The stairs went on forever, each step seeming to pull energy from your legs. Lucia's chest tightened, she stopped on a landing, setting down her supplies. Errol could be heard labouring his way up the stairs behind her. He came into sight and called out to her, "Great idea," he plopped down beside her, eyeing their deactivated exo-suits, "Why can't we use the strength assist?" "Because Master Rogu forbids it. 'Climbing stairs strengthens muscle and character.'" "How'd she know if we turned them on for a few flights?" Lucia scowled at him, he looked away, eyeing the sensors on the wall. "I know, I know, we'd be picked up by the eyes. It's just, why's there gotta be so many steps?" Lucia felt energized from the question. She loved history. "Actually, this building is what they called a university. Universities were where people received an education. After the population boom, they separated education into guilds and ateliers like this." Errol rolled his eyes. Why did he get her started? "It's funny, years ago people probably stood here having the same conversation, only talking about how society went from ateliers to universities. As I was saying-" Errol stood, grabbing both their supplies. Lucia was deep into her story, hands flying, but if they didn't get moving, they would be late. They stopped at the top landing. A brass plaque hung above a dark oak looking plasma door which read, 'Master Augusta Rogu's Atelier for Fine Arts and Futurist Design.' Master Rogu loved the Industrial Revolution, meaning everything was dark and plush. They reached down and reactivated their exo-suits. A chime sounded as sensors read their biometrics and the plasma door faded open. It sealed behind them as they entered the studio, each headed to their workstations. Errol worked in the application studio. A thin room lined with tables, each beneath a screen showing one of the master’s techniques. It wasn't hard to spot Errol's station. The mess on his worktop seemed to mirror the mess of orange curls on his head. He wasn't the tidiest, but his work was impeccable. Waving goodbye to her brother, Lucia continued deeper into the atelier to the design department. It was here that the students dissected the master’s inventions learning to design and invent themselves. Lucia was eight years in and was finishing her first invention, the C.M.R. Today she would receive Master Rogu's feedback. She was still muttering to herself about universities when she reached her station. She stopped, her mouth going dry, her heart sinking. Her C.M.R. was sticking out of the recycling bin at the back of the room. Tears threatened to well in her eyes, and her exo-suit began to beep at her increased pulse. Fighting to gain control, she forced a smile and walked over to retrieve her creation. It had the appearance of a paintbrush attached to a railgun. The tip of the brush spilt with a gap that ran the length of the barrel dividing it upper and lower. A digital screen above the hand grip flashed an alphanumeric series. The rear of the C.M.R. was dented, and a scratch marked the tan paint along the upper barrel. Lucia sighed in relief, it could be repaired. She had seen the Master destroy pieces, leaving the student to start over. Malcolm was walking in as she returned to her station. "That bad?" Lucia felt herself flush. She didn't know if it was from Malcolm seeing her invention in the recycle or because his brown eyes seemed to sparkle today. He had dark curly hair, a sharp contrast to her strawberry-blonde plaits. He began two years after her and was everything she loved; athletic, nerdy, intelligent, and funny. She liked him at once and thought the feeling was mutual, but there was a strict no fraternizing policy. "Umm, what?" "Your review. It went that well?" She moved to block his view. "Umm, yeah, but it's still in one piece. How's yours coming?" It was Malcolm's turn to be uncomfortable. Each time they spoke, he felt tongue-tied. "I mean, it's early stages, but I think it will help make sunsets more beautiful. I hope to get a job with the sky-painters. Who knows, maybe we'll get to use your C.M.R." A commotion broke out in the application room, as the application students rose when the Master walked through. Malcolm and Lucia were already standing, and the rest of the students quickly followed suit. Master Rogu smiled, motioning for them to sit before walking to Lucia's station. "Student Chime, would you care to explain why you felt a weapon was a suitable invention for an atelier? We design and create beauty, not weapons of destruction." Lucia began to shrink under her master’s displeasure until she heard the word weapon. She waited until Master Rogu finished before reaching for the C.M.R. She held it firm, drawing strength from it. "With respect Master, this is not a weapon, but merely shares design elements with one. It is a Colour Modulation Ray. May I explain?" she paused, continuing at a nod. "I've created a ray gun which eliminates the need for coloured mediums like paint. The C.M.R. can change the colour of anything. Turn this knob to focus the beam, down to micron level if needed, enter the colour code, and aim at what you want coloured. Pulling the trigger emits a ray which causes the surface molecules of the target to vibrate at the frequency of the chosen colour. When the light hits, it reflects the appropriate colour. This can be done many times with little-to-no side-effects." Master Rogu's expression softened at the explanation and turned to a look of shock by the end. "If this is true, it is revolutionary. Come to my office to demonstrate." She placed her hand on Lucia's back ushering her from the room, calling over her shoulder. "The rest of you, back to work. It looks as though the bar may have been raised.