Aden, age sixteen, finished the second to last question on his written exam. After grueling hours and days writing out concise and detail-oriented answers, dumped in a room with twenty to thirty other examinees where they were forced to fix a broken piece on the ship or ‘die’, taken out to the middle of ocean waters and a deserted isle near Liliec’s shores to survive three days in the wilderness—and now after just getting back—this last two hundred multiple choice, open answer, and instructional exam.
Aden read the last question: Go to room 112 and follow the instructions.
He stood up in his seat, where the other occupants were still scribbling around him. As he walked to the test proctor, he could feel the eyes of some individuals on him. He placed the paper test down in the bin and walked to the exit.
He could see the arrows painted on the wall and floor, indicating where he needed to go. There were three painted colors, room 112 was painted white, 212 was blue, and 348 was red. He followed the white paint easily enough, his state ordained shoes clicked obnoxiously against the tiled floor. He walked only a few minutes in solitude before he entered the room 112.
He thought he recognized this room, it was the docking station. The stairs led down to the platforms where the Drifter’s rested. On the platform stood one of the high ranking officers who was in charge of all of the Captains. He was slightly older, a stern man with a strict constitution. He had greyish-blue eyes, but his cataracts were starting to affect his vision. Now he was solely training and testing upcoming recruits.
Aden walked slowly down the metal stairs until he was on top of the buoyant platform. The water splashed lightly against the floating dock as he walked over for his next instructions. The older man lifted his timer up, “Step into the Drifter Summerfeld.” This man also was very strict with him. Aden followed suit, stepping in the boat without any hesitation.
His movement rocked the boat, and it also caused something to roll into the side of the ship. The waves should not have rocked the side as roughly as this did, which indicated that something was under the water. He peered over the edge and was welcomed to nothing.
“Step into the Drifter Tegan.” Aden looked behind him to see another examinee coming into the boat. He turned his attention back to the water, waiting to see if whatever caused the water to lurch would do it again. He did notice that their weight had caused the ship to sink a bit more into the water.
Tegan went to sit down on the bench with his hand to his chin. He looked up to the glass-clouded ceiling that protected them from the harsh sunny weather. Aden merely crossed his arms as he continued to stare at the dead water around them. The officer in charge of their exam did not make any note than to step into the Drifter, but he had not mentioned they could or could not discuss.
Tegan gained his courage enough to ask, “So—how’d you think you did?” Aden looked to the guy, actually seeing him for the first time. He was just a face amongst the mass of examinees but now it was someone who he could discern. It was easy to get to know Damien, Sarah, Anna, Jakob, Leo, Wolfe, Shark, and a few others but that was due to their presence in the class all year round. Tegan was in the class nearby if Aden remembered correctly.
“It was pretty simple.” Aden replied, he looked to the ranking officer and could see they weren’t going to get reprimanded for talking. “Is Tegan your Clan name or first name?”
Tegan chuckled, “I get that a lot, Tegan’s my clan name. My first name is Bryce.” Aden nodded.
Bryce Tegan also nodded, apparently he was well known. “I know about you—you’re that guy who was forced into piracy. You also blew up the Cafeteria.” He seemed hesitant now that he revealed he knew about his past, but he tried to gloss over it with his recent demerits. He gazed upon his scars that marred his arms, shoulders, neck, and eyebrow. “Sorry for imposing, but did you really sail with Zaine’s crew?”
Aden darkened his eyes. He knew that Gerald couldn’t protect him from all the questions, but the curiosity of those his own age was bothersome. “I don’t prefer to talk about it.”
Bryce instantly got the message. “Roger that. Err—I think I did pretty well on the practical. How did your team do on the survival excursion?” He changed the topic so that Aden didn’t have to discuss his past. The male did not miss that consideration as he lightened his eyes. Maybe he wasn’t an idiot like the other morons in that room.
“My team almost ate poisonous mushrooms thinking they were edible. The morons.”
Bryce started to laugh, “No way.”
Aden just nodded, slightly displeased. “I stepped away for three minutes and they were cooking them over the fire I just prepared. We literally had to start from scratch. Idiots.”
Bryce shook his head, “Did you guys get marked down?”
“Yes. Like I said. Idiots.”
Bryce would have asked him more questions, but the Officer announced a third arrival. “Step into the Drifter Giles.” Another guy, slightly heavier set than them stepped in and the boat sunk further into the water. The waves lapped just as it did the first time Aden stepped into the ship, but this time Aden saw what it was. A large metal fin popped up and down on the side. And then another similar fin popped up and around the ship circling the side. The officer cut the rope holding their ship to the Dock and used his foot to push them out into the open water. Aden narrowed his eyes as he saw the water lapping into the ship with the rocking and weight.
“The Drifter can only sustain two people’s weight. Someone must sacrifice himself in order to save both the ship and the remaining two. Beware; there are sharks in these waters. Your time begins now.”
Bryce froze in his spot, his eyes wide with horror as he realized what the officer was suggesting they do. The one who joined them, Giles, started to panic as he pointed to the waters. “Those are sharks?!”
With two panicked individuals, a sinking ship, and a severely small pocket of time before they failed Aden did the only thing he could. He sighed as he grabbed some left behind rope into his hand and jumped into the water. He didn’t like the idea of sacrificing someone in order to live, but he wasn’t going to die without a fight.
Bryce and Giles peered over the ledge of the Drifter, both in shock and horror as Aden emerged seconds’ later dealing with the shark. The shark was metallic and long, his LED eyes glowed red, his mouth chopping away what looked like rope. Aden manhandled the shark like a horse, grasping the fin before he began punching the shark’s head and eyes multiple times. Two more sharks emerged before Aden jumped back down into the water. The high ranked Officer watched in stunned amazement as Aden not only dealt with the first, but second and third shark effectively.
After five minutes of battling, Aden emerged by the dock, his hand went up to grasp the wood and pulled himself up. He sported some more cuts and open wounds on his arms, his fists bruised from pounding on all of the sharks.
“We all survived—did we pass?” Aden asked in a stoic response and Bryce started laughing from within the Drifter. Giles blinked in horror and shock at the scene he just witnessed while the Officer running their tests stared down.
“Uh—who in their right mind punches sharks?” The question was an honest one and Aden only shrugged. “I’ve wrangled with them before—although not metal ones. It was interesting.”
The older man sighed, shaking his head. “Congratulations Summerfeld, go to room 212.” He waited until Bryce and Giles had come back to the platform and re-roped their Drifter in place. “Bryce Tegan, Rodrick Giles, you two will go to room 117 for your test results.”
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Aden was soaking wet as he walked up the stairs and back into the hall. He received some strange looks from the examinees as some were being redirected to rooms all around. He followed the blue paint, until it rounded the corner and up another flight of stairs. He climbed them quietly, wondering how Damien did in his exams. He had been separated from him from the beginning—all of them doing their exams about a day off from one another. Damien would be in his last day of survival, and then he would have this exam to take tomorrow.
The male with sopping wet raven hair made his way until he found 212. The door had instructions written on it that read: knock three times.
Aden did as the note told, and he was welcomed by a female voice. “Enter, Examinee 182394.”
He opened the door that audibly clicked open. Behind the door was a small office, a young girl maybe a few years younger than him sat in the only chair in the room. Her black hair was short, as it cropped her face and fluffed out around the nape of her neck. She had lilac colored goggles that rested evenly on her head, and her hands covered by gloves. It appeared like she was an inventor—or wanted to be one. Her amethyst eyes dared him to question her about why she was there, but he restrained himself. He had his own circumstances—and he remembered seeing her somewhere before. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. She was holding one sheet of paper and she laid it on the desk.
“Sign the dotted line 182394.” She pointed with one gloved finger to the line she wanted him to sign. Her authoritative voice was crisp and clear—he knew he heard that voice before. It was the same one that did the Reference help desk and Security defense system for The Academy.
He walked over to the desk, about to grab the ink quill but something stopped him. He ignored her finger as he swatted it away to grab the sheet. He was reading the paper and she informed him firmly. “You will sign on the dotted line—or fail.”
Aden looked over the sheet to the girl. “I’m not signing it until I read it.” He began to skim the contents. “It’s not like I have a time limit.” The girl chuckled darkly.
“Oh? I think not.” She pulled out a timer and set it at a minute. “You have exactly one minute to sign or fail everything up to this point.”
The pressure was there for him to sign it—he didn’t want all of his hard work, his dripping wet clothes, his aching hands, his empty stomach—to be for naught.
“Sign it!” She yelled at him. She stood up, her palms against the oak of the table and she persistently pushed him to sign. He was angry that the State would pull this type of stupid test and slammed the paper down. He didn’t need a minute to sign.
He wasn’t even going to.
“Why the fuck would I sign this? Article VI states that I would owe you five years’ worth of root beer. Then here, Article XVIII states that I am signing his form acknowledging I’m a moron. Article XXXI states that I am signing my life away to be a slave to the Na Luna Province black market—Article XLVI states that I’m acknowledging that I’m Zaine’s “bitch”. You must be fucking nuts. I’m done.”
The girl waited for him to finish, the buzzer alarmed annoyingly between them as he glared daggers at her. She merely lifted up a finger and reached to push a button for an intercom.
“He passed.” She replied and shooed him to the door. She lifted her finger up off the intercom and shook her head. “It’s good to see someone who isn’t pressured into signing just because they’re told to do so. It shows that you won’t buckle under the pressure if captured by pirates.” Aden narrowed his eyes; he couldn’t even believe what he just heard.
Suddenly a telegram went through for her, and she answered. She listened into the receiving set and her eyes darkened. “What do you mean they are malfunctioning?”
There were a few more moments of silence before she shut the line down. She fumbled with her desk to pull out what looked to be a tool box. She snapped her goggles over her eyes and she stood up. She was a few—actually quite a lot—smaller than what he imagined. She ignored Aden as she stormed to the door, but when she reached for the knob she stopped. “Wait, were you the dickhead that beat up my sharks?”
Aden narrowed his eyes. Those sharks were her inventions? “Your sharks?” Just this simple question caused the girl to huff in anger.
“Ugh—useless. All of you. A simple test the Fleet Admiral says—it will be fine—he says, my sharks are twitching in water thanks to you.” She pulled the door open and left him with one parting message. “Go to room 117 for your results, you stupid moron. I have to go fix my sharks before the next exam. Who punches sharks?” The girl vented aloud as she pushed past him and to where he assumed was the testing ground in room 112.
The door slammed shut, leaving him with wet clothes and a sour expression. He still couldn’t get past the insult of stupid moron.
The door suddenly opened, and her head popped back in. “And you’re ruining my carpet to boot? What is your problem with me?” She slammed the door again and Aden instantly realized where he recognized that voice.
That was the one and only Gizmo Queen—AKA Olivia Cheric. She was also the one who suggested he build an engine with tactical and defense mechanisms… where he wound up blowing up the cafeteria.
“Crazy kid.” Aden shook his head and left the room shortly after.
Later that day, he was awarded with title rank Commander for Merchant deliveries and Captain of the State. Since he was only sixteen, they made his Captaincy provisional under the guidelines that he becomes one at the age of nineteen/twenty. Depending on how well he did on the missions and assessments given to him.
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“Nothing compares to the practical exam.” Xavier chuckled to himself. He appeared to have a good grasp of everything so far within his examination. His test instructed him to go to room 348. He noticed that other older candidates were being sent to room 212 and 112 consecutively, but only a few were told to come to this room. Xavier read the post it on the door: Knock three times then enter.
He knocked as instructed, waiting for a voice to welcome him. When no one said anything, Xavier went to turn the knob. He was relieved the find the door open, but was completely taken back by the occupant sitting with his arms crossed sitting in a chair in front of a makeshift table. There was only one game of chess in the room, all of the pieces already assembled onto the board. Xavier closed the door behind him. His arms and legs did not want to loosen up as he walked over to the only seat available and sat. His leg felt twitchy, and he had to hold his knee down using the palm of his hand.
“Don’t be nervous.” The older man replied, he uncrossed his arms and opened his eyes. He stared evenly at Xavier before gesturing to the board. “Your test is a simple one. Survive for one hour against me, and you will pass.” He gestured to the timers on the side, “each player only has thirty seconds to make a decision.” Xavier widened his eyes at the instructions.
“I don’t see how this pertains—”
Gerald reached for the official clock and pressed the button. “Enough chitchat.”
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Dean and Markus were waiting outside the testing facility for Xavier. He had been gone for about twenty minutes over what he assumed he’d be done by. Markus was chewing on some weed grass while Dean was reading his book. It wasn’t until he made it a quarter into his second page when Xavier came out with a witless expression.
“How’d you do?” Markus clapped him on the back while Xavier remained white in the face.
“I can’t say—that was quite honestly the worst exam I have ever done. I want to hug Damien and Aden now.” Dean snapped his book closed, he had known Xavier to be excellent at exam times so this was completely different behavior than usual. “Who was your proctor? Anderson? Pendergast? Mathers?”
Xavier shook his head. “Worse. Rothschild.”
Markus whistled, the weed grass dropped out from his lips. “What?! You had to test with The Fleet Admiral himself.”
Dean also widened his eyes. “That must have been brutal.”
“Yeah—he put my family and crew in such tactical and brutal situations—I just want to hug them all. Hypothetical or not.”
“That sucks man.”
“Luckily I earned a bar.”
Dean raised an eye to this, “A bar? Don’t you already have three?” After the third bar, technically he should have gone up a rank, but Xavier shook his head.
“Fleet Admiral took a bar away during the exam—said I was making careless decisions and reckless remarks.”
Markus’s mouth circled in an open “o”.
“A demotion and promotion at the same time? Is that even possible?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” Xavier replied and Dean chuckled. “Alright, let’s get drunk and forget about it.”
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