In the Beginning

“We didn’t know they were testing us. They began the process slowly, just giving the students more creative assignments, projects that would show our abilities without us realizing we were being examined, like fruit from an orchard. And not the bad apples from the good. More like the exceptional from the mundane. But at the time, we didn’t even know that’s what was going on.

“They gave us assignments like mixing music on the computer, cooking, singing, creative writing, you name it. Anything they felt would reflect our IQs and our potentials. And the athletes. They were being observed too, though nothing much changed for them. The leaders picked the toughest coaches around the country and watched their teams, so they could be sure they were being groomed to have discipline, strength, and a sense of camaraderie. They followed orders, but had minds of their own. The All-Americans, the scholar-athletes. That’s who they wanted.

“It took five years for them to make the first move. From what I’ve heard anyway. By then they had decided, right down to the names of each student, who would be staying. Then it took another five years to choose and train those who would execute their plans. They were hand picked, taken one at a time from all around the country. And no one ever noticed the connection. Or if they did, either no one listened, or someone shut them up before it could get out.

“Then, about a year and a half ago, the sweep happened. I’ve heard it was across the whole country, but it started on the East Coast…

“I was right in the middle of class when they came in. They had weapons. Most of them were students from my school, but there were others. I guess in such a small town they hadn’t recruited enough followers to really execute the sweep. But they corralled us in and somehow, they all knew exactly who was safe. They knew us by name and face, even the people I had never seen before knew me. Some of the teachers were in on it. They pointed us out from time to time, but they stood back, didn’t bother trying to reassure anyone. The others, who weren’t chosen, I’m not sure about…

“They’ve assured us our family members who aren’t here are somewhere safe, but how can we believe them? Most of them probably believe it themselves. These people are brainwashed, Ezra. They were hand picked because they had been studied, and it was obvious they would be susceptible to this cult mentality we’re all expected to have now. The scary part is, most people are already adapting to it. A few of us are still skeptical, but we can’t talk about it in the open. We can’t question people like Hazel or Tori. They might be following orders from someone else, but here, they’re in charge. Maybe a fourth of us have been taken away since it started, for asking too many questions or not fitting into the group like they though they would.

“We didn’t even know if people could get around on the outside anymore. At least until you showed up. But from what you’ve said, it’s as bad as we thought. But obviously David and those others aren’t in contact with Hazel. She would have told them you were here, right?”

She looked at Ezra, her brown eyes wide and hopeless, desperately seeking answers that he really didn’t have. But he knew one thing.

He shook his head. “I don’t think she would contact him. David started out as one of them, a leader like Hazel. But then he decided to start doing things his own way. He’s a killer, he’s created his own militia, and he’s definitely not in Levi’s good graces anymore.”

She sighed. “Levi? The one who is supposed to be in charge of all this, who’s ‘saving’ us? He’s just a name. I don’t think even Hazel knows who he is, even if she makes it sound like they’re best friends. No one’s ever even spoken to him.”

Ezra’s blue eyes locked onto hers, and as he looked at her, she paled. Then he spoke and confirmed her fear.

“I have.”

{image via giantbomb}

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