The first day of selection was ending. Supervisors were now focusing on Hasta. But it soon became unnerving to watch him because he made it a habit to lose interest fast. To their dismay, participants were free to go the way they wanted and they performed tests in the order of their choice. Hasta was acting like a balloon, drifting from one console to another. He was not showing any more of the passion he demonstrated in the investigation simulation and the memory game.
In the late evening, they finally closed the preliminaries, and a discussion was open. Was he really a natural? The researchers were flabbergasted. Was he a designed? If not, did this mean he was one of those born genii? They thought:
"No need to let him take physical tests in the future, and lets focalize on the cerebral ones."
Hasta had something else in mind, but they should only learn about it later. For now, he picked the Centers attention, and the administrators immediately investigated this dark horse. They rapidly found his grandfather and interrogated him.
The scientists who pulled him out were preeminent people, not to be underestimated. In places like the Center, individuals close to the big Truth became mightier than others. The big man was of importance, but those scientists were treasured and influential on the entire planet. Who was he in comparison? A manager of sorts; a middleman between the Center and the Association.
He was indeed entitled as the director of the Northwing Center of the governmental Organisation of Planetarian Development, the OPD. But was he anything when compared with direct members of ERA, the Earthian Research Association? This GTP, or Global Transhumanisation Program was completely under ERAs charge. The old man was only there to make ERAs delegates as welcome as possible inside the OPDs quarters for the duration of the GTProgram.
In the great Megacity of Bosphore, he was one of the Big Bosses. But what about the rest of the planet? His name was not even known outside the Fortress, as every Megalopolis developed in an autarchic way. On the other side, ERAs officers represented planetarian interests. They simply were living in a different league.
They asked him questions about his grandchild, but he only had some clues about the siblings abilities. The truth was if he knew beforehand Hasta had it in him, he would have found a way to get him by his side a long time ago. He regretted not getting the boy for himself… But maybe he could still have the girl, he thought. And once the girl was his, Hasta should follow suit! Could he abandon his own blood after all?
His dead daughter was a real trickster. She hid them both very well. He grieved at the time loss and at all those missed opportunities because of her. At least Hastas candidature to the Program was an unplanned and pleasing surprise. Thanks to their superficial but genetic relationship, the OPD as well as ERA now saw him in a favorable light.
As he was scheming about the brother-sister duo, he made sure not to reveal his daughters obvious implication in the boys cognitive prowess. Fenise Kriego always was a talented bioscientist, but who knew she was able to enhance her children that much? He was convinced she did something to them. She was indeed his daughter! After all the denial! She finally showed her true face! What kind of Saint would experiment on their own progeniture? The old man felt incredibly satisfied as he always hoped his stupid heir would wake up from her romantic idealistic ways.
Hasta and Katas father was irrelevant to him, it had to be Fenise. But he was so far from the truth.
On the second day of evaluation, they were led to the same floor, but the environment appeared completely unrecognizable. The place was now a huge training ground, covered by mats and equipment on one half, and an observation laboratory on the other half. For the athletes, military-like lessons and drills made the place resonate with hitting and smashing ambient noise. As for the cerebrals, the place was made of individual cells equipped with a simple white chair and a computer desk. In each two-by-three room, series of questionable tests were performed on them. Some were replications of the day before, but there were also novelties.
They started experimenting with their mental resilience, trying to break them. At first, they pressured them psychologically by raising the difficulty or restricting them; then by perturbing the games with deliberate inconsistency or unfair bugs. Some of them were already well-cooked at this point and in their case it did not go too far. But for the more resilient ones…
Acousmatic jumpscares. Verbal abuse. Electroshocks. They were subjected to all kinds of torture. Now they knew why they had to sign so many papers. And why the job was so rewarding even for only participating in the selections. It was horrible, still, they would always stop before the breaking point. Limits were different from one person to another. Hasta was completely on edge by now. He persisted because of pure venal determination. This new life was too expensive for him to forfeit.
But he did not keep up for that long either. The visuals were the worst. He could not forget after all. The most excruciating point was the more he progressed, the more they punctured on this apparent weakness. Uncomfortable pictures, specific color associations and flash patterns, disturbing video interludes… They were tailored for him. He felt the intention behind every timing. They were grinding on him. He could almost hear strings go pop as they ripped his composure apart like a cloth doll. He felt it never ended, it never would. He was trapped and powerless, constricted in a cell! Claustrophobia germinated inside him.
However, as he was pursuing the test obstinately, never giving the safe word, he suddenly felt a different sensation in his body. He felt heavy, too damn heavy. His mind seemed out of sync with his extremities, or slightly misaligned. Even his thought process became blurry and selective. At some point, not only the screen projection became more and more absurd, but he was like detached from the meaning of things, observing but not recording the data, out of space and time, floating, dissociating.
Did they sedate me?
He silently panicked, words out of reach, like he was not supposed to say them. As if he already lived everything and could not modify but only spectate. He had this conviction it was the case. And felt disturbed by the idea everything he was now experiencing was actually a dream. Yes, now something was pulling him out of the past, sucking him out of this dimension. Before he knew it, he crossed back to reality, in a fifty-meter free fall. He gasped and throbbed like he would crash against the ground, though he did not.
His heart slowed down to an acceptable beat rate, and he finally realized he was lying on some soft memory foam mattress. He was in almost complete darkness, blue dots blinking on the other side of a quiet room beyond the teinted glass encasing him. He was breathing heavily and struggling against straps around his legs and arms. He tried to move but could not. His mind cleared quickly as he processed what was happening to him. Did he get kidnapped? Or did the GTProgram hide a scam?
He did not have the time to deliberate because the dissociation started again! He suddenly sank back into his dream, his body sitting on a chair in front of a white table, a keyboard, a screen, tilted walls and floor, a computer, speakers, in that cell, in that gymnasium, during those selections, for this project, on this Center…
Yes. He was back. In his memories.