I woke up with a gasp. Gulping in large amounts of air, my head shrieked in agony from the sudden intrusion in my mind. My vision was blurry, and all I could hear was a soft whirring sound. I tried to remember what happened, but my mind was blank.
Slowly, my vision regained focus and the sharp pain in my head subsided to a dull throb, allowing me to take in my surroundings for the first time.
The room was bare except for the bed I was on and a monitor on the wall, which was showing a stream of numbers and letters I couldn’t understand. I tried to stand up from the bed, but my legs immediately cramped painfully, and I fell back. Interestingly, the monitor had become blank in the instance I got up, then flashed back on when I fell back.
Weary, I admitted that there was nowhere I could go in my state. The whirring noise got louder, and my chest started to ache with a newfound intensity. Listening closely, I tried to figure out where it was coming from.
I turned around so fast my neck whiplashed but there was no one inside the room. As I absorbed that someone was coming, a part of the wall slid open and a woman walked in.
I was frozen from fear. I couldn’t move as she came directly to me, reaching out.
“You’re awake.” She whispered fervently, wide-eyed. With a featherlight touch, she caressed my face as if to make sure I was here.
I flinched, not knowing how to react.
“Can you sit up? You must still be feeling some discomfort, but don’t worry, it’ll fade away soon.” She said, very softly.
I debated whether to trust her- something about her set me on edge. I simply nodded in response. Wincing as I sat up, I pushed away the hand she offered in help.
She stepped away after noticing my discomfort, forehead creasing as she observed my efforts with a frown.
“You’re disoriented from waking up, so just hold tight. Soon everything will make sense.”
She didn’t look like she was planning on leaving, so I took the time to observe her. She was wearing a body suit, but the parts of her body that I could see were made of some soft, stretchy material. She also had long straight-looking things coming out of her scalp that came to rest on her shoulders. Suddenly, two words popped into my head. Skin and hair. That’s what they were called.
Looking at myself, I saw I was wearing the same thing. But I made a stranger discovery as I realized:
I had neither skin nor hair.
Before I could contemplate what this meant, two imposing figures walked in. They had a similar appearance to the woman, but their hair was buzz cut.
“I sent the alert as fast as I could.” She said to the taller man, who nodded in response.
“Good, good. We came as soon as we received the alert. At least we succeeded on the third attempt.” He replied, and I could hear the relief in the deep tenor of his voice.
Meanwhile, the shorter man smirked at me obnoxiously. “I’m glad you’re awake, Hope. It was about time. A stubborn one, aren’t you?”
“H-hope?” I blurted out, voice rusty with disuse.
“Yes, Hope. That’s your name.” The shorter man replied.
“W- why is that my name? Why am I here? Who am I? Who are you? I don’t-”
“Woah, calm down. It’s ok, we’ll answer all your questions really soon.” The woman said, trying to calm me. “Can you stand up? We need to go now.”
“I don’t think so.”
“It’s ok.” The taller man repeated, “Fred can carry you on his back.”
“There’s no need to look ashamed, Hope. Once the effects wear off, you’re going to be stronger than the rest of us.” Fred said, approaching me and kneeling beside the bed, “Here, jump on.”
As I reluctantly climbed on his back, I heard the woman say:
“Look at how clear her emotions are on her face, Ali.” Excitement filled her voice, “I can’t believe this is happening. It really worked, didn’t it?”
Why was she talking about me like that? But a sudden thump thump sound distracted me. It was coming from inside of Fred. Shocked, I tried pushing off him, but he gripped my legs tighter.
“What is that?!” I yelled, too scared to think straight.
“What. Are. You. Talking. About?” Fred huffed, “Stop trying to get off, you’re going to get hurt!!”
“That’s just his heartbeat!!” Rosa yelled back, arms waving in the air as my panic got to her, while Ali just stood there with an amused expression.
“Heart…beat?” I questioned, and as if in answer to my question, a stream of words appeared in my vision:
Heart: A human organ which pumps blood through the body by contracting and dilating rhythmically.
Heartbeat: Pulsation of the heart.
I blinked, and the words disappeared. Understanding dawned on me, so I stopped struggling. Why hadn’t I known this before? Ah, because I didn’t have a heart, or a heartbeat.
“Oh. I see.” I said, wrapping my arms around Fred’s neck once more. “Sorry, I didn’t know. It’s just that I don’t have one.”
Ali smiled, and said knowingly “Her interface started working. Thank goodness, that makes things easier for us.”
“Let’s go now. We’ll clear up as much as we can on the way to meet Della. We don’t have much time.” Fred said, walking forward.
“Who’s Della? And why don’t we have time?” I asked, curious why we had to go to meet her.
“She’s the boss around here. Well, you know you don’t have a heartbeat. What else have you figured out?” Ali answered, ignoring my second question.
“I don’t have skin or hair either,” I revealed, “And there seems to be a whirring noise following me. It was in the room, but it hasn’t stopped since we came outside. It changes in intensity too.”
By now we were in a hallway, which had the same sleek walls as the inside of the room I had been in.
“You know how Fred, me and Ali have a heartbeat? Well, think of this whirring as yours.”
“Oh. No wonder I couldn’t tell where it came from.” I said, rubbing at my chest.
“So,” Ali began, “You already realized that you’re a little different than us. You may not have skin or hair, but you have something even better- a titanium skin. You’re not human like us. You’re what we call a Sentinel.”
Sentinel: A robot with artificial intelligence whose sole purpose is to guard humanity and maintain law and order.
I was still confused, and I couldn’t help but feel a little upset. My intelligence was… artificial?
“But you’re not just any Sentinel. You’re special.” Ali revealed, “You have conscious thought- and you can feel emotions.”
They didn’t get to answer as we reached a room with what looked like a conference table inside. All the seats were empty except for one where a woman was seated.
“Della can explain the rest, Hope.” Rosa gestured for me to get off Fred and go inside. “You should be able to walk now that your interface is working.”
She was right, so I jumped off and slowly approached Della.
Straight to the point, she wasted no time saying, "Hello, Hope. I’m glad you woke the third time we issued the wake command. We don’t have much time, so we must get acquainted quickly. My name is Della, and I’m the leader of the Point Hope rebellion. Welcome to our main operations hideout- what we call Station Hope. You are the last piece of our long journey towards a better present. Please, take a seat.”
I sat down, overwhelmed with the sudden influx of information.
“I’ve heard all the conversations you’ve had so far.” she continued, pointing to an earpiece, “And I’ll start by saying that humanity has come a long way with technology.”
She stood up and walked up to a wall. It slid open to reveal a window that gazed out into darkness.
“Frankly, we’re in space and that there is planet Earth- where all humans and Sentinels live.” Della pointed to a spherical object in the distance. “In the past, there was a time when certain populations of humans shared physical similarities, and so they were divided into categories called ‘race’. But the differences these groups had amongst each other created conflict, to the point humans were killing each other for that very reason.”
Her words confused me, and I was only able to keep up with the new terms through the help of my ‘interface’.
“Even those with authority- the ones who were supposed to protect and maintain order- fell prey to what we coin ‘the conflict of difference’. Hope, can you see any differences between us four humans?”
I carefully looked at everyone. “Yes, there are some clear differences. Like between male and female, and your heights. But your facial features are the same. Eyes, mouth, nose- everything.” It hadn’t occurred to me as something that was important, but now it was starting to make sense.
“Exactly. We don’t know when it started, but our ancestors began to genetically modify the newer generations so there would be almost no facial variation. Eventually, humans evolved to have cloned facial features. They hoped that this would solve the conflict of difference, along with the creation of Sentinels. What better authority figures than those who didn’t have the flaws of humanity?”
‘But it didn’t work, did it?” I replied, chest feeling heavy.
“No, it didn’t. So, they took it even a step further. Hope, can you describe what you see, in terms of the light spectrum?”
That was a weird question. “Uh… everything I see is gray.”
“Gray is only what we can see too. But would you believe me if I told you our ancestors could see colours from the light spectrum? Certain wavelengths were visible to the human eye. But when they realized the main conflict they faced was the varying colour of skin, they developed a new solution.”
“They made humans- a whole species- colour blind…How is that even possible?” I choked out, shocked.
“The problem is, we don’t know. The records are too deep under government control, and we haven’t yet managed to uncover them. We started the rebellion twenty years ago because the public isn’t aware of anything. Nobody even knows such a past exists; they don’t know they’ve been wronged.” Ali elaborated.
“Everything got worse. Anyone who became aware of the truth was effectively silenced. And they used the Sentinels to do their dirty work.”
Scoffing with disgust, Della said, “As a solution, they just ended up creating a new cycle that set us on this path. Instead of accepting the differences in humanity and embracing its nature, they fought it for control.”
Fred finally spoke up, “However, genetically modifying colour blindness had a big loophole. Technology could easily remedy that.”
He walked up to window and pointed to Earth “You see that visible atmospheric layer covering the Earth? That’s man-made. They funded the project under the pretense that it would fix global warming, but its real purpose was to render the light spectrum invisible to the naked eye. Therefore, even with technology on Earth, there is no colour.”
I didn’t know how much more I could take. I had only just gained consciousness, and they were telling me all this? Why?
“That’s why Project Hope was created. The only way to have a better future would be to change the past so that this present would cease to exist. And that’s where you come in, Hope.”
Della gazed into my eyes, willing me to understand.
“It took us ten years to create Station Hope. Then another nine to develop the Quantum Jump Port, and one last to build you. And here you are. The only being that can survive a Quantum Jump a century back in time. A Sentinel capable of conscious thought and emotions.”
“You want me… to go back in time? And do what? Prevent this all from happening?!! To fix humanity and save the world?” I yelled, panickily standing up as she made their intentions clear.
“That’s why we created you.” Ali answered instead, crossing his arms in finality. “We’re sending you back a century to the year of 2020. It’s the earliest record we have of one of the protests that began. Therefore, making it the earliest point in time we have hope of changing the future.”
“You think that I can solve a century old problem?!!” My anger rose seeing the flaws in their plan. “And you abandoned everyone on your planet, spending all this time just so everyone in your present would cease to exist? Isn’t that technically killing everyone- you want to erase everything!”
“We have to pick our battles. You haven’t seen what life’s like down there. No one is happy- no one is anything. Everyone’s just going through the motions of life, without actually living. They might as well be dead.” Rosa snapped at me, palms fisting.
“You’re right, I don’t even know if you’re telling me the truth!! You expect me to fight for something I don’t even know is real!!”
“But you’re going to do it anyway. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t matter what you believe or think right now- we made you for this, and we have the commands to make you listen. We had to tell you so you could understand the mission.” Della said, eyes cold. “Hope, lock activation code 0325. Deactivate denial mechanisms and emotions of anger.”
0325: Project Hope Activated.
Denial Mechanisms Deactivated.
A feeling of calm washed over me, and I couldn’t remember why I had been arguing with them.
Suddenly, the room started shaking, lights flickering on and off. All hell broke loose.
“Fred, you said their ship was still 24 hours away from shooting distance!!!”
“Yes, it was supposed to be!!! How are they shooting at us now?!!”
“You must’ve calculated it wrong then-”
“For the past three years?!! It’s not possible!!”
“Shut up, all of you!! Hope needs to Jump, NOW!!” Della screamed, pulling me with her as the shockwaves continued.
Della rushed to give me the instructions for the mission as we ran briskly.
“You have a speech programmed into your mind, in the file called Point Hope. There’s a disk inside your arm, which has an indent at the center. Take it out before you say the speech and press it three times so it launches into the air. That’ll create a temporary atmospheric layer inside the Earth, causing a colour blinding effect. You’ll have less than ten minutes.”
We ran into a room where a platform stood behind a see-through screen, deceiving in its simplicity. A loud explosion sounded from somewhere in hallway we had just left.
Swearing, Della pushed me to the platform, practically shoving me inside as the screen opened.
“Good luck. Please. Let’s do something right for once, and make it count.” She said, her desperation reaching me as the screen closed.
When the screen lit up, a feeling of nausea gripped me, and my breath pushed out my chest. I was sucked into my body as intense physical pain assaulted me before everything went black.
I gained consciousness with a gasp. Gulping in large amounts of air, my head shrieked in agony as a feeling of déjà vu hit me.
I was standing in the middle of a massive crowd of people- all of whom were staring at me as if I’d appeared out of thin air. Most of the crowd was facing a smaller group of people who were uniformed and armed. The people were holding signs, and some were wearing masks, but everyone shared the same look of fear and bewilderment.
Remembering I only had ten minutes, I hurriedly searched for the file titled Point Hope.
File: Point Hope
I waved my arms, and yelled the first thing that I read:
“I have something to say- but I’m going to disappear in ten minutes so listen closely!!”
I took out the disk from my arm, like Della had said, pressing the indent three times. It immediately shot up into the air.
The crowd gasped and some even screamed as the colour bled out of their world, right in front of their eyes. Everyone was shocked into silence.
Taking a deep breath, I started reading the file.
“Do you see how the colour bled away from your world? This is your future- a world without colour! My name is Hope, and I was sent from a century into the future! If humanity continues the path it’s on right now, your future will become that which you fear it to become!! If you keep rejecting the differences of humanity rather than embracing its nature, you’re going to end up removing all that makes each of you unique!”
My throat raw from shouting, I continued quickly, “While you kill each other for looking different, the people in the future fight to get that back! They made robots like me because they didn’t know how else to end the corruption! But nothing worked- because they couldn’t acknowledge that humans are one race! Nature already made everyone the same, so why would you choose the path of artificial uniformity? These small differences between you, don’t let it create conflict or it will ruin your future!! We don’t know if this will change anything, but at least those from the future tried!!! Know that we tried, for us, and for you!!”
I heaved in a deep breath and shouted one last thing, which wasn’t in the file.
“PLEASE! LET’S DO SOMETHING RIGHT FOR ONCE AND MAKE IT COUNT!!”
And everything went black.