Chapter 1- Trainee
Sixteen years ago…
"Are you sure you want to do this?"
"Yes. How else are we going to make her pay for what she did if she won't let us do anything but make these agents?"
"Fine. Will anyone else know?"
"What difference does it make? We'll be gone before anyone can find out."
"If you say so. How do you know that Dr. Malada isn't recording this conversation? After all, she does have the best equipment science has ever developed."
"She wouldn't bother. She doesn't really care about what goes on in this laboratory as long as the job gets done."
"How do you know?"
"I've worked for her for over ten years. Besides, I think she almost trusts me."
"Hey, almost is good. Do you know how hard it is to actually get her to trust anyone? That takes many, many years. "
"You've been here many, many, many years, Roy. Doesn't that mean she should fully trust you by now?"
"I've been here for many years, true, but I haven't been here that long. What do I need to do to get your help, Mike?"
"I'll help, but just because I don't like her either. We are to never speak of this again."
"No problem. Now lets get this done so we can go."
"Ok. In a few minutes, we'll be finished."
Shortly afterwards, an agent was born—Agent 466. Before another word was said, the laboratory was empty and the nearby nurse took the young agent away to the nursery. Four years later…
The young agent grew and was nicknamed Christa by fellow agents. At the age of four, Christa was able to read and write much better than the other agents in her age group. She was a fast learner and did well on all the tests they gave her. With the exception of the behavior problem they had with her every now and then, she was one of the best agents there. Each day, Christa was monitored by their instructors as all the other agents were. Each day, they learned more and more about her. Everyone thought that she was like any other agent, but only those troublesome scientists know the truth. Although word got out about their mysterious disappearance, it was all forgotten within a few years.
Today, Christa headed for the Testing Room. She was scheduled to take the Skills Reference Test. If she did well, she would be able to join a unit. This would mean moving from her group of Rookies to the older group of Trainees. Out of her group of twenty Rookies, only she qualified to take the test. Most Rookies usually take the test around the age of six. She was taking the test at quite an early age. This test could change her life.
She entered the room. Besides the proctor, there was no one else there. The proctor gave her a sheet with a code she was to enter into the computer. She took a seat and entered the code. Within seconds, a page appeared on the screen and stated the directions. Like most tests, the beginning questions were easy. After a few pages, questions beyond Christa's knowledge appeared. She did her best to solve and answer the problems. When she finished, she submitted the test and returned to her classroom. As she entered the classroom, other agents bombarded her with questions.
"Was the test easy?" and "What was on the test?" were just a few of the many questions she heard. She sat down and answered as many questions as she could. Surprisingly, the instructor didn't say anything against it. He even asked several questions of his own. At 1100, the bell sounded to signal for them to report to the cafeteria for lunch. After lunch, the group sat down at their tables and began to work on their assignments. When Christa sat down; however, she found a message flashing on her computer. She opened it and found an important message:
Report to Room 39 IMMEDIATELY! Your test
scores have been calculated. Ask your instructor
for directions if you do not know the location
of the room. Otherwise notify your instructor
before you leave.
Since she really didn't know where Room 39 was, she asked her instructor. He gave her simple directions: Go down the hall. It will be at the very end. She left the classroom and found Room 39. When she entered, a tall, blond woman awaited her. The sparkle in her blue eyes gave her a kindhearted appearance.
"Congratulations, Agent 466," she said, in a calm voice.
"I passed?" Christa asked, not believing what she just heard.
"Yes. You did extremely well, for your age, that is. You will be placed in Unit 4. You will meet them tomorrow. You also have a new room. You shouldn't have any trouble finding it. This card will identify you as a member in a unit."
"Cool. When can I move into my room?"
"You may move in today, after dinner. You'll be excused from any activities tonight to allow ample time for your move. The guards will be notified so you shouldn't have any trouble—just show them your ID. For now, though, you will return to your classroom and continue with the daily activities. Your new schedule will be delivered to your door tomorrow."
She gave her a card and turned to leave but then remembered something else. "Instructors have told me about several problems they have had with your behavior. I started to wonder whether or not I should wait a few more years."
"Don't…I want to be in a unit," Christa responded.
"I know. That is why I placed you in a unit. You do know that if you give your instructors any trouble, they can and will make your life harder in any way they can, right?"
"Yes…are you an instructor?"
"No, you will know me as Dr. Malada. I prefer you don't tell anyone about this meeting."
"What if I do?"
No response. She had already left the room. Christa returned to her classroom and quietly sat down to begin working on the computer programs they were required to do. She took a while to view the information on the card Dr. Malada had given her.
Room 466. Christa had no idea where this would be. She'll find it later. She turned her attention back to the programs and began working. After a while, the instructor came by.
"So, how did you do?" asked her instructor.
"I passed," Christa informed.
"I thought it would be impossible to pass. There were several problems that I didn't know how to answer."
"You didn't need to get the perfect score."
"I know, but I thought it would lower my score."
"If it did, it didn't do much harm. Now that you've been promoted into a unit…things will become harder, Christa. You'll have new classes and programs, different training exercises, new instructors, less free time—things like that."
"Yeah, I know. Will you still be my instructor?"
"No. I only teach Rookies."
"Oh. So what will happen when everyone is finally in a unit?"
"I'm not sure, but I think Dr. Malada will come up with something."
"I just met Dr. Malada. What is her position in this?"
"She started this. She's the boss. You don't want to mess with her, so be careful, ok. Stay out of trouble. You don't want her as your enemy."
"I don't cause any trouble."
"I'll bet the other instructors disagree. I'm glad I haven't had any trouble with you, but the other instructors report otherwise."
"That's because you're not like the other instructors."
"How am I different then?"
"Well, you're nice."
"Oh. So you give the mean instructors a hard time? Is that it?"
"Well, I'll warn you: Don't give the instructors up there a hard time; they'll only give you a harder time. Believe me. My friend just got a job to teach Trainees. You won't believe the list of things they can do."
"Thanks for the warning. Don't worry. I'll be careful. By the way, do you know where Room 466 is?"
"Got a new room, huh? You sure you won't mind being by yourself?"
"I'll get use to it."
"It's in the next building. There are fifty rooms per a corridor. It should be in the last corridor. You'll find it. The rooms are sequential."
"Thanks. You were my favorite instructor."
"That's good to know."
Her instructor moved on to the next table, where he spoke with the next agent. She worked until the next bell rang. She walked to the Gym. Today, they split up into two groups and played a game of soccer. After their soccer game, they went into another classroom. Now they had free time. Every few minutes, someone would come by and ask how the test was or if she found out her score. She would just answer, "You'll find out someday." or "Yes."
After she finished her dinner, she quickly left the cafeteria. She didn't have any trouble getting pass the guards. She showed them her ID and they let her pass. She made her way back to her group's bunkhouse. She entered and found her bunk in the dark (she didn't want to attract any attention). Silently and quickly, she packed her belongings into her backpack. Then she left to find her new room. When she entered the building, a sign explained everything. The tenth hallway seemed to go on forever-452…457…461…466. She turned the doorknob, but found that it was locked.
"Please enter your ID card," said a voice.
It came from a keypad near the side of the door. She slid the card through and the door opens. Wow. Christa finally had a room of her own. In one corner was a small bed. Nearby was a small shelf/drawer (It had one drawer; the other half was a shelf) no taller than her bed. She entered the room and climbed onto the bed. She was just a few inches taller than the bed so she had a little trouble getting onto the bed. The room appeared so large. It was only about 10 feet by 10 feet, but to Christa, who had shared a bunk bed with another agent; this room seemed like a master bedroom. She happily started to unpack her things. She placed her teddy bear on her bed next to her pillow. She filled her drawer with the five different sets of uniform. Any other items she arranged neatly on her shelf. She then realized that the lamp on top of the shelf was the only source of light she had, besides the small window near the ceiling of course.
When she finally unpacked everything, she went out into the hallway and found the showers and bathrooms. It wasn't too far from her bedroom. She took a clean set of clothes and her towel. She would take a shower early. Who knows how many other agents there might be when they return from their night activities. She locked the door, simply by sliding her card again and headed for the showers. The water was warm and refreshing. After her shower, she returned to her room and turned on the lamp. She took out a notebook she had won over a fair game of jeopardy and began doodling in it. At around 2100, she heard several footsteps.
She opened the door and saw only nineteen agents coming down the hall. There weren't many agents in a unit after all. The ones coming down the hall appeared to be around six years old, though. She wondered if any of them were in her unit. Tomorrow, she would find out. She returned to her room and put away her notebook. Then, she went to bed. The next morning, she awoke at around 0630, when the bell sounded. She got dressed and went to her door to pick up a slip of paper. It was her new schedule:
0700-0820-Math (Room 50)
0830-0950-Science (Room 61)
1000-1120-Language/Literature (Room 72)
1200-1320-Geography/Social Sciences (Room 66)
1330-1450-Music (Room 84)
1630-1750-Arts and Crafts (Room 67)
1830-1855-Games/Freetime (Room 39)
1900-1950-Engineering (Room 94)
2000-2050-Free time (Room 39)
2100-2200-Study Hours (In assigned room)
2200-0600-Lights Out (Stay in assigned rooms)
As she memorized her new schedule, she groaned. She had never had any classes past Room 35. She might have some trouble finding her new classrooms. Since there were so many new classes, their free time was short. Being a Trainee is difficult. She headed for the cafeteria and ate breakfast. While in the cafeteria, she tried to ask several of the older agents for the location of her new classes, but they ignored her. After breakfast, she went to search for her first class. She found it next to the hall of her old classrooms. She got there just before the bell rang. The classroom wasn't very big. It was about ¼ the size of her old classrooms. It didn't take her long to figure out why. When she arrived at the classroom, only four others were in the classroom, not including the instructor.
She quickly found a place to sit. The instructor spoke.
"Welcome. You are all new trainees, right? You will know me as Mr. Skinner, your math instructor," he informed. No one spoke.
"There are simple rules for my classroom," he continued. "I expect you five to follow these rules. If you break a rule, don't expect to enjoy the consequences. I'll start by calling roll. Then I'll explain the rules and daily activities."
Christa already decided that she didn't like this instructor. She doubted she would like any of them. When he called roll, she found that the other agents' numbers were 485, 489, 491, and 497. She was the youngest. When the instructor asked for their nicknames, she learned their names: Agent 485 is John; Agent 489 is Ruth; Agent 491 is Dan; and Agent 497 is Ben.
Throughout the day, she met her new instructors. Each explained basically the same rules, also telling them that they wouldn't enjoy the consequences. Now she really hated herself for passing the test. What if she accidentally broke a rule? When she was a Rookie, she could goof off as much as she wanted. There were no severe consequences—a talk with the instructor, suspension from group activities—nothing big. From what they say, anyone would be afraid to break even one rule. Their rules were so strict. Oh well—how bad can it be? Her old instructor was right, though: When an agent becomes a Trainee, things become harder, a lot harder.
At lunch, she found that they would be assigned a seat and were forbidden from talking. The same rules would apply for breakfast and dinner. Why were they setting up so many rules? Christa would wonder, but she was too young to understand.
She was grateful when their free time finally came. She finally got to speak with the others. During the short twenty-five minutes of free time they were given, she learned a lot about each of them. Ben, Ruth, Dan and John all came from Group 1. They were all six years old, almost seven. They obviously had a lot more knowledge of what happened around the facility than she did.
"Since one person from our group didn't pass the test, they had to take an agent from another group. I'm guessing you're that agent," Ben stated.
"I guess so," Christa responded. "Does that mean that all the existing units are agents that came from Group 1?"
"Yep," answered Ruth.
"I hate being in a unit! I could have waited at least another year. The rules are too strict. I thought being in a unit would be fun," Christa exclaimed.
"It seems like they told you that you would be with the older kids and that being in a unit would be better than being in a group," Dan said.
"They did say something like that. How did you know?" Christa asked, surprised.
"They told us basically the same thing: if we passed the test, we would become the first Trainees and be in units rather than groups. They said it would be great. It wasn't until after everybody took the test that our instructor told us the truth about agents. He was forbidden to tell us such information, but he did anyway—probably because he figured they weren't going to need him anymore," Ruth explained.
"What exactly did he tell you?" Christa inquired, curiously.
"Should we tell her?" Dan asked.
"Nah. We ought to wait another year. She may be too young," Ben answered.
"I am not too young! I'm only two years and a few months younger than you," Christa argued.
"That's all we need to hear. Our instructor told us that all agents are made from a strand of DNA that came from several blood samples which Dr. Malada 'borrowed' from a hospital she once worked at. The DNA was planted into an artificial egg, which was then grown in a machine to create agents. The DNA though, isn't the same DNA that first came from the hospital. The genes in the DNA were altered so that the mental and physical abilities of the agent were enhanced. Here, we will be trained in everything they think we need to know before they assign us to a job somewhere in a nearby town," Dan informed.
"Whoa. We are better than anyone in a nearby town?" Christa asked, puzzled.
"Yeah. Cool, huh? The only thing that stinks is that we have to stay here," Ben exclaimed.
"What if we escape?" Christa suggested.
"Are you crazy? Who knows what they'll do to us. You've heard all the instructors' threats for breaking only one rule. Imagine thirty or forty… maybe even fifty," Ruth scolded.
"There aren't even that many rules, Ruth," Christa corrected.
"How do you know they won't make more rules while we're escaping?" Ruth questioned.
"Good point. The only reason they set rules is so that we won't cause any trouble. The older we get, the more we'll want out. They don't want that to happen. For now, though, we can't do anything anyway. We're too young and probably too easy to catch. Besides, I don't want to find out what the instructors will do to us if we do get caught. Or worse—what Dr. Malada would do to us," concluded Dan.
"Have you met her yet?" Christa asked.
"No, we haven't," everyone answered.
"How did you find out whether or not you passed the test?" Christa inquired.
"Our instructor told us one by one while we were working on the computer," Ben answered
"Oh," responded Christa.
"Why? Who told you?" asked Dan.
"Dr. Malada told me that I passed," Christa answered, remembering the request Dr. Malada had made. This was the reason why she didn't want anyone to find out about their little meeting. All the other trainees found out their success through their instructor.
The bell rang and they moved to their next class- Engineering. The next day, there was a supervisor in the room where they were assigned free time. For the next two years, Christa and her unit learned a lot—from their natural environment in the world around them to the history and geography of the world. They also learned a lot about each other. They learned how to determine one's weakness and strength to help them defeat an opponent during battle simulations and virtual games. As more and more groups became units, the security tightened. Guards were placed in many different entrances throughout the facility. Soon, there were no longer any groups, only units.