Coffee

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            She was too tired to stand up. She had slept for only two hours after studying for her exams. “Coffee,” she mumbled to herself as she sat up in bed. “I need coffee.”

            Lola stumbled down the stairs to the bottom floor of her dorm. She wished that the elevator were working. She couldn’t handle twelve flights of stairs this early in the morning. Her eyes kept trying to drift shut again. There was no way that she could take her tests in this state. She was sure to get expunged this time. Where was some coffee?

           Since real coffee plants had been driven to extinction in the climate shifts back around the year 2100, synthetic coffee was made with a lot more zing. One sip and her eyes had sprung open. By the time she had reached the bottom of the mug, her entire body was vibrating. The buzz would last for another eighteen hours before she crashed, preferably in her bed.

            It was a bit discomforting that people were so coffee-dependent these days. With people working sixteen-hour shifts at their jobs, or reading entire books in a single afternoon for homework, caffeine was mandatory. There wasn’t a single person at school that didn’t drink coffee in the morning, besides the elementary school children. The strength of synthetic caffeine was too much for anybody under the age of thirteen, as the packages always warned in big, bold letters.

            Lola walked quickly across campus, almost jogging. It was kind of hard not to jog when you were this buzzed. Lola knew a few people who had two cups of coffee every morning because their jobs only allowed an hour or two of sleep a night. She promised herself that she would never become one of those people—their eyes were always so wide, and they talked so fast. People were hospitalized all the time for caffeine-induced seizures.

            Facts bounced through her head as she approached the Main Testing Building. The chemical process in milk compressing is an exothermic reaction. The first officially employed android was at a stamp factory in April of 2043. Without caffeine, she would have been far too stressed to remember any of this.The annual exams were awful, but they were necessary—there was no place on Earth for stupid people, after all. As if overpopulation weren’t already a problem.

            Lola entered the building and walked down the wide halls to Testing Room 125. She settled herselfin the cushioned chair in front of the small monitor as the metal crown lowered onto her temples. The screen clicked on. A friendly woman was on the monitor, sitting at a desk in a white room. “Hello, Lola Harriet, and welcome to your fifteenth annual exam. Your last exam showed a minor decrease in your mental capacity, so let’s hope that you’ve improved!” The friendly voice made Lola uncomfortable. She shifted in her seat, her arms buzzing along the arm rests from the caffeine high.

            A small graph appeared in the corner of the monitor: the IQ bell curve. The image was etched into her brain; it was on the news reports constantly, showing IQ rates increasing. The definition of IQ had changed a lot over the years. Intelligence was not simply based on your ability to learn, but also the number of facts that you could retain. Studying for weeks was imperative.

            “To refresh your memory,” said the friendly woman on the screen, “the average human IQ is 100. These questions will test your mental capacity. If your IQ is no longer sufficient—falling under 85 into the low 15.7% of society—then you will be expunged. The examination will now commence.”

            The test began immediately. Words appeared on the screen and the woman repeated them. “Who was the President of the United States from 2116 to 2124?”

            “Donald Markus,” Lola said loudly and clearly. The bell curve chart on the side of the monitor produced a number: “IQ = 101.”

Thewoman on the screen spoke promptly resumed. “Briefly summarize the Android Education Reformation.”

            “The Android Education Reformation began in 2085, when all human teachers were replaced with robotic teachers,” Lola said distinctly, hardly pausing between words. “The Reformation was conceived by President Hitoshi Yoshima to prevent overpopulation. Students who were not intelligent enough to adapt to the rapidly-growing society were to be expunged. The… the…”

            Lola started to stutter. What was the name of the woman who invented the first robotic teacher? Was that even worth mentioning? What should she say? She squirmed slightly as the metal crown vibrated against her head.

            Lola hesitated a moment too long. “Your answer is insufficient,” the woman on the screen said, still eerily friendly. The number on the IQ chart dropped to 94. If she got two more wrong, she would be expunged.

            “How many species of insect are immune to nuclear radiation?” the woman continued.

            Lola had completely forgotten about studying biology. “Uh… forty-three?” She pulled the number out of nowhere. Getting one question wrong had shattered her confidence. She should have studied longer.

            “Your answer is insufficient,” the woman said again. The IQ number dropped to 87. “Name the three major classifications of rock.”

            Lola closed her eyes to think. “Metamorphic… sedimentary… and… and…” What was the third one?

            “Your answer—“ the woman on the monitor began as Lola shouted, “IGNEOUS!”

            The woman didn’t stop speaking. “—is insufficient.” The IQ number dropped to 80. “I’m sorry, Lola Harriet, but your IQ is in the lowest 15.7%. You are to be expunged immediately. Your family will be notified. Goodbye. Five… four… three… two…”

            Lola didn’t even hear the last number. The metal crown on her head sent a surge of electricity through her body and, with a bright flash, everything was gone.

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