Christa awoke today and got dress like usual. She left her room and walked toward the cafeteria. Just a few weeks ago, the last group became a unit. A few days after that, there were guards at every exit and hallway. They really bothered her. Everyday, she would open the door, only to see a guard down the hallway. After breakfast, she headed for her first class of the day. Mr. Skinner had assigned them a lot of work the previous day. She really disliked his class. He would always give them something to do. A long test was the only thing that could save them from work for their evening studies.
For most of the days, she was compliant, never really objecting to anything they did or said, but on others, she would accidentally let out a protest of anger and frustration. So far, she hasn't gotten herself into too much trouble.
Today when she entered the room, there was a pop quiz waiting for her. She arrived at her desk and took out her pencil. It was on multiplying and dividing fractions and decimals. Simple. When she finished, she handed it to her instructor. She was the first one finished so she headed to her computer to complete the lesson from the previous day, but her instructor stopped her. "When you finish your quiz, please remain seated. I am required to teach you all a lesson that is not on the program. You may want to get out a few sheets of paper to take some notes."
Christa slowly walked back to her desk, quietly muttering something to herself at the same time. She sat and waited for another ten minutes when the last quiz was finally returned. The instructor handed out a worksheet with several notes on how to work out exponents. Christa memorized the notes and started working on the worksheet. It was self-explanatory. "Do not start on the worksheet until I finish explaining this lesson," Mr. Skinner instructed. Christa turned back to the blank sheets of paper. She began doodling and drawing shapes. Before long, she was in an endless field with birds soaring overhead and rabbits playing merrily. With the advent of the instructor's words however, she returned to reality.
"Christa, are you daydreaming, again?" inquired the instructor.
"No, why would you think that?" she replied, knowing she was caught.
"If you're not daydreaming, then what are you doing?"
"Umm…I'm just taking notes."
"Since when did I draw flowers and birds on the board?"
"They are not birds. Those are…W's. Can't you tell?"
"Ok, fine. Since when did I draw W's?"
"…uh…you didn't. I added them in…you know…to represent the width of the square."
"Umm…the square you drew to explain x2."
"I haven't even gotten that far yet."
"Oh…then it represents the variable."
"Sure. Where are the other notes?"
"They are on the back," she quickly fibbed, as she turned over the sheet of paper. She showed him the notes she took every time he indicated it was something important.
"Where are the other notes you were to take?"
"Other notes? What other notes?"
"What example are we on?"
"Umm… the third one?"
"Incorrect. I will speak with you after class." Suddenly he turned to Ruth and directed the question to her. "Ruth, what example are we on?"
"The fifth one," Ruth responded quietly.
"Correct. Christa, catch up and stop daydreaming!" the instructor barked.
"Great! I wonder what will happen this time…" Christa muttered quietly to herself.
She continued to appear to pay attention. It was good enough to fool the instructor—she hoped. When the bell finally rung, Christa waited after the bell, as she did every time she was caught doing something he found rude or disruptive. Seconds after everyone left, the instructor spoke.
"Christa, when will you stop daydreaming and learn to listen in class? It's always you who I catch off task."
"You don't look around enough."
"There's no need for me to waste my time in doing that. I know they are paying attention."
"Dr. Malada requested to meet with any agents with a count of over thirty infractions. That includes you."
"So I finally get to meet the Dr. Malada who everyone speaks of greatly of?"
"Yes, you do. I should have sent you earlier, as I'm sure your other instructors should have. I refrained from doing so since she has been very busy these few months. Now she has time to deal with troublemakers. I'm sure you'll have fun."
"When will I meet her?"
"Soon. Once you finish this worksheet on exponents, I'll send you on your way."
"What for? The others don't need to do this," Christa argued.
"They were paying attention," he informed.
"I was paying attention."
"For how long—a second? You're acting, and I'm pretty sure everyone else knows too. Be careful…I have several more worksheets to guarantee you understand the lesson."
"You're making me late for my next class."
"Not a problem. I call your instructor and explain the reason of your absence. Hmm—good thing I don't have another class until ten. Aren't you lucky."
"Yes, very lucky," she sarcastically replied. Her instructor went to the phone and was about to dial the extension of her next instructor when he asked, "It is Ms. Ragondia, right?"
"Yeah, how did you guess?"
"It's not the first time, remember… you find pleasure in asking such questions, don't you? I know you already know the answer, which makes me wonder why I even bother to answer your questions.
"It's fun. You ought to try it someday."
"I just did."
"It is fun, isn't it?"
He ignored her and dialed. Moments later, someone answered. He explained, "Christa's with me right now. I doubt she'll return to your class. She'll be visiting the doctor shortly."
There was a pause.
"OK, sure. I'll tell her. Have a great day too."
He hung up the phone.
"Ms. Ragondia says you must make-up all the work you've missed. If you don't find time to retrieve that work, it will double. You will be doing it during your free time," the instructor informed.
This time, Christa ignored him. He returned to his desk and began grading the pop quizzes. After ten minutes, Christa had finished the boring worksheet. She gave it to the instructor. He quickly checked the answers. Fortunately, all were correct. "It's amazing you know all the answers when you don't pay attention, yet you know exactly how to do the objective." Mr. Skinner stood up and headed for the door.
"Follow me," he instructed. "It is time for you to meet Dr. Malada."
Christa followed. They went into a whole new building. After turning right, then left, then right again, they went down a hallway and stopped at a door. The instructor knocked.
"Come in," responded a voice.
He opened the door and entered. Christa followed.
"This is Christa," Mr. Skinner introduced. "She's been having some trouble paying attention, following directions, and other simple tasks."
"I see. You may leave now."
The instructor left, leaving Christa alone with a total stranger. Christa stood there, not knowing what to do. For a while, nothing happened. Finally, Dr. Malada spoke.
Christa climbed onto the chair across from her desk. Although she grew a few inches since she first entered her unit, being in her situation would make anyone feel very small.
"I thought I would be seeing you sometime in the future. I just didn't expect it to be so soon," the doctor stated.
"Why would you think that?"
"Anything not corrected when young becomes a habit to the old."
"And what does that mean?"
"You're smart. You'll figure it out soon enough."
She turned to her computer and began typing.
"Your number is 466, right?"
"Why do you care?"
"Answer the question."
"You guessed right…how do you even remember?"
"When your instructors continuously complain about an agent, I'm bound to remember the troublemaker."
"Sounds like I'm popular."
Dr. Malada returned to her computer and typed what appeared to be Christa's number. A few seconds later, the computer beeped and many different records appeared on the screen. The first one she viewed seemed to have contained some surprising information, but it was hard to tell. She continued to scroll through the records. They kept track of everything! Every now and then, she would stop to take some notes. After a while, Dr. Malada began to make several comments.
"Interesting," she observed. "You have at least a count of over thirty-five infractions in each class, but none of the other instructors have bothered to send you. You have the least in Mr. Skinner's class. I can only wonder why. Amazingly, you do very well in all your classes. Your grades are fairly high. How do you do it when everyone claims that you are not listening and doing your work?"
"Hey, a question I don't know."
"Well, even if you did know, which I'm sure you do, you wouldn't tell me. It doesn't help you in any case anyway. Lets see, what can I do with you?"
Christa knew she was in trouble now, but there was no escape. How bad can it get? Christa wondered. As Dr. Malada continued to look through Christa's files, the phone rang.
"Yes, Dr. Malada answered.
There was a pause.
There was another pause.
"OK. I'll have everything ready by the end of the week."
She hung up.
"What was that about?" Christa asked.
"Nothing that concerns you," responded Dr. Malada.
"Who's Agent 439?" Christa continued to ask, determined to find out more about this agent. "Is she also in trouble?"
"There are no other troublemakers. All agents were designed to not cause trouble. The scientist who created you, unfortunately had to make you pest. You ought to leave the matter alone, if you know what's good for you."
This silenced Christa. Now, Dr. Malada appeared to have logged out of Christa's file and into a file of another agent. She scrolled up and down through the records, also taking notes after every few minutes. Christa tried to peek at the information from a distance, but it was no use. The angle of the computer did not help. Who was Agent 439 and what is happening to him/her? What will be ready by the end of the week? These questions lay in the back of Christa's mind while she was wondering something else—What will happen to me? According to Dr. Malada, she is the only "troublemaker" they have had. How could there be no others? She sat there, a little nervous, a little frightened. Dr. Malada just continued to scroll through the records of this mysterious agent. Finally, she spoke again.
"You should return to class now. I don't think you will want to make up any more work. I suppose I can trust you to find your way back to class without wandering elsewhere, right?"
"Maybe," answered Christa. She was a little surprised that nothing happened. All the rumors from the instructors appeared to be false, unless she's too busy and wants her out of the way. Her surprise showed through her face and Dr. Malada noticed.
"I'm guessing you expected something to happen…"
"Yes…how did you know?"
"I know more than you ever will about yourself."
"What does that mean?"
"If it was important for you to know, you would already know."
What information could Dr. Malada be possibly hiding? She knew the computer would have some information. If only she could get into their system and find out…
"You better hurry back to class. You've already missed a lot of work. I'm sure your instructors will want that done."
"Ok. I'm going. I'm going."
"Stay out of trouble, or I'll make your next visit something you'll remember. I also think it would be a good idea to not doubt what you've heard," warned Dr. Malada.
Christa hopped down from the chair and headed out the door.
"Don't wander around. You will be caught," informed Dr. Malada.
Christa left the building, thinking about all that she had learned. Dr. Malada was obviously doing something else—something concerning Agent 439. She was saved by whatever Dr. Malada was doing, which was obviously very important. For now, she would be a little more careful, but this was a chance she couldn't let pass her. She was given the chance to explore the whole building—possibly the whole facility. No one would know. She would avoid all the guards; all of them were easy to spot. Their uniform (solid black) makes it possible to spot them a mile away. She carefully walked along the hallways, avoiding all the guards. As she walked through the hallways, she made a mental map, which she later wrote down on paper. She continued to explore all through her third class. She didn't make any mistakes until she reached the last hallway.
"Going somewhere?" a deep voice asked.
Christa turned around. A guard towered above her. She thought she had actually avoided all the guards. This guard came from a nearby hallway, as if he had been called.
"Umm…I was going to the restroom," replied Christa, with innocence in her quiet voice.
"Where's your pass then?" the guard asked, grinning.
"I dropped it."
"Sure. If you did have a pass, in which you obviously don't, you would have known that passes are worn around the neck. Also, bathroom passes are not issued at all. Not only that, passes are only handed out in case of emergencies."
Christa burst out in a run, but found that guards were waiting for her at the end of the hall. There was no escape. After threatening to bring her to Dr. Malada again, she regretfully told them the classroom number and teacher. He and four other guards escorted her back to her classroom. Now that she had a closer look, she found that the guard who caught her was a commander, not just a guard. When they arrived, the commander knocked on the door. A few minutes later, the instructor allowed Christa to enter the classroom. Then, he turned to speak with the commander for several minutes. Christa sat at her desk, not bothering to do anything. She knew the period would end soon and her instructor would hold her back to speak with her about not breaking another lousy rule. Shortly after the instructor returned, the bell rang. The instructor, as Christa predicted, requested for Christa to stay behind. The others left.
"Commander Whittle informed me that you were wandering around the building. What happened?" the instructor inquired.
"I got lost," Christa stated.
"Sure. After finding your way to my classroom for a little over two years, you just happen to get lost today."
"Yeah. Why do you find that so hard to believe?"
"Maybe because all of you were made to have an excellent memory. Everyone knows memory is one of the mental abilities the scientist enhanced."'
"Not whatever. I want to know why you were wandering around the halls and how you didn't get caught."
"Simple. I was exploring and the guards were more "off guard" than "on guard".
"Well, you won't be exploring ever again."
"And that means?"
"Once the commander was notified of your little tour around the building, he informed everyone of your sneaky ways. They will all make sure you get to each of your classes."
"Who's the captain?"
"You won't meet him for a few more years, unless you try anything that will require his service."
"At least I won't get lost now."
"Like you know how to get lost. By the way, you have a lot of make-up work."
"He handed her a packet containing around ten worksheets. These are due at the end of the week," he informed.
"Do the others need to do all this?" Christa asked, already knowing the answer.
"They were in class. They don't need the practice since I know they know this objective. Besides, you have too much free time. This will keep you out of trouble for a while—hopefully."
Christa let out a groan. She still needed to pick up the work she had from Ms. Ragondia. Once she left the classroom, she went to find her science classroom. The guards were always watching her. After a few steps, they asked her where she was going. She told them. Some sensed disbelief, so one was assigned to escort her all the way to Ms. Ragondia's classroom. After she picked up her make-up work for science, she headed to the cafeteria for lunch, again being escorted by the same guard. Once she got her lunch, she found her unit and sat down with them. She had known them for so long, yet she rarely ever spoke to them. Dan was the only person she trusted since he was the closest she had to a best friend. During their free time later that day, while Christa began to work on her "make-up" work, Dan asked her why she always got herself into trouble. So she responded.
"I don't know, it just happens. The classes just seem so boring to me. So I get sidetracked. That's when they catch me."
"Oh. Why don't you pretend your listening to whatever they are trying to teach us?"
"I do, but they seem to know me too well. They know when I'm acting and when I'm not. It's strange, but I can't get away with anything. Have you ever pretended to pay attention and listen to all this stuff?"
"Of course, but only when I do get bored. I don't know if it's something in me, but I find these things pretty interesting. I rarely find myself distracted or off-task."
"Really? That's strange. Do I seem to be the only one not interested in this?"
"It appears so. Ruth, John, and Ben claim that they are also interested in this material too. I asked them a few days ago."
"Hmm…well, at least you don't need to do these worksheets. They are pretty easy though."
"You call that easy?"
"Yeah. Why? Do you find it hard?"
"Not exactly. It just took a while for me to understand it. I still have a little trouble answering the harder problems, but that's all. I don't see how you just know it after you miss a whole class period of him lecturing on how to do it."
"It's self-explanatory to me."
"You're lucky. What happened today? You were gone for a long time."
"Mr. Skinner said I had too many infractions so he sent me to see Dr. Malada."
"Is Dr. Malada like the rumors claim?"
"I don't know."
"What does that mean? You met her."
"Yeah, but she was too busy to mind me. She did warn me that the next time I met her, I would regret it. I don't know whether or not I should believe her."
"Well, it's better to be safe, not sorry."
"That's true. Well, if you ever need any help on anything, just ask."
"OK. Our free time is almost over."
"Yeah, I've noticed. Talk to you tomorrow then."
Their supervisor made sure the agents went to their next classroom. Everyone in the building was more aware of everything that happened. That night, when she returned to her room, she made a quick sketch of all the hallways and rooms she passed while exploring. Now, she had a rough copy of the facility. She would save it. It may become useful in the future. She also decided to try and cooperate. She didn't want to spend her free time doing the "make-up work" for not "paying attention". She definitely did not plan on seeing Dr. Malada for a few more years, when she's older. So for the next four years, she tried.