Virus

May 20, 2008
By
PROLOGUE

The President of the United States gets boxes and boxes of mail every day. Each one is specially opened by a trained security personal. Once passed through the scanning, the President reads some of them, and if he has time, writes back. One day, a security guard who was just became authorized opened a piece of mail in a blue envelope. He was excited; this was the first job that he had kept for over a year. He liked the government, but didn’t like that there wasn’t any action being a mail person and computer data sorter. It didn’t look that a child wrote it, even though that was what the majority of mail was. This letter, however, was written with artful calligraphy and a very decorative stamp labeled MB. He carefully opened the letter with a red white and blue (what else?) letter opener that was specially made for letter opening for the president. As he examined the letter, his palms started sweating, and his job was finally going to get interesting. He told a senior operative, and he took out his radio.

“Niner, niner. We have a situation. National threat posed through letter. I repeat, NATIONAL THREAT!” A couple moments later, a siren started to blare.

The gray room seemed to have dressed for the occasion. 3 men entered the room. 1 in gray, 1 in blue, and 1 in a plum purple.

“I am sorry that we ever have to use this room, but this is one of the most important meetings for the welfare of this country,” said the man in Gray.

“Skip the intro, man! What’s happening here?” said Plum in a 60’s tone. He had just watched Austin Powers: Goldmember, so he was just in that kind of mood. Last meeting, he acted like Matrix.

“Well, if you took some time to read the mission briefing, you would know,” said Gray sternly. “But I will break it down for you.” At Plum’s bewildered look, he added, whispering, “Patience, patience… Anyway, as you read from the letter, a villain has introduced himself. Matri, or the villain, has threatened to unleash a supposed terrorist attack. Unfortunately, we have no idea what he’s going to do or unleash.”

“Well, I’ll supply the firearms!” cried Plum.

“Oh, yes, pyromania solves everything,” said Blue to Plum. Plum glared at blue when something broke the intense but short lived feud.

“Focus!” said Gray sharply, bringing the two back to attention. “Anyway, he seems to know how to access everyone in the U.S.A. and unleash a biotechnical weapon. That means that firearms won’t accomplish anything except setting fire to a barn,” he said pointedly at Plum. “Unfortunately, we have no idea where Matri is, where he came from, or why he wants to do this. Also, we have detected multiple tracking bombs that, if coming in contact with human skin, cause a chain reaction so every one will explode, he’ll know what we’re doing. Fortunately, this room has been checked over and is clear of bugs. We need outsiders to help us.”

“If we recruit adults, then he can track them too, apparently. How will we get out of the building with Matri’s tracking bombs everywhere?”
“I have thought of that. We will bring the art of letter-writing back to this technologically advanced world. Along with a specially sealed envelope that cannot be cut by a machete and exploding glue if it comes in contact with more than .00349 oz. of pressure, it is perfectly old-fashioned. Matri will never expect it.”
“How can we do this so-called solution effectively and safely? If we
recruit adults, then he can track them too, apparently this man seems to have roots in every government record. Besides, we won’t even know if we’ll be recruiting him, if he puts his apparent ingenuity to good use!” cried Blue.

“First of all, Matri is apparently new in the villain business. He would have put up more small riots, burglaries, and minor felonies to put him in a record. He would research the record thoroughly, and then reemerge as a different villain, so he may have fingers in the records. Believe me. I know. We have thoroughly checked every file. There are no suspicions whatsoever. He’s new to the business, but he’s a natural,” explained Gray as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. “Second of all, what makes you think that we are going to be using adults for this mission?”








CHAPTER 1: The Academy

J
eremy hated letters A-F. Mostly F’s, though, because that is what he usually gets on a slip of paper telling everyone how bad he was at school, aka a report card. 1 C, a couple of D’s, a D+, and an F. And the C was in art. These were not the grades that Jeremy was looking forward to showing his parents, though he thought they’d be used to it now that he’d gotten almost the same report card back for a couple of years. He may only have to show his mom. Depends on if his dad was in a “drinking spell” again. That’s what Jeremy calls it. His dad calls it a “retreat”. Whatever anyone calls it, he goes out for a couple of days, gets drunk, and comes back and sleeps for a few more days. That left his mom. Timid little thing she was. About 5’2”, wispy mousey hair that was always tied in a sloppy bun, and wearing clothes that were could be identified as artifacts from the ‘60’s. She would be easy, but his dad would whip him till he had welts all across his back. His mom would run to the guest room, lock the door, and break down crying. Jeremy was never anything special for his age. He had drab brown hair and his mother’s muddy hazel eyes. He was a little tall for his age, but that was all. He had a small brown bungalow on Sycamore. No one lived on Sycamore, and since that was a dead end street, no one ever heard his screams and sobs or his father’s yells.

Jeremy went to St. Arthur’s School for Young Men. It was, by far, the worst school that you could ever hope to go to. St. Arthur’s, or St. Artie’s, was in an old church that looked like was built around the Salem Witchcraft area. That’s where he was born. Anyway. St. Artie’s is where he gets his quarterly failure reminder.

The only reason that St. Artie picked its name was so that all of the people who didn’t have the time or IQ to research it thought that it was one of those high-class snotty private schools with a suspicially low tuition. St. Artie’s had 6 classrooms; K-3 shared one, and every other grade got one to their selves. Thank God he was in 8th grade. The public high school was bigger. A lot bigger. Though, he probably wasn’t going to go to high school. Why bother? His family was poor, he was stupid, and he was probably just going to be a car mechanic at his dad’s shop if he went to college anyway.

He decided that he was going to take a walk before going home. It saved him some time and pain. And if his dad was tired, then he would probably not hit as hard. He went to the payphone in front of his favorite barber shop, and dropped in a quarter and a dime.

“Hey. Michael?”

“Oh, hey, Jeremy!” said his best friend.

“Mike, can I borrow $2.00?” Jeremy had plans to go buy a 3 Musketeers.

“After you pay me back the $150.00 that I’ve lent you over the past 2 years.” Michael had always been really good at math, and he kept track of everything. He almost had his own loan system going at school.

“Mike, please!”

“No. I have been lending you money since you learned to shop. Once you pay me back the $150.00, then we’ll talk.” Then the line went dead.

“I’ve spent $150.00 shopping?” Jeremy asked himself. He was gone for a couple of hours, and when he came home, a person was talking to his mom. His mom was wringing her hands and fidgeting. The person was a tall man with thinning hair and a sleek suit. He looked like he was in his late forties. His father was no where to be seen. Jeremy was relieved, but not for long.

“Jeremy?” asked the man.

“Yeah?”

“My name is Mr. Pseudo, and I’m from the State Education Board of Massachusetts. It seems that you have been having issues with your school work.”

“Whatever,” said Jeremy, with a downcast glance.

“I’m afraid that I’m going to have to take drastic measures. Jeremy, you have been given too many chances to count to make up you schoolwork and try to do better. But you have not taken any one of them. You’ve taken that for granted. And for that, you will have to come with me.”

“Where are you going?” asked Jeremy, now becoming alarmed. What is with this guy? Thought Jeremy. He can’t just take me away!

“To the Remedial Academy for Boys. It’s either that, or be held back at St. Arthur’s. They say that about 2-3 years should get you caught up properly. If you try hard enough. The choice is yours.”

“Mom?” Jeremy asked weakly.

“Jeremy, I… I don’t think I… I can’t…” his mom trailed off.

“Fine. If you want to take me to this academy place, then fine. But that’s not going to get me trying any harder than I am now.”

“I’m sorry you feel that way, Jeremy,” Mr. Pseudo said without any emotion. “You have 24 hours to pack your things. You can carry 2 duffle bags maximum. I will be back here at 7:00 a.m. sharp. Please refrain from being late.” At that, Mr. Pseudo left. Jeremy looked at his mother, but her eyes were blank. Years of being trapped in this house with his dad had destroyed her sense of free speech. She barely talked.

“I would just like you to know that I have never hated anyone more in my entire life, Mom, than you.” said Jeremy, his voice red hot with anger. At that, his mother’s head snapped up and met his eyes. Hers were moist and red. But Jeremy didn’t care. They had taken away everything in his life except his house and the clothes off his back. Now they were taking away his town and his friends? I’m packing duffles, thought Jeremy. But not for that academy.


“Well, how’d it go?”

“The boy seemed to fit our needs perfectly. But I still don’t like the idea of getting him involved in this.”

“It’s either risking 3 children or 3 million.”

“Yes, yes, I know.” said Mr. Pseudo.


In the moonlight, you could barely see anything in the Massachusetts countryside. Including a 14-year old boy with 2 duffles and a backpack. Jeremy was not going out without a fight. He had a plan. He broke into his dad’s safe. He stole $700.00, and got $13.52 of his own. He was wearing leather hiking boots, a dark green windbreaker, and jeans. His mom wasn’t suspicious about him packing, luckily, and his dad was probably somewhere in a Las Vegas jail for drunk driving. He packed 4 water bottles, 3 cans of peas, a box of Entenmanns’s powdered donuts, a bag of Ruffles, and some plastic wrapped lunch meat. He would be okay until he found somewhere to stay. Anyway, he also stole his mom’s cell phone, and brought his iPod. He was going to buy a train ticket to Boston, and then try to get to Canada. There, he would just live by himself, and then come back in a couple years to his parents to show them what a mistake they made. Okay. So he was just going to stay at some motel in Boston for a couple weeks and come back, just to let off some steam. Then the Academy would probably find him and take him there, and he would be on probation for trying to escape.
He went down to the town, if you could call it that. It had about 5 stores: A Laundromat, a furniture store, a pub, a grocery store, and a Walgreens. Actually, the Laundromat was a Laundromat/Internet Café/Movie Rental Store. It was a very, very odd store. And there was a train station. That was where he was headed. When he got there, it was empty except for the middle-aged man manning the ticket booth. He was balding, and had dull gray eyes, glazed over from sitting in that booth for 12 hours, and to top off his seemingly zoned out state, when I walked up to him, he just seemed to stare right past me.

“Excuse me?” said Jeremy.

“Yeah? Whadduya want, kid?” asked the man, bored.

“1 train ticket to Boston.”

“’Kay. 14 bucks. Next train leaves at 4:00 a.m.”

“Ummm… okay.” Jeremy handed the man the money. He didn’t really know what to do next. He had 4 hours to kill, so he stopped in the pub to get something to eat. A gruff man with biceps the size of footballs was wiping the mahogany counter with a soggy rag.

“Hey, kid. Ain’t you a little young to be at a pub?” asked the man.

“Just get me a root beer, okay?”

“Fine. $4.00.” Jeremy didn’t have time to bicker about the price. He just paid the bill, and took a sip of the refreshingly sweet liquid. As he glanced up, he noticed the man inspecting him.

“What?”

“You just look familiar to me, kid.”

“I don’t know you.”

“I never said that I thought I knew you, I just said that you looked familiar. Names Barney.”

“Jeremy.”

“Nice to meet ya, Jeremy. Where you comin’ from?”

“Bedford.”

“Hmm. Nice neighborhood.”

“Yeah, sure it is.” Jeremy wanted to stop this conversation. He didn’t like talking about his hometown, and especially at 2 o’ clock in the morning to a bartender, because then he would have to explain about his father, and then they would end up feeling sorry for him. He didn’t need anyone feeling sorry for him. He was fine on his own. He sat there for a while, drinking ginger ale and root beer and making sure he had all of his supplies. While he was waiting, he decided he would practice what he did best. Lying.

He created a story for his parents, the stupid society, and if he should meet up with anyone he knows.

“Hey, Barney, ya have a piece of paper I could use?”

“Sure, kid,” as he was taking out a pad and a pen. Jeremy liked lists. He liked being organized, and documenting everything for further use. He didn’t know why; it was like a reflex for him. So, he took the pen and wrote:
STORY FOR PARENTS
Was driving with the society, and the car broke down. They gave him some money, and told him to wait in a hotel for the night while they got it fixed. When he went back to look for them, they were gone. He decided to try and go to the society himself on a train, assuming it was in Boston.

STORY FOR (STUPID) ACADEMY WORKERS
He was getting ready for them coming in the morning when someone broke into his house. He took the duffle and ran, hoping that his parents were okay. His cell phone was dead, and he saw the felon’s car lights still on, so he just ran to the train station, hoping there would be a policeman there. When there wasn’t, he took a train to Boston to try and find the society himself, and tell them about the break-in, therefore killing 2 birds with 1 stone.
That was not a very good story, but he doubted he would run into anyone working for the academy seeing as he was running away.
STORY FOR ANY-/EVERYONE IN BOSTON
He was selected to go to an academy in Boston, so he took a train there, only to realize that he had the wrong city. He had brought some money with him, so he decided to stay in a hotel for a few days to make sure that the academy wasn’t in Boston.

It seemed like a pretty good plan. He tore off the paper and shoved it in his duffle.

“Whatcha’ writin’ there, Jeremy?” asked Barney.

“Oh, um… just a plan for when I get to Boston,” said Jeremy, realizing that he had just let slip where he was headed, which may turn out to be a big mistake. “Um, I think that my train is here,” said Jeremy, changing the subject. “Nice meeting you. Thanks for the paper.”

“Anytime, kid. Anytime.” As Jeremy left the pub, a tall man in a smart navy suit strolled in.

“He’s headin’ to Boston, Doctor.”

“What was he writing on the pad of paper?”

“A plan of lies.”

“Hmm…” mused Dr. Ver. “Seems like Mr. P’s kinda man.”




The train whistle of the Metra train nearly scared Jeremy out of his wits. He looked at his ticket stub in his hand, then looked for his seat, 14A. He looked around at the train. It was a fairly nice train. It was metallic walls and ceiling, and green tinted windows. He found his seat, 14A. He put his duffle in the overhead compartment, and sat next to an African American man typing on his Vaio. Jeremy glanced over.

“Can I help you?” said the man, annoyed.

“I was just… um… no, thanks,” stammered Jeremy.

“I thought so.” Jeremy looked at his watch. 3:50. He was early. Obviously, at 3 a.m. Since it was so early, there was barely anyone on the train except for a pudgy woman with a bandana covering her graying curly hair with a layered dress, and a teenager listening to an iPod. He looked out the window, careful to avoid the man’s laptop at all costs so as not to be accused again. He saw the train station and the pub outside. He also saw a limo with 3 men getting out in suits (one was in gray, one was in blue, and one was a weird purple color) and ties and black leather shoes get out, start shouting, and then start pointing at him and running. Jeremy saw that the one in purple had a gun holster on his belt, and was carrying a pistol. Jeremy cussed under his breath. He grabbed a 3 Musketeers bar out of his duffle, looked up and down the aisle, threw it, then crawled on his hands and knees to get to it. He quickly ran to the next cart. By doing so, he also ran into a burly conductor.

“Son, I need to see your ticket.”

“But, I need to-“

“Your ticket, please!”

“It’s in my bag, back there…” said Jeremy weakly.

“Well, then, go get it!” said the conductor impatiently. Jeremy turned around to get it, then slipped past the conductor and sprinted down the aisle.

“Hey!” shouted the conductor, surprised.

“I need to get off the train!” shouted Jeremy, seeing that, 3 carts down, the men were entering the train. The one in purple had put away his gun, but still had his hand resting on the holster. He scrambled, searching for a place to hide. A small voice in the back of his head was asking him why he was running from 3 men he didn’t even know. He told it that he knew the one in gray. It was Mr. Pseudo. He looked everywhere, then saw a door to the next cart. Unfortunately, the next cart was the conductor’s area. The train shuttered to a start. Had it been 10 minutes already? He sprinted down the aisle and through the door at the end of the cart.

“Perfect. Automated train,” said Jeremy, staring at all the dials and buttons decorating the general black walls. He looked out the front windows. They reminded him of riding in the front of a monorail in Disney World. He heard footsteps coming loudly to the cart. They were one door away. Jeremy’s heart was beating like a hummingbird and adrenaline pulsed through his body. As he heard the door open, he slammed himself next to the door to the left side. One of the men, the one in gray (Mr. Pseudo), walked in, and Jeremy slipped out behind him. He felt Mr. Pseudo’s elbow jam into the back of his spine as he tripped into the two other men. The through him to the ground, and then one of them immediately jammed his heel into his rib cage. Pain seared through his chest, and when he tried to get up, or even breathe, it got worse. Then, the two men yanked him up from the floor just as Mr. Pseudo was walking out. He hung limp in their grasp, his head was hanging down, and his feet were barely touching the ground; the toe of his left boot was skimming the poorly carpeted aisle.

“We’ve got him, sir,” said the one in violet.

“Wonderful,” said Mr. Pseudo. “Jeremy, you do live up to standards, don’t you? We expected you to escape, but you put up a well-fought battle. You would be perfect for our academy.”

“The Remedial Academy for Boys?” asked Jeremy incredulously.

“No. The American Minor Training Academy for FBI/CIA, 8G, section B. You can call it AMTA FC.”

“FBI… You think that I’m eligible for the FBI?!” cried Jeremy.

“You’ve escaped a familiar facility within 17 hours, you have prepared necessarily for the escape, and have set up a partially successful plan as to the occasion you should meet known people. We teach you the necessary skills, and you get a passing grade on the 8th grade, even pass with flying colors if you do well. Even though I was lying about the Academy, I’m not lying about your grades. If you don’t pick it up, you will be held back. Multiple years, probably. So you choose. Academy, or St. Arthur’s.” Jeremy knew that Mr. Pseudo was blackmailing him. And Mr. Pseudo knew the answer that Jeremy would obviously pick.

“Fine. I’ll go,” answered Jeremy reluctantly.

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Mr. Pseudo as if he had never expected him to say yes. “Allow me to introduce my colleagues. This,” he said, pointing to the man in blue, “is Dr. Ver. He is the psychological and technological doctor in our… department. He handles the technology and helps us figure out the psychological paths of whatever threat we are facing. And this,” he said, pointing to the man in purple, “is Mr. Cide. He is commander and designer of all firearms, weaponry, and, to put it simply, gadgets. We will be your instructors for 10 weeks. That is your training period. I will explain the rest in the limo,” said Mr. Pseudo, and then motioned to follow them out of the train. The last one out was Mr. Cide, and he pressed a button to start the train.

“Don’t worry, people, just a technological difficulty, should be fixed in a moment,” said Dr. Ver to the few people on the train. As they made their way off the train, Jeremy realized how long he would have to walk. Just as he was about to start walking, Dr. Ver took out a little device that looked like a key with a circular metal edge instead of teeth and had a little screen on it.

“Coordinates unknown. Tracking activate. Autopilot activate,” said Dr. Ver to the little key. The little screen turned green, and then he put the key back into his pocket.

“Self-serving limo,” Dr. Ver said simply. In a couple minutes, Jeremy saw the limo coming over the horizon. Just as it came to them, it swerved and stopped so the doors were facing them. They all got in, and then the door shut automatically. The limo had patent onyx seats with small bars of lights under shelves holding wine glasses. He opened a cover curiously. It held a tape recorder, a pen, and a pair of headphones. He was about to pick up the headphones when Mr. Pseudo said “Eh, eh, eh, Jeremy! Those are highly sensitive field tools that are not to be used by uneducated agents. Curiosity killed the cat.”
“And satisfaction brought it back,” said Jeremy under his breath.
“What was that, Jeremy?” asked Dr. Ver.
“Oh, nothing,” he said. “I was just wondering, um,” Jeremy quickly tried to
think of something to change the subject. “Uh, do you have a driver?” asked Jeremy quickly.

“No. Well, we used to, but he quit many years ago. Now we just have autopilot.” They were speeding away from the train station, and when Jeremy looked out the window, he saw Barney waving at him in front of the pub, smirking.

“I shoulda known…” Jeremy mused with wounded pride.

“Known what, Jeremy?” asked Dr. Ver.

“You had Barney in on it too?” asked Jeremy.

“Ah, yes, Barney is one of our best undercover recruitment agents.”

“Uh, where is the Academy, exactly?” asked Jeremy.

“In Switzerland.”

“Um, are my parents okay with… Oh, geez! My parents! What did you tell them?” asked Jeremy suddenly.

“Oh, don’t worry, we told them that we just came to get you a little early. Your father was… asleep, it seemed.”

“Oh, yeah, Dad. He does sometimes.”

“Hm. I see,” said Dr. Ver.

“So, anyway, are my parents okay with me going all the way to Switzerland?” asked Jeremy.

“Oh, yes, they are quite fine with it, considering that they think that the Academy is in Washington D.C.”

“Well, what if they try to come to visit me?” asked Jeremy.

“They won’t. We have told them that they are not allowed into the Academy for cheating reasons as far as their knowledge goes. Speaking of which, you will be allowed to visit your family once every 6 weeks. If you would like to. Though training only lasts 10 weeks, you may be on field missions or in the lab, also. In all, if all goes expectantly, then you should be done in about a year.” They continued driving without conversation for a couple of hours until they reached a private government airport in Pennsylvania.

“Jeremy,” asked Mr. Pseudo. “Please show me your duffle.” Jeremy reluctantly shoved the duffle towards them on the ground with his shoe. Mr. Cide picked up the duffle, reached inside, and pulled out the piece of paper he was writing in the pub.

“That was just…I…was bored,” mumbled Jeremy. Mr. Cide looked at it, and then handed it to Mr. Pseudo.

“You know, Mr. Pseudo here is an expert on lying,” said Dr. Ver. Jeremy could see that Mr. Pseudo was inspecting his paper, and he liked it. That was the horrible part.

“You know, I never meant to be your star student!” said Jeremy suddenly with anger. “What if I don’t want to be a FBI… whatever agent? What if I’m not cut out for it? You guys just come here, take me here against my will, and then expect me to go willingly? Well, guess what! You might be able to take me to your stupid academy, but you have no way to keep me there!” Jeremy was panting, palms sweating, and hands in fist.

“Jeremy,” said Dr. Ver. “you are a natural. You know that. We know that. Believe it or not, this may be the best option for you. You said that you weren’t interested in this path, even though you have a calling, then what field of work were you interested in?”

“I don’t know… I would probably end up a car mechanic either way. Maybe a soldier, ‘cause that seems easy…”

“Hm. Car mechanic soldier. Sounds fulfilling. Jeremy, why do you refuse to work with us? You could be a very bright young man in this business. You have the skills, if you just tap into them! Why-“

“Why? You wanna know why? ‘Cause no one ever cares about me!” screamed Jeremy. The few people in the airport turned to stare. “All they do is say what I should be doing, and how they are all ‘disappointed’ in me for not doing it! Well, it’s harder than it looks being a stupid, rule-breaking teenager who no one believes in. No one ever gives me a choice! And,” he continued. “On top of it all, people ever do is say how I could’ve done better! So don’t lecture me about not doing my best, ‘cause once people appreciate me now, then I’ll make an effort. I’m not doing this for anyone. I’m doing it for myself. And I say that I’m doing just fine.” The trio just stared at him, Mr. Pseudo still holding the lined paper.
Just then, they heard the boarding call for Switzerland.
“Jeremy, we will give you a chance now,” said Dr. Ver. “If you want to go, you can go right now, and we will supply you with the right paperwork to get back legally.”

“We blocked you from entering Massachusetts without our signature and an escort from an armed personal,” explained Mr. Cide. “My idea,” he added proudly.

“You said that no one ever has given you a choice. Now you have one.” The metallic voice called the last boarding call for Switzerland. He glared at the 3 men and stubbornly picked up his bags and headed toward the boarding station.

“I knew it,” said Mr. Pseudo smugly. They all followed him and boarded the plane.

When Jeremy got on, he was amazed. He had only been on a plane once, when he was going to see his cousins in Connecticut, and he was in the lowest class. He spent the entire time being kicked in the back by a 5-year-old and watching The Office (which was actually pretty funny) off the portable DVD player from the guy next to him. This plane looked like Air Force 1. Everyone had their own seat, and they had a huge window and their own TV set. Everyone even had their own mini bar! This was a jumbo jet, so Jeremy enjoyed going up and down the stairs.

“So, where do I sit?” asked Jeremy.

“You? You sit with us in the captain’s quarters. We need to talk. By the way, enjoy this luxury of comfort. It’s the last you’ll have in a long time.” Jeremy followed the men through the aisles, up the stairs (which he still found amusing) and came to a large, steel door. The men had to do a retinal scan.

“Jeremy, put your eye into the port, and try not to blink,” said Dr. Ver. Jeremy did as he was told, and suddenly, the color red almost blinded him.

“He said not to blink!” shouted Mr. Cide. He was still on edge from the chase; he has a jacked up adrenaline.

“It was his first time!”
As if reading his mind, Mr. Pseudo said, “Don’t worry. It’s only the protolaser.” His voice sounded distant. Then, a green beam slowly made its way from left to right. It was over, and though it only took a second, it felt like hours.

“Best get used to it,” said Mr. Pseudo. “You’re going to have to do it a lot at the academy.” Then, once the little screen beside the place where you put your eyes flashed green, he entered a long code, then the door unlatched. The 4 of them walked in to find what Jeremy imagined as a Ritz Carleton suite. There were brown luxurious leather sofas, a sleek flat-screen TV, and a separate meeting room. Straight ahead were the controls and 2 empty seats for which the captain would probably be sitting. Jeremy looked closer. A little screen read AUTOPILOT, and under it showed a route to the Swiss Alps.

“Phew,” murmured Jeremy to himself. He followed the 3 men into the meeting room. The captain was a tall, middle-aged man with slight wrinkles and a receding hairline. His grayish-brown hair was barely visible under his cap.

“Welcome, Jeremy. I’m Mr. Rome. I’m the official captain for the FBI recruitment program. Nice to meet you.” He held out his hand. Jeremy took it while returning the greeting. The handshake almost crushed his hand. He hid it behind his back while his left hand was massaging it, and he bit his tongue so he wouldn’t cry out.

“Mr. Rome, Jeremy here has just been introduced to the FBI. Would you like to brief him?” asked Mr. Pseudo.
“Why, yes, yes of course. Jeremy, since you are under eighteen, you are in
The FBI Junior Recruitment program. Therefore, we cannot introduce you to full training until you turn 18. The FBI recruitment program gives you an acceptable curriculum, therefore helping you in your academic status. Once you are 18, you may either continue participating in the FBI or CIA forces, or return to standard academic schooling. This, of course, is secret and must not be told.” As Jeremy opened his mouth to speak, Mr. Rome continued on. “You will get up every morning at 5:30 a.m. for physical training until 8:00. Then come the core classes. Science, English, History, etc. Then, you go to the CIA training lab for studying specialized chemistry from 3:10 p.m. till 5:00 p.m. You then have dinner at 5:30, an hour of free time, and then have more physical training from 8:00-8:30. You are in bed by 9:00 p.m.” When Jeremy confirmed he was done speaking, he asked,
“Why did you recruit me?”
“Well, we needed junior participators and-“
“No, I mean, what do you need me for? You wouldn’t take in a kid like me for no reason.” Jeremy knew something was going on.

“You know that if he’s going to be involved, you can’t keep the truth from him. Better to tell him early,” said Mr. Rome.

“Jeremy,” started Dr. Ver. “He’s right. You should know.
That’s why we’re going to tell you everything that we know right now.”
“Okay…”
“Jeremy, we got this letter about a month ago from a national threat.
He calls himself Matri.” Matri. Jeremy felt like he had heard that name before. Mr. Pseudo slid a piece of paper across the table for Jeremy to read. It was laminated, and was oily from all the tests they had done on it.

Dear Mr. and Mrs. President,


I hate to alarm you, but I would just like to say that I am going to destroy the United States of America. Please do not take it personally, but your country has done something entirely of the same degree of hatred to me. An eye for an eye, as I always say.

I have sent similar letters to every country in the world. In 3 months, they will all be conquered and under my reign.

No matter how much fire power you have, no matter how much military you use, you cannot defeat me without destroying your country. It all comes down to who does it first; me or you. Therefore, there is no harm in telling you that, on a personal level, I hate you very, very much. Even though I pointed out that there is no personal connection to my plan in the previous paragraph, I admit that there is. I believe that, if you remember me once I reveal myself after my plan has gone into effect, it will bring back some old memories.
Anyway, your newest system, ComputerGO CX410,
is mine now. Yes, I admit it, I stole it. Juvenile, yes, but nonetheless effective. You can’t get it back, so I suggest you move on to the problem at hand. I know how to operate it, and know things that you haven’t even tried to explore yet. I wish I was next to you to relish your expression. I will release my wrath in 6 months. Be prepared, Mr. President, for what I am planning is beyond your imagination.

Good Luck!


Matri

Jeremy didn’t quite know what to make of the letter, except for the fact that this Matri person didn’t seem quite as intimidating as he had expected.

“What is ComputerGO?” asked Jeremy.

“That’s what I was getting to,” said Mr. Pseudo. “ComputerGO is a program that allows you to enter your computer physically.”

“Meaning…”

“Let’s say you want to research Africa for school. You can enter your computer’s internet to actually virtually go to Africa for a firsthand experience. This program was meant to be used for restricted government purposes only for a while, then maybe for schoolwork. Unfortunately, as one of the two machines was being transported from an armored truck into the Pentagon, it was stolen, apparently by Matri. Luckily, we have one of our own, so we are not completely left in the dark. When Matri said that his weapon could not be destroyed with firearms, we think he’s going to use ComputerGO to access every American’s computer and do something to it; we don’t know what, yet.”

“So, why do you need someone like me to do the job?” asked Jeremy.

“We know that Matri has bugged our government base holding ComputerGO. He is monitoring us, and if we send any adults other than ourselves in over 18, he will blow up our base.”
“Where do we train and do school if we can’t do it in the building?”

“We have set up a building system of buildings in the Swiss Alps. We have set up a fake report that we were trying to use ComputerGO for schoolchildren so that when he uses it, they will not completely shun it. Therefore, all mission briefing must take place in the air and in this room, otherwise we, and the base, are history,” continued Dr. Ver.



“That’s why we need 3 children to-“

“Wait. 3? Who are the other kids?”

“Their names are Alex and Pike. Alex is from Ontario and Pike is from Los Angeles. As I was saying, that’s why we need 3 children to do our work. We can’t do anything.”

“So, what you’re saying is that I’m risking my life to a national predator that can’t be defeated by trained adult field agents?”

“To be blunt, yes,” said Mr. Cide.

“When do I start?” Jeremy said with a grin.

After the plane landed in the Swiss Alps, Jeremy was amazed. All of the mountains slid into one another as if someone had personally smoothed them. The mountain peaks were joined by jagged crevices that slit into the earth. Though their landing was not exactly smooth, Jeremy was entranced by the natural beauty of the Swiss Alps.
“Jeremy, come on. This way,” said one of the 3 men. It took all Jeremy had to rip his eyes away from the mountains. He followed the men inside what looked like a factory from the 50’s. When he looked inside, it felt like a fortress. High stone walls covered the rusted metal. There were tons of retinal scanners, fingerprint readers, and code accepters to every door that there was. Outside, a barbed wire fence rife with billions of volts of electricity protected the factory. Over the top of the factory was a helicopter landing pad and receptors that picked up even the slightest movement within 146 miles from the receptor, which was in one of the old smokestacks and was protected by 1 ½ tons of steel. No one got in or out without the 3 men knowing. They entered the factory. It had high windows on the top of either side, a long red carpet in front of him, and there were 3 doors on each side with a series of retinal scanners, code accepters, and finger print scanners. For a couple minutes, Dr. Ver and Mr. Cide were bickering, leaving him to daydream and inspect a little bit.
“Jeremy?” started Dr. Ver, snapping him out of his observations. “It’s time to meet your teammates.”

CHAPTER 2: The Team

Mr. Cide went in to get Alex and Pike while Dr. Ver and Mr. Pseudo waited with Jeremy. After a couple minutes of getting actually into the room, Mr. Cide came out with 2 kids. Pike was a tallish boy with curly dirty blonde hair and brown eyes. He was fairly tan, and looked very cold in cargo shorts and a graphic tee shirt.
“Hey, nice to meet ya,” said Pike, offering his hand. Jeremy reached out and shook it. Alex was a girl with long black hair pulled into a tight ponytail. She wore jeans and a rolled up tank top that said CAMP ONT MARINES JUNIOR. She too offered her hand, and Jeremy reluctantly shook it with a grimace on his face.
“What do you expect? A curtsy?” she said sharply, her eyes shooting daggers.
“Pike and Alex got here yesterday. We’ll show you 3 to your rooms. Training starts tomorrow, 5:30 sharp, so I suggest a good night’s sleep. No talking.”
“This isn’t a slumber party, you know.” retorted Alex.
“Just go to bed early,” ordered Mr. Cide. Alex didn’t talk back this time. Their rooms were on the fourth floor, and they each had a bed, 2 lamps, a dresser, a nightstand, and a bathroom. Alex’s and Jeremy’s were next to each other while Pike’s was across the hall. Mr. Pseudo’s, Dr. Ver’s, and Mr. Cide’s rooms were down the corridor.
“Who brought you here?” asked Pike.
“Well, Mr. Pseudo came to my house, but a guy named Barney got me here. What about you?”
“Dr. Ver came to my house.”
“Mr. Cide came to mine,” said Alex. Jeremy fought the urge to shoot a comment at Alex according to the ‘coincidence’ that Mr. Cide, the most, well, loudest, of the three agents, came to Alex of all 3 of them.
“Hey, Alex, have you ever been in the states before?” asked Pike.
“No,” she answered shortly.
“I’ve been to Canada,” offered Jeremy.
“Cool. Where?” asked Pike.
“Niagara Falls.”
“Oh, sweet! Sometime, when I’m older, I want to do that barrel over the fa-
“Guys, focus! While you guys are talking about throwing yourself over a cliff with water on it, some evil person’s trying to plot how to destroy and take over the world!” exclaimed Alex. The trio was silent for a moment, and then Alex said quietly, “We have 2 months to try and save the world.” Then, Jeremy went to turn on the TV. They watched for a while, and then Pike said, “Do you think that the 3 guys’ names are code names?”
“Why?” asked Jeremy.
“Well, I just think it’s weird that they’re all-“
“Why do I still here chit chat? It’s 9:00! You guys are gonna get in bed now or you’re going to pay for it in the morning!” shouted Mr. Cide from down the hall. At that, Pike and Alex left Jeremy’s room, leaving him alone. He went to get undressed and brush his teeth, then get into the bed. It was huge, and really comfy. The only thing that he hated about the room was that there were no windows. He knew it was for their safety and all, but he would’ve risked 1 night just so he could look at the stars when there wasn’t any city lights blocking their glow.

Jeremy wanted to murder his alarm clock. It woke him up at 4:30 a.m.?! He reached for the snooze button, only to realize that it had fell off the nightstand. He rolled over to try and find the buzzing contraption, and when his fingertips brushed it, it moved. Jeremy opened his eyes. Not only was the devilish alarm clock pre-set, it had wheels. It didn’t let you hit the snooze button without getting up and turning the thing off. Jeremy groggily flipped the covers off, shivering in the early morning air to try and find the alarm clock. He squinted, trying to adjust his eyes to the dawn gloom. He saw the little machine whirring around, following the glow of the fluorescent blue screen. It zoomed under his bed. He immediately dropped to his chest, reached his hand out, and grabbed the little thing. He took his hand out from under the bed and examined the clock. It was white, with to large wheels on either side. He inspected the bottom; there was a foam pad with shock absorbers.
He went in the bathroom. Shower time. He threw open the shower curtain. It was a combined bath and shower, with white plastic, with a bar and a soap dish. On the corners of the tub were shampoo and conditioner. He turned on the water and let it run for a little bit. After he assumed it was warm, he stepped in.
“AIYEEEE!” The water was ice cold! Jeremy stepped out, got a towel, and looked at the shower dial. All it said over the dial was “COLD”.
“Figures…” said Jeremy under his breath. He took of the tile, put the shampoo in his hair, and then quickly stepped in. He grabbed the bar of soap, rubbed it over himself, then washed it all off. He skipped the conditioner. He was running late. He quickly got out, grabbed the towel, and swabbed himself dry. Then, he got himself dressed in basketball shorts and a t-shirt. He looked at the clock. 5:25! Where was he even supposed to go?! He slipped on some sneakers and sprinted down the hall to the foyer of the factory. He found Alex, Dr. Ver, and Mr. Pseudo waiting there, the teachers with a look of all-knowingness on their faces, and Alex and Pike with a look of apprehension to match. .









CHAPTER 3: The Tests

“Where are we supposed to go?” asked Jeremy.
“We’re going to show you the places you will go for the first few days. Then you are on your own,” said Dr. Ver. Just then Pike came running out of his room as he was pulling on a sweatshirt, his hair damp.
“There’s something wrong with the shower! It’s only cold water!” shouted Pike.
“There’s a reason for that. And this goes to all of you,” said Mr. Pseudo, looking at the 3. “We are in the Swiss Alps. It is obviously naturally cold. We have a limited energy supply that can last for 5 weeks straight, and will be replenished every 4 weeks, if all goes as planned. We want to conserve time and energy. That means no soaking in a long hot shower. Moving on?” Dr. Ver gave them all what looked to be a tightly packed granola bar.
“Eat it. It has protein and nutrients that you’re going to need for today,” he said. Just as he said that, Mr. Cide walked out, looking tired and gloomy.
“Let’s go,” he mumbled. He led the way through a far door on the left. He scanned his eye and entered a code.
“All of you, place your eye in the port,” instructed Dr. Ver. The 3 kids did as was ordered, Jeremy prepared this time.
“Now, for the first day, you will be taking a series of tests, physical, psychological, and mental. You will all be split up individually. Alex, you will go to physical first. Jeremy, to mental. Pike, you go to psychological. Alex, follow Mr. Cide, Jeremy with Mr. Pseudo. Pike, you come with me. Now, not to put strew on you, but if all of you don’t pass these tests, you will be personally excused from participating in this mission. This is an immensely serious situation, so we need the best of the best,” All Jeremy focused on, of course, was that he was being paired up with a man he despised, doing something he stunk at. He walked over to Mr. Pseudo.
“Hello, Jeremy.”
“Hello, Mr. Pseudo.”
“I understand that you think of yourself as not incredibly intelligent.”
“Yes, I do,” said Jeremy, continuing the standoff.
“These tests will find out.” Jeremy followed Mr. Pseudo into the last room on the left. They had to do a retinal scan, enter a series of codes, and a scan of all their finger prints just so they could enter a bare room. No other doors, no furniture, just a mirror.
“Figure out how to escape this room,” said Mr. Pseudo. Then, he left the way he came, and then a wall elapsed over the door.

“Crap,” said Jeremy to himself. He knew that the mirror was probably a 1-way window, so he went to inspect it. He was hanging on the wall. He removed it and examined it. It had brown paper on the back of it, and a single wire that went from left to right on the upper part of the mirror. He looked back on the wall. There was nothing there. That’s when it hit him. There was nothing there! How can you hang something if there’s no nail, and no hole where a nail would be? He tore off the paper to find that the entire back of the mirror was a magnet. He removed the magnet and the wire to find a slip of paper that said:
24-22-11
“Well, that’s a help,” murmured Jeremy to himself. He inspected the wall where the mirror used to be. There had to be some magnetic force since that was what the mirror was held up by. He took the magnet to it. It stuck. He tried the wire from the back of the mirror to it. It wasn’t attracted, which meant that it wasn’t metal. He searched the room for any other feature. He found a little square area in the top right corner of the room. He pried it open and found a tiny cylinder.
“No help,” he muttered to himself. He looked at where the door used to be. There was a slight crease in it. He tried prying the wire into it. No use. He looked at the wire more closely. He realized that the wire was braided from 3 coils. He managed to uncoil the 3 wires (and possibly inducting permanent line marks on his fingertips) and studied them more closely. One looked like copper, one looked like aluminum, and one looked like an electrical wire. He decided to check the electrical wire. He looked at the tip; there was no fray as far as he could see, but he remembered something about magnets and electricity making something really powerful. But there wasn’t an electrical socket, so he couldn’t use it. He looked back at the mirror. He slammed his fist against the glass.
“OWWW!!!” The glass splintered, some digging its way into his hand. He took off his shirt and wrapped it around the severed hand. He looked at where the glass used to be. There was a card that had a code on it. It also had a weird picture on it that looked like a bunch of squiggles. He slipped into one of his pockets, and then moved on. He grabbed one of the pieces of glass, careful not to cut his other hand, then tried scratching on the wall. It worked. He went to where the door was, and started scratching. He had no idea how much time had passed since the beginning of the test. He continued scraping until he heard an odd metal clink. He scratched in that area until he found that there was a little hole. It looked liked a bullet hole or a pock mark. Then, he got the wire from the back of the mirror and worked it into the hole. He heard a click, then a whirring sound. He turned to see a little area of the wall was sliding out. He looked on top of the section. It had a little slit in it. He took the key card slid it in, and then heard another click. He turned around to see the wall cover sliding off of the open door and Mr. Pseudo was standing in the frame.
“And you thought you weren’t intelligent.”

Mr. Pseudo and Jeremy walked for a while, Jeremy drenched with sweat and his hand still slightly bleeding.
“Jeremy, you finished the puzzle in 23 minutes and 37 seconds. That’s almost a record; the only one lower was in 21 minutes and 16 seconds. Still. We’ve been recruiting agents for 20 years. What you did was amazing. You underestimate yourself, Jeremy. You were… amazing,” Mr. Pseudo finished. Jeremy was silent for a moment, and then said, “Were you watching me? I didn’t see anything except the pock mark that I stuck the wire in.”
“Yes, there was a miniature camera in the back of the mirror and in the pockmark. You almost destroyed it with the wire. I must say, you escaped rather creatively. Most just stick the cylinder in the pock mark and pull to open the door; the cylinder had a magnetic force to it, as did the mirror, and if you pulled quite hard, you could yank the cover up. Few have ever done it your way.”
“So, the bottom line is…”
“What do you mean?” inquired Mr. Pseudo.
“Did I pass?” asked Jeremy.
“Did you pass?” Mr. Pseudo repeated incredulously. “Jeremy, you passed with flying colors.”

Since Jeremy finished earlier than expected (even Mr. Pseudo, though he had faith in Jeremy, thought that it would take a deal longer), he was given a tour of the factory. He was first shown the cafeteria, and found out that they served thing like Cordon Bleu Chicken, and Cream of Basil soup. Then, he was shown the physical training room, where he got to see Alex punching the heck out of Mr. Cide. It was quite a humorous experience. After that, to his despair, Mr. Pseudo took him to the deck.

“This is where you may want to spend a portion of your free time,” said Mr. Pseudo. This may have been the first time that Jeremy fully agreed with him. It was still only about 8:00, so the sun was just over the peaks of the mountains. The beams of light radiated with the indigo mountains as contrast. A few scattered birds were gliding through the crisp, thin air. Jeremy could hear a distant wolf call nestled within the deep foliage to communicate to the isolated world around them.

“This… is unbelievable,” spluttered Jeremy.

“Yes, I truly believe that it is,” replied Mr. Pseudo. They stood there for a while, admiring the tapestry of vibrant life for a while. Jeremy was beginning to realize the magnitude of the situation. He, a 14-year-old boy, was going to save the world along with two other kids from a complete lunatic who will unleash a weapon that is completely unpredictable. He made himself a promise. He is going to save the world, and go down in history. I’m going to save the world, he thought. He thought it again. It reminded him of when he was little and still liked comic books. He thought of Superman in his red cape and blue tights, and Wonder Woman, with her bullet-proof Amazonian wristlets. He wasn’t like any of them. But he was going to do what they did. As he was thinking this possibly life changing epiphany, the pair just kept standing there, examining every nook and cranny of the vast landscape in front of them until Mr. Pseudo finally broke the trance.

“Alex, I believe that it is time for your psychological test with Dr. Ver. I will lead you back downstairs to the main hall. From there, I must take Pike to the physical room. Should by any chance you see Pike or Alex before they are taken into the testing room, you are forbidden to breathe a word about the test to them, or else you shall be punished severely.” Alex simply nodded and followed Mr. Pseudo. As they were walking the dimly lit halls of the somewhat foreboding factory, Mr. Pseudo said, “Wait for Dr. Ver by the middle door on the left side of the hallway.” They arrived at the main corridor a few moments later, seeing Pike and Alex. Jeremy walked over to the door that Mr. Pseudo told him was the testing room. Dr. Ver joined him.

“Hello, Jeremy. This is a psychological test, as you may have heard. There is no right or wrong answers.” After they correctly accessed all of the right access necessities, they entered a room that looked like a living room. It had a red couch in the corner, an ottoman, and a desk with a glass lamp on it. There were three doorways from the room; one to the right, one straight ahead, and one to the left.

“Jeremy, you will be sent into a puzzle not unlike the one you were just in. This time, though, the object is not to get out. I will not tell you the object of the maze; that is for you to find out. I will closely monitor your movements and translate them into psychological terms. Good luck, Jeremy.” And with that, Dr. Ver turned around and left the way he came. This time, a covering did not fall over the door. He could leave right now if he wanted to. But that wasn’t what someone who was going to save the world in a couple of months would do. He walked into the door in front of him. It was en exact mirror of the room before; red couch, desk with the lamp. He spun around. Now, there were four doors; One in back of him, one in front of him, and two beside him. He went through the right door. The same thing. He was beginning to grasp what the puzzle was. Though, if the point of it wasn’t to get out, then what was the point? For a couple minutes he just stood there dumbly, and then he went to sit on the couch. As he sat down, he felt something odd in the stuffing. He looked down at where he was sitting, and saw a lump in the cushion. He tried to feel for it, but he couldn’t make out what it was. He went over to the desk and opened the drawer. He found a piece of paper and a blue pen. He took the pen, popped out the tip, and began to rip around the lump in the pillow. He took out a puzzle piece. It was bare off-white except for an end of a squiggle in the middle.

“What is this?” Jeremy asked himself. He slipped the puzzle piece in his pocket. This was one of the farthest rooms to the right because there was no door leading to the left, so he decided on going forward. It was, of course, the exact same room he was just in, except this time, there was no lump in the couch. He searched the room over, top to bottom. The last spot he came to was the desk. He looked in the chair, looked under the chair, looked under the desk; he looked just about everywhere. As he opened the top drawer on the side, he found the paper and the blue pen, aligned just as it was in the last room. The paper looked odd, though; very thick. He lifted the paper up out of the drawer-no result. Even so, the paper did still feel thick. He examined it, felt it, and found a slight indent. The paper was about 8 ½ x 12 inches; It seemed that there was a paper inside of it that was a little bit smaller; say, 8 x 11 inches. He looked through the drawers, remembering subconsciously noticing a pair of scissors a couple minutes ago. Finally, he found the scissors. He delicately lifted the paper out of its place and began cutting the edge. When he was done, he realized that the paper was not just one paper-it was two papers glued together. He ripped the papers apart to find yet another slip of paper, this one smaller. This was the paper he had been feeling when he first noticed how thick the paper was. He carefully removed the slip to find a crudely drawn picture. It resembled a map of the rooms. As far as Jeremy could tell, there were 30 rooms, 6 rooms across and 5 rooms down. There was some smudged ink around it, and it looked like it had been in the rain. He looked at the map and found the room he had begun with. It was in the center of the bottom row. He grabbed the blue pen and marked a big “x” on it. If he remembered right, from that room he went up 1 room and across 2 rooms to the left. He did the same to the 3 rooms he went in and the room he was in now. He then shoved the pen and the paper into the pocket of his cargos that was sitting next to his knee and continued to scour the desk area for a puzzle piece. He was checking under the desk again when he lifted and bumped his head. He looked up to see that there was a little latch underneath the desk that you could have lifted up. He went to open it when he realized that the hole where the knob of used to be was empty. He looked around the underside of the desk and found nothing.

“Of course,” Jeremy muttered to himself. He tried to think of something to replace the knob. Finally, he settled on trying to stick the pen in there and try to pry it open. He too the pen out of his pocket (which was quite a feat, considering he was jammed into the underside of a relatively small desk) and shoved it in the hole. He rotated it a little, and yanked. He felt the latch move a little, but it didn’t give. There must’ve been some sort of lock on the inside. How can I unlock a lock on the inside from the outside? thought Jeremy. He got out from under the desk (to his relief) and stood up straight. He looked at the top of the desk. It was nice; dark wood, separated into 2 panels, 1 smaller one on top of the drawer section to the right and a larger one on top of everything else to the left. He thought for a moment, then, realizing how stupid he was, tried to pry open the left panel. It gave easily. He put the panel to the side and inspected what was under it. It was a large open section with a wooden box built into it in the center. Jeremy assumed that this was the latch that he had found on the bottom. He looked closer. He saw that there was a 4-digit combination code that opened the lock.

“Crap!” said Jeremy under his breath. He then looked away, searching the desk for some clues. He took out the map of the rooms. He flipped it over and found… nothing. He searched everywhere; the couch cushions, the pillows, the lamp, the ottoman. Everywhere. He just sat down on the ottoman to think and wallow. Mostly wallow, though. He had tried everything. He can’t fail this test. Dr. Ver had said that there were no wrong answers, but he knew that there were. He had probably been wandering around for an hour now. He had only gotten 1 puzzle piece and a map. Speaking of which, he picked up the wrinkled piece of paper and decided to look at it again. As he saw the map again, he noticed something different. The smudges seem to form a light line, leading from the beginning room to the door on the top row in the center of the 5 rooms. Though, instead of going in a straight line, it curved around a bit, passing the room he found the first puzzle piece in. He went back to the room. It wasn’t that difficult, seeing as he had ripped the couch stuffing. He looked at the map again. He went to the left this time. Luckily, he saw the familiar bump under the couch. He took it. It was, of course, another puzzle piece. This one looked like it went diagonal from the piece he had found. They were both corner pieces. That means the puzzle was only a 4 piece puzzle. He followed the map to the next 2 rooms to retrieve the puzzle pieces. At the last room, he sat down at the desk to try and piece them all together (not like that was a chore.) He found out that the puzzle pieces spelled out 4 numbers.
5830
The safe in the desk. It had to be. The 4-digit combination was in the puzzle pieces! He looked back at the map; there was a large “smudge” in a room off to the right. He assumed that that was the room with the safe. When he got to the room with the safe, he immediately opened the larger panel of the desk. There was the lock; faithfully waiting. He entered the code, and he heard something drop underneath the desk. He looked to see a small parcel wrapped tightly in brown paper. He quickly unwrapped it, and he saw a little black square with a red button on it. He pushed the button, and the walls of the room slowly started to rise by mechanical levers. Dr. Ver was standing across the midst of identical sets of furniture.

“Well done, Jeremy! Very well done! You completed the maze in only an hour and a half!” congratulated Dr. Ver.

“I thought you said that there were no right answers,” Jeremy pointed out.

“I didn’t want to put stress on you, and there really wasn’t. You would have passed anyway. We just wanted to examine what you’d do in a critical situation. And you, Jeremy, were very good. You didn’t look stupefied or try to open the door. You immediately understood my somewhat predictable way of thinking. Of course, you passed anyway if you hadn’t found the button, but it was wonderful that you did.” As Jeremy finally exited the assorted furniture, he looked up to see the oversized mesh of what used to be the walls. He followed Dr. Ver out of the training room, or rooms, and out back to the main foyer. The others were waiting for him.

“How’d ya do?” asked Pike.

“Fine. Don’t want to give too much away for Alex, though,” said Jeremy. Alex looked alarmed at first, but then she breathed in, closed her eyes, and her face relaxed. She murmured something under her breath.

“What?” asked Jeremy.

“It’s a calming exercise. I do it whenever I feel any uncomfortable emotion,” explained Alex. After that, Jeremy went in for his last test; physical. Mr. Cide walked up to him, gruff and bruised; presumably from Alex’s brutal punching he had seen earlier.

“All right,” he began. “I am at the end of my rope. That stupid girl punched the spleen out of me, and the dumb-ass boy almost knocked my tooth out! So, I swear, if you get on my nerves once, I will kick you, and I will kick you hard.” After Mr. Cide finished his speech, Jeremy followed him on an anxious note. They went to the first door on the right and did all the codes; Jeremy was used to the eye scan by now. Though, he always believed that his left eye would always see everything in a tint of red. Anyway, as they went into the gym, he saw weights, a punching bag, and an elliptical machine.

“Give me 20 straight pushups,” commanded Mr. Cide suddenly. Jeremy did as he was told and dropped to the blue Velcro mats. He did 20 pushups, and realized that he needed to work on his upper body strength.

“Now, stand up,” he ordered. Jeremy did so. He inspected him, then said, “Look at this! All flab. I am 45 years old with cement abs. You need to lose this. For that purpose, I will work overtime with you.” He talked in short, staccato sentences, like the Chinese sensei that Jeremy saw on the Karate Kid. Jeremy never thought of himself as especially thin or fat, but now that he mentioned it, he did look a little chubby around the waist. This was probably the worst test of all. He had barely made it through without collapsing altogether. He had done 60 laps at a mile a lap in about an hour and a half (an hour and 27 minutes, to be exact. Mr. Cide scolded him for it, saying that he could’ve done it in ten.) He also had to do what Mr. Cide called the 3 One-Hundreds: 100 pull ups, 100 push ups, and 100 sit ups. It took all Jeremy had not to up-chuck. He had finished the horrible tasks in about 3 hours. It felt like 3 centuries. As he made his way back into the front foyer, every muscle in his body was sore. Every time he moved his foot up to take a step felt like someone had shoved a baseball bat through his ankle. When he met Pike and Alex there, he was relieved to stop walking.

“How was it?” asked Alex.

“I… feel… pain… EVERYWHERE!” Jeremy managed to spit out. They then announced that they were done for the day and to report to the cafeteria at 6:30. Alex painfully made it to his bedroom and took a nice bath. He didn’t care about how icy the water was; he was just glad to rest his muscles. He went to bed early; he didn’t even bother getting undressed. He just wanted to sleep and sleep and sleep until the world came to an end.
But, of course, at 5:30 a.m. sharp, the little rolling monster was sure to wake him up. Again. Then, he took a quick (and obviously cold) shower, got dressed, and then headed to the main foyer. This time, the 3 trainees found out that they were going to be having breakfast in the cafeteria instead of granola bars that tasted like a cereal box. They served hard boiled eggs, cereal, milk, juice, and other stuff like that. It was like a camp breakfast. Under dire circumstances, though. Jeremy was about to order some Lucky Charms and whole milk, but a glare from Mr. Cide made him change his mind to skim and Raison Bran. The starchy cornflakes were disgusting, but the raisons were okay. Alex got a hard boiled egg and some orange juice and Pike got Cocoa Krispies and whole milk. He was aloud to order that because he was a walking twig. They only had about 20 minutes to eat, and then they had to go to training. Jeremy, of course, had to spend 30 extra minutes doing push ups. No breaks; just push ups. It was a very brutal procedure, but Jeremy did notice that his “flab” was beginning to disappear. And by doing so, Jeremy also felt that someone had ripped out all the muscles in his arms, but that was okay. It wore o





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