Janet was decided worthy, but every move she makes could change that.Is she really worthy?
I shifted on my feet, waiting anxiously. The others standing next to me also shifted, each one standing as stiffly as I was, each one as scared as I was.
One girl down the far end of the line let out a blood curdling scream. I winced, as did the others around me. That girl's fate had been decided.
I started to twist the ring on my finger, biting my lip. When the Decider came to me, what would he say? Would he know I had lied to my parents, or that I had stolen our neighbors jewelry? Would he see inside of my heart and tell me that I am corrupt, not worthy to live among our people? I wasn't sure, I was afraid to find out.
Silence settled over us like a thick blanket. It lasted for five more minutes before there was another scream as someone was electrocuted. I felt my cheek bone twitch.
I would not be like them, I would not.
We stood in a large room bare of anything but us and a black curtain that stood in front of us. My eyes rested on the carpeted floor. The lighting was dark but I could still make out the design of little white diamonds against the dark blue on the carpet.
I glanced to the right of me and found a girl next to me with curly blonde hair crying. I scowled and turned back, staring straight ahead. She was nothing but a coward.
Three more screams echoed across the room before the Decider finally came into view. He looked to be a man, standing six feet, dressed in a black cloak so dark it looked like the night sky. The hood was up so you couldn't see his face, but when he reached out and pressed a finger to a person's forehead to judge them you could see the hand was wrinkled.
Ten people down, the Decider’s pointing finger rested on the head of a guy my age. He was obviously scared; you could see the sweat running down his face, with widened eyes. It only took the Decider a moment to judge him. After a small pause I could hear the Decider whisper "Unworthy", and before the boy could even respond he gave a shriek, his body jerking forward and back; left and right, before falling to the ground in a heap.
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. It was okay, I am worthy, I am worthy.
I adjusted my black shirt. I was wearing a black shirt, as was required by the law during this ceremony, and khakis. Simple and easy to get, and easily disposable. They wouldn't feel any regret throwing it away, the clothes with our lifeless bodies. It wasn't a waste. A small shiver worked its way down my back.
The ceremony was a tradition in my country, undertaken by all who become of age, in this case sixteen. The Decider, the person said to be blessed by the gods, would decide whether you were worthy to live, and become the next generation. If the Decider decided you weren't, then you were killed. As said in the law, "Those who are unworthy should be given mercy from their cursed life and cast into the hands of death, as is the right of the unworthy."
Those who were claimed to be worthy were taken to a sacred room to be cleansed. I'm not sure what they do in there to cleanse you and my parents refuse to comment on it. After the Decider decides you were worthy though, you must stand there for the remaining of the ceremony, whether next to a dead or living person, before being brought to the sacred room.
Five screams later the Decider stood in front of me. I still couldn't see inside his hood, only darkness. I tried to stop my fingers from shaking by pressing them against my legs. His old wrinkled hand came out and touched my forehead, sending the feeling of ice spreading through my veins. I blinked and saw my life flash before my eyes, all of it.
It was like someone had taped my life and set it on fast forward. I saw every moment from being born, to eating cereal on a random normal day, to actually seeing my dreams, every last one, to seeing me learn to tie my shoes, on and on, all in one second. It left me feeling more than a little sick. I really wanted to throw up.
Clenching my teeth to keep from screaming in terror, I heard him take a deep breath. He whispered so quietly I had to strain my ears to hear him say, "Worthy."
It was like someone had dumped a bucket of warm water on me. I relaxed immediately, letting out a breath of air I hadn't realized I'd been holding. I wanted to jump up and down, scream in delight, grin like crazy, but I kept my face neutral of any emotion, knowing the Decider would frown upon that.
He moved to the girl next to me, touched her head. A few seconds later she was on the ground, nothing more than a corpse.
Twenty minutes later after hearing sighs of relief and terrible screams, it was done. Only a quarter of us in line were still alive. The Decider left, walking to the right of where we faced and opened up a door that led into another room that was too dark to see the inside of.
It was done. I was worthy.
A man came out from behind the curtain that was in front of us a moment later. He was wearing a black shirt and khakis, like the rest of us, but with a stamp of the letter 'G' on the right shoulder, colored in blue. His hair was as black, as was his beard and he looked to be almost as tall as the Decider, with large muscles. He waved us forward and we approached quietly, afraid to say a word.
He led us into a room behind the curtain practically bare of anything except a small desk with papers stacked on it.
"Line up like you were before," he said. We did as he told, not voicing our confusion. Weren't we supposed to be cleansed?
He picked up the papers and started to hand them out to us. He smelled like bleach. As he did he explained, "These are your missions with your teammate's names on them. You are officially part of the military, congratulations, and all that hoopla. I am Captain Smith, you can call me Captain. If it's not clear already, I am in charge. You listen to my orders and complete them without question. Disobey me and the Decider will come back and decide you are unworthy, clear?" We all nodded quickly.
Someone at the far end of the line raised their hand tentatively. Captain nodded at him.
"What happened to the cleansing? Why weren't we told we were joining the military?" he asked. Everyone looked relieved someone had asked that for them instead of having to do it themselves, myself included.
Captain said, "Change of plans kid. It was meant to be a normal ceremony, but then something happened, war. The Northern East wants our land, we want their land. We had the Decider look for traits best fitting of a warrior. You lot, what how many are there of you? About eighty I'd guess are now the main force. You will learn to kill, fight, steal, and lead an army. And no, you do not have a choice in this. You were claimed worthy so you better prove yourselves worthy or you will be thrown out like the rest of those in there." He motioned to the room standing behind us.
My hands tightened into fists, I would not be like them.
"As for why you weren't told, well it was sudden, we didn't have time to spread the word." He was lying but i felt no need to point it out.
"I always have believed in the phrase, 'Learn by doing.' So those missions have you spread into groups. These groups are your teammates, your new family. Protect them with your lives and they just might do the same. Your missions are varied, and I expect them done by the end of the week. If you have any question stuff 'em down your ass. Figure it out." His green eyes darted to each of us, as if to express the seriousness of the situation.
I glanced down at my paper. Stamped on the top in big red letters was the word "CLASSIFIED". Below that my name Janet Jordan was lined up with three other names, Zack Racket, Berry Jones, and Tiffany Jake.
"You were chosen by the Decider. You were allowed to live, don't screw this up. You are dismissed."
We filed out of the room into the one where our fates had been decided for us. Someone had come in and take out all of the bodies.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned and found a girl almost my height with blonde hair and blue eyes staring at me. She smiled and asked, "Are you Janet?" I nodded mutely.
Her smile widened. "I'm Tiffany, and this is Berry," she pointed at a girl with dark skin and eyes who was shorter than Tiffany, "and this is Zack." She pointed at a guy taller than me with brown spiky hair and green eyes. He gave me a huge grin.
They were all staring at me like I was an alien. I guess I was in a way, not many people these days had white hair.
I fingered my long straight hair. It was said that when you have white hair it means a god came down and blessed you, but I wasn't so convinced. It ran in the family on my mother's side. While my hair is white my eyebrows are black, and with my pale skin it can make a startling contrast. My bright blue eyes, sharp chin, and narrow body didn't help my appearance either. Some said I looked like an elf.
"So I guess were teammates," Zack said. I nodded and looked down at the paper. Under our names it said in big bolded letters, "MISSION: OBTAIN INFORMATION ON SUSPECTED SPIES". Under that was a list of names of the suspected spy's.
My teeth clenched, if I failed this mission I would die, I would be unworthy. It would bring shame upon my family name.
I will not fail.
Berry and I sat next to each other on the floor in her room, leaning up against the bed. Zack was lounged on top of the bed and Tiffany sat in a desk chair across from us. When we had first received the mission we hadn’t had a clue what to do, or how to do it, so Berry invited us over to her home.
The walls were lined with inspirational posters involving cats and ducks. I had learned quickly she couldn’t go long without talking about either. The desk that Tiffany was sitting at was a typical run of the mill writing desk with a lamp, books, and a CD player spread out on it. The room was fairly clean, with only a few articles of clothing spread out on the wooden floor.
Berry and I were pouring over the names that we were given of suspected spies. The mission was to gather as much intel on them as possible. Tiffany guessed that meant there whereabouts and who they met with, and we even went as far to guess they wanted us to map out their home layouts. I told Zack the name of the suspected spy and he looked them up on his Info Page, a small hand-held device with information on practically everything imaginable, including people.
“Look up John Edgardo,” I said to Zack. “Got it,” he replied. There was the sound of furious tapping and then Zack said, “He owns half the banks in the country, is freaking rich, and lives uptown.”
Tiffany let out a sigh, “Well that makes things harder.” Berry and I nodded simultaneously. If he really was rich and a spy then that meant he would be up to his boots in guards, and most likely kept his whereabouts secret.
“Is there a specific schedule posted, like any social events planned this week or anything?” I asked.
“Hold on,” he murmured quietly. A few seconds later he said with excitement lining his voice, “Yeah actually, he’s going to a meeting in the Preference Hall in a couple of days.”
“Does it say why and who he is meeting?” Berry asked.
“Nope,” he said, “it actually looks top secret.” I could hear the excitement growing in his voice, and I could already see the plan forming in his mind. Apparently so could Tiffany because she said sharply “No Zack, this is an information gathering mission only, you hear me? We are not busting in there, guns blazing. Do you want to die?”
I could feel the bed shift as he switched positions. When he replied to her his voice was tinted with fury, “These guys are spies Tiffany, spies! They’ve betrayed their own country, damn it! Just thinking of it pisses me off.” Berry fidgeted with a ring on her pinky finger nervously.
I twisted around so I could get a good look at him. “Get a grip,” I snapped. “We are all angry but this mission was an order. Don’t you think Captain knows best? Do you not trust your superior? Besides, we are untrained, going in there would likely lead to our deaths. This is just a test to really prove ourselves. Screw this up and we are out. Do not be a fool.” That shut him up.
I could practically feel the shocked stares from all of them. I hadn’t meant to snap, but I had gotten a tad bit annoyed. He had voiced the same thoughts that filtered through my mind. I wanted to go in there and crack some heads, but Captains orders…
Berry cleared her throat next to me. “Um,” she began, “so I was thinking we should split into two groups, one follows him to the meeting, the other watches his house, taking note of the guard’s schedule, when they change shifts.”
Tiffany’s face immediately brightened, which had been clouded over after I had snapped at Zack. “That’s a wonderful idea Berry!” Berry’s shoulders slumped in relief.
“Okay that’s great and all, but what about the other people on the list? We can’t just focus solely on Edgardo,” Zack said, trying to make up for his earlier blunder.
“Luckily there is only one name left and it’s a pretty easy one,” I said calmly. “Jackson Ordain. All of his information and whereabouts are on the Info Page. Of course we will have to watch him too but he isn’t as pressing as Edgardo.”
Jackson Ordain was a famous scientist in the town, though I’m not sure for what, I wasn’t really one to pay attention to these kinds of things. He was so famous though that his daily schedule was posted on line, he had no secrets. It was hard to believe he was a spy, but I doubt Captain would lie.
“Okay then, we have a plan.” Tiffany clapped her hands together and gave us each a triumphant smile. “In two days we will follow Edgardo. Janet and Zack will go to the house and keep watch; Berry and I will follow Edgardo.”
My eyes widened at this. I did not want to be teamed up with a whiny, hot-headed-
He interrupted my thoughts with his loud protests “What! I don’t want to be with her!”
“Couldn’t have said it better myself,” I muttered under my breath.
“Too bad. Take your complaints and, as Captain once said, stuff ‘em down your ass.” She smiled.