We arrive at my room in hospital, only to find it already filled with the people mentioned earlier today. I see Susan sitting next to a woman and next to her is Sean, large man that looks about as gruff as his voice. I see that Sean is wearing the same vest as Dillan and immediately figure out the connection. As if on cue, Dillan goes over to stand behind Sean who offers him a seat he had saved. Dillan quietly thanks him and sits slightly away from the main group but still included. I note the obvious display of rank and allow my eyes to shift back to the two new people. I’ve already heard Sean’s name mentioned a few times, but nothing about his woman.
Sean stands up and begin to speak, “Good evening, Miss Arilyn. I hope your tour of the city went well and that you had no issues with your guide.”
“No need to worry about that, it was a lovely tour even when overwhelming. Dillan was very considerate of everything and was able to answer all of my questions,” I respond, my eyes catching the smug look Dillan was giving Susan. It makes me want to wipe it off his face but I ignore it and wait for Sean to continue.
“The name’s Sean and I’m the leader of the military force of this city. The lady sitting beside me is leader of the actual city.”
I glance over to the quiet woman, slightly surprised at the extent of her leadership due to the atmosphere she gave off. She smiles and rises.
“My name is Valerie. As Sean had mentioned while stealing my introductions, I’m the leader of the city,” she remarks while glancing slightly at him with a piercing gaze I originally failed to notice. “We just wanted to ask you a few questions, before a more important final question.”
Her gaze finds mine as she asks the first question, “Do you have any idea why the number of failed students increase during this time of year.”
How did she expect me to know this? I didn’t even know someone could fail until yesterday. Her gaze on refused a snarky remark so I began a genuine response, “This is the normal time for graduation. A graduates only role is to prepare for the date of their assigned Life Test.”
“Makes sense and it matches with other information we’ve collected,” she mutters under her breath. She glances back to me and continues, “Are you aware of the details of your results?”
“No, the screen of the pod only informed me of my failure,” I state as steadily as I can while remembering the fear I had in that moment.
“Would you like to know the details?”
I look at her in disbelief and then answer, “How would you know those.”
I look down and realize for the time today that my bracelet is indeed not in its usual place.
“When the rescue team got you out of the pod. We confiscated it to get information. There is never a one hundred percent guarantee that the rescued person will live. But the bracelets you all have are extremely helpful in information gathering.”
“Well of course I want to know why I failed. Is that even a question?”
She looked at me, “You passed all of the physical requirements except one and aced the written portion.”
I stare at her in confusion and then speak, “They failed me because of one of the physical tests?”
“No according to other information gathered you could have had a multitude of hig ranking jobs and performed well in all of them”
“Then why did I fail?” I exclaim and then relief washes over myself. “Wait, I knew it. It was a glitch in the system. The Test isn’t broken wrong, the pod just malfunctioned and everything — ”
“No. That isn’t what happened,” Valerie’s eyes bore into me like she was willing for me to hear the truth that I was still desperately running away from. “The headpiece you wear during the test monitors your brain. They found you to naturally curious and difficult to control. At the time of the test you followed them because that’s the only thing you knew. If someone with your mentality finds something wrong with their system, you could ruin its perfect flow, like a cog in a machine that suddenly changes shape.”
I stare looking defeated once again, but this time instead of just tears I can feel the beginning of anger swelling in my core. This feeling starts to affect my face and I can feel a scowl resting where smiles so often did in my past.
“They got rid of me for the possibility that I could do something wrong or rebel?” I yell across the room. “I trusted them with my life!”
Nobody avoids my gaze, as they listen to my anger. I make eye contact with every single one in that room daring them to contradict my feelings, but I could see they all agreed. I end my gaze on Valerie and stares back. I understand why she is the leader. The moment our eyes lock my anger begins to subside and is instead replaced with a more productive emotion; determination. She understands and wants to change it as much as I am angry.
She opens her mouth to speak once again, “Last question, do you want to join as a normal civilian or join the military group’s efforts in helping other failed students?”
“Why do you keep asking questions with obvious answers?” I ask back.
“Of course I’m joining the military group.”