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Dec 17, 2018 4:27 AM
A Val and a Mica.
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He doesn't scream. He does cry a little. It's the best thing he's ever done so far.

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He's just about forgotten the recruit by the time they cross paths again.

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Val avoids showing any emotions about Erol's existence.

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"858678," Erol says in automatic greeting, reading the Guard's face, before stopping. "You're new, aren't you?"

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Oh. Val guesses that means Erol just says all that stuff to all the new recruits, then. Maybe Erol's just weird.

"Yes, sir."

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Wait, he's heard that voice before. "You're the clever one," he remembers. "How has that been working for you?"

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"I hadn't noticed that about myself, sir. Thank you."

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...okay. "Pay more attention," he advises. "Offer's still open, by the way."

And that's enough for that conversation. They're both busy, or at least he is.

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Val is too. Off he goes.

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Something bothers him about 858678, something he can't quite put a finger on. He should see what information about him they have on file when he has a chance.

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858678 is Val Kerrey from the agricultural sector. Age seventeen. Five feet ten inches. One hundred eighty pounds. Father not listed, mother deceased. Yellow and green security clearance. Not known to have any outstanding debts. No prior criminal convictions. Met the fitness and health requirements without any waivers and denied all physical complaints except an old knee injury that healed well. Bloodwork showed elevated dark eco relative to the old norms (thirty-first percentile now) and was negative for all the infectious diseases they test new recruits for.

Average level of self-reported depressive symptoms, scoring in the range that was considered "mild depression" back when the scale was designed and the average self-reported life satisfaction in the city was twice what it is today; high pessimism, low anhedonia. Average self-reported alienation and distrust of authority, scoring in the range that was considered low back when the scale was designed and admitting any problems with authority was safe. Minimum possible score on the test of delusional thinking. Average level of self-reported paranoid thinking, in the range that was considered slightly elevated back when the scale was designed and people died of old age more often. Low self-reported dark eco associated personality traits, in the range that was average back when the test was designed and there was less chronic dark eco exposure. Average self-reported social desirability.

No waivers needed for any part of the written test. He's literate. The test results don't really make him seem as unobservant as he seems in person.

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Odd. Within normal variation, which he didn't expect, and doesn't answer any questions at all. Not that he's quite sure what his questions are in the first place.

The training schedule, then. When might he find 858678 between tasks?

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He'll be off late this afternoon. If Erol can find him then.

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If he tends to the experiment a little earlier than planned, it's perfect. Half an hour won't throw off the results, and then he should be able to catch 858678 before he has time to disappear somewhere.

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Val sure is wandering off right around then. Back to the yellow zone, it looks like.

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"Eight fi--" he starts, then decides against it. It's too early for the recruit to be used to it.

"Val Kerrey."

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"Erol Kamis."

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"You make no sense."

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"I'm sorry, sir. Is there anything you'd like me to do differently to fix that?"

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Yes. No. Explain yourself.

"Tell me what your game is."

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"I guess I like scavenger hunts okay. There's some card games that can be fun if you're playing with friends but I don't really like them otherwise. Why, sir?"

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"Because you're either playing the fool or playing me for a fool, and I would very much like to know why."

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"No, I just have no idea what's going on any time you talk to me. I guess that makes two of us?"

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"I believe I've made myself perfectly clear. And yet you misunderstand me, as clever as you are, or you mock me. What is it that you want?"

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"Is this about how you want me to break your legs and make you kneel while I fuck your face in public? Because I've been hoping if I act professional around you you'll go back to acting professional around me and we can worry about the metal heads instead of getting distracted by each other."

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