The Turn

By: Kim Harrison

FOR TIM





1




Trisk ran a hand down her Jackie Kennedy dress, not liking how it hampered her motions even if it showed off her curves. Grades and accomplishments were her primary weapons in the battle to attract an employer, but appearance came in a close second. Her long dark hair was pulled back into a clip, and an unusual whisper of makeup highlighted her angular cheekbones and narrow chin in the hopes of finding a businesslike mien. She was dressed better than most on the noisy presentation floor. Not that it matters, she thought sourly.

Anxiety pinched her eyes as she sat attentively at her booth, surrounded by the accomplishments of her past eight years. They suddenly seemed dull and vapid as she smiled at an older couple while they passed, their clipboards in hand as they shopped. “How are we for security?” one asked, and Trisk’s face warmed when the other ran his eyes over her, making her feel like a horse up for auction.

“We could use someone, but how good could she be? She’s in with the geneticists.”

“That’s because I am one,” Trisk said loudly, shoulders hunching when they gave her a surprised look and continued on.

Jaw clenched, she slumped in her chair, shifting it back and forth and frowning at the empty interview chair across from her. It had been four months since graduation, and as tradition dictated, her class had gathered in a three-day celebration in the university’s great hall to say good-bye and decide where they would start their careers. Much like a reverse job fair, past graduates came from all over the U.S. to meet them, assess their strengths, and find a place for them within their companies. Tonight her classmates would part ways, some going to Houston, others to Portland or Seattle, and the best to Florida and the Kennedy Genetic Center to work in the National Administration of Scientific Advancement.

Put bluntly, the gala was a meat market, but seeing as there were only a few hundred thousand of her people left on earth, hidden among the millions of humans, it was a necessity. Especially now. Their population was poised to drop drastically with this generation if they couldn’t halt the ongoing genetic degradation caused by an ancient war.

The best of her people studied to become geneticists or the politicians who would ensure that government money kept flowing into the labs. A few who specialized in security aimed to do the same, though on a much darker, more dangerous level.

At least most of them did, Trisk thought, her gaze rising past the CLASS OF 1963 banner to the impressive chandelier hanging above her. The glowing light hummed with power, the crystal containing a room-wide charm policing all but the most innocent of magics. At the far end of the hall, a live jazz band played a snappy rendition of “When Your Lover Has Gone,” though no one danced. Glancing down the long rows of tables, she scoffed at the hopeful smiles and cheerful platitudes of her classmates doggedly trying for a better offer as the final hour to register a contract ticked closer. But inside, she was dying.

Trisk and her father had entertained only three employers at her table, all of them more interested in her minor in security than her major in genetic research. Her doctorate in using viruses to introduce undamaged DNA into somatic cells had been marginalized. Kal, who used bacteria to do the same thing, was getting accolades and offers left and right.

Her attention shifted, seeing him sitting directly across from her. Her stellar grades had gotten her a place under the chandelier with the best of them, and Trisk sourly imagined that was a loophole the administration would plug next year. Her dark hair and eyes among their predominantly fair complexions were obvious and garnered unwanted attention. Olympian gods and goddesses, every single one of them—slim and fair, bright as the sun, and as cold as the moon. Though they didn’t make her a second-class citizen, her dusky hair and brown eyes supposedly gave her a natural affinity for one thing in their class-stratified society: security. She was good at that, but she was better in the labs.

Kal, though, had been groomed for a high position since birth. Majoring in genetic studies and minoring in business, he had the skills to make him justifiably sought after. She hated his smugness. She hated having to work twice as hard for half the credit, and she thought it telling that he went by his last name, shortening it from Kalamack to Kal in order to sound more human. To her, it meant he relied on his family rather than his own self for his identity.