My heart is racing and my palms are sweating as I sit down to take my final exam. This exam is the only thing standing between me and getting my bachelors degree in Proper Internet History and Usage. I was the first in my family to attend college and after almost four years of preparing for this exact moment, I can’t imagine failing and letting my family down. I know everyone back home is waiting for me to get my degree so I can become an Elite and start working a high-paying job in the Internet industry, making more money than any of them could have ever imagined earning in the non-Internet industries.
I take a deep breath to calm myself down and look around the room. Each year, about 500 dedicated students in the country take their Internet exams. Many more enter the college system hoping to reach this moment, but are cut at the end of our first, second, and third years due to low marks or underwhelming performances. For the first time, I really notice our dwindling numbers as only nineteen other students sit around me now. With only a ten percent passing rate, I know that only two of us will graduate and obtain our status as Elites. Despite the competitive nature of the program, I feel a sense of comradery with my fellow classmates as we’ve all suffered a great amount of stress and long nights in order to have this opportunity.
I see my friend Danny wandering around the aisles of the classroom and wave him over to the empty seat next to me. “How are you feeling,” I ask him as he slides into his chair. “Not so great,” he replies with a solemn look on his face. Before I have the chance to respond, the exam proctor takes his place at the front of the room and the privacy barriers installed in the floor rise into place and separate me from the outside world. All I can see is the computer and papers placed on the desk in front of me. Through the speakers installed in the privacy barrier, I hear the proctor's voice tell us we have four hours to complete the exam, starting now.
The next four hours pass in a blur as I answer questions about the history of the Internet, proper usage of computer technologies, and the mechanics behind these technologies. As I’m racing to complete the final short-answer question on the exam, the screen goes black. “Your four hours are up,” I hear the proctor say from the front of the room. “You have completed your final examination and must now return to your homes to await your results, which are to be delivered tomorrow morning. You know the rules, no discussing the examination or the content of the exam with anyone in this room or anyone outside of this room or you will be subject to a criminal trial,” he says. As the privacy barriers lower into the floor, I make eye contact with Danny sitting next to me. I give him a short nod before turning and walking out of the room.
It’s silent when I return home. My family knows better than to ask me about the exam and fear criminal trials themselves if they are found inquiring about classified Internet information. I lock myself in my room and lie still in my bed, but my mind continues racing. I can’t help going over the content of the exam and my answers in my head, wondering if they will be sufficient enough to make me an elite. I’m confident I answered the questions surrounding the history of the Internet correctly. I vividly remember learning about the days when the Internet was free for public-access to all members of society, regardless of their educational background or class. This all changed in 1984 after a rise in unregulated computer hacking threatened the stability and the future of our nation. In order to ensure our nation’s continued success on the global stage, the government elected to introduce the bachelor's degree in Proper Internet History and Usage and thus the Elite status. Ever since then, only the small portion of the population that are Elites have been allowed access to the Internet and to computer technologies. I drift off to sleep thinking about the first time I saw a computer during my second-year of education, hoping that today was not my last.
I wake up to the sound of pounding on my door. “Carly, wake up, there’s someone here to see you,” my mother shouts. I jump out of bed and quickly make myself presentable for the Elite I know is standing at the door waiting to give me the results of my examination. My heart races as I make my way to the front door. I’m terrified that I failed the exam and will have to have my memory erased, losing all of the knowledge I gained during my four years at college. I step outside and approach the man waiting for me at the end of our driveway. “Good morning sir,” I say with a smile on my face. “Good morning indeed,” he responds. “I will not make this any longer than it needs to be,” he says before I have time to reply. “Congratulations, you have passed your final exam and earned your bachelors degree in Proper Internet History and Usage, making you an Elite. You have been placed on the surveillance unit and the necessary equipment will be delivered to your house in the following days.” “Thank you so much sir, this is excellent news,” I say. “You’re very welcome, do not forget to read over the Elite handbook and don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions,” he says before turning and getting back into his car.
It takes me a while to get situated with my new job and my status as an Elite, but after two months, I cannot imagine going back to the life I had before. My equipment has all been set up in the privacy of my room and face recognition technology has been added to my bedroom door to ensure that my family does not access my surveillance technology. While sometimes it gets lonely having no one to talk to about my work, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m thinking just this as I peruse this morning’s surveillance footage, looking for any Internet crimes committed by those pretending to be Elites. When the clock strikes eleven, I power off my equipment and step out of my room for my lunch break.
When I return just shy of an hour later, I’m horrified to see my mother standing in my bedroom, hovering over the computer. “What are you doing,” I shriek as I slam the door shut. She jumps and immediately backs away from my equipment. “I’m sorry,” she sobs as she places her head in her hands. “I have no excuse, but I was trying to protect your father, he was caught trying to access one of the government computers using a fake Elite identity and I wanted to erase the footage,” she says. I stand frozen in the room, horrified by what I have just heard. What should I do? Do I help my mother erase the footage and risk losing my job, or do I report both of them to the Elite Council?
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