Have you ever met someone with the aura and presence that makes you speechless? Their overwhelming presence makes you look at them in awe of how much power they hold. It’s almost intriguing yet intimidating how one person can make you tremble and make your insides feel like jelly. That is exactly how all the students were feeling in that moment of meeting the Director of the Noir Academy of Excellence.
All five teenagers sat opposite the Director’s desk on a large, cream plush sofa for the first time taking in her presence and appearance. She was not what they had expected. She wore a large, brimmed peacock feathered hat that covered the majority of her face, except her nose and lips, making it near impossible to see her eyes. Her neck had metallic plates like Iron Man but hers was an icy blue. She wore a dark blue, velvet shawl that covered her large and pointy shoulders. Her dress was a vibrant, deep blue that looked like the ocean. Her skin as dark as the midnight sky, glistening an iridescent shimmer on her arms. What puzzled all the students was her fingertips. As beautifully dark her melanin was, her fingernails were a cold, blue color which was a stark contrast. She was like a gradient of blues. All the teens sat stark still, weighing up the Director to see what kind of person she was.
“Welcome to the Noir Academy of Excellence. I am the Director of the Academy and you can refer to me as Principal Eve.’ Madame Eve boomed. Her voice echoed throughout the open space of her office.
“I am truly honored to have such prodigies attending this academic year. I believe you all will make great contributions to this academy as well as society. This academy will truly harness all of your genius and take your potential to new heights! Now, I have gathered you all here as a testament because each of you are the most unique children that I have come across in a long time...” Madame Eve folded her arms and leaned forward on her chair.
Vishnu looked around the large office, mouth wide open and eyes as big as saucers as he couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The office had the largest windows that overlooked the cityscape and the clouds. Her desk was a gleaming white with only the essential peripherals of a large monitor screen, a white keyboard and a mouse. He had never seen anything like it in his life. Her office had a high ceiling adorned with a dazzling, diamond chandelier. To the left, there was an open bar with different bottles of drinks and concoctions that had a variety of shades of blue and purple. The marble floors gleamed to perfection with a bright sheen. Everything was just spotless and pristine. The whole office reminded Vishnu of where the Marvel Avengers would assemble for meetings.
“Now, as you may be aware, the academy has a cybernetic orientation program that augments the students to assist with their studies. You will undergo a brief medical examination in order to find which augment would suit you best for your abilities. I am sure you each have your questions, so please, do not hesitate to ask.” Madame Eve smiled.
Arian rubbed his hands together and wiped the sweat off his hands onto his trousers before he raised his hand shakily to ask his first question.
“Yes, Mr Mensah.”
“Hello, Principal Eve, my question is about the augments. Will I feel differently afterwards such as any lasting side effects and pain?”
Madame Eve smoothed the creases in her dress before answering the question.
“No surgery is without complications or pain, but I assure you, these procedures are safe and all will go well. The surgeons here are the best in the country, so you will be well looked after.” Madame Eve smiled slightly.
Next to ask a question was Nana Boat. He shuffled slightly in his seat and then raised his hand.
“Yes Mr Boateng, your question please.”
“Is the augmentation mandatory or do we have the option to decline?”
Madame Eve turned to look at Nana directly but it was hard for Nana to tell if she was looking at him or through him.
“Yes and no.”
Nana looked around at the other teens beside him before directing his attention back to Madame Eve.
“Pardon me, Principal Eve, but I don’t quite understand what you mean —”
“Next question please.”
What a weird woman… Nana thought.
Akua breathed out and was the next to ask a question. “Do we get to pick our augments? Because to be honest, I need something that would be less distracting and have an augment that looks too cybernetic would make me look like a robot. That is not shic.” Akua screwed her face that showed her distaste with the thought of looking like a tin can.
The Principal turned her head slightly before responding. The bright light from the office hit the metal on her neck, making it illuminate. “Ah, Miss Sinclair, unfortunately, you do not. What is selected for you, is what you will adorn. It is not up for a debate or negotiation.”
Akua turned and rolled her eyes in annoyance, doing her best not to kiss her teeth.
A light tap on the door interrupted the conversation and in walked two, tall, dark melanated men with large, matching fedora hats and dark sunglasses making it impossible to see their eyes. They wore long, dark coats, a gold, feather crescent pattern that accented the collar of their black, turtleneck jumpers and black, leather shoes that seemed to dazzle in the intense glare of the office lights.
One of the men signed with his hands so quickly it looked like a flash. The other scanned the faces of each of the students sitting on the sofa opposite Madame Eve and signed to Madame Eve as well. Akua’s eyes looked at them suspiciously whilst Vishnu and Arian appeared even more bewildered with the whole scene.
Who on earth are these guys?! Are they CIA? FBI? Vishnu thought.
“Thank you, that will be all.”
Both men left the office as quickly as they came in, leaving with haste.
“Um, sorry, who the heck are those guys and why do they look like secret agent guys?!” Vishnu blurted out loud.
KK giggled quietly to himself before taking in a deep breath and continued sitting in silence surveying the conversation.
“Perceptive young man.... those men you saw are my Data Analysts and my personal bodyguards; Baaku and Mmienu. You will come across them often around the academy so when you see them, please greet them. They are quite lovely.” Madame Eve said.
Why would a Principal need bodyguards? thought Nana.
Arian surveyed the room and looked at Madame Eve once more before asking another question.
“Principle Eve, about the orientation, will I be able to…”
Before Arian could finish asking his question, a loud, clear chime echoed into the room abruptly.
“Madame Eve, the assembly begins in 10 minutes.” Viola echoed.
Madame Eve rubbed her hands together before getting up from her office chair and gesturing her large, manicured hand towards the door.
“I apologize, but I have to prepare myself for the assembly. The Head boy and girl will guide you. Viola, please call in Monica and Jude to escort the students there.”
Within a few seconds of her request, the double doors of the office swung open and in walked the two students. Monica was dressed in the academy’s uniform. Her skin was a beautiful, brown ebony. Her hair was braided in box braids tied up in a ponytail, her lips were a shimmery pink and her uniform was lit brightly blue on her shoulders. The boy, Jude, was slim and very tall. His skin was a chocolate brown and his skin was flawless. He had an augment on his right eye that looked like a shiny, metallic spider. He looked like a giant standing next to Monica in comparison.
“Hello everyone, please follow us to the auditorium.” Monica smiled as she beckoned towards the door whilst Jude stood by her side and looked on at the students.
The students followed behind them both out of Madame Eve’s office as the doors slowly closed behind them to a shut.
The sound of their shoes echoed through the desolate halls as they left the hallway of the office.
“So… how did you find the first meeting with the Principal? I hope it wasn’t too intense.” Monica was the first to break the silence as they walked.
“She’s an interesting woman, to say the least.” Nana answered.
“What is it like in the academy?” This time it was KK who asked the question. It was the first time he had spoken.
Nana turned slightly to look at KK for the first time. Aside from Madame Eve and her unique look, it just dawned on him that KK also had a fascinating look to him.
KK had a slightly purple hue to his skin tone and frosty white hair that was like a spiked afro. His eyes were like a cat, bright yellow and cautious.
He’s one to watch. Nana thought.
“Well, I can’t speak for Jude here, but I’ve really enjoyed my time here. The classes are intense and there’s a lot of pressure to do well but it is worth it in the end. We are in our last year at the academy so now we’re applying for placements and getting ready for Senior graduation.”
Jude chimed in. “I’ve really enjoyed being here in the academy. I’ve made a lot of friends and now I plan to go into Chemical Engineering so I’m waiting to hear back from my top placements.”
KK nodded his acknowledgement to their answers and went back into his thoughts.
Vishnu had to run to keep up with the brisk walk of the others. “Hey! What are placements?!”
“Placements are the next step after graduating from the academy. First, you do a year’s work experience in the company that you get into and then if they are satisfied with your work, they usually hire you.”
“Ah, that’s pretty cool!” Vishnu smiled.
“Yeah, you could say that. But it’s nerve wracking because if you don’t hear back from your placement, then you have to apply elsewhere and placements are competitive.”
Jude and Monica stopped abruptly in front of two large wooden doors.
The giant doors open and out streamed a white light beaming through. The auditorium was huge. Most of the seats in the auditorium were filled and the curtains below were closed. The energy of the air was buzzing. Students chattering away with their friends and teachers sat towards the back talking quietly amongst themselves.
“Follow me, we’re seated near to the front of the stage.” Monica said.
The students followed quickly going down the stairs, taking their seats. Within a few seconds, the lights turned to a dim white glow and then faded to pitch black. The red velvet curtains drew back and the stage lights hit the middle to where Madame Eve had walked out and stepped into. She scanned the entire room before greeting all the pupils.
“Welcome to the Noir Academy of Excellence, my fellow pupils.”
All the students and teachers clapped with the area sounding like a room filled with birds flapping their wings. Madame Eve waited for the claps to die down before continuing.
“The Noir Academy has been around for over a century, honing in on young mind’s and drawing out their full academic excellence and potential. We are the only academy that has access to the latest technological advances and to a graduate program to make the transition into your next phase after school seamless. Rest assured my fellow students, you will be well taken care of here. For the newcomers this year, you will experience quite a lot of pressure but this is to be expected. As a proud director, I have been able to witness the fine makings of some of the best leaders, engineers, doctors and much more that you have witnessed in your generation and that is all due to them studying in this academy.”
Madame Eve slowly raised her arms in an outstretched gesture as if she were welcoming to hug a long lost relative.
“I stand before you to welcome you all formally and to wish you all the best for this academic year.”
The students rose to their feets with vigour and clapped thunderously, with praise and cheer bounding around the auditorium. Madame Eve waved to all the students before leaving the stage.
The school bell rang reminding students that it’s time for them to go to their classes and prepare for the first class of the day. They started quickly trickling out of the auditorium so as to not be late for their classes.
“Well, we gotta go guys, it’s Comparative Literature class for me and Mr Owusu-Bonsu hates it when we’re late.” Monica said.
“And I’ve gotta run for my Medical Biology lesson. If you need help with anything, don’t be a stranger.”
“Thanks guys, we’ll see you later.” Nana replied
Monica and Jude got up from their seats, gave one last wave and proceeded to head up to the nearest exit.
All the students had left the auditorium only leaving the five teens behind. The five teens nervously looked around, neither one wanted to start the awkward conversation.
“So… does anyone have any idea as to what and where we should be heading next?” KK asked, scratching his head.
“No, um, lemme check the email and find out.” Arian responded.
Akua sighed. “That’s a waste of time, just ask Viola.”
“Viola… and not a who, an IT. She’s the school’s AI system. She’s kind of like a better version of Google. If that still exists, I think.”
“Oh, right. Wait how do you..—”
“Guys, please remember we are in a technologically advanced school so everyone has access to nearly everything. Viola. Akua Sinclair here. Can you tell us where our next appointment is and where?”
The three bells chimed in melodically through the loud speakers of the auditorium.
“Hello Ms Sinclair, you are to head to Floor 22, the pre-surgical floor.”
“Ahh well there you go, I think that sorts it. See you guys later.” Akua started towards the staircase.
“Wait, Akua is it? My name’s Arian. Do you mind if we follow? I think that’s where we should all be headed.
“Arian… I like that name. Yes, fine, let’s go.” Akua smirked.
The teens followed after Akua who seemed to know where to go. The giant double doors opened once more for them as they walked through into the expansive hallway, their shoes squeaking on the clean, marble floors.
Following the school’s map on her phone, Akua led down two flights of stairs, crossing another long hallway that led to the end of a corridor with a silver elevator.
The boys hurried quickly behind Akua as she took charge in leading them.
She pressed the button to the elevator and the doors slid smoothly open. They bundled themselves inside where the doors slid shut again.
Nana pressed the Number 22 button on the elevator panel to direct them to the correct floor.
The elevator felt awkward and tense as all the teens tried to avoid speaking first. The nerves around the elevator could be felt from all inside.
“So… what do you guys think of the academy so far? I mean, me personally, this place is pretty impressive.” Nana said.
Aryan replied, “Yeah, the academy is just on another planet of awesome. I’m just happy we got in.” Aryan patted Vishnu on the back with a smile. “Where we come from, we don’t get these kinds of opportunities knocking, so we hope to make the most of it. Oh, my bad. I forgot to properly introduce ourselves. My name is Arian and this is my younger brother Vishnu, nice to meet you guys.”
Nana relaxed a little and smiled at the boys.
“Nice to meet you, my name is Nana Boateng. Um, which part of town do you guys come from? I’m from Tema. Nana said.
“Well, I’m from Nima” Akua replied while reapplying her lip gloss.
“Wait, isn’t that where the very wealthy politicians and celebrities live?” Vishnu looked stunned and mouth agape.
“Yeah, but you don’t really see many of them, it’s pretty quiet there to be honest.” Akua smacked her lips to make sure her top lip was coated in sheen and smiled at herself in the elevator mirror.
“Now what about you, Mr Mute? Care to share and join in?” Akua looked quizzically at KK, head cocked to the side.
KK leaned against the steel panel of the elevator, arms folded looking unbothered. He looked up at the others and scanned their faces.
“I’m from East Airport and my name is Kofi Kwame but I prefer KK.”
“Ooh, you also live in the rich parts of Accra… nice to know.” Akua smirked.
The elevator dinged at the selected floor and the doors slowly opened. The teens poured out and looked left and right to see which way to turn.
“Ok, this whole floor is pre-surgical, so I guess we each go into our own rooms and wait for the magic to happen.”
“Aren’t any of you guys nervous? I mean, to get a medical procedure is one thing, but a permanent augmentation is just a lot, don’t you think?” Arian asked.
Kofi scoffed. “If you’re too chicken to do it then I suggest you go tell that to Principal Eve. Don’t think she’d take too kindly to you rejecting such an opportunity. Do you?” Before Arian could answer back, Kofi moved past him and walked down the hallway to the pre-surgical room.
“Well on that note… I hope all goes well with you all. See you on the other side. I do hope this augment of mine looks good because I will demand a redo if it’s ugly.” With that, Akua turned on her heels and sauntered away following Kofi, leaving Nana, Arian and Vishnu standing.
Nana took a deep breath and looked at the brothers with a sympathetic smile.
“I hope we’re in the same classes together. It’s hard enough meeting people but I hope we can be friends.” Arian said.
“Yeah, you’re a pretty cool dude Nana! Who did your hair? I’ve never seen anything like that before? Hey! Do you play video games? I really like Apex! We should get together and play sometime, yeah?!” Oh, we should go to our surgical rooms now! I wanna see what kinda thing they’ll give me! I hope it shoots lasers or something cool like that. Vishnu beamed at Nana, the thought of making a new friend excited Vishnu more than he knew. Nana stared at Vishnu and then burst out laughing, holding his side. “You, your brother is really something.”
Arian slapped his brother on the back and smiled forcefully. “Yeah, he is a card all right. Vish, calm your life please. Anyway, let’s make our way together.”
The boys walked down the hallway in the direction of the others and realised they’d arrived at their respective doors.
Arian, Vishnu and Nana knocked simultaneously on the doors and the doors slid open with ease. White lights shone exceptionally bright, almost blinding them. White smoke seeped at their feet, the room letting out a cool rush of air.
Nana turned to look at the boys and smiled weakly. “Good luck boys.”
Arian nodded and returned with a smile. Vishnu turned and looked at both boys with the biggest smile. “Let’s go!”
What lied ahead changed their lives forever.
That night, Madame Eve was up late, in her office again pondering her thoughts. She stood by the window overlooking the pitch black night sky. A few clouds scattered in the sky moving slowly. Arms folded, staring off into the distance as if the answers she was looking for lied there.
Suddenly, a single knock was heard on the door.
Madame Eve spoke loudly. “Enter.”
The doors opened slowly revealing Baaku and Mmienu looking like ominous shadows. Both men were wearing all black from head to toe, wearing their black sunglasses. It would have been almost impossible to see them if it weren’t for their light blue augments on their faces, pulsing in the dark. They entered the office and stood in the middle. Madame Eve turned around to face them, arms folded.
Baaku signed, “It is done.”
Madame Eve let out a long sigh and closed her eyes.
“Make sure you have left no trace that would point back towards us. Thank you both. That will be all.”
Both men nodded and left the office, closing the door carefully behind them. Madame Eve tutted and clicked her tongue.
She showed such promise... Madame Eve thought.
The tingling feeling started creeping in the depths of her bowls. The icy feeling coursing through her veins and descending into her fingertips. Madame Eve turned to face the window once more. A wave of anger swept over her in a blind flash and without warning, she punched the window leaving a frosted dent in the middle.
(Akwaaba translates in English meaning ‘Welcome’ Twi - the Ghanaian language)