Later that day, otherwise just as unremarkable as every other day Steven had experienced growing up in the city, something different happened. Sitting there in the educational pod, it wasn't altogether uncommon for the instructor to pass by behind a student and pause for a moment to observe what he or she was doing on the secondary monitor. Steven was one of the brighter students in his echelon, so he rarely suffered the personal attention of the professor, but that day it seemed like CED 14 Brighton was paying an inordinate amount of attention to all of the students, not just the ones struggling with the lesson.
As he traced out geometric patterns with an acute stylus, according to the computer's requests for mimicry of displayed shapes, Steven glanced over his shoulder a few times to see not only Brighton but an assistant he had never seen before moving anxiously behind each pod, exchanging glances every now and then. The assistant was a shorter man with a well-kept Commonwealth Educational Division jumpsuit, somewhat different from the broken in old outfit that the professor wore. The data pad tucked under his arm was receiving dictation from the head-mounted microphone perched just before his mouth, recording his every word, which apparently had something to do with the female student they were both observing.
Steven knew her as Citizen 3 Valmont, a redheaded girl probably six months younger than he. She had been in a few of his classes, but he hadn't taken much notice of her; sexual education wasn't scheduled for his age group for another five semesters. The two instructors hovering over her pod seemed to be much more interested, whispering to each other as they intently watched her toil at the same lesson he had nearly completed. Frowning as he turned back to put the finishing touches on his pattern, Steven felt a tinge of jealousy; why would they be so impressed by her work if he was already done? He double-checked his project to ensure that he had exactly copied the image, growing even more frustrated when he found no errors.
"CED Fourteen Brighton," he blurted, turning halfway in his chair and raising his hand. When both instructor and assistant had looked over in his direction, he continued, "I've completed the lesson." The two older men exchanged glances briefly, then walked over to Steven's pod together, standing on opposite sides of him.
Brighton spoke first in a hushed voice, "Citizen Four Lesuvo, you were told to complete the exercise and then wait for the rest of the class quietly." When Steven looked over at the assistant, he added, "This is CED Twelve Markov. He is observing our class today." Markov nodded after his introduction, then brought his data pad out and began tapping on it.
"Apologies, CED Fourteen Brighton," Steven whispered, "but I seem to finish all of my lessons before everyone else."
Markov stopped tapping and peered over the top edge of his pad at Brighton, who stiffened noticeably before responding. "It is highly irregular, Citizen." He scratched the back of his neck and repeated, "highly irregular."
Sensing his colleague's uneasiness, Markov interjected, "Steven, do you enjoy your lessons here at the youth crèche?"
"I understand their relevance to my education," he replied before the realization set in that the assistant had used his first name to address him. Swiveling in his chair to face Markov, he added, "but I abhor the repetition, sir."
Taking the signal, Brighton nodded to Markov and went about surveying the other students, none of whom were watching the exchange. Reaching out and touching the student on the shoulder, Markov leaned in and smiled, whispering, "Come with me. I have something very important to discuss with you."