy could not believe what she had heard. Vernon never cussed. Until now, she had never even heard him say “darn”. She slumped in her chair. She contemplated crying, but couldn’t muster the tears. Maybe he was right; maybe she wasn’t a girl anymore if being cussed at by the Principal did not make her cry.
“But what would I do?” The words are out of her mouth before she realizes perhaps this is why Major Hackett is here. She looks at the woman.
“If you Declare, I have a job for you. Briefly: you fit a profile for our advanced piloting program; you’ll start right after a month of space acclamation, followed by on the job training and formal instruction, which will last two years. It will be a very intense two years, but Day One you will be an officer with a commission. “
“Piloting?” Sandra was confused. She did not even have a car. She narrowed her eyes. “Profile? Who gave you a profile of me?” She put her jumbled thoughts together and turned to face Vernon. “You had no right to violate my privacy!”
“Right? Right? Adults have rights. You, Sandra, are merely a child.”
Oh well played, sir, well played. She felt as if the Principal had just slapped her across the face. She slumped further in her chair. By rights, she should call her father and have him give the Principal what for.
If he wasn’t drunk.
And fucking the neighbor girl.
Her mother of course, was more useless. Sandy should have been the daughter. Instead, to her mother, she was simply sister to the brother who died when she was merely one month old. Slain by the enemy. In a bad way.
“And what does my profile say?” she asked the Major. It came out bitter.
“It says many things. But the gist is: institutions to you are familiar, you have above average marks, you test well under stress, you are attractive and your nervous system is well suited to implants for the neural interfaces.”
Sandra’s mind whirled. She wanted to ask what being attractive had to do with anything, but this is not what came to the front of her mind. “Would I be anywhere near my parents’ chain of command?”
“Absolutely not. If you say yes, in twenty minutes you will actually outrank your parents.”
A chill went down Sandra’s spine. Oh they had her. They had her now.
She looked at Vernon. He started smiling. She contemplated punching him in the nose. She stood up, and put her pistol back on.
“Do I get a starting bonus?”
The Major actually paused. “Yes. Yes, you do.”
She looked at Vernon again. “I want it to be the same as his finding fee.”
Now the Major flinched. It was small, but noticeable.
“Ah, yes. Yes, I can authorize that.”
The grin threatened to split Vernon’s face.
It took ten minutes to walk to County Safety. They were expecting her (damn them all), and in three more minutes, she was an Adult. Her very first contract was accepting an Officer’s Commission for Orbital and Space. It took eight minutes to receive verification and for the major to swear her in.
The Major was driving her to her parents’ house, no longer her house, in a rental e-car.
“Major, what does being attractive have to do with anything?”
“Good question, Leftenant. You’ve been matched to an AI. Level 1. She was very specific. She said, and I quote, ‘If I’m going to Uplink with a stinky human, make it a woman with some brains and nice, perky boobs’.”
Sandra burst out laughing. The Major gave her a side-glance.
“You are not offended?”
“Are you kidding? That’s funny as hell.” Sandy was still getting used her ‘Uplink to an AI’ future, but it was funny. Everything seemed almost like a dream, and she would wake up only to find her same apathetic life with her same apathetic family.
Major Hackett grinned. “Damn it all if the profile matchup actually worked.”
They pulled up to Sandra’s house. Suddenly she was nervous. But something again was nagging at her brain.
“Ma’am, is this a ship left over from the war?”
“Negative, Leftenant. This is not an orbiter. It is an armed corvette, with a landing shuttle and everything. It can go planet side, but it is built for space duties.”
“Space? Why do we need armed space ships?”
“Well now, you’re smarter than you look, Leftenant,” said Hackett as she got out of the car.
Whoa. All thoughts about a stressful meeting with her parents were now gone.
What’s going on, and what did I get myself into? thought the most beautiful girl in the room.