She stared high up into the sky, into the blinding light of the colony's artificial lighting system. It was a marvelous thing to behold. Humanity had moved away from its ancestral home into the deep darkness of space by constructing the colonies. Trillions upon trillions of tiny parts worked together to create something that was once deemed as impossible.
"Janna, what are you looking at?"
The young girl turned away from the sky and looked to her friends that impatiently waited for her. "Sorry, I…" She continued walking to catch up with them, but before she reached them, she took one more glance behind her shoulder. "I thought I saw something," She said barely above a whisper as she caught up with them.
A small flicker of light in the sky appeared again.
All seemed at peace again when the girl caught up to her friends and they continued on their way to school. One of the boys in the group, the tall and strong one, threw his arm around Janna's shoulders.
As they approached their high school, Durham Academy, the group of friends noticed that there were more people on campus than usual—including many adults. They looked around in confusion for a few moments.
"What's going on?" One of the girls asked.
"It's the Science Fair, remember?" Janna spoke up.
The whole group immediately wrinkled their noses.
"They should call it a Dork Fair'" The boy with his arm around Janna said, immediately eliciting laughter from the whole group except from Janna. He seemed pretty proud of himself after that comment.
"Good one, Logan," The other boy said. He looked around for a moment. "Don't know why they're wasting their time on this crap when they could be at our wrestling match."
The girls, Abby and Paige, seemed to agree wholeheartedly with Ryan's comment, but they noticed that Janna did not say anything. "Sorry," They both uttered.
"Yeah, you know, your mother's a scientist and all."
Janna shrugged. "Climatologist." She motioned up towards the sky. "At least she makes nice weather for us." Her mother was one of the scientist in control of setting the weather for the colony.
Everyone seemed to agree in order to placate the situation. They continued on through the entrance courtyard, weaving past all the guests and supporters of the Science Fair. As they walked, however, Janna looked behind her into the crowd. Janna Eden felt like she was being watched.
His large black sunglasses along with his turned up collar on his trench coat hid his face from the world. He was not ready for the world to know him again—even by yet another alias. Yes, it was good for him to stay in the shadows—at least for the time being. Today, he was just another face in the crowd of many. He found it easy to lose himself in his thoughts until a pulse of energy burst into his consciousness—Kamille Bidan? "No, not Kamille," He said quietly to himself. He scanned through the crowd, searching for the source. "A girl," He mused. His eyes lay upon a very pretty young girl with long black hair and light skin. She was escorted into the building by what appeared to be her boyfriend. He stood there for a moment processing the encounter. "Very interesting, indeed."
The group of friends congregated around Janna's locker. While it was a priority for her to collect her books before class, it did not seem to be such with her friends. Instead, they all stood around talking about the wrestling match, gossip, music and movies, and whatever else they fancied. Janna took a moment to check her hair in the mirror before she shut it. Almost as soon as it closed, the first bell rang. Instinctively, the group of friends split up and hurried off to their destinations. Before he left, Logan waited for their standard goodbye kiss. She turned around and tilted her head up to give him a quick kiss, but instead, he came forward at her and sunk her into a deep kiss, pushing her into her locker.
"Logan," She chastised after he let her go. "You know Peterson threatened to give us both detentions if he saw us again."
"Yeah, be he isn't here," Logan said smugly.
"But I am."
Logan and Janna turned. There a thin and medium heighted boy stood with a disgusted look on his face. Janna immediately flushed all shades of red. Logan, however, looked brazen.
"What do you want?" Logan snapped.
"I think I have every right to talk to my sister," The boy said back.
"Fine," Logan said. He walked away.
Janna did not seem happy with the interaction. "Why do you always have to do that?"
"He started it."
Janna sighed, knowing that she would get nothing accomplished by arguing with her brother. "What do you need, Jaden?"
"I can't give you a ride home tonight unless you want to stay for the Science Fair. I thought I better tell you."
She nodded. "Yeah, I'll see about getting a ride. Logan's got a wrestling match at another school tonight. He can't take me home."
"Oh darn," Jaden said apathetically.
Janna ignored the comment. "I'll let you know after lunch."
"Alright." He nodded and walked away. The brother and sister—twins—went in opposite directions that morning. He had mathematics while she had history. As he turned the corner to the next hallway, Logan stood leaning against the wall looking very unhappy.
"So what makes you think you can bother me and my girlfriend?"
Jaden shot a dirty look at him. "She's my sister. I think that trumps whatever claim you think you have to her."
"Look, you little punk, do you think you can talk to me like that, or do you need another swirly to cool off? I shoved your head in a toilet in seventh grade, and I'll do it again." Logan started to corner him against the wall.
"Back off, Brek," Jaden said, feeling much less brave than he sounded, since the bathroom was merely a few meters away. "Just leave me alone."
"Mr. Brek? Mr. Eden? Everything alright?" A teacher called down the hallway. It was the P.E. teacher, Mr. Daley, who also was the wrestling coach.
"Yeah, Mr. D. Everything's cool." Logan waved. "Eden here's just helping me with a math question before class."
Mr. Daley gave a chuckle. "Yeah, an egg-head like Eden can help you out with that." He walked over to the two boys and put his hand on Logan's shoulder. "Probably too busy thinking about the match to do any math, aren't you?"
Logan nodded sympathetically.
"Good man," He shook Logan and gave him a hard pat on the back. The coach then looked towards small and thin Jaden Eden. He looked up and down, sizing him up, before speaking. "You could really take a few pointers from Logan here about proper exercise and body-building. You know, get some meat on you."
"I'll be just fine." Jaden said.
"Anyway, boys—get to class." He led them to the door, not noticing the dirty looks they shot one another before reaching the classroom.
"Drop dead, Eden." Logan spat under his breath.
"You first," Jaden replied with just as much venom.
"This is a nice one," Frau Kobayashi said, stopping before one of the exhibits. "The Endangered Whales of Planet Earth," she read aloud. "Lots of pretty pictures and interesting facts."
"Cute?" She looked back over her shoulder at Amuro Ray. "Why do you always have to be so…so…"
"Condescending?" She teased.
"I am not condescending," He seemed a little offended. "This is not what we're looking for, Frau."
"I know that." She looked at the bottom corner of the diorama, noting that sixth grader made it. "Can't we just enjoy our time until we find what we're looking for?"
"If we're right about this, we don't have time," Amuro said, darkly.
Frau stood silent for a moment with her head turned a bit. "It reminds me of a poster board that Kikka made at school about dolphins."
"Dolphins are extinct in the wild, you know," Amuro said matter of factly.
"I know." Frau wanted to roll her eyes.
It was just then that flash of enlightenment—a pulse of energy and emotion—struck his soul. Char? No, it couldn't be Char. From everything he knew to be true, Char was dead. He looked behind him, searching desperately through the crowded auditorium. His eyes fell upon a young boy. Without saying a word to Frau, he charged off towards the boy.
"Amuro?" Frau noticed him leave. "Amuro, wait!" She quickly followed behind.
Amuro pushed through the crowd until he reached the boy. The exhibit itself was not very exciting, but the project the boy presented was. He had built a small scale vernier thruster—typically those used for Gundam mechanics. Amuro studied the proto-type thruster for a few moments. The boy took a few moments to notice him.
"Hello, sir." The boy said shyly.
Amuro felt his Newtype abilities reaching out, searching for information, as he studied the thruster. It took him a moment to realize he was being spoken to.
"I'm Frau Kobayashi. This is my friend…"
"Amuro," He finally spoke up.
"Amuro?" The boy expected a last name.
"Just Amuro." That was all he wished to supply at the moment.
"Well," The boy looked a little nervous. He glanced back to his project. "I'm Jaden Eden. This is my prototype for a vernier thruster. I've made some modifications and improvements that demonstrate higher performance than current civilian type thrusters on the market."
Amuro nodded. "I see that. Ever wonder how it would hold up against military class thrusters?"
"Well, of course," Jaden blurted out then blushed afterward. "But information like that is classified."
"Yes, of course," Amuro said. He continued to look at the research notes posted on the diorama board while Jaden stood quietly nearby. Once Amuro was finished reading, he stood up straight, signaling that he was ready to leave.
"Thank you for looking, sir," Jaden said. "And ma'am." He looked to Frau.
"Thank you for letting us look," Amuro said. They started to walk away. Amuro let Frau pass him before he turned back. "It would not only hold up, but out-perform." He continued on behind Frau.
Jaden stood a bit dumbfounded until he figured out what Amuro meant, and then it was difficult to suppress a smile.
"What are you smiling at?"
Jaden shook his head to snap back into reality. "What?"
"Who was that?" Janna asked as Amuro and Frau walked away.
It still took Jaden a moment to process. "Just someone interested in my project. They stopped to look for a few minutes and left."
"What time is this thing done?" Janna looked around the room, hoping for signs that the exhibition was over.
Jaden looked at his watch. "Fifteen minutes."
"Can't we go now?" She pouted.
Jaden rolled his eyes. "If you help me pack up my things, we can go now."
She agreed. They went back over to the booth and cleaned the area. Jaden packed the small thruster into a box with soft packing material and closed it up. He then gathered all his folders and binders full of research. He handed the folders, binders, and rolled up design plans to Janna while he carried the box.
"We'll stop at my locker quick then we'll head home."
"Why can't we just take everything home with us?" She asked.
"I don't want to do that."
"I just don't want to." Jaden seemed finished on that subject to which Janna merely rolled her eyes.
They walked down the empty school hallways until they reached Jaden's locker. He carefully tucked the box into his locker, but while looking inside, he decided to pull out another folder. He handed it to Janna and then grabbed his school books.
"How come you have so much homework?" She asked.
"Spent study hall at the Science Fair," He said.
After that, they walked out of the school in silence. When they came close to the small car on the street, Jaden set the books on the car and reached into his pant pocket for his wallet. He took out the keycard and opened the car door. He tossed his books into the backseat then sat down in the driver's seat. The car engine flared up from the activation of the keycard. Janna sat down, keeping the papers in her lap.
Jaden hit the accelerator, and they were off. He drove down the streets of the colony much faster than was legal, but Jaden was a very good driver.
"You're speeding," Janna nagged.
Janna rolled her eyes. She figured she couldn't complain. She didn't have her driver's license. It seemed easy enough to let everyone drive her around—mom and dad, Logan, Jaden. As Jaden drove the car at what felt like rocket speed, she started shuffling through the papers in her lap.
She eyes felt upon a blueprint for a Gundam unit.
Jaden glanced over and noticed what she was doing. He quickly tried to grab the paper away from her, but she pulled it out of his reach. The car swerved to the right.
"Jaden, pay attention!"
Jaden straightened the car back out. "Close it," He said sternly.
Janna didn't close the folder. "Dad would be mad, you know."
"Yeah, I know." Jaden stared forward at the road.
Janna studied the blueprint for a few moments. As the car continued down the road, her senses started to focus. All that seemed to exist for one moment was the blueprint. She put her finger down on it. "Shouldn't the vents be a little lower?"
Jaden looked back over at her and the blue-print. "That's exactly what I was debating." A bemused smirk appeared on his face.
After a few minutes of silence, he spoke again. "You're smarter than them, you know—that Brick Head and the others." Brick Head was Jaden's favorite name to call Logan Brek.
"That's my boyfriend you're talking about, and his name is Logan."
Should he tell her—about all the mean and cruel things Logan has done to him over the years: shoving his head in the toilet, putting chili pepper powder in his gym uniform, stealing his lunch multiple times a week, or using him as a personal punching bag, just to name a few? Not today. They rode the rest of the way home in silence.
They arrived home to the strange smell of something fishy. Their mother greeted them from the kitchen with a warm smile and a cooking apron. They both cringed on the inside—their mother was in the kitchen.
"Hi, mom," They both said at the same time, each taking a turn to receive a hug from their mother.
"I hope you're hungry. I've made something special—tuna and crab casserole!"
Both Jaden and Janna constructed the same awkward and tortured smile on their faces.
Their mother, Kaori Eden, was a celebrated climatologist. She was given the responsibility of controlling the weather at Side 6 and was consulted by other climatologists all over the colonies and even on Earth. However, having her in the kitchen was another story. She liked to experiment with her cooking, and her family had to suffer the consequences.
"Dinner's almost ready," She said to her children. "I've worked especially hard on this one today."
"Where's dad?" Janna asked.
"In his study. Can you get him?" Her mother answered, putting on her sunflower oven mitts.
Janna left the kitchen and headed straight to the study. It was in a quieter part of the house on the first floor. The way was unlit and dark, but she knew her house by heart. It was the only house she ever lived in. The study was the only room lit up on that end of the house so she knew he was still in there. "Dad," she called as she crossed the threshold into the room.
Andreas Eden sat at his desk holding up the newspaper in front of his face. He lingered for a moment and mumbling something about "those war mongers" before he laid the paper down. There was a pleasant smile on his face for his daughter. "Yes, honey?"
"Mom says dinner is ready." She leaned against the doorway.
"Is that so?" He tried to disguise his dread with excitement. He never would say anything against his wife's cooking, nor would he allow his children to do so, but it was obvious that he too did not especially enjoy her surprise dinners. He turned his computer off and stood up from his chair. "Then I suppose we shouldn't keep her waiting."
They walked together in silence back to the kitchen. Jaden was already seated in his usual place, looking rather queasily at the casserole that lay in the middle of the table.
Mr. Eden took a deep breath of what smelled like oily fish. "Looks nice, honey."
His wife beamed with pride. "It's not every night I can make my family a home cooked meal."
"You really don't have to worry about it, mom," Jaden said. "We can get our own food."
Mr. Eden shot his son a dirty look.
"Well, let's eat," Mrs. Eden said.
They all took their places at the table and started their dinner. After a few minutes of the clanking of plates and silverware, small talk began around the table.
"So, Jaden, how was the first day of the Science Fair?" Mr. Eden asked his son.
"It was fine," Jaden said, just before taking a small test bite of the casserole.
"I think Genetics is a very fascinating subject," Mr. Eden said. "I cannot believe sometimes just how complete even one strand of DNA can be."
"Genetics?" Janna spoke up.
Jaden set his fork down and stared at his sister.
"Your brother's science project," Mr. Eden said. "About Genetics."
Janna looked straight at her brother. She knew that look—the please keep your mouth shut I'm begging you look. "Oh, right," She said. "I forgot."
"Your mom and I will be stopping by Friday afternoon to see it," Mr. Eden said. "I've got my TA covering my last few classes."
Janna wondered how her brother was going to pull that one off, but it wasn't her problem
"Janna, you should have entered something into the Science Fair," Mrs. Eden said.
"Like what?" She asked.
"I don't know exactly, but you've always liked learning about the solar system. Remember when you used to beg us to take you to the planetarium every weekend?"
"I was ten," She said flatly.
"Well, I'm just saying that you could have found something you were interested in and made an exhibit. You're in school to learn and explore new things so you should make every opportunity to do so," Mrs. Eden said.
"Your mother's right, Janna. Durham Academy isn't cheap, but we're committed to giving you the best education we can."
Janna rolled her eyes, knowing the speech that was about to follow. She tuned out the new few minutes of monologue from her father about the importance of education, and the value of knowledge and hard work. She tuned back in once she heard the cue that he was about finished.
"…and so I am very proud of both of you and want you to succeed in this world. I want you to reach your maximum potential. I believe in you very much so please show me your best efforts," Mr. Eden finished his speech.
"Well said, darling," Mrs. Eden said. She said that every time.
"Yes, mom. Yes, dad." Janna and Jaden both knew it was there line.
"Good," Mr. Eden said. He said that every time too. Now conversation could continue like normal.
"Did anyone see in the news that Side 5 is thinking about expanding their colony to include two million more people?" Mrs. Eden said, trying to start conversation, just as the phone rang. "I'll get it," She got up from the table and went into the kitchen.
"Two million, huh?" Mr. Eden pondered on that.
"Seems like it would almost be easier to build a new colony than add to an existing one on that scale," Jaden said.
Janna perked up once she heard her name from the kitchen. The conversation at the table died down.
"I'm sorry, Logan. She'll have to call you back. We're in the middle of dinner right now." They were never allowed to leave dinner for a phone conversation. "Goodbye." Mrs. Eden came back into the dining room.
"Can I be excused?" Janna piped up immediately.
"You've barely eaten your casserole," Mrs. Eden said, looking at the few small bites that Janna took. "You need your strength for school. After you finish, you may go."
Janna wearily picked up her fork and started eating again.
"And besides, I bought a chocolate pie from the bakery for dessert."
Jaden looked like he was resurrected back to life. "Chocolate pie?"
Mr. Eden chuckled. "I knew that would wake him up."
"It's my favorite," Jaden said, tackling his tuna and crab casserole with renewed vigor.
"I know," Mrs. Eden said with a twinkle in her eye. She looked over at Janna too, who also renewed her effort. It was her favorite too.
The mornings were always a fiasco at the Eden household. With four very busy people in the house, it was difficult for everyone to find what they needed, be prepared to go out in the morning, and get everyone fed a proper breakfast. Jaden always reached for his favorite cereal in the morning which his mother would invariably reply, "I don't even know why I buy that sugar-filled garbage." However, Mrs. Eden usually relented from her tirade against Jaden when she would see Janna eating nothing at all for breakfast every morning.
"You need to eat, Janna. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day," Mrs. Eden scolded.
"Mom!" Janna scowled as her mother bumped her chair. Her lipstick painted her upper-lip instead.
"Why do you have to put so much make-up on? You're beautiful just the way you are, darling."
Janna rolled her eyes.
"Your mother's right," Mr. Eden said before taking a bite of his morning apple. "If someone can't like you just the way you are, then they are no true friend."
"That's right," Mrs. Eden sat down at the table in her white laboratory coat. She picked up her spoon and started to stir up her yogurt. "It is better to be hated for what you are rather than be liked for what you are not."
"Tell that to the world then," She muttered to herself.
"What was that?" Mrs. Eden asked.
"Anyway," Mr. Eden said to defuse a tense moment. He looked to his son who had a mouth full of cereal. "I saw you were up late last night, Jaden."
Jaden swallowed his cereal. "I had a lot of homework to do." It was a half-truth. Yes, there was a lot of homework, but it was mindless drone work and easily finished within an hour. He spent the rest of the night sketching and drawing blue-prints for things that his father would not approve.
"Good," Mr. Eden smiled at his son to which Jaden felt a hot wave of guilt on the inside.
"Andreas, look at the time!" Mrs. Eden exclaimed. "You should have been already out the door!"
Mr. Eden stood up in his neatly pressed jeans and suit jacket. He grabbed his glasses out of his pocket and reached down for his brief case. This was Andreas Eden. He was a professor of communications and speech at The University of Side 6 Riah along with being a well-known writer, lecturer, and pacifist. Andreas Eden was instrumental in keeping Side 6 neutral during the One Year War. But right now, he was just a father and a husband. He waved goodbye to his family and ran out the door.
After he was gone, Mrs. Eden urged her children to hurry while she started clearing the dishes. It was just as her arms were full of dishes that the phone rang. "Can someone get that?"
Janna bolted out of her seat towards the phone. The caller-ID confirmed her hopes. "Logan," She said breathlessly.
Jaden looked like he wanted to throw up his cereal.
After a few seconds though, her countenance fell. "Oh, alright. I understand. I'll see you at school then." She hung up the phone.
"What's the matter?" Mrs. Eden asked.
"Logan's car is broke. I need a ride." She looked to Jaden.
"Yeah, okay, but I have to stay late again."
About twenty minutes later, the brother and sister gave their quick goodbyes to their mother and headed out to the car. Instinctively, Jaden got into the driver's seat while Janna took the passenger's side. She clicked her belt, turned on some music, and they were off.
"How come your car never breaks down, Jaden?"
"Because I know how to fix it, and I'm not a complete moron like…" He stopped once he saw the look on Janna's face. When was she ever going to wake up and realize what Logan truly was? "…I may drive fast, but I'm not reckless," He finished in a much more tactful way.
They rode for a few kilometers in silence only with the music playing, but last night popped into her head again. "So what are you going to do about mom and dad and the Science Fair? Obviously, your project isn't about genetics…"
"I have a second project just for that reason, and it is about genetics."
"You did two projects?" She looked flabbergasted. "I don't know why anyone would do even one, but two? At least, you could have done something that mom and dad would have approved of so then you wouldn't have to do two."
"Yeah, well, that's not the way I wanted to do things."
"You're bringing on trouble, if you ask me."
"I didn't ask you."
"All I saying is that if dad managed to find out…"
"I know," Jaden said forcefully. "You don't think I get it? I know who our father is! I know that the food I eat and the clothes I wear are paid for by the book he wrote against the wars! I get it, okay!"
"Then why, Jaden? Tell me why!"
"Because there are some things worth fighting for! And I'm good at building things! I can build things that can protect people—save lives!"
Janna didn't say anything more. She knew how her father would respond to an argument like that, but she did not feel like arguing. They rode the rest of the way to school in silence.
Principle Peterson cleared his throat before starting the long drone of the morning announcements:
Welcome Students to another day at Durham Academy
Today is Thursday February 23rd UC0090
Today's temperature is 20ºC with a slight chance of rain in the late morning
Today's lunch will be spaghetti with meatballs, green beans, dinner roll, and cookie. You may have your choice of water, chocolate milk, or white milk.
Extracurricular Programs Information:
The Art Club will not be meeting today due to the fact that Mrs. Piper is absent on sick-leave.
History Club: Remember to have your permission forms turned into Mr. Redding by 3:15 today otherwise you will not be allowed to attend the trip this weekend.
The second day of the Science Fair starts today. Please stop by and support your fellow students on their projects.
In Sports News:
Make sure you congratulate our wrestling team for its victory against St. Francis Preparatory School last night.
Remember to attend tonight's home basketball game at 7:30pm against Valley Forge High School. It's the last game of the season, and we need to show some "Tiger Spirit!"
And for other news: Today our school will providing Career Testing to the student body on behalf of NOEZ Corporation. You will quietly be called out of class to participate in this opportunity.
Thank you and good day.
As Jaden sat in math class, he pondered upon the last thing the principle announced to them—career testing. But he couldn't think about it too long since something struck him in the back of the head. He first looked down to the floor, seeing a piece of wadded up paper, then he looked behind him to see Logan and his friends all wearing smirks on their faces.
On the other side of the school, Janna sat in her desk during History class pondering the same thing, that is, until she felt a strange, but small, pain in the back of her head for unexplained reasons.
The day went on as any Thursday would except for the fact that a large portion of the school seemed to be taken over by that career consulting corporation. They had at least taken over five extra activity rooms and wires ran up and down the hallways. Other than that, the day seemed completely normal. It seemed that at least one or two students were taken out per class to be tested.
It must be pretty involved, Janna thought to herself, as students were pulled out of one class and they returned hours later. Again, more students were being called out of the classroom at that moment.
The boy in the front left corner of the room stood up and headed to the door. He was a very bright one. They'd probably tell him that he should be a doctor or something. Janna smirked. Perhaps her career choice should be career counseling.
Janna looked towards the door. They wanted her? She looked a bit dumbfounded for a moment, but after snapping back into reality, she got up from her desk and left her economics class. When she got to the hallway, she stood with Eric Jacobson and a few other students. Apparently the school staff was working for the career consultants because it was the lunch lady who pulled them out of class.
"Alright. Abbot, you go to room E-2. Potter, you're in E-3. Jacobson E-7, and Eden, you're in E-15," The lunch lady said while scanning over her clipboard.
Janna headed in one direction while the others went in the other direction. She followed the long strand of thick cables and cords down the hallway to the designated classroom. As she grew closer, the lights were either burnt out, flickering, or very dim, giving Janna a sense of trepidation and caution.
Finally, she came to room E-15. She grasped the handle and slowly opened the door. The room was filled with computers, monitors, buttons, lights and cords. Apparently, they meant business.
"Good afternoon, Miss Eden."
Janna about jumped out of her skin. She was paying much more attention to all the technological gadgets and equipment that she did not notice anyone approach her. She looked over at him, her heart pounding. "Who are you?"
"I am Doctor Nerus."
He was a very strange looking man to say the least. He was very pale, not looking like he spent much time outdoors at all. His hair was greyish-white and looked like it needed a comb run through it a few times. His posture was terrible. Janna imagined that he spent many hours of his life hovering over a computer or desk. After studying the man who approached her, she noticed three other men, all dressed in fine black suits, standing in the shadows.
One of them approached her. He took ahold of her arm a little more forcefully than she cared for and led her into the shadows. "First, we are going to do a little test on your sensory perception and reflexes."
This was career testing? Janna thought it was strange, but perhaps they were testing to see if she should be a professional athlete. The joke would be on them. She hated sports.
Awaiting her was a machine that looked much like an egg. When they approached, the pod opened up and an empty seat waited inside. The man who guided her gave her a gentle push towards the open seat. Before stepping in, Janna noticed that many of the wires in the room connected to this pod. She took her seat and the pod closed behind her. Darkness.
She waited a few moments in the dark until the screen in front of her lit up. A computerized voice—a calm and soothing female voice—spoke to her. "Welcome to NOEZ Cybertronic Testing Version 2.0. Today, we will begin with a standard assessment of your sensory perceptions and reaction times. Relax and follow the directions given."
The screen changed to an image of outer space. "Pretend you are drifting in outer space. Alone, carefree, silent. Close your eyes and take a moment and try to feel out all around you."
This was stupid. However, Janna closed her eyes anyway. Perhaps this was some really new way of testing a person to find out what career they should have. She tried to relax as the computer lady's voice told her too. She didn't know what it meant to 'feel out all around you' but she tried anyway.
It felt like she was 'feeling out all around her' for an eternity before anything happened. The computer's voice disrupted the peace. "You are not alone. There are enemies. They've come to destroy you. They've come to destroy your colony. You must protect them. Reach for your gun!"
"Reach for your gun?" Janna pondered for a moment, but even before she could realize it, her right hand grasped a hold of the right joystick and was already clicking off rounds of ammunition at her enemies.
This repeated for a few moments as enemies came in from the left and the right. Automatically, Janna would fire off a few rounds in their direction, not even taking time to properly aim that them. It took her a long while to slow down and process what was happening and what she was shooting at. Once she did, she saw white mobile suits flying at her, and every time, without thinking much about it, she would fire off rounds in their direction.
"You are victorious," The computer said to her. Then the computer and its screen shut down. Darkness again. She felt her heart pounding in her chest as she sat alone in the darkness for a few moments. The pod opened back up.
The same man who put her in the pod was standing outside, but he did not offer to help her out of it. She wearily crawled out and looked around at the computers again. "Am I finished?"
"Not quite, Miss Eden. I need you to do one more thing."
The doctor led her to another section of the room. This place looked even more daunting. There was a wooden table, which was standard in the classroom, but on top of it, was a headset spewing with wires of all colors. There were many gauges and monitors around the table as well.
"What is this?" Janna asked as it was made clear that she was to sit down at the table.
"This is just a little test to monitor your brain waves," The doctor said, almost with a laugh.
"When do I find out my results?"
The doctor looked confused.
"You know, my career results."
"Oh, my dear, you'll find those out this afternoon. But don't worry about that right now. Just do your best." He placed the headset on her head. "Fasten the strap and relax."
Waves of trepidation washed over her. "I don't think I really want to do this anymore."
"You have nothing to worry about, Miss Eden. Everything will be fine. You'll be back to class sooner than you realize." He reached down and strapped the chin piece on for her which only creeped Janna out more to have his old bony hands near her face. Once he was finished, he sat down at the other side of the table. He looked at Janna for a moment then turned to one of his assistants in the black suits and nodded.
One of the assistants, sitting at a control panel, began to cautiously push a lever forward. The room filled with the sound of a quiet hum.
Janna felt a headache appear immediately inside her head. She was fine before, but all of the sudden for unexplained reasons, her head started to ache. The pain grew stronger. Her eyebrows hunched over her eyes. The pain continued to grow. She was starting to sweat. "I don't want…please stop…" She gnashed her teeth in pain. "Please…stop…please…stop…" The pain only grew. She clutched her forehead, begging for mercy. "Stop! Please!" Tears were starting to form. "PLEASE STOP! IT HURTS! IT HURTS!"
Dr. Nerus continued to watch her for a few moments longer. He looked over at his assistant at the control panel. He nodded to the doctor. With a small smirk on his face, the doctor returned the nod, signaling for the machine to be shut off.
Janna sat with her head in her hands. The pain was gone. It was like she didn't have a headache at all. The tears in her eyes seemed absolutely pointless. She looked up at the doctor completely stunned.
The doctor still had that same smirk on his face. "Very good, Miss Eden." His smirk grew wider. "Very good."
"What did you do to me?" It was obvious that these people were not career consultants.
Dr. Nerus ignored her question. He walked over to the control panel and starting looking at the data gathered from Janna's test. "Please escort Miss Eden to the holding room."
The men in suits immediately surrounded Janna, each taking an arm. They lifted her out of her chair and started carrying her towards the door.
Janna started to fight, but fear and confusion made her limbs weak. "Who are you people? Where are you taking me? What are you doing with me?" It wasn't long before she was gagged with a piece of cloth and carried through the school hallways to another room. When they opened the door, she saw her brother sitting down at a table alone.
"Janna!" He leapt from the table. "Leave her alone!"
The three men threw Janna into the room. She immediately tore the gag off her mouth and started yelling obscenities at them. Jaden, however, stepped in front of her before she noticed one of the men pointing a gun at her.
Jaden and Janna felt silent.
Soon more people came into the room. After the three men in suits came into the room, Dr. Nerus came into the room along with a man in a grey uniform. He looked to be in his late-twenties, and finely dressed and well-kept. His hair was bright blonde and his eyes were a light blue color—like the sky.
"Please have a seat, Mr. and Miss Eden," He said with an airy voice.
"Who are you?" Janna heard fear and worry in Jaden's voice.
"Forgive me for not introducing myself. My name is Volker Althaus. I am with Noez Corporation…"
"We all know that's a bunch of crap!" Jaden spouted.
Janna thought this Volker Althaus seemed like the type to get really angry at a remark like that, but he didn't. He only laughed.
"Alright then. I am an officer with Neo-Zeon. I serve the legacy of the Zabi family and the hope of creating freedom and peace for all the colonies."
"What do you want with us? Why are you here—at our school?" Janna spoke up.
Volker folded his hands together and placed them neatly on the table. "I suppose the reason we are here is not a complete ruse. We are looking for talented young individuals such as yourselves to help us in creating a new world for the colonies—a world of independence and freedom. We need people like you to achieve this glorious dream."
"So why all this testing? Why us?" Jaden asked.
"Ah, that is an excellent question, Mr. Eden. You and your twin sister, here," He nodded to Janna. "are Newtypes."
"Newtypes?" Jaden and Janna both said at the same time—Jaden more with unbelief and Janna more with confusion.
"Yes, natural born Newtypes." He paused for a moment. "Newtypes—the next evolutionary step in humanity. Some—not many—have already displayed enhanced abilities—abilities that allow humans to function and adapt better to outer space. These effects on the human brain and psyche can be simulated—but they have proven generally to be unstable. The truth is, not enough is known about Newtypes to effectively reproduce Newtype abilities in Cyber-Newtypes. For now, natural-born Newtypes are the stability we need in the future to come."
"You think we're Newtypes?" Jaden said, almost amused. It was pseudo-science to say the least.
"Your tests prove it. You both are Newtypes." Volker took a long glance at them before he spoke again. "We need people like you to serve the colonies. We want you come to Neo-Zeon."
"We don't want anything to do with you. We just want to go home now, okay?" Janna said.
Volker smiled. "And there is where we are at an impasse. As I told you, our purpose here was not a complete ruse. You wanted to find out your perfect career? I will tell you. You both will be coming with us, and you will serve in Neo-Zeon in her struggle for freedom and independence. This is non-negotiable."
"You can do this to us!" Janna screamed. "We have teachers and parents and…"
"Your teachers have been paid a vast sum of money to keep their mouths shut and your parents…let's just say we have someone who has already taken care of that…"
"What did you do?" Janna screamed.
The door burst open, knocking one of the men straight in the face.
"Janna, are you alright?" Logan hollered.
Jaden and Janna immediately ran for the door while Logan body checked Dr. Nerus into Volker Althaus and the other men. He slammed the door shut quickly and the three of them ran down the hallway.
"What is going on?" Logan yelled. "I heard your voice then there was screaming."
"They're trying to take us away!" Janna hollered back.
Gun shots fired from behind them. Logan and Jaden dodged to the left while Janna went right. They had to keep running, they couldn't stop.
"We've got to go back!" Logan said. "We can't leave her!"
"Keep running! We'll find her!" Jaden said.
Durham Academy was empty. School had already ended. The hallways were vast, long, and empty. Jaden and Logan instinctive took random turns and directions around corners to throw off their pursuers. One they thought they were out of reach, they stopped and tried to catch their breaths.
"Janna went towards the cafeteria," Jaden panted. "We should try to sneak along the back hallway and get over there."
"Right," Logan nodded, a little winded himself.
They took off together in a sprint. They tried to be fast and quiet at the same time, but it was difficult to do both. Before every crossway, they peeked around the corner to see if it was safe. When they came to the main crossway, Jaden carefully looked around the corner. The three men in suits were there. They fired a shot.
"What are you doing?" One of them yelled.
"I thought I saw something!" The other replied.
"Come on, let's go this way!" The third said. Soon they were out of sight.
"We're clear! Let's go." Jaden said. Logan didn't reply. Jaden looked behind him.
The bullet ricocheted and had hit Logan in the side. He slumped against the wall as his whole side started to stain with blood.
"Logan!" Jaden put his hand over the wound.
"You have to…find…Janna…" He grunted through his pain. "Go…find her…leave…me…"
Jaden furiously shook his head. "No, they'll kill you. I can't leave you." Jaden grabbed a hold of Logan's arm and threw it over his shoulders. He slowly started to leave their place and move across the hallway.
They walked down to the end of the hallway. It seemed like an eternity as they inched further and further along, leaving a trail of blood. They were able to round the second corner and walk a little further until Logan's knees gave out.
"Down…put me…down…" He managed to utter.
Jaden fulfilled his request and leaned Logan against the wall. He immediately slumped into a sitting position on the floor. His breaths were shallow as he tried to recover his strength.
"Logan, you can't stop. They'll catch us. We have to keep moving."
Jaden shook his head. "You're going to make it. Come on." He placed his hand over the wound again, feeling hot blood touch against his own skin. "You're not going to die. Come on. You're not going to die. You can't die."
Through his gasps, Logan managed to look up into Jaden's eyes. The two of them only locked eyes for a brief moment. "Jaden…I'm…sorry…" His breath stopped.
"I'm sorry too, Logan," was the only thing he managed to say before total and complete shock washed over him. All he could do was sit there on his knees while he continued to hold his hand over Logan's wound. It was only at the sound of footsteps that he found the sense to run again.
He could not stop. He could not cry. He had to run for his life. He had to find his sister. He had to get out of this place.
But as he rounded the corner, Dr. Nerus and Volker Althaus stood waiting for him along with his sister. Volker had his arm around Janna's neck and a pistol pointed to her head. Soon, the three other men in suits came up behind Jaden. He was completely and helplessly trapped.
Soon after, Jaden and Janna were led out of Durham Academy, never to see it again.