Author: Anna Laakso – Third Place (tie) 2018

Rider kept his face emotionless.

“Unfortunately, no. You see, we DO check on how you all are doing in school, but not to decide whether or not to expel or do what we call Evaluation. That is to determine which job best suits you, of course. We are here to see how your teachers are doing, if all of you are getting the education you need. Now, what I have observed today is good, but not the excellent we expect. Mrs. Wells, your teaching is excellent. However, the control of the children isn’t up to par. There are minimal interruptions and it seems as everyone pays attention and follows along with your teaching. However, Brandon interrupts your class with the assumption of being academically advanced over you, boosting his ego and causing him to disrespect you. This is something you and your student must discuss and correct. There is one more thing….” Turning to Mrs. Wells, he stated, “We are going to take Miss Issacson. Do excuse her and know that she will not be here for a substantial amount of time.”

“Sir, with all due respect, I cannot allow that. I am not the one who is authorized to excuse Miss Issacson from Dexter High School. That is within the principal’s jurisdiction.” Rider gave a respectful smile. “Very good, misses Mrs.Wells. We are glad to know that you take heavily the responsibility of your students. But we have already arranged things with the Head, so Miss Issacson will be coming with us.”

Her eyes widened for a second. “The Head? You may take her.”

Rider turned and motioned directly to Kristen, who was confused, but did what she was motioned to do. Rider put an arm around Kristen, then said to Mrs. Wells over his shoulder, “Thank you. However you should check with the Head, instead of believing someone who says they did.” He turned to Brandon.

“And as for you, Brandork, treat people with respect. Some don’t care how smart you are. If you’re no good to people, they’ll return the favor.”

When Darius, Rider, and Kristen got out of the school, Kristen asked the question burned in her mind.

“Why did you take me?”

Darius sighed. He was older than Rider, probably twenty. “You don’t know who you really are, do you?”


“What?! No, you got me mixed up with another Kristen.” They had walked to the Guard transport system, a system of teleportation stations.

“Get on the pad, Miss Issacson.”

“They want me to go with them, and want to know the truth.” Kristen crossed her arms, unmoving. “Tell me why you’re REALLY taking me to Guard headquarters, and I’ll go.” Rider sighed and looked at Darius, who shrugged. “Listen, Kristen. I’m your brother from another mother, okay? I wouldn’t lie to you. You’re real birth mom, with me so far?” Kristen rolled her eyes as Rider talked to her like he was talking to a first grader.


“You’re birth mother is the Head of the Guard, Kristen. She controls everything. She’s the Elite.” “That can’t be. My mom was a broke deadbeat who couldn’t afford her own kid. Mrs. Fairwell told me. She was an ex-friend of my mom’s. Said she could barely afford the one-room apartment she lived in. If she became the mysterious Elite, you’d assume she’d be making at least enough money to get her own kid back.” No one except for the people in the Guard were allowed to know exactly what the Elite did, so the people were convinced the Elite was a fake legend. Kristen had heard adults talk about it, because it was said the Elite had the power to destroy planets with one snap of the fingers.

“Kristen — ”

“And what makes you think you know about any of this? You were three years old when I was one.”

Darius stepped in, slowly shuffling Kristen to the teleportation pad. “Get on the Tele-Pad and I’ll tell you.”

Kristen tentatively stepped onto the pad and felt a woosh as the ground opened beneath her into empty space. While Kristen internally freaked out, Darius looked at the holographic map coming out of his watch and touched a spot, all the while looking calm and collected. “You see Kristen, your mother tried to get you back at least three times. She isn’t one to give up what she wants easily. The first time she knocked on the door, begging for you back. She told them giving you up had been the biggest mistake of her life, and that if they would just let her have you she would give you the best care she could. They let her in, but told her that because she didn’t have a stable job, she couldn’t keep you. So she went back to find a job, and was picked among other qualifiers to fight for the apprenticeship under the past Elite. When she was guaranteed to be the apprentice, ultimately cementing her place to take over after the previous Elite died, she went back again. This time they told her this job was too risky, so she needed to get married, in case she died there would be someone there to take care of you.”

They passed through the other end of the warp hole. Once Kristen regained her composure, she scowled. “That’s stupid. She couldn’t have me just because she wasn’t married?”

“I know it seems unfair, but it was to ensure that someone would be taking care of you. I’m gathering you don’t know exactly what the Elite does?”

Not the slightest clue, no. All I’ve heard are ghost stories. “I know almost all of it, apparently I’m just missing this one detail that you seem to have.”

Rider rolled his eyes, but let Darius continue. “Okay? Well, there were people willing to get married, but none of them had her interests at heart, just her money. So she had my father pretend that he was her husband. It worked for a short amount of time, but obviously, things got tricky to say the least. Eventually the orphanage found out she was lying and took you back. Strike three and she was done. They made rumors about her, so newbies immediately stopped her from adopting anyone. Even then she wasn’t going to stop. She threatened to use her abilities on them, she was so desperate. That’s when we, as her friends and peers, had to step in. Even though the Elite controls a lot, they aren’t allowed to harm anyone on Dextarium unless they are doing something so destructive they could destroy the whole planet.”

Rider looked away as he frowned.

Kristen gave Darius a blank stare. “You aren’t making any sense out of your face hole right now.”

“I know kid. This is pretty mind-blowing. How ‘bout we get you to base and get some rest?”

“Sleeping DOES sound really good right now….” Kristen shrugged, holding back a yawn. “That was one thing your face hole said that DOES make sense. Let’s go.”

Darius and Rider showed Kristen to the female bunks, and Rider stopped her. “I’m sorry, Kristen. I didn’t know…”

“Whatever, Rider. It’s fine. Not like you had it any better. Your mom didn’t even bother coming back.” She looked down, trying to avoid the tears that threatened her makeup.

“That’s what made it so easy for me to move on, Kris. Knowing she didn’t care made it easier for me to to accept it and not care about her, either. Get some rest, okay? You’re getting all emotional, which never happens unless you need food or sleep. And I’m guessing it’s sleep.”

“Stop being right, dork.” Kristen punched him and Rider handed her some clothes.

“You’re gonna need these. The trumpet sounds at five, so you need all rest you can get.”

“Yes sir.” She saluted, making Rider chuckle as he walked away.

Kristen turned to see her audience of women gazing back at her, like she was some freak with a interesting mutation. Finally, a woman with short, bright orange hair and green eyes with black flecks jumped down from a top bunk. She was wearing a white tank top with camouflage pants and  heavy boots. As she walked up to Kristen, the other girls slowly collected behind her. She crossed her arms, and even though she was just as tall as Kristen, the way she walked made her intimidating. They were both quiet, then the girl held out her hand. “Name’s Jade. Yours?”


Jade turned to the others, letting them know they didn’t have to stare anymore. Turning back, she studied Kristen up and down. “I’m so glad I finally have someone to talk to.”


“I’m gonna tell you this now. We’re the only sane ones here.”


Jade rolled her eyes and chuckled. “Every girl here is obsessed. They don’t understand they could die at any moment because they’re obsessed with boys. I want someone who won’t OMG over a dude for a change!”

Kristen chuckled. “You mean, OMG, that boy is totally hotacular!”

“Tryin’ to get killed by me on the first day?” Jade chuckled.

“If it’ll get me out of here… I don’t see why not.”

Jade laughed and put her arm around Kristen. “We’re gonna be good friends!”


Kristen had never been so tired in her life. Everything hurt. The mat filled with what felt like cardboard was a blessing on Kristen’s aching body every time she layed down.

Jade laughed. “It’s only been two weeks, Krisi. Tired already?”

“Shut up. You’ve been doing this for what?”

“Pretty much my whole life.” She went back and took off her shirt, changing into a new plain white tee.

“What possessed you to torture yourself with physical cruelty your whole life?” She smiled, a hint of sourness behind the laid-back mask.

“I was bred for this job.”

“Bred? That’s a weird word choice. Bred?”

Jade sat on the bed across from Kristen. “You heard right. You wanna hear a theory?”

“Why not?”

“Well you know that genetics has been almost mastered. Now they can genetically engineer humans to be specialized or naturally good at a job. We’re all engineered, but have the illusion of free will. When they evaluate you during your graduation, they reveal what job you’d be best at, or BRED for. You can go ahead and choose a different career path, but you’ll only be really good at the one they evaluate.”

“So you make up stories on your free time?”

Jade frowned. “I figured you wouldn’t believe it. Most people don’t.” She got up and turned towards the door.

“Where you going?”

“To do the one thing I’m bred for.” Jade answered without turning around, “Be a soldier.”


“Morgan.” Rider called off of the roll call list.

“Here, sir.” A tall boy about seventeen years old called out. He had green eyes and fluffy brown hair.

Rider moved towards the voice to inspect him “Ah, another of the Ross family. Trained in combat, good with a sniper rifle, fiery spirit…. Congratulations, man. Welcome to the team.” He pointed to where Kristen, Darius and Jade stood. Morgan awkwardly walked over to the others and waved. “Hey. I’m Morgan.”

“Yeah, we know.” Jade commented. “I’m Jade, this is Darius, and this gal over here is our cargo, Kristen.”

“I’m not cargo, thanks.”

“We’re taking you somewhere, aren’t we?”

“Yeah, but you’re not in a human trafficking rink.”

Jade shrugged. “You don’t know everything.”

Kristen rolled her eyes. “So what brings you to the Guard?”

Morgan shrugged. “It’s been in the family. Figure I’d do what I was born to do.”

“Oh. Well do you like it?”

“Yeah. It pays well, so I’m not complaining.”

“Okay people! Get back to your stations!” Rider shouted as he walked towards us. “You guys ready?”

Kristen took a deep breath and drew it out.

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