“Your little experiment is a waste of time,” said Mrs. Sharma.
Sam opened his mouth to reply, but Mrs. Sharma spoke before he could get a word out.
“Let me finish. It’s a waste of time because I can give you way more information about what’s happening to you than you’d be able to figure out on your own.”
“Then why did you say it like you were insulting us?” said Angelina.
Mrs. Sharma shrugged. “Because I don’t like you.”
“Huh. Fair enough,” said Lachlan. “As long as you’re willing to share that wealth of information with us.”
“I am, though I’m not sure three out of four of you would be able to understand it, and the one who might be intellectually capable probably wouldn’t put in the effort.”
“I’m the intellectually capable one, right?” said Sam.
Mrs. Sharma scoffed.
“So… me then?” said Lachlan.
Mrs. Sharma scoffed again.
“This is why I can’t stand working with men. They always assume they’re the smartest people in the room, even if the women have just as much to offer. Of course, in this case, all four of you have equally little to offer, but what I’m saying still applies.”
“We didn’t mean–” Sam started.
“No,” Mrs. Sharma cut him off. “The intellectually capable one is Angelina, as surprising as that sounds.”
Angelina paused for a moment to process what Mrs. Sharma had said.
“Her?” said Lachlan.
“I’ll be honest, at first, I judged her the least intelligent of your little band of idiots, but–“
“Hey!” Angelina interjected.
“But,” Mrs. Sharma continued, “not only was she able to give a crude yet accurate description of how this place works, she’s also the only one of you four who can speak more than one language fluently. Angelina, I’m guessing you weren’t raised bilingual; correct me if I’m wrong.”
“No,” said Angelina. “I learned English so I could talk to my exchange student friend.”
“So you taught yourself?”
“Kind of. She taught me a lot of it. And I learned some from the internet.”
“Hm. Surprisingly impressive.”
Angelina paused again, unsure how to reply, but Mrs. Sharma spoke again before Angelina had the chance.
“Don’t think I’m complimenting you. Just because I’ve reconsidered your intelligence doesn’t mean I think highly of you now. In fact, I may think less of you.”
“At first, I thought you lacked potential. Now, I think you have potential that you’re not living up to. That’s so much worse.”
“You just met me today,” said Angelina. “How do you know what kind of potential I’m living up to?”
“I have a pretty good idea.”
Angelina started to respond, and felt Jen place a hand on her arm.
“It’s not worth it,” whispered Jen.
Angelina thought about protesting, but decided Jen was right. She’d tried to argue with judgmental people before, and the results were usually the same every time.
“If you’re done being mean to us,” said Angelina, “can you tell us the information about what’s happening to us?”
“I’m not being mean, but fine,” said Mrs. Sharma. “I was going to wait until later, but I might as well tell you now. It might be a little hard for you to understand, so if you have trouble keeping up with what I’m saying, then just try harder.”
“That’s not how that works,” said Sam.
Mrs. Sharma ignored him, continuing.
“I’m not sure where to start explaining. Let’s see. You four know what DNA is, right?”
“Of course we know what DNA is,” said Sam.
“Good, because I wouldn’t have explained it if you didn’t. Basically, your DNA–our DNA–was altered before we were born.”