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Smashwords Edition

Copyright © 2013 by James Hampton

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It was a room of tables: a long table on a slightly raised dais, facing outward, for the five-member Council of Supervisors, plus two other, smaller tables, one for a representative from AERA, the Agency for Educational Research and Administration, and the other for Mrs. Agnes Mims, who was the reason for today’s hearing.

Hearing, Agnes thought, looking down at her lap as she waited for the session to begin. This is no hearing. A trial is what this is—but a trial with only one possible outcome: guilty.

Of course, she had known the consequences of her actions, if discovered; she had known also that the chance of discovery was high. Yet twenty-six-year-old Agnes—tall, fair-skinned, with her long red hair pulled back in a bun—had chosen to take the risk and, well, here she was, preparing to be judged.

So let’s get it over with, then.

But the Supervisors, now filing into the chamber, weren’t the sort of people to be hurried. The three men and two women—graying, well-fed mandarins appointed based on their wealth and social prominence—seemed to take a great deal of pleasure in having all eyes in the chamber on them, and so they took their time getting seated, shuffling papers around, chatting amongst themselves. Agnes could only wait, occasionally glancing around, while they got comfortable. In addition to the AERA representative—a plump, bespectacled man with thinning brown hair—she noted the presence of three others: Mrs. Anders, the fortyish brunette who was the Director-General of Knowledge Delivery Center 81 and until yesterday Agnes’ boss; a female Council-appointed stenographer; and Mr. Sidney Sydney, the Council Secretary. It was actually a lot of people for this windowless, gray-walled room, the sole illumination for which came from three fluorescent lights buzzing overhead.

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