So Much Knowledge, So Little Intelligence

Words zipped past Reg's view in his augmented reality as he read an eBook in class. He'd managed to program in his reading speed which allowed him to speed read through just about any book.

“Reggie, are you paying attention?”

Miss Hooper, a tall blonde woman who looks about ready for a mid-life crisis by wearing jeans and a really tacky turtle neck sweater to a high school. Reg turned off his book feed of Advanced Survival Techniques: Deserts and cocked an eyebrow.

“Yeah, I guess so.” sighed Reg. Last time he spoke his mind it ended up making him look like an idiot in front of his entire class.

Miss Hooper smiled dryly and turned back to the LED screen wall she was delicately writing on with a stylus. A lesson plan on beginning Calculus. Reg rolled his eyes and thought “Already read two books on Calculus, and even theoretical physics”.

Bored after a moment with the lesson plan, he straightened himself in his classroom integration chair. All he'd have to do to learn anything he wanted to know was use his neural up-link to sync with the school's galactic internet connection, key in a couple search terms, and upload the information to his brain.

Hell he could learn to be a five star chef in under a week if he really wanted to be. Reading was just something to keep occupied while he had to be forced to dredge himself to school every day. Most days he doesn't even learn anything from the classes.

“You're not actually paying attention, are you Reggie?”

Putting his hands on his temple, his frustration showed. Reg had always been ahead of the curve but for some reason the adults who were somehow in charge of him felt the need to drag him slowly through this muck of social awkwardness.

He could have taken an apprenticeship for building matter manipulators, but no. This washed up old hag wants to teach him about something he's known about since twelve.

“I'm sorry Miss Hooper but I'm not. I can't. Everything you're covering was in two lesson plans I uploaded already, and I've even read two books on Calculus, and another on theoretical physics. I'm racking my brain trying to figure out why you won't let me skip high school altogether. Hell, what's the point of it at all?”

Looking around the room, he realized he was one of three kids sitting a room of twenty CIC's. One girl sat with her eyes glued to the floor, while the other was a boy who looked like he was filling out a worksheet on his augmented reality by waving his hand in the air as if to write out the problem.

Miss Hooper stood up straight and sighed. Shaking her head, she put her hand on Reg's black hair and ruffled it.

“There is a point of you being here Reggie. No one doubts that you can learn whatever you want. You're here because you refuse to apply that knowledge in any functional manner.”

Reg held his breath a moment and tried to hold back the anger within him. There were so many holes in her argument he had to try not to laugh. It wasn't hard.

“Apply the knowledge? How am I applying knowledge by repeating problems over and over again just so you can say I know how to apply it? I never asked for your opinion of my ability, now did I?”

Miss Hooper pushed down on his head and really ruffled his hair.

“You have no idea what life is like. We put you here because we've seen more life than you, and we know what you'll need to be a functional part of society.”

Reg had heard enough. Grabbing his brown messenger bag, he swatted her hand away from his head and stood up. Without a word, he made his way out of the room.

“Where are you going?! Class is not dismissed mister!”

Placing the strap over his shoulder, he stuck his hands in his white cotton hoodie and stormed out. Automatic doors beeped over and over as he passed. A clean white hallway with small black square projectors jutting out from the walls. Classroom numbers with information on class currently in session appeared next to the doors on his augmented reality feed.

“Reginald Bower you get back here this instant!”

A scowl washed over Reg's face. He'd had just about enough of adults telling him what to do. Loading the school's main server hub, he bypassed the firewall and installed a small virus file to the school's speaker system. Immediately the lights dimmed and the halls filled with a slow and somber violin solo. Turning back to Miss Hooper, she looked at him in surprise.

Reg whipped around and walked backwards, mocking her by pretending to play the world's smallest violin. Her slender face filled with rage as she stormed back into the classroom. Laughing and righting himself, turned back around to head towards the elevator. As he reached the end of the hall where he would make his descent he pulled up a feed of the school's suborbital camera.

Every week he had to take a shuttle out of the atmosphere to take classes on the Glasgow Federation Space Station. Staying there Monday through Friday was as awful as it sounds. At least on the weekends he could explore worlds with his virtual reality.

Titan IV had the most beautiful jungles. Thankfully in virtual reality bugs and diseases aren't an issue. Since the Glasgow Federation began terraforming planets for habitation they learned to scan the environments with pinpoint precision. This drove a whole host of tourism-themed VR games that basically let you explore their world sans people for free.

Most people would travel there to see more of the culture, but Reg was more interested in the evolution of plant and animal life on terraformed planets. A species of deer that could camouflage itself based on it's surroundings evolved on Titan IV. They say Legacy Prime could evolve a neanderthal type species over the next millennia.

The elevator dinged and pulled Reg out of his reverie. Sixteen and he had already explored so much in life through the wonders of technology. Stepping into the elevator he signaled it towards the hangar bay. His friend Germain ran cargo to the space station every day and would gladly give him a ride back whenever. Beats waiting for the weekend shuttle.

Quiet soothing music played over the elevator speaker as Reg pondered his next move. It was still only ten o' clock standard time so he probably had a while before Germain even showed up with his daily delivery. His AR feed signaled a hint at possible suggestions in text out of the corner of his eye.

[\Suggestions/]

1) Contact Germain to find his delivery schedule, then decide next course of action

2) Wait for Germain at the hangar, consume various media

3) Order Pizza, Win at Life

That last one was programmed to always show up for a giggle. Although contacting Germain wouldn't be terribly difficult... thought Reg. If it weren't for the school then hearing our every word and sending security to detain me before I could leave. Maybe two and three are appropriate.

With the decision made, Reg continued his course towards the shuttle hangar. There he could ask where the delivery bay was so he could wait for a non-existent package from Germain's shipment. Maybe he can even get a time from someone so he can go check out the arcade. Credits weren't an issue when you knew how to just bypass the payment system altogether to play.

At least he didn't take tickets out for prizes if he did it that way. Reg was an honest hacker. The elevator dinged and doors opened to a dirty looking hallway. Grease marks littered the steel floors and walls. Two men in overalls stood talking over coffee at a gravity manipulation machine.

“Excuse me gentlemen, I'm looking for...” Grabbing a piece of paper out of his pocket, Reg pretended to read something from it. “Shuttle 8221, Germain Lasko... They didn't give me a time but the package is a condenser for robotics class and my teacher says I need it today. Can you help?”

A Wake Up Call With A Snooze Button

Staring at the TV, Gary scratched his belly. Laying down across the couch was all he could do to keep from falling asleep. Life had gotten so dull lately. Everything was generally the same day to day. Work at the office was always boring. Being a pencil pusher made it difficult to get in the right mindset to spice up your life.

In other news, a local gas station is under investigation for a string of murders-”

Grabbing the remote, he turned off the TV. It clicked silent to leave his mind to wander. Here he was, thirty-two with a steady job, bills are paid, fun money is there. Yet something just doesn't feel right. How could he have all of this opportunity of the world at large in front of him with no desire to explore it. Where did all the drive go?

Is work really that soul sucking? Should we rally to automate everything so people never have to work again? More people would get behind that than you'd think. Although perhaps thinking was the problem. You can spend all day thinking about what you want to do but it never really gets you doing it. Sitting up on the couch, Gary straightened his shirt to cover his slight beer belly. His brown hair was mussed up like he'd just rubbed a balloon to create static.

It may as well have been static with the cloth the old couch was made of. Looking around the room, he realized there was something he hadn't done in a very long time. Pictures of him in hiking gear out at Boulder Hill Trail. It had taken him three hours to find his way back from the vantage point he finally decided on for the picture.

Standing up he walked over to the small bookshelf with pictures of his various escapades. Somewhere something went dull and made these things less interesting. Or did it? Does the rut of work life truly take the joy out of home life? It seems to be a likely explanation. You only have to spend all day entering numbers and printing documents once to realize it becomes a very dull and lifeless kind of job.

Inhaling through his nose, he smelled everything around him. It was a pretty neutral smell considering it was his own living room. Reaching for his phone on the floor by the couch made him realize what day it was. Saturday was really the only day he had to lounge like this. He checked the weather and his calendar. There was nothing going on, and sifting through texts from his friends reminded him they were all gone for the weekend.

Scratching his chin as he pondered what he could do. There was rain due in a few hours, but that left at least three or four hours of sun to enjoy. A list of local parks and some gas in the car was all he needed. Yet something felt... off. Like he wasn't supposed to be leaving the house for some reason. It wasn't every day one had an ominous feeling like this. Could it mean something? Nah. Gary wasn't one for superstition.

Running upstairs he changed into some loose khakis and a thin v-neck shirt. Patting down his pockets to make sure he had his wallet and keys was the last thing before leaving. Yet as he put his hand on the door knob, that ominous feeling grew stronger still.

Every fiber of his being told him this was a bad idea. Come to think of it, he hadn't even looked outside himself. Light shone through the window next to the front door as if it were a bright sunny day. Looking out, the clouds were light and fluffy. Nothing out of the ordinary. There must not be much of a reason for the feeling if everything checks out.

Turning the handle on the door made the feeling go away completely. Beholding what was on the other side however, made different feelings arise within Gary. Confusion mostly. A hint of fear, but mostly confusion. His neighbors were standing in front of their house talking like they were friends. The sky was more akin to the top of a warehouse with beams stretching across to hold flood lights illuminating the area. Large clumps of white fluff hung from the ceiling by small strings.

A large light blue tarp was rolled up on the back side of the warehouse. Looking to his right to inspect the window by his door, a thin television screen was attached to the other side to fit the window perfectly. Looking back into the house, he tried to look out the window again. It looked just like a real sunny day from the other side.

His mind raced with questions. Jim, his neighbor, spotted him from the yard next to him and walked over with a smile on his face and a beer in his hand.

“Hey Gary! Wanna join us for a couple beers?”

Gary looked at Jim with a sigh and a highly confused look on his face. Gary couldn't find the words he needed to express his disbelief. Luckily Jim picked up on it.

“Oh! That's right! You haven't been out of the house on a weekend in a while. So this happened about six months ago actually-”

Jim went on to explain that aliens had arrived at some point and royally messed up the atmosphere somehow. So in order to protect humanity from it's mistake, it built a housing for every major city and urban area that protected them from the radiation emanating from the alien's reactor core. They were here to help supposedly. Gary pointed at the clouds and the tarp, and began to speak but was promptly cut off.

“Oh that? That's just a little something we've been doing. Makes things feel more... normal during the week ya know? Created a lot of jobs at least.”

Gary cocked an eyebrow and began to rub his temple. How could he have missed something this major? He knew the rut cut him off from what's happening in the world but... He watches the news every day to make up for that. It's a shame that just usually turns in to nap time. If it wasn't, he might have seen this happen.

At that moment his phone buzzed with a text from his friends. It was a group picture of them with a strange blue humanoid figure wearing a backwards ball cap and holding a joint in it's pincer. All the text said was With love from Colorado.

Taking a deep breath, Gary looked around trying to find in his mind what to do next. Thoughts and questions swirled in his mind. Not just about how ridiculous life had apparently gotten in his mental absence. How could he have possibly gotten so absent-minded? How could he have missed all of this? Jim looked at him with concern and patted him on the shoulder.

“Hey, I get it. We all had our moments that made it difficult to accept. Aliens? Really? We'd seen so many movies about it and expected something more... grand. A war. Economic and philosophical prosperity. But honestly, what we got was basically some really smart drinking buddies.”

Gary couldn't help but laugh at that. Alien drinking buddies? I mean, sure. It was bound to happen at some point. But there must be more to this than meets the eye. The world had just gotten infinitely more interesting.

“Like, the other week they announced subterranean tunnels to travel from major cities. Give em another year or two they'll have atmospheric levels back to normal to where we can just start living on Earth like normal again.”

Jim's eyes were alight with wonder and passion. This man was wildly ecstatic that aliens were now a part of his life. Gary realized this may not be nearly as bad as he thought if all of it were true. It was easy to think that these promises can be kept by a species so advanced we couldn't possibly understand what kind of reach they have.

“You know, it's enough to make ya not care their reactor core radiation leaks sterilized 95% of the population. They can always make test tube babies, and once we find out who are the last fertile ones we can begin to rebuild from there.”

Gary thought on this for a moment. Every time Jim talks it adds another layer to this extreme new reality Gary had been thrown in to. No doubt there were countless other angles to this alien coexistence thing. Turning into his house, Gary waved goodbye to Jim and shut the door behind him. Lying back down on the couch, he continued to stare at the ceiling. He needed more time to think on this alone.