The Quill is excited to be publishing a serial novel written by senior Gillian Burnham. The story, titled An Anthem for Samantha, explores the lost city of Atlantis. The Atlantean society in Gillian’s world has a genetic testing and breeding program designed to create the perfect human, and so the novel explores the ethical questions behind genetic testing, the subjective nature of perfection, and a proposed origin story for the Lost City of Atlantis. Following a potentially “perfect” human, Samantha, Gillian’s story is a fascinating original concept that we hope you enjoy!
For the first part of An Anthem for Samantha go to An Anthem For Samantha: Part 1.
By Gillian Burnham ’17
Khel ran as fast as he could.
He sprinted through the sterile white hallways of Myndr, past the glass-bound walls of the enormous viewing pit and through the enormous grey gates that continued to blare their grating siren song. He could see the frantic scurrying of doctors, medlings, guards, and some of the more irritably determined locals as they hastily organized searching parties.
But something seemed off to Khel. The hustle and bustle at the gates seemed oddly devoid of any real motivation beyond the usual annoyance of dealing with an earsplitting noise. After all, it was Merlelle 7 that had escaped, not some 3-4. At the very least the facility director, Dr. Myndr, should be there to supervise the safe return of his most promising specimen.
A thought occurred to Khel- maybe M-7 wasn’t the escapee after all. She certainly wouldn’t be the only one to decide to make a break for it. Plenty of the specimens that Khel supervised chafed under the constant scrutiny the facility subjected them to and would take any opportunity they saw to escape. Khel always thought it was a shame that an obedience gene hadn’t been more heavily promoted.
And this sort of disappearance wasn’t like M-7 at all. She had been bred for intelligence, for subtlety, and such a clumsy breakout seemed beneath her.
Khel maneuvered his way to the crowd until he spotted Dr. Bibré. She spoke to him in terse sentences.
“Khel. Good. The fifth search party will be setting out shortly. Make sure you grab a headlight and a tracking system before you go. And do try to bring back the little bastard in one piece. So time-consuming to report a loss to the Royal Academy…”
“May I ask which specimen has decided to cause this inconvenience?”
Bibré seemed almost bored. “Some 3-2 or another. Hardly worth the effort, really, but we’ll follow protocol just in case.”
Khel did as he was instructed. As he tramped through the thick underbrush, he realized the enormous depth of his relief that he was not out here searching for M-7 in the dark. As Khel had been the last facility medling to have contact with her, the investigation that was sure to follow would have been- uncomfortable, to say the least.
But like Dr. Bibré had said, M-7 was safe. Even now, she and the other specimens were being herded into the viewing pit, where they would wait until the escapee was returned.
The viewing pit. Khel gulped hard.
Deimos had shown such interest in the location, spending more time exclaiming and running his fingers over the framework then he had even talking with M-7.
Deimos was waiting on a small beach when Merlelle emerged from the forest that surrounded Myndr, looking flushed and out of breath. Her black hair was matted to her forehead, but her eyes flashed with excitement. “Dr. Deimos,” she half gasped, half laughed. “So good to see you again.”
“Have any trouble getting over here?”
“Hardly. After I slipped out through the pit’s secret door and passed under the gate, I just ran hell-for-leather until I found you. Had to hide a couple times when search parties passed me. That idiot Khel looked like he had pissed himself.”
“Do you think he saw you?”
“Please. Khel couldn’t find water in a flood.”
“I hope for all of our sakes that is true. Miss Merlelle, if I may…” He gestured towards her neck.
Merlelle laughed, a warm, musical sound that seemed completely at odds with her sharp words. “Of course. I must admit, I am somewhat surprised- pleasantly surprised, of course- that your little device worked. I didn’t think it was possible to recode a tracker to match someone else’s.”
“I had complete faith in my invention,” Deimos grunted, “But the decoy didn’t give you any trouble, did he?”
Merlelle pursed her lips. “Poor Mathas. He agreed right away, of course. He hates Myndr as much as I do. Bet he was glad when he heard the siren shut off-it did right as I walked under it- he might even have a chance of making it, if he runs fast enough.”
Merlelle walked over to the large box Deimos had dragged to the edge of the waves. The tide would wash away any scrapings on the sand it made. Its wooden lid was partially askew, allowing her to catch a glimpse in the darkness inside. “What’s that sack for? Padding?”
Deimos smiled. “Food and water, enough to last you a few days. In order to avoid suspicion, I won’t be traveling with you. I have asked the ship’s crew to handle the crate with care.”
A few out from shore was a deceptively deep drop-off, allowing boats to get close to the small cove they were in. The contacts Deimos had made would be arriving soon, and Merlelle would be safely on her way to her new facility.
She turned her vivid green eyes on him, eyes that matched the forest behind her. “Will you be waiting until they get here?”
“I’ll watch from the woods, but I don’t want our friends to be able to say they’ve seen my face. Could cause problems, later on.”
Something in her face shifted. “Of course.”
Less than an hour later, Turrok Weq steered his boat into the hidden harbor. His men were so well trained that they obeyed his order to pick up the solitary crate perched at the water’s edge without question. Carefully, they lowered the crate over the side of the boat and tied it down. More than one man wondered why it seemed suspiciously light, for such a large object. But they had been given strict instructions not to open it until they reached Port Ava Key Nor, over one hundred miles away by sea.
And so they sailed, past the lush forests of Myndr and the crystal gates of Niversi, skimming the golden coast of Saphi, steering clear of the sharp rocks around Emrel, and barely squinting at the tiny island of Perl, just on the horizon. It wasn’t until they pulled in at the harbor that they opened the crate.
Inside, they found the weak and emaciated body of one Dr. Deimos.
Merlelle had waited until the boat was out of sight before she retraced her steps through the dense underbrush. Slung across her back was the knapsack of food Deimos had provided- she had left him the water, as it would be too heavy to carry.
And he would die without it.
This is how I show my gratitude to you, Doctor. Only I have taken your gift farther than you would have liked me to. It is true- I used you, I who have known nothing but use. But I never lied to you. I told you I would do anything it takes to leave Myndr. What you didn’t hear was the promise to myself- I will never be a tool for the goals of others. Ah, Doctor, you should have known. The taste of freedom was far too sweet for me to relinquish it so quickly.
Soon, the forest obscured her.
END OF PROLOGUE