Mona awoke in the morning to the gentle sounds of her Ipod alarm. She tried to place the name of the band, or what kind of music it was. Rock. Folk rock? No, indie rock, alternative, from the early twenty-first century. She lay there for a minute or two longer, letting it all soak in, and not wanting to get out of bed. The sunlight was coming in gentle through her hab window. There was static on the pod for a second, and then the voice of Berks came across with the mornings broadcast.
"Six twenty four in the morning...a good morning to you, and to all the residents of our fair colony...today is yellow ticket day for fresh produce from the dome...sixteen days since our last dust storm, lets be prepared...lets get out there and do our part for humanity!"
The Ipod switched back over, and she finally placed the band as Wilco.
She had MRE coffee, but didnt want MRE coffee. There was real coffee in the dome. A scarce amount of coffee plants had been cultivated, carefully, that the first-class citizens had jealously hoarded and cultivated. Real coffee. With real milk from one of the dome cows, or goats even. Goat milk wasnt half bad. Anything to clear out the fog in her head. But she had a blue ticket, not a yellow one, so there was no ration for her today, from any of it. Which meant that she was going to have to hit up the market. She looked around in her hab for something decent to trade, and found a flex screen. She rolled it up and put it in her jacket. A quick look in the mirror, brushing back her stark white hair, and then it was out the door she went.
Mona lived at the edge of the Joshua trees, which was as close to the dome as she wanted to get. The dome loomed over everything, and if she wanted she could have gotten a pass to live inside. But there was a cramped feeling in there, for her, a loss of connection. What good was green growing things and tech marvels if it wasnt part of the world? For her, real good game from what already was. Like the gnarled tree out her window. It clung to life, gene-engineered to live in the soil of the Rot- festered Earth that could seemingly hold nothing. This was a small miracle. Soon more would come, and the green would take hold. It was a dream that nearly all shared.
At the market it was a general bartering for items crafted in the dome, scavenged from the piles, and a mix in between. The highest price items were food. Food was once a currency, with rations being used to exchange goods and currency, and still could be used that way, from time to time. But many folks were doing better than that, and used electronic currency inscribed upon their Colonist identification, the way folks did in the time before. She made her way over to Abdul, whose face lit up when he saw her, with a wide beaming smile.
"Miss Mona! What will you be having."
"Do you have real coffee?"
"Beans fresh from the dome, if you have the credits!"
"Do you take trade?"
"If its good? Of course!"
Mona leaned in close, to minimize the chance of a thief seeing what she had, and snatching it away. She activated the flex screen, running through a few programs, and a movie clip.
"Ah, Miss Mona, I already have a laptop!" Abdul said.
"This has everything your laptop has." Mona said, and more."
Abdul looked it over and shrugged. "As you say. I can give it to my son, or trade it otherwise, follow me, please."
An off-duty Colonial Guardsman was standing by the tent flap of Abdul's stall. Inside was a variety of produce, apples, mangoes, tomatoes. Abdul opened a small package and inhaled the flavor. "As I said, fresh beans. I roast them myself, and I grind them.." He put the beans in a small machine..."Here!"
Soon the tent was filled with the smell of fresh, hot, coffee. Mona savored her cup, letting the caffiene slowly seep into her, waking her up for the days routine. Abdul sipped his own cup. "How is business these days?" Mona asked.
Abdul scowled. "Everyone wants fresh and better." He said. "In the old days, when the dome was sealed up, everyone was content with rations. Or MRE's. Whatever you could get! But now, people want what they can get. They say, Abdul, your meat is rotten, or, Abdul, your bananas are going brown. Get your own bloody bananas from the dome, I tell them! But they dont listen. They would rather complain to me."
"Still." Mona said, "At least they can eat."
Abdul shrugged. "I liked it better before." He said. "With the old council, everyone knew their place, and the riff raff stayed out near the piles. Now we take them in."
Mona finished her coffee, and thanked him graciously.
She made her way back to the dome. A Guardsmen checked her ID badge as she went through. Inside she felt relief, fresh air, oxygen generated from the last trees on earth. The sound of animals. Witington set up her classroom right in the middle of the green, usually, making the technicians move around them. Mona thought it was the right thing to do. This world belonged to the children, or at least it would, one day. The Junker Girl stood quietly, and listened.
"Can anyone tell me the name of the story we read yesterday?" Witington asked.
"Noah's ark!" A child said.
"And what did we learn from Noah's ark?"
"God is mean." A boy said.
"Thats not it! Your stupid!" A girl replied.
"Well, Sam." Witington said, "No one is stupid. And what actually can be a very grown up lesson."
"So God is mean?"
"Well." Witington said, "What they call God in the story, we call nature. And nature can be mean, sometimes. Things can be hard in life."
"Like for the ref-you-gees." A boy said, struggling with the word.
"Thats right." Witington said, "Like with the refugees. Most people dont have what we do here, in this dome. Can anyone tell me what we have?"
"Thats right." Witington said, "And the reason we have those things is because we have what is called a controlled habitat. And in the story, Noah's ark was a controlled habitat. It contained two of every animal."
"Teacher." a child said, "Is there every animal inside the dome?"
"I can answer that." Mona said. "There isnt. But we have the genetic material for most of them."
"Hi, Mona!" Some of the class said.
"Class." Witington said, "Can anyone tell me what genetic material is?"
"Its the building blocks." A boy said. "Its the stuff things are made out of."
"What sort of things?"
"People like you and me." The boy said, "And plants and animals."
"Thank you, Arril." Witington said. "And that is another way this dome is like the ark. What was the Rot? Can anyone tell me?"
"A bad thing." A girl shyly said, "That killed everyone, a long time ago."
"Yes, Elie." Witington said. "The Rot was a bad thing. It killed almost everyone, and almost everything. But a few lucky people managed to stick around, and a few things werent destroyed. And we are the great-great-grandchildren of the ones that did." Witington clapped her hands. "Now is everyone ready for Ms. Mona's class trip?"
The children cheered.
At the trucks next to the dome, Witington told Mona, "Thank you for doing this. They look forward to your trip all week."
"I should thank you." Mona said, "Someday I might have kids myself, and you teach our only school."
Witington smiled. "Is there someone I should know about?"
"No." Mona said. "Not since-" She willed herself not to say Skip.
Witington gave her a hug. "You've gotten so tall!" She said. "Your were a little whisp of a thing when you first got here."
"All grown up." Mona said.
"Well." Witington said. "You were pretty grown up to begin with."