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Will dove into the ball pit as the officer walked into the building, grey eyes scanning for him. Searching to bring him back to the school. He couldn’t let that happen.
His head popped up just a little bit before the officer finally realized that he had gone into the game room.
He cursed under his breath, hoping to God that the officer decided to stick to the video game section.
“What’re you doing in here? The big kids never come in here!”
Will’s eyes widened as he turned to the kid next to him. Only about five years old, holding onto a hat three times bigger than his head.
“Shh! I’m hiding.” He hissed.
The little boy grinned, “Can I play too?”
Will huffed as the officer came closer, his eyes trailing over the pit. Will dove back in, pleading with the boy to stay silent.
“What’re you doing down there? Are we playing now?” the little boy asked, throwing the balls left and right.
Will put his fingers up to his mouth, shushing the boy. But it was already too late.
Giant hands pulled him from the ball pit before he had the chance to run away. The officer and his partner must have discovered him when he was trying to keep the boy quiet.
“Truant again, Mr. Baker. Next time we might need to start chaining you to the desk.” The officer said, a slight smirk creeping up his face.
“The visor this time, I think.” The other officer said, turning to his partner.
Will’s stomach churned at the thought of the visor. He’d only been under twice before, but he never wanted to do it again.
“NO! No! I think I’m fine! No fights this time!” He exclaimed. Both officers looked at him in surprise. As though they couldn’t believe that he would be afraid of such a thing.
“Sorry, Will, protocol after five truancies in a row.” The officer said, cuffing Will’s hands behind him.
“But what if…” Will started.
The officer shook his head, “Not a chance.”
Will frowned, his eyes calculating. There was no way he was going to get out this one. Not with another officer waiting at the door.
These people knew him well. Well enough to know that he was smart enough to wrestle himself out of their grasp and escape once more.
“Well, well. Mr. Baker back once again. How many times have you broken out now? Twelve, thirteen times?” The officer at the door remarked.
Will scowled, “Fifteen.”
It wasn’t the first time he’d met this officer. They often met in ways similar to this. Only Will was usually running away from him. And usually succeeded with it too.
“Not getting away this time, are we?” The officer continued.
Will ignored the man as the others pushed him through the doors. The man didn’t deserve a reply. He never did. Not with the way he treated runaways like Will.
His eyes fell on the white visor in one of the officer’s hands as they approached the cop car. Its glowing red light flashed brightly even before they tried to put it over his eyes. Before it would suck him into the white abyss that he would never escape unless they decided that he was worth it.
“It’s better to relax when I put this on you. That way, it’s an easier transition.” The officer, holding him said.
Will was frozen in place. His limbs paralyzed with fear. But they knew this would happen already. That was probably why they had brought the officer that had dealt with him more than once.
He’d been lucky enough to catch Will twice before. The only two times he had witnessed the visor’s properties.
“Please, don’t do this to me. I promise I will do my best to stay in school for at least a week.” He begged.
The officer shook his head before shoving him onto the back seat of the cop car. His hands were pinned from behind him as the men held him down.
They wanted an easy ride. That’s why they had decided to put the visor on him, but Will sure as hell wouldn’t let them take him down that easily.
He kicked out, jarring the officer holding the visor over him in the head. The visor dropped from his clutches, landing on the concrete beneath them all.
Will elbowed one of the men holding his arms down. The anger in his body pierced his heart like an arrow.
He was free! For about fifteen seconds before the men recovered their wits. The man holding the visor looked agitated, and no longer empathetic to Will’s situation.
The man holding him punched him in the gut, making Will hunch over in pain. The breath was knocked out of him. And it was enough to restrain him without any fight. Because he had no air to do so.
The officer quickly placed the visor over Will’s head, locking the metal pieces in place as they attached to the parts drilled into his head as a baby. His eyes rolled back and his back lurched into the air, the volts of electricity firing through his body, consciousness wiped from him with a push of the button.
The officers backed away, heavy breathing echoing in the vacant parking lot. No one liked to see a kid subjected to something like that. The device they used to control the thoughts that entered ones’ mind. They were really ever only used on the rebels, but in some cases, the cops liked to use them on the kids that misbehaved enough. Will was one of the many. The many that believed that it was their time to control their lives. But in reality, it wasn’t. That’s what the government wanted them to believe anyway. That’s why they kept the kids stuck in their virtual worlds and the parents in their work stations.
And precisely why every kid in the world lived in boarding schools away from their parents. That way, there couldn’t be unwanted biases entering their innocent little minds.
“Back to the precinct this time?” The officer asked.
His partner shook his head, “The kid has already gone through enough trouble today. Let’s just take him back to the school.”
“Welcome back, Mr. Baker. Would you care to join the virtual hunting expedition?”
Will cursed under his breath as soon as he realized what they’d done. They hadn’t just locked him inside the white abyss, they had also decided to pick away at his thoughts while they locked him into the gaming world. The world where most kids stayed during the day.
The government found it easier to control kids’ progress that way. They could add lessons inside their chips while they gamed their lives away. The perfect way to control a person. As long as they didn’t have a mind of their own. Or questions about what was outside of the gaming world.
“I’ll have to decline that today, Mac.” Will said, scanning his surroundings.
The network codes seemed to illuminate more than usual today, running through the walls of his virtual home. And the kids seemed a little more rowdy.
The cops were definitely pecking away at his memories, his thoughts of the world. His experiences.
“We have a new action challenge, would you like to join that?” Mac asked. Will shook his head at the computer generated sim.
He just wanted to get out of there. And the easiest way to do that was to ignore everything the gov threw at you. Especially the games. Sometimes they would take hours at a time to complete a fraction of the mission. And he didn’t want to take that long.
“What about a party? Would you like to travel there?” Mac questioned, his voice pleading.
Will shook his head once more, “I don’t want anything there is to offer, Mac. I just want out of here.”
Mac frowned, his pixelated lips morphing into an upside down ‘u’.
“But what about all your friends? All your family meetings?” Mac countered.
Will huffed, his chest pumping up and down erratically. When would it all end?
“I’m just going to stay here and wait until I can see the light for ejection.” Will scowled.
Mac held up his hands in surrender, “Just at least listen to this message from your mother.”
“William Jordan Baker, I can’t believe you’ve skipped school for the fifth time this month! When your birthday comes, you are so going to suffer with the consequences of your actions!”
Will moaned at the sound of his mother’s voice. Angry voice. He knew that whenever she saw him next, she would suspend his real-time freedom. Which meant more people digging into his head. Searching for rebellious ideas that always popped into his mind.
“Just wait mister, as soon as I see you, you’re going to get a whipping!”
The recording ended, leaving Will hollow inside. Just the thought of being trapped inside this place longer than he needed to felt like torture. More than everything else anyone could do to him.
“There’s another expedition towards the surface of the Earth. Would you like to join?” Mac asked.
Will groaned in frustration. Hadn’t he already gone over this?
“No, Mac. I will not be going on anymore expeditions.” He spat.
Suddenly, a brilliant flash of light burned his eyes as he gazed before him. The time to leave had come. He was out of penance.
“See ya, Mac. We both know that I’ll be here again.” He said, bidding his farewell.
His eyes opened, but the officers weren’t yet done with him. The wires were still attached to his head, the engineers working on the reconstruction of his memories.
Their small silver tools poked at the back of his neck and up. The more time they had to rearrange, the better.
“Get your bloody hands off me!” Will growled. The officers looked at him in surprise. They thought for sure that the last suggestion would work.
“You’re not supposed to be conscious yet. Someone get the visor! We’re going to need to continue on with the procedures!” The first officer exclaimed.
Will peered down at his arms in frustration. His arms were cuffed to the arms of the chair, his feet bound to the bottom. And he had nowhere to go.
They were smart. Will surely would have taken advantage of a loose limb.
“I’ll never forget this! I will never forget my hatred for you all!” Will snarled as they placed the visor over him.
The fight was sucked out of him as soon as the visor hit his temples, a side effect of what they had done to them all.
“Goodnight, Mr. Baker.”
“Would you like to go on the expedition to Mars, Mr. Baker?” Mac asked, as soon as Will returned.
Will’s heart sank, his head throbbing, “Sure, Mac. I’ll join the expedition.”
What else would he do for another hour or so of captivity?
A gigantic grin spread across Mac’s face as soon as those words slipped from his lips. Mac had been trying to get him to join an expedition for six months now.
“Okay, close your eyes and hold out your arms.” Mac instructed.
Will did as he was told and held out his arms, stretching them as far as they would go. The battle suit would soon be placed on him. And soon after that, there would be a gray doorway, opened for him to jump into the game.
He gazed up as soon as hit feet hit the gritty sand beneath him. Hundreds of kids gathered at one point in the center of it all, taking ganders around the group, each of them beaming with excitement as soon as they spotted their comrades.
He had spawned only a few feet away from the center so he didn’t need to walk so far, but just the rushing wind pounding down on his face made it harder for him to breathe.
“Okay, that’s everybody.” A man hollered over the kids, as Will approached.
The men stood at the top of the low hanging cliff, carrying their guns with them. They were called the Praefectus , a simple, but powerful name. And not because of what they did. More how they acted. Walking around with the swagger of thousands of men. Their angry faces always glaring.
Will had seen many instances on the expeditions where a Praefectus had ejected kids because of either slow pacing or some cowardly acts, and ejections were no party. A kid would go through a very painful process as the shocks erupted through his or her body. Leaving the kids nearly useless for the rest of the day.
Will had only witnessed one once before. And he never wanted to do it again.
“We will be splitting into four groups this round. Once you hear your name, make your way to that Praefectus.” One of the Praefectus said.
Will huffed as a long list of names were called from the end of the alphabet. He would be one of the last called, he knew that. Most of the kids there had been on previous missions with him. Some of them had even worked on the same team as him.
“William Baker, you’re with me.”
Will forced a smile as a Praefectus stepped in front of him, checking off his name on the list. His broad shoulders pumped up and down as he pinned a red sigil to Will’s vest. His fuzzy lips an inch away from his ears.
“The Revolution is now underway.”